|B u y t h e t o y s , n o t t h e h y p e .|
by yo go re
First things first - no, this isn't Rocksteady!
There has long been a relationship between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Usagi Yojimbo. Even before the Turtles became a mass-media marketing goldmine, they were well acquainted with the rabbit bodyguard, so it made sense that he was one of the characters they invited to share the spotlight with them, featuring him as a guest star both on the old cartoon and the new version, and making Usagi action figures both times the line was popular. This time, however, the respect goes even deeper - this time they're showing love to one of Usagi's supporting characters, as well: the bounty hunter rhinoceros, Murakami Gennosuke.
Most warriors enter the Battle Nexus competition out of a sense of honor, or at least of sport, but not Gen - he's in it for the money! This rhino bounty hunter from 17th century feudal Japan loves to gamble and is taking bets that he will be the champion of the Battle Nexus! Gen (or Gennosuke, as he is called by his friend, the rabbit samurai Usagi Yojimbo) is as full of himself as he is of fighting skills... but watch your back when Gen's around, especially if there's a price on your head!
The whole "Battle Nexus" thing was a storyline in the cartoon that saw the Turtles fighting in a tournament against combatants from throughout history and all across the universe - basically it was the deus ex machina for getting the guys together with all sorts of new weirdos, which is why we're getting a toy of Gen.
Oh, and for the record, that's Gen with a soft g, so it's pronounced "Jen."
In the comics, Gen "befriended" Usagi by conning him into helping kill a group of bandits, then sneaking off with the reward money and literally leaving Usagi holding the bill. It's an unlikely start, but the two are actually quite good friends now - when they're not trying to get back at one another. Because contrasts make for the most interesting stories, Gen and Usagi are as different as night and cheese. Gen is loud, scruffy, underhanded and just looking to line his own pockets - but underneath it all, he's surprisingly loyal and reliable. He's Usagi's Han Solo.
The new Usagi Yojimbo was plagued by a bad action feature, and so is Gen. Like a lot of the Battle Nexus figures, he's held together by a string inside a hollow body. The string is longer than needed to hold the fgure together, so he's loose and limp until you create tension by turning the disc on his back, and suddenly he looks like a normal toy. Hit the button on his chest and he collapses. Or brush against the button. Or look at the button. Or think about the button. Whatever. It releases, he collapses. Plop.
The feature would be fine if it wasn't so very easy to hit that button. Unlike a lot of old toys that had a feature like this, Gen actually has more than one pose, because Playmates found a really clever way to articulate the figure without having any internal pegs: the joints ratchet into place thanks to multi-pointed shapes that have male and female ends. The recesses and ridges are shallow enough that you can turn the pieces without any real trouble, so Gen moves at the neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles. Before you get too impressed, however, remember that those all have the range of motion of peg joints, so all they do is swivel.
Gen has two swords, which causes a bit of a problem. When the swords are in their sheaths, they force his left arm out to the side. It's only a slight move, but it's enough to disrupt the tension in the strings, so plop, there he goes again. If you've got him in a fighting pose - swords drawn, arms raised to attack - he's fine, but when the battle is over, you might have some problems.
Almost every time we review one of these new TMNT figures, we end up saying the same thing: Playmates could have done a lot better with the articulation, and the action feature is unnecessary. But in a time when a lot of companies are hitting big financial troubles and can't seem to get their toys into stores, the Turtles just keep plugging along, so they must be doing something right. As long as Playmates keeps sneaking in obscure indie characters like this, more power to them.
Who's your favorite Usagi Yojimbo character? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.