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GI Joe Classified Series
by yo go re

Welcome to Generation 4.

Snake-Eyes is a total mystery, but when it comes to GI Joe operations, he's the best there is. Snake-Eyes is a natural fighter with abilities that border on the supernatural. His unique blend of skill, stealth, Arashikage ninja training, and strength of character makes him an unparalleled combination: a hybrid ninja-commando who still hasn't reached the limits of his potential or his true destiny as a warrior.

Wow, that's some impressive claptrap, isn't it? Remember, for comparison, that a typical Snake-Eyes filecard used to talk about the sort of training he had, or what he was doing before recruitment - it was the fans who made him popular, and it was only later that the official info started treating him like he was super-special awesome. But here we are in the year of our sourdough bread 2020, and the official copy from Hasbro's site (since there isn't any on the packaging itself) is going out of its way to present him as a beatific wonder who merely graces us lowly mendicants with his presence. Are we still operating under the assumption that Hawk is the one writing all these personnel reports? Because if so, just ask the guy out on a date already, Abernathy, save us all some time!

Hasbro didn't waste any time bothering with Snake-Eyes' "commando" look, going straight for "ninja" - in other words, this toy has his slatted visor, not a pair of goggles. The four small slits sculpted over the mouth suggest the mask is firmer than just cloth, and there are thick seams running over the top of the head and a frame along the jaw.

Snakes' design has not been substantially changed for his inclusion in the Classified Series - when your initial design directive was "wears black," it's easy to maintain that look no matter what you're wearing. Like Scarlett, Snake-Eyes takes some cues from the Resolute design, with regular pants but a shirt that looks like molded body armor. He has some additional armor on his shins, knees, forearms, and shoulders, but it's just normal stuff, not the futuristic kind seen on Duke and other figures. He has two belts around his waist, and while there's a bit of a harness sculpted around his shoulders, there's also a free-floating strap with three molded grenades slung around his chest. The oddest thing is that the little ouches strapped to his biceps are separate pieces, not part of the sculpt.

While the normal Snake-Eyes is completely black, this exclusive gets more paint apps. Like, the shirt is black, but the harness and straps are a dark, brown-tinted grey. His visor is silver. The forearm guards are held in place by brown straps. His belts match the bandolier and holsters, his kneepads look like brushed steel, and his grey pants have sections that are matte and sections that are gloss. They even bothered to paint the bumps on the knuckles of his gloves. By Snake-Eyes standards, this is very colorful!

According to the website info, Snake-Eyes is 6'0". The toy is a little over 6⅛", which we can only assume means the heels of his boots are 1½" thick. He moves like a ninja master should, with a balljointead head, hinged and balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders on pectoral hinges, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, hinged chest, balljointed waist, hips that are a balljointed mounted on a hinge, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel shins, and swivel/hinge ankles. The hips and waist are a little loose on my figure, but only "might move if you bump them too hard" loose, not "won't let him stand up" loose.

In the package (a box identical to the normal release, just done all in black and grey, with silver foil logos) with him you'll find a backpack, a pistol with removable silencer, a curved knife, a sword and scabbard, his classic Uzi, and two alternate hands: one flat for chopping (with climbing claws in the palm), the other molded holding a throwing star. The knife can sheathe on his left leg, while the holster on his right has separate spaces for the gun and silencer. The backpack is the same color as the gear he's wearing, with silver buckles. The sword's scabbard (which has grey leather around the center and a red Arashikage symbol) plugs into the side, but it's backwards: the blade edge should point away from the body, not toward it, or he's going to have to flip the sword around every time he draws it.

So that's all that's in the box. But this is a fancy exclusive, and that normal-sized box is inside a bigger box, held in place by foam strips. Next to it, you'll find even more accessories! There's a spear, two axes, a pair of sais, a sword with a long curved blade, two sickles, and a straighter sword. Those are all in cutouts in the foam above an ornate weapons rack: it's black and tan, with sculpted wolves sitting on either side of it; one side has bars representing the Arashikage hexagram, with hooks where you can hang the weapons, while the other side features a bas-relief scene of two oni jumping about. And of course, each of the beige stripes reads 嵐 (arashi, storm) on one end, and 影 (kage, shadow) on the other. It really is a beautiful piece!

And truly, so is the set's overall packaging. We already talked about the "normal" box, the greyscaled version of the standard Classified boxes, but two of it would be able to fit inside the outer box. The big box is utterly black, but embossed with a design featuring an oni's face and a snarling wolf's head. A shiny red banner in the upper left corner reads スネ|クアイズ (Sune | kuaizu), when it should really say スネークアイズ (sunēkuaizu). That's a minor difference, and the intention is still clear - it's Japanese for "Snake-Eyes." I'm not fluent (or literate) in Japanese, but I'm just going to take a wild guess that the spacer between "Snake" and "Eyes" is vertical instead of horizontal because that's the direction the text is running? That seems like a logical grammatical rule.

When you open the lid, there's an art print featuring a less stylized version of the oni/wolf design. It looks more like an actual drawing, and frankly is pretty cool looking. I could legitimately see getting a frame for it and hanging it on the wall. The outer box has a slipcover with the GI Joe logo on it, and the tray behind the figure in the smaller box replicates the wolf art yet again.

This set was released exclusively via Hasbro Pulse, and while it was the first thing offered from this new series, it's taken a little while to ship. This does feel like it was intended to be an SDCC exclusive: coming out earlier than the normal line, with extra paint apps and big fancy packaging? That's a Comic-Con recipe! Then when Hasbro realized San Diego wasn't happening this year, he moved to their website instead. Whatever the case, he's a cool toy, and different enough from the standard release to be identifiable as an exclusive even out of his packaging. We might have pushed things a little further, adding a variant "goggles" head instead of just the visor, and we'd really have liked to see this come with his wolf, Timber, especially since wolves feature so heavily in the artwork.

-- 08/07/20

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