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Thundercats Classic
by yo go re

The Thundercats are back, and from all accounts they're a raging success. Fans like the new cartoon, and Bandai is very happy with the sales of the figures. And perhaps the best barometer (for us) is the truly daunting number of you who have written us asking whether or not we were going to review these. Far be it from us to ignore the demands of the reading public!

Bandai has the Thundercats license, and they're making three separate lines: there's a 4" and a 6" line, both based on the new cartoon, and the "Thundercats Classic" line, based on the vingtage version. So whichever flavor of Thundercats you prefer, there's something out there for you. Naturally, since we're slaves to the past, we're starting with the Classic line.

We've reviewed the original Lion-O before - earlier this year, in fact - so trust us when we say we have a really good sense of how the old toys actually were, not some fuzzy, half-remembered fantasy colored by nostalgia. We may be slaves to the past, but only in concept, not in execution. All things improve with time and technology.

The Classic line is sold in tall, slender packaging with a large window to show off almost the entire figure. The old chrome logo is across the top, and while the majority of the packaging is black or dark teal, the insert behind the figure is bright reddish orange - two colors chosen because they "pop" against each other. Sure, that would usually be lazy design, but since the first two figures released are Lion-O and Tygra, and they both have blue and orange colorschemes, in this case we can forgive it. The figure are held in place by the same kind of plastic connectors that hold tags onto new clothes, which manage to dig into the plastic of the figure and leave marks that will take a while to fade.

Lion-O stands over 8¼" tall, which is truly massive - at least, when compared to other toys. The Thundercats Classics are done in an 8" scale, and it's just his poofy hair that brings him up a little higher. The scale is rather disappointing - as we keep reiterating, being able to integrate your toys matters! Ever wanted to stage a fight between Lion-O and He-Man? Well, you can't. You can pit him against Snake-Eyes... as long as it's the Sigma 6 version you're talking about. A 6" scale would have been preferable, or even the otherwise-unused 7" scale of MOTU Classics, but if Mattel's taught us anything, it's that even oversized figures look okay once there are enough of them standing around together.

The sculpt on this figure owes a lot to the Four Horsemen: the overall shapes of the muscles and the general proportions (like those super-wide, round shoulders) make Lion-O look aesthetically similar to the Mo2K lineup, though the details are more rounded and less blocky. There aren't a lot of extraneous details: there's no sort of texture on the costumey areas, nor anything but the broadest evidence of anatomy; this isn't a figure that's covered in fur, or has veins running over his muscles or any of that. It's just a nice, decently detailed action figure, strongly influenced by the animation rather than the toy.

Something you'll notice about the figure is that he appears very shiny, very "plasticy." Yes, the effect exists, but it's not as strong as it appears in our photos or in the store. Once you get him home and have him under incandescent light, you'll barely notice it. The paint is fine, though with no shading and mostly raised edges, there's not a lot to get wrong. Me, I went for the best face.

The figure's real strength is the articulation. This guy has all the joints you'd want, plus some innovation, too. He has a swivel head and hinged neck, which doesn't quite equal the range of motion a balljoint would provide, but is close enough. The arms are more typical: swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, and swivel/hinge/swivel wrists. His torso has a slight hinge joint, and a fully balljointed waist. The hips are swivel/hinge joints, the thighs swivel, and he has double-hinged knees. Finally, there are swivels hidden by the boot tops, and his ankles are hinged rocker joints. Tons of mobility!

In typical Bandai style, all the hinge joints have exposed caps, so they're rather blatant. Plus, the interior of the wrist and ankle joints are molded in orange, rather than cream and blue (respectively), so they don't blend in even a little bit. Obviously all the joints were batch molded alongside the arms and legs. Speaking of the legs, though, there's a really cool bit of design in the thig joints: in order to help "hide" the joint, the rectus femoris (largest individual muscle in the quadriceps) rises up above the swivel, partially obscuring it. It doesn't work perfectly, but it's something no one's ever tried before, and that has to count for a bit.

Lion-O has all the accessories you'd want, as well. He comes with the Sword of Omens, as any Lion-O figure absolutely must. It's nearly 6" long, but it's made from such soft PVC that you can literally tie the blade in a knot; wouldn't recommand it, but you can. And he has his Claw Shield, the golden glove he wears on his left hand - even the original had that, so we'd be moving backwards if he didn't! It's removable, and you can hang it from his hip, just as in the cartoon (there's a blue bit that plugs into his hip and has a balljoint at the end for the glove itself). There's a compact version of the Sword of Omens, and the Claw Shield has a slot perfectly sized for storage. Finally, there are two extra hands: a right hand, shaped to hold the sword(s), and a left hand, for when you don't want the Claw Shield on.

The Thundercats Classics are expensive figures - they're $20 at Toys Я Us, which gives a bit of a sticker shock the first time you see it. This is another area where a smaller figure would have helped. Put Lion-O in a normal scale, and he'd still be expensive, but not as much. That said, this is a killer figure, with a lot of playability and a great look. Maybe wait for a sale, or a coupon, but don't let Lion-O pass you by entirely.

-- 09/10/11

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