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by yo go re

In the '80s, most kids cartoons followed a strict formula: not in the storytelling (okay, that too, but it's not what we're talking about), but in team structure. TV Tropes has an entire page about it. There were all sorts of male characters, but there'd only be one woman. While it might seem nice that they're including a female character at all, it raises a different kind of problem: while the boys can all have unique personalities and skills, the girl's personality ends up just being "girl." Modern shows still suffer from a bit of this, but at least they try to make the women more interesting.

Cheetarah is an expert fighter whose duty is to protect Lion-O and the Sword of Omens at any cost.

That bio is brief, but already it underscores the differences between classic Cheetara and modern Cheetara. In the '80s, she could run fast and had some kind of vague psychic powers, but her role on the team was basically act like the mom and keep the boys from getting into too much trouble; in the new cartoon, she's has all that, but she's also the civilization's last surviving warrior cleric and easily the best fighter among the main group. She's not infallible, though: she makes mistakes and is in several ways naive. But the fact remains that in any sensible world, she'd be leading the team, not just acting as a mentor.

Bandai is offering both 4" and 6" figures based on the new Thundercats cartoon, but there's a larger, more complete character selection available in the small size, so impatient fans may want to go with that. Fans like us! Cheetara stands 4⅛" tall to the top of her little cowlick. The particular idiosyncrasies of the way Bandai designs its figures are all present here, including a shiny, plasticky finish and joints cast in a wholly inappropriate color. But you can see all that looking through the blister, so it's not like we can act surprised or indignant.

The sculpt is decent, considering the size of the figure. Her face is a little too flat, but they actually sculpted the brown spots in her hair. The edges of her costume are all sculpted, and they even gave her a few tufts of fur on her arms and legs. The only bad part of the sculpt are her hands: they're weirdly long and curve in a most unnatural manner.

The paint leaves a lot to be desired. As we said above, Cheetara is a very glossy figure, as most Bandia products are. Most of the paint chosen to cover that plastic is high-gloss, as well, so at least the look is mostly consistent. However, her outfit is mostly brown, when it should have been closer to orange. Additionally, the dark yellow of her body is inconsistent across parts: for the record, her feet, legs, waist and arms should all be the same color, but as it is, they didn't even get the colors to match on the biceps, elbows and forearms; on one stretch of exposed arm, you've got three different tones.

Cheetara's articulation is merely okay. We've seen better on figures in this scale, but then again, we've also seen worse. Much, much worse. Her head doesn't move, because of her long hair, but she has swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, V-crotch, swivel thighs, swivel boots and hinged knees. The extra swivel in the thigh is angled to counteract the V-hips: they allow the legs to point straight ahead instead of splaying out to the sides when you raise them. But we have to ask, why no wrist joints? The bracelets would hide them completely, and it would make it easier for her to hold her 3⅞" staff.

Bandai doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to making toys of female characters. Remember the Power Rangers? The teams of both boys and girls? It's not unusual for only the males to be turned into figures, completely missing the point. Thus, the fact that Cheetara got a toy in the first assortment of figures is a small victory in itself. When compared to Hasbro's 4" lines, there's definitely room for improvement, but she's pretty well made and fun to play with. That's a success in our book.

-- 11/17/11

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