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GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

Glenda was not the first "international" figure updated for GI Joe's Generation 3 - that honor goes to Ninja-Ku.

Storm Shadow can trace his family history through thirty generations of ninjas. He can scale sheer walls with bare hands and feet, move with blinding speed, and endure unspeakable hardship and pain. Qualified expert: Long bow; Samurai sword; Throwing stars; Nunchaku sticks; 8th degree black belt in five martial arts. As a high-ranking member of the elite and elusive Ninja-Ku clan, he is specially trained to blend in with the shadows and slip past his enemies without ever being detected.

That's the filecard included with this figure, but it's laboring under the delusion that the figure is Storm Shadow, when it's clearly not. The second half of the filecard up there (after the part that's copied directly from the TFAC card) at least pays homage to the real source:

This sinister character is specially trained to move stealthily in the shadows, and, with the speed and ferocity of a cat, can suddenly appear in the most unexpected places. Possessing a superior physique and computerized training, he is a deadly enemy known for his speed and his terrifying cruelty with his dagger and wielding his nunchaku.

Oh hey, that also explains his name: it's a terrible pun! Nuncha-ku, Ninja-Ku... he's named like a '90s Image Comics character, the equivalent of calling him Blayde or Knyfe or Daggyr or even some example that doesn't involve an edged weapon and the letter Y. I kind of got into a rut there. But you get the idea. And if we're to believe that Storm Shadow is the leader of an entire clan of them, maybe they're renowned for their nunchuckery.

The original Argentine Ninja-Ku was a straight repaint of Storm Shadow, so this one is, too. The biggest difference is the skintone: the old one had very dark skin visible through the eyehole in his mask; he nearly looked black. This one is a typically pale guy - not "white," since we're supposed to believe this is Tommy Arashikage under the mask, but certainly melanin-deficient.

One other change? Ninja-Ku's uniform had long sleeves and gloves (or at least had the arms painted black), while on this figure, the sleeves end mid-bicep. There are pointed shoulders on his gi, and the hem arouns his neckline is painted gold, matching the Cobra symbol on his chest and the wraps around his forearms. He has a black belt with two golden shuriken molded in it, black wraps around his shins, and sandals sculpted on his feet. Like we said, it's the exact same mold as 2007's Storm Shadow, but by virtue of being done in black rather than white, it really does look pretty distinct.

Sadly, since he comes with the same accessories as the figure he was repainted from, Ninja-Ku does not have the weapon that gives him his name. He needs nunchuks, guys! He has a bow, and two swords, and a backpack that combines sheaths and a quiver of arrows, and is held onto the figure by a thick black strap (with a golden buckle) wrapped around his torso. He's also got a small dagger that fits in his belt. And yet no nunchucks. The accessories are mostly gold, just like the old toy.

This toy was released in 2008, based on a 2007 mold, so unfortunately it does not have all the articulation we've come to enjoy from later G3 GI Joe releases. Compare this to the "Ultimate" Storm Shadow movie figure to see how far things progressed in just six years. The main differences? The head balljoint doesn't offer as much up-down movement, the elbows don't bend as far, the wrists are just swivels instead of swivel/hinge, and the ankles turn side-to-side instead of rocking. In addition to all that, he has double-hinged knees, balljointed hips, a swivel/hinge torso, and swivel/hinge shoulders, so it's not really a question of quantity - Hasbro just improved their quality as they went along.

When Plastirama released the original Ninja-Ku in 1985, they commissioned their own art for the card, rather than just recoloring the existing Storm Shadow art Hasbro used (similar to what they did when they put out Sokerk). In honor of this repaint's international origins, the packaging not only gets the same "From the GI Joe International Collection" starburst logo that Glenda had, the painting of the character is in the same pose as the '80s release - right down to him swinging the nunchucks that he no longer comes with.

"Ninja-Ku Leader" Storm Shadow is not a terribly impressive toy, especially if you have Storm Shadow - he really is just a black repaint. But the combo of black and gold does look pretty sharp, and as an international homage, he gets some style points.

-- 10/24/14

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