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Blue Spirit Zuko

Avatar: the Last Airbender
by yo go re

"Oh, no, I'm not in the group yet; I'm afraid I just blue myself."

Banished from the Fire Nation, Prince Zuko and his uncle Iroh travel the world in search of the Avatar, the only being powerful enough to unite the Four Nations. When Aang, the newest Avatar, is captured by Admiral Zhao of the Fire Nation, Zuko must disguise himself as the Blue Spirit to defy Zhao and rescue Aang.

No, that can't be right: I distinctly remember the Ember Island Players' production, and the Blue Spirit rescued Aang from Zuko, not Zhao. How could he possibly be Zuko? (Actually, amusing joke: someone once asked whether, once he becomes Fire Lord, Zuko would give the Blue Spirit a full pardon, or screw with everyone by increasing the reward for his capture. The best response was that Zuko would send Ozai out into the world and tell him he could regain his honor if he captured the Blue Spirit. Ha! Love it!)

It's revealed, eventually, that the Blue Spirit mask is a standard Earth Kingdom theatre element, like the comedy and drama masks in the real world - Zuko's mom was an actress when she was younger, and kept some souvenirs from that time. The mask is blue (because the original plan, to make him the Red Spirit, made the Fire Nation connections too obvious too early) with white markings on the eyebrows, eyelids, cheecks, nose, and chin. Its mouth is sculpted in an exaggerated smile, with bright white teeth, and then flat panels sticking up off the top. Pretty sure those are all supposed to be light blue, not pure white - it's kind of in the name.

The mask is done as a separate piece that slides onto the head. He's wearing a tight-fitting hood underneath, as part of his ninja outfit, but you can still tell who this is supposed to be thanks to the big pink scar over his left eye. The shape of his head looks weird, but that's just the effect of wearing his big head-condom thing. You stuff all your hair under there, it's gonna take on a weird shape.

The figure includes a second head, revealing that this Blue Spirit isn't from when you think it is. Zuko appeared as the Blue Spirit four times: the first when he was still actively hunting the Avatar, and the remaining three after he'd been banished. The fact that this head has hair long enough to cover his scalp means it can only come from Season 2, Episode 17, when he steals into Lake Laogai to find Appa. The heads swap on a large balljoint, but the post that goes down into the neck feels brittle, like it's in danger of snapping. I think I'm just going to leave the hooded head on rather than risk it.

Zuko's ninja pajamas have a simple sculpt. The legs, at least, are reused from DST's Series 1 Zuko, which is why the pants aren't quite as baggy as they should be, but the idea comes across just fine. The issue is the paint. Look at the model sheet for Zuko's Blue Spirit disguise, and you'll see he's supposed to be wearing a dark grey suit with minorly lighter boots and forearms, gray gloves and armbands, and a black belt. This toy does get the forearms and boots right, but it makes his body a dark blue (to tie in with the theme) and leaves the gloves the same color as the rest of the body. We already mentioned the mask using white instead of blue, but the ties that hold it onto his head should be grey as well, not the white they're left here. There's no question what this toy represents, but it's definitely not a perfect re-creation. Hey, at least it makes the desaturated skintone all these Last Airbender toys have had seem less egregious?

Articulation remains plentiful, if not overly spectacular. The Blue Spirit has swivel/hinge joints in the ankles, hips, wrists, elbows, and shoulders; double-hinges in the knees; swivels in the thighs, biceps, and waist; a barbell head; and some sort of balljoint chest that doesn't want to turn. The shoulders are particularly tough, with the plastic audibly sqeaking when you try to move them at all, and the pegs that go up into the arms are short enough that the lower arms pop off if you bend the elbows too far. Just because DST's Avatar toys are better than McFarlane's, it doesn't mean they're perfect. I'd rather have arms that detatch than ones that break, anyway.

Since the entire point of being the Blue Spirit was to hide his identity, Zuko couldn't use firebending when he was in disguise. Therefore, his only accessories are his twin swords. The swords are based on the Chinese niuweidao, which were a peasant weapon better suited for cutting through flesh than armor. The real things don't split into two, though, so Zuko for the win! Both of these are perfectly flat on one side, so you can put them together to fit in the scabbard on his back. He also includes one of those nice articulated stands DST does, and the hole for it is in the small of his back.

We don't know how the Last Airbender license is split up that McFarlane's (quote/unquote) 7" scale figures don't prevent DST from continuing their 7" scale line, but we're glad it is this way. Every company that's had the Avatar license has made a Blue Spirit figure, but Diamond Select's is easily the best, even with its few flaws.

-- 03/23/23

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