S.H. Figuarts Tao Pai Pai (Mercenary Tao)

This is the story of a man and his flying, pink, pillar.

We’re back with another Dragon Ball review and this one is another bad guy, maybe THE bad guy: Tao Pai Pai. Known to English-speaking audiences as Mercenary Tao, and for the rest of this review as simply Tao, Tao is a martial arts expert who has perfected the dreaded Dodonpa, or Dodon Ray, and is an adept killing machine. He’s even been known to kill people with his tongue, folks. Tao is quite possibly the most hated enemy from Dragon Ball since he’s a ruthless killer and also one of the few to defeat Goku in hand-to-hand combat.

The S.H. Figuarts version of Tao depicts the character in his most familiar form. He’s clad in a navy and pink martial arts uniform with the phrase “Kill You!” emblazoned on the rear of his tunic in a blood red font. He has a single braid coming off of the back of his head tied off with a cute little, red, bow. He’s not particularly intimidating to look at, but in the source material he projects an aura of confidence that’s a bit unnerving.

Tao stands a tick under 6″ making him taller than the likes of Bulma, but much shorter than someone like King Piccolo. He features a lot of the same articulation one would expect from this line. His braid is on a ball joint so it can lay on his back or be positioned in a wind swept pose. A ball-jointed head gives him some nice range of motion and additional neck articulation adds some side-to-side pivot and allows him to look at his feet. The shoulders are on ball-joints with butterfly joints that allow him to reach across his chest a bit, though the bulk of his sleeves hinders a bit. There’s bicep swivels and double-jointed elbows. The hands are on ball-pegs and hinges and can rotate and point in and out. The waist is on a ball-peg and there’s diaphragm articulation as well. Bend his upper body too far back and you will see an exposed gap in the chest, but you’re not likely to have need to bend him that far. The crotch area is the 2.0 Figuarts joint so it works well, but is quite busy to look at. Tao minimizes this with the skirt of his tunic which covers the front and back. His legs are on ball-joints with rotation in the thigh as well. His knees are double-jointed, but the bulkiness of his pants hinders some of the articulation gained by the additional joint. The ankles are on ball-pegs and can rotate and rock side to side. There’s also a toe hinge for good measure.

Unlike most Figuarts figures I have, Tao wasn’t quite ready to go out of the package. I’m used to dealing with stuck joints with figures from other companies, but not usually Bandai. My Tao’s right thigh was stuck at the hip so when I tried to bend the leg out, like a split, the leg popped right off. I had to grab the peg and really give it a good tug to get the joint in the inner thigh to start working. My Tao’s left food also didn’t have much side-to-side motion. The peg is a dumbbell peg in the foot, and I think what was happening is the ball at the top was moving, but the one in the foot was stuck. I popped the foot off and immersed it in hot water and was then able to rock the peg back and forth a bit. It’s still not great, but better than before.

The comparison shot.

As is the case with the other figures in this line, the paint application is minimal, but the sculpt work is otherwise damn near flawless. Tao comes with a neutral facial expression that’s perhaps a bit of a scowl. The paint on his tunic is sharp and clear and there’s no mess on the red detailing. The skirt piece is a soft, pliable, plastic that really doesn’t hinder the articulation much. I know some people want to see more elaborate paint applications with this line, but at this point it is what it is and I personally think the sculpt work looks great in natural light. The only aspect of the sculpt that doesn’t look great are the knee joints, but only from the back so it’s not really an issue.

He’s a master tactician when it comes to psychological warfare.

Tao comes with an assortment of extra hands and heads. He has a screaming head for when he’s getting serious as well as a tongue-sticking out head for when he needs to kill. The tongue is definitely a funny inclusion, though if I had to choose I would have preferred a cocky grin. Tao comes packaged with fists, like basically all of the figures in this line, and has two additional sets of hands: open palms and Kung Fu, forked, hands. The other additional hand is a pointing right hand for the Dodon Ray. He also comes with a seven star dragon ball. I know some wish he came with his cybernetic parts from Dragon Ball Z, but I wouldn’t display him in that form so I’m not really sweating it. That version of the character is better reserved for a stand-alone release.

The major accessory for Tao though is his big, pink, pillar. In the source material, Tao couldn’t fly so he’d just smash a nearby pillar or tree and throw it through the sky. He’d then jump on it to ride it to wherever he needed to go. It’s ridiculous, but definitely something that’s memorable. Bandai deemed it so memorable that it was essential, so Tao comes with a plastic pillar and a unique flight stand to position it on. This thing is perhaps needlessly complicated because Bandai is so committed to the aesthetics of the figures in this line that it decided exposed peg holes could not be tolerated. Instead, there’s an included set of plugs to place in the pillar when it’s not in use that conceal any and all holes. There are six holes in total so that Tao can ride it akin to a surfboard or stand with his feet together at the back or center of the pillar. The pillar is hollow and can split apart which is how you remove the installed pegs. It’s also handy for storing any plugs that in use, so long as you don’t mind the rattle.

To attach Tao to the pillar, Bandai included swap-able feet plates. I’ve never seen anything like this. Basically, you pop off the soles of Tao’s shoes and replace them with a set that have pegs on the bottom. There’s a set with pegs that go straight down and a set that are pointing out. The pointing out set is meant for when Tao is standing with his feet together on the pillar and will go straight into it when his feet are angled towards each other. And to add a little more pizzazz to the set, the flight stand comes in three pieces: a base, the piece that attaches to the pillar, and an optional joiner piece. The optional piece adjusts the pitch of the pillar so Tao is either flying at a horizontal angle or one with the front pointing up at a slight angle.

The best I could do with the angled foot pegs. Only the right foot is in.

The pillar is very ambitious and quite an idea, but it’s far better on paper than in reality. For one, as neat as it is to hide the peg holes on the pillar, it should be pointed out that it kind of looks like a piece of sidewalk chalk. It’s funny such care was taken to hide the holes when what was really needed was some shading or just additional paint to help sell this better as a chunk of rock. Tao’s foot plates also have a tendency to pop out, especially the angled ones with my set. I’d insert the right one and it would literally shoot out of the pegs. Perhaps they’re too tight? I’m not sure, because they also come out very easily when trying to position him on the pillar. I had a hell of a time trying to get the angled ones to work right. I think part of it was due to my Tao’s left foot being limited due to the stuck ankle joint, while some of it is likely just poor engineering. I got him onto the pillar in that position, but only if I just attached one foot and let the other float. It didn’t inspire much confidence. The “surfing” position works much better. It’s still finicky, but I at least achieved the desired position. I’m still a little disappointed though as I really wanted to display him in that more confident, nonchalant, pose of standing with his feet together, but oh well.

To better sell the flight stand, Tao also comes with optional skirts for his tunic. He’s meant to pull apart at the waist which allows you to lift off the pieces that he comes wearing by default. The tunic skirts are in two pieces, a rear and a front, and the peg holes were engineered in a way to prevent you from mixing the two up. Getting them onto Tao is easy and really does add to the figure’s presentation. They may not have hit a home run with this figure, but when you get it right it sure does look impressive.

I can think of a few more characters I’d like to add to this display.

Tao is an ambitious addition to the S.H. Figuarts line of Dragon Ball figures. He does stumble in some ways, but the overall package is still impressive. He’s a great villain in the series and a welcomed addition to the roster of characters. My Dragon Ball collection is rounding into form and there are only a handful of characters that I’d like to add to it. If you have one of your own, it’s hard not to want to add Tao Pai Pai to the ranks.


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