Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Year with Ninjas!

I know New Year's Day has come and gone for all of us, but for us Chinese or those of Chinese decent, February 14th was the first day of Chinese New Year!  And the awesome part is that it lasts for 15 days.  So you eat like it's Thanksgiving except for two weeks straight.  Sweet. :P

But I'll take a break from stuffing myself to talk toys just for a bit.  And since it's the Chinese New Year, what better way to celebrate than with the awesomest, stealthiest, Chinese warriors of them all: Ninjas!

What?  Whaddaya mean...oh.  Uh, yeah.  Ninjas are Japanese.  Right... what?

That ain't gonna stop me from reviewing 3.75" Rise of Cobra Arctic Assault Storm Shadow!!!

What really attracted me to this figure is how gory it actually looks.  I don't think we've ever gotten a Joe (or any other action figure for that matter) with bloody cuts all over.  He comes as a maskless variant too, but I much prefer the masked Storm Shadow because he seems more uncompromising, as if he won't reveal his identity no matter how badly hurt he is. Nice.

He also captures the climactic moment of the movie where he dukes it out with Snake Eyes.  He's more or less been sliced to ribbons and so has his shirt, which has fallen off of him.  I guess it's just before the chick magnet moment where he tears of his mask and goes all Mardi Gras topless. Heh.

But we all know ol' trusty Storm Shadow doesn't die despite being run through by Snakey.  Heck, actor Lee Byung-Hun has signed on for at least another movie and word is that they've offered him a bigger role in the sequel.  Good work, Stormie!  Could it be he acted so well that he not only wowed audiences but fooled Snake Eyes too?  I mean, after all, he's a good guy spying on Cobra, right?  So does that mean he kinda 'let' Snake Eyes win in that climactic fight?  Storm Shadow fans like me would like to think so. (Yeah he did. For sure. ;P)

So let's see how his toy measures up to his oh so sneaky-but-skillful-enough-to-dodge-death character!

Like: The eyes.  They're all that you can see of his features, so a good piercing stare is a must.  Storm Shadow here has it in spades.

Like: The amount of detail on this guy is simply stunning.  You've got his sculpted cuts all over his body; his Arashikage tattoo on his right arm which is nice and sharp; great ninja-esque musculature (not too buff but plenty like Bruce Lee); wrinkles and folds on his pants and half-gloves; molded-on leather gauntlets (also with laces) under the metal ones; detailed sneakers with laces; and the subtly molded cloth mask on his head.

And that's just the sculpt, The amount of sculpting on his accessories is also simply top quality as well.

There's the piece of cloth left around his neck that is folded just right; the silver chain/harness thingy; the metallic gauntlets, one of which has a hidden blade; and the nasty blade-winged backpack.  Just look at all that detail!

Like: Well this one's a no-brainer after the previous plus point--the sheer quantity of accessories.  Did I mention that he comes with a Bo staff as well as all the other stuff?

The great thing is that he can carry all of it at one time except either the sword sheathes or the blade backpack.  And even then, he can hold the backpack in one hand and the Bo staff in the other while his swords are sheathed.  It's so nice to have a figure in this scale that can bear everything that comes with him at a go. It makes the toy feel completely thought out and well-designed.

Like: The articulation. A ninja needs this, but compared to even Paris Pursuit Storm Shadow, he's more flexible despite having your regular Joe 22 points of articulation.  Though Arctic Assault Stormie's head is somewhat impeded from looking up, he can still turn it all the way around easily with his neck cloth piece on.  In fact the upward movement is not blocked by the piece of cloth but rather the head itself, so some filing will be needed on the inside of the head cavity to correct this if desired.  PP Stormie's head gets blocked by the inside of his suit when turning side to side, let alone up or down.

The other plus point is the elbows.  AA Stormie gets a nice flexible 90 degree bend if you shift his metallic gauntlets down a little or remove them completely.  PP SS's elbows are limited by his jacket's sculpt.

It's a winning combination--the clean sculpt of superhero-like arms and chest combined with the top notch GI Joe articulation gives this guy the best poseability of all the movie Storm Shadows so far. 

Like: That you can remove all his accessories (or have them all on for that matter) and he still looks kickass. 

Dislike: First off it's his backpack.  It doesn't store anything, it's huge and blocky compared to Storm Shadow, and has straps that are so stiff and un-stretchy it's hard to put on.  True, the 'pack's blades spring out when you push a button on the back but who would carry something like that around as a backpack, mush less use it as a weapon?  I guess it beats the standard issue BFG.  Then again, maybe not.  I got the backpack on Stormie once and tore one of the straps slightly from all the twisting and pulling.  It's never going on him again.  They could've made the backpack without the straps or maybe with more stretchable material like the elastic they used for Captain America's shield, but I guess aesthetics prevailed over functionality in this case.

See how great he looks *without* the un-ninja-like backpack?

Dislike: That his upper legs and lower torso are a different shade of white compared to his lower legs and feet.  It looks like they painted over the former and sculpted the latter in white, which resulted in a bluish white vs a yellowish white.  The contrast is not that obvious in the photos but you'll notice it better in hand.  Thankfully what little white on his gloves, mask and torn cloth piece all match so he doesn't look too two-toned.

Dislike: And this is the biggie--that huge frickin' mechanism on his gauntlet for his hidden blade.  I mean, yeah, it's a cool gimmick and all, but the blade doesn't go past his hand, nor can his wrist bend since there's no hinge.  So effectively what's left is a huge box attached to his gauntlet and a so-so feature.  In fact, at the current price point, I'd be really tempted to go out and buy another one of him just so I can give him two proper-looking gauntlets, gimmick be damned.


Aesthetics: 9.5/10 - The minute I saw preview pictures of this guy in package, I knew I had to get him.  There was something about him that was different from his previous Rise of Cobra versions, namely Paris Pursuit and Ninja Mercenary.  Even the variant Arctic Assault version of him unmasked seemed to be missing something (I think he was a little too half-naked for me. Lol).  So I whipped out PP Stormie, compared the two and realized what the difference was--he's taller than PP and Ninja Merc Storm Shadow!

Arctic Assault has slightly longer legs and his chest pivot is slightly higher than Paris Pursuit's, so he looks better proportioned and cat-like.

It's also the little decos on this figure than make him stand out a little more--the red from the cuts on his body, the Arashikage tattoo, the steely gaze, and the chiseled body (to which we all aspire).

Poseability: 9.5/10 - At first his gauntlets got in the way of his elbows.  But then I realized they were removable so yay!  They were a little tight initially but some gentle coaxing and tugging made them come loose.  It's just great that this figure didn't lose any flexibility because of non-removable parts and heavy sculpting.

The two things that bother me the most when posing AA Storm Shadow are his senselessly bulky backpack and the gargantuan excuse for a hidden blade mechanism.  That thing is so huge that there would be no way it would be considered concealed if it were life-size.  Good luck trying to take a pee with that thing strapped to yer arm. ;P

Fun: 10/10 - He's got so many accessories it''s not funny--it's fun!  Super fun!  Arm him with one sword or two, a bo staff, a concealed blade, one gauntlet or both, his blade backpack, his cloth neck piece, his sword sheathes, or even his silver-chain/harness.  The possibilities and combos are endless!

What I also did was to switch out his head for the one from Paris Pursuit Storm Shadow, but I have to admit, it was a little disappointing because PP SS's face is tanner than AA's skin tone.  It looks better with the neck piece on, but the cavity in that head is also a little deeper, meaning that he loses lots of head movement when switched.

It seems like lots of my Joe head experiments go awry.  But nevertheless, it's still way fun to switch 'em around because one day, one day I know I'm gonna get the perfect custom.  I just know it.  Hah. ;)

Value: 9/10 - I can't remember what I paid for him except that it might have been close to the retail price here of S$18.90 (US$13.50). At the new price point, he'd be a perfect 10.  But even at that old price I'd say it's a great deal, simply because of the number of accessories and the detail that went into him. (He doesn't have a gun, though.  But that would be overkill for a deadly ninja.  And he'd have no where to put it anyway. ;]) So I say buy him if you see him and like Storm Shadow.  If you don't fancy the character but are looking for someone to lead your Cobra forces, then this is the man and this is the version.  I mean, how cool are you when you are called 'Arctic Assault Storm Shadow' but don't have any warm clothes on?  Very, very cool. 

Overall: 9.7/10 - AA Storm Shadow get bonus points for that X-factor you find in certain toys when you open them and are not expecting them to pop.  In his case, I was expecting quite a bit and still got more than I bargained for.

Granted, he's the one Joe figure that I seem to have the most likes and deepest dislikes for, but somehow he comes together nicely with his accessories as an excellent whole package.  The design is almost flawless save for the play features they tried to give him, and if they'd left the concealed blade and backpack-full-of-blades shenanigans out of the equation, Arctic Assault would have been the perfect movie Storm Shadow.


  1. Japan celebrates the lunar new year too. Last year I wished everyone "Happy Chinese New Year" on my facebook status and one of my Japanese friends complained! LOL

  2. Haha, oh my. Well then, there ya ho. Ninja's are so mysterious and powerful they even celebrated Chinese NEw Year in Japan. :P

    But seriously, apologies to any Japanese readers out there. And Happy Lunar New Year to all!

  3. Nice review, I saw this figure in another review recently, yours and that one have convinced me to make my first, and best, Storm Shadow purchase.

  4. @Prowl26 - Haha, nice. I also just realized this--Arctic Assault Storm Shadow may also very well be the tallest SS figure in the line. I just opened up the Target Exclusive Arashikage Bike version and he was slightly shorter than this guy, but not as tiny as Paris Pursuit SS. ;)


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