Well, after looking at the Wave 6 Slash a couple of weeks ago we can now finally turn our attention to a Wave 5 release from Super7’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimates! series of figures: Sewer Samurai Leonardo. The thing with TMNT is, you have the four good guys, a few core allies, and then a whole bunch of bad guys or one-off guests. In the show, there was a constant presence from Shredder and his associates, but also often a mutant of the week as Shredder would enlist someone’s aid or create a new monster to throw at the turtles. This worked well for toys as Playmates always had new designs to work with. And they didn’t usually wait on the show anyway as the toyline seemed to introduce new characters more often than not with the show to follow. The only issue there is die hard fans are buying them all, but there’s also a ton of casual fans or kids that just bounce from one thing to the other and they only tend to recognize the good guys. What’s a toy company to do in order to sell more turtles? The answer is variants.
Playmates kept the original four turtles in circulation for much of the toy line. They’re technically still releasing them to this day. To keep the line interesting though, the company would take those characters and do something different several times a year. This first took place with the Wacky Action series in 1989. Those were new sculpts with wind-up features which is a fairly typical variant for a toyline to introduce. After that, Playmates started doing more “weird” versions of the turtles to the point where it’s one of the often cited things about the line today as people remember seeing Leonardo as a life guard and Raphael as a magician which is pretty damn goofy when you think about it. The variants started off a little more straight-forward though with the 1990 Disguised series. That line consisted of Raph the Space Cadet, Mike the Sewer Surfer, Don the Undercover Turtle, and Leo the Sewer Samurai. Of the four, I’d say only Raph as an astronaut seems particularly odd. Mikey was using surfer lingo in the show and Donatello was just sporting the disguise look from the same show. Leonardo as a samurai also felt pretty normal as the turtles often do feel more like samurai than ninja, so why not depict the stoic leader as a ronin? And now that Super7 has released all four base turtles, they too are turning to the variants and up first is Sewer Samurai Leonardo.
Leonardo comes in Super7’s typical Ultimates! packaging with a green slipcover on the front that features an original logo for the figure and the classic logo on the rear. The shade of green on the slipcover this time seems just a touch more saturated than the others I have, but otherwise everything is pretty familiar. Inside is the same sewer deco with the figure behind a window box. First of all, I should say I am a big fan of the Playmates original for this figure. Leonardo was my favorite as a kid, so naturally, this was my favorite figure from the Disguise series. I don’t believe there is a Leonardo variant in that line that I enjoyed more than this one. Tragically, I no longer have that figure and I contemplated buying one just to have on-hand for when this came out. I obviously didn’t or I wouldn’t bothered to have mentioned that, but I am predisposed to like this figure and I’m going to do my best to be objective here, because subjectively I am practically bursting with glee just looking at him in the box.
This design for Leo is indeed samurai inspired, but he’s pretty garish. I don’t know if any real world samurai ever had this kind of color combo, but that’s part of what makes this line fun. First of all, we have this gold, open-faced, helmet which is non-removable. The portrait of the vintage figure was basically Raphael from the first wave. Playmates basically switched up the expressions for this line for variety (Donatello had Leo’s old facial expression and Raph had Donatello’s while Mikey was all new), but Super7’s looks more like the Wave 2 Leo’s mouth, but with Raph’s eyes. It’s slightly different, which also makes it more it’s own thing. I’m not bothered by it, but some might be if they want this to look exactly like the vintage toy. The chest plastron is armored and painted gold. It’s not a very shiny, or metallic, gold. It’s definitely less lustrous than the original and less than Super7’s Metalhead, but I don’t dislike it. I like the finish, but I know many others don’t.
Beneath that armor, this figure is sporting sculpted chainmail which is where things get kind of weird because it’s blue. It works for a ninja turtle, but for an actual samurai would come across as pretty baffling. I love this shade though as it’s basically the same as Leonardo’s bandana. The sculpt itself though is pretty soft and I wish there was more detail. There’s some blue piping on the gloves and feet too and I like how that plays off of the torso. The pants and sleeves are black which creates a nice contrast with the blue and gold. The hands are now just sculpted hands with black rope over them where as the old figure had a bug or something sculpted onto one. I’m fine with that omission. Where the presentation does take a bit of a hit for me is with the red shoulder pauldrons and thigh guards. They’re sculpted and look nice, but there’s zero paint on them. They just stand out as plain, lumps, of red plastic. And it’s a soft red that reminds me of lipstick. I basically had the same issue with Slash and I don’t know why Super7 seems to refuse to paint shoulder parts on their figures because it’s an area that stands out, so why not make it look good? There’s also minor paint slop here and there, like on the neck and the red straps could have been hit with another coat as the black plastic shows through a bit. It’s the type of stuff you notice when looking the figure over, but not something that shows on a shelf save for a black smudge on my figure’s left, gripping, hand. I’ll probably try to take that off with a magic eraser since the only painted part of the hands is the black rope as Super7 has seemingly stopped painting the finger and toenails.
The thing I really liked about this figure as a kid were the accessories and the options for weapon storage. The original figure had a belt loop on the rear that was really intended for his banner, but could also store his sword. He also had a loop on the side of his belt to store his katana like a traditional samurai would. And on top of that, he also had a scabbard he could put it in and sling over a shoulder. This figure does the same and you actually have three standard swords and one short sword. Now the odd thing is the swords here look more like a ninja-to, or ninjatō, which is basically what Leonardo often has. They were always listed as katanas, but in actuality he almost never wielded swords that looked like a true katana. The Wave 2 Leonardo from Super7 gave him actual katanas, but this one has swords that look better suited for that figure. It’s bizarre. Now, there’s three of them here so one could take two and give them to the old Leo and keep one for this Leo (and he only needs one), so that might be intentional on Super7’s part since they do hear the criticisms out there. As for what we do have here, the swords are painted well and have a green accent, likely an homage to the original figure coming with all green weapons and accessories (and yes, you do get a green, unpainted, sprue with all of the weapons on it). I think they work for this figure, but I’m not sure I like the green with the prior figure. They’re also soft and some arrived warped which I do not like, but I hope to straighten them with some heat.
In addition to the swords, Leonardo comes with a trio of kunai that are nicely painted with a steel and green finish. There are two throwing stars which are a different design from the Wave 2 figure. He also has a set of “Samurai claws” which he can hold in his gripping hands or the more style posed hands and they basically turn him into Wolverine. They too have the green accents, but also a hit of blue and blend in quite nice. These were not featured on the vintage release. His banner returns and it looks like bamboo held together by wrappings. It can fit in a loop on the figure’s belt and be displayed as so. The banner itself is soft goods and looks okay. It’s not the highest quality print, but better than a sticker like the old figure. His shield returns which is now fully painted. It’s gold with green, red, and blue on the front and it’s the only place on this figure where I think this color combo doesn’t work. I think I would drop the red, and maybe the blue, if I could. There’s a slice of pizza in case Leo gets hungry which has a sardine, or anchovy, on it to distinguish it from other slices we’ve seen. The fish has this really nice metallic blue paint on it and I kind of want to see how that would look for a blade. He also has his scabbard which now features an actual, nylon, string instead of a soft plastic loop so it’s easy to slip on and off, but the plainness of the string doesn’t look great going across his chest. He also has a second head, and this one is a unique creation for the figure that features a mask on the front. It’s pretty cool looking, though swapping heads is harder than I would like. The default one comes off and on fine, but the masked head looks to have a smaller indentation for the ball peg so it’s really hard to snap into place. It does further the trend though of the original portraits included with these figures being really tempting. I think I’m going to stick with the vintage look, but I bet I switch it up from time to time.
Not mentioned in that list of things are the hands, because I wanted to talk about that separately. This figure comes with 4 sets of hands: open, gripping, style posed, and fists. Out of the box, he has open hands and they’re really hard to get off the figure. I’ve never had this issue with a Super7 figure before, but definitely be careful. A lot of folks resorted to heating the forearm, myself included, out of fear of breaking the peg or even the hinge. You may think that since it’s just a peg that if you don’t exert any bending pressure that you’ll be fine, but sometimes the hinge can break in the hand leaving the peg stuck inside the arm. The other thing that sucks about these hands though is that we have 4 sets, but we don’t get the set that is most appropriate and that would be gripping hands with vertical hinges. The prior Leonardo came with such hands, all of the turtles did, and so did Slash and probably some others. Vertical hinges work best for melee weapons, and even guns for that matter. The horizontal hinge is useless and I’m shocked that’s what we got. I just figured that was something Super7 was sensitive to and when I saw the solicitation image that featured just the one set of gripping hands I assumed we were just getting vertical hinges, or a set was left out mistakenly. I was wrong, obviously, and it’s a disappointment and I wish that’s where the disappointment ended. To rub salt in the wound, the fists have vertical hinges, which is pretty useless for a fist. I think this was an error at the factory and they messed up which hinge went with which set of hands, but it either wasn’t caught during the approval process or Super7 (or the factory) declined to correct the error for one reason or another (likely cost).
This figure was manufactured out of a factory in Vietnam. That’s not a good or bad thing on its own, but I think it’s worth pointing out for what’s to follow. My Wave 6 Slash came out of a factory in China and I was very happy with the articulation. And as far as I know, every Super7 figure I own was made in China. Given the pandemic, it’s not at all surprising to see that Super7 enlisted the help of a Vietnamese factory. We’ve seen Bandai do it as well, and it makes further sense since Waves 5 and 6 essentially arrived at the same time indicating they were made at different factories. I don’t know if Super7 used this factory for anything else, but the end result for the articulation is not good.
In general, this guy moves the same as past characters, but I’ll run it down here. We have a head on a ball peg that can rotate, look down, up, and has some room for nuance posing. The shoulders are ball-hinged and can raise out to the side until the shoulder pads get in the way. For some reason, the right shoulder pad on mine likes to curl under the shell when moving it and some red has transferred to the blue trim of the shell, so be careful with that area. I wish they had done what they did with Slash and actually pinned the pauldron to the bicep and not the shoulder as that allows Slash to move the shoulder pad out of the way via the swivel point. In addition to the biceps swivel, there’s a single-hinge at the elbow and a swivel point that’s fairly useless. This turtle doesn’t have elbow pads so he should be able to bend his elbows better than the others, but he still can’t quite hit 90 degrees. The wrists rotate and I already mentioned the horizontal hinges. I wish he had a forearm swivel so we could re-position the forearm guards, but that didn’t happen. In the torso, there’s a diaphragm joint that’s not very functional given the turtle design, but you get a little range. The hips peg in and hinge and he can raise them out for near splits and swivel at the ball joint. The knees are single-hinged and can’t quite hit 90, they also pivot, but the range is pretty poor. The ankles are hinged and can go forward and back, plus rock side-to-side.
All of that is largely as expected. Super7 is what it is at this point and expecting double-jointed elbows is basically a fool’s game at this point. The articulation is always going to feel somewhat like an afterthought. What’s not acceptable is the tolerance. I already mentioned how swapping the hands and heads are a pain, but the joint in the torso and at other spots are far too loose. They’re awful, and really, they’re unacceptably bad given that this is actually the first wave of TMNT Ultimates! at the higher MSRP of $55 a piece. This guy is as floppy as it gets in the torso and it’s a damn shame. This has been a problem going all the way back to wave 1 that appeared to be steadily getting better. Each turtle since then has been a little bit better than the previous one. None of the four were perfect, but definitely better. This is absolutely a step back and should not have made it out of the factory in this condition. These are premium, collector-grade, action figures. This can’t keep happening. And I personally hate that it happened to the figure I was looking forward to the most, not just this wave, but this entire line up to this point. It’s bad enough that I’m not actually angry, I’m just really downhearted and bummed out about it. I got this figure direct from Super7, which I can’t recommend going that route anymore because of the cost and the fact that other retailers seem to get this stuff in first, and I probably could attempt an exchange, but I have no reason to think the replacement would be any better. I checked out other reviews and impressions and this seems to be a widespread issue not just with Leo, but Wave 5 as a whole. His upper body just wants to flop around and within the hips are slip points so as you widen his stance he starts to slide at certain points. The wrist hinge on my left gripping hand is also really loose and can’t support the weight of the shield. It’s just such a bummer especially because that torso joint brings so little to the table. If they can’t get it right they should just scrap it all together.
How does one review such an experience? I think the sculpt on this guy turned out great, I’m largely content with the paint excepting the shoulders, and he has plenty of accessories including stuff the old toy didn’t even come with. On the other hand, we have a design omission when it comes to the missing hands that should never have happened. I just personally don’t get how that could unless the factory screwed it up and Super7 didn’t want to spend the money to redo them. The bigger issue for most though will be the unstable joints. This guy is tough to pose as a result. Once he’s standing he seems okay, but he’s limited to narrow stances and wide open stances with little in-between because the hips can’t stay in place and the torso keeps tilting to one side or the other. The hands and head are problematic to swap so you end up with a figure that can look passable on the shelf, but isn’t fun to mess around with because of the frustrations. For some, that’s fine because they’ll set it and forget it. I like to repose and mess around with my figures from time-to-time so it really bums me out when I want very little to do with that part of a figure. As a result, I can’t recommend this one to everybody. If you’re in love with the old toy as much as I am, then maybe you can justify adding it to your collection. For that person, they probably feel like this is a necessity for their collection. For anybody else, I say don’t bother. At least wait until it hits clearance and can be had for less than $55 because right now I can’t honestly say it’s worth the price and that really bums me out.