For all intents and purposes, my collecting of action figures began with Playmates' original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toyline from the late-80s to mid-90s. Obviously I had many toys previous to that, but I was too young during the Star Wars years to really perceive the concept of a collection and would be a few more years until Playmates' Star Trek toyline became the first thing I consciously sought out every figure of, leaving TMNT somewhere right in between during those beautiful transitional years between naive childhood and psychotic adolescence. It is thus that I have also had a very soft spot for the ol' "Turtles on the Half-Shell" and the toys based on them.
One of my clearest and earliest memories
is standing in line to see the first TMNT film back in 1990 with a belt-bag full of Turtle figures. And while I was ultimately disappointed at that time by the film ("Where is Krang? And Bebop? And Rocksteady? And why isn't Casey Jones wearing his mask? And where's the Turtle-Van?" were the complaints filling my juvenile Animated TMNT-riddled mind) time has passed, the Ninja Turtles have become a hit property again and this spring will see the release of an all-new CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie; one that is, again, not in continuity to the popular animated TV show, but promises to entertain and engage the entire gamut of TMNT fandom.
Silent, stealthy, and skilled in the ancient fighting techniques of ninjitsu, the sinister Foot Ninja have long been a thorn in the sides of Splinter and the TMNT. Now, under the leadership of the Shredder's daughter, Karai, the Foot have returned, deadlier than ever!
I am an obsessive "Army Builder" and I can trace the roots of that back to the original Foot Ninja as he was the first toy I can recall wanting two of because he was a faceless soldier. However, while each incarnation of TMNT, and thereby the Foot, has been variations of a theme,
there hasn't been a particular design for these evil "Red Shirts" that has been particularly frightening or threatening – until now. This design is a sort of mish-mash of old and new; old-style ninja garb with modern chest armor. More over, the slightly angled head and red eyes, which could just as easily be colored lenses as generic "evil eyes," has a more timeless and generically threatening look to it that really helps to suggest that these ninjas actually mean harm and could actually hurt the Turtles. The film's design has applied a very stylized, hyper-caricatured aesthetic for the humans, but while certain characters just look kind of goofy, the slender limbs really tend to work for the Foot and for ninjas in general. Fact.
The sculpt of this figure is pretty solid and on model – I have no real complaints here. This line marks a departure for Playmates and for the TMNT property as the figures are in 6" scale (most if not all TMNT figures have been 5" scale previously) with the Foot Ninja standing at 6¼".
Paint is also pretty good, though definitely not great. One should expect to compare figures in the store to find one with the least amount of bleed and mistakes. Accessories are surprisingly plentiful allowing for lots of variation for those such as myself planning on getting multiples. Included are a sort of odd looking pointy sword, a ninja-scythe (or evil hockey stick, as the case may be), a particularly cool bladed shield and one of the better katana swords I've seen in any mass-market toyline. The shield's handle even has a swivel point of articulation allowing for multiple positioning and the figure has a nice sheath permanently affixed to his back for the katana. In fact the only problem with the figure is the articulation.
Ever since Playmates began doing TMNT figures again a few years ago the number one complaint across the board of their product was articulation. While they eventually began folding in extra points on the Turtles over the years, all the other characters continued to suffer. I had really hoped things would be different with this new movie line, especially after seeing the bigger scale, because the film (and even the toy line, if the "grittier" card design is any indication) is being targeted to an older generation (the filmmaker's are saying that their two main demographics are 7-11 and 18-25) and the stylized designs for the characters provide lots of room to "hide" articulation. However immobility still runs rampant.
The Foot Ninja has a swivel neck, swivel shoulders, swivel biceps, swivel wrists, swivel waist, balljoint hips, and hinged knees.
Twelve points all told and while that's more articulation than a typical series of figures from the TV show, it still leaves a lot to be desired. The character is almost designed for balljointed shoulders and even a Marvel Legends style chest-hinge would hide perfectly along the armor. What I'm basically getting at is that whats here is more effective for play than for posing, which is frustrating to me because I imagine any kid would have more fun with balljointed shoulders than balljointed hips. I just can't help but see great places for more articulation of this figure that would be totally unobtrusive to the design of the character. However, in today's world of falling toy sales and rising production costs companies must be much, much more choosey in their decisions – I just feel that those Playmates made here favor one side of their demographic far more that catering to everyone's best interests. Heckm I'd even happily give up one of the four accessories (at most the Ninja can only ever hold three) for a balljointed head or other additional point of articulation.
Ultimately, though, in the scheme of things this is just splitting hairs. This is still a pretty cool figure that singly practically outshines everything Playmates has done for the current TV show. The line for this new movie looks pretty darn good and Playmates has definitely gotten very much behind the film by producing quite a large array of characters and figures to support it. If you're a TMNT fan or just a casual toy buyer this figure is worth picking up.
What's your favorite version of the Foot Soldiers? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.