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by yo go re

Here's to stick-to-it-ive-ness!

Mankind's two ultimate nightmares come together in mortal combat, and whoever wins - we lose. On the remote planet Ryushi, a small ranching community becomes an unwilling participant in a deadly ritual: extraterrestrial Predators have seeded Ryushi with Alien eggs in order to create the ultimate hunt. But what the Predators don't know is that an Alien queen egg is amongst those they've sent as potential hunting stock, and when the Predators arrive, the hunters become the hunted amidst a monumental swarm of Aliens, and they may need to turn to the very same humans they regard as little more than potential trophies to give them any hope of survival.

Machiko Noguchi first appeared in the initial Aliens vs. Predator series from Dark Horse Comics. The administrator of the Chigusa Corporation's Prosperity Wells colony, she had just started her job when the two species attacked. She managed to survive the assault and impressed the Predators' leader, Broken Tusk, who marked her as an honorary member of the tribe.

There's been a Machiko figure before, from Hot Toys, but that was 1) as expensive as it was attractive, and B) not really representative of the character from the comics, but rather an original amalgam design. But if there's one thing we can count on NECA for, it's devotion to the source material. Thus, this is Machiko almost exactly as she appeared in the prequel to 1995's Aliens vs. Predator: War. We say "almost" because the comic art showed fishnets on her arms as well as her legs - otherwise, it's spot-on.

The figure is, of course, a new sculpt. NECA can have all the parts it wants in its Predator library, but none of them would be appropriate for a short Japanese lady. The work was done by David Silva, who did a terrific job adapting Chris Warner's art into solid plastic. If you look at her for too long, you'll start to wonder where the Preds got armor to fit a small human - they certainly didn't seem to respect her enough to spend time forging armor for her, and yet, here she is in it. She's got all the parts of a normal suit of Predator armor - shins, waist/outer thighs, forearms, shoulders/outer biceps - but also a full metal bodice to preserve her modesty. The shapes of the pieces definitely look like they come from the same design lineage as the other Preds we've seen, just scaled down to human size (and shaped to fit over boobs).

In order to attempt to fit in with the Predator culture, Machiko started wearing her hair in dreadlocks and wearing a specially crafted bio-mask. It's golden, with orange eyes, and is as related to the shapes of a human face as a normal mask is to a Predator face: so instead of a box over the mouth to make room for mandibles, there's a bump to make room for a nose. It ends up looking very feline, honestly.

The mask is removable, meaning we can see all the tech detailing inside it, and also that we can see Machiko's face. The facial features look appropriately Asian, and she has a sculpted scar on her forehead, as given to her by Broken Tusk. The sculpt here seems to owe more to the art of Rick Leonardi from Three World War, but it's still clearly Machiko.

We get really nice paint via Jon Wardell and Geoffrey Trapp. As usual, the fishnets are sculpted, so we're counting on the factory's ability to get the black paint apps to line up perfectly, but the few Machikos I've seen in person all looked pretty good in that regard. Her armor is metallic gray with a few bits of brown leather for the belt, gloves, the straps holding her elbow pads on, and the spats on her feet. Since the comic came out in the '90s, the coloring of the time turned her armor purple - in other words, NECA could get a little more mileage out of these molds by doing a "comic version" in the future. There are dark orange beads in her hair, and in addition to fashioning special armor for their new human pet, the Predators apparently also stopped at Space-Target to pick her up some eyeliner.

Machiko has lots of articulation, which is good. She has hinged toes, balljointed ankles, double-hinged knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, a balljointed waist and a balljointed torso, swivel/hinge wrists, double-hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a balljointed head. Additionally, the plasma caster on her shoulder has a hinge where it meets the backpack and a balljoint for the blue gun itself. On the first Machiko I got, that balljoint sheared off as soon as I tried to move it; on this one, the hinge was loose and floppy until I manually pushed the pin in further. So this isn't perfect, but considering there aren't going to be that many opportunities to reuse her pieces, NECA didn't skimp at all.

Beyond the mask and the shoulder gun (which, by the way, are meant to plug together: there are two wires on the side of the mask that are supposed to fit into the back of the gun; there are holes back there, but they're slightly too large to have the wires stay in place by themselves, and I don't want to glue them in), Machiko has the extendable wristblades on her right arm, a big blue and silver Predator rifle, and an alternate right hand to cradle said gun. Not a lot of pieces - especially since she's so small compared to the Predators themselves - but once again, we point out the expense of a completely new mold. This is also a case where "accuracy uber alles" can be a downside, because admit it: Hot Toys' "Alien head-dome shield" was an amazingly cool piece and would have been awesome here as well.

Machiko has been a long time coming. Back when the Lost Tribe was still coming out, we asked NECA about the chances of doing a Machiko, but they said no. A few years later, the answer had changed to "she's popular, so the idea isn't off the table." Then it was "we want to, if there's room in the schedule." And now at last, she exists. There's a reason this girl was nominated as Toy of the Year.

-- 01/03/19

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