#2572: Red Ninja



Oh, we’re just out of the frying pan and into the fire on G.I. Joe elements that Ethan’s not too big on, aren’t we?  That’s right, Ethan doesn’t really care for the Red Ninjas.  Let’s discuss.  The Red Ninjas were introduced in issue #21 of Marvel’s G.I. Joe comic, which is the famous “Silent Interlude,” the story that also introduced Storm Shadow, solidified Snake Eyes as a fan favorite, and hinted at a possible connection between the two.  Storm Shadow was, of course, introduced into the toy line the same year as “Silent Interlude’s” publication, but the Red Ninjas were not part of the line, since they were initially just rather generic looking ninjas meant to serve as Storm Shadow’s back-up.  They wouldn’t join the toy line proper until 1993, under the Ninja Force banner, and with a rather different look.  It wouldn’t be until the 2000s that we would get the more classic attire in toy form.  They then went on the be a key piece of one of the most infuriatingly repetitive sequences in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and also got some more toys along the way.  And now they’re in the Classified Series line-up, which I guess isn’t unreasonable.  I guess.


The Red Ninja is figure 08 in the Classified Series line-up, capping off the second main release series of figures.  Given how “core cast” the figures have been so far, he’s slightly obscure by comparison, but if you factor in that the Snake Eyes movie was supposed to be hitting this year, likely right around when this particular assortment would have arrived on shelves, it makes a bit more sense.  The figure stands just over 6 inches tall and he has 37 points of articulation.  The original Red Ninja design in the comics was a rather basic one, essentially being standard ninja garb, but in red.  Nothing thrilling or anything, but it’s a pretty straight forward look.  When it comes to toy designs, they’ve always been a little inconsistent.  The v1 figure’s a garish ’90s monstrosity, and subsequent releases have generally stuck to just being repaints of whatever Storm Shadow mold is available at the moment.  This one opts to take the basic Ninja look and inject it with, like, steroids, or something.  Remember how I was bringing up the whole “over designing” thing on Cobra Commander?  Yeah, I think it’s worse here.  There’s just too much going on with this guy.  He’s got a hood.  He’s got a collar.  He’s got a faceplate.  He’s got shoulder pads. He’s got gear strapped onto gear.  Where the Cobra Trooper took a lot of piece meal elements and made them flow into something that felt cohesive, and added a bit of customization, there is neither customization nor cohesiveness with this guy.  He’s just got…stuff everywhere.  At his core, this figure uses the same body as Snake Eyes, and boy did I love that Snake Eyes mold.  Unfortunately, one of the strengths of the Snake Eyes mold was its sleekness and posablitity.  This figure throws a bunch of stuff on top of the body, which ruins both the sleekness and the posability, and I don’t really feel that the appearance of the stuff they threw on top of him really justified the sacrifices they made.  Posing the figure for the photos was a bit of a chore, if I’m honest, and that’s not what you want out of a toy.  The paint’s not too terrible, I suppose.  There’s a few different shades of red going on, but I think they come together all right, and the pupil-less white eyes are appropriately eerie.  In terms of accessories, he’s at least well-armed, with two swords, two Sais, two Kama, and two axes, all borrowed from the Pulse-exclusive Snake Eyes figure.


My enthusiasm for the Red Ninja has never been all that high.  Honestly, I think armies of faceless ninjas are a little over done as a whole, and it’s hard to dissuade me of that.  However, I am still a fan of a good action figure, and figures such as the Articulated Icons Basic Red Ninja did just that.  And perhaps that figure did things a little too well, I suppose, because this guy just really doesn’t click with me.  He’s one of those figures that feels lesser than the sum of his parts, because there are certainly elements that I like, but I just don’t enjoy the final product all that much.  In fact, I so don’t like the final product that I didn’t even opt to keep this one I’m reviewing, which is actually now in Max’s possession.  That’s just how it is some times, I guess.  With this guy out of the way, here’s to some slightly more exciting army builders.

Thanks to my sponsors over at All Time Toys for setting me up with this figure to review.  If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#1380: Basic Ninja – Red



“Silent shadows hold unseen danger. Steel whispers the fatal strike. Between breaths, between blinks, the ninja makes his home; a nightmare apparition that means death to those he seeks. In times long past or futures unwritten, these invisible assassins stalk their prey, draped in the stillness of the night, leaving only mystery in their passage. Beware the darkness that lay between myth and legend; the ninja is there. Immortal warriors that live only for the bloodlust of battle, the Great Ninja Clan is the most feared opponent. Where the others fight their wars in the light, the Ninja owns the shadows. But when the Ninja Master is betrayed and murdered by unknown assailants, the Great Ninja Clan is irreparably split apart. What was one is now many as ninja fights ninja and brother fights brother to the uttermost end.”

The waaaaaiiiiiting is the hardest part!  Odds are good Tom Petty wasn’t talking about action figures in that song, but those words sum up my relationship with a lot of lines of action figures.  Doubly so when they’re via Kickstarter.  Despite the best intentions, most Kickstarters tend not to deliver by their estimated arrival times.  As I’ve delved into the world of Kickstarter, the wait for each item has increased pretty steadily.  One of the longer waits I’ve experienced was for todays item, the Basic Ninja from The Fwoosh’s Articulated Icons line.  Their Kickstarter campaign ended in October of 2015, with an estimated arrival of May 2016.  They missed that by a few months or so (okay, about 14), but the figures are finally here!  Were they worth the wait? Let’s find out!


The premise for Articulated Icons is pretty simple: it’s a line of generic troop builder style figures, purposefully designed to be compatible with current lines such as Marvel Legends and Star Wars: The Black Series.  Their first series, dubbed “The Feudal Series,” gives us one of the coolest “generic” concepts out there: ninjas!  The initial offerings for the line were limited to just ninjas, in basic and deluxe formats.  I opted for the basic red ninja, mostly due to his similarity to a certain group of Marvel Comics ninjas who wear red and fight the likes of Daredevil and Iron Fist.  What were they called?  The Foot?  The Fist?  No, those aren’t right.  Anyway, onto the figure!  This guy stands 6 inches tall, which makes him a little smaller than the average Marvel Legend, but not so small that he looks too out of place.  Plus, this way he’s also in-scale with things like Figuarts and DC Icons.  He also has 34 points of articulation, which allows for a ton of great poses.  Some of the joints are a little on the loose side on my figure (especially the shoulders), but he certainly isn’t flopping around and falling over the place (an issue I’ve had with more than a few TB Legends).   Some of the articulation could perhaps be worked in a bit more organically, but I’ve seen far worse from far larger companies.  To aid in his compatibility with various Hasbro lines, this guy’s got a sculpt by Gentle Giant Studios, the same company that handles the sculpts for The Black Series and the MCU-based Legends figures.  It’s a solid sculpt, exhibiting very balanced proportions and some tremendous detail work.  I really like the texture work on the trim of his tunic in particular, but everything about this guy feels really strong for this scale.  The standard head is wearing a simple balaclava, which is a nice, clean look.  There’s some nice small detail work here, such as the piping on the top of the mask, and you can even make out his face under the mask, but it’s all very subtle.  He also includes another head, this time wearing a zukin mask.  This head has a lot more going on, with lots of folds and such.  Very different look, and a great way of keeping things from getting too repetitive if you’re picking up a bunch of these guys.  The paint on this guy is fairly straight forward; there’s obviously a lot of red going on, which suits the body pretty nicely.  There’s a wash on all of the red parts, which helps bring out the various sculpted details.  The work on the eyes of the figures is decent enough; the eyes are green and pupil less, which looks cool and otherworldly.  There’s a little bit of slop on the two heads, but not enough to ruin either of them.  The basic Ninja as lighter on the accessories than his deluxe compatriots, but he’s still got quite a selection.  In addition to the previously mentioned extra head, this guy includes three sets of hands (in fists, gripping, and flat positions), a katana, a wakizashi, sheaths for both of the swords, a kunai throwing knife, a sash/belt, and a hood (in both up and down configurations). The hands are a lot of fun; they can be difficult to swap at first, but not after a few swaps.  The sheaths fit the swords very nicely, and have a removable loop which allows them to be attached to either the center of the back or to his belt.  The pulled up hood fits well on the balaclava wearing head, and looks very nice; the pulled down one is okay, but has a little bit of trouble staying in place on his neck.  All in all, a very nice selection.


When Articulated Icons was first announced, I was interested, but not 100% sure I was going to back it, since I’d backed quite a few Kickstarters sound the same time.  But, I liked what was shown, so I opted to go for the basic guy and at least give the line a try.  The wait’s been quite long, but The Fwoosh was good enough to keep us all very well posted on the progress of everything.  In hand, the figure is not without one or two minor flaws, but I’m overall exceedingly happy with this guy.  He’s a lot of fun to mess around with, and I’m very seriously considering picking up one or two more figures from the line, should they be available later on.

#0931: Yukio, Viper, & Black Clan Ninjas




It seems hard to believe that the second Wolverine film came out three years ago.  Wedged in between Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, and as the last X-Men film before Days of Future Past overwrote the original timeline, it kind of got lost.  It’s a shame; it’s not a perfect film, but it was a fair bit of fun, and fixed a lot of issues presented by X-Men 3 and Wolverine: Origins.  The movie got a handful of Minimates, and today I’ll be looking at the specialty assortment’s Viper & Black Clan Ninja pack, as well as the variant Urban Yukio & Black Clan Ninja Pack.


These two sets were released in Series 52 of Marvel Minimates, which was based on The Wolverine.


YukioNinja2Yukio is a relatively minor X-Men character, but she plays an important role in the Wolverine mini-series that the movie based its plot on, so she found herself with a decently sized role.  In the comics, she was just a normal human with ninja training, but the film made her a mutant with the ability to foresee death.  She had two rather distinct looks in the movie (neither of which really resembled her comics appearance).  This figure represents the less formal look that Yukio sports towards the end of the movie. She stands about 2 ½ inches tall and has 14 points of articulation. Yukio has add-on pieces for her hair, skirt, and the tops of her boots.  All of these are re-used, with the hair coming from the TRU Series 9 Magik, the boots coming from Series 34’s 90s Rogue, and the skirt coming from BSG’s President Roslin.  The parts are all fairly decent matches for her look from the film, so the re-use is reasonable here, though the boots have the unintended side effect of making her taller than everyone else in the series. The paintwork on Yukio is decent.  She’s got a lot of color, and she’s pretty bold looking, which is nice.  The detailing on the torso is nice and sharp.  The face doesn’t really look like Rila Fukushima; for some reason, they’ve given her a slight smile, which doesn’t seem right for the character.  That said, the face is nice and sharp, and looks suitably unique. Yukio includes a clear display stand and…nothing else.  Not even a sword.  That’s quite a letdown, especially since Yukio is pretty much never seen without her sword in the film.


ViperNinja5Viper was an interesting inclusion in The Wolverine, given that her most prominent role is being highly placed in Hydra, an organization that Fox isn’t allowed to use.  Fox seemed to skirt the issue by only referring to her only as Viper (not her alias Madame Hydra) and by making her a mutant, with no known ties to Hydra.  For this figure, DST based Viper on her look during Yashida’s funeral, which is a rather short-lived look when all is said and done, but we got several others in their funeral attire. Viper has two add-on pieces, one for her hair and one for her skirt.  The skirt is a re-use of the Gwen Stacy skirt from the SM3 series, which is still fairly modern looking.  The hair is a new piece, based on her hair from the scene in the film.  It’s a pretty great sculpt, with a lot of detail, and it captures her look very nicely. Viper’s  paint is overall is nicely handled, at least from a purely technical standpoint.  Everything’s pretty clean, and the line work is all pretty sharp.  The likeness is pretty good; certainly closer than Yukio.  The sunglasses stand out, as the details make them look convincingly shiny.  You can actually make out the reflection of some of the reflections from the funeral’s setting.  All that said, the design is rather drab and not terribly exciting. For accessories, Viper includes a clear display stand, and an extra head, without the sunglasses.


YukioNinja3The Black Clan Ninjas took the role occupied by the Hand in the original story.  They were initially supposed to be the Hand, but Fox lost the rights to Daredevil and all associated characters in the middle of production on The Wolverine, necessitating a quick name change.  It’s not like it really matters, though; they’re fairly basic ninjas either way. The Ninjas use add-on pieces for their jackets and the edges of their gloves.  The jacket is a new piece.  It has a scabbard attached to the back, so that they can stow their swords.  The jacket’s a little on the bulky side, but looks alright overall, and captures the basic look from the film pretty well. The paintwork on the Ninja is fairly basic.  It’s mostly just black, though there’s a bit of variation to the finish, which is nice.  The eyes feature an impressive level of detail, and add a nice bit of character, without removing the ability of the figure to be an army builder. The Ninjas each include a basic sword, which can be stowed in the sheath on their back, as well as the usual clear display stand.


The Yukio set was one of the ones I wanted from Series 52, but she ended up being a bit difficult to get, so I had to order a full series set from Luke’s Toy Store. This is probably Yukio’s most prominent look from the movie, and it has the advantage of being bright and colorful in a series of mostly drab figures.  However, the lack of accessories knocks her down a peg, and the likeness really isn’t there. Viper is certainly a well put together ‘mate, but the decision to go with her less exciting funeral look over her more comics accurate final battle look hurts the figure.  As it stands, she’s better than you’d expect, but still a bit lackluster. The Ninjas are really the stars of these sets.  They’re fairly simple, but in just the right way, and they benefit from the fact that you don’t even need to be a fan of The Wolverine to like them.