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Joel and Ellie

Last of Us Part II
by yo go re

Now, I'm not responsible for a multi-million-dollar company, and it's always easy to "armchair" these things, but: if it were me? I would have tried to get my toys out before the wildly popular, critically acclaimed television series focused a ton of new public attention onto the property.

Decades after the Cordyceps infection ravaged America, ruthless factions and Infected present a constant threat to survivors. Rugged smuggler Joel is tasked with escorting teenager Ellie to safety. Although Joel is traumatized by his past, their brutal cross-country journey gives him "something to fight for."

This set is based on the game, not the TV show, obviously: we're still a while away from getting a "Part II" of the HBO show. Hopefully when we do, Joel will still be... up to par? This figure shows Joel in his standard outfit: blue jeans, a blue button-up shirt, and a tan leather jacket. What, you couldn't find a jean jacket anywhere, Joel, go for the full Canadian tuxedo? This isn't the most iconic outfit in the world, but this is Naughty Dog, the company that made "henley and khakis" into one of the most recognizable characters around. Also "board shorts and giant red sneakers" (but that one had other factors working in its favor, as well). Everything is sculpted with great rumpled details, and the paint makes the clothes look old and worn.

Joel was voiced not by Nolan North, but by the other "the only guy who does any male videogame voices," Troy Baker. Though he did performance capture for the role, the character wasn't designed to look like him - Joel is in his 50s, and had to split the difference between ruthless and caring, a look this toy duplicates very nicely. The paint even captures the scraggly beard growing down his throat.

His articulation is usual NECA fare: ankles, kness, thighs, hips, waist, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, and head. The elbows are the double-swivel/hinge type, which looks fine on this figure since the sleeves of his jacket make the arms thick enough to carry it off. The joints mean he'll look good holding weapons two-handed, as well. The set includes a whole bunch of things, with no indication which are for Joel and which are for Ellie, since they work together and can trade back and forth as needed. We do get two right hands for him, one with the trigger finger extended and one without, and two lefts shaped for different accessories.

5 years later, Joel and Ellie settle in Jackson, Wyoming. When a harrowing incident rattles their community, Ellie embarks on a relentless journey for justice and closure. The dangers she encounters aren't her only obstacles; she also must grapple with the repercussions of her actions.

Given the choice, most people would have preferred the Last of Us Part I figures over Part II, because the teeny 14-year-old killer is more iconic than her older incarnation. Plus, we'd be able to see her bite scar, instead of just the tattoo she got to cover it. While her trademark color in the first game was red, for the sequel she's switched to an unbottoned blue shirt over a gray tee and black jeans. Her clothes are given paint apps to make them look dirty and bloody, and the sculpt gives a lot of threadbare places and small rips and tears. This is quite clearly someone who has been wearing the same things for a long time, and living a hard life while doing so. The packaging credits the sculpt to Djordje Djokovic and Trevor Grove; we're going to guess that Djordje did the bodies, and Trevor did the portraits.

Ellie got redesigned during the first game's production, because her first model looked too much like Elliot Page. Like, it was announced Page was going to be playing a character in a game, then trailers for Last of Us came out and clearly had Page's face, so everybody assumed that was the game. But no, their game was Beyond: Two Souls, and Naughty Dog rightly redesigned Ellie to look more distinct. Aging up five years for this game allowed them to differentiate further, even going so far as to work some features from voice actress Ashley Johnson into the new model.

Because Ellie is wearing a short-sleeved shirt, she just gets single swivel/hinge elbows. Well, they're supposed to swivel, at least: the biceps swivel as well, so having the elbows repeat that range of motion is kind of pointless. In fact, the arms turn so well, I haven't even bothered to get the elbows unstuck, because they're not needed. Other than that, the articulation here is comparable to Joel's. Where he only got two extra hands, she gets three, including one specifically to draw back her bowstring.

We can assume some of the accessories belong solely to Ellie: her backpack, the bow and four arrows, the scoped rifle, and her sounded machete. That leaves a Taurus Model 66 revolver, a Browning Hi-Power pistol, a Remington 870 shotgun, a straight machete, an axe, a switchblade, and a shiv. Again, some of those may be more identified with Joel, but either character can use them. Ellie can wear her backpack, or carry it by the strap, and the zipper is open slightly so the arrows can be slipped inside. Too bad they didn't include a guitar for her play. Though that would have required one more alternate hand.

I waited and waited for this set to be released, looking for it every time I went shopping - so imagine how nice (and yet also confusing) it was to see it listed on Big Bad Toy Store's weekend sale recently. A thing I would have paid full price for if I had the opportunity, marked down? Yes please! It seems likely NECA went for the Part II license over Part I because there would be one more human character of note worth making a toy of, though there's certainly been no word about them joining the club yet. Also, wouldn't the zombies be right up NECA's monster-loving alley? None of them, either. For now, I've got Joel and Ellie fighting Left 4 Dead Boomer and Smoker. Hopefully NECA does some more with the license, and this two-pack isn't the last of them.

-- 10/29/23

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