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Bowser, King of the Koopas

World of Nintendo
by yo go re

If we may engage in some light stereotyping for a moment, Japan doesn't like villains. Really doesn't like villains. Bad guys might get shortchanged in US toylines, but they pretty much get shut out entirely in Japan. So while Mario may get the SH Figuarts treatment, you probably shouldn't expect King Koopa to get the same treatment. Jakks Pacific to the rescue!

The sorcerer king holding Princess Toadstool captive in the last castle. He comes at you spitting fire.

Jakks has a line called World of Nintendo, which comprises everything from ½" tall micro-figure dioramas to a 20" rotocast Mario. But of particular interest to us is the 4" lineup, which not only features Mario and Yoshi, but also a Donkey Kong and Bowser that are in scale with them. The packaging on the deluxe figures is boring as hell - it's a giant window box with nothing much in the way of graphics. It's like the kind of box you'd expect a vinyl bank to come in, if they were sold in boxes instead of just by putting a pricetag directly on them.

And honestly, the figure inside the box has the level of detail you'd expect on a bank, too. It's all chunky and rounded and perfectly smooth, with no kind of texturing at all. Look at a render of Bowser: you'll see scales on the green section of his face, stippling on his muzzle and belly, striations on his horns, leathery cracks in the skin on his limbs, tiny little tastebuds on his tongue, and even separate (cartoony) strands in his hair. How much of that does this toy have? None. None of that. He is, in the words of Lana Kane, smoother than a veal cutlet.

Other than the utter lack of appropriate texture, the sculpt of the figure is true to the games: all the shapes are right, from his bushy eyebrows to the spikes on his tail. He has five horizontal segments on his stomach, a flowling mohawk running between the horns that sprout from the sides of his head instead of ears, and spiked bands around his wrists, biceps, and neck. His limbs are tubular, and instead of harsh bends, they just sort of arc gently at the knee and elbow. His snout sticks up higher than the rest of his muzzle, and there's a bump between his eyes. He has six teeth on the top and bottom of his jaw, and of course there are 10 big spikes poking out of the scutes on his massive shell.

The articulation is just as exciting and professional as the sculpt. The fact that the box proudly boasts about the toy's "9 points of articulation!" should tell you what we're going to be dealing with. He has a swivel tail, swivel/hinge hips, swivel/hinge shoulders, hinged elbows, hinged wrists, and a neck joint. What kind of neck joint? We had to dismantle his head in order to figure it out: it's a hinge. A plain, boring, forward-and-back hinge (which actually works out okay, since his hair has to fit into a slot in the edge of his shell). Maybe that's why the packaging says nine joints when the toy actually has 10 (two legs, six in the arms, one in the tail and one in the head).

The head moves forward about two centimeters. The shoulders go about 10°. It's nice that the shoulders swivel, but why don't the wrists do the same? And why, if they were going to skimp out in the movement like this, did they not give him some fireballs to spit at Mario? Even the paint is sub-par - it's all blocks of solid color with no shading or anything, and a lot of the edges are sloppy. most of the spikes on his collars (which are already rounded off to a ridiculous degree) have the black paint showing through.

So we've got an uninspiring sculpt, uninspiring articulation, uninspiring paint, and it's all in an uninspiring package. What, if anything, does this figure have to offer?

His size.

Bowser's hair breaks the 6¼" mark, which isn't particularly daunting, but remember: the Mario this figure is meant to be in scale with is himself 4" tall. And the SH Figuarts Mario is 4" as well: that means for less than the cost of one of Mario's diorama playsets, you can get a giant King Koopa to loom above him! He's like the world's biggest accessory, as big in the X and Y dimensions as he is in the Z.

Even if he is a glorified accessory, the odds that Bandai will make an SH Figuarts King Koopa are extremely low. After all, he may be the final boss in the most famous videogame there is, but he's still a villain. This Jakks Pacific World of Nintendo figure is a decent offering, as long as you're lucky enough to find him at retail ($16.99) - due to the general lack of large Bowsers, this guy is prime scalper bait. But most of all, it's nice to be able to stop using stand-ins when you want mario to have an enemy.

-- 10/12/14

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