Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Kingdom Hearts Play Arts Vol. 2by Rob Bricken, Apr 12th 2009
Remember a few weeks ago, when I mentioned since I'm primarily a fan, it's hard for me to get too worked up about toys being empirically good or bad? Well, here's another example: Square Enix was kind enough to send me copies of the second volume of their Kingdom Hearts Play Arts figures, and I'm pretty sure these toys could kill my parents in front of my eyes, and I'd still love them.
Oh, they're magnificent toys, and I'll get into why in just a minute; first, you should know that they're available at Square Enix's USA shop at this very minute. Now the fact of the matter is I'm a huge FFVII fan boy, and I squealed in girlish delight when Cloud and Sephiroth showed up in both Kingdom Hearts games with their ridiculous redesigns and one wings. I've pretty much daydreamed about having those two characters in those particular designs as toys ever since, and Square Enix ponied up nicely. It should be a mark of how much I love them that the third character, Sora in his Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween Town outfit — an incredible design and a fan-favorite — barely registers on my radar. Sorry about that, Sora.
Let me see if I can get some basic facts in before I go off the deep end: like the rest of the Play Arts series, have around 20 points of articulation. Unlike most of the Play Arts series, Cloud, Sephiroth and Sora all have mid-torso articulation, which is a very nice addition even if it doesn't get them very far.
A lot of my affection for these guys comes for their designs. Basically, Tetsuya Nomura took his FF character designs and went off the deep end, and I love ‘em. Sure, this does mean a plethora of belts and buckles — see Cloud's waist for reference — but also involved Cloud taking Vincent's cloak, claw hand, and getting a demon wing from out of nowhere. It's just crazy, and I love it.
But these crazy designs results in what are arguably Square Enix's most complex, best-looking figures. Compare KH Cloud to his normal FFVII and Advent Children counterparts and just look at the detail:
Maybe you can argue the sculpting is better only by the necessity of the character design, but that still doesn't account for the wonderful paint job on Cloud's buckle-palooza, or the incredible wash on his cloak and sword. Additionally, Square has improved the joints so that the knees — despite being in puffy pants — look far more natural when bent, and the muscled arms have more natural looking joints as well. But the real impressive bit is the cape and wing:
Tetsuya Nomura can draw whatever the hell he wants, and it's no big deal. The videogame designers can cheat however they need to. But making a wing and a cloak work on a toy, especially when they're as stylized and ornate as these? That's tough work. I don't know what I expected, but Square blew it away — the cloak has multiple points of articulation, so it can be posed down or blowing out, and the wing can be tucked behind it or unfurled to the side. They work perfectly together, and it'd be impressive even if I weren't carnally in love with the figure.
But like most fan girls, I'm even more in love with Sephiroth. Again, I can credit Nomura's striking redesign, with the red highlights on his black outfit, and his single angel wing (I just narrowly stopped myself from posting and explaining the Latin lyrics to “A One-Winged Angel.” You're very welcome). But it's really the figure's flowing jacket (it's kind of an ass-cape, but that seemed inappropriate to say), flowing hair, and the incredibly sculpted wing that make him my favorite.
It might be tough to tell in the picture, but the features aren't all on one plane — some stick in and out, and it's just a wonderful touch. Plus, the wing fades from a midnight blue to a blue-white just beautifully. This Sephiroth is more exciting and dynamic than the other figures, not just thanks to his insane KH design, but because of how well Square Enix brought that design to life.
And then there's Sora. If stacked against any of the guys from the first Kingdom Hearts Play Arts series (regular Sora, Riku, Kairi, Mickey), he'd probably be the king of the heap — the Halloween Town version of Sora is an absolutely great design, from his massive booties to the evil pumpkin thing on his head. Unfortunately, next to this Cloud and Sephiroth, he ends up being the most boring of the three, although that's still like winning third place at the Olympics — he's still one of the best. Even though he's wearing the puffiest pants in all of reality, Square still managed to slip in some knees so he can stand in his battle pose.
The only real problem is that Sora's Keyblade will not stay in his hand. Sora even has a little peg in his palm to be inserted into middle of the Keyblade's handle, but it does nothing. Happily, you can fudge his hands into holding it jointly, which is how he wields it in the original KH game anyways.
There aren't many accessories to speak of; each figure has the standard Play Arts stand, but all of them can stand on their own. Since two of the figures have huge, not insignificantly light wing on one side of their bodies, this is worthy of note and celebration. Sora has nothing on him, but both Cloud and Sephiroth come with an extra open hand if you don't want them to be holding their swords. Interestingly, the loose hands actually fit together, so you can make this little nightmare:
It's probably safe to say I'm a little biased about these figures. But even though I love them, I can recognize that they're not perfect. For instance, their faces seem a little less expressive than their previous counterparts, and there's the business with Sora being unable to hold his Keyblade. And maybe Square Enix has always been this good, it just needed a chance to show off their sculpting and painting skills in the Play Arts series. I say whatever — these Kingdom Hearts Play arts Vol. 2 figures are absolutely the best figures Square has put out so far, in terms of articulation, sculpting and painting. The fact that I want to make passionate love to these figures has nothing to do with that.
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