Category Archives: Television

NECA TMNT “The Colossal Chrome Dome” – Deluxe Chrome Dome

Chrome Dome – he’s bigger than you think.

Many television shows have what is sometimes referred to as “event” episodes. These are often episodes that complete long-running arcs, have an extended runtime, and might even be featured in a more prominent timeslot. It’s usually something for shows that take themselves rather seriously do. A show that featured very little of this sort of thing was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Like many 80s properties, that toon was developed with the main purpose of selling toys. Sure, the writers, artists, and directors who worked on the show probably tried to do their best to make something worthwhile, but for the most part, each episode was a self-contained story often introducing a new hero or villain that Playmates Toys wanted kids to run out and buy. Especially after the second season when the show really took off.

All right, he’s not quite as big as the box would lead you to believe.

One of the few moments where the show aimed a little higher was with the season five finale “Planet of the Turtleoids.” This one was hyped a bit by the network the show aired on as a one-hour special which aired a little over 30 years ago on August 31, 1991. It still kept the turtles in their usual Saturday morning timeslot, but it at least felt like something that was more important. The episode brought in the villains Groundchuck and Dirtbag as well as featured a golden Technodrome – how’s that for fancy? The most memorable villain introduced in that episode though, was Chrome Dome. Chrome Dome was a colossal robot created by the Shredder and Krang to, what else, destroy the turtles. And he was indeed colossal as he was basically the same size as the new Technodrome. This was quite different from the toy version which, like basically every figure in the series, was around four inches tall. If my memory serves, the toy preceded the episode so we as fans had no idea just how big the character was supposed to be. The card back didn’t list a height, but it did list a weight of 600 pounds. A giant, metal, robot would probably weight tons as opposed to pounds, so safe to say we were surprised and we should have been.

Seriously though, this box can barely hold him.

In order for NECA to do Chrome Dome properly and have him scale with the rest of the line, he’d basically have to be the same size as the quarter scale Raphael or maybe as tall as the diorama itself. Lucky for NECA, Chrome Dome returned in the season seven episode “Night of the Rogues.” In that appearance, he was still a big boy, but not to the degree he was originally. He was more like 9 or 10 feet tall in that appearance. This works perfectly for NECA’s deluxe line of TMNT figures. Recently, we looked at both Muckman and Mondo Gecko, characters that were forced into the deluxe line due to their unique tooling and accessories and not so much for their size. Chrome Dome brings both and it’s actually a little surprising he matches Mondo’s retail price of $40. This dude is a beast as he towers over the previous biggest figure in the line, Krang, and he has the beef (steel?) to match. For collectors, this guy is the new centerpiece for NECA’s cartoon line as anyone who sees such a collection will probably immediately have their eyes drawn to Chrome Dome.

I love weapon storage on a figure.
Here come a bunch of pictures to illustrate how big this figure is. First up, we have Android Krang and Metalhead.

Just how big is NECA’s Chrome Dome? About ten inches tall. Even telling you that, and showing you all of these pictures, can’t properly convey how big of a figure he is. The box he comes in, lovingly illustrated by Dan Elson just like the other deluxe releases, is pretty heavy and it barely holds Chrome Dome. He uses up the entire inner blister. The box is the same height as the one that housed Krang, but it’s deeper by nearly an inch. Once extricated from his paper and plastic confines, Chrome Dome is immensely impressive. NECA adjusted its cel-shading paint to go with something that feels more accurate to what they’re going for. Rather than bisect the figure with light shades on the front and dark on the back, he simply has embellishments all over. His chest is white with black piping and NECA added angular gray swaths of color to create the illusion of light falling over him just like the actual cartoon would have done. The same is done on his face and abdomen and the white patches on his arms and legs have gray added as well and the blue kneepads utilize a darker blue to accent that. It looks phenomenal and I hope more figures down the road present an opportunity for this sort of approach. He really pops like no other release in this line and the closest comp in terms of paint is the rock soldiers. This sort of approach probably wouldn’t work for every character to come, but maybe if they do a robot Bebop and Rocksteady? I’m suddenly excited to see them attempt such a figure!

Did you think Super Shredder was large? Hah! Chrome Dome laughs at Super Shredder!
Super7? Bandai? None can match Chrome Dome!

The paint is terrific, in terms of how it’s stylized and in application. There’s a lot of room for things to go off the rails, but for the most part it’s clean. Upon closer inspection, there are a few problematic spots, but the only true drawback is some smudges on the white of the chest and rear of the “dome.” It’s something that can happen when a figure uses a lot of matte white, but it’s not noticeable from a shelf and wasn’t even something I spied through the box. There appears to be some missing gray on the right shoulder disc as the left one is painted gray all along the edge, but the right is not. Also of interest is there appears to be some lubricant in the same area in the biceps swivel. There’s none present on the left arm so maybe this side just got a little extra “juice.” I’ve wiped it off a few times, but it’s still a little shiny. Needless to say, it’s good to see NECA using lubricant though to reduce over-tightness at the joints.

If you want Chrome Dome to look small you have to bring in another scale.

The sculpt for this bad boy is basically just as nice as the paint. He looks just as he did in the show with his samurai inspired head and various ridges and vents sculpted into his body. Every black line painted on this guy is also sculpted, same for the black rivets. He has these big, wing-like, appendages on his back that are quite sturdy. I always thought it was an odd part of the character’s design, but it does give him a bit more presence. What I find myself really liking is the sculpt of the hands. His fingers have this boxy shape to them, very robotic in a sci-fi way, and they just look so cool. The open, style-posed, hands he comes with in the box are quite fun and that boxy aesthetic is also apparent in the other hands. The old cartoon wasn’t known for great designs or cool looking characters, even a lot of the characters that looked great as toys were downgraded for the show, but Chrome Dome stands out as just being a really bad ass looking robot.

He kicks too.

And NECA made sure this beast could move. NECA managed to get the standard articulation into this guy even though he’s so big, and they did it without the need for ratcheted joints. The most limited part is right at the top. His head can’t really look up thanks to how large the helmet is and the ability to tilt is limited. The good thing is, he doesn’t need to look up at anyone. At the shoulders, we have standard ball-hinges with a biceps swivel just past that. His elbows are double-jointed, and the lower hinge is pretty tight on my guy. I should note, however, I did not have to heat any of his joints. At the wrist, he can rotate and swivel. In the abdomen is a big ball joint. It’s tight at first, but he can crunch forward and back a bit and tilt side-to-side. There’s a lot of paint there though so I would advise to be gentle so there’s no paint rub. At the waist is a twist and below that are the ball and socket legs we should all be getting used to seeing at this point. Chrome Dome’s have a nice tolerance there though, where some of my figures have been overly loose. There’s a thigh twist past that and double-jointed knees. There’s a sculpted “boot” line, but no twist there so don’t try. At the ankles he has hinges and rockers plus a toe-hinge. I don’t think you’ll need that toe hinge for anything, but it’s there.

Lets do some martial arts poses.

It’s a standard allotment of articulation for Chrome Dome, but it’s always a little surprising anytime a big figure like this comes around packed with this much. That’s because bigger figures mean more weight, and any articulation point is a chance for the stability to falter. I am happy to say that Chrome Dome stands just fine. His legs have become a little looser since removing him from the box and breaking him in, but he’s yet to fall over or anything. With the aid of a simple NECA disc stand, I was even able to get him into a one-foot pose. The only shortcoming I’m finding with the articulation is just with the shoulders and the lack of a butterfly joint. I don’t know if NECA could have pulled it off without breaking up the sculpt on the chest, but if Chrome Dome could reach across his body to grasp a the handle of a sheathed sword that would have been cool. Even without that though, the combination of his size and what’s there for articulation should be plenty to find some dynamic poses for your shelf.

Because he really needs two swords.
The belt clasps at the back, but I’m not brave enough to remove it. Plus, I like the look of it anyway.

Chrome Dome probably doesn’t need any weapons to crush his foes, but his figure still comes with some anyway! Chrome Dome has not one, but two, belts. In the show, I believe he just had the sculpted blue belt while the Playmates toy had the second belt with sheaths for his swords. NECA replicated that with the outer belt being pretty true to that old toy as it even has a clasp on the back if you want to remove it. There are two, blue, sheaths on the left side for his twin katana. The katana have this neat, techno, design to them. They’re mostly white and gray with blue on the handles and they very much stylistically fit it in with the other weapons Shredder and his minions wield. They slide into the sheaths rather snugly, but they can fit all the way. The only drawback is you will most likely experience some paint rub with a little blue getting onto the white portion of the blade. The same is true on the handles when fitting them into his hands as it’s a tight fit. To wield the swords, Chrome Dome comes with a set of gripping hands. They have vertical hinges and swapping hands is painless. There was a bit of paint on all of the hinges of the spare hands so breaking them in is a bit of challenge, but the plastic is also black so once that paint flakes off it doesn’t leave behind an eyesore.

Bang!

If swords aren’t your thing then there’s a blaster too. Chrome Dome is a big boy so he needs a big gun and this thing is quite large. It’s painted in a white and gray scheme and NECA included a right, trigger, hand to wield it. The hands on this guy are very stiff with almost no give, so if you want him to hold this gun you will almost certainly need to heat the hand first. I just used running, hot, tap water and that worked just fine. His trigger finger fits in exceptionally well too and it’s quite satisfying to look at. If you prefer he store the weapon, there’s a peg on the right side of the floating belt. Now, I am not sure how NECA intended for this to go on. Some have been able to get it to peg on as there’s a hole towards the rear of the gun. It’s a shallow hole though, so it doesn’t peg in very well. What I have done is utilized the rear of the gun which has what looks like a molded hinge. The peg on the belt is like rubber, and I simply stuck it through this hinge which works fine. It keeps the gun low so it’s not up in his armpit and it hasn’t fallen. I’m probably going to display him with gun in hand though, but if I wasn’t this is how I’d store it.

“Oh, Shredder, come on! I am the superior machine, come push MY keys!”

In addition to the weapons, Chrome Dome also has an assortment of hands and a computer. He has the open, style-posed, hands in the box, plus a pair of fists and a pair of “chop” hands. It’s honestly more than I was expecting and it presents a conundrum in terms how to pose him on the shelf. I love the style-posed hands, but I also love having him hold his swords and gun. I’ll probably never use the fists or chops, but I can see how others might. The computer is an interesting inclusion. If memory serves, it’s from “Night of the Rogues” and Zach, the “Fifth” Turtle, uses it to retrieve some information out of Chrome Dome. I don’t remember if it’s his computer or Donatello’s. Zach is featured on the box though, so expect a figure of that lame, little, dork some day. The accessory is well done though, and it even features a floppy drive. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it in the near term, but I do know it would look nice in a lair set, or maybe even inside the Turtle Van.

“Ugh, Mikey, I don’t think now is the time to whip out your little hook.”

Chrome Dome is a spectacle of an action figure. He’s so big, and so well detailed, that he commands attention. If it wasn’t already clear in this review, I am in love with this figure. I think it’s my new favorite in this line. He has to be! It’s just so impressive from every aspect that’s important for an action figure. And at an MSRP of $40, I don’t know how NECA does it! I don’t want to sound like a corporate shill, but I sometimes don’t know how NECA does what it does. Mondo Gecko might have seemed a touch underwhelming at 40 bucks, but Chrome Dome is the opposite. And I compare him to some of the other stuff I get and it just blows me away. The Super7 Michelangelo I reviewed recently is more expensive than this guy, and so is the comparatively massive Rocksteady. I know it’s a whole different release strategy, but it’s hard not to compare these things as a consumer because at the end of the day I am getting a figure of a certain quality at a certain price. I don’t care about production numbers and parts reuse, and it’s hard not to see how NECA is putting everyone to shame with such a release. And it’s shocking because this guy features no parts reuse and I don’t see how NECA will benefit from these molds again. Maybe they’ll do a video game variant? I’m definitely not expecting another release in this line that is this much of a value though so get him while you can, because it’s possible future runs won’t be $40.

I love this figure. Settling on a pose is going to be a challenge, but that’s a good problem to have.

And if you do want a Chrome Dome of your very own, he can currently be found at Target. I got mine direct from NECA as they made some available online a little over a week ago (he thankfully shipped a lot quicker than Mondo and Muckman), but he appears to be arriving in large numbers at stores right now. This line is getting easier to obtain as I’ve seen Mondo and Muckman with some degree of frequency, so hopefully Chrome Dome is the same. He is the type of release though that could entice casuals because he is just so neat looking, so if you want him for your collection I would suggest not sleeping on it.


S.H.Figuarts Bulma

Bulma’s back and packing a bigger gun.

It was a little over a year ago that I took a look at the S.H.Figuarts release Bulma – Adventure Begins. I believe I mentioned in that review that the figure I was reviewing was the second Bulma released by Bandai/Tamashii Nations for the SHF line of action figures based on the classic manga/anime Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. It was that version of Bulma that I was interested in because it depicted her as she appeared in the very first episode of the anime. The previous version of Bulma had not interested in me as she was in her Mad Max-like outfit from the show’s ending credits and some promotional art. For whatever reason, that version of Bulma has apparently appealed more to companies looking to make collectibles based on the show. When Irwin launched their own line of Dragon Ball toys in the early 2000s, they too went with that look. A lot of statues and other collectibles have gone with it, and I guess it’s just because these companies view their clientele as mostly male and males want to buy the rugged version of Bulma with the machinegun, not the one with the ponytail and pink skirt.

I’d wager most who buy this figure will pose her exactly as she appears on the box.

As someone with a fairly modest Dragon Ball collection, I definitely do not need versions of characters that didn’t even make it into the show. However, the past year being what it is, boredom and clearance pricing has led me to make some purchases I otherwise would not which is why I’m about to tell you all about the first version of Bulma released in the S.H.Figuarts line. Simply titled “Bulma,” this is that biker/raider/whatever iteration of the character. I believe it’s based on artwork by Toriyama, but otherwise those ending credits are where I know it from. It appears about 30 seconds into it and is preceded by quick shots of Bulma putting on her gloves and loading her gun. She’s positioned with a dirt bike too, and the Irwin release included the bike as a stand, while this version is just the figure. It’s certainly an interesting look as she’s covered in bandages and for some reason her pants are missing a leg. Her hair’s in this side ponytail and her name is emblazoned on her shoulder pad. She looks cool, a bit of a rugged cute, she just never looks like this in the actual anime.

“Is that ME?! What am I wearing?!”

The figure basically matches that art to perfection. About the only difference I notice is she has a little grime on her exposed knee in the picture that Bandai didn’t bother to paint on. She’s about five inches tall, which makes her a little taller than Kid Goku, but doesn’t really put her in true scale with anyone in the Dragon Ball line save for maybe Tao. It’s basically a choice Bandai had to make when doing the kid characters for they’d have to be really small to be truly in scale. Bulma comes with her goggles which are basically just intended to be held or draped over her neck as they are in the image. To do so, you just pop her head off and that’s how you complete the look. A lot of the details in her sculpt are done with separate pieces like the satchel at her hip and the shoulder pad on her left arm. I’m not sure if the pad is glued on or just pegged in, but the satchel is pegged and it can be lifted up. The straps across her back and left thigh are sculpted in and painted and the paint application is very clean. The only paint issue I can find concerns some of the hands where the blue rectangle isn’t perfectly lined up with the sculpted-out area for it, but it’s very minor. I really like how her boots turned out and even the little clasps on those are painted silver without slop which is kind of incredible. My only real criticism with the sculpt and paint of this figure rests with the hair. I wish there was a wash or something added to the figure’s hair to reduce the very plastic look it has. It’s matte, but that shade of blue comes out looking a little like Play-Doh.

Look! She can put her gloves on!

This figure likely shares parts with the other version of Bulma and her articulation is essentially the same. Her head sits on a fairly large ball-peg and can rotate, tilt, and look down quite a bit. Her hair prevents her from being able to look up though. At the shoulder she has ball-pegs with a small butterfly joint. She can raise her arms out past 90 degrees at the side, though you have to work with the shoulder pad on her left arm, and rotate all around. The arm swivels basically at the shoulder and above the biceps. At the elbows, she has the SHF disc joints which aren’t my favorite, but it’s what Bandai seems to go with when it’s sculpting characters with thin arms. She can bend past 90, but the joint is rather funky looking when the elbows are not bent. At the wrist she has ball joints with great range and the joint isn’t as awkward looking as it is on some figures because her hands and wrists are fully gloved. In the torso she has a ball joint just below her bust. This allows her to tilt and crunch forward and back with really no gapping issues. It works in conjunction with a ball-joint at the waist resulting in her being super flexible. At the leg, she can lift her legs out to the side a fair amount, but can’t pull off a split. She kicks forward and back to about 90 with a thigh twist up by the ball-joint. The knees use the same disc system as the elbows so they’re single-jointed, but allow the figure to go a little past 90 there as well. The joint here works a little better from an aesthetic point-of-view as the disc is only visible from the back. Below the knee, she surprisingly doesn’t seem to have a boot-cut, but she does have ball-joints at the ankle. They’re a bit limiting though, likely due to the sculpt, so she can’t go forward and back too far and the side-to-side “rocker” action is a bit limited as well.

Dragon Radar: don’t leave home without it!

Bulma is sort of like a tale of two figures when it comes to the articulation: great on top, so-so below the waist. She can still do whatever you need her to. She’s more than capable of hitting the pose from those ending credits, as well as the other product shots on the box. And when it comes to her accessories, there are no problems there as well. Her main accessory is that machinegun she’s seen casually holding in the art. It has a sling that pegs into the rear and side so she can wear it over her shoulder, hold it by the top, or hold it in a more conventional firing position. The gun has a very long stock which makes it a challenge to position properly if you want her to look like she’s actually firing the gun. Not impossible, but it’s definitely not the position Bandai prioritized when developing it. She has those goggles I mentioned which are well-painted and look nice wherever you choose to put them. They just can’t actually fit across her face. She also has the Dragon Radar that the other Bulma comes with. This one has a different decal that doesn’t show any Dragon Balls. Just like with that Bulma, this one comes with a special right hand for the Dragon Radar to peg into since it’s such a small accessory. Definitely try not to drop it on a carpet. She also has an assortment of other hands and most seem like they serve a specific purpose. There’s a set of curved, open, hands that appear intended for holding the Dragon Ball or possibly handlebars. There’s a right, trigger, hand, a right fist, and a right, open, hand. That open hand appears to work in conjunction with a left hand that’s almost a fist, but her thumb is forward in a pinching position. Based on the rear of the box, it appears to be to simulate her pulling on her right glove (the open hand) which is certainly specific. There’s also a left, pointing, hand and a left gripping hand for holding the gun by the top of it as she is in the art. Lastly, there’s a five-star Dragon Ball and I think I now have all seven, plus the “pearl” one that came with Jackie Chun.

One flaw with this line is that Bulma basically scales with no one.

To go with all of that stuff are two additional portraits. Bulma comes with a standard smile in the box, plus an open mouth smile and a winking face. Swapping them is simple as her hair comes off granting access to the face-plate. What’s kind of neat is she can also use the face-plates from the second Bulma release. The smile expressions are basically the same, except this version has a band-aid on her cheek. The open mouth on this Bulma has her looking to her left, while the other is looking straight-ahead. The main difference between the two is the winking face for this figure, and the terrified scream on the other. I can’t see myself swapping faces between the two releases, but it’s nice to have that option. If you wanted to, you could also place her on the SHF Bulma’s Motorcycle accessory, though she doesn’t fit as well as the other Bulma. That’s due to the crotch piece limiting the legs at the hip so it’s a bit tricky to get her all the way down onto the seat and have her feet where they’re supposed to be. It can be done, but that bike definitely works better with the other Bulma since she has a new skirt piece specifically designed to get her properly seated.

It’s a bit of an awkward fit, but if you want to, Bulma can ride the motorcycle.

This is a solid release from Bandai for the SHF line. Despite this version of Bulma never appearing in the anime proper, it’s still associated with an iconic image of the character so it’s not as if it’s unwanted. It’s different enough from Bulma – Adventure Begins that it serves a purpose. It can do the pose that it needs to do, but it also has a range of other possible poses that all look good on a shelf. The only changes I’d make to the figure would be to improve the grip on the trigger hand and apply a wash or something to the hair. Otherwise, I’m happy with the sculpt and paint and the articulation is sufficient for what this figure needs to do. This wasn’t the version of Bulma I decided I needed to have for my Dragon Ball collection, but now that I have it I’m certainly glad it’s here.


S.H.Figuarts Piccolo: The Proud Namekian

A real proud one.

When the S.H.Figuarts line was launched years ago and Dragon Ball Z was at the forefront, it wasn’t Goku who got to be the first figure out of the gate. Nope, it was Piccolo. That figure caught my attention when it was announced even though I had not purchased a Dragon Ball figure in quite some time. I came close, but ultimately never did pull the trigger. The line originally adhered very close to the original Dragon Ball manga so Piccolo sported a light purple gi with yellow, puffy, things (whatever that portion of Namekian anatomy is), and a red sash at the waist. An event exclusive version would follow that depicted an anime color scheme and by all accounts it seemed like most people really liked this figure.

Piccolo looks like a fun guy…

Of course, time being what it is, Bandai has had numerous opportunities to improve upon that original figure. The mechanics of the average SHF release have been altered to create more articulation and better sculpting. As a result, the figures released more recently tend to look quite a bit better than the original ones, even though when those first ones dropped few could imagine a DBZ figure looking any better. Many of the original figures have received updates, but it took awhile for old Piccolo to finally get his. Released towards the end of 2020 though was Piccolo: The Proud Namekian. This figure is a complete do-over with basically nothing retained from the original figure. For longtime collectors of this line, this figure was overdue and just judging it based off of promotional pictures seems to indicate it’s a superior product, but how much better is it really? Well, time to find out!

I don’t think he really wants to come out.

Piccolo comes in the standard SHF window box, but he comes a bit different from what some may be used to. Piccolo has a lot of stuff on him right out of the box. I suppose it’s not surprising to see him with his shoulder pads and turban/helmet thing, but I was a little surprised to see that he has the crossed-arms pose in the box. That look is probably the signature Piccolo look so it’s not that surprising that they would go with that pose, it’s just surprising because usually that crossed-arm piece is an included accessory and not the default pose. Instead, Piccolo’s arms are just kind of chilling right there beside him since the crossed-arms pose is one piece.

Let’s cast this stuff aside for a minute.

Anyway, I’m going to start off discussing Piccolo without all of that stuff. He stands around 6.5″ which puts him on the taller side, but he’s probably not as big as he could have been. His size does kind of vary at times in the anime and the character literally can grow to any size, though that’s a seldom used power kept in his back pocket. Out of the box, he has a big, missing, chunk in his back and that’s because his cape is going to peg into there as well as some other pieces. When not wearing the cape, he has a filler piece that’s made to look like his purple gi and it plugs right in. Mine isn’t quite flush on the right side and I wonder if that’s intentional to make it easier to remove? Either way, it looks good to my eyes and it’s on the figure’s back so it’s not something I’m terribly concerned about.

Bandai included a plug to hide all of the ports on the figure’s back, which is expected of a $60 action figure.
I’ve had this Piccolo animation cel on my wall for 20 years so I’m very accustomed to his face. This scene takes place right after Piccolo’s fusion with Nail on Planet Namek.

Piccolo’s default expression is a stoic one. It looks okay, but something about the face seems a touch off to me and I’m not sure what it is. I think his eyes maybe too small and there’s too much “face” below them. The angle of the jaw is probably off too as it should come in tighter towards the center of his neck. I do not like that they painted his mouth red since he does not and has never had red lips so that choice is odd to me. He has his antennae though and they can be pulled out and if you really wanted to you could reposition them. Do be careful though as I once dropped an antennae from my King Piccolo figure and it was a pain to find in my very shallow carpet. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been had my carpet had more volume. Piccolo is depicted in his anime color scheme so purple gi, a very saturated green flesh tone, pink musculature or whatever we’re calling those, with red trim and a blue sash. He’s the “proud Namekian” as we’re calling him so I guess that makes this figure a late Frieza saga version or perhaps a Cell saga version of the character. Prior to that, he was a straight-up villain who wanted to avenge his “father” by killing Goku and then take over the world. He gradually turned to the side of good, thanks to his bond with Goku’s son, Gohan, and by the time he arrives on Namek to confront Frieza and see his home world for the first time he’s very much a good guy. Piccolo doesn’t really change much visually throughout the course of the show, so it’s not that important. In Dragon Ball, he had slightly different anatomy that included pink kneecaps, but otherwise he’s been pretty consistent ignoring the whole height thing I mentioned. Which is good, because this guy can fit in wherever you need him to. If you want him fighting Frieza that’s no problem or maybe you want to put him up against Android 17? That should work too.

This is a figure that definitely benefits from some effects parts.
Obviously, this is the more appropriate charging pose for Piccolo.

From a sculpting perspective, the figure is pretty solid. The gi he wears is sort of nothing new as a lot of characters wear something similar. And in the case of Piccolo, he looks like a scaled down version of King Piccolo and even a lot of the hand options are the same. He has a decent amount of paint since the red and pink portions of his body needed to be painted and it’s all quite clean. His gi looks to largely be unpainted though, likely because it’s a very dark color to begin with. I do wish it had more of a matte appearance because it’s quite shiny. That sheen does help to accentuate the folds, but it doesn’t help to create the illusion of realism. The only other critique of the overall sculpt and paint I have is that his upper body looks a touch undersized. Piccolo is a pretty beefy dude, or alien, whatever, and I feel like his shoulders could be a little broader and his chest a bit more pronounced. I’m guessing, they had to find a happy medium that worked with both the shoulder pads and without since it’s not as apparent when he has those on. I still think he looks good, but if I could improve something that would be it.

I much prefer this face to the more stoic one.
This figure is very stand-friendly.

Of course, if I was unimpressed with the basic, combat, look of Piccolo I could switch to his default look which includes the shoulder pads and cape. In order to put them on (or take them off) you simply pop the head off of the figure and slide the shoulder pads over it. There’s an opening on the back for the cape to peg into and the peg rotates so you can position the cape however you see fit. You can technically use whatever portrait you want with the cape, but Bandai included two heads that work with the turban: a stoic one and a yelling one. The expressions are both duplicated without the turban piece so I dislike the stoic one here, but the yelling one looks great. It just doesn’t work as well with this look since Piccolo usually ditches his weighted clothing when fighting, but he does engage in some fisticuffs with this on here and there. It’s a good look though and if I liked that stoic expression more I’d have a hard time not displaying the figure this way, but I think I’ll go in a different route ultimately.

If I liked this portrait this would be a hard pose to resist.
Though if you want that cape flowing out behind the figure you’re going to need a lot of shelf space.

Piccolo comes with plenty of things, though there’s at least one thing absent. For starters, he has five heads: stoic, stoic with turban, yelling, yelling with turban, and a teeth-gritting looking to the side expression. The heads intended for the turban don’t have a skull-top, but a chunk of plastic with a key on it so the turban can only go on one way. The other three heads have a full top and antennae. The yelling and teeth-gritting feature added veins and both look quite nice. The open mouth on both yelling heads are fully sculpted and the paint is pristine. For as much as I dislike the stoic expression, I love the other two. Piccolo also has the crossed-arms piece mentioned earlier. To use, you disconnect the arms just below the should and plug that piece in. It’s a bit tricky, but it can be done if you make good use of the butterfly joints. Just be careful about putting pressure on the shoulder piece because it has a cap that kind of just floats on it which can slide down and pop off on you. For hands, Piccolo has the usual assortment: fists, style pose, open palms, and a Special Beam Canon right hand. He also has an arm stump that clips on the left shoulder and features some sculpted, purple, blood dripping off of it. This is great if you have a Raditz figure and want to recreate that scene, though we sadly don’t have a barefoot Goku to go with it. Lastly, there are two plugs for the rear of the figure intended to be used with a Tamashii Nations stand (not included). It adds a port for the stand to plug into under the cape, and the larger of the two plugs is intended to help the cape stay up. The best application for this is so Piccolo can achieve his floating, meditative, pose. I do wish they had included an eyes closed portrait to really sell this, but oh well. The only big, missing, item is, of course, a blast effect. This guy is crying out for a Special Beam Canon effect piece and I really wish it could have been included. Seriously, if it means another 5 or 10 bucks added to the MSRP then just do it, Bandai!

I love that they included an arm stump!
This looks pretty bad ass, but it would be so much better with an actual effects piece.

Piccolo has plenty of stuff, but what good would it all be if he can’t be positioned well with it? Worry not, for he’s about as articulated as anything in this line. The head is on a ball peg with another joint at the base of the neck, and since Piccolo is bald, he has no restrictions in looking around. The shoulders are quite impressive as he has a butterfly joint, ball-hinge, and another hinge that allows the arms to drop down. This is to better accommodate the shoulder pads. The butterfly joint can swing out extremely far, which I believe is to make it easier to get the arms-crossed attachment on and less for actual posing, because it would look ridiculous to pose him like that. He swivels just past the shoulder at those ports where his arms come off and has the usual double-jointed elbow and the spacer piece looks quite lovely. The wrists are ball-jointed and the red trim helps hide them without hindering the range. In the diaphragm, you have a ball-hinge so he can rotate and pivot, but also crunch forward and back. There is some gapping if you go too far, and as usual, you want to be mindful of the parts rubbing against each other. At the waist he can twist and pivot and at the hips he can kick forward and back about as far as you need him to and swivel at the thighs. The knees are double-jointed and look okay when going past 90 degrees and the ankles are ball-jointed as well. They aren’t the best, though it could be due to the shape of the character’s shoes, but I don’t have problems standing him. He has a toe hinge as well, but it’s not particularly useful. Lastly, the cape is articulated so the ends can slide out for a more dramatic pose. It can also pivot up and down and you could turn the peg at an angle if you wished. It’s kind of funky because it’s in 3 pieces, but I think it works better than a wired, cloth, cape for this aesthetic. The superior option would probably have been to just do two capes, one just hanging and the other blowing, but maybe this was the more affordable option.

I brought in one of the effects pieces from my Yellow Power Ranger figure and it works okay.

Piccolo has all of the parts and articulation to really achieve the bulk of his signature poses and looks from the show. He can bring his hands together for his Cell saga energy blast, and his range of motion on his arm is perfect for the Special Beam Canon charging and blasting pose. The open hands work as a Masenko attack or if Piccolo wants to steal Tien’s Solar Flare he can do that as well. In terms of just posing, I like the style posed “claw” hands and the fists. The grimacing expression really adds a lot of personality to the figure so he can look angry or desperate with a touch of worry too. If the box included the stand and a blast effect this would be the total package as far as I’m concerned. One thing I also like about the figure, is you can use the “claw” attachment on the stands to support the figure if you want to, but I actually prefer to just peg into the figure either via those included adapters that work with the cape, or with the port on his back for the actual cape. He’s a very dynamic figure, which is what most want and expect from this line.

We have to do the father-son picture!
A time paradox!

Bandai’s 2.0 approach to Piccolo is a very good attempt. He’s definitely an improvement over the original, which is over 10 years old at this point, and does a good enough job of capturing the character’s likeness from the anime in certain poses. I do wish his default expression looked better and I feel like the character could have been bulked up a touch in the shoulder area. Also, the shiny-ness of the pants is a bummer. And there’s the lack of a blast effect of some kind, but that’s a criticism for the entire line as so few figures come with that. Even so, this figure has a lot of display options at his disposal which is great for collectors like me who enjoy changing things up every so often. I’m going with a wounded, Special Beam Canon, charging pose for now, but who knows what Piccolo will be doing 6 weeks from now? If you’ve been holding out for a better Piccolo from this line, this will probably get the job done for you, even with the obvious room for improvement.


NECA TMNT “Shred, Mondo, Shred!” Deluxe Mondo Gecko

You gotta be pretty confident to call yourself Mondo.

When we took a look at NECA’s Muckman from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon line of action figures, I mentioned how Muckman was supposed to be released in a two-pack with Mondo Gecko. That obviously didn’t happen and it’s because the figures just got too expensive for the two-pack format. Rather than release a 60 dollar or more two-pack, NECA split them up to be a pair of deluxe releases. Muckman was on the larger side and required entirely unique tooling to create, Mondo Gecko though is more average for the line in terms of size and he probably shares at least a few parts with other figures. And yet, when both figures were released Muckman came with the MSRP of $35 while Mondo is up at $40. What gives? Well, NECA decided to make this one a little different, and I’ll tell you how.

More awesome box art from NECA.

Mondo Gecko was one of the more popular ancillary characters associated with TMNT when I was a kid. He was created for the Archie Comics series The Mighty Mutanimals, but most kids knew the character from the Playmates Toys action figure. That one came with a skateboard and a bunch of stickers and he was just very much a product of his time. A skateboarding, party, gecko? Hell yeah, kids loved that shit! He was a natural companion character for the original party dude, Michelangelo, and since so many kids loved Mikey it’s hardly a surprise they enjoyed Mondo Gecko too. It would take a little while for the character to show up in the cartoon, and when he did he actually started off as a bad guy. He’d flip by the end of his debut episode, and he was one of the few characters who really didn’t change much in going from toy to toon. He basically just lost a lot of the little details like the scaled texture to his skin, blue ridges around the eyes, and even his braces. The toon also dropped the skull from his shirt either because it would be hard to animate consistently or maybe they thought it was too scary. The only thing I wish the cartoon had been able to keep was the lone roller skate the figure had on the end of his tail.

Hey, it’s Mondo, but who is the little guy in his bathrobe?

Mondo Gecko comes in the usual deluxe packaging. He gets the smaller box treatment like the Ultimate Foot Soldier and, like all of the other releases, the package is adorned with f.h.e. inspired artwork by Dan Elson. The figure itself is about 5 and 3/4″ tall putting him on par with the turtles. I haven’t watched the episode he first appears in recently, but I remember him being just a little taller than Michelangelo so this checks out (if my memory is correct). His tail is not attached in the box so some assembly is required. It’s a snug fit, but I got it on without having to resort to heating up the ball or the tail. His attire matches the cartoon well as he lacks the skull on his chest, but has the skull kneepad and spiked elbow pads. He has the overbite the cartoon depicted and his face is in a bit of a smile. That smile is accentuated when you open his jaw, which is a really nice touch. The slits in his eyes are striking and I like that they sculpted a new torso for him rather than try to get away with an overlay since they went that route with his tattered, yellow, shirt. He has the two-tone cel-shading paint job as well with a light green on the front of the figure and a darker one on the rear. Perhaps most impressive are Mondo’s sneakers. NECA sculpted the laces and everything and the paint application is quite clean. That’s not easy to pull off since there are three colors on the shoe alone.

Red, half-closed, eyes seem to indicate this guy could have come with one other accessory.

It’s interesting the shoes turned out so well, since my one contention with this figure from a presentation aspect is the paint. NECA’s application of the paint is remarkably clean for what is a fairly busy figure, but the shortcuts the company took (likely to save money) are what hurt it most. And it’s a problem we’ve seen before that apparently got cleaned up, only to resurface with Mondo. And that is NECA choosing to paint some of the joints rather than sculpt them in the proper base color. Much of the figure is sculpted in a light green that’s close to the skin-tone featured on the front of the figure. NECA even had the thighs and biceps peg into the upper thigh and shoulder and cast those pieces in the proper color, purple and yellow, respectively. Where they took a shortcut is with the hands, and in particular, the right hand. Mondo wears a red glove on one hand, and rather than mold-inject that hand in red, they kept the green plastic and tried to paint over it. This creates an ugly situation as once the hinge in that wrist is moved even once, the red paint flakes off leaving an unsightly green piece. They painted the fingertips green and yellow (for the claws) anyway, why not cast the part in the red? Maybe there was an issue in getting the paint to properly cover the red, though my guess is it’s just a cost issue. It’s one, small, piece that needs to be in red and rather than switch out the plastic they just had the factory roll with it. It’s unfortunate, because this figure looks really good and it deserved better, but I’m forced to basically ignore the articulation in that hand because I don’t want a random blob of green to show.

Mondo’s pride and joy.
This is probably how I look on a skateboard.

That brings us into the articulation. Mondo is pretty standard for the line and is quite familiar when compared with the punk frogs we’ve already taken a look at. For starters, he has that hinged jaw which adds a lot of personality to the figure. Seriously, a hinged jaw does wonders for pretty much any figure it makes sense for. His head is on a ball-joint and there’s also a ball-joint at the base of the neck which is entirely hidden by the shirt. As a result, his head has a terrific range of motion with the only hindrance being his ponytail which prevents him from looking up. At the shoulders, we have standard ball-hinges and he can raise his arms up just fine and rotate all around. At the biceps, the arm just pegs into the sleeve affording swivel articulation. It can be popped out rather easily too, which I consider a plus since I don’t fear anything breaking. At the elbow is a single hinge and swivel and he can’t bend past 90 degrees. I’m guessing they didn’t want to do a double-hinge since he has elbow pads like the turtles, though they also bypassed that with the frogs so who knows? There’s no pin so at least it looks nice. At the wrist he can swivel and he has those hinges we already talked about. I would avoid engaging them with the gloved hand. In the torso, he has a ball joint in the diaphragm under his shirt so he can rotate and pivot and crunch forward and back a little which is great for a skateboarder. At the waist he can swivel, and the hips feature the new style ball joints and are much tighter than the frogs, which is welcomed. The thighs swivel where the shorts connect and he has double-hinged knees. The plastic is on the softer side and bending his knees isn’t as “creamy” as I’d like them to be. At the ankles, there are hinge joints, but the shape of his shoes really limits how far they can go. If he has a rocker, I can’t tell, because again the shoes prevent his feet from really going anywhere. Since they look great, I’m not really disappointed by that, but your mileage may vary. Lastly, the tail connects via a ball-peg and it can move a bit, but like the Triceratons and Leatherhead, it’s range isn’t impressive.

Now that’s more like it!
Let’s shred!

Mondo’s articulation allows him to do some pretty cool things. He is a skateboarder, so his articulation should reflect that and if there’s anything missing I would say a true ball-joint at the waist allowing for more ab crunch motion might have been the way to go. Otherwise, I think he can do enough and I’ve certainly seen plenty of images online that support that. Obviously, if he’s going to do some kick flips and grinding he needs a board, and NECA included his oversized, motorized, skateboard. It’s nearly 5 inches long not including the tail pipes and features some flames painted on the surface. There’s one peg placed on the edge of the board and it seems NECA took care to not put it on the flame where it would need to be painted. Both of Mondo’s feet have peg holes, though I think the peg works best when used with his right foot. A second peg towards the front of the board would have been welcomed, but I think the company was trying to preserve the aesthetic of the board as much as possible and didn’t want a peg in a high visibility area. Since most are likely to display Mondo on his board, I don’t think it would have been a big deal to include a second peg, but it still works fine as-is. The wheels are actual wheels so the board can roll and the paint-job is well done so it’s good to see NECA nailed the look of Mondo’s signature accessory. About the only thing I wish NECA had been able to include or done with the board was a display stand like what the Turtles in Time figures came with. That would just make it a lot easier to display the figure in a more dramatic pose. Instead, you’ll have to get creative (and his tail can be helpful in that regard to prop him up) or provide your own stand.

He does have a gun, if you think he needs one.
“Cool armband, dude!”

As for the rest, Mondo comes with one extra set of hands. They’re gripping hands, to go along with the open hands he comes packaged with, and they’re here to work with his accessories. NECA included the rounded, blue, rifle we’ve seen with the Foot. I think he did wield a gun in the show, though I don’t recall the specifics of it. Regardless, I probably won’t display him with a gun so I’m not particularly bothered by the reuse. Mondo also comes with a loot sack and a timebomb. The timebomb is a bunch of bricks and six pieces of dynamite and looks pretty cool. The time on it is “09157” and if that’s a reference to something I haven’t figured it out yet. Mondo also comes with the compliance cuff from the Dirk Savage episode. It slides onto the wrist and looks kind of neat so I’ll probably use it in my display, even though wearing it means Mondo is being mind-controlled. There’s also a little green gecko representing Mondo before he was mutated. The paint looks good and it’s kind of fun to have another little creature to add to the rest like the frogs, gerbil Mike, and Pigeon Pete.

Kerma is pretty simple, but he gets the job done.
He’s rather fond of the gecko.

The big accessory though, literally and figuratiely, is Kerma. Kerma is an alien turtle from the Planet of the Turtleoids who appeared a few times in the show. He has no connection to Mondo, but to dress-up this release and really make it feel like a deluxe one he was inserted into the box. It makes sense to see Kerma released this way as he’s a little guy who really doesn’t require much articulation. He stands at approximately 3 and 1/4 inches and his sculpt is quite nice, though his sash is just painted on. He has a big smile on his face which is suitable for the rather good-natured character. His head is on a ball-peg so he can rotate and look down. Unfortunately, he can’t really look up which feels like something a short character would need to do. At the arms he has ball hinges and the wrists rotate. That’s it, since he’s a robed figure and a turtle at that. I wish they had snuck a ball into the base of his neck to allow him to look up, but otherwise the shortcuts don’t bother me all that much. He has peg holes in his feet should you want him to skateboard and he stands well on his own. Kerma is not a super-important character, but this is about the best way to release him which is to make him a glorified accessory. And assuming he’s the reason for the extra five bucks tacked onto the MSRP then I’m fine with that. Five bucks for a Kerma feels right.

Another banner release for NECA as this line just keeps chugging along.

NECA’s deluxe Mondo Gecko is yet another release in this line that feels like a homerun, or close to it. NECA is so good at nailing the aesthetics of the figures in this line that it’s almost become boring. It’s hard to blow the customer away when the line is so consistently good. That’s obviously a nice problem to have though, and while I have one major nitpick with the paint on the gloved hand, I’m still largely satisfied with how the figure turned out. I’m not going to pass on a toon Mondo, and while I didn’t need Kerma, I’m not disappointed in having him either. I’ll find a home for him in my display, while finding one for Mondo is going to be tricky because I’m running out of room! As usual, this figure is exclusive to Target in the US, though I got him from NECA’s online store as he was made available last month in limited quantities. The quantities that made it to Target seem plentiful, so he’s definitely one of the easiest releases to find, so hopefully anyone who wants him is able to get him.


S.H.Figuarts Nappa – Event Exclusive Color Edition

Here comes Nappa!

When it comes to my S.H.Figuarts collection, I’ve been able to largely keep to just Dragon Ball. And by Dragon Ball, I mean the original anime and manga that centered on a young boy named Goku. Even though that’s my favorite edition of the venerable series, it doesn’t mean my favorite is the one shared by millions across the globe. Most fans prefer Dragon Ball Z to any other iteration of the anime (the manga just kept the name Dragon Ball until Dragon Ball Super became a thing) so there is ton more merchandise for those fans than there is for me.

Now, just because I have a preference, does not mean I dislike Dragon Ball Z. Like many American viewers, I saw DBZ way before I ever saw Dragon Ball. I saw it briefly when it was on a broadcast network in my area really early in the morning, but I became a fan when Cartoon Network started airing it. The popularity of the show led the network to center a whole block of action cartoons, most of which were anime, around it and Toonami was born. During those early days, only the first 56 episodes or so were dubbed in English (it’s confusing because there was enough material cut that the English dub had a smaller episode count for awhile), and since the show had failed to catch on initially, there were no plans to dub more. Those same episodes then aired over and over so we American fans came to know those characters and arcs rather well. And one of the early villains of the show was the Saiyan warrior: Nappa.

I hope you like yellow and black.

Nappa arrived with Vegeta following Raditz’s defeat with the idea being to get vengeance for his fallen comrade. Even though he viewed Raditz as weak and pathetic, there was enough Saiyan pride in the grunt to want to seek revenge. His comrade and superior, Vegeta, had other ideas though. He cared nothing for Raditz and only wished to find the Dragon Balls so he could wish for eternal life. Unfortunately for Nappa, Vegeta’s lack of affection for Raditz extended to him as well, and when Goku delivered a devastating blow to the warrior that left his back snapped in two, Vegeta decided to put the beast down rather than help him rehabilitate.

Yeah, I know, it’s the wrong Vegeta.

As a result, Nappa’s presence on the show was fairly brief. He shows up, beats up the lesser fighters, and then gets to be the sacrificial lamb to Goku in a bid to demonstrate how far the warrior has progressed in his training. Still, I always thought he was a really effective bad guy. A remorseless killing machine who just loves to fight. His design is simple in that he’s just a massive piece of man-beef with a bald head and moustache. He wears the giant Saiyan armor that was still rather new to viewers at the time, but has shown up in a myriad of places since, and just really looks the part of a guy you wouldn’t want to mess with. So many villains in the show are intentionally drawn small and unimposing as series creator Akira Toriyama seemed to enjoy toying with expectations. Nappa was different, though also kind of the same since the much smaller Vegeta was considerably stronger than him.

I love that scouter look.

A few years ago, a version of Nappa was released in the Bandai/Tamashii Nations S.H.Figuarts lineup that was really tempting. A comic book store near me had one on display in a glass cabinet, but I never could bring myself to bite on it. He even got marked down eventually, a paltry 10%, but a discount nonetheless, and I still passed. That version of the character had more of a manga appearance. His armor was basically black and brown, but he still looked cool. In the anime, his coloring was slightly different which happened from time to time. His shoulder pads were more of a yellow and the black portions had a blue hue to them. That was my Nappa, and when Bandai unveiled a version of the character that matched that appearance I finally gave in.

“Hands off the tail, Namek!”

During the virtual San Diego Comic Con in July, Bandai put what would have been its exclusives on its Premium Bandai webstore. The whole thing was a shit show, and getting from one screen to the next was incredibly tiring as the website was just overrun by collectors looking to buy one of the five Dragon Ball exclusives. It took me over an hour, but I did get an order in for Nappa. I had to wait over a month for delivery though, which funny enough, makes Nappa the first SDCC exclusive I have received in 2021. Either because the global shipping crisis delayed release, or because manufacturers expected they wouldn’t need to have product on hand for a physical con, most of the exclusives ended up being pre-orders. My NECA purchase might arrive in October, or it might arrive in December and my Mondo purchase is dated January. My guess is the reason for the delay is actually a combination of both reasons spelled out, but ultimately, it’s a case of “it is what it is.” You want this stuff? Cool, you got it, but you’re going to have to wait.

These chop hands really draw attention to how massive his hands are.

Nappa arrived in the usual SHF window box only this one features a black and yellow motif to accentuate that it’s an event exclusive. My event exclusive Kid Goku was packaged similarly, though I never did post a review of that figure since he’s the same as the other Kid Goku, just with a blue gi instead of orange. Nappa is a chunky boy. He’s not the tallest SHF figure I own, but he’s probably the heaviest. He stands just a tad shy of 7″ and really fills out the package he comes bundled in. He’s a great figure to hold as he looks and feels like a collector grade action figure. The plastic is firm and each, individual, piece has a lightness to it, but the sum of its parts results in a nice heft for this guy. All of the musculature is well sculpted and the anatomy and design of such really echoes the source material well. As is the case for most of the figures in this line, there’s not a ton of paint, but what’s there is clean. Nappa actually commands more paint than usual as his gloves and boots feature some gray piping with mustard braids around the wrists and ankles. The mustard yellow of the abdomen, shoulder pads, and skirt pieces are all painted and there’s even a slight wash on his muscles. The painted portion of his upper chest area matches the sculpted flesh color of the neck well. The only paint application that looks a little odd to me is the moustache on his smirking head because it doesn’t follow the crease of his smile on the right side. I don’t think it’s supposed to though, it’s just one of those things that looks odd. I’d have to closely inspect the source material to see if I’m wrong, but it only looks odd when the figure is placed right in front of your face. Otherwise, I have no complaints about the aesthetics of this guy.

He’s a bit of a ham for the camera.

Where the SHF line rises above most is in its ability to wed these impressive sculpts with a ton of articulation. Nappa has a whole bunch at his disposal and it’s all of the stuff you would expect. He has a ball joint at the head plus another at the base of the neck so he can look all over the place including up and down. At the shoulders, he has a ball joint plus a butterfly joint. Because of the bulky armor, he can’t bring his arms out and across his chest as well as some figures. The shoulder pads are on hinges so they can be moved out of the way, but the bicep hits the edge of his pec. There’s a biceps swivel and double elbows, but his arms are so thick that he can’t bend past 90 degrees. On the plus side, none of the plastic joiner pieces are over-exposed to accommodate a truly wide range of motion so his arms look pretty nice in whatever position you place them in. His hands are attached via ball pegs, and even though they’re recessed in those gauntlets he’s wearing, he can still move them around pretty well. In the abdomen, he has a ball-joint that I don’t think is hinged. At least, mine won’t go up. He can bend back okay, but not forward very well and you definitely have to be mindful of the upper chest area rubbing on his abs and ruining the paint. At the waist, he has a very small ball-peg that basically just affords swivel rotation. There’s a little tilt there, but nothing game-changing. At the hips, he can kick forward and back about as far as you would ever need him to. There’s a thigh twist and double-jointed knees that go just a tiny bit past 90. At the ankle I believe we have a ball-joint. It’s nice and tight, which is what a big figure like this needs, but doesn’t provide a huge range of motion. There’s also a toe hinge, but it’s not very good and is kind of ugly because the joint is too far forward.

I couldn’t really get him into a kneeling pose to sell this one better.

Nappa moves reasonably well. Obviously, there’s no getting around that armor he wears. It’s big and bulky. The hinges on the various flaps help to some degree, but there’s only so much they can do. While I wish he could reach out in front of himself better than he can, I wouldn’t want to put any cuts in the armor to facilitate that so I’m happy with the choices Bandai made. It helps that Nappa doesn’t really have a signature energy blast like a Kamehameha or Special Beam Canon that he needs to mimic. He’s more of a brawler, and if Bandai ever did want to do a more articulated version of him they could also do a battle damaged one that doesn’t have the armor. As I mentioned in the prior paragraph, the lesser articulation means his joints mostly look really good. His elbows and knees look pretty great whether bent or out straight and there’s not a lot of gapping issues on him. The only area, besides the useless toe hinge, that I think looks a little unsightly is the neck. He’s always going to have a small gap there and since his neck is bare there’s no way to hide anything. The trade-off for the neck articulation is one I’d make though. He is an action figure, after all, not a statue.

Time to fly!

There’s a lot of plastic in Nappa, so it’s probably not surprising to see his accessory count is on the smaller end. Nappa comes with four, distinct, facial portraits. He comes with a smirking face, a yelling face where he’s looking straight-ahead, a yelling face where he’s looking down and to the left (or like he’s trying to look behind himself because there’s a guy grabbing onto him) and a smirking face with scouter. The scouter is non-removable so you only get one display option if you wish to use it. I always think of him as having the scouter on so that’s my preferred look, but I like the others as well. The head where he’s trying to look off to the side is definitely present so you can recreate the scene where Chaoz blows himself up why clinging to Nappa’s back. It’s even illustrated on the back of the box. I don’t have that figure though.

The base of the stand looks pretty cool, it’s just that Nappa isn’t the best figure for such a stand.

In addition to the alternate heads, Nappa also comes with 3 sets of hands. He has fists in the box, but also has grabbing hands and a set of hands that are in a “chop” position. I’m assuming he does some chops in the anime, though I really can’t recall specifics (maybe when he’s smashing up the jets) and the product shots on the box are of no help as none feature them. He also has a seventh hand which has two fingers extended. It functions like a cool, style, pose sort of thing and he may have done an attack that utilized such a gesture, or I could be mistaken. I think it’s present because that’s how he makes holes in the ground to plant the Saibamen. Of the sets, I definitely prefer the grabby hands, but all of them feel like they have use and I’ll likely switch them up, though I don’t know that I’ll ever display him sans scouter. That’s it though for accessories. As usual, there’s no blast effect which would have been nice. A big, mouth, blast would have been pretty fun and unique. I think the standard version might have come with a small one? Or the shop I used to see him at just happened to display him with such. That blast effect wasn’t the best, but I’d still take it over nothing.

Goku, on the other hand, works just fine. The third stand (not pictured) uses Whis’ symbol for the base.

That’s not all I have to talk about though. For SDCC, Bandai had four figures available plus a fifth set which was a box of action stands. They’re personalized to coincide with the figures they did and I grabbed a set. I think it was 40 bucks, but it got you 6 stands, 2 each of the following design: Goku, Whis, and a Saiyan Space Pod. I grabbed it because I really did need more stands and I thought they looked pretty slick. Unfortunately, when it comes to Nappa it doesn’t work too well because he is just so thick. The stand is designed to grab the figure around the waist and has some added crotch support, because even action figures need crotch support. The clasp really can’t get around Nappa’s waist, but he can at least be position on the crotch piece. You will likely need to tighten the screws in the stand as far as they’ll go to accommodate his bulk or else it will just topple. I like that the pack came with two of each style though since anyone who has the previously release Saiyan Saga Vegeta will likely want to use one with him. I do not have that figure, though if he ever gets a re-release I’ll probably grab one now. I was able to finagle a flying pose for Nappa with the stand, though I don’t think I’d trust it on a shelf. That means it’s more like a base for Nappa, and having the space pod as a base is kind of cool in its own way, but it would have been nice if it had been specially engineered to work better with the bulky Nappa.

This figure has some shortcomings, but ultimately it nails what it needed to the most and that’s the look. This looks like Nappa from Dragon Ball Z and he looks fantastic. It would have been awesome if they had found a way to make him move a little better, (and at least one of the product shots on the back of the box must be a render because he can’t wipe his mouth with the back of his hand) or stuck in a cool effects part, but he can definitely can hit all of the important poses for the character. Really, the biggest negative about him is now I want more figures that display well with him. A Saiyan Saga Vegeta is the most appropriate, but it did cause me to look at the recently released Kid Gohan, but I don’t think I need him. I considered Kaioken Goku, but he squared off with the unarmored Nappa so that doesn’t feel necessary. I did grab one figure, and I’ll tell you about him soon enough, and I also pre-ordered the new Krillin so Nappa should have a few guys to play with in due time. This is a guy that enjoys being violent, so I definitely need to feed him.

This dude looks good and he knows it. He’s not quite as tall as King Piccolo, but definitely chunkier.

This action figure is an event exclusive from Premium Bandai. Other retailers did buy some stock, but they tack on a sizable surcharge. Even with that surcharge, it looks like most have sold out so if you want him you may have to go to the secondary market. Some people are probably looking to flip him, and Bandai did open a pre-order window since their website was so terrible so some people (and possibly retailers) will get him in Q1 2022 so if you don’t like the prices right now you can wait and see if they improve next year. Bluefin Brands has also been hosting a pop-up shop that will be selling the con exclusives. They’ll probably only hit major cities like LA and New York, but maybe you have a buddy who can get to one for you or something. If you prefer the older version, maybe the release of the more anime-accurate Nappa has knocked the price down on that guy a bit. I’m pretty happy with him, even if my Saiyan Saga collection is rather light, and I don’t think any DBZ collection of S.H.Figuarts should be without a Nappa.


Super7 is Heading to Springfield!

Wednesday, August 18th, ended up being quite an eventful little day in the world of toy collecting. There were some reveals from major toy companies, leaks, and even those long neglected Street Sharks fans got something to get excited about late in the day. Personally, it was a good day for me too as I finally got to click “ship” on a Big Bad Toy Store Pile of Loot that includes my Super7 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Wave 3. However, nothing prepared me for what Super7 had in-store for us (or technically didn’t) come the evening.

It started in the afternoon when Super7 posted a tease for a new license: an image of a glowing, green, rod with the vastness of space behind it. To the uninitiated, this may have been cryptic or even confusing. A glowstick? What could that be a reference to? For diehard fans of The Simpsons though, the image was unmistakable: an inanimate carbon rod! This rather plain looking object was the punchline to the episode “Deep Space Homer” where the show allegedly “jumped the shark” by sending Homer to outer space. It’s a ridiculous concept, but like a lot of classic era episodes of The Simpsons, there’s plenty of jokes to make it worthwhile.

Speculation was then running wild on social media about what Super7 had planned for The Simpsons. Most, including myself, assumed a wave of ReAction figures was forthcoming. If you’re unfamiliar with ReAction, that’s Super7’s retro, five points of articulation, throwback line of figures that are sold on elaborate cardbacks and can be found everywhere. They’re not my cup of tea as I have no nostalgic attachment to the Star Wars figure line from the 70s and 80s. They’re just ugly figures to me, but sometimes Super7 creates some interesting figures in this line so I wasn’t ready to dismiss the idea. The Nicktoons figures have turned out pretty well, so maybe The Simpsons could be pulled off just as well.

What I was hoping for though, was that Super7 would give The Simpsons the Ultimates treatment. We’ve talked about the Ultimates figure line a lot here, but for those just popping in, Super7’s Ultimates line is a 7″ scale action figure line that’s made to order. These are the figures that are decidedly modern in their approach to sculpting, articulation, etc. The Simpsons isn’t a brand that screams “Ultimates” since we’re not talking about sword-wielding ninjas and such, but I’m interested in figures that capture the likeness best and come packed with tons of accessories and facial expressions. Still, I assumed that would be far off, and if Super7 did want to do Simpsons in that style that they would start small (like they did with Ren and Stimpy) and maybe just offer a Homer or Bart or a one-off character.

What do we have here?!

And I was wrong! Later in the evening, the Twitter account @preterniadotcom tweeted an image of a Google search result for a Super7 Ultimates Deep Space Homer. The link went to a 404 error, but it’s mere existence was encouraging. The same account then dug a little further and was able to find a solicitation image that all but confirmed the existence of a Deep Space Homer action figure. As the name suggests, it’s Homer in his astronaut suit and he indeed comes packaged with our beloved carbon rod. He has extra hands and three different facial expressions. He also has a bag of chips and the colony of ants. It’s just a digital render, but it sure looks promising.

The fun didn’t stop there. Soon many people were messing around with the Super7 store URL and it wasn’t long before an image of the entire first wave of Simpsons Ultimates was uncovered. A user at thefwoosh.com was the first person I saw to uncover the image, but soon every social media account connected with toys was sharing it. The day began rather ordinarily, and then we got a Simpsons tease, then we got confirmation of an Ultimates figure, and when we all went to sleep we had an entire first wave. And it wasn’t just two figures, it wasn’t even the standard four, but five figures! Super7 clearly appears to be all-in when it comes to The Simpsons and I am here for it!

Wow! It looks great! And you get a Homer accessory with your rod!

So who all is joining Homer in this inaugural first wave? Well, in true Super7 fashion, it’s a surprising collection of characters intended to appeal to the diehard Simpsons fan. Disney fans were confused when Super7 launched a Disney line last year consisting of Sorcerer Mickey, Pinocchio, and Prince Jon from Robin Hood because there was no Robin Hood. Super7’s approach is both strategic and also by the seat of their pants. They like to produce the figures that they simply want, and Super7’s Brian Flynn loves Prince Jon so he gets to be in Wave One. To them, that suggests to the consumer that “Of course Robin Hood will be in Wave Two,” but for fans unfamiliar with the company it’s just confusing. With The Simpsons, I’m pretty sure the same thing will happen because Wave One is Deep Space Homer, Moe, Poochie, and robot versions of Itchy and Scratchy from the episode “Itchy and Scratchy Land.” I don’t want to speak for Super7, but my guess is these are just favorite characters, episodes, and gags for the people at Super7. It’s also a tell to the Simpsons fanbase that they’re going to go deep. It’s a foregone conclusion that you’re going to get a Bart, Lisa, Krusty, etc. at some point, so they’re going to give you some of those deep cuts upfront so you don’t have to worry about Super7 not getting to them.

Should I spend hundreds of dollars to amass an army of Itchy and Scratchy robots?!

Of course, since everything except the initial tease is basically a leak (or a cleverly disguised reveal to get people talking) we don’t necessarily know what the plan is or what direction they’re going in. Maybe Super7 isn’t interested in doing a base Homer? I kind of doubt it, but we’ll have to wait and see. They’ll probably want to get someone out there soon to talk about the license and give fans a head’s up, but for now we at least know about five figures. And from what I see, they look terrific. I don’t know that I need Homer in a space suit, but I do like what Super7 is showing here so it’s not something I’m going to pass on. Moe looks as Moe should. He comes with his apron, rag, a Flaming Moe, and a bright red phone for prank calls. He even has an angry, screaming, face that should pair well with that phone. He also has a panda in a crate, because Moe gets his hands into some questionable business practices. Poochie also looks great and comes with his surfboard, skateboard, and all of the stuff he needs to take things “To the extreme!” The stars of the inaugural first wave though might be those robotic Itchy and Scratchy figures. They just look fun with Itchy featuring a removable skull top to expose his robotic innards and Scratchy possessing a removable face to do the same. They have various implements of destruction as well as items to feature in a parade. And, not to be missed, is the Bort license plate that comes with Scratchy (chef’s kiss).

This has to happen.

Even though I get what Super7 is doing here, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a rather bold selection of characters for the first wave of a new IP. Is there a market for high end Simpsons action figures out there? I guess we’ll find out. Many are used to paying 10 bucks or so for the Playmates figures of 20 years ago. These will retail for $55 a piece so there’s likely to be some sticker shock. I’m familiar with Super7 so I know what to expect. I’m also used to paying that kind of money for a toy in 2021 so it should go without saying that I’m all in. And then there’s also the delay in actually getting these. Simpsons fans who have been out of the collector game for a long time will be surprised at the price, and then further surprised when they find out they won’t even get their figures for a year. Super7’s made-to-order model is basically designed in such a way that they almost can’t lose money on a figure offering, but if this wave underperforms it might mean a smaller Wave Two. I suspect they have a list of figures they really want to make and it’s possible nothing will stop them unless sales are truly abysmal, but it will be interesting to see the response to these. As for me, I have a long list of characters that I’d love to see, and I expect a lot of the figures to come will be episode specific. Surely there will be a Bart in Wave Two, but I’m also really hopefully for a Skinner and Chalmers pairing full of Steamed Ham references. Such a thing would surely get the social media a-buzzing!

Update 8/20/2021: The entire first wave is now available through Super7 at https://preorder.super7store.com/. If you want to order from a place that doesn’t charge upfront, more options should become available later in the day. I recommend at least heading on over to Super7’s store for more high-res images of the line including a look at the sleek packaging!


S.H.Figuarts Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku

That is quite the mouthful, is it not? The Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku is the latest action figure from Bandai’s S.H.Figuarts to arrive in Target stores in the US. This form of Goku is what happens when a Saiyan ascends to Super Saiyan God level, and then goes Super Saiyan again. Confused? You probably should be, which is why in-universe Goku proposed just calling the form Super Saiyan Blue because he just looks like his regular Super Saiyan self, but with blue hair instead of blond. And that’s cool! At least I think it is, but blue has always been my favorite color so that is all the explanation you really need for why I like it. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, that might be because you stopped paying attention after the Dragon Ball Z hype dyed-down for this form is from the more recent Dragon Ball Super. And if you liked DBZ back in the day and have slept on Super, I recommend checking it out because it’s pretty fun.

Do you like your Goku stoic?

The SHF line from Bandai and Tamashii Nations has become one of the premiere collector lines for action figure enthusiasts. It’s a super-articulated, 1/12 scale line that is known for its high level of quality. That can also mean a high price tag as well with many releases tagged for $60 or more at release. It wasn’t that long ago that the line was basically an import only affair, but US-based retailers have slowly been adding the line to their stores. Barnes & Noble and Gamestop were among the first places I encountered the line outside of online toy shops, but Bandai has wanted to make this a more accessible line and has partnered with American distributor Blue Fin Brands to make these things even more available. And also more affordable. That’s why you can now find some products at Target, which was unthinkable just a couple of years ago. And in order to appeal to a more casual Target shopper, Bandai has turned to Goku and a rather aggressive pricing strategy. Likely owing to the fact that the company is reusing the same mold over and over, Bandai has been able to price Goku at $35. He doesn’t come with as many accessories as other figures in the line, but he’s hardly bare bones. Bandai started with its standard Goku, then released the Kaioken version, and now it’s released the Super Saiyan Blue version. I suspect the new Full Power Super Saiyan Goku will show up as well.

Or do you prefer him smug? I like smug.

This seems like a pretty good strategy to me, especially because I may have never bought this particular figure otherwise. I’ve somewhat reluctantly begun to expand my Dragon Ball collection to include some of Z and Super, and this figure is the first one I have in hand. As I said above, I like the Super Saiyan Blue look. It’s just Super Saiyan Goku, but with cooler hair. I never had the opportunity to get this figure before and the only other versions I’ve encountered in a physical store have been the model kits or the Dragon Stars edition, and neither really appealed to me. I have wanted to cherry-pick a bit from the Dragon Ball Super, and to some extent Dragon Ball Z, releases so I was happy to see this figure get reissued as it was originally a released timed with the film Dragon Ball Super – Broly.

Of course, there’s also pissed off Goku.

Goku is about as good as any other SHF release I’ve purchased, and that’s a good thing. To the tip of his hair, he’s just shy of 6.5″ which makes him about a half inch taller than the Super Saiyan Vegeta I have from the same line. That looks about right for late era DBZ and DBS as Vegeta was gradually drawn taller than his original appearance (apparently, being good causes you to grow in the world of Dragon Ball), but was always kept shorter than Goku. He sports his traditional organge gi with his own kanji on the front and rear (accurate to the film) and a knotted belt. His undershirt, wrist wraps, belt, and boots are navy and his skin is quite pale, which is often how it’s colored when in one of his super forms. His hair is a dark, pearl, blue which is basically how it’s colored when the character lacks an aura. I was a little surprised Bandai didn’t try to create the illusion of an aura, but this looks good too.

And when Goku gets mad, he starts working on something…

As is the case with most figures in this line, Goku doesn’t possess a ton of paint. The gi is done in orange plastic with a slight wash on the front to add a touch of depth. Basically, the only painted parts are the facial features, blue sleeves, blue wrist wraps, the flesh of his chest, the kanji on his chest and back, and the red stripes and knots on his boots. What little paint there is has been applied in a clean manner. My only gripe is with the opacity. The white on the kanji needs to be thicker as some of the orange bleeds through it. The same is true of the chest which looks like it’s cast in blue plastic to match the undershirt and it shoes through just a little. It’s not too noticable though and I’m genuinely pleased with how well the flesh plastic of his neck matches the painted flesh. In total, the paint is fine, but since this is sort of a “budget” release it’s easy to wonder if that plays a role in the thin paint on the kanji.

Like the good old Kamehameha attack!
In case you prefer a side view of the destruction.

Beyond the paint, the sculpt for this figure is generally really good. Goku is a character than can be tough to get right for some reason as I’ve seen many figures where his head just looks too small. And I kind of felt that way about the standard Goku Bandai did and it’s why I never picked him up. Maybe it’s just the shape of the Super Saiyan hair, but this one looks better to me. His head might be a touch on the small side, but it doesn’t throw off the look of the figure. The gi looks terrific as far as the folds and such are concerned and they really did a great job hiding the articulation when Goku is in a vanilla pose. I’m especially happy with how the face turned out on all of the swap-able pieces. Anime characters like Goku sometimes end up with facial features that are too soft, but Goku does not suffer in that regard. His nose is pronounced whether looking at the figure head-on or from the side. I like the variety of expressions as they all very much scream “Goku.” The musculature of his arms looks “just right” to me. It’s easy to see why Bandai would re-release this base sculpt over and over because there isn’t much they could do to improve upon it.

Since I don’t have a proper Dragon Ball Super villain, King Piccolo is just going to have to take one for the team.

People love the SHF line because of the sculpts, but also because of the articulation. Goku boasts as much articulation as pretty much any other figure in the line, which is to say he packs a lot. He has a single ball peg at the head/neck that lets him look down pretty far and up just a bit. Go too far back and a small gap will appear at the base of the neck. It’s okay, but not as good as some other figures. At the shoulders, we have the usual ball-hinge setup with a butterfly joint. The shoulder cuffs of the gi can be moved around as they’re just pegged into the arms which allows you to position Goku’s arms in almost any position you can think of, though he can’t quite reach across his body. Bringing the arms forward will, of course, create a large gap behind the shoulder, but he can do a decent Kamehameha so you’ll probably get what you want out of it. Unfortunately, the interior of the shoulder is cast in flesh-colored plastic when it should be orange so if you look at the figure from certain angles when in that classic pose it doesn’t look right. At the biceps, he has a swivel and below that a double hinge that does better than 90 degrees. The hands are on ball-hinges and the wrist cuffs hide the ball portion very well. In the torso, we have the SHF ball hinge so you can twist and pivot at the base of the rib cage, but also pull up on the figure to crunch him forward and back. At the waist is a twist, and below that we have what I think are ball pegs at the hips. He can kick forward and back just fine, but out to the side he’s a touch limited with his left leg, but for some reason his right is even more limited. I don’t know if the floating, plastic, “cap” Bandai used just isn’t lining up right on that side or what the deal is, but I don’t want to force it. He’s got a twist in the upper thigh, double-hinge knee, and ball peg at the ankle with a toe hinge. The ankle articulation isn’t great because it’s recessed so far in the boot. They could probably stand to do better there, but I have no issues standing him. The belt also features a peg at the knot so you can reposition it as needed. It’s a floating piece otherwise so it can also slide around.

“Keep you low power, Super Saiyan, stink away from me, Vegeta.”

The articulation is overall pretty good. It’s not the best SHF figure I’ve seen, but it does strike a pretty terrific balance between pleasing the sculpt and offering a wide range of motion. Really, the big negative is that butterfly joint and maybe the sleeves, which peg into the shoulder to move around, but can get kind of ugly in certain poses. They can be manipulated into something pleasing enough, but it feels like a better solution could be found. For $35 though, this figure is a terrific value. I don’t know that much really competes. Maybe the Tokka and Rahzar NECA released last year which averaged out to around 30-35 a piece? And I haven’t even mentioned the accessories. Goku comes with 4 portraits and four and half sets of hands. The facial portraits are stoic, smile, teeth gritting, and yelling. The hands are fists, open palms, martial arts pose, Kamehameha hands, and one double-pointing “Instant Transmission” right hand. Basically, you get everything you need with no extras. It would be awesome to get a stand or energy effect, but given the price I’d say you’re getting a solid assortment. The only facial portrait one could ask for that isn’t here is maybe just a cheerful expression, but that’s definitely not needed for the Super Saiyan Blue form. And when it comes to the hands, there’s none I could want that isn’t here. Goku isn’t a character that needs gripping hands and he can do all of his signature poses with what Bandai provided in the box, save for the ones that need a stand.

Just a couple of cocky Saiyans.

And that’s what this is, a low cost entry point into the SHF Dragon Ball line. It definitely strikes me as a sound strategy as I can see some people seeing this in a place like Target and picking it up on a whim and that leading them down the rabbit hole that is the SHF line. It’s even worked on me to a degree as I now want a villain, or at least someone, to pair with Goku. I definitely would like to get my hands on a Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta and I hope he gets a reissue at some point. I don’t know that I need the Broly to place on a shelf though. This is a line I intend to just cherry pick my favorite looks and characters and it felt right to add at least one Goku to the mix. And I like how he turned out. Could he be better? Yes, especially at that butterfly joint, but overall he looks nice and moves well enough that I think anyone who picks this figure up will be happy with it.

“Bye!”

Masters of the Universe: Revelation (Part 1)

If you’re into nostalgia then you’re probably familiar with how bad a relaunch, reboot, or long overdue sequel can go when it comes to fanbase reception. It’s essentially a form of gatekeeping, the time honored tradition of true fanatics who take ownership of an intellectual property they didn’t create and react in explosive, irrational, ways when something doesn’t go the way they wanted it to. The worst of it manifests in the form of harassment directed towards the actor, writer, etc. that the fanbase has decided has wounded them and it’s pretty gross. I think we saw the worst of this with The Last Jedi when angry fanboys decided to harass actress Kelly Marie Tron for playing a role they apparently didn’t like, never mind that the actor rarely has much input in how a character is presented and is just following a script and director. Like I said, it’s largely the reaction of the irrational and unfortunately it colors all individuals interested in these subjects as big man-babies, since this is largely the reaction of a male audience.

When tackling such a project, it seems the artists involved can either try to placate this segment of a fanbase or ignore it. With the new Netflix series Masters of the Universe: Revelation, writer and executive producer Kevin Smith seemed to try to have it both ways. The series was billed as a sequel to the Filmation series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe which ran from 1983-1985 and spanned 130 episodes. Rather than make the new show the same in style and tone as the original, Smith opted to write a sequel of a show intended for six-year-olds in the 80s for the same fanbase which is now approaching 40. It turns out this is a bad approach for Masters of the Universe if the most vocal portion of the fanbase is concerned. The show has received positive critical reviews, but has also been review bombed at outlets like Rotten Tomatoes with audience scores in the “rotten” range.

Teela assumes the spotlight for these episodes, and considering the MOTU fanbase is largely male, you can imagine how that has gone over.

What is the source of this fan outrage? As is often the case with these things, it’s hard to pinpoint. Some clearly went in expecting to hate the show and got what they wanted. They rage about “wokeness” or other abstract concepts they struggle to get specific with. And then there is the always prevalent “they ruined my childhood” cries if a character behaves differently than expected or is killed off, never mind that those 130 episodes Filmation made are never going anywhere. In the case of Masters of the Universe: Revelation, the complaints definitely span some of those topics, but one complaint I saw a lot of was that there isn’t enough He-Man. In hindsight, perhaps fans should have expected a more ensemble approach since the show purposefully dropped He-Man from its title. And the trailer Netflix released presented an honest look at the show. It’s also important to note, this is part 1 of a planned 2 part event and is only 5 roughly 24 minute episodes. It strikes me as a very Poochie response to complain about there not being enough He-Man, while ignoring that there’s a pretty obvious story in play here, but some fans are far more interested in feeling aggrieved over cries of a classic bait and switch.

Despite cries alleging the opposite, He-Man is still a part of this show.

I’ve already paid far too much lip-service to the arguments of a set of individuals who were going to hate the product no matter what. Is the show actually good though? It’s important to remember how this all originated. The original show was a glorified toy commercial. The animation was limited even compared with Hanna-Barbera properties of the era and the plots paper thin. There were some fun character designs, but clearly not a lot of thought was put into the creation of the series and characters as everyone has some generic name. Even He-Man himself, the title character, has an absurdly stupid name that we’ve just all grown to accept overtime. And it’s fine. That old show worked for what it was, but it’s certainly not the type of cartoon you can hand an adult who has never seen it and expect them to enjoy it. It’s not going to happen. Like many shows of that era, you need nostalgia goggles to have a good time. If Revelation had been designed as a sequel in both spirit and tone, it would have been terrible. It may have succeeded as a fun novelty, but nothing more.

Instead, we have a series that wants to treat the original premise with respect. There will still be the relics of the past that can’t be changed, like a character named Stinko, that pull the viewer out of it a bit, but I certainly don’t blame Smith for keeping that stuff in place. This series is given a TV-PG rating, but it’s definitely aiming beyond that in tone. It’s not overly violent, but characters do strike each other and we even get an impalement in one episode complete with a blade covered in blood emerging from the victim’s chest. Powerhouse Animation Studios was contracted to handle the animation and viewers may know them as the company behind Netflix’s well-received Castlevania series. Masters of the Universe has a similar look to that series, but with a brighter color palette befitting the show. The characters are large and the scenery detailed. The animation can be a bit jumpy at times, but I’m always delighted to see a series choose a 2D aesthetic over a 3D CG one. The series is scored by Bear McCreary and its mature tone matches the visuals well. It’s appropriately triumphant when it needs to be, and McCreary is able to add a dash of some of the familiar stings from yesterday that should please anyone familiar with the property.

Mark Hamill crushes it as Skeletor, which should surprise no one.

The setup for the series is a confrontation between He-Man (Chris Wood) and Skeletor (Mark Hamill, who is so good in the role) leads to the destruction of all magic in Eternia. In order to save the world, magic needs to be brought back and hero and villain will need to work together in order to make that happen. The heroine Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is the focal point for these five episodes as she is turned into a reluctant hero entrusted with bringing back magic. She has a cast of allies at her side, but notably no He-Man for both he and Skeletor are essentially removed from the picture alongside magic. Their presence still looms large over the show, because how could it not, so even though they aren’t always there physically, they’re certainly there spiritually.

The only people who should be mad about screen time are Fisto fans. There’s just not enough Fisto.

Now, light spoilers ahead, but it’s hard to frame the series without revealing a little bit of the plot and nothing I say here isn’t already covered in the official trailer for the show. When He-Man is removed from the picture is when his identity as Prince Adam is revealed to Teela. Prior to the confrontation, Teela was made the Man-At-Arms for the kingdom as a promotion in a ceremony at the castle that is quickly adjourned when Skeletor strikes Grayskull. Upon finding out Prince Adam’s secret and that it was a secret also kept by her father, Man-At-Arms (Liam Cunningham), she reacts with anger. She feels like she has given her all to a kingdom and to a man, Prince Adam, who did not even deem her worthy of knowing what’s really going. Feeling betrayed, she abandons her post as a result of both that and at seeing how her father is “rewarded” for his year’s of service when the king finds out his son’s secret, and that sets the wheels in motion. A lot of criticism levied at the show that I’ve seen points to this moment as being unrealistic, poorly written, etc. It’s really none of those things. The audience does not need to feel it would react in the same manner, but that doesn’t make Teela’s actions unjustified or unearned. And the story will come back to that moment and explain it even better in the following episodes, maybe not as explicitly as some of the audience apparently needed, but it’s there for anyone willing to pay attention.

Heroes and villains on the same side?! Kevin Smith, what madness have you unleashed?!

The story takes on a quest-like feel as Teela gets pulled back into her old role as a Master of the Universe and will round up allies along the way. Each character they encounter is dealing with a new personal crisis resulting from the climax of the first episode. Where the show succeeds very well is in giving each character a clear arc that allows them to grow along the way. Some arcs will end in death, at least for now, which is always controversial. It’s important to remember this is only the first grouping of episodes and a lot can change in the next batch. While I suspect some deaths are permanent (and should be as they’re satisfying) it also would not surprise me in the least if the story finds a way to undo all of them, but I won’t prematurely criticize the show for something it may not even do. The show ends, as virtually all Netflix shows seem to do, with a cliffhanger and it’s one Kevin Smith likened to The Empire Strikes Back. Our heroes are going to get knocked down again before they can rise up, and we have to wait for the next batch of episodes (which presently have no release date, but Smith has indicated they’re nearly finished) to see that rise take place. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen, so fans crying about the end really need to chill.

Tri-Klops as a creepy techno-evangelist is a turn I didn’t see coming, but am very much here for.

Beyond the plotting, the show finds time for humor so it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some interesting developments for the world post magic, and the villain Tri-Klops (Henry Rollins) takes an entertaining turn. There’s a lot of humor and genuine chemistry found in the pairing of Orko (Griffin Newman) and the sorceress Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey) that may have been my favorite part of the whole thing. I actually wish there had been more time allotted for quieter moments between characters, but the short running time means this show moves at a brisk pace and it’s a pretty easy binge. I watched it with my kids on a rainy afternoon and it was short enough that I wasn’t feeling fatigued come episode 5. Mostly though, the cast should be praised for their work on this one. Netflix appears to have spent good money attracting talent, while the show probably also saved a few bucks by casting some Smith regulars (including his daughter) in a few minor roles. If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith’s work, you’ll probably find added enjoyment in trying to pick out actors like Jason Mewes and Justin Long from the cast of characters present.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation is the spiritual sequel to the original show from Kevin Smith that apparently many fans didn’t want. Despite that though, it’s well-written and the production values are about as good as it gets for an animated television series in 2021. The show is not prestige TV by any means, but fans of Masters of the Universe looking to see how the characters could behave in a mature setting should at least find it engaging. It is a fairly predictable show, especially if you’re familiar with Kevin Smith and the type of story-telling that intrigues him. Predictable does not equal unenjoyable though, and even though I could foresee a lot of the plot beats a mile away I still found them satisfying as they made sense for the story being told. I suspect the remaining five episodes will unfold in a similar fashion, and fans bemoaning the fact that they didn’t get to see tidy, little, plots where He-Man foils Skeletor at the end of every episode will eventually get the resolution they want. Part of the show’s premise, after all, is to showcase the final confrontation between He-Man and Skeletor. I’m guessing the people who don’t like this show aren’t wrestling fans because this thing is scripted like a classic wrestling angle where the hero needs to go away, because the return “pop” is always the biggest. This show is a fairly easy recommend from me since it’s quite digestible and it’s entertaining. If you’re someone who is very specific about what you want from your toy commercial turned show, then maybe it’s not for you. And if you’re someone who finds the whole concept of Masters of the Universe dumb to begin with, then yeah, it’s probably not going to win you over either. And if you just want to see Prince Adam wave his sword in the air and become bathed in light, well you can always go watch the old cartoon. Or wait for the more kid-friendly show coming out later. That one actually has He-Man in the title, so if he’s not in every episode you’re free to get mad.


NECA TMNT “Trouble’s Afoot” Deluxe Foot Soldier

Threatening, but also not.

I’m back after a much needed break, and wouldn’t ya know, I’m back with another NECA toy review from its mega popular line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures! Today’s subject may not be the sexiest release from this line, but it’s one that is still worth talking about. The lowly Foot Soldier from the original TMNT cartoon series was basically just fodder for the turtles to smash, slash, and bash and chew up screen time. As the show moved away from letting the turtles even carve up robots with their weapons, the impact of the Foot was diminished, but they never went away completely. The Foot Soldier is a bit underwhelming on its own, but this deluxe, stand-alone, release, is made even more tame by the fact that it’s essentially a modified re-release of a figure we’ve had for a few years now. That, however, does not make this one the first skip-able release in the growing toon line.

The deluxe Foot Soldier comes in NECA’s Ultimates styled packaging which features a five-panel window box with impressive artwork and photography all over. Like the prior deluxe releases in this line, this one is adorned with f.h.e. inspired artwork to mimic an old VHS release. Titled “Trouble’s Afoot,” this one was handled by artist Dan Elson and very much looks the part as it stokes the flames of nostalgia. These boxes are so hard to toss because they’re so charming, and they do a good job of holding all of the stuff (and there is a lot of stuff with this one) contained in the box. If you’re a mint-in-box collector, then you should be very happy with this release.

I absolutely love the packaging decisions NECA has made with this line.

This Foot Soldier release has been a long time coming. It was originally going to be the first deluxe release, but it was passed over in favor of both Metalhead and Krang to officially be released as #3 in the series. This decision ended up delaying this one for over a year, but few collectors were actually disappointed since the other deluxe releases were far more exciting. And that’s because this figure is largely the same was what was released back in 2017 as part of NECA’s San Diego Comic Con exclusive set. Following that release, Foot Soldiers were released in two-packs with a turtle as part of the first wave of Target exclusives and then again as a dedicated two-pack as part of Wave 2. Following that, special battle damaged variants were included in Wave 3 which featured new torsos, but largely retained everything else. Given NECA already gave us an army builder set and multiple other avenues to acquire Foot, some may have wondered why we would ever need a “deluxe” version, but NECA had an ace up its sleeve in the form of Alpha One.

Yeah, I had to get two.

Somewhat later in the cartoon series, there was an episode called “The Foot Soldiers are Revolting” which featured the super intelligent Alpha One. The Alpha One Foot Soldier looked like a regular Foot Soldier, but with an oversized head that resulted in the metal interior to burst forth from the purple hood. This Foot Soldier lead a rebellion against Shredder that lasted for an episode, and NECA could have just put this guy into another two-pack, but instead chose to release him as a solo effort. This does mean one deluxe Foot Soldier costs a few bucks more than the standard or battle damaged ones (30 bucks compared with the 52 dollar two-pack price), but NECA is hoping collectors will appreciate the packaging and additional accessories, as well as some new engineering.

New Foot vs Old Foot. The differences are subtle, but do exist.

Yes, that’s right, there is a bit more “new” here than some may have realized. NECA is pretty good about making running changes to its figures when a change is warranted. For years, this line has been criticized for joints that are too tight and hips that are prone to breaking. In my experience, I have not had any significant quality control issues with my figures, but that doesn’t mean issues haven’t come up. The Foot I had acquired as part of the box set were pretty stiff and ended up being my least favorite from that particular set, but they didn’t break or anything. This Foot has a re-worked neck joint which is largely done to make it easier to swap heads. It’s possible to swap heads on the original Foot, but the ball in the torso is likely to pop out first as opposed to the second one in the head so it’s not easy, or recommended. The other difference is in the hips which are now simple ball-pegs. The end result is a much looser, and freer, range of motion, but the downside is the looseness makes it a little harder to pose as the figure sometimes wants to just do splits. I ran into a similar issue with the Punk Frogs two-pack, but this is how NECA is doing hips now so I suppose we better get used to it. It’s better than the absurdly tight Bebop and Rocksteady hip joints, but it is disappointing to see one problem solved, only to be replaced by another. The other additional change is in the ankles, so much like the new turtles we got in the disguise four-pack, these Foot have true ankle rockers. Beyond that, the articulation is the same as the previous release. The only other difference is this Foot Soldier is noticeably brighter when it comes to the purple in comparison with the past release. I say “noticeably,” but it’s really only noticeable when you have an old and new figure standing side by side. And even then, you’re not likely to notice if they’re on a shelf.

This really only happens in video games.

Even with the change in hips, this new Foot still stands at roughly six and a half inches which is right in-line with the previous release. Where it is going to distinguish itself beyond the subtle articulation improvements is just in the amount of stuff. This guy comes with six sets of hands: fists, gripping, tighter gripping, trigger finger, relaxed, and a set of “chopping” hands. The plastic used for the hands is nice and pliable, which is necessary because the included accessories seem to range in thickness. Returning from prior releases is the long rifle with a suction cup end on it. The dark gray on this gun is ever so slightly darker than the previous version, but is otherwise the same. There’s a small, white, handgun which has been repeated a few times and the bulbous, blue, rifle from the damaged two-packs returns as well. The gray and orange ninja stars are present, as is the blue and purple mutagen canister. The sword with a yellow and brown hilt that was previously packaged in the SDCC set and with Shredder is included and we get yet another purple communicator, this one features the new Krang and has been released previously. I feel like NECA missed an opportunity to put a sticker of post shower Krang on this one, but oh well.

“You have failed me.”

That’s all of the old stuff, what you probably want to know about is what’s new. Well, one of the guns is a mix of both. The rifle we’ve seen included with the other Foot Soldiers as well as Bebop and Rocksteady makes a return, but with a new purple and gray paint deco. It’s kind of silly, and I don’t know if they were ever colored this way in the show, but I like the end result as it looks like a Foot-specific gun and every soldier should color coordinate with its chosen weapon. We also have a long spear that’s nearly 8″ long. It’s definitely low tech amongst the other weapons, but looks pretty cool in the hands of the Foot. There’s a new sword with a white and gray deco that has a serrated edge. It looks similar to some of the Mirage weapons and is fine. There’s a fan that’s done in a peach and gold color scheme that looks sleek. I can’t recall if it was a special item in the show, or just a fan, but I think it there was one with magical properties? It’s been awhile. There’s a second Foot head with a yellow Foot insignia on the forehead instead of a red one which was basically just a color variation in the show. I know it was present in the Alpha One episode so it makes sense to have it here. There is also a cop hat if you want an Officer Foot. There is, of course, the Alpha One head which looks great and has the same range of motion as the other heads and I suspect it is this head most will choose to display. Lastly, Alpha One has his own, unique, handgun represented as well.

You’re in trouble now, Shredder. Maybe.

That’s a lot, and it’s a bit overwhelming. It feels like NECA is encouraging collectors to get multiples of this release and army build a group of Foot Soldiers with some variety in their arsenal. The only problem is that by buying multiples you double that amount of accessories and it’s just so much! It’s a good problem to have, but NECA probably could have omitted some of the repeat weapons like the old sword, blue rifle, and white handgun. I also wish they had a proper sash on the figure, instead of just a sculpted one, so we could store some of these weapons on the actual figure like the illustration on the box featuring a Foot Soldier with ninja stars in his belt. Instead, you basically have to pick what you like best and just put the rest out of sight. At least I have extra Foot Soldiers to best align my preferred weapons with my display.

Looks like they figured out how to work together, after all.

The Deluxe Foot Soldier is definitely the lesser deluxe release of the three available, and will probably remain so after the next three drop (Mondo Gecko, Muckman, and Krome Dome), but that doesn’t make it worthless. The base figure represents an improvement over what has been released before, and we basically have every accessory under the sun now. The Alpha One head makes this a release to track down on its own as that is a unique character and one likely to remain exclusive to this set. Part of me hopes that NECA does a new Foot Soldier two-pack that’s like a budget release with less accessories, maybe even just hands, so we can make better use of the accessories we have here. That probably won’t happen, but I would not be surprised if these new Foot Soldier bodies are re-released as a standard two-pack with the Wave 2 accessories. Maybe they’ll include the new color scheme on the rifle as well.

Updated display. Maybe slightly irresponsible to add two new Foot Soldiers considering the space limitations already.

Like all of the other cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles releases from NECA, this figure is exclusive to Target stores in the US. International collectors can find these at specialty shops, though all of the international releases seem to be lagging way behind compared with the US ones (I don’t think Canada, for example, has received a release for Krang yet) with the exception of China which has had this guy for about a month (among other upcoming releases). Target isn’t stocking this release, and hasn’t done any online sales for this line in months, so your best bet is to check often and figure out the local rep’s schedule to maximize your chances of finding this release on the shelf. Hopefully with this being a re-release and an army builder, they stick around on shelves longer than usual. Good luck, and don’t feed the scalpers!


S.H.Figuarts Juckie-Chun/Jackie Chun

It was about a week ago in my write-up on the Dragon Stars World Martial Arts playset that I bemoaned my decision to pass on the S.H.Figuarts release of Jackie Chun and I hypothesized I might rectify that. Well, it didn’t take me long to make up my mind as here I am to tell you all about Jackie Chun! The martial arts master and winner of the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament has been cast in plastic and is ready to join my humble Dragon Ball collection. What motivated me to finally pull the trigger on this guy was largely my completist nature. The Dragon Ball set from Bandai is pretty small when compared with the assortment of Dragon Ball Z figures, so why not get them all? I have the first Bulma Bandai released in my Pile of Loot at Big Bad Toy Store so the only one I’m missing now is kid Chi-Chi. I can’t get past her costume though, so I don’t know if I’ll ever pickup that particular figure.

“Boy, you sure do look familiar!”

The reason I initially passed on Jackie is because he’s very similar to Master Roshi. Not only do they look strikingly similar, they’re literally the same figure. For the most part. The only difference in terms of sculpting is the head and lower leg area, but the torso is the same. Jackie just dresses all in a deep navy blue, almost black, as opposed to Master Roshi’s much more colorful attire. And if you didn’t notice right away that they’re essentially the same, the give away rests on the back of the figure where Bandai just glued in the plug piece intended to seal the peg hole for Master Roshi’s turtle shell accessory. It’s a minor eyesore on Jackie, but the figure is helped out by the fact that we’re dealing in dark colors here and it is on the back of the shirt. At the same time, it’s a bit annoying since the shirt is in three separate pieces and one has to wonder how much money was really saved by not redoing it. At least he has a peg hole if you want to utilize a more dynamic stand.

He can pose.

Being that he’s essentially the same figure as Roshi, the articulation is also the same. That figure had some good and bad to him, and a lot that has to do with the clothing. The shoulders flare out and the wrist area is surrounded by large cuffs so it all limits the articulation a bit. The shirt is also intended to be a long martial arts uniform, and since Bandai doesn’t utilize cloth goods, the only way to properly articulate that is to “scallop” the sculpt and insert a series of ball-pegs into the torso. It’s not the cleanest sculpt in the torso as a result, but it’s not truly an eyesore either. Again, the dark color of Jackie works to the figure’s advantage in hiding this somewhat, but I do wonder how he’d have come out with a cloth robe.

He can siiiiiiiiing!

Bandai doesn’t use much paint with its S.H.Figuarts line, and it is a common complaint I hear from other collectors. Jackie is no except as he’s mostly just colored plastic. The only paint on the body of the figure is the white stripe and black fasteners down the center of the shirt and the gray soles of the shoes. The rest is reserved for the head and face where the eyes and eyebrows are well-painted. There may be a touch of a wash in the hair and beard as well which helps bring out the sculpted details and looks pretty sharp. His hair color has a gray to it, unlike Master Roshi’s all-white beard, which helps distinguish him further. The choice of doing the figure in a very dark blue as opposed to black is a little curious. As far as I can tell, his outfit is sheer black in the anime. And unlike many comic books, there’s no blue shading to speak of. I don’t know if this was based on information from Toei, or if Bandai just made an artistic decision not to go full black. As a result, under some light he looks a little blue and others a little gray, but always pretty dark. It’s not something that bothers me, I just find it curious. The finish is at least fairly matte which cuts down on the plastic sheen some figures in this line feature. Ultimately, the likeness is pretty on point and the sacrifices the figure makes in the sculpt to accommodate the articulation are worth it in the end.

“Ka…”

If you wish to know precisely how he’s articulated, I’ll run it down for you here. If you’re familiar with the Master Roshi figure, then skip ahead. Jackie has a ball peg at the head and base of the neck and he has some pretty solid range. Surprisingly, he can look down quite well despite the presence of the beard, it’s looking up that he’s not great at. At the shoulders we have ball-hinges with a butterfly joint. He can raise his arms out to the side better than expected and the butterfly joint allows him to achieve his Kamehameha pose fairly convincingly. There’s a biceps swivel below that and single-hinged elbows. The elbow is probably the least impressive part of this figure as they’re on these big ball-hinges that look funny from some angles. They also can’t achieve a 90 degree bend due to the way the sleeves flare out. It’s close, but not quite there. At the wrist are ball-joints which is a good choice since the sleeve works to conceal the ball-hinge which can be unsightly on other figures. In the diaphragm is a ball-hinge mechanism that mostly affords tilt and twist. Twist too far though and you end up with some ugly gapping. The hinge allows the upper body to lift up and crunch forward, but the shirt doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. A lot of rubbing occurs and I worry about smudging if utilized too much. Below that is another ball-peg at the waist allowing him to rotate and tilt. At the hips he can kick forward about 90 degrees and spread his legs out to the side almost into a split. He kicks back a little bit and the double-hinged knees basically give him 90 at the knee. There are thigh swivels and the feet are on ball-pegs. They’re not great, but the cuffs at the end of the pants were going to limit him anyway. There is a toe hinge as well.

“…ha!”

Jackie-Chun should be able to get into the poses he needs to be able to get into. Martial arts posing and energy blasting all are achievable. Helping him to do all of that are the loads of extra parts Bandai tossed in. Probably as a make-up for him containing a ton of parts reuse, Bandai made sure to give him an array of hands and facial expressions. He has the one head, but three separate faces. And like Master Roshi, you can swap the mouth and beard piece between the faces to mix and match expressions. You basically get angry eyes, serious eyes, and excited eyes to go along with a closed mouth, an angry yell, and a surprising, or singing, open mouth. That last one pairs with a microphone stick, as is the case with many Dragon Ball characters, there’s a serious side and a playful side to Jackie which this figure seeks to capture. As far as hands go, he comes with two crane pose hands which are unique as the peg basically goes into the underside of them to achieve the proper the shape. He also has two Kamehameha hands which are essentially the opposite as they peg into what I would call the top of the hands. He also has a set of peace sign hands, some chop hands, fists, martial arts pose hands, splayed open hands, and one gripping, right, hand for the microphone. Unique to Jackie are also swappable forearms. These are present so that he can roll up his sleeves. The arms separate below the elbow and the new ones just peg in. They don’t appear to be designated as left or right so either side works. They allow for more freedom with the hand articulation since this eliminates the cuffs from play, though another point of the figure that can come apart means there will be times you pull the arm off when you don’t intend to. A minor annoyance for an interesting feature. Lastly, there’s a 3 star Dragon Ball. This one has a pearl finish to it as I believe Bandai has already released seven standard balls so this new finish is being applied to the line going forward.

“No, Goku!”

Posing and utilizing these parts is all pretty painless. The hands pop on and off with minimal fuss, though the left arm of mine features a loose forearm connection so often the whole thing comes off when I’m just trying to swap the hand. The extra forearm doesn’t seem to peg in snug either so it becomes a balancing act posing him with the sleeves up. Unlike with Master Roshi, I don’t feel like we’re missing any expressions as far as the hands go, though a “drunken master” face would have been excellent. What’s really missing though is an energy effect. A charging one would have been nice, or just a Kamehameha attack since this guy is the master of that technique. I am guessing Bandai wants to do a Kamehameha Master Roshi that’s all bulked up and that’s why we don’t have that here. At least this time we have the hands.

Jackie Chun looks pretty good opposite the kid figures when placed on the World Martial Arts Tournament set. He is, more or less, in scale with them. It’s not perfect, but that’s more of a critique of the kid characters which were sized-up for the figure release. Bandai seemed to prioritize scaling Master Roshi, and Jackie Chun as a result, with Kid Goku and Krillin so he looks kind of silly next to Bulma, who is just way too small. King Piccolo towers over him well enough, though that figure should probably be bigger than he actually is. Scale is a limitation of this line in general and Bandai just seems to approximate it as opposed to trying to make it totally accurate.

I couldn’t quite get them into the double kick pose from the anime.

Adding Jackie Chun to my collection allows for me to pose him opposite Goku or Krillin, leaving Master Roshi to be more of a goof off to the side. I like that Jackie has the singing face and microphone for when I don’t want him on the battlefield, or I could just let him be the stern, wise, old, master watching silently. I liked the Master Roshi figure so it stands to reason I like this one. Is he essential for a Dragon Ball collection? Probably not, but it’s not as-if the character isn’t memorable. I hope Bandai continues to release more dedicated Dragon Ball figures so my display can continue to grow. They have Lunch/Launch coming this summer, but nothing has been announced beyond her. There’s still Pilaf and his gang, end of Dragon Ball Goku and Chi-Chi, Tien, and plenty more. I’d be interested in basically all of them, so hopefully Bandai comes through. Right now though, I have a fun little collection that’s pretty nice to have all on its own.

Yes, this’ll do nicely.

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