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Astro Toy
Play Arts Kai Ichigo Kurosaki

by David Cabrera,

Play Arts Kai Ichigo Kurosaki
Series: Bleach
Maker: Square Enix
Price: $40-50

Before we begin, I'd like to say thank you and goodbye to the lights of the Astro Toy lightbox. They did so much for my photos, and today they finally gave up. I'd also like to thank my interim partners, Desk By Window, Light of Day, and Blinds. Yes, this is a little embarrassing. Don't worry, we'll have new lights by next time.

Now, guys, I have a confession to make. I already reviewed this figure in October. At a single glance. On Twitter. What can I say? I was at Kinokuniya, the whole line was in a glass case, and they spoke to me. What they spoke I can't print here, because it was mostly personal insults punctuated by non-sequitur profanity. They looked offensive up there. Knowing the day I reviewed one of these figures would inevitably come, I swallowed my dread and put Ichigo on my mental “to-buy” list for the column. He's here today, and standing in the box, the figure doesn't look terrible at all. So why did I have such a bad kneejerk reaction? Did I misjudge this toy? This merits further investigation.

Wait a second, this guy's looking pretty sharp. This is a great sculpt. Check out the detail on the upper body! The hair is hedgehog-spiked (seriously, be careful touching it when you switch heads), the wave of the jacket's raggedy edges give it great presence, and the paint job is quite competent.

Why was the sight of this toy enough to drive me into a nerd rage again? I mean, I don't even read Bleach! I'll tell you why: it's because the figure only looks good when it's standing up straight.

The problems start at the legs. All the characters in this line are in their shinigami uniforms, so of course they're wearing hakama, traditional Japanese pants. This doesn't lend itself well to a hard plastic action figure for many reasons, and what you get on Ichigo is a pair of heavy PVC tree trunks for legs. Between this and the jacket, the toy's pretty bottom-heavy, which becomes a problem when posing.

But that can be forgiven. What's can't is what happens when you pull the legs out. The hakama have joints just like those on a normal action figure's legs, and the effect when you bend the knees looks extremely unnatural: the illusion of cloth is completely broken and Ichigo's legs resemble neither human legs nor big, floppy hakama. This is what immediately struck me when I saw the figure posed for battle in that glass case, as I approached from the side.

The other thing that struck me was how bad the sides of the legs look: in order to get a wider range of movement (and to keep the tree trunks from blocking each other all the time), the designers have flattened out the sides of the hakama. Now the legs don't look like tree trunks anymore, they look... blocky. At this point, the legs start to remind me of that classic Gundam MS, the Dom. There's no solution to this problem: you just can't move Ichigo's legs very much without them looking jacked. If you look at the photos on the back of the box, you'll notice that they all fade out around the legs. They knew exactly how bad it looks.

I don't know what it is with Astro Toy and defects. I have gotten more defective toys writing for Astro Toy than I have in the entire time I've bought toys for my own enjoyment (though I cannot express how terrible it is to find out that your $80-$200 Soul of Chogokin is busted in some strange, minute way that is not covered under any warranty). Is this column cursed? Perhaps.

Anyway, the defective Ichigo I got on Amazon (via Animewild) can't hold his own sword. There's supposed to be a sword hand here, but instead of that, I have two of the exact same closed fist. As such, there is absolutely nothing to do with Ichigo's sword. This is kind of extremely important, and I sincerely apologize that I can only show you the sword and not what Ichigo looks like holding it. Really holding it, I mean.

Other extras include an “angst or menace”” hand and an alternate head wearing the Hollow Ichigo mask. The head is a huge pain to switch, and I've never been more thankful for my Revoltech pliers.

There's no stand again. With Ed, we had a construction crane. With Ichigo, I suppose there was too much plastic in the box already, so we have this. I harp on this every single time it happens because it still bothers me, every single time. But for this figure it's an especially big issue, because Ichigo does not have an easy time standing on his own. Between the big, heavy coat spread out behind him, and the big, heavy legs, the figure has a very hard time balancing on a pair of (relatively) tiny feet. Knowing this, the designers worked a lot of articulation into those feet, but this only goes so far.

I really don't want to look like I have it out for an entire toy line (there are better things to do with oneself than nurse a vendetta against products), but the Play-Arts figures I've seen so far make such big compromises to arrive in the middle between looks and playability that they neither look fantastic nor are fun to play with. It's a no-win situation.

This figure looks great standing still, but it can barely be posed (just the arms, really) without turning it into an eyesore. It begs the question: “Why not just buy a PVC?” You'd have better detail (though again, the detail on this piece is far above the usual action figure), a more exciting pose, and you wouldn't have any of the aesthetic issues of a posable action figure. Hopefully Megahouse will make something soon.

What these characters and their difficult costumes really beg for is a 1/6 scale figure treatment from Medicom, with real fabric clothing: of course, those toys cost $200 and you'll probably never see one on this column (and if you did, I'd be selfish and buy Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star).

So is this figure worse than the Play-Arts Ed Elric? I've been thinking this over long and hard since I opened up the toy. I'm going to say no, because at least there's one pose it looks good in. Poor Ed will always have his goblin arms.

Anyway, I hope someone makes a Figma Bayonetta.

Want this toy? I won't judge you, because in junior high I saved up all week to go buy those crappy old Bandai Dragon Ball Z figures. We got it on Amazon for $42, but, well, it was defective so maybe we'd better not link you to their supply.

My usual online spots are sold out of Ichigo (the rest of the line is not hard to get), but at the time of this writing, Anime Castle has it for $40. I won a Tatsunoko Vs. CAPCOM tournament there once.

When he isn't killing time on fighting games and mahjong, David Cabrera gets hype about anime, manga and gaming at Subatomic Brainfreeze.

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