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Avatar: the Last Airbender
by yo go re

If you thought it was unfair that Tonto has had to spend 90 years as the unwavering and omnipresent sidekick to a guy called the "Lone" Ranger, then pity poor Appa, who similarly gets overlooked by his series' untrue title.

Aang's sky bison is his constant companion and also his primary means of transportation. Appa uses Airbending to fly, creating powerful gusts of wind with his tail. He is extremely loyal and loving.

Appa comes to us from McFarlane Toys' AtLA line, not the Diamond Select line we've been reviewing so far - while DST has gotten into the Build-A-Figure thing now, as a way to get Sauron into their Lord of the Rings line, they did not attempt to make a Build-A-Bison with Aang and pals. So if you want an Appa, it's McToys or nothin'.

Now, obviously this Appa isn't in scale with the DST figures - but he's also not in scale with Todd's 5" line, which is what he's ostensibly a part of. Yes, you could put the 5" figures in the saddle, but that's like saying it goes with 12" figures because you could put one of those in the saddle. Remember, Appa regularly carried five teenagers with attitude comfortably in that palanquin, while you can barely fit a single 5" figure in this one.

The figure maxes out at about 6¼" tall, with the horn on the saddle being the tallest point (depending on how you pose the head). Now, Appa's size does tend to vary a bit in the cartoon, but this isn't even in the same neighborhood as "correct." The only time Appa was this size in relation to the human characters was when he was a baby; by the time he was full grown, Aang was about the same size as his nose! Did Jada Toys ever do any of those Nano Metalfigs for Avatar? Because that's about the only thing that would be in scale with this toy.

But enough of the bad, let's talk good. McFarlane's sculpts have almost always been excellent, and Appa's looking great. His fur is thick and shaggy, sculpted with the kind of detail the show only ever implied. It's short on his head, gets longer on the shoulders, and then thinner and finer by the time you get on the tip of the tail. There are cords wrapped around his horns, suggesting the reins Aang used to help steer him (though not the actual part that would attach to those and be held by the pilot). The set on his back is permanently attached, and the interior is detailed like padded leather would be - they even included the camping equipment rolled up and tied to the rear! His eyes are squinty, his little ears point downward, and his teeth are appropriately flat for munching all kinds of veggies. If you turn him over and look at his belly, you'll see the fleshy plates with their own unique texture.

Most of the animals in Avatar are a cross between two normal animals, but how about sky bisons? I mean, "bisons" are a thing, but how is "sky" an animal? Well, the secret is in the tail: the surprise second animal in a sky bison is... a manatee! You can also see it in the face if you know you're looking for it, but the idea is sky bisons paddle their tail while flying the same way manatees paddle theirs while swimming. The six legs, meanwhile, are a deliberate reference to My Neighbor Totoro and its distinctive Catbus, just because the creators liked it.

The articulation is minimal, because this toy only costs $20 and a full-sized, fully articulated Appa would be... a lot more. We're talking like HasLab levels of cash. And this is still better than either Mattel or Spinmaster did when they had the license. Appa has a balljointed head and tail, and slight swivels in all six ankles. Five of his feet are flat on the ground, but the back left foot is lifting up slightly as though he's stepping forward. The most fun feature however is that the mouth is articulated. You can open it so you can see his tongue and teeth. Cute!

His paint is fine. The fur is a light cream color, with the tan stripes and arrow on his forehead airbrushed to keep the edges from being too harsh. Though really, why wouldn't they be harsh? Tiger stripes have a strong edge, zebra stripes have a strong edge... why wouldn't a sky bison's? The only real flaw is the feet: if you look at the art of Appa on the back of the packaging, you'll see that the bottoms of his feet are supposed to be the same sort of grey as his muzzle, but instead they're entirely the brown that should be restricted to the pads and the plates on top.

Appa isn't in scale with anything, so you might as well use this toy for any Avatar line you like. Yeah, he's gonna be little next to my collection, but maybe he's far away. It's just exciting to get an Appa at all.

-- 11/06/21

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