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Master Tigress

Kung Fu Panda
by Artemis

Dear Santa: yes, technically this fulfils the "Angelina Jolie catgirl" request, but come on, you know what I meant.

Po's dreams become reality when he is unexpectedly chosen to study kung fu with the legendary fighters Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey. Po masters unique Panda Style moves to become the world's greatest kung fu warrior! Are you strong like Tigress? Graceful like Crane? Aggressive like Mantis? Courageous like Viper? Agile like Monkey? What style are you?

Me? Lazy like Housecat, which is close enough to tiger that I'm claiming that one as mine, and the other OAFEs can fight it out for who gets to not be odd man out with the fat Panda. Kung Fu Panda is one of those movies I'm probably only going to see a few years after its release, when I'm with a bunch of friends and someone's got the DVD lying around and no one can suggest anything better to watch. Like Cars, in fact. And Monsters Inc. And Toy Story. I'm not the Pixar/DreamWorks kind of movie-goer, really. Still, it's kind of novel to see the female fighter get a speciality that isn't speed and/or agility, so don't take that to mean I'm not kindly inclined to the movie in general.

As you'd expect then, all I know about Master Tigress is what I can see from the toy and gather from Wikipedia, which is that she's voiced by Angelina Jolie. Good enough for me! I suppose technically she should be Mistress Tigress, but I guess DreamWorks probably figured that having a character called Mistress Tigress with Angie's name attached would set up expectations they weren't aiming to meet, so like Star Trek (Mister Saavik? She's in a bathrobe, can't you see the boobs?), kung fu goes for the generic titles.

Now, first things first, let's get one thing clear: this isn't the semi-articulated toy it looks like. Those look-like-balljoint shoulders? Nope. The evidently-swivel neck, wrists, and ankles? Glued in place. Mistress Tigress (what? I just like saying it) is built solely for her action feature, so unless you're wiggling about the lever sticking out of her back, she's a statue. There's no denying that's a bit of a disappointment - especially since, as alluded to above, she does look like she's got a basic handful of joints at least - but it's not all doom and gloom. Since her legs don't have to move at all, they and the skirt of her robe are sculpted exactly for the wide combat stance she's in, and I find myself really liking how that looks - no articulated figure could pull it off quite as well.

Posture aside, Tigress is a fair sculpt, given that she's based on the kind of simple-look animation-CGI that's in vogue at the moment, and that she's not exactly an expensive figure. There's good use of texture from top to toe, with restrained but clearly visible fur patterns on the head, arms, tail and paws - the fur even gets shorter and slicker around the forearms and facial details, compared to the tail and the bit of chest visible, just the way it should. The pants and robe are nice and smooth, with a particularly good job done matching the torso of the robe with the soft rubber skirt. Most of the paintwork is decent - the arms (cast in a softer plastic than the torso and head) are a touch redder on the fur colour, but it's far more visible under a camera flash than it is to the naked eye. Otherwise the paint is fairly clean, with simple but effective stripes, decent eyes leading a good set of facial paint apps, and a nice crisp pattern on the robe - again, the match between upper and lower sections is commendable.

Tigress features removable armor and weapons, all simple enough pieces cast in soft-ish silver plastic. The bicep and shin guards match, though it's obvious which sets go on which limbs (unless you're whoever did the packaging graphics, who got them backwards in the info box), and the silver is used to good effect to make a pair of decently menacing claw weapons, despite this being a children's toy and nothing being very sharp. On the packaging the claws are shown gripped by the rear of the ring, but I find they look much better fitted over the hands - though why a tiger would need extra claws either way is a bit of a mystery.

The skirt is removable - though omitting it throws off the visual balance of the figure a bit - and indeed will probably remove itself soon after you open the packaging. It and the belt are held on by two studs (one at the front of the waist, one on the right side) and the right side one is in a very tight spot, with the leg angled up right where a lot of thick soft plastic is trying to be. It can be attached nice and firm, if you get the angle just right and shove nice and hard, but there's a knack to it, and whoever was assembling these babies in a Chinese factory evidently and understandably didn't feel their 5¢ a day was worth the effort, so the skirt will more than likely be only attached at the front to begin with.

Aside from the weapons and armor (and skirt, if you want to count it as an accessory), Tigress has a simple black base. There aren't any paint apps, but there's a shallow, blocky sculpt of stone on it that fits it in nicely to the simplified animation style. Only the right foot has the peg hole; on a perfectly flat surface she can stand unaided, but she's a bit precarious, and the base is unobtrusive anyway.

Now, the moment you've all been waiting for: the action feature! There's a little T-lever in Tigress's lower back - hold her legs and pull the lever from side to side, and she slashes left and right with her claws. It's actually quite a neat motion - as her torso turns, the appropriate arm swivels inwards about thirty degrees, and it's not difficult to imagine kids having fun with it. Oh, all right, I did too. The construction and materials seem rugged enough, so you can work the slashing action nice and fast without risking anything flying off.

She's a fun little toy - nothing fancy, but designed with a clear purpose in mind, and well done to that end. She looks good, the lack of articulation is offset by the striking pose, and the slashing feature should delight the kiddies as much as these gimmicks ever do.


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