Pros: extensive amounts of articulation, accessories and extra parts go hand in hand with brilliant sculpting
The First Impact was Genesis
The anime Neon Genesis: Evangelion is one of the most popular anime series ever created, both in homeland Japan, and more recently in the US and western world, where these and other Japanese animated cartoons are becoming more popular with each day. Although Akira was the first adult-oriented anime film to break into western screens and has an enormous fan base, Evangelion's popularity is almost as staggering - the 26 episode series has been sold extensively on VHS and DVD, and the two movies (Death:Rebirth and End of Evangelion) are due for release in July, with rumour of a third movie (Revelations). And with this trend comes the topic of this epinion, the action figures created by master Japanese toy company Kaiyodo imported to American by Diamond Collectibles.
Neon Genesis: Evangelion is the story of a 14 year old boy, Shinji Ikari, called to the futuristic city Tokyo 3 where an apocolyptic battle is taking place between the world's armies and an enormous monster known as an Angel. It is 2014, 15 years after the devastating horror of what is described as Second Impact, where a meteor supposedly smashed into Antarctica, melting the icecaps and killing 1/3 of the Earth's population. Since then, Gendo Ikari, Shinji's father, has established NERV, a company whose many secrets hold the key to defeating this Angel and the other Angels coming soon after. These secrets include the Evangelions. Huge robots, the size of skyscrapers, created to fight and hold off the Angels from the depths of Tokyo 3, where an even bigger secret lurks. But the Evangelions can only be piloted by 14 year olds - known as The Children. Shinji is to be the Third Child, pilot for Evangelion prototype Eva Unit-01 - and this is where the Third Impact begins.
Evangelion's popularity derives much from it's spectacular battle scenes between the Angels and the opposing Evangelions, as well as its cleverly-created dramatics. But the real intregue comes from it's Biblical references, and the involving, interscepting and intertwining plots - the whole series is based around Revelations from the Bible, or, more correctly, the German translation of the Bible; which has a lot more included that was cut from the well-known Gideon version, particularly in Genesis. Although the Evangelion series starts off considerably lightly, strewn with humor and basic human conflict, it quickly moves towards bleak darkness and revelations of the blackness of the human soul. The movie End of Evangelion is incredible - it almost rivals Requiem for a Dream in it's power and bleakness - but is a lot more watchable. The entire series is worth watching again and again - each time you'll catch on to more and more, but in the end it's difficult to put everything together, even if you spend hours on message boards and rewatching your DVDs.
Some of the biggest differences between live-action video and animation is that explosions and destruction appear a lot more realistically and powerfully in animated form - which is why shows like Dragon Ball Z can work. But on this note, there is a variety of other powerful techniques that can be used in animation that simply do not work in live-action video; and thousands of these are used throughout Evangelion. Single frames of extremely horrid images, subliminal references, enormous cities destroyed realistically, and effective (yet normally impossible) framing all work subconciously to paint the enormous canvas that holds Neon Genesis: Evangelion. However, I'm going off topic here, and I should start talking about the figures. Before I do, I must mention that despite being animated, Evangelion is strictly mature-audiences only, as the themes, violence and gore is, in places, very strong.
Hooray for Toys!!!
Lots of people ask me why exactly I collect toys, or more precisely, action figures. I mean, surely toys are for kids - mere playthings for undeveloped bodies who have yet to discover the fruits of life? I couldn't disagree with this more - if the fruits of life include binge drinking, lots of drugs and illicit sex, and a whole lot of disappointments, then I'd much prefer to stay a kid.
There are many reasons why I collect action figures, but the most obvious of all, is that I like them. They're cool! How else can you own your own T-1000 from Terminator 2, to be posed and played with however you like? What about a miniature Jay and Silent Bob, complete with weed and bong, both with sound (Jay says several unmentionable things, while SB says nothing)? And all the possibilities! Have the two stoners hang outside the Kwik-E-Mart while the T-1000 goes inside to have a squishee and pull Apu to pieces! Or get the T-Rex from Jurassic Park to smash The Crow to pieces for continuing to make horrible films! What about getting Leatherface to chainsaw our PM John Howard in half with his enormous 'saw!! Yes, I like to pose and repose and play around with my figures, and then put them back up on their shelves to display. So what? I get ideas for writing and screenplays from this, and, as a writer and child-at-heart, it's entertaining. I'd much prefer to be mucking around with my figures than be out somewhere getting drunk out of my mind like more "mature" adults do. Also, collecting action figures allows you to go one step further on owning movie and TV memorabilia - you can have all your favourite movie monsters on one shelf, from many into one universe. Since I started collecting, I know lots of people who, while not being big on my hobby, have got a couple for show because they too can see the value in having a pint-sized movie collectible. A LotR-loving friend of mine has a Gandalf on his shelf - holding an Uzi. Awesome! Another friend keeps Snake Plissken on his desk in his unit on campus. It's awesome, and even my ex-girlfriend loved displaying Austin Powers and pals on her table in her room. And since action figures aren't typically that expensive, it's an easy hobby to have and hold onto, even if it isn't a huge collectors investment. And some of the figures, like Clive Barker's Tortured Souls and the upcoming collection of figures by H.R.Gieger, go beyond playthings and become actual pieces of art. I love collecting, and trust me, it's all good - even the weird stare of the check-out chick working at Target handing me my new Spiderman toy is worth it to have several shelves of awesome toys to look down on me as I sleep.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get the point, you like your hobby. So, in your opinion, what constitutes a good figure?
Glad you asked, Sparky! In a past poll at a Collectors Message Board I frequent, I answered with this short article:
What makes a good figure stand out?
A Good Idea
If it's a good license, then the figure may well be awesome. On the other hand, a completely new line based on a wicked theme (like the Tortured Souls) or just a good idea for a figure (Monev) can make a great figure. Good sculpt is a must.
A Great Sculpt
If the sculpt is crappy, then this figure is your new dog toy. McFarlane dominate in the area, with some magnificent sculpts and paint to match. Sometimes a little blotchy, but mostly perfect.
The two A's - Articulation and Accessories
Both should be included in amounts to fit the figure. For example, Monev has the best articulation ever on a figure. He rocks, and his accessories are pretty good, but he doesn't need a lot since he doesn't use accessories in the context. Another figure, Jason, is perfect in his accessories since he uses so many weapons to kill and dismember. His articulation fits the weapons and poses for him, so he's kewl. The articulation should allow for some play and posing, and the accessories should work with the figure and the articulation. No good giving figures accessories they can't use (ala' Spike from Buffy, who comes with a dozen awesome weapons, none of which he can hold).
If the price sucks, the figure sucks. We can make exceptions for rare and awesome once-in-a-lifetime figures like Monev, but we don't want to pay the same price for a lesser, crappy figure (*cough cough stan winston's monsters cough which are the same price as Monev here in Australia cough cough*). The price of McFarlane Toys goes up this year, but the quality (should) remain the same, so it's not a bad deal. A better deal are the Spiderman Classics, which are almost half the price of a McF toy with extra articulation and awesome paint. Other good deals are the DBZ toys, the Bionicles, the LotR toys and the Harry Potter toys, all under AU$15.
Packaging isn't that important except to sell the figure, but sometimes it can be exceptionally kewl, especially for the MOC collector. Consider Monev, who looks might nifty both in and out of the package, much like Overtkill III. The LotR figures look great inside their obscurely shaped package. Bionicles doesn't go so well 'MOC' in their plastic cylinders, but since they're primarily play-n-pose, they work well as a display with the the cylinders behind them. If the packaging is apalling and doesn't let you see the figure, why would you want to buy it as you walk past it in the aisle?
A Nice Background
Figures that include a background to the figure can be kewler than those who don't. Consider the novellas with the Tortured Souls - they contain a fascinating story in them that includes the tortured soul characters, meaning the collector can read about the gruesome characters they've bought. Excellent. Figures with a specific movie or TV license should include some kind of description, like the LotR and Harry Potter figures. Figures that don't include anything like some of the Spawn figures fall flat in this department.
Some gimmicks work, others don't. The action features in the LotR figures go both ways - some are ok, like Legolas, others really suck, like the Wraithring. The mask gimmicks with the Bionicles is pretty kewl, offering a series of collectibles to go with the figures. The magic tricks in Harry Potter toys are so stupid they make me want to implode. The thing to the gimmick is to put thought, time and blood into it to make it kewl and exceptional. Otherwise he's just waving his arms when you push the button on his back.
The fact is, all of these things can go towards making an awesome action figure, for both the child and the collector. And, to the point of this epinion, all of these factors come in with the awesome Evangelion figures.
The Evas - Unit 00, Unit 01 Prototype, and Unit 02
Kaiyodo is the company who created these toys, imported by Diamond Collectibles, as mentioned before. The initial wave of these figures introduced four of the Evas - Unit 00 Prototype, Unit 00, Unit 01 Test Type, and Unit 02. The next waves introduced Unit 03 and Unit 04, and the most recent waves have been rereleases of all of the previous figures with new and completely awesome packaging. First, a quick run down of each Eva (with a few Evangelion spoilers - if you want to see the series, it's probably not a good idea to read this):
Eva Unit 00 Prototype - one of the first Evangelions, Unit 00 went insane on it's first startup and tried to destroy itself, attempting to kill it's pilot, Rei Ayanami. The Evangelion is a large yellow robot with a small human-shaped head with a single eye in the centre of it's head and no mouth. It's unsure if it was destroyed, but it was replaced with Unit 00. The normal version of this is painted yellow, while there is a metallic varient (painted gold) and a clear varient.
Eva Unit 00 - Rei's replacement Evangelion ran smoothly, the same as previous Eva but painted in dark blue with a single green eye. Completely destroyed later in the series by Rei herself to save Shinji. The normal version is painted blue and the metallic varient is painted metallic blue.
Eva Unit 01 Test Type - Shinji Ikari's enormous purple Eva has a bizarre shaped head - rounded and sharp, with a mouth and a large horn extending from the forehead. One of the first Evangelions ever made, this Eva hides a particularly nasty secret. Several varients of this Eva have been released; the original version is painted purple, the metallic varient is painted metallic purple, and both a clear and glow in the dark version are available. As well as this, there is a Berserker version soon to be released, and an Extra version released with additional articulation and a mass of extra accessories in a large box.
Eva Unit 02 - The first real Evangelion, piloted by cocky german Asuka Langly Soryu. Like Unit 01, this Eva has a horrible secret - which is used by the final Angel in attempt to take Shinji's life. It's head has, curiously, 4 green eyes and a painfully shut mouth. This Evangelion is painted red and orange; a metallic (and extremely popular) varient has been released with crimson metallic paint.
Eva Unit 03 - In the series, Unit 03 exploded on it's first trial and took NERV Branch 2 with it, but Kaiyodo have created a toy from it all the same. The normal version is painted white, with a metallic silver varient also available.
Eva Unit 04 - Monsterous Evangelion whose 'malfunction' resulted in mass destruction, affecting every character in the show - the Evangelion's pilot was originally the fourth child, who was almost killed inside of it. It's a huge black hulking beast, with several enormous arms - a normal black version is available, as well as a rumoured metallic version which I have never seen.
Although I'm only supposed to be looking at the above Evangelion in this review, Unit 00, since none of the others are on the Epinions Database I'm going to look at the three major Evangelions together: Unit 00, Unit 01 Test Type, and Unit 02.
Evangelions - Now and Then
The first release saw each Evangelion carded on an enormous card, well decorated in both Japanese and English, with info on Neon Genesis Evangelion and the Eva Unit. The front has a huge bubble which shows off all of the accessories (which is impressive in itself with the sheer amount of them) and the figure, including scale pictures giving an idea of how big the Evas are in the show. The back supports some suggestion pictures of how to pose the Eva - one of the kewlest ideas I've seen on a figure package. With the hundreds of poses you can get each figure into, these pictures give you some great ideas for play and display. This package was the king, and I loved it - but now, with the rerelease, Kaiyodo has truely outdone themselves. The new packaging is truely great - although slightly smaller and less friendly for those who open their toys (like you have to with your Evas!). The front of the card has the Eva in a pose in a large bubble, with images of various cords and supports holding it up. Printed on the card is not only the titles of Evangelion and Eva Unit **, but also information about every accessory (!!!), the Evangelion itself (including pilot and other information) and also other weapons that the Eva can use. Stunning. The back has the sign of Seele imbedded in card, surrounded by information on the figure, plus pictures of the figure posed an pictures of all the other Evas available. I love it!! It's just a shame you have to shred it to get to the figure, but it's an excellent package all the same.
Each Evangelion stands up to 7" tall, and the detail - sculpting - paint is all incredible. Not only do these machines look identical to their animated counterparts, but the paint is flawless; it's as if they sorted through every one of them and threw away any with flaws. No splotchy paint, no mistakes, nothing. Amazing! The sculpting calls for some pretty amazing stuff, too. Looking at the back of the Evas, much of the back is removable - the top piece of armor removes ala' to insert the Entry Plug. A small hatch opens below this to insert one of the accessories, the Umbilical Cable, which gives power to the Evas. Each Eva head is removable, either to relieve moments from the show, or to put on one of the other heads that comes with the figure (Eva Unit 01 Test Type comes with two heads, one broken free of restraints with mouth open, one with mouth shut). Each Eva comes with many hands which can be exchanged with the others to allow maximum posability, and the plastic the hands are made from is nice and soft and basically unbreakable. Above all of this, each Evangelion is recognisable and unique to the others, and they look grand on display. Excellent job, Kaiyodo. But what seperates these babies from being 'just another robot toy'?
The two A's - Articulation and Accessories. The packaging says that each Eva has "over 15 unique points for maximum poseability" - it doesn't lie. The first wave of Evas had 15 points of articulation, which may not seem like too much when compared to the Spider-Man Classics. But the inventiveness of the articulation makes each of them stand out; the legs, for example, are articulated in three places; knees, hips and feet, and each can be used in conjunction with the others to make the Evangelion bend over, stand tall, crouch, climb and crawl. The arms have 4 places - three shoulder joints and wrists. But one arm is bent, and the other is straight, allowing the Eva to hold his pulse rifle in both hands, or hold both guns at once, or attack forward with his Progressive Knife, or any one of a million other poses, as well as do a variety of other actions. You have to see and play with it to admire how cleverly this was all designed - and the new wave build on it, adding two new joints to the arms, allowing you to make both arms bent, straight, whatever. These new Evas have 19 points of articulation and can do anything - forget Spider-Man, he's toast compared to Unit 02's massive Automatic Rifles.
The accessories make everything even more impressive - each Eva comes with not only spare bodyparts, including additional hands and heads, but also a variety of detailed weapons straight from the series. Unit 00 has the enormous Positron Sniper Rifle from one of the last episodes, as well as reload ammo, Umbilical Cable, and two hulking supports; Unit 02 has a Handgun with Laser Aim, Progressive Dagger, Automatic Rifle with Silencer, Umbilical Cable and Sword; Unit 01 has a Handgun, Prototype Rifle, Rifle magazine, Progressive Knife, Umbilical Cable, and the most interesting of all - the tiny 17th Angel. I'm amazed that someone thought of this as an accessory, and here's why:
The last Angel, the 17th, was a boy named Kaoru. In the one of the final, surreal scenes of the Evangelion series, Kaoru floated throught Central Dogma to find Adam, the first human being, in order to cause Third Impact. But Adam wasn't there - instead faced with Lilum, Kaoru told Shinji to kill him. Eva Unit 01 grabbed onto Kaoru; Shinji didn't know what to do - faced with killing the last person who liked him and he liked back - who was also bent on destroying humanity. His decision, as huge Eva Unit 01 held onto the tiny boy, came in the last second as the hand squashed Kaoru and his head fell into the LCL of Central Dogma. It was over. The accesory fits neatly into Eva Unit 01's hand, and despite being slightly bigger than from the show, it shows the enormous size of the Eva with a unique scale comparison and allows us to reenact those last intense moments.
Each of these accessories is sculpted, painted and scaled beautifully, and with a collection of Evas weapons can be shared to create thousands upon thousands of poses. Battles can be reenacted, wars can be waged. It's all completely awesome, and given the great durability of these, you can display or play with them to your heart's content. It's like nothing I've seen before with a toy, ever. Amazing.
With all of this impressive information, whats the drawback? The price. Each Evangelion, not counting the varients which may be slightly more expensive, costs about $20. This is quite pricey, but not for what you are getting. These are the best crafted toys I've seen, ever, and they are defiantely worth this price, despite sounding a little extreme. The amount of extra parts, accessories, articulation, sculpting and everything else is just supreme. Especially if you're a fan of the series, like myself - in which case these toys are you're new god. I believe the best of the varients are the metallic versions - although others are pretty cool as well (the glow in the dark version of Unit 01 is kinda fun). Grabbing the new versions of the figures is the way to go, and I much recommend all of these figures. To pose, repose and play. Although I must note, that due to small parts, these are not toys for children - but much recommended, all the same.
Hooray for Toys!!! Pt. 2
With the new Toy Fair catalogues available, I'm looking forward to a lot of new stuff. One of these is the new Evangelion toy Satchiel, the third Angel, from Kaiyodo, ala' above. This is sure to be a great toy, especially if you like any of the other Eva toys I've described.
The Alien VS Predator Boxed Set from McFarlane looks very sweet, as does many of the new Ultima Online toys which have been released. But the most intreguing of all, to myself, is the new line of Tortured Souls: The Fallen. One of these, Moribundi, is supposedly so horrible that they can't show it in the catalogue, and we have to wait for it to be shown later. Excellent! I'm looking forward to that.
On this note, I come to the end of my review. If this epinion was extremely long, I promise never to do another one this huge - until later, when I epinionate the whole Evangelion series, and when I update my Buffy epinion. Thanks for reading, and check out the other Hooray for Toys! W/O entries, available at our host Yo Go Re's profile page (http://www.epinions.com/user-yogore).