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Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Dragonball Evolution

by Rob Bricken,

Series: Dragonball: Evolution
Toyline: Dragonball: Evolution 4-inch and 6-inch
By: Bandai
Cost: $8-11

One of the laziest, most trite tools in the writer's toolbox is to start an article with a definition. But I'm not writing for the New York Times here, I'm writing a mean-spirited rant on anime toys for a website, so I'm just gonna go for it.

1) omission of occurrence or performance; specifically, a failing to perform a duty or expected action <failure to pay the rent on time>
2) lack of success, a failing in business, bankruptcy
3) a falling short, deficiency <a crop failure>, deterioration, decay
4) one that has failed

I'm not really sure which part of that definition best applies to Bandai's Dragonball: Evolution toys, but I do want to emphasize that they are so awful that I'm going to submit them to Merriam-Webster as an extra meaning.

First let's talk about the other elephant of failure in the room — the Dragonball: Evolution movie. Yes, the movie is terrible. And I don't just mean as an adaptation or representation of Akira Toriyama's beloved anime and manga (of which I am a fan), but just as a movie. If you want to know more of my opinion on the matter, feel free to check out my profanity-laden review over at Topless Robot; I'm not here to discuss that. Frankly, the toys are utterly separate — there can be bad toys of great movies, and great toys of bad movies. So please believe me when I tell you that these “action figures” are failures entirely on their own merits.

We start with the 3 ½-inch figures of which I bought Master Roshi, played by Chow Yun-Fat. Chow Yun-Fat looks like this in Dragonball: Evolution:

I believe I can empirically state this is a poor likeness. They didn't even bother to gray his hair on the figure, which would have been a single, simple paint application. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since if you look at the full body shot above, they also failed to paint the black plastic joints, leaving four huge black dots on his shoulders and hips.

If you're a terrible toymaker, I can see how you'd make the grotesquely visible elbow joints and/or the crappy likeness. But black joints? Come on. All you have to do is use a different color plastic; it doesn't cost any more than black. And if it's too much to keep track of, paint the damn spots. It's not like they're hard to see. Especially when…

…they're all over the side, too. Yes, the shoulder and leg joints are actually visible in huge streaks, which makes the toymaker's decision to use black plastic for everything — and their refusal to paint the damn things — even more baffling. And don't talk to me about cost, because Hasbro's Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures have had better sculpts and better articulation than Roshi here for the last five years. The only thing Roshi can do that Hasbro's guys can't is do the splits, but since that looks like this:

…it isn't much of a selling point.

Here's a fun fact — although I only bought Roshi, all the 3 ½-inch figures are like this. Yes, they all use the same black joints, no matter what they're wearing. So while this works out all right for Bulma's black jumpsuit, Yamcha's brown suit, Piccolo's purplish armor-thing both the orange and blue-outfitted Gokus, and the Power Rangers reject Fulum all have the same, hideous black spots all over them. Fun!

Roshi comes with a plastic sword, because… well, not because Roshi had a all-gray sword in the film at all, but because it was a really cheap add on, and they probably had it from some other toy lines. Roshi's other accessories include a dragonball, part of the dragonball “altar,” and a piece of Oozaru; if you're insane enough to buy all seven figures, you get all seven dragonballs and you can make a “figure” of Oozaru. But here's the best part — check out Roshi and his dragonball:

Oh indeed; Bandai couldn't even be bothered to make the Dragonballs in scale with its own figures. If you haven't seen the film (you're living right), the dragonballs are softball-sized, while this is pretty much a beachball for Roshi and the other 3 ½-inch figures. Perhaps just as importantly, the movie's dragonballs were not crappy orange-red see-through plastic. Furthermore, the stars were not just painted on the side in the same @#$%ing color, making them almost impossible to see.

Here's what drives me crazy; back when Canadian toy company Irwin was making Dragon Ball Z figures back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, each DBZ figure came with a couple of dragonballs — all orange with red stars, a little big, but less then half this dragonball's size. When Bandai got the rights to the DBZ license, they also got Irwin's toy molds (which is why they re-released all those crappy toys), including the dragonball. A mold of a small plastic ball.

And yet they chose to give us this. I don't know if arrogance or idiocy is more at fault, but this is failure on a massive scale. To have something better and choose to go out of your way to make it worse is mind-blowing. And the less said about the incredibly shoddy Dragonball “altar” and Oozaru “figure” — which isn't really a figure but a non-articulated hunk of transparent blue plastic once assembled – the better. And let me sum up the figure with one more pic:

Yes, Roshi is wearing a shirt that only has a pattern on the front. They're very popular among lecherous martial artists this year, I hear. Let's just move on to Goku and the 6-inch figures.

Goku here looks kind of cheesy, but he doesn't look terrible, right? I mean, he bears absolutely zero resemblance to Justin Chatwin, the actor who actually plays Goku in the Dragonball: Evolution movie, but it's not a bad face in an utterly generic toy kinda way. And hey, no huge black joint pieces! That's fantast—

@#$%. Okay, I have to give mention that the 6-inch figures are only barely action figures on purpose, because they each have an action feature. Goku here does his “Fast Punch,” as does the 6-inch Piccolo figure (the only other 6-inch figure is Yamcha, who does a fast kick). The hunchback here is so that the toy owner can insert the attached rip cord to create the “fast-punching” action; the dial is for those who don't have the coordination to insert the rip cord, or have lost it.

Let me make a positive statement here: if you look at the figure head-on, the “fast-punching” looks good. It kind of looks like Goku is punching in four places very quickly, much like he does during one scene in the movie.  This is achieved by effectively having a second arm hidden inside the regular arm, which detaches from the main arm, and punches in a different direction. Again, this looks kind of good when you're looking at the figure straight on. Otherwise:

He looks horrible. Yes, his secondary arms are wispy things with little baby fists compared to his real arms; and yes, Bandai couldn't even be bothered to fill in the plastic on the interior arms (let alone paint the @#$%ing wristband) so it more or less looks like Goku's some horrible, four-handed mutant.

Crappy? Very much so. And yet, the fact the figure has ONE @#$%ING POINT OF ARTICULATION might be even more pitiful. Yes, Goku can turn his head, and nothing else. Waist? Nothing. Legs? No. Arms? Hilariously, you can move his arms to predetermined points higher or lower, but then the fast-punching doesn't work. You want him to punch, you have to keep them as posed. It's impressively terrible. Also, you can barely move the gear by hand, so you have to use the included ripcord. So basically, this Goku is an utterly unposable figure with one crappy action feature and zero accessories. Want to pay $11 bucks for him?

I've certainly been guilty of hyperbole in past “Astro Toy” columns, but please believe me  — I am deadly serious when I say neither of these would genuinely surprise me if they were given away in McDonald's Happy Meals. Both figures are so shoddily made that they should be given away for free, and yet they cost $8 to $12, which is preposterous. This is more expensive than infinitely better-sculpted and articulated figures from Hasbro and Mattel. Seriously — no joke, no Krauser this week. These things are awful, perhaps even more awful than the Dragonball: Evolution movie (which is pretty @#$%ing awful). Don't buy them.

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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