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Avatar: the Last Airbender
by yo go re

Obscure trivia fact: Avatar had some boy characters, too!

Raised by monks in a temple hidden in the mountains, Aang is the last Airbender and the only known survivor of the Air Nomads. He's the master of getting him and his friends into sticky situations, but thanks to his Avatar abilities, he's pretty good at getting out of them too.

Because Mattel fizzled out with their Last Airbender toys so fast, they never got to make more than one costume for him - variants, sure, but mostly in terms of what accessories he had. Diamond Select Toys, with an eye toward the long game, started Series 1 with a "final battle" Aang, and now has circled back around to Season 1 with their second series of figures, bringing us the classic Aang you think of when you think "Avatar." Well, with one significant change.

Possibly because the first figure had an utterly plain look on his face, this one gets the biggest, goofiest grin ever! He looks psychotic. Like Ren Hoek when he's wearing the Happy Helmet. It's clearly inspired by one seen in the show, but man is it rough on this toy! If you get both, you can swap the heads, but c'mon, DST, you couldn't have just included an alternate head with this one? One that's a giant doofus, one that's, like, angry or smiling or smug or whatever?

The reason you can swap heads is that both Aangs use the same chest. This one just paints it yellow and counts on the orange shawl to disguise the fact that the sculpt is plainly meant to be skin, not cloth. Even the show's animators weren't really sure how Aang's clothes worked: is the collar part of the shirt, or the cape? At what point did his pants change from puffy harem pants to some kind of reverse-chaps that leave the back of the knees exposed? Are the forearms of the shirt actually that tight, or are they just stretched by the wrist- and elbow-bands? What exactly is up with his shoes? The shawl/cape thing is supposed to connect to Aang's elbows (to catch the wind and help him fly, like Storm), but that wouldn't work on a physical action figure. What a shame!

Airbending was based on baguazhang's "circle walking," but since he's the Avatar, Aang needs to be able to perform all four styles. Good thing he's got lots of articulation! He has a balljointed head (which is why swapping them is so easy), swivel/hinge shoulders, elbows, and wrists, a balljointed chest, swivel waist, H-hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. The lower joint in both knees really doesn't want to move, and the plastic used for the interior of the joint is rubbery enough that simply pushing harder is not a viable solution to getting them moving.

Aang really hit the lottery in the accessories department. To begin with, he's got the articulated stand the other deluxe figures have included, though there are still no holes anywhere on the figure to easily accommodate it. It is a nice piece, though, with four hinges separated by three straight rods of varying length, and then a round base to hold it all up. They're fully modular, so you can take them apart and rearrange them as you like to best suit your display. Aang's gets a piece the others haven't had yet, a little cap with two angled hooks in it, meant to go along with the next accessory:

His glider! That has two small holes specifically designed to match the new hook on the end of the display arm. Unfortunately, what it doesn't have is any way to actually attach to the figure - Aang will just have to hold onto the struts and tuck his feet up over the tail like the real thing. Logically, he also comes with a version that's collapsed down into its simple staff form. And because he needs to perform all sorts of martial arts moves, there's a selection of 10 hands: fists, chopping, splayed, small holding, and large holding. Those swap out at the wrist very easily, and are all painted with the tip of the blue arrow tattoos peeking out from beneath the ends of his sleeves.

And then, because DST is awesome, we also get Momo! Aang's pet winged lemur, Momo is apparently the last of his kind - or at least, after the Air Nomad Genocide, the other ones learned to avoid humankind. The Series 1 figure included a Momo who was sitting down, while this one is walking on all fours - will we eventually get one with his wings out? He stays balanced well, even with those huge ears, and moves with a balljointed head and swivel tail.

Series 2 Aang is the classic version, the first one you think of, and he comes with fun accessories - what's not to like? Well, the head. But what are ya gonna do about that?

-- 06/19/21

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