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Harry Potter & Ginny Weasley

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
by Artemis

Here's an interesting coincidence: we have here NECA's two-pack including Ginny Weasley, and had Mattel retained the rights to make Harry Potter figures... and actually kept making them rather than running the line into the ground or just giving up due to sheer apathy... right about now, they'd probably also have gotten around to making a Ginny figure too. For The Chamber of Secrets.

After he and Dumbledore learn what it's going to take to defeat Voldemort once and for all, they travel to a seaside cave to find a Horcrux and wind up doing battle with Inferi. Nothing's ever simple.

As the bio indicates, these figures are from The Half-Blood Prince, the most recent of the Harry Potter movies, and if you ask me a huge improvement over the choppy, poorly-adapted Order of the Phoenix; tough book to adapt to begin with, I'll admit. Mind you, The Half-Blood Prince had its rough edges too - J.K. Rowling is a great storyteller, but not invariably an elegant novelist, especially as things get progressively more complicated, and the movie did a surprisingly good job of remaining faithful to the book while nudging its various elements into a more coherent whole (admittedly at the price of all but omitting the relevance of "the Half-Blood Prince," but nobody's perfect). I'm just going on about the movies because it's not like anyone needs Harry Potter himself re-introduced at this stage: Boy Who Lived, scar, glasses, Radcliffe's cock in Equus, the usual.

NECA's latest Harry figure (which has its clothes on, sorry girls [and many boys]) is strong work - in spite of their fantastical elements, the later films have taken a very grounded, subdued approach to the costuming and general look of their stars, and that plays right into NECA's home turf of weathered, realistic clothing sculpts. Harry's just a touch over 6" tall - call him 6¼" were it not for the slightly bent legs - and but for the scar (and the resemblance to Radcliffe, of course) he could fit in with any real-world-based action figures. His everyday attire of jeans, heavy shirt and sports jacket is exactly as you'd expect from this company, laden with fine creases and folds, but not quite so much as to go overboard; gentle paintwork helps rein in the sculpt's enthusiasm for fine detail. The white-over-black detail on the sneakers is a slight weak point, with some vague coverage on the laces and toes, but it's nothing you'd notice at a glance.

The face carries a strong likeness, but it's not perfect - rather, it's got all the right elements, but skewed by a serious-looking scowl into a kind of older, more grizzled version of Harry; recognizable at a glance, but on closer inspection almost caricatured, in a subtle way, into an older, more grizzled version of him. The paintwork adds to the effect a little, with a slight but unfortunate tendency to sit thickly on the face, making the cheeks and forehead look a little less smooth than they should. Aside from a weird little overlap on the bottom lip, making him look like he's pouting almost malevolently, the paintwork is finely detailed and very professional, and the glasses are among the best I've ever seen on an action figure - at any scale - with clear plastic lenses eliminating the need for over-thick frames that are normally the bane of action figure eyewear - the arms are a little thick, but overall the glasses are such convincing work that it feels petty to complain about that.

These figures are intended for display, not play, but even so there are several joints to provide posing options to at least keep them clear of Plastic Statue territory. Harry has nothing from the waist down, so his wide, tense stance is a constant, but above there's a balljoint neck, swivel waist, swivel/pin shoulders and elbows, and swivel wrists. The shoulders are mostly hidden within the jacket body, yet not restricted by its soft plastic; the elbows are a bit more obvious, especially with the twin grey stripes passing right over the exposed head of the joint's pin. Incidentally, my Harry was packaged with his left forearm reversed - it's just a matter of swivelling the part around to fix it.

Harry's love interest and a pure-blood witch to boot, Ginny has no shortage of roles to play in Dumbledore's Army, which, incidentally, she named.

And here's the reason why most collectors will be buying this set - at least, around here where the single Half-Blood Prince figures are quite scarce. Let's not get into the Harry/Ginny vs. Harry/Hermione ship-to-ship combat, since I never really gave a toss either way; I like the novels, but I guess I was a bit far beyond the target age to get enthralled by the romance in them, so I'm just happy to have another female figure to add to Hermione (and, hopefully, to one day have Luna join them - she's a favourite of mine). I do find it kind of odd, though, that the bio mentions Ginny's pure-blood status, since that's really the kind of thing only Voldie and his mob care about. Maybe the reason NECA's been so generous with Death Eater figures is that they're covert fans.

Anyway, speaking of Hermione as we were one tangent back, Ginny (Ginevra, properly) at first glance looks like a re-use of NECA's Hermione figure, just with a new head, but in fact she's an entirely new figure. The two are strikingly similar in outfit and build - granted they're both wearing the same uniform, but it's almost as if, bar Ginny stepping forward with her right leg, NECA set out to remake the same body over again. On the plus side, they repeated the same competence they showed the first time around in sculpt, with restrained, believable work on the textures and shapes of the various fabrics; on the minus, they repeated the paint snafus too, with some badly uneven work around the fine red and gold stripes on the sweater's hem. Mine has a blotch of bright orange beneath the red stripe on the waist - damned if I can figure out where it came from - but all the figures I looked at had one error or another.

I chose this one since it has the best face of those available, but even so, the likeness is a weak point. Bonnie Wright has the kind of face that you don't typically find being made into action figures to begin with - compared to the supermodel superheroines and drop-dead gorgeous amazons who mostly frequent the toy aisles trying to keep the Y-chromosome mob in check, she's rather unremarkable, even plain. Worse, there's a certain something about her - a poise, a sense of intelligence and empathy that, after she's been on screen for a couple of minutes, makes it entirely believable that Harry's never going to look at another girl ever again (and incidentally puts Hollywood's typical model-lite "girl next door" brigade to shame). That all adds up to a damned tough job for a sculptor, and NECA haven't nailed it - their Ginny replicates the major points of the facial features, but leaves them empty and unattractive, lacking the warmth and vitality they need to shine. Again, thick skin-tone paint does a little more damage, although a fine sculpt and careful paint on her long red hair salvages at least a little pride.

Like Harry, Ginny is intended for somewhat versatile display, not play, though compared to the Hermione figure she's gained a couple of extra points of articulation. She has a balljoint neck, hidden at the base inside her collar, which limits side-to-side tilting quite a bit, although the way her hair runs down her back, with none sitting atop her shoulders, leaves the joint quite free otherwise. She has swivel/pin shoulders but only slanted swivel elbows, going with swivel wrists - personally I wouldn't have minded a little extra width on the arms overall (she is wearing a sweater, after all), which would've freed up space for an elbow swivel/pin. There's a shallow balljoint in her waist, but it's very stiff and limited; below that, just swivels at the tops of her legs, beneath her skirt.

Both figures come with plain black oval bases, each with a single peg at one side - Harry stands easily with or without his, but Ginny's narrow stance and small feet don't do much to keep her upright, and even once she's attached to the base she has a tendency to lean if not carefully posed; Hermione was the same. Each figure also comes with their wand, which I gather are both accurate to their screen counterparts - Harry's is heavier, with a bulky handle and a two-tone paint job, while Ginny's is long and slim, very dark, and has a subtle vine kind of texture worked into it around the base. Both fit in the figures' right hands, though Harry's can take quite a bit of work to get it in (and, if you're not careful, can wind up with a bit of skin colour paint on the handle from the effort).

The Harry figure is flawed in the face, but otherwise good work; Ginny is more of a case of disappointing overall, in spite of good technical scores in most areas. It's always good to see characters other than the stars getting some attention, and NECA's been good to Potter fans in that regard - I just hope they've gotten the bugs worked out of the face sculpts when it comes time to do Luna.

-- 09/03/09

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