LI MU BAI, YU SHU LIEN, JEN YU, & LO
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON MINIMATES
And now for something completely different…
In the year 2000 (and early 2001), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became a rather surprising success. Despite being entirely in Mandarin, the film was a smash hit in the United States. It was so much of a success that its director Ang Lee even nabbed a job directing 2003’s Hulk (the less said about that, the better). The measure of true success, in my book at least, is how many action figures you got. Art Asylum picked up the license. They released a set of four 7-inch figures, as well as releasing a few of the characters in this little line they were starting, call Minimates. Despite the film’s success, the figures just did alright, not great, and not enough to get more than the same four characters released in two styles. Today, I’ll be taking a look at the four Minimates based on the movie.
Also, I feel I should note at this time that I’ve never actually seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yeah, yeah, bad Ethan. Let’s just see how this goes.
THE FIGURES THEMSELVES
These four make up the first (and only) series of Art Asylum’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Minimates. They were released in September of 2002, right around the same time as the Bruce Lee Minimates and Rock Minimates, making them some of the very first Minimates.
All four ‘mates are built on the original, 3-inch body. Unlike the 2 ½-inch body, which is a pretty straight up-sizing of the 2-inch body, the 3-inch body is actually a little different: the peg hole in the head is not centered, but rather towards the back; the torso is made up of three pieces, fixed together, rather than being a single molded piece; the elbow and knee joint are in the center, and have a separate pin going through them; finally, the hands are side specific and look more like actual hands. Functionally, it works about the same as the smaller bodies, with the same basic 14 points of articulation. It’s just a tweaked structure.
LI MU BAI
Okay, so Li Mu Bai is Chow Yun-fat’s character from the movie. I know that much. Yay me! Mu Bai gets 6 add-on pieces for his hair, shirt, sleeves, and footwear. The older ‘mates are a whole different level of detailing than what we see today; stylization was pretty high, and they made do with as few details as possible. This is most evident in his hair, which is fairly flat at texture-less (and ends abruptly at the top of his head), though the braid is pretty well detailed. The rest of the pieces are actually surprisingly detailed; they’re still fairly simple, but there’s a fair bit of detail on the shirt and feet, and the sleeves are nowhere near as static as some of the later, smaller-scale pieces. Mu Bai is mostly molded in the appropriate colors, but he has a bit of detailing on his shirt and feet, as well as the expected detail lines for his face. The face is made up of just of black line work (no additional colors for his eyes or teeth), and his face is very, very stylized and geometric. There’s definitely not a real likeness in that face. Mu Bai includes his sword, the Green Destiny, as well as a weird puzzle piece thing that was included with all the early Minimates.
YU SHU LIEN
Yu Shu Lien was played by Michelle Yeoh, who, amongst other things, was a Bond girl during Pierce Brosnan’s tenure in the role, as well as being in the criminally under-rated Sunshine. She was also a pretty big deal in Hong Kong action movies during the 1990s, which one assumes is what got her a role in Crouching Tiger. Her figure has 7 add-ons: hair, shirt, skirt, sleeves, and leg wraps. Where Mu Bai’s hair was rather square and stilted, Shu Lien’s has a nice flow to it, and looks pretty organic, if still stylized. The rest of the parts are all pretty good too. The chest cap presents a fairly unique feature amongst Minimates: a sculpted bosom. Well, sculpted suggestion of bosom, anyway, similar to what Palisades did on their Palz figures. The actual chest cap seems a little bit bulky, but nowhere near as bad as some of the smaller ‘mates. Shu Lien’s paint is a little more complex than Mu Bai’s. The base colors are okay, but a little fuzzy in some spots. Her face is still pretty simple, but she at least gets one extra color for her lips. Yu Shu Lien includes a sword and the weird puzzle piece.
Jen Yu was played by the relative newcomer Zhang Ziyi. The only thing I know her from is 2007’s TMNT, where she played Karai (who also has a Minimate, but it’s not from the movie). Jen Yu has 7 add-ons: hair/mask, robe, skirt, wrist bands, and boots. They’re all pretty decent pieces, though they don’t seem to sit as well as the parts from the other two. That doesn’t mean she looks bad, though. It appears to be a pretty good recreation of the look from the film, and she’s a pretty neat, basic ninja. The paint is fairly basic. Mostly she’s molded in black, with a bit of red and gold detailing here and there. Under the mask, she’s got a fully detailed face, on par with the rest of the set. Jen Yu included a sword and sheath (as well as the puzzle piece), but mine doesn’t have them.
Last up is Lo, the dude I know the least about. He was played by Chang Chen, whom I’ve never actually seen in anything. Apparently Lo’s a desert bandit, which sounds pretty cool, and he’s got one of the cooler looks. Lo has 7 add-on pieces: hair, jacket, sleeves (my figure lacks one of them), skirt, and boots. His sleeves are noticeably a bit more geometric than the others, but the rest of his parts still have a pretty decent flow to them. As a whole, the pieces look pretty good together, if slightly dated. Lo has one of the more detailed paint jobs seen here. It’s nice and clean, and all of the colors work together pretty well. His face is once again pretty basic, but at least he gets a mustache to change things up a bit. Lo had the most accessories of the set, with a sword, an extra wristband (w/ mounted eagle, though, once again, my figure lacks this), a cape, and the previously mentioned puzzle piece. Sadly, my figure lacks his extra pieces.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
Since I’ve not seen the movie, it’s not a huge surprise that I didn’t get these four new. I will admit to at least contemplating getting them a few times over the years, due to the whole “some of the earliest Minimates” thing. Of course, they aren’t the easiest things to come across anymore. So, when I found them back in January at a flea market (on the same trip that netted me Gimli, the Orc Scout, Big Guy, and Perseus), a snapped them up pretty quickly. They were pretty filthy when I got them, so I had to spend a good two hours cleaning them up. Despite not having seen the movie, I find myself really enjoying these four. They’re definitely a different style of ‘mate, but it’s really fun to own figures that are an important step in the evolution of Minimates.