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Hot Toys
by Artemis

Predator's a great film, no argument, but one area in which it's rather wanting is eye candy. Elpidia Carillo's quite cute, but she wasn't around much, and while she was she was mostly terrified and covered in other people's gore - good fapping material for Saw fans, who're no doubt only regretting that the Predator never set about her properly, but for the rest of us it's not much help, and Exhibit B - the Gubernator covered in mud and glaring like a maniac - is likewise a specialised kind of erotica. Of course, there is that costume consisting mainly of cool alien tech and fishnets, so the potential is there - it just needed a different occupant.

It's in that spirit that Hot Toys gave us Machiko, the first in their "Hot Angels" line of 1:6 scale geek fantasies. Now, there was a Machiko in the old Aliens versus Predator comics, and while this Predahottie isn't exactly her, she isn't exactly not her either - call her a reimagining of the character, like the movie-style shardformer Transformers, or J.J.'s idea of Star Trek. Possibly this will annoy some of the original Machiko's fans (since any time you do anything it annoys fans), but let's face it, the crossover between fans who'd think "a hot female human Predator, I must hand over an ungodly sum of money to have her!" and "oh, but it's not exactly the same as whatsername from those old novels, in that case forget it" probably doesn't have Hot Toys losing any sleep. In any case, besides using the same name, they haven't been at pains to highlight the idea's origin - the packaging doesn't even make any reference to her (nor does it include any kind of bio whatsoever) - so let's just take her at face value; I haven't read any of that stuff anyway.

Machiko, once you've paid your considerable bit of blunt and opened up the packaging (assuming you're not one of those boring sods who keeps them in their boxes), still has Some Assembly Required before she's going to be hunting any xenomorphs. To get her up to spec, at the very least you'll need to attach her hands and feet (the latter having very tight balljoint housings, so a careful blast from the heat gun would be advised before trying to get them onto the ankles); on top of that, to get the full effect there's also the arm armour to go on (shoulder plates and vambraces, the left one with the traditional wrist blades), the plasma caster unit on her back, various doohickeys around her neck (for which the head pops off, without undue difficulty), a scabbard hanging off her belt in back, a couple of metal tubes connecting her left shoulder armour with her breastplate, and a couple of sci-fi knives hanging around her right hip - plus, of course, the retractable spear, alien-skull shield, wicked-looking scimitar, and an extra throwing knife. If nothing else, the big price tag certainly buys you more gear than the average 1:6 scale doll.

Despite having all that paraphernalia, Machiko is still mostly naked, so Hot Toys have had to grapple with the usual problem of 1:6 scale dolls showing off their midriffs - how to hide those unsightly torso joints? The Hot Angel body puts its faith in a rubber "skin" which covers her body like a vest, providing an unbroken physique from neck to waist (including such minor details as belly button and nipples) while the joints remain unseen but unhindered below. That's the theory anyway - more later. The arms and legs are standard bare plastic, with a fairly convincing finish - a little shinier than the torso, but the difference isn't great, and with the costume covering the joins between the pieces (and obscuring the torso's finish behind the fishnet) it's not something that leaps out at you. Her boots are her lower legs, so there's no removing those even if you wanted to strip her down to her essentials; in turn, they more or less lock in the rubber suspender pieces around her thighs, unless you were to cut them off. Everything else (bar gloves) could theoretically be removed, though the hip/groin section of the torso is coloured as leather to preserve her modesty.

But of course no one would buy this to not have the costume on display. All of the armour pieces are dark silver, sculpted intricately to reflect the tribal/ornate look of Predator gear, and painted with a very capable hand at the highlights - not too bright, not too dark. The armour around her waist is rigid plastic, like the arm and leg pieces, but the leather skirt beneath is soft, and since the armour pieces don't connect to each other there's no interference with the motion of the legs. Likewise the breastplate (front and back) is solid, but since it's sitting on top of the fishnet layer it manages to appear to hug the body without getting in the way of its motion - although in the course of posing her the top does tend to slip downwards a little way, so the final stage of preparing her for display is invariably to tuck it up again. Besides the dominant silver there are various small paint apps - mainly around the skirt, but also on the armour sections - that enhance the realism of the sculpt by breaking up the monotone finish. The suspenders are soft rubber, tight enough to cling to the thighs, but not stretched at all, so long-term stress damage shouldn't be a problem.

Assembling the costume isn't quite a smooth process, however. Aside from the very tight ankle joints that need to be attached, the scabbard needs to be joined to the chains hanging from the back of the belt, requiring you to either deal with the world's smallest keychain rings, or (preferably) get a pair of needle-nosed pliers to gentle ease open the lowest link in the chains, then close them up again with the rings in place - either way, a fiddly operation. Worse, though, are the knives that hang from the hip armour - these have to be tied on using little pieces of string provided, and the holes are barely a micron wider than the string itself. If the tip frays even slightly, you're looking at a fiddly little battle to get them threaded through, and just so things don't stop being difficult once you've done that, the string has a very slick surface, meaning that it won't hold knots at all well - you have to really pull it tight to get a knot to stick. Hope you've got small fingers. You'll notice in the photo there's only one knife - that's because the other one had fallen off already, and I just couldn't be bothered to reattach it (they're both off now). S-hooks would have been a much better option there.

Fortunately everything else is nice and smooth - the head pops off to allow the necklace and neck sleeve to fit into place, the plasma caster slots neatly into a tab on the back armour, the throwing dagger fits into a pre-prepared string loop on her belt, all the arm armour slides on before you attach the hands, the spear (if you're not using it) fits into a clip beneath the right shoulder blade, and the tubes connecting her breastplate and shoulder on the left fit easily into place, although they can pop out again if shoved.

Machiko has the option of wearing a Predator-style mask, modified somewhat to fit a human - it's narrower around the cheeks, and the forehead is also less expansive than the native versions. The mask is good work, sculpt and paint - again the silver neatly picks out the rough texture of the Predator metalwork, the eyes are smooth like mercury, and there's a tri-laser targeter mounted on the right side. Down the left, from forehead to cheek, there are two scars, sculpted very well but painted in rather garish plain red that settles thickly in the crevices. Those, along with the way the mask doesn't really join up with the rest of the outfit - the ears and upper neck are bare - means I'm displaying Machiko sans mask.

Well, that and the way she looks like a more kick-ass version of Angelina Jolie, perhaps with a bit of Keira Knightly mixed in for good measure. The face sculpt is very well conceived and executed, giving her a look that's all calm battle-confidence - she's not scowling or snarling, she just looks subtly badass. Her lips are full, sculpted in a slightly contemptuous pout, and given a very sophisticated paint job that really picks out the curve of her mouth, and gives the lips an attractive gloss without making them seem overly made-up. Her eyebrows are arched, but not quite as high as they could have been - subtlety rather than caricature - and her eyes (the left of which is a vivid orange/black, possibly artificial, assuming whatever scarred her mask damaged her original eye as well) are looking up, making her head's natural position to be tilted forwards, staring from beneath her brows in a tense manner.

She's got gold eye shadow beneath her eyes, giving her a space-techno look, and the "you did good, kid," mark as seen in Alien vs. Predator on her left cheek. (Incidentally, doing that with xenomorph blood? Not a good idea - that stuff's based on hydrofluoric acid, get it into your bloodstream anywhere and you're dead.) The skintone on her head is a shade darker than that on the neck and body, but while it's noticeable, it's not so bad as to be annoying. Her hair is done in Predator-style dreadlocks, sculpted flat against her scalp on top, then in soft rubber tails, with sculpted texture and painted metal clasps here and there - the final result is very convincing, and with a minimum of manual posing sits very much like you'd imagine it should over her shoulders.

The body is articulated to the standard you'd expect from a 1:6 scale doll - but a combination of the costume and the Hot Angel body design itself create a couple of drawbacks. Her neck is excellent, with a twin balljoint, one at each end of the neck - the lower joint is concealed inside the skin layer, but retains a good range of motion. She's got swivel/pin shoulders - the edge of the torso skin layer covers the joints, so they look more like swivels, very low-visibility (practically none with the shoulder armour in place), but the swivel biceps and especially the double pin elbows are plain to see. She has swivel/pin/swivel balljoint wrists, and while the vambraces can restrict the motion of the hands in their default position, they can be shifted a little further up the arm if you need to tilt the wrists more dramatically.

She has some torso articulation - I'd guess at the usual balljoint sternum and swivel waist arrangement, but it's difficult to be sure, since whatever's there is covered by the skin layer, and I never took off the breastplate and fishnet bodysuit either; certainly there's some swivelling and forward-backward rocking capacity in there somewhere. Unfortunately the skin, as well as hiding the joints, also drags them back to their central position - I can make her lean forward or back a little, but any kind of serious twisting of the torso proved to be functionally pointless, as her body would just twist itself back again. Maybe the joints have ratcheted-style locking points that'd be able to resist the skin's pull back to neutral position, but I never felt one kick in, and I didn't want to twist the body too far for fear of displacing the costume or skin in a way that'd be troublesome to undo.

For the legs she has swivel/pin hips, with swivels just above the mid-point of the thighs - these swivels are pretty much symmetrical all around, so turning them doesn't make the joint more visible, and the suspenders hide them quite well anyway. I'm not sure whether her knees are single or double pin joints, since the rubber sheaths over them make them tough to move, and more or less limit them to 90° whatever the underlying plastic might be capable of. The ankles are full balljoints, but limited in their range by the lower edges of the greaves, which are quite a tight fit around the sides of the boots. All in all she's got quite a range of posing possibilities, but you'll need to handle her with care and patience to get the best out of her, and in some places looks have won out over mobility.

One thing Machiko isn't lacking is toys to play with. The Predator's Best Friend, the plasma caster, attaches via a lateral swivel to a multi-hinged arm, which in turn can detach (if you want) from the bulky back-mounted unit it's a part of - the assembly instructions indicate that this is where she keeps her trophy-cleaning kit. A balljoint at the top would have been nice, just to get the barrel aiming exactly the same way she's facing, but it's not a huge issue. Her knife collection consists of the two hanging knives, both silver with transparent blue mid-sections, and the throwing dagger, a double-ended blade with a roughly wrapped handle that looks almost like it was improvised from scrap metal.

Then there's the sword, a highly eccentric curved silver blade with points and barbs all over it - a Klingon would love this thing - fitted to a copper-gold handle. I can't speak for the comics and the like, but I have to say the weapon doesn't strike me as very Predatorish, if you get my meaning - nor does the scabbard, a dark silver sheath wrapped in polished brass and dotted with a couple of blue gemstones. Some of the colours and textures are similar to those on the spear, but I find myself happier thinking of the sword and scabbard as a trophy she's looted from some unknown alien opponent.

Speaking of the spear, it and the shield are most definitely the pièce de resistance of Machiko's armoury. Based loosely on the weapon seen in Predator 2, Machiko's spear is a foot long, and retracts in twin sleeves above and below the main grip down to about 6". It's all kinds of ornate metalwork, painted in shades of copper and silver, and the grip is adorned with a string of beads and talismans, with some unfortunate rodent's skull for extra pizzazz. Machiko has two right hands, one for the sword and one for the spear - using the spear hand, with the fingers slipped beneath the sprung talisman cord, it's as steady as you could wish for in her grip. It's a fine weapon in all regards, and much more appropriate than the sword.

But the shield is better. Taking the improvised shield in Alien vs. Predator and formalizing it, Machiko has a xenomorph skull with a proper manufactured grip built into the inside of it, with three tight silver cords wrapped around the cranium to anchor it in place. Inside there's an ornate clip to attach the shield to the arm - it'll fit around the vambrace, but very tightly, so be prepared for a bit of a struggle with all the sculpted ridges in the armour to get around - and a handle for the fingers to fit around. The alien skull itself has all the proper skeletal details moulded into its inner section, with paint to differentiate the outer bone layer from the cartilage, and a smooth, shiny, smoky brown semi-transparent shell over the top of it. It may be a bit difficult to properly mount on the arm and hand, but boy is it worth it!

And finally, besides the smaller necklace and sleeve, Machiko has a long loop necklace bearing various trophy skulls, interspersed with claw bones and/or fangs, and a whole lot of beads. None of the skulls are especially large - the biggest would be roughly a medium-sized dog - but I suppose it'd be pretty difficult to stealthily sneak around a jungle with a T-Rex skull hanging off your belt, so presumably she's got some more impressive trophies back in her cabin on the ship. Either that, or humans really can't match up to Predators in the hunt, so they just keep her around because she's hot, and jerk off to videos of her hunting inoffensive rodents.

Instead of the black disc stand you normally get with a 1:6 scale doll, Hot Toys decided to show off some more and give Machiko a scenic base. Sculpted and painted to a standard matching the doll, the base depicts a generic dry landscape, mostly scrubby soil with a couple of moss-spotted rocks poking out here and there. The conversation piece of the base, off to the left side, is a Predator head, weathered and coloured to suggest a skull, but presumably with some of its dried-out skin and flesh remaining, since the upper left mandible is still hanging on. An interesting touch, biology-wise, is the sides and rear of the skull, beneath the crown crest, which displays a honeycomb-like appearance.

The waist clamp fits into a smooth plastic sleeve, tapering towards the top, which plugs into the scenery base. Unfortunately it doesn't plug in very securely, compared to the more mundane but heavier-duty standard bases - given the weight of the Hot Angel body, with its rubber torso layer, and all the armour and gear it's wearing, it's not impossible for the doll to push the clamp out of the base and tip over, rather than being able to rely on it for support come rain or shine.

The footprint of the base isn't very large either, just 5" by 3½", meaning that any wide action stances - which aren't difficult for Machiko to achieve - will wind up with one or both feet off the edges of the scenery, which is an odd look. If you're a collector of this kind of doll (and if you paid for this one, you probably are) you've probably got some spare stands - the scenic one is good for reserved poses, but anything more ambitious would be best served by a sturdier, wider base and clamp.

Ultimately, the question is: is she worth it? You'd have to be either very rich or very lucky to get Machiko without giving a lot of thought to how much lighter your wallet's going to be. She's not without flaws, such as the difficult torso articulation, the fiddly threads, and the physical limits of the base (and it'll be interesting to see whether any future Hot Angels improve in these areas)... but bottom line, I'm happy with her - the overall quality of sculpt and paint, the striking face, and the complexity of the outfit and weapons, outweighs the minor drawbacks.

-- 07/27/09

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