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Pacific Rim
by yo go re

It's time to say goodbye to one of the biggest surprises in recent memory.

This is, sadly, NECA's final Pacific Rim toy. Nineteen Jaegers, 11 kaiju, five vinyl minis, an 18" line and one rubber baby buggy bumper monster. It's been a hell of a line, and one of the most successful ones NECA had running. But now the license is expiring (it has been more than three years since the movie came out, after all), and they're going out on a high note with Hardship.

You may remember that Hardship was one of the kaiju included in the chibi set - it was only seen in the film's prologue, fighting Romeo Blue in some undisclosed location at night. We're told (or at least it's indicated) that the kaiju categories keep increasing, yet Hardship uses the same basic body as the Category IV Mutavore - in fact, this specific design was the original concept for Mutavore, just repurposed for a cameo in the opening montage.

Logically, this toy uses most of the same body as NECA's Mutavore. The torso, bony arm spikes, thighs and shins are shared, as are the tiny, hooked limbs poking out of the chest like a cross between Gigan and an Alien Queen. The rest of the bodyparts are similar, yet distinct: the toenails are curved (and don't have a spike coming off the back of the foot); there's a single tapering tail rather than a scissor-like pair; and of course, Hardship's back has a big shell rather than the weird blade-thing Mutavore sported.

Hardship's inspirational animal is a rhinoceros beetle. During development, the design was codenamed "Bladehead," so at one point it would have been this big long horn that broke through the Anti-Kaiju Wall, rather than something that looked like an anthropomorphized Sydney Opera House. Harship has two eyes on each side of its head, and a pair of nostrils higher up along its horn. Like Otachi, its jaw opens in two sections, and has a bit of an underbite when closed. There's a squarish chin, and large bone spurs coming off the corners of the mandibles. Hardship's lower face was seen clearer than the rest of it in the film, because it was also used to represent Hundun, the kaiju that attacked Manila.

The figure has plentiful articulation, because NECA wasn't about to stop now. Hardship has balljointed toes; swivel/hinge ankles and knees; balljointed hips; a balljointed waist (it's hard to get moving, but trust us); balljointed shoulders and swivel/hinge elbows on the little arms; balljointed shoulders, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge elbows and wrists on the big arms; a balljointed neck; hinged head; and balljointed jaws. The head hinge runs side-to-side, allowing Hardhip to look around rather than just tipping or raising its head.

While Mutavore looked best in a horizontal posture, Hardship seems better standing more upright. Either way, the figure includes a stand to help keep it from falling over - just a clear disc with a hinged arm, and a Y-shaped prong to rest the figure's chest against.

So, why did I choose Hardship over Mutavore? Well, primarily because my Toys Я Us never got Mutavore, so Hardship was the first one of them I ever saw, but I'd already decided that I wanted Hardship more. Yes, Mutavore was a more important kaiju in the film, but Hardship is more colorful. After six series of nothing but grey monsters, Hardship's bone-colored horn, yellow tattoos, and brown and purple body was just too appealing to pass up! If you open the mouth, you even see a flash of a bright green tongue.

I will remain forever disappointed that NECA was unable to get us an Onibaba or Raiju figure, but after a rocky start, the Pacific Rim line turned into something amazing. If we ever do another "Top 10" list like this one, Pacific Rim had darn well better be on it. Hardship is a wonderful capper for the line, and is actually good enough that I'm considering going backward for a Mutavore, as well.

-- 09/11/16

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