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Thundercats Classic
by Monkey Boy

As a kid, I watched Thundercats and loved it. Full disclosure, as a kid I watched pretty much anything and loved it. I was a kid. I had the figures, I watched the show, but damned if I could tell you to this day what any particular episode of Thundercats was actually about.

Still, nostalgia is nostalgia. With a reboot of the cartoon that, by all accounts, takes the basic elements of the old show and makes them actually bearable, action figures were sure to follow. Bandai took the reins and in addition to a modern line based on the new show, they've also committed to a "classics" line based on the old school Rankin/Bass cartoon.

If you're into toys at all you probably knew all that. The first "classic" figures were part of an 8" scale line, with Lion-O and Tygra released to test the waters. The line was sadly cancelled after those two figures, and it's not really hard to see why. The scale didn't really fit in with any other figure lines, and us crazy action figure collectors usually want our figures to play nice together. Also, while the toys are nice, the large scale contributed to a high price point that didn't really jibe with the soft sculpt and minimal, toy-ish paint apps.

That toy-ish shiny paint was what kept me from giving in and getting a Lion-O classics figure, but I caved when Bandai unveiled their next step: scaling down the classic figures to six inches, which makes them actually fit in with the rest of Bandai's T-cats and even possibly some other lines, maybe. The smaller size means the price point is a tad more palatable, and the plastic of the toys is far less shiny. So I took the bait.

Though Lion-O is scaled down, his sculpt seems identical to his larger predecessor with the exception of the face. Rather than the stoic, closed-mouth look used in the 8" version, the small fry gets a snarling, open-mouth "action" expression. While it's extreme, I like it and actually prefer it to the calmer look. I always felt that Lion-O's face was very clown-ish, and anything that distracts me from that is a plus in my book.

The sculpt is good, but simple. It's a bit soft, but it matches the animation well enough. The long orange hair sweeps to the left, just like the larger figure. There's really only one negative aspect, and that's the giant screws in his back keeping the torso together. I can forgive screws on smaller figures, but this guy's got three huge screw-filled holes marring his otherwise smooth back. It's really jarring, especially alongside Bandai's trademark exposed joint pegs.

The paint is simplistic but serviceable, like the sculpt. There's almost no slop, and the eyes in particular have some complexity that they pull off well, but don't look for any wash or detailing to bring out the sculpt. The figure is very toyish, although it's worlds better than the 8" figure, which to my eyes had McDonald's Happy Meal toy level shininess. This toy thankfully avoids that problem, with a much flatter tone used for the plastic and paint, especially on the face. I'm not a fan of the ankle pegs, which are molded in skin-colored plastic rather than boot-colored plastic, but it's not a deal-breaker.

Like the 8" figure, articulation is where this guy really shines (not literally). He's got a ton of joints and they all work great. His ankles have rocker joints and hinges, which allows him to keep his feet planted in even very wide-legged stances. He's got peg boot tops, double-hinged knees, pegs at the top of the thighs, balljointed hips, a waist peg and a balljointed torso, pegged and hinged shoulders, bicep pegs, hinged elbows, slightly balljointed wrists, and a slightly balljointed head. The hair unfortunately restricts the neck to little more than a peg joint in functionality, but it's easy to let that slide when all the other joints work so well. He's a ton of fun to pose, and for all his exposed joint pegs and screws, he feels very solid and holds his poses very well.

He gets the same accessories as his big brother, including his claw glove/shield and the Sword of Omens. The sword is slightly warped but nicely detailed. There's also an un-extended Sword of Omens (with the Eye of Thundera in its hilt instead of the Thundercats logo), and it still fits in the glove for storage, just like it did with the larger version. There's a strip of plastic that plugs into his belt and attaches to the glove so that it can hang there when not in use. He also has interchangeable hands: one open and one closed for gripping.

Though the simple paint and sculpt clearly mark this as a "toy," and not some hyper-detailed ultra-accurate poseable replica, it's a really fun and enjoyable piece. If you're disappointed that the 8" line met its doom, look at the bright side: if you got both figures and you're a completist, you have the whole set and never have to worry about collecting any more! Personally, I'm glad they decided to switch gears and go the smaller, more manageable, less shiny route. The price is slightly more palatable as well (though still a bit more than it really should be). Lion-O is a great toy, and makes me feel like a kid again.

-- 01/15/12

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