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Avatar: the Last Airbender
by yo go re

Everybody wants a nice, down-to-earth girl.

A secret tomboy at heart but blind since birth, Toph has been sheltered her entire life. It's not easy being the daughter of the Beifong family, one of the richest families in the Earth Kingdom. But Toph's inability to see has heightened her other senses and her earthbending skills. She is highly attuned to the vibrations in the earth and her family has no idea that she is destined to become one of the greatest Earthbenders in the world... but they will soon.

So Azula wasn't the only bit of misdirection in the Avatar opening, though in Toph's case, it wasn't intentional: the original plan for the series would have seen Aang's earthbending master be a jock-ish 16-year-old boy, and that design made it (in silhouette) into the opening credits. By the time the creators decided his teacher should be a girl his own age, it was too late to change the sequence, so her prototype version remains there as a vestige of what might have been.

Toph is wearing the clothes she wore for the Earth Rumble, rather than her fancy family dress - just the way she'd want it. Since she was raised in luxury and upper class ways all her life, her typical teenage rebellion took the form of being crass, rude, loud, and covered in dirt. Every nation in the story gets color-coded clothing, with the Earth Kingdom's being green and beige. Toph's clothes are based on European styles, despite the Earth Kingdom being heavily Asian: she wears a top with flowing sleeves, baggy pants, and a tunic that hangs down to her knees. She's got a wide leather belt, plus cuffs on her ankles and wrists with a bit of green cloth hanging from them. She goes barefoot, because only by being in contact with the ground can she "see."

Yes, Toph has been blind from birth - part of why her family was so protective of her. When Team Avatar first met her, she was going by the name "Blind Bandit" and winning underground fight tournaments. This figure gets Toph's big hair right, but her face should really be rounder: she's only 12, but this looks like an adult head on an undersized body.

Most earthbending is based on the Hung Gar style of kung-fu, but Toph was only taught a few basics of that style: her real teachers were the blind badgermoles who inspired the ability in the first place, so she developed her own style (based visually on Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis). DST doesn't skimp on the articulation, so Toph has swivel/hinge joints in the ankles, hips, wrists, elbows, and shoulders; double-hinges in the knees; swivels in the thighs, biceps, and waist; and a balljointed head. The head's socket could stand to be shallower, to improve the range of movement, and a balljointed chest would be better than a swivel waist, but this is still enough to make the toy actually be fun. And that's even before we talk accessories!

Toph has fists in the package, but there are also gripping hands and chopping hands beside her in the tray. That's a good start, but then they also give us a pair of hands that have rocks and dirt trailing away from them, like she's shooting them at an enemy (rocks on the right hand, dirt on the left). That's not enough to really showcase her powers, though, so she gets a big plume of dirt and stone, a 5¾" long piece molded from translucent tan plastic that lays on the ground to make it look like she's just kicked a line of bedrock at someone. That's awesome! She's also got the disc base and display arm the other figures have had.

But that's all expected stuff. Alternate hands? Element effects? No surprises. Diamond Select Toys, however, hasn't stopped there. They've included something no one would have expected: Toph's Earth Rumble championship belt! Holy crap, that's amazing! It's just a solid piece, designed to be held rather than worn, but it's detailed just like the cartoon and is the sort of accessory that wouldn't have been missed if it were absent, but is super cool to include.

In just three series, Diamond Select has managed to cover all four types of benders, something the previous toyline (released when the cartoon was airing) never managed to do. Toph is also the third female character they've released, beating the old line by three. We still need Suki, from the Kyoshi Warriors, and maybe Mai and Ty Lee, but DST's Avatar line has already done a much better job with the property than anyone else has.

-- 07/21/21

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