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Gipsy Danger (Hong Kong Brawl)

Pacific Rim
by Monkey Boy

Calling this Gipsy Danger "Version 2" is slightly misleading, since NECA has released the ol' girl a few different times, with battle damage deco or different accessories or straight re-releases in 2-pack form or with a weird black "end credits" paint scheme... but here we're getting an all-new figure. Totally new sculpt, new articulation, everything. A complete ground-up overhaul. Was it necessary? Before owning this figure, I'd have thought so. But now? Well, read on.

First, a bit of history. I was not a huge fan of Pacific Rim. I was excited for it, but when I finally saw it I was less than impressed. Annoying, hackneyed characters, jokes that fell flat, a bunch of monsters that were really hard to tell apart... I expected more. The first toy offerings (which I saw before the film) also left me cold. They were undersized and under-articulated, due to NECA's attempts to get them on Walmart shelves. However, when that fell through, they shifted gears and really started releasing the type of figures you expect from NECA.

The figure that sucked me into the line was the "clean" Toys-Я-Us-exclusive Knifehead. I realized that while the kaiju all looked basically the same on-screen, seeing them by themselves, separately, in toy form allows you to really appreciate the cool designs and details. It's also just a really solid figure that hits all the sweet spots in terms of articulation, sculpt, paint, the whole deal. It's also really heavy and pointy and could probably kill someone.

But then, who was my Knifehead going to fight? So I needed a Gipsy. I stumbled upon the Leatherback/Gipsy Danger two-pack for a reasonable price and thought what the hell. Both were decent figures, but were remnants of the not-Walmart era. I needed a Gipsy who really looked like she could take on my Knifehead. And it turns out NECA was on the verge of releasing one. And here we are. Now I own two Jaegers and two kaiju from a movie I don't even like. Cool!

Gipsy Danger is piloted by some doofus and his doofus brother, until one doofus gets eaten and a sexy Japanese chick gets to be co-pilot. Then something something who cares BAM! POW! CRUNCH! Monsters fighting robots!

I already threw out the package, so I just made that bio text up. Could you tell? I think it matches the tone of the film quite well. Anyway, this figure is officially called "Hong Kong Brawl" Gipsy Danger, for reasons that will become apparent when we discuss accessories. As mentioned, it is a totally new figure, and shares zero parts with the earlier Gipsy. Our new GD is a bit taller, and packs wayyyy more detail into the sculpt. For the most part. Look at the head, the chest, the arms, and you'll find loads of detail: intricate lines and sculpted elements that are nowhere to be found on the original GD.

Below the waist, it gets a bit less impressive. This will become a trend that runs through this review. There's still lots of detail, but much of the sculpt of the legs is a lot softer than the original figure. This is especially true in the exposed mechanical bits around the calf area. It really feels like, when they got to the lower leg area, whoever was designing this figure just kind of said "Eh, I'm tired" so they just kind of phoned it in.

The same thing applies to the paint. HKB GD is a deeper, richer blue than the previous GD figures, and the painted details stand out much more: the "34" on the shoulders, the red and white pin-striping, the little bumps and bits that get a little dab of paint here and there. It's all very well applied. The big fiery chest turbine is also much brighter and looks more fiery than before.

And then we get below the knees again, and suddenly it looks like the figure is missing paint apps. What? There's some exposed mechanical inside pistons and such between the metal shielding on the shins, and it's the same blue as the leg plating. Is this intentional? I don't know, but it's not just an error on mine. They all have it. Even the prototype on display at NYCC 2014 was like this. It's another strangely backward step in what should be a much better figure. Check the old Gipsy Danger toy, and you'll see not only are the pistons painted, but there's a little yellow-and-black warning stripe atop the lower shin armor, which is also missing from Hong Kong Brawl version.

Take a wild guess what the key point will be regarding the articulation. If you said "It's really great up top, and kinda goes off the rails below the waist" then congratulations, you've been paying attention. I made it pretty obvious though. Yes, Gipsy's articulation is pretty sweet as long as we don't mention the legs. The original's head barely moved, whereas this one's neck has a balljoint so good it can practically do the Superman flight pose. The shoulders are balljoints, as are the shoulder pads, and he gets bicep pegs, an upper elbow hinge, a balljoint at the forearm just below that hinge, balljointed wrists, and a balljointed torso. There's also a bit of bicep armor that slides up and out of the way to allow the elbow to have a better range of motion, so that's cool.

Aaaaand then we get to the legs, where it looks like an entirely different design team came and took over the project. The hips are balljoints, but their range of motion is really kind of laughable. The hips almost have more inward pivoting range than outward. The previous figure's hips were blocked by the high armor on the thigh, but if you pushed it a bit you could see the actual hinge had a pretty solid range of motion. HKB's hip balljoints are buried in a socket that really offers very little in the way of movement. But there are peg joints in the thighs that help offset this, a little. Don't worry, it's not the worst part.

Moving down you'll find double-hinged knees, which are great. Seriously, no complaints about those. But then we get to the ankles. The older Gipsy had a pretty great balljoint in the ankle, which did a great job of keeping the feet planted in the widest stances that figure was able to achieve. The new Gipsy is a colossal step backwards. The ankles are ostensibly balljoints, but they might as well be pegs. There's almost no tilt to them because the actual ball is buried way up into the leg socket. You can pull the feet out a little bit and give yourself a bit of wiggle room for the ankles, but the legs tend to suck them back in and leave your figure with uneven footing, so you can watch as she shelf dives again. And again. And again. And again. I haven't been able to keep this figure standing for any significant amount of time. The hips I could probably forgive, but the ankles just make her unable to sustain herself in anything but the most banal of stances. And even then it's only temporary. She'll still tumble eventually. For a figure with such otherwise great articulation, it's a real bummer.

Oh, and for what it's worth, she's got toe hinges. Unlike the old Gipsy figure design, which had a rear hinge joint on the foot, this one gives us the hinge on the front.

If there's a bright spot, it's the accessories. But even they have little things that are somewhat bothersome. She gets two sets of hands - fisted and open - which, like most NECA toys, can be very difficult to swap out. I'm not the only one noticing that, right? She also gets a chain sword that plugs into either wrist. It's the "solid" version of the sword, meaning the segments haven't separated into the flexible "whip" mode which we see in the previous "Battle Damaged" Gipsy. Hey, speaking of which... didn't that figure get two swords? Why yes, it did. This Gipsy gets one. I kind of understand why, due to the remaining accessory which I'm sure ate up a chunk of budget, but if you look in the tray of the figure's package, the section holding the sword seems too deep to just hold one. It really seems like it was, at some point, meant to have two swords, and then whoever designed the lower half of this thing got wind of that and said "Hmm... no, it's getting to be a little too fun. Let's lose a sword."

The final accessory almost makes this whole debacle worth it though. It cements this figure as coming from the "Hong Kong Brawl" scene of the movie: it's the giant tanker ship Gipsy uses to baseball bat Otachi! It's got a lot of really cool details, and even has irregular streaks of glossy paint on its hull to make it seem like it's still wet from the ocean. One side of the boat is battered and crumpled (the uh... front? Bow? Prow? Boat... front of the boat) with finger impressions so GD can grab ahold of it. It's a nice touch, though the fit ends up a little loose. She's better off holding it with both hands.

This is such a frustrating figure, because it had such potential. The sculpt, paint and articulation are all top-notch... as long as you stay above the waist. Then, suddenly, it all just goes straight to hell. It's clear that a lot of love went into creating the top half of this figure, which makes the lower portion even more of a WTF situation. I want to love this figure, even with its flaws, because it's big enough and detailed enough to hang with my Knifehead, but... the thing won't even stand up. When all is said and done, I have to say I'm glad I got that 2-pack Gipsy when I did, because this one isn't the replacement I was hoping for. This likely isn't going to be the last time NECA puts a Gipsy Danger figure on the market (especially not with "Anchorage Attack" coming in Series 5), so perhaps these issues will be addressed in future releases. If/when that one comes out, at least I'll have a boat for it.

-- 12/14/14

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