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Super Mario

SH Figuarts
by yo go re

Here we go!

The only one who can reverse the spell that has captured the Mushroom People is Princess Peach. But Princess Peach is hidden underground, in a far-off castle. Ah, the days of peace... if we could once more return to those days... to save Princess Peach and bring peace back to the Mushroom Kingdom, that is why Mario is on his journey today.

I bet you didn't know there were lyrics to that song, did you? Shigeru Miyamoto designed Mario to be a generic character capable of starring in any kind of game, which is why everybody's favorite plumber has also been a carpenter, a doctor, a demoltions expert, a pilot, a submariner, a bombardier, a cement factory foreman, a boat captain, a tennis player, a tennis umpire, a juggler, an archaeologist, a hunter, a pinball, a treasure diver, a chef, a toymaker, a soccer player, a driver, an ape handler, a golfer, a referee, a basketball player, a baseball player, an artist, a theme park owner, and probably much much more. And yet he's rarely ever been an action figure. There are the K'Nex, and the Mario Kart 64 figures ToyBiz released in 2002... but that's it. Finally, from Japan, comes our salvation.

The D-Arts line that brought us Mega Man and Mega Man X is no more. Bandai retired the name, merging the videogame characters (the "D" stood for "digital") into the SH Figuarts line. So we're still getting the same quality toys, they've just got a different name down in the corner.

As you're probably well aware, Mario's original design was based on the hardware limitations of the time: he wore a hat because it meant they didn't have to animate hair, and he had a mustache so they didn't have to worry about his mouth. The art has evolved over the years, but the features are still there, and this toy duplicates the modern style well. They didn't bother giving him alternate faces, since "aggressively upbeat" is his default look (but if they don't give the inevitable future Luigi alternate murder eyes, we riot).

Even Mario's famous overalls were a result of graphical constraints: by making his arms a different color from the rest of his body, they didn't get "lost" as they moved. Originally, his overalls were red and his shirt was blue: these days the colors are reversed (something that didn't happen in an official Nintendo release until Super Mario Bros. 2), and so that's what the toy gives us. His head is a third of his entire height, then his portly little belly is another ⅓, and then finally his legs. He's wearing white gloves with three raised lines on the backs of the hands, has round brown shoes with tan soles, and big yellow buttons on his straps. There isn't a ton of sculptural detail here, but Mario's design doesn't warrant it: you don't want his coveralls to have a real denim texture or anything, you know? A simple seam down the outside of the legs and a bit of a folded cuff at the top of the shoes is enough.

When we said K'Nex and ToyBiz were the only companies to make Super Mario toys, that wasn't quite accurate: there are definitely a lot of other figures out there, but most of them are unarticulated PVC (PopCo Entertainment, we're looking at you). Bandai knows what it's doing, though, so the SH Figuarts line is always excellently articulated. Mario has a balljointed head, hinged neck (although, it must be said, his design places his head so close to his chest that those joints are nearly useless), balljointed shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, T-crotch, balljointed hips, hinged knees, and double-balljointed ankles. The T-crotch is designed to work with the seams on his pants, so it almost looks seamless (no pun intended). You can get all sorts of fun Mario poses, but there is one flaw: his arms are so short and his head is so large that you can't actually raise his hands up high enough to punch a block above him. The games must cheat this a little bit.

Appropriately, since Mario is only about 4" tall, he comes with a few accessories, including a block for him to punch! It's a Question Mark Block, 1⅜" in every direction, and the eroteme is a raised element (while the rivets in the corners are sunken). Since you can get a few different things out of question block, the other accessores are some of those things: a Super Mushroom (even though, since Mario is already at his maximum size, the block would have spit out a Fire Flower instead) and a golden coin. The coin is vac metallized, annoyingly, but it does include a clear plastic stand to keep it from laying flat on the ground.

Mario isn't available at the mass market, which is a shame. Yes, you can order him through the Previews catalog, which is super handy, but imagine if you could just walk into Toys Я Us and pick one up. This is easily the best Mario toy there's ever been.

-- 06/22/14

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