NECA’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures at retail began with quarter scale figures based off of the 1990 film. Since then, things have opened up for the company and toon and video game figures have followed as well as a line of movie figures in a 7″ scale line. And of the lines NECA has released to retail, I would still argue the movie line has been the best and most well-received, even if the cartoon line might be more profitable. The problem with that though is there just isn’t a lot of characters to mine from. Cartoons and video games are full of one-off and reoccurring characters to turn into action figures, but the movies are basically just the turtles, a handful of villains, and their allies. And some of them aren’t exactly exciting action figure options, while some that would be aren’t available due to licensing restrictions.
Given that, I suppose it’s not that surprising that NECA decided to turn the Shadow Warriors into their own two-pack. In the film, Master Splinter tells his origin to young Danny Pennington about his master, Hamato Yoshi, and describes him as one of Japan’s finest shadow warriors. Yoshi had a rival, Oroku Saki, who very much wanted to win the affections of Yoshi’s lover, Tang Shen. When it became apparent there would be blood, Yoshi and Shen fled to America, but Saki followed eventually murdering the lovers and taking Splinter’s ear for good measure. It’s a short scene in the film, but since we already have the turtles, Splinter, Shredder, Casey, and the Foot in toy form, why not give this a shot? And if some parts can be reused then all the better.
The Shadow Warriors two-pack is essentially a Hamato Yoshi vs Oroku Saki two-pack, with an unmutated Splinter as well. Saki and Yoshi are both depicted in their training gi, which is black with a slight shimmer to it. Some of these pieces are recycled from the Shredder and Foot we’ve already received, but a lot is new too. It’s just that both figures are essentially the same save for the headsculpt. Saki comes packaged with his robe on while Yoshi is bare-chested. Both are capable of being displayed the same way though as NECA made the robe removable as well as the arms so you can just swap them with the included extra bare arms or sleeved arms, even though each character was only depicted in the film as packaged, and not together. Yoshi is displayed as he was in the flashback when training alongside Splinter, while Saki is basically in murder mode. Yoshi’s face is rather stoic, while Saki’s default portrait has a faint hint of a smile.
When it comes to both figures, there are things to like and things to dislike about the presentation. I do like the texture of the clothing and the folds give off the illusion of real cloth. The robe portion of the gi works well-enough, and if you want to go off-script they look pretty cool if you make them sleeveless. The faces look fine too, though it’s certainly helped by the fact that the scenes in the film are shot in near blackness with the audience really only getting a good look at Saki. James Saito played Shredder in the film, but it looks like a different actor played him for the flashback this set is based on and he went uncredited. The actor who played Yoshi also wasn’t even credited so I can’t even look up an image to see how the likeness turned out. At any rate, Saki as represented by this figure looks like Saito, but I wish NECA had done a better job with his smile. When we first see him spin and look at the camera he has a wicked grin. I think they tried to do it justice, but it doesn’t look as good as it does on camera. He has a second face that’s bloody and scratched and looks fine, though again, it’s not the expression I would have chosen. In the film, he sports more of a scowl as he slices off Splinter’s ear, but here he has gritted teeth and looks quite enraged.
The only other issues I have with the presentation of these figures is tied into the articulation. NECA made some interesting choices when it comes to the torso. The head is on a ball-peg, but the neck is static. Below that is a diaphragm joint with the cut right above the abs and along the rib cage. It looks odd, and what is unfortunate is that you get nothing out of it. The figures barely pivot and twist there and there is almost no ab crunch achieved. NECA apparently thought articulating the base of the neck would look bad, but didn’t think the torso did, but also didn’t make it functional. It’s just a poor design. The shoulders are a little funky too as they slope down quite a bit. I think they do this to make the articulation at the shoulders appear more seamless on a shirtless body, since they also did the same with Goliath. It also may have been done to make sure the gi isn’t too bulky, but again, it does make the figure look odd in some poses. The good news is, you can always use the robe and problem solved, but Yoshi never wore the robe in the film.
The rest of the articulation at least works fine. Those shoulders peg into the body so they’re easy to remove and they’re just hinged. There’s no biceps swivel, but the arms swivel above and below the elbow as NECA is using those controversial elbows here. These guys are more ripped than Casey Jones was, so I think the arms look better, but they’re still weird as you get this big, middle, piece when bending the elbows all the way. They are partially hidden by the wrist-guards on the bare arms, and obviously totally hidden by the sleeved ones. At the hands, we have rotation and horizontal hinges on every included hand. Since these guys come loaded with melee weapons, this strikes me as a huge oversight on NECA’s part to not include vertically hinged hands. The horizontal hinges on the gripping hands are borderline useless. At the waist is a twist and below that are the old styled hips. These are ratcheted and caution needs to be taken with them. I was able to get Yoshi into a high kick, but I was pretty scared in doing so as these hips are notoriously fragile. The thighs do rotate a bit and the knees are double-hinged with a swivel above them. At the feet we’ve got a hinge and ankle rocker, which works really well and is nice and tight. Unlike some of my complaints with the aesthetics of the upper body, I will say the legs look terrific and these may be the best sculpted pants I’ve seen NECA release.
Despite the lack of neck articulation and the poor abdominal joint, these guys are able to achieve some pretty convincing martial arts poses. You won’t have much luck getting them to balance on one foot or anything, but that’s what stands are for. Because of the lack of properly hinged hands, these arguably display better in hand-to-hand combat poses. They both come packaged sporting fists, and if you want to you can swap them for chop pose hands or gripping hands. The right fist that came on Yoshi in my set ended up with some paint rub on it from his vambrace, which sucks. The other set of hands are gripping hands and they’re very tight. I could not get most of the weapons into their hands without first softening the hands with hot water which is annoying, but oh well. NECA at least included each set of hands for both figures, so they don’t have to share gripping hands or anything like the SDCC set did with the Foot Soldiers.
If hand-to-hand combat is not your preference, NECA did see fit to include a fairly large assortment of weapons. The weapons, though, should be rather familiar if you’ve purchased the other movie figures as they’re all duplicates. You get in this set a pair of axes, a pair of katana, a pair of black staves, a pair of black tonfa, black nunchaku, and studded nunchaku. The black nunchaku has a plastic chord connecting the handles so it’s more posable, but potentially more fragile, while the studded set features a short chain. Again, this feels like a set that exists because it was fairly cheap to produce so it’s not surprising to see recycled weapons. We only see Saki in the film wield the katana, so it’s hard to be disappointed with the selection. Again, my only disappointed rests in the difficulty in getting the weapons into the hands and the fact that we don’t have the right hinges for most of them. At least if you have the weapons rack you should have little trouble filling it now.
The other accessory is basically a third character: Splinter. And you get not just one Splinter, but two! That’s because this is pre-mutated Splinter so he’s just a little, unarticulated, sculpted lump of plastic. One Splinter is in a martial arts pose clearly inspired by the portion of the flashback, “Mimicking his movements from my cage,” which is a line my dad always repeated for some reason. Maybe because it was just so ludicrous, but the film plays it off so naturally. The other Splinter is a grieving Splinter after Saki slices off his ear and leaves him to mourn the death of his master. It’s rather odd looking as his body is just super long and definitely not the one I plan to display. Both rats have a peg hole in the base of them which allows them to peg into the base of a cage. The cage is done in a thin plastic and the bottom pops off rather than have an articulated door. It looks okay, but also rather cheap and I’m surprised NECA opted not to paint it. Maybe they feared the paint would just gum up between the bars? It does come with a stand though that the cage can be suspended from which is welcomed and even though it does look cheap, it might actually be my favorite part of the set. The only downside is NECA didn’t come up with a way for Splinter to easily get into scratching position on Saki. It can be done, but I wish they had included one more hand that was specifically for grabbing Splinter so that Saki could look like he’s trying to pull him off of his face.
The Shadow Warriors two-pack is a set that I didn’t need, and in fact, wasn’t actively seeking out. I happened across it at Walmart, the only retail location allowed to sell the movie line, and picked it up for a friend only to find out another friend found him a set that very same day. I ended up keeping it rather than trying to offload it onto someone else or return it, and I’m fine with the decision. These guys look pretty cool, they’re just characters I didn’t need for my display to feel complete. It’s also worth noting, we never saw Yoshi and Saki face off in the film as depicted here. When Saki actually attacks Hamato Yoshi he’s in a construction outfit. This set is capturing both characters independent of each other as Yoshi is really meant to tie-in with Splinter. Does this mean we’ll get a figure of Yoshi in overalls and a hardhat? Never say never, though I wouldn’t hold my breath.