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House of Blue Leaves

Kill Bill Minimates
by yo go re

The Bride is on a mission of revenge. After four years in a coma, her first target is O-Ren Ishii, her old comrade in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Finding her at the House of Blue Leaves nightclub in Tokyo, the Bride begins by attacking O-Ren's lawyer Sofie Fatale, and must then take on her cold-blooded bodyguard Gogo Yubari before facing O-Ren herself.

Thanks to Quentin Tarantino's trademark non-chronological storytelling, I had to stop and think about whether or not that was correct. Spoiler, it is. Although this part of the story doesn't take place until the end of the (first) movie, it really was the first thing she did.

The Bride is wearing her Bruce Lee/Game of Death-inspired yellow jumpsuit with the black stripes on the arms and legs, and a pair of sneakers that are STBLDF Asics. This figure is obviously taken from pretty far into the fight against the Crazy 88, because she's been splashed with blood - most other people's, but there's a big nasty cut across her back, too. And this isn't just a few black lines, either - we're talking bright red blood all over the place!

And yet when it comes to her face, there's only a thin little trickle of the stuff above her eyebrow. She's on a roaring rampage of revenge, but none of the gallons of blood flying around managed to hit her anywhere above the neck? That seems unlikely. The face doesn't particularly resemble Uma Thurman more than any other silly Caucasian girl who likes to play with samurai swords.

Her only accessory is a samurai sword. Specifically, the Hanzo sword she got before going in search of the first name on her list. It's a new mold, with a hilt thin enough to fit the standard Minimate hand, and even comes with a scabbard - granted, that would be a lot cooler if there was any way for the scabbard to attach to the figure. And if the opening wasn't at the blatantly wrong end.

The second figure in the set is O-Ren Ishii, meaning this anniversary set of Minimates is already doing better than the NECA toyline that was contemporary to the film(s): remember, they tried to make an O-Ren (and even had a prototype made up), but could never get Lucy Liu to approve her likeness. Art Asylum must have the magic touch!

Since this set is based on the House of Blue Leaves, O-Ren is wearing her white kimono. This outfit owes as much to Lady Snowblood as The Bride's owes to Game of Death - all she's missing is a big dark belt. Her kimono is a combo of Aunt May's dress and Jesus' sleeves, and a few thin black lines of paint. There's a large bow painted on her back, and her feet have simple details to make them look like sandals.

Maybe the reason Liu signed off on this figure was that Minimates don't have as realistic likenesses as typical action figures - it's harder to object to a stylized face like this, you know? She's not at all cross-eyed, and could be pretty much any attractive Asian woman with freckles. Need a Sloan Sabbath for your custom The Newsroom Minimates? Well here you go!

O-Ren comes with her sword and sheath, perfect for crossing steel with The Bride. Unfortunately, the blade seems to have been warped by its scabbard - you'll have to put it in backwards for a while, and see if that straightens it out. She also has what may be the most gruesome Minimate accessory to not come in a Walking Dead set: a second hair piece that is totally flat on top, for when she got the top of her skull cut off. It doesn't have any brain detailing, just a dark red circle, but the intention is clear. And gross! Shame she doesn't have an alternate surprised/dying face printed on the back of her head.

Sofie Fatale isn't a character we ever expected would get an action figure - she's not exactly a major part of the story, more a bit of background decoration. You might expect to see Johnny Mo or another member of the Crazy 88, but they got their own four-pack. That's the strength of Minimates as a medium: they're so simple that AA/DST can go deeper into a property than most other licensors would bother.

As per the movie, Sofie dresses like she's a villain on Star Trek. She's wearing a long-sleeved grey dress and simple black shoes. The bottom of the dress is a new mold - it's got small slits on the sides, coming up only as high as the knees. She comes with her tiny black flip phone, and thanks to Minimates' modular construction, you can even re-enact her (mis)treatment at the hand of The Bride.

The figure's likeness is the best we've seen yet in this set. Sofie was portrayed by Julie Dreyfus (not to be confused with Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and this Minimate has the perfect smug look on her face. It would be nice if she has a second "scared" face for when The Bride calls O-Ren out. Her hair is pulled back in a tight bun, which is another new mold.

Our final figure is Gogo Yubari, because of course it is. Minimate lines may go deep, but it's not like they were going to make "Charlie Brown" or the hostess lady, right? If you're doing the House of Blue Leaves and you're not doing a Crazy 88, Gogo is the go-to.

She's wearing her schoolgirl uniform, which suddenly makes us wish there were Kick-Ass Minimates, so we could see who'd win in a fight between Gogo and Hit-Girl. The plaid pattern on her shirt is painted all the way around, and her dark blue jacket has the yellow crest on the left side. It's too small to have the "TBC Tokyo International" lettering on it, but the intention is there. She does have the white shirt and red tie though

Gogo was played by Chiaki Kuriyama, who was killing teenagers back when the Hunger Games were merely peckish. Since Kuriyama-shi's strongest feature is her prominent nose, the Minimate's likeness isn't particularly strong. Also, her hair doesn't come down far enough - in the movie, her bangs covered her eyebrows, while the toy has a gap above them.

She's armed with her meteor hammer, a spiked ball on the end of a real metal chain. The chain is neat, but there's one downside: since it's real, she can never be "mid-swing" with it (though you can wrap it around The Bride's neck really easily); it's doomed to hang limply forever.

We also get an alternate head with blood dripping from the eyes, depicting Gogo's untimely end. That's a nice inclusion, but if they were going to give us this, they also should have included the weapon the Bride used to dispatch her. Like Spawn and Kodos, we demand a board with a nail in it! But then she'd need an alternate left foot, too.

This Minimate set is being released in celebration of Kill Bill's 10th anniversary, which is just crazy to think about - Vernita's daughter is going to be old enough to come looking for revenge pretty soon! It's even crazier that they still have yet to release both movies in a single set. Back when the original DVDs came out, Miramax's COO Rick Sands bragged about how they were going to double-dip on releases ("multiple bites at the apple," he called it). Fans understandably got pissed, and Miramax wasted no time in backtracking - unfortunately, they got the wrong message, and instead of just releasing the whole bloody affair, only released the bare-bones discs. So here we are 10 years later, and there's still a Kill Bill-shaped hole on our shelves. Minimates might not be DVDs, but it's still nice to see something promised and delivered this quickly.

-- 09/20/14

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