Back when Mattel was lamentably in charge of the Harry Potter license, they treated it with the same ham-handed ignorance that ruled all their other lines. That meant stupid, stupid, stupid variations of the star of the show, and almost no attention paid to anyone else. And when Mattel was finally ready to take even the most miniscule step to correct their glaring flaws, they couldn't even do that right. We were about to get two of the most anticpated figures in the line - Dumbledore and Hermione - when they were suddenly cancelled without a word.
NECA, however, is much smarter than that. Now that they hold
the license for the entire HP movie series, they're wasting no time in giving the fans exactly what they want. Dumbledore will be available in Order of the Phoenix Series 2, and Hermione Granger is available right now in Series 1.
Hermione, as always, is the voice of reason for Harry during his fifth year. Her tenacity convinces Harry to train other students in Defense Against the Dark Arts, as Dolores Umbridge refuses to instruct them in practical application.
She may be the greatest wizard of her age, but Hermione is still just a schoolgirl, and the sculpt needs to reflect that. She's wearing the Hogwarts uniform, which consists of a skirt, a white collared shirt, a tie and a sweater. All very mundane, and not unlike what you'd see an average private school student wearing on her way to class. The cloth has delicate wrinkles, which actually makes it look like fabric rather than plastic. Yes, Hermione really looks like she's dressed in layers.
The figure has a great likeness. There are a few angles where this could be any random girl, but quite a bit more where it's instantly recognizable as Emma Watson. She's been sculpted with a slight smirk, which suits the character wonderfully, and she's looking straight ahead. That old NECA problem of hair looking like a wig? Not a problem here. Hermione's hair looks like hair, thankfully. The poor thing has no ears, though. Must be hard for her to pay attention in class.
The paint could be better, honestly. Hermione's sweater is dark blue, and her skirt is matte black. Her shoes are also black, but have a slight gloss to them. She's wearing stockings, but rather than just paint her legs grey, NECA has made them look like sheer fabric over pink legs: it ends up sort of a dark beige, with subtle shadows and highlights painted on. Her facial features are all painted cleanly, as well.
So if all that is so good, what's the problem? Well, mainly, the hair.
Because hair that was a single solid color would look fake, NECA tried to give her highlights and shadows. However, it didn't quite turn out as expected, making her hair kind of gloppy on the final product. That's really the major area you have to watch out for - particularly the strands hanging down in front of her face. If those are good, you're golden. The figure's nostrils are sculpted, but they're also painted black, which can easily be too much. The stripes on her sweater - red and yellow, the Gryffindor colors - are a nice touch, but fairly uneven upon close inspection. Her scarlet and gold tie is handled much better.
The articulation on the Harry Potter figures is unpredictable.
Rather than get locked into a specific assortment of joints, they take each figure indiviually and see what will work best with the sculpt. Hermione has a balljointed neck, balljonted shoulders, peg wrists, balljointed waist and peg thighs. Unfortunately, that's not quite enough. The arms move, but they can't really be posed, and the figure leans permanently backwards. Like, to the point where you'll want to stand another figure behind her or put her up against a wall to keep from falling over. Her slightly twisting, contrapposto pose is nice, but not the sturdiest. Not even the included base helps. To keep her standing for more than a few minutes at a time, I've had to resort to pulling her left thigh joint partially out of its socket. The lower legs are molded from a slightly soft plastic, which isn't helping matters much.
Hermione has one accessory, her wand. Rather than just give all the characters generic wands (like some companies would do),
NECA made individualized sticks. Hermione's vinewood and dragon heartstring wand doesn't have the same fine detail of the real thing, but it is 1/12th the size, after all. I think we can forgive NECA for not having a tiny, tiny vine wrapped around the handle. Wait, what's that? They do have a tiny, tiny vine wrapped around the handle? Well how about that! Her right hand is sculpted to hold the wand lightly, but not so lightly that it will fall to the ground.
Order of the Phoenix Series 1 also has a Build-A-Figure, a Death Eater practice dummy. Hermione is packaged with the dummy's base and its wheel, as well as a wand for it to hold. The dummy's wand is the thin brown one, while Hermione's is the thick tan one. The dummy isn't actually sculpted to hold its wand, so the best you can manage is to pinch it awkwardly between two fingers. Be careful when you're moving the figure - this is one accessory that, if it falls into the rug or behind some furniture, is lost for good. This is the only BAF planned for the line - NECA's Randy Falk has said the only reason the idea worked for Series 1 was that the children were mostly small and had fairly simple sculpts. From here on out, it's all bigger and better.
The Mattel of today is not the Mattel of yesterday - witness, if you will, how often they've outdone DC Direct in recent months. So if they were the ones with the Harry Potter license today, maybe we would have seen a nice Hermione figure. Maybe. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about that any more, because NECA stepped up and really delivered a great figure, even if she is a bit harder to find than Harry himself.