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Astro Toy With Rob Bricken: Motoko Kusanagi

by Rob Bricken,

Series: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Toyline: Variable Motion Figure
By: Yamato
Cost: $75

There's something wrong with Japan.

Well, actually, there are many, many things wrong with Japan. But I'm beginning to suspect their toy industry is now one of the wrong things. I've been going to Japan and cons and buying anime toys for nearly a decade, and I've always though Japan was making the best action figures and collectibles in the world…until recently. If you're a regular reader of “Astro Toy,” you know that I've had a mild dislike of a few toys, such as the Yatterman Microman figures, or the Bubblegum Crisis Nene + Moto Slave set—this is not anything I had ever expected.

Now, I've told myself that this is because those toys were cheap, and Japan (almost certainly) still makes excellent high-end toys. So the more expensive the figures are, the better. So when I saw Yamato's 8-inch Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Motoko Kusanagi figure, I was genuinely excited. I'm a big fan of SAC (more so than both movies, actually), and I was willing to dip into my own, incredibly shallow pockets to get a chance to review a poseable Motoko figure, possibly the most  anime character in Japan to have never gotten a decent toy. And indeed, upon an initial inspection, the figure seems nice.

And then you try to pose her.

It's not that she's not articulated; she has 16 joints, which theoretically makes her slightly less poseable than the average Marvel Legends figure. I say theoretically, because Yamato's Motoko figure is about 25% as poseable as the average Marvel Legend, despite having 2-4 less joints. And this is because the toy is terribly, cheaply designed. Whether this is Yamato's fault or the Japanese toy industry's fault, I don't know. But this is not a toy worth $75, that's for sure.

Let's start with the arms, where the toy is most limited. The front and back of the jacket is actually a separate piece, which is sculpted to hug Motoko's torso; her arms are actually sculpted with the jacket sleeves, although the arms can be removed and replaced with bare arms, as you'll see in a minute. Now, the shoulders actually end up okay, as the jacket is designed to cover the joint, which means the arm can be rotated all the way around and the jacket never looks weird or ridiculous. But the sleeves are a massive problem, in that they extend past the elbow joint, and are constructed of hard plastic which allows a mere 45 degrees of elbow movement.

This is preposterously limited. Want Motoko to cross her arms? She can't even move her arm in front of her body. Want her to hold her gun in two hands? She can't get her hands closer than an inch and a half. Want her to stretch attractively? Not a chance. Now, if you take her jacket off and replace her arms—actually, just switch out her sleeves shoulder pieces with her bare shoulders pieces, a cheaper alternative to crafter entirely new arms—she has a full, reasonable range of movement. But if you want to keep her in her jacket, her normal, most iconic design, and the choice that makes her less like an elite soldier/prostitute, you simply don't have the option of any arm articulation. I find this unforgivable.

The knees fare marginally better, as they actually have a double joint with a pivot, which allows her to actually bend her legs all the way back, so her calf is touching her thigh—much like an actual human being can do. So she can stand, kneel, crouch, sit Indian style—much better. Now, her thigh joints are ball joints, which allows her a decent degree of movement. But they don't offer as much movement as most ball joints, and I'll tell you why—because they are the most cheaply made ball joints I've ever seen.

As you can see, her hip is very simply a ball, which fits into the divot in her thigh. Most ball joints join the two pieces with pegs or screws, so that the piece don't come together. When you use the cheap-o system like this, as soon as move the leg so that the two pieces run into each other, the leg pops off. Thankfully, the joint is sturdy, as in the leg doesn't fall off randomly, like other figures I could mention. But any movement past the moderate range allowed by the joint means the legs will pop off, forcing you to pop it back on.

Incredibly, almost all the others joints use this limited, incredibly pitiful ball joint. This includes the ankles, the wrists, the shoulders and the neck. All of them are crappy. All of these pieces fall off if moved too much, although only the ankles have similarly small range of movement like the elbows (the wrists, shoulders and neck all have pretty decent range). Now, because Motoko is practically made of removable parts, she effectively has an unintended bonus feature of being taken apart and recomposed as a horrible mutant:

I cannot believe this is what Yamato provides after charging $75. Frankly, these are the kind of joint I except on the cheap-o knock-off action figures you find at drug stores that have generic names like “American Buddies” or somesuch. Every single joint on the American Marvel Legends toys are superior, and they have more joints at only $10 each. This is total [email protected]#$%—people who buy this toy deserve better. A whole lot better.

Now, I very much understand Japan's emphasis of form over function. I understand that in order to make a toy look like its anime representation, they would rather omit ugly joints to keep the lines clean and accurate. But these ball joints are not performing that function. Look at Motoko's ass:

Isn't that gross? All of the ball joints are like that; when the ball joint isn't part of the toy's outer form, they create these cracks between the pieces which…well, they look like @#$%. So Yamato can have otherwise well-sculpted pieces—they certainly got her bombshell upper torso accurate, with her combat lingerie particularly well painted, and her jacket is also excellent—but when there are cracks in-bewteen her ass cheeks and her ass crack which would be about 4-inches each in scale to her body—who cares? She looks terrible. But then, the toy can snatch terribleness out of its beauty, as demonstrated by the face. At a first glance, the head looks like a perfect representation of Motoko, almost as if it was a screen-cap.

But in that screen-cap, Motoko must be drugged out of her mind to have absolutely no expression in her face. She might as well be in a coma, because she's not happy, not agreeable, and not thinking—a peculiar choice for the badass captain of Section 9. Frankly, most Japanese sex dolls have a more expressive face (don't ask me how I know). And after you (try to) play with the figure for a bit, it slowly dawns on you that her thighs are particularly large, although Motoko has always been a bit thick in that department, while her neck seems particularly thin.

For shame, Yamato. This would be a swell $20 or perhaps even $30 figure, but it should be criminal to charge $75 for Motoko and her massive extra ass cracks. If you had provided more accessories than a pistorl and assault rifle, you can have mitigated the cost a little, but you didn't. So the first decent Motoko action figure ever made isn't decent, not in actuality, and certainly not in cost. Someone should set up Section 10 to put a stop to this nonsense, because it should be a crime.

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