2017 was a great year for indie toys! Also a dang expensive year for Kickstarter campaigns. Case in point: Articulated Icons.
Articulated Icons were started by the guys behind The Fwoosh (and they'll be sold there, at some point). The kickstarter exploded and reached all it's stretch goals, then....well, then they took awhile to get the figures in the hands of the supporters. That kinda thing happens, though. The Fwoosh guys kept in contact the whole time, showing factory results and explaining every setback, which was much appreciated. There can be a lot of problems when starting a toy line, from sculpting, to making molds, to paint, and then articulating them and making sure the articulation works. These figures are heavily articulated - and sport swappable gear, arms, and heads - so there was a lot to cover in terms of quality control!
Personally, I felt like they delivered, minus a few little things here and there.
At some point I'd like to do a full breakdown, but for now we'll do a little photoshoot and cover some of the basics.
The original idea was to bring toy collectors some nice, standard ninja to the 6 inch scale. Ninja are prevalent in so many stories, from Marvel, to DC, to video games and books and EVERYTHING. Just everything. Since ninja rarely go outside the usual look of masks and single-colored suits, it's easy to make "A Ninja" and have it be able to work with nearly any part of your 6 inch collection. Articulated Icons' plan went a little beyond just ninja, but the main draw is making sure that the basic ninja makes the grade.
...the answer is "YES." Yes, it does make the grade. I'm using Instagram pictures that were taken earlier in the year, so I don't have all the details shown, or the basic ninja displayed, but the black suit ninja above is still a good example. Heck, it's a bit better of an example! The hood and mask parts aren't even made to go together, technically, but I made it work. The same goes for a few parts here and there. You can force some things together and make a good looking ninja.
The weapons are varied and numerous. If a ninja used it in history or fiction, then these figures come with it. There's spears, kamas, shuriken, short swords, long swords, staves, and so much more (even a pistol, in one particular case). Even if you only get a few ninja, you'll be swimming in accessories.
When it comes to the basic ninja, I don't have many complaints. As you can see above: You can cover just about any standard ninja look. The blue ninja even looks exactly like Ryu, from the NES Ninja Gaiden games!
And the white ninja (along with the separate pack of bare arms) is clearly - very clearly - meant to look like Storm Shadow. Heck, this IS Storm Shadow, minus the Cobra symbol.
...which I guess makes for a big Storm Shadow (though there's always someone bigger), but they even thought of that, in the form of Solitaire, the "modern ninja":
It takes very little customizing to make Solitaire into Snake Eyes (though I haven't tried, yet). There may not yet be a G.I. Joe line in 6 inch scale, but at least you can now easily make Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. "I'm sure you need more of those two!" Alexx said, surfing out of his house on a wave of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow figures.
Something very important to the 6 inch scale ninja world is the Hand Ninja, and Articulated Icons has you covered there as well. Hand Ninja are from Daredevil, though they've shown up elsewhere throughout the Marvel universe (I first ran into them in Spider-Man as they...uh...resurrected Doctor Octopus. Like you do). They are traditionally red (though they've shown up in other colors), and you don't get much more red than this!
They even have green pupil-less eyes, proving that this is very much a homage to the Hand Ninja.
Finally, because "stealth" repaints are always popular (with me): Here's a translucent smoky gray ninja.
I imagine I don't have to explain why I got this one. Why I saw it and immediately added it to my pledge on kickstarter.
Translucent toys, man.
The figure manages to hit that stealth look more than other clear or translucent toys. I think it's the smoky part. No matter the lighting, it seems to really pull off the idea that he's not supposed to be visible.
That was it, for the basic ninja that I purchased. I had a blast photographing them, and they have damn fine articulation, but they're not without problems:
- The major, glaring problem is that the hip joints are VERY tight. You can loosen them with heat or hot water, but they'll eventually tighten back up again. I've heard that WD40 (or similar stuff) will loosen it up permanently. The main thing you gotta remember is to LOOSEN THOSE HIP JOINTS, before moving them. It's a shame, but not a killer for the toyline.
- Another problem is the tiny ball joints for the hands. They're either hard to pop off or WAY too easy, but I count that as more of a your-mileage-may-vary kind of problem, since not all of my figures suffer from it.
- Finally, the weapons are often small, or thin. You gotta be super careful with them, as this is a collector's line in the full sense. I haven't broken anything myself, but one sword blade was broken in-package, and it's something that could happen again if you're not careful.
Even considering these things, I wouldn't write them off. If you're careful about the legs and accessories, you're gona have a good time. It's no different than most SH Figuarts toys and just, you know, being careful. Regardless, I do hope they continue to fix them up as the toyline moves along.
Now, there's just a few more items to cover! Like I had said earlier: The original idea of the kickstarter was to bring collectors some basic ninja. The campaign did really well though, and stretch goals were added for various new parts and bodies that allowed for different martial arts heroes and samurai.
One of which is a very "Jackie Chan" style Drunken Master. He moves much like the ninja, so there's not much to add save for how the basic bald head works.
The head has a simple hole on top, and that's where you plug in hair or helmets. It works well enough for most hair, but the long ponytail on this one is a little loose. Not terrible, but could be better. I chose this as one of my non-ninja purchases because...well, he looks cool. Plus he comes with a little jug and more martial arts style bludgeoning weapons.
The last thing to cover is: SAMURAI!
...but, I didn't take very many pictures. Mostly because they suffer the most, out of any of the ninja or other variations on these basic bodies. Damn, though, they look amazing!
The Samurai use the basic ninja body with removable armor placed over it. This causes a few problems, because:
- One, there's the problem of all the separate armor pieces. The skirt armor restricts the legs slightly, and the added problem of the tight hip joints just makes them that much more frustrating to move.
- Two, there's the helmet. As stated with the Drunken Master: The bald head has a hole in the top for hair and helmets, but the helmet is quite large. It sorta floats on top of the samurai head, unless the mask is there to sort of anchor it. Even then, when posing him, the helmet and mask tend to fall off, depending on the figure.
The rest of the armor stays on, but the figures are already a bit tough to move around, so the added armor sadly bogs down the otherwise amazing looking samurai.
The end result is some amazing ninja and some could-be-better samurai, but it all depends on how you want to use them. Let's break it down:
- Are you gona have kids around? Because there's a lot to lose and a lot to break, so young kids might wana stay away from these (especially since the smaller items like the shuriken are pretty sharp).
- Do you want some hand-candy next to you on the desk while you work or watch something? These might not be the best for that, until you loosen up the hips. If you're not doing too much leg work, they are fun to mess with, but I wouldn't say they're as easy to move around as a Marvel Legend.
- Are you going to mostly be taking pictures after careful posing? Then YES, these are definitely for you! The pictures above should get the idea across. They all look absolutely stunning, and a photo session of careful posing and accessorizing will be very satisfying, with only minimal irritation with some samurai helmets. Even the tight hip joints aren't too bad when you're moving them slowly and carefully. Set aside some time and get things juuuust right, and you won't be disappointed. Even basic poses look amazing.
I have to recommend them, for the savvy toy photographer. These figures can pull off some awesome stuff, and come with spectacular accessories that'll work wherever you wana use them. Just be aware that they're a little more high-end, like a Figuarts or some earlier NECA stuff, and you'll be alright.