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Halloween Town Sora

Kingdom Hearts
by yo go re

In 2003, Toycom (the US division of Yamato) and their "sister company" Mirage (nee N2) partnered to release a series of toys based on the Square Enix videogame Kingdom Hearts. The line was on the positive side of mediocre, but ultimately its potential was wasted. Their license included every Disney character who appeared in the game, which should have been awesome, but the line never really found its feet and died too soon. Now, however, Kingdom Hearts is back, and this time Square Enix is in charge.

After his home is destroyed by the darkness, Sora must travel across the different worlds in search of his lost friends and a way to stop the darkness from devouring everything.

Throughout the majority of the game, Sora looks generally the same: with his red shorts and huge yellow shoes, he was the visual stand-in for the mysteriously absent Mickey Mouse. A few times, however, he'd land on a new world and find himself completely transformed, like when he'd visit Atlantica, home of the Little Mermaid, and become a half-dolphin merman. Or, less drastically, when he went to Halloween Town and got a new, spooky set of clothes that allowed him to blend in with Jack Skellington and the other macabre characters from Nightmare Before Christmas.

Halloween Town Sora is figure no.4 in Kingdom Hearts Play Arts Vol.2, an assortment that also includes Final Fantasy VII lovebunnies Cloud and Sephiroth. "Play Arts" is the catchall name for the articulated toys - the other end of the spectrum are the "Formation Arts" figures, the little plastic statues. So Play Arts, Marvel Legends; Formation Arts, McFarlane.

The figure stands 6¼" tall at his highest hair-spike, and has 23 points of articulation: double-balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, balljointed torso, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees, swivel boots, hinged ankles, and mid-foot swivels. Those foot joints are something you see on a lot of Japanese figures, and they usually work pretty well. Sora's no exception, and his epic feet keep him standing. Though if you want to get him off the ground, the set includes a large oval base with one of those "doll stand" clamps to hold him in a jumping pose.

Sora's distinctive H-Town look is referred to as his "Vampire Form" - he doesn't actually gain any vamp powers (like sparkling in sunlight), but he and his teammates all took on monstrous alter egos so that the Halloween Town residents wouldn't immediately recognize them as outsiders. His clothes are decidedly gothic, all blacks and grays with the only color highlights coming from the red stripes on his shins. He's wearing a grey jacket over a lace-up shirt, and a gray shawl hangs on his shoulders. Turn him around and you'll see a tiny cape and an atrophied pair of batwings - total vampire accoutrements. The crown necklace he wears everywhere has sprouted a pair of wings of its own.

In keeping with the "vampire" theme, Sora has a tiny pair of fangs at the corners of his mouth. Unfortunately, his skin is much more pale on this figure than it was in the game, so the fangs tend to blend in. You can only see one of his eyes, thanks to the goofball jack o'lantern mask sitting at a rakish angle on his forehead. Like that one Vietnam Snake-Eyes, Sora's eyes are cast in shadow. It, too, isn't as dark as you might expect, making the effect look like overspray from the hair rather than an intentional thing.

Sora's only accessory is his Keyblade - the game's signature weapon. If you haven't played the game, the Keyblade is exactly what it sounds like: a sword with details that make it looke like (and eventually, function as) a key. The Keyblade changes its appearance and abilities depending on what keychain is attached to it. After beating the Halloween Town stage, Jack gives you a keychain that looks like a sad jack o'lantern on a chain, upgrading your keyblade to the パンプキンヘッド (Pumpkinhead).

The Pumpkinhead blade reflects the NBX aesthetic: it's mosly black, with scalloped edges that look like a wrought iron gate. The teeth of the key look like a bat hanging from the blade, and centered in the hilt is a duplicate of Jack Skellington's face. Following on from that, the handguard is a stylized version of Jack's batty bowtie. A hole in the hilt fits a peg in Sora's palm, and the keychain can actually be unclasped and removed from the accessory.

This line already includes a figure of King Mickey, so I really hope that means we'll be seeing more of the Disney side of Kingdom Hearts - the world needs the H-Town versions of Donald and Goofy (a mummy and a Frankenstein, respectively) to hang out with this Sora. They're just too awesome. The old Mirage/Toycom line did offer a Jack Skellington figure, but if you want one to pair with Sora, you'll be better off with the Jun Planning version - much higher quality.

Vampire Form Sora is a great toy, but perhaps the best thing about him is that right now, you don't need to pay importer's prices for him. The KH Play Arts figures have long been the province of specialty market stores, so imagine my surprise when I walked into Toys Я Us and saw them on the shelf. It's no secret that TRU is trying to reach out to the collector community, but so far that's been limited to carrying Minimates and some DC Direct and NECA stuff. This is obviously part of that endeavor, but the next level. Imported Japanese toys at TRU? Give them all the exclusive DC Universe series they want, Wal*Mart can't compete with that. I'd seen Sora in person before, and passed on buying him from dealers at conventions; but put him across the aisle from Star Wars and around the corner from Superhero Squad, and I dropped the cash immediately. This is a well-made action figure with a killer design, and being able to buy it with ease from a local store is just the icing on the cake.

But seriously Square: make Donald and Goofy.

-- 10/31/09

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