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Street Fighter IV
by Artemis

Once upon a time there was a company called SOTA, who made a range of Street Fighter figures, and among the very first series was everyone's favourite spinning-bird kicker, Chun-Li. And the world beheld SOTA's work, and lo, it was good. But then karma caught up with them - personally I think it was God's punishment for not reviving Plastic Fantasy to give us Jesse Jane in her pirate hunter costume - and NECA stepped in, so far as I'm concerned (i.e. with the girls) kicking the hell out of SOTA's substandard Rainbow Mika with their slightly eccentric but very acceptable Crimson Viper. But that old Chun-Li figure is another matter - can NECA take her down? Round one - fight!

Fighting Style: Chinese Kempo
Birthday: 3/1
Country of Origin: China
Height: 5'7"
Weight: Secret
Measurements: 35/23/35
Blood Type: A
Likes: Crepes, fruit, pastries
Dislikes: Bison, crime, people who have something to hide
Hobbies/Skills: Target shooting (won 5th place in international competition)

Again, I suspect those measurements are inaccurate - last time it was Viper claiming to have a 95" set of hips, whereas this time it's rather the reverse. Yup, there's no point trying to waffle on without saying it, or even trying to say it within a G-rating: NECA's Street Fighter IV Chun-Li has some fucking enormous thighs. Seriously, it's like they accidentally used the legs off a spare Zangief figure. This version of Chunners is heavily influenced by (though not a direct copy of) the associated SFIV art, with its generous curves and thick, heavy-set linework in the shadows - you can see where the thunder thighs come from, but where the art suggests them (in line with its overall style), the figure brings them out into the plain light of day, with nothing to hide behind. I make her thighs a full inch thick from front to back - the only other figures I have with thicker legs are DC Direct's "deluxe" Power Girl and Black Canary, who, let me remind you, are 13 inches tall.

Okay, so she's got legs that'd have bodybuilder fetishists wetting themselves in excitement, but that's not all there is to her. Compared to her SOTA sister, NECA-Li is a full head taller, and the petite-with-killer-legs physique of the earlier games has been replaced by a curvy juggernaut - that "hundred rending kicks" move she does would be a bit redundant, because just the first kick would have roughly the effect of a direct hit with a meteorite. Maintaining - in its exaggerated way - her usual power-legs proportions, Chun-Li's upper body is more restrained, though her chest and shoulders still suggest a more powerful build then before beneath the padded top of her qipao (Chinese for "you're entering a fighting tournament in that?!"), and her arms have more weight to them than is usual for a female action figure; in a way, she's rather reminiscent of one of DC Direct's Ed McGuinness women, all animation-esque muscle. Her costume - qipao and otherwise - is sculpted and painted clean and crisp, but there's nothing truly sophisticated going on in terms of fine detail.

To fit onto its body, her head is wider and deeper than the Street Fighter II version - that, and the widely opened eyes, makes her seem quite different from your standard Chun-Li, although there's still some of that pixieish look to her. The eyes are a big difference from the SFIV art as well, which had them narrowed and calculating - in physical form, she looks about half-way between worried and resolute, kind of like Bison's charging her like a rampaging elephant and she's reminding herself that she can kick his ass, no matter how scary he looks now. Her hair is finely sculpted, pulled tight against her scalp into the two ox-horns, and the silk covering them is also sculpted with considerable attention to detail, and painted with a capable white highlight over a pale grey base. The only issue there (and indeed with the whole figure, quality-wise) is that both her fringe and the longer silk ribbons are separate pieces glued on, and the glue is pretty weak - the ribbons on the right side weren't solidly attached at both edges, as they should have been, and the first time I experimentally poked the fringe, it just came off. Both were easily fixed with a dab of superglue, but it's a quality control issue nonetheless.

In articulation terms, Crimson Viper was a display figure made more mobile by adding extra joints; NECA has gone back to the drawing board for Chun-Li, largely duplicating SOTA's old joint plan, but with a little refinement. The most obvious change is at the hips - instead of a single-location swivel/pin/swivel balljoint, which would have looked abominably bad given the size of the thighs, what we've got here is a swivel/pin hip sheathed inside a one-sided swivel-mounted thigh, which slants across to encompass the inner "core" beneath the level of the groin. In layman's terms, those colossal thighs can move just like a normally-proportioned figure, and the significant gaps necessary for that range stay hidden beneath the hanging front of the costume.

Elsewhere it's a familiar and reassuring story: balljoint neck, swivel/pin shoulders, swivel biceps, double pin elbows, swivel/pin wrists, pin sternum, swivel waist, the aforementioned hip/thigh assembly, double pin knees, swivel boot tops, pin/horizontal pin ankles, pin toes. Anything Chun-Li 1 can do, Chun-Li 2 can do too, plus the boot tops are new, and the horizontal pins at the ankles make for a more steady foot than SOTA's swivelling forward foot. Crucially, she has that easy-to-pose, fun quality that early SOTA figures had, and she feels sturdy and reliable when you're playing with her.

There's no alternate head, sadly, but then she's a big figure, so skipping it may have been a cost decision (it's not often you say that about a female figure). She does come with three additional hands, in addition to fists: two flat palms, with fingers extended and together and the thumbs tucked in, martial-arts style, and an extra right hand giving her V salute. Compared to the generally smooth, semi-cartoony look of the figure, it's noticeable that her hands feature a fairly realistic sculpt for a fighter, with a slightly weathered look, and deep creases on the palms. She has no base, but there's a peg hole in each heel if you need to give her a spare base for a particular pose - to her credit, she's balancing just fine here on only the flat toes of one foot and the point of the other.

Whatever SOTA did with their final Street Fighter figures, the first ones, including Chun-Li, were among the finest action figures of their day - and that day wasn't that long ago, either. The new physical style is something you'll either accept or not - but if you accept it (and though I found it strange-looking at first, it's grown on me), what NECA's made here is a top-class figure, and I'd even go so far as to guardedly (bar the minor glue issue) call it superior to SOTA's. She won't fit into a Street Fighter II display, not by a long shot - but so far as this figure is concerned, that's Street Fighter II's problem, not hers, and she's got the raw quality to back that up.

-- 08/12/09

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