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Silver Samurai

by yo go re

And so, once again we see that the surest way for a mutant to keep their powers after M-Day is to have everyone forget they're a mutant.

The Silver Samurai is no ordinary warrior. He wields an ancient samurai blade and commands an army of ninjas to help carry out his evil plans. Born a mutant, he can channel energy into his sword, making it one of the most powerful weapons in the world!

This figure is part of the excedingly sad tie-in toyline for 2013's Wolverine movie. Sure, there were the Marvel Legends, but they were only available through Previews, not in stores. If you shop in places where real people shop, and you wanted some toys based on Hugh Jackman at his huge and most jacked, man, then your only choice was this line of plastic rejects. They were even nominated for "Worst of the Year" in the ToY Awards, which probably explains why you can now get them for about the cost of a fast food sandwich at discount retailers everywhere.

This figure, obviously, is not based on the movie version of Silver Samurai - even before the movie opened we could have told you that. But it's not based on the comics, either. Nor is it based on a videogame, or a cartoon, or a trading card or anything else you might expect. No, this fully-licensed action figure released to tie in with a major motion picture... is based on a piece of fan art.

If you look around online, you'll find this art identified as Ultimate Silver Samurai. The thing is, there is no Ultimate Silver Samurai. Neither the codename nor the character (Kenuichio Harada) have appeared in the Ultimate books. The design was created by Mark Brooks as a personal project back in 2004, and though it's apparently been sold as a lithograph, it wasn't an official release. But hey, this isn't the first time Brooks' art has become a Hasbro toy.

Silver Samurai's helmet is removable, though the head beneath it is less than impressive. To begin with, he's totally bald, which on this toy looks less like a tonsorial choice and more like laziness. You know that a samurai's topknot helped hold his helmet on, so to make this one so glabrous screams "mistake." Plus, his facemask is molded as part of the head, leaving us to assume it's been, what, bolted to his face?

The helmet itself is nice. It's got the big, curved plates that protect the back of the neck, and the curly flaps on each side of the face. There's a large tuft of fur or other animal hair poking out the back, and the crest on the front is a combination of stylized antlers, an asymmetrical crescent moon, and a tiny demon face. He's not a subtle man, our Kenuichio.

And that fact becomes even more apparent when you look at his chest. We've seen Hasbro do a 4" samurai figure before, with a historically accurate sculpt. This is not that. Not by a long shot. This is a suit of fantasy armor, not a museum piece. The front plate of his armor is not just some bands of metal or even something shaped to suggest the anatomy beneath: the entire thing is an ornate, stylized oni face, with black eyes over the pectoral muscles, a wrinkled nose in the center of the breastbone, and a black mouth full of fangs over the stomach. The design owes a lot to Darkstalkers' Bishamon (which makes sense, since Mark Brooks was one of the judges in a Capcom art contest on a message board at the time). The rest of the armor is fairly normal, by comparison, and all things considered, the sculpt and molding is all very good.

Less good? The paint. I realize the guy's name is "Silver Samurai," but that's no excuse for just molding him in flat gray and leaving it at that. If ever a figure deserved some vac-metallization, it's this one. Not a lot, maybe just the shoulder and thigh armor, or the crest on the helmet. Accents, you know? At the very least, his armor should be a different color than the cloth beneath it. There's a little bit of that on the shoulders, where the fur trim has a slightly more yellow tint than the rest of the body, but it's not enough. His head is painted pink, but judging by the art, he should have exposed skin on his arms, too. And although the red on his knees and gloves is a nice touch, they missed some spots on his arms.

The articulation is another disappointment. We knew going in that the Wolverine toys would only move at the Big Five, but it still sucks. Better perhaps to get a toy intended to be this way, however, than one like the Shadow Strike Ninja, which was based on one of the best GI Joe figures, but cut down to 5 POA. Yeesh. At this point, the fact that he can successfully hold his sword and wear his helmet feels like a victory.

The Silver Samurai is just like Radioactive Man: Asian. Wait, that sounds racist. What we mean is that, like Radioactive Man, he's not really evil, just someone whose goals don't always mesh with the main characters'. Yes, he's spent a lot of time working as a mercenary and as Viper's bodyguard, and he started out fighting Daredevil, but he's also been the leader of Big Hero 6 and helped raise Wolverine's adopted daughter. He's a complicated character, and if this design had been made into a figure in a different toyline, it might have actually been good.

-- 12/08/14

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