Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Banpresto Thousand Sunnyby Rob Bricken, Mar 29th 2009
The interesting thing about being a toy reviewer who has little to no pretensions of encyclopedic knowledge of toys or even that much access to the wares of the industry — that is to say, a regular nerd who enjoys anime and toys — is that good and bad become kind of irrelevant. Sure, I've reviewed plenty of bad toys here on “Astro Toy” but I'm well aware that even that hideous Motoko could be considered “good” by a big enough GitS fan if he got the right deal (i.e., free). Another case in point is this week's “Astro Toy” subject, which is a bad toy that I still can't help consider good.
Of course, this toy is from One Piece, of which we all know I'm an insane fan. You'd think that this might make me more critical of the show's countless products and tie-ins, but honestly, it doesn't. I can't help but think that this is something intrinsic to anime fandom. See, over at Topless Robot, I talk to hardcore fans of all sorts of American properties, and there's no one more critical of G.I. Joe toys or Transformers than their fanbases. I'm a huge He-Man fan, and I'm the same way — I'm incredibly picky and particular about those figures.
But when it comes to anime, I'll buy just about anything with that straw-hat-wearing skull logo on it (including $500 worth of figures, car air fresheners, pencil boards, gashapon, bath salts, a first aid kit, and more). I have no explanation for this. I mean, I like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, but not obsessively, and I hated that damn Motoko figure. But I'm just as obsessive and forgiving of products from Urusei Yatsura and FLCL, my other two favorite series. Am I alone in this? Or do you animu nerds who also love American properties find yourselves more forgiving of anime products?
While you ponder that, let me finally get on to the toy. It's a replica of the Thousand Sunny, the Straw-Hat Pirates’ current ship (in the Japanese manga and anime, still quite a ways away from its U.S. debut). It's much more a young boy's toy than a collector's toy (like the PoP figures); it's made of a cheap but durable plastic, so it can withstand some serious play. Even the sails are made out of plastic, so there's no chance of tearing — plus, the assembly is super-easy, as everything just plugs right in. Frankly, even a 6-year-old would have no problem putting it together, since the pieces are only designed to fit in their correct places (and in the correct way).
This ship is about 8-inches long from the front to the end or the rear sail, and 7-inches tall from the bottom of the hull to the top of the mast. Though I haven't seen a lot of the Thousand Sunny, she looks pretty accurate to me, although perhaps she's a bit more compact to make her sturdier for young Japanese kids. She seems detailed enough — there are little stairs and doors all over the deck, and you can see Nami's orange trees under the second mast. There's also the oddly festive room hanging off the back, with what I think are little lights, sculpted all in purple.
So why do I call the Thousand Sunny a bad toy? Well, a lot of reasons. As you can tell for the above picture, while you can see a certain level of detail — i.e., Nami's orange trees, the lights on that room — it's only a certain level, and then stops. I am fairly certain that the lights on the Thousand Sunny's rear room are not all purple, either in the anime or the manga. They probably… well, they probably look like lights. And I know for a fact that Nami's orange trees look like orange trees — you know, with oranges on them — instead of squat pine trees.
Either of these details sums up the toy as a whole. It's pretty accurate to a certain degree, and then past that degree, it's not accurate at all. Incidentally, the hull is accurately shaped, so unless you use the ship holder (which you have to punch out from the back of the toy packaging) she's going to look like this:
I don't really consider that a flaw per se, but it would be nice if it came with a stand that was a little more substantial and less crappy looking than a punch-out from the packaging — even a little clear plastic holder would be preferable. It's far too reminiscent of a Happy Meal toy, a consideration the Thousand Sunny doesn't particularly need.
Oh, and last but not least, the paint job is kind of crap. Especially the toy I got, which has this:
Look, Banpresto — clearly, you didn't decide to break out the tiny brushes on the bad boy. Surely you can at least not have huge white smudges on the hull.
So why do I love it? I guess it's really because I'm a fan. A big, stupid One Piece nut who can look past all those flaws and see a pretty decent toy from a series that makes me incredibly happy, which somehow carries through into the toy. Now, if you're not a One Piece obsessive, I can safely say that $30 feels a bit steep for what you get, although it's still a good price for any Japanese toy nowadays. And of course, Banpresto did make a Going Merry as well.
However! You still might want to wait, because Banpresto will be releasing two updated versions of the same ships in just a few months. Check it out:
The new ships have metallic paint apps and more paint detail and look like they'll still cost the same as the old versions, so it's probably worth holding your horses. Also, there's another Thousand Sunny ship floating around the online stores that actually includes small, SD figures of the Straw Hat crew, and opens up to reveal some of the Sunny's different compartments and abilities. In all honesty, had I seen that one before I ordered this one, I'd probably have picked that, since it doesn't look much less detailed than what I got (if at all).
You can read more of Rob Bricken's bitter, needlessly mean-spirited thoughts on toys and many non-anime subjects over at ToplessRobot.com (safe for work).
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