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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
by yo go re

I thought there were three kinds of simians in NECA's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes line: an orangutan, a gorilla, and two chimpanzees. I was wrong, but at least I was in good company: it wasn't until 1954 that scientists recognized that the bonobo, formerly known as the "pygmy chimpanzee," was a different species.

Bonobos share 98.5% of their DNA with humans, making them as close to us as a fox is to a dog. They're the least aggressive of all the great apes - they diffuse tension among the group by having sex with each other, rather than fighting or squabbling. Imagine if two people wanted the same parking space on Black Friday and, instead of honking their horns or yelling, they gave each other a quick handie; they'd be a lot calmer afterward, wouldn't they?

Despite that reputation, Koba the bonobo is one of the most violent apes in the movie. According to the backstory of the film, he initially identified more closely with humans than with his fellow apes, but suffered systematic abuse at the hands of a series of different owners/handlers, which turned him bitter and angry. Poor little guy! We're sorry you turned out so bad.

Koba is easily distinguished in the film by the fact that he has a large scar running down his cheek/snout and his eye is cloudy. His skin on-screen was grayish, while here it's dark brown. Bonobos have pink lips (opposed to chimps' black), and while this figure has a pink tongue and gums visible through its open, howling mouth, the lips are the same color as the rest of the face (though we must note again that in the movie, Koba's skin was more grey than tan).

As a result of his time as a test animal, Koba is missing large patches of fur - whether that's because of an alergic reaction during cosmetic testing or due to stress differs based on the source, but this figure tries gamely to duplicate it. The execution is not so great. The figure is molded in the dark grey plastic, and then the bald spots are painted a pinkish-tan above that. But the skin is supposed to look like it's below the fur, right? To really accomplish that they would have had to mold him in skin color and then paint all the hair, which would have been a lot more expensive. I never could find a Koba whose paint I was happy with - it wasn't a case of picking the best, just the least-bad.

Like Caesar, Koba is more stylized than Luca or Maurice. The sculpt is the same as the Series 1 figure, though it's easier to appreciate now that he's not covered in war paint. He was sculpted by Thomas Gwyn, Alex Heinke and Trevor Zammit, and looks excellent - it just needs a super-precise, high-end paint job to look its best, and short of paying $50 for a 6" figure, that's just not going to happen.

Koba's articulation is mostly good, but he has the same badly designed elbows that everybody except the gorilla suffered from: there's a swivel joint, but it's on the wrong side, and so his forearms just rotate in place rather than turning to reach new positions. Dang. The good joints include balljointed ankles, swivel/hinge knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, a balljointed torso, balljointed wrists, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a balljointed head. So basically everything is top-notch, except the weird elbows.

While the Series 1 Koba had a primitive spear, this one has the M249 Paratrooper SAW he stole from humans. Did you know that some chimpanzees, capuchins and macaques have started using stone tools? That means they've entered their own Stone Age! It's still going to be a long time before they can make their own guns. He has extra hands, with the fingers more curled, but the effed-up elbows mean he still can't hold it very well. It's really a shame they didn't include the calm head from Series 1 as well.

Koba takes his name from Joseph Stalin: "Koba" is the Georgian outlaw protagonist of Alexander Kazbegi's 19th century novel The Patricide; the character was an inspiration to Stalin, and he insisted his friends call him that; it continued to be his favorite alias during his revolutionary days, and was how Lenin refered to him in conversation. No surprise, then, that Koba betrayed his friends and his ideals and turned out to be incredibly violent. This isn't the best figure in the Planet of the Apes line, but it's still a NECA product, and finishes off the set of four plain primates.

-- 12/26/15

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