Pacific Rim is awesome, and you should see it. Now that I’ve said that, we all know that it will end up a terrible movie that nobody should see! Anyway, even if it’s a bad movie, it has cool giant monsters, and cool robots, and that’s all we Kaiju fans care about. let’s be honest, 90% of Kaiju anything is horrible, but we’re just here for Godzilla. So whether Pacific Rim is objectively good or not, I’m just in it for Knifehead.
Well, NECA has started releasing its line of Pacific Rim figures, and they’ve actually gotten them in stores BEFORE the movie, instead of waiting until the movie’s been gone from theaters for months (i.e. Prometheus). I approve of this strategy. So, I recently found two out of the three Series 1 figures at retail – the American Jaeger robot Gipsy Danger, and the Kaiju Knifehead. The other figure is a three-armed red robot from China named Crimson Typhoon, and sadly he will not be present in this review.
In the near future, aliens will open a portal in the Pacific ocean, and send gigantic Kaiju monsters out to try to destroy the world. Out of desperation, Earth’s military forces have created the “Jaegers,” gigantic mecha robots piloted by two people each (because the mental strain is too much for one person to handle). Gipsy Danger is the American Jaeger. It’s also the plainest and most simplistic design, so it’s definitely the Hero Robot. Knifehead is the only Kaiju to really be featured so far in promotional materials, though we know for a fact that there are at least six. My personal guess is that Knifehead will be the “Starter villain,” and will give the heroes their first real fight before being smashed and tossed out of the way in time for the main plot. Only time will tell on that one. So, without further ado, let’s talk Pacific Rim toys!
The packaging is a NECA Clamshell, sized appropriately for each figure (Knifehead’s is thicker), with pictures of the whole series on the back and a nice little mini-mural in front, behind the figure. It’s also got some extra plastic padding for potentially breakable parts like Knifehead’s second set of arms, which is something that I would have loved for the always-broken-in-package Tracker Predator a few years back (I am still sore about that. I will never stop being sore about that).
But the main thing bringing this score way, way down is the lack of text. There is nothing describing the characters, no blurb for the movie as a whole… nothing. I would have settled for two sentences of info we already know from the movie trailers, but alas, it is not to be. Considering that every other NECA toy has some sort of info on the packaging, this just feels odd.
SCULPT: Gipsy Danger, ***, Knifehead: ****
You know, for all the complaints I have about these figures, they really gave the sculpting their best shot. NECA is still NECA, after all. Gipsy Danger looks much as he does in the movie, though some of the details seem a little softened. He’s a big, blue robot with more than a passing resemblance to Cleatus the Fox Sports Robot (thanks, Poe! Now I can’t get it out of my head), and manages to be distinctly American while still following the Japanese mecha tradition. It’s just that he’s kind of plain. If not for the movie association, Gipsy Danger would be totally unremarkable on a toy shelf, and even though that’s not the fault of the toy, that’s just sad.
On the other hand, Knifehead is the star of this set from a sculptural standpoint, and it’s no wonder that he’s the figure NECA teased and hid and withheld from previews to try to drum up excitement for. He really looks like he stepped out of the movie screen (well, the previews on Youtube) and onto my toy shelf! While we’re at it, let’s discuss Knifehead as a monster. Knifehead’s basic design is kind of a cross between a dinosaur and a shark, something that totally fits in with Kaiju tradition.
And thanks to his namesake sharp snout, he looks a whole lot like two famous Kaiju – most people say that he looks like Guiron from Gamera, but I think he more clearly resembles Bagira from Gridman (or Hock from Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad). It’s not close enough to veer into rip-off territory either way (just how many dinosaurs with knife-noses can there be?), but the homage is obvious. I say he’s more like Bagira/Hock, but Guillermo del Toro probably intended to make him a tribute to Guiron. Either way, the resemblance is there.
Knifehead is more sharklike than either classic beast, and his blade resembles a natural horn rather than a metal knife. His detailing is pretty good, from the sharklike teeth (see? told you so) to his slick tongue to his leathery, wrinkled skin. Even the thick horny carapace on his back looks good (horny as in horned. get your mind out of the gutter), and I can’t fault this guy’s sculpt. I find it funny how some of the folds and wrinkles on Knifehead’s hide are a little reminiscent of what you would see on a rubber suit, though far be it from me to imply anything intentional. Knifehead is a little shorter than Gipsy Danger, which might be a problem – I don’t know if he’s smaller in the movie or if this is a problem of scale,but we’ll see when the movie hits theaters.
PAINT: Gipsy Danger, **1/2, Knifehead ***1/2
Gipsy Danger’s paint is in line with his movie appearance – mostly a lot of blue, with some orange, yellow, and red highlights for the visor and chest engine/arc reactor/laser cannon/cool thing. He’s got dark gray for his joints, and various paint apps for his little decals, racing stripes, and the numbers on his shoulder. This is all well and good, but somehow it just comes off looking a little flat. There’s a paint wash over the body to make it seem weathered and more realistic, but something about the paint in general doesn’t seem to help the sculpt, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. The head is certainly flat, with a flat yellow visor that is sloppily applied, and just isn’t up to NECA’s normal work. I’m gonna go so far as to say that fixing the visor alone would have helped the figure as a whole, since it stands out as the worst single aspect, and his chest-thingamabob is much, much better. The paint is overall clean and well-applied, at least, especially the numbers on his shoulder.
Knifehead clearly got most of the paint budget, and for the most part seems up to NECA’s usual standards. Knifehead is mostly dark charcoal gray with a lighter wash to bring out the detail and help him look more like a real, “fishy” creature. he has yellow stripes on his body in somewhat of a tribal pattern, and he’s got some unique apps for his gums, teeth, tongue, and eyes. The yellow stripes are a little sloppy at times, and that’s unfortunate. The eyes are also kind of faint and a little uneven, which is doubly unfortunate. But the mouth is great – the teeth paint seems cleanly-applied, the gums are distinct, and the tongue has a nice shiny sheen that makes it look more realistic. As for the rest of knifehead’s paint, you need to carefully compare figures on the shelf – I looked over all the ones available, and found that they all had little scuffs and scrapes in various places, particularly on the nose. I chose the one with no visible issues, though he has a really big paint scuff on one of the spikes on his back. C’est la vie.
ARTICULATION: Gipsy Danger: ***, Knifehead: **
The awesome thing about NECA is how they’ve been able to do McFarlane-level sculpting and paint (often better), but with lost of useful articulation. But sometimes they drop the ball.
Gipsy Danger has ball-jointed shoulders, hips, head, torso, hands, and ankles, and Hinged elbows, knees, and heels. The heels are pretty nifty, and help him with a lot of posing options (though toes would help more – note that more toys have toe joints than heel joints, just saying). His head is technically a ball joint, but it just doesn’t move much or well, so it might as well be a swivel. His shoulders and hips are hindered a little by the sculpt. He lacks biceps, which is never something that you miss until they’re gone. Gipsy Danger’s articulation is good, but just not great – he’s just barely unable to take the poses you want, despite seemingly great articulation.
And then we have Knifehead, who really got shortchanged. His shoulders and hips are swivels (sort of – the hips are theoretically ball joints, but they only swivel), and his elbows, knees, and jaw are hinged. He also has a bendable tail. So that’s ten points if you count the tail. The bendy tail is sturdy but pliable, and more useful than many bendy toys, so I’ll give it that. The shoulders are surprisingly bad, since you can really either have them down against his sides, or up in a wide-open “FREE HUGS” pose. The elbow joints help somewhat, but not totally, and his smaller arms do not move at all. Not in the least. They just stick out there, lookin’ right at you! Can’t do nuthin’ with them, nuh uh! As I said, his legs might as well be swivels, and the hinged knees are almost superfluous. It’s nice to see that Knifehead’s jaw is articulated, except that it looks really awkward when closed (his tongue is still sticking out, and there’s a gap between his chin and his neck folds), the hinge visibly breaks up his jaw, and his head does not move. This is worse than the lack of arm articulation – just being able to rotate Knifehead’s head would have helped his posing options so much… but alas, it’s just not meant to be.
And of course, thanks to those yellow stripes and the folds of his skin, Knifehead really only looks “perfect” in one pose – mouth open (so the chin and neck folds line up), arms down at his sides (so the chest and shoulder wrinkles line up), elbows straight (so the stripes line up), and legs straight at just the right angle for the stripes to line up. The issue with the stripes was unavoidable, but I feel that some of the sculpting problems are McFarlane-esque. It’s not so bad that you can’t pose him any other way, but it may bug you just a little bit. Knifehead feels really terrible, but there’s at least one saving grace! He’s articulated just like a Japanese vinyl Kaiju toy! So maybe this is genius on the part of NECA, or maybe it’s just a coincidence. But seriously, he got shortchanged, and that takes a lot of the fun away from this toy.
Ouch. If you thought that the articulation was a budget cutback, just look at this! Neither figure comes with anything – sure, it’s somewhat hard to figure out what you could give giant robo-monsters, but… well, something? A base to stand on? A building or two? How about that oil tanker Gipsy Danger swings around like a baseball bat in the movie? Something? I had to find my own little in-scale ship, but since Gipsy’s hands are closed fists, that pose was really awkward to pull off. And worse, Gipsy Danger actually has weapons in the movie, such as a wrist-mounted sword/knife. But the toy’s got nothing – two options right there… and nada. Neither Gipsy nor Knifehead come with a single solitary thing.
Despite all the (horrible) cutbacks, the figures do only cost about $15 at Toys R Us, so I have to give them credit for that. Although a lot of $15 NECA figures have better articulation and come with an accessory or two, plenty of specialty-market toys cost more and have less. So the value really isn’t that bad, it’s just not the best ever.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
You really need to pay attention to the paint on these figures, and compare the samples you’ve got to choose from, especially with Knifehead. Also check Knifehead’s nose and lower arms, just in case they’re damaged in-package. I’m still paranoid about Tracker Predator’s tusks, but that’s life.
WHERE TO BUY:
I found mine at Toys R Us, which is going to be your best option to save on shipping. Otherwise, there’s BigBadToyStore, eBay, and Amazon, as usual – or just do a search on Google, as these toys aren’t exclusive to anywhere.
The toys are average. They feel like they should be great, but they’re just… okay. Gipsy Danger is kind of boring, and Knifehead is extremely unposeable. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like these toys – this isn’t like the Battle Beast Minimates Scandal – but overall, they’re just not up to NECA’s usually excellent standards. My understanding is that Crimson Typhoon is a little more impressive than Gipsy Danger, but also lacks articulation, particularly in his third arm. Of the two I own, I’d recommend Knifehead even despite his poor articulation, because he looks pretty cool on his own and really sits right at home with most Japanese vinyl Kaiju. he’s about the same size, and he’s just as unarticulated, too! If you really like the movie, pretend that I gave the toys a *** rating and go and buy them, but I’d be a little wary if you don’t have much of an attachment yet. If this line continues, I’d be curious about how NECA will do the other Kaiju, but I’m not completely sure that I’ll buy into Pacific Rim toys in the future.