Thursday, May 15, 2014

Toy Review – Pacific Rim 2-Pack: Battle Damaged Jaeger Gipsy Danger & Kaiju Leatherback

I saw Gipsy Danger exactly once at retail. It was when I bought Crimson Typhoon and Knifehead (as well as some Alien figures). I knew Gipsy was the main Jaeger, but that didn’t really mean anything because the movie hadn’t come out yet. I thought Typhoon looked much cooler and bought that one.

I looked for Gipsy Danger at retail after seeing the movie, but Pacific Rim toys were very hard to find. I didn’t want to order one online and pay shipping, and by the time I realized that was the only way I was going to get one the prices had gone up way too high. Between the scarcity of the figures at retail and the fact that I hadn’t yet heard anything about future waves I sort of gave up on more figures. If more came out, it would take so long that surely I wouldn’t be interested anymore. I even thought about eBaying the ones I had. I mean, it wasn’t even a complete set.

Then NECA started releasing pictures of new, better articulated Jaegers alongside much bigger (and also better articulated) Kaiju. I got excited. Then we got the movie on Blu-Ray and I watched it a few more times. I realized I was foolish to have thought I could resist collecting these. 
 
I don’t remember right now exactly what set the fire under me that caused me to go to BigBadToyStore and order or preorder one of everything Pacific Rim they had, but I’m glad that I did. I now have a decent sized shelf of Kaiju and Jaegers and I know exactly what to expect from future releases (as in Knifehead, Trespasser, and Scudder all share a body). All of that is great, but I need NECA to make an Otachi. A deluxe Otachi with interchangeable arms – one set with the wings unfurled. I really want NECA to make it happen that way. I don’t want two separate Otachi figures. Though I’d buy them if I had to.

Another reason I need Otachi – beside it being my favorite Kaiju from the movie – is that it is Leatherback’s tag team partner in the disastrous battle against Crimson Typhoon and Cherno Alpha. That battle went down so much like a professional wrestling match. The only way it could have been more like wrestling was if when Gipsy Danger showed up she had turned on Striker Eureka and joined the monsters to lead the Kaiju World Order.

Anyway, this set was my way to get Gipsy Danger. As I have mentioned before, I do not generally care for battle damaged variants, but in this case I was going to take what I could get. Besides, Gipsy spends about seventy percent of her screen time battle damaged, so it kind of works.

FIRST GLANCE

I don’t know how anybody could see this in a store and resist buying it. I still maintain that Gipsy Danger is a pretty generic looking robot (but a well done one), but Leatherback looks brutal. The combination of the two is just exciting to look at. They’re not friends. These two were obviously made to fight each other. I wish more toy lines had such clear conflict. While I get the whole “book by its cover” thing, I do appreciate when you can tell who the bad guys are at a glance.

While I’m thinking about it, that was another thing that was very refreshing about Pacific Rim. It was straight-up Good versus Evil. The monsters weren’t misunderstood or any bullshit like that. They were monsters. Their masters were utterly evil aliens who wanted to kill us all and steal our world. Period. There was no swerve at the end where they just wanted our help. Those fuckers needed to be murdered.

PACKAGING

There was no option other than to put these two in a clamshell. A blister card wouldn’t have done the job and a box would have undermined the presentation of these two nemeses. As much as I dislike clamshells, there’s something to be said for picking up that kind of packaging and thinking, “Crap – this thing is heavy!”

Unlike other NECA releases, this package has no credits because the figures are created from digital models.

LOOKS

Leatherback is a chunky hunk of Kaiju. It’s the one that is the most recognizable as an existing creature – the gorilla form is hard to miss. I don’t think that all of the Pacific Rim Kaiju are based on existing monsters from Godzilla and other franchises, but if they are Leatherback is King Kong.

Leatherback’s head is entirely un-gorilla-like. It is closer to resembling a dinosaur; maybe a hornless triceratops. It’s covered in ridges and patterns. The beady eyes are under two ridged plates that sweep to the back of the head and cover a row of creepy, luminous tendrils. 

Well, they’re painted to look luminous like they were in the movie. The teeth on the jaw seem like exterior growths, almost like a crustacean. 

The jaw opens to reveal a blue tongue. Now that I think about it, this might be more of a turtle head.

Leatherback’s shape might be that of a gorilla, but the details are from a variety of animals. Its skin is covered in wrinkles like an elephant, but also has thick, knobby protrusions in places. There are also large plates sticking out of its shoulders and elbows. 
 
All of the Kaiju have a weird thing on their backs. I don’t know what the deal is with these, but they almost look like a second creature – like a lamprey or something – that is permanently attached. Leatherback’s is colored more similarly than others, but is more distinctive in its form. It almost looks like a trilobite or something.

This monster’s fists are just massive wrecking balls. The fronts are covered in bony protrusions. The thumbs and fingers are articulated and are stumpy, pointed, and dangerous looking.

Leatherback’s legs are thick stumps that taper down to feet with brutal claws at the end. I love how everything on this creature is tapered – the legs, the torso, the head, and even the thing on its back. Only the arms maintain a fairly continuous form and that lends them such a powerful appearance while providing a nice contrast to the rest of the monster.

Leatherback’s paint job is fantastic. The skin is covered in washes and dry brushing to give it a truly ancient look. The head tendrils and markings are a brilliant blue to give them the luminous quality that the Kaiju had in the movie. The accuracy with which the markings were applied is impressive, as they are not only precise but consistent. They go across joints and across heavily textured skin while maintaining their consistency.

This Gipsy Danger was a brilliant choice to pack in with Leatherback. Its excellent deco – which I’ll get to – compliments that of the Kaiju and Gipsy’s slender form provides an interesting contrast. How could this skinny robot hold its own against such a massive predator?

Chainsaw arms. That’s how.

Well, that’s how the figure would. She didn’t even have to use the chainsaws on Leatherback in the movie.

First off, I want to say that I totally dig the deco on this figure. It’s not sculpted battle damage and Gipsy isn’t missing any parts, so this is really just a bunch of wear. It’s very Star Wars-ish.

If Gipsy reminds me of anything, it’s probably Tetsujin 28. Mostly because of the big shoulders and tiny head. The head design is somewhat reminiscent of a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot. It has a strong jaw like that and a similar visor design. I would have loved a vac metal visor on this figure. I realize that’s unrealistic and not at all necessary, but I think it would have looked great.

The one real complaint I have about this figure is that it is made out of a softer plastic and that parts of it ended up warping. The shoulder plates and lower legs are kind of messed up and the torso doesn’t quite sit straight on its joint. Aside from the shoulder plates none of this is terribly noticeable, especially if the figure is posed.

Gipsy looks skinny only in comparison to Leatherback. On her own, she has an imposing profile. The large upper torso supports two massive arms with heavily armored and plated shoulders. All of the plating and mechanisms on the figure are well defined. Each piece looks like an assembled part as opposed to being just lines or seams. The definition really sells not just the mechanical aspect of the figure, but the scale. And everything looks functional. A lot of thought went into the design. I can’t help but wish that the Pacific Rim folks had been the ones working on Bay’s Transformers. Size differences aside, Gipsy looks like she’d tear Optimus Prime in half.

Gipsy’s nuclear reactor core (or whatever they call the thing in her chest) was handled nicely. The one on the eighteen inch version lights up, but this one has been painted to resemble the inferno within. It looks great and is quite effective at representing the movie look. A combination of deft painting and use of gloss made this feature look great. 
 
The best thing about action figures of robots is how good the articulation looks. It’s all part of the design. NECA used the elbows, knees, ankles, and wrists and just made the joints work from those. They all look great to the point where you don’t know if they’re functional until you move them. They blend that well.

As I’ve already mentioned, Gipsy Danger’s deco is amazing. The base deco – under the wear and damage – is a sort of military blue. Again, somewhat reminiscent of a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot. This is all of the armor, while the moving parts are a metallic grey. The regular markings are extremely precise. They could pass for decals like you’d see on plastic models. The red trim is evenly applied in the right spots. The white trim and “34” markings on the shoulders is symmetrical. The same goes for the “caution” markings on the knees, which I don’t totally understand but that add just another level of detail to the robot.

The wear and damage is a whole other level of impressive. There’s a layer of black grime over the whole robot. It’s smudgy and real and random, but evenly applied. There are silver slashes where Gipsy’s paint has been entirely stripped away. These are so well done that they almost look sculpted and that they appear to be the actual bottom layer despite being painted on.

ACCESSORIES

This set comes with Gipsy Danger’s retractable arm swords. Just looking at these pieces is a reminder of the difference between NECA and other toy companies. If anybody else had made these they wouldn’t be painted and chances are good the spaces between the individual links or plates or whatever wouldn’t be there. 
 
Each sword plugs into a notch in Gipsy’s forearms:
They look good, but they don’t stay put for shit. A gentle breeze will knock them out. Also, I have no idea which way they are supposed to face. If NECA had shaped the notch and the corresponding peg on each blade that probably would have helped them stay put and definitely would have helped me figure out which side was supposed to face out. I think the flatter side faces out. Which is not what I did in that picture.

FUN

Leatherback has about as much meaningful articulation as you could expect from a monster shaped like this. I think NECA might have been able to squeeze just a little bit more out of the head and arms. But at the same time, there’s a line between maintaining an accurate profile and having a huge range of posability. As is Leatherback is solid. Swivels at the top of the biceps would be nice, but would have added to the cost and might have been unsightly.

Gipsy Danger, on the other hand, could have been better. Should have been better. Most of the joints on this figure feel very restricted and come up shy of doing what I really wanted them to do. The shoulders rotate well, but don’t have a lot of up and down range. The elbow pivots aren’t particularly deep. The hips, knees, and ankles could all have wider ranges of movement. And while Leatherback’s limitations get a pass for aesthetic reasons, I can’t see why Gipsy isn’t a little better.

Still, Gipsy is reasonably dynamic and there’s a decent amount of fun to be had posing these two in various fight scenarios. There were a few things I couldn’t get them to pull off, but I can’t complain too much about a monster that can German suplex a robot:
These are pretty fun to play with and wonderful to look at. And something to keep in mind – these were a part of the Pacific Rim toys that were being designed to please Walmart. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see an upgraded Gipsy Danger at some point.

OVERALL

For the money – I paid $29.99 plus shipping; though that was spread out across several figures – this set is a must-have. Not just for fans of Pacific Rim, but for fans of toys. This is such a great monster versus robot set that I think anybody would enjoy it. And if you’re going to make just one Pacific Rim toy purchase, this one gives you a Kaiju and a Jaeger.
The figures are well-executed and look great on the shelf. I recommend them.

4 out of 5

At the time I ordered BigBad had the best price, but you can get them from Amazon and help out Needless Things!:


2 comments:

  1. I guess I should have just picked this set up when I saw it on clearance at Hastings... oh well, live and learn.
    I can't wait for the Gypsy 2.0 figure to come out though.

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    1. I wish I had a Hastings nearby. The site is solid but apparently the stores get stuff in in a pretty timely manner and a lot of it never shows up on the site.

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