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Masters of the Universe
by yo go re

Many of the Masters of the Universe mini-statues released in NECA's six series were simply based on the Four Horsemen's action figure sculpts. Clawful, Snake Face and others were just direct ports of the toys left unproduced when Mattel finally admitted they'd ruined the relaunched toyline. Some, however, are clearly new work, created specifically for the statue line.

If there is one thing the dreaded Skeletor relishes more than defeating his enemies, it is enslaving them. No one of his warriors knows this better than the man known as Jitsu! Once a ruler of a peaceful society in the far east, Skeletor's armies decimated his people after he would not craft weapons for the dark armies. Anxious to demean his peaceful legacy, Skeletor fused the man with an ancient artifact called the Dragon's Claw, a massive gauntlet that possesses its wearer and is capable of splitting stone. As Eternians flee in terror from his bloody campaign, little do they know a lost soul watches in terror and sadness through the general's blood red eyes!

Jitsu was a late addition to the '80s toyline, but his origins can be traced to the original series bible, where a large-handed character known as "Chopper" was listed as one of Skeletor's minions. Thankfully, the name was changed to something that took more than two seconds' thought before he was officially introduced.

You can tell Jitsu is more than just a re-used action figure, because he has a fairly dynamic pose. Most of the MotU figures have a straight up and down stance, maybe with a bit of a twist or one foot in front of the other. The most extreme we saw before this was Tri-Klops' pseudo-fencing pose, but this makes that look like ancient Egytpian statuary by comparison. Jitsu's pose definitely has a martial arts feel, with his legs bent to keep his center of gravity low and his weight supported by his rear leg. He's looking off to his right, staring down some enemy, and ready to strike with his weapons.

There are a lot of new details here to up Jitsu's "Asian quotient": his boots are now more like sandals, and he's wearing samurai-inspired armor around his waist, with layered plates and a thick golden rope for his belt. His left glove also shares similar connections.

Jitsu's face has some Asian features, though pushed to a highly exaggerated level. He's got the fu manchu mustache, big bushy eyebrows and deeply sunken cheeks that accent his cheekbones. His eyes are black with red pupils and his hair, styled in a chonmage (you know, shaved on the top, long on the back and pulled into a topknot) for the original figure, has been changed to male pattern baldness and a flowing ponytail which would reach his waist if not for two things: A) the way it swirls as he moves, and 2) the damn thing snaps off in the package about 95% of the time. Of course, that's not a problem for anyone but scalpers, since 1) the figure looks decent without the ponytail and B) the rest of us can just glue it back on easily.

So yes, there's a lot of new work done to make Jitsu look current, but that's not to say there aren't a lot of parallels to the old figure, as well. The armor on his chest has the same sort of golden cross, and what was once just a flat ring around his shoulders has been joined by a matching raised collar. His back is similar to the old design, but much more ornate. And of course, you'd have to be high on Chinee opium to ignore his giant hand.

The original toy's hand just looked like a large golden glove - it stood out, sure, but it wasn't anything special. The Horsemen's redesign, however, turns the hand into a giant mechanical marvel, even bigger and badder than Poing Super Combat's battle fist. There are individual knuckles in each finger (which may well have been actual joints had Mattel not been so bad at running a business), and technological details scattered about. Large green orbs adorn the palm, the back of the hand and the proximal knuckles, and overall, this is a fearsome weapon. There are circuit-like connectors attached to Jitsu's arm, suggesting that's how he controls the prosthetic, and because the Four Horsemen are smart, his right arm is larger and more developed than his left: lugging that thing around has led to asymmetrical muscle development.

And just in case the hand wasn't weapon enough, Jitsu is also armed with a sword and two kama sickles. The sword mimics his 1980s accessory, though it has the addition of a technological section along the rear edge near the hilt. The kama store on his back, plugging into place and being cradled in special notches in the armor. Nice work, there.

Getting the weapons into his hand is tough, so be careful; the thumb and fingers were painted together, and needed to be pried apart carefully before I could get him to hold anything. There's no specific storage for the sword, but you can either balance it on his belt (like a real katana would be worn) or slip it into the back of his armor. For true MotU style, have it poking up over his right shoulder, where he'd be unable to reach it.

Each of the Masters of the Universe figure-​scale statues comes with a hexagonal display base. Actually, they all come with the same display base: a generic technological thing that's color-coded to the character's allegiance. Skeletor's minions pose on a maroonish-purple base.

For some reason, Jitsu comes with a little buddy in his package: it's Odiphus, the albino hatemonkey who'd grow up to become Stinkor! Why? Who the heck knows? The little guy is 2½" tall, unarticulated, but designed well. He's clutching a wooden club in his black claws, and has white and gray fur. His eyes are yellow with black slits. Odiphus comes with his own small display stand, though he stands fine on his own.

The figure was originally supposed to come with the Stinkor statue back in '05, but a spike in oil prices at the time meant that he had to be dropped. Considering how slim the profit margins for both NECA and the Horsemen were on this mini-statue line, I really doubt there was a lot of extra room in the Jitsu budget to justify the inclusion of Odiphus: it's likely that, recognizing the end was near, the Horsemen took the hit to make sure this little extra wasn't lost to time.

Jitsu was mostly left out of the old cartoon because the producers were afraid he'd be seen as a racial stereotype. An Oriental guy with karate-chopping powers? How could that possibly be seen as a stereotype? Anyway, they decided that the easiest way to not do anything stupid or offensive with their minority characters was to just ignore them. Kind of a "baby with the bathwater" solution, but better than the treatment most got. However, by going further than the original designers did and increasing the exaggeration, the Four Horsemen have made it clear that Jitsu was never meant to be an accurate representation, and that they weren't using stereotypes as a lazy shorthand. Jitsu would have been a cool figure, but he's still an excellent mini-statue.

-- 11/10/08

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