TMNT Usagi Yojimbo & Dr. Malignus

UsagiMOC MalignusMOC
There were two stragglers for the fifth wave of Ninja Turtle figures. Since they hadn't hit shelves yet when I wrote my review of the other figures, they missed the boat. But I think it's time to go back and rectify that. So today I'll be taking a look at Usagi Yojimbo and Dr. Malignus.

Packaging - 6/10

Both of these figures have the standard packaging for the basic TMNT figures. The figures are nicely displayed in the bubble with their accessories around them. The TMNT logo is at the bottom with the figure's name and action feature in the circle to the left. The four Turtle's heads at the top of the card make it easy to spot the secondary characters even on pegs filled with figures. The biggest drawback to the packaging is still the ugly background design and with smaller figures like these, it becomes even more visible. The backs of the cards haven't changed in design either. The figure is pictured with its various features pointed out. Several of the other figures in the wave are displayed on the right side, though there are so many figures being released in each wave that they can't fit all of them. And there is the usual file card at the bottom. Aside from that same ugly background, I do like these cards. I can't wait for the new ones starting in 2005 that appear to do away with that background.

Sculpting - Usagi 4/10, Dr Malignus 6/10

Both of these figures are well sculpted and reflect the cartoon pretty well, better than most of the Turtle figures themselves actually. Dr. Malignus is a great representation of how he appear though out most of the Turtle Titan episode, though that is not a very exciting look. I wish Playmates had come up with a better way to represent the hose connections on the figure though. In the show, there are cables which hook up to Malignus' forehead, forearms and thighs. The cables are not present on the figure which is understandable, but rather than design a connector for the toy or just leave them off, Playmates just cut circles into the figure where the cables would have connected. The end result didn't turn out very well. Dr. Malignus looks like he passed out at a party and people were sitting their drinks on him... without coasters. A removable helmet to reveal his head would have been cool as well, but since his helmet stayed on in the episode, it's understandable that it stays on the figure as well.

Usagi is a figure that a great many people were looking forward to since he is the only third string characters from the original cartoon that has made an appearance in the new cartoon. And his figure actually does a pretty good job of capturing his likeness. I am particularly happy with the way the head and hands have a fullness about them. Despite the simpler style of the show, you get a pretty clear idea that Usagi is a fluffy guy. (He must use a lot of conditioner.) But the figure does have a couple of flaws. The most obvious one is the pose. I don't mind the legs being in a slightly bent position since they still support the figure well, but the arms straight out at his sides pose looks pretty silly and greatly limits how the figure can be posed without looking strange. The second problem, which is minor by comparison, is that the seam on Usagi's right leg is quite pronounced. Both legs have a seam or mold line that runs down the legs and along the sides of the feet to the little toe. Both are more pronounced than usual for a TMNT figure. But due to the positioning, the one on the right leg really seems to stand out on my figure.

Paint - Dr. Malignus 4/10, Usagi 5/10

The paint on both of these figures is decent. If not for the Dark Assassin figure, Dr. Malignus would probably get the record for the simplest paint scheme. The vast majority of the figure is left in just the muddy, reddish brown color of the plastic. The armor is a very similar shade with a metallic finish. The eyes are painted yellow and the cables are painted Silver. While it is mostly accurate to the show, it does make for a fairly dull looking figure. They did goof up on the face which should be a flesh tone. This is one case where I wish Playmates had used a paint wash to add some shadow and help highlight the detail of the sculpt. Usagi has a more elaborate look to the paint, but is just as accurate to the show. Unfortunately the quality is only average for a mass market figure. The edges of the straps across his shoulders and on his sandals in particular are a bit messy. They also neglected to paint the sandal strap that is sculpted on the heel of each foot.

Articulation - Usagi 1/10 Malignus 3/10

The articulation on the TMNT figures lately has been somewhat lackluster recently and these two are good examples of the problem. When you consider his role in the show, spending most of it standing in one spot until he eventually tried to run away, Dr. Malignus isn't too bad with six rotating cut joints. (neck, shoulders, waist and hips) Still, Playmates is certainly capable of doing better. But Usagi is just sad. He has eight cut joints: neck, shoulders arms (at the sleeves), waist, and hips. But due to the sculpt and action feature, they only deliver the articulation of three joints: neck and wrists. The hips are a write off since the V cut hips mean there is only one position they can be in and allow the figure to stand. The waist is eliminated by the action feature which has only two positions, neither of which looks natural. The shoulder joints are pointless since the arms just stick straight out anyway. The right arm is a few degrees from being held straight out, but not enough to make any significant difference. The joints at the end of the sleeves allow the hands to be rotated to vary how he positions his swords, but little else.

Accessories - 4/10

Usagi comes with four swords. Usagi's swords are a pretty basic set of a katana and a shorter sword. While they aren't entirely accurate to the show, they serve their purpose. They can be held securely or stored in the sheaths on Usagi's belt. Evidently Playmates thought that just the two swords would not be enough (which is true) so they threw in another set of the exact same swords. I have no idea whose bright idea that was. It makes no sense. The character can only hold two swords, which are supposed to be the set of one long and one short one. In theory you could have him hold one set while the other set is stored on his belt, but then the action feature, which dominates every other aspect of this figure, becomes worthless as the handles of the swords in the sheaths get in the way. The only explanation I can come up with is that Playmates felt that the action feature was so important that they included a second set of swords so that it could still be used if the first set was lost.

Dr. Malignus has a large rifle/cannon that fires a projectile. The missile is sculpted to look like a wad of the little bugs that Malignus used in the Turtle Titan episode to control people. There are also several of the bugs on the barrel of the gun too. A spring loaded gun isn't the most appropriate accessory for a character like Dr. Malignus. A control station or the stand and cables he used to control the bugs would have been better but probably too large for the package. Still, the bugs for a missile shows that Playmates tried to tie the accessory to the episode while still adding some play value to the figure. And if you don't like Malignus with the gun, it's completely removable.

Action Feature - Not Rated

Talk about night and day, Dr. Malignus and Usagi are great examples of how to and how not to incorporate an action feature into a figure. Dr. Malignus' feature is his launching bug gun. The character is not the most interesting one. Letís face it; he appeared in one episode and did little to nothing in it besides hanging from the machines. The gun adds play value for kids but doesn't detract from the figure itself. Then there is Usagi demonstrating the wrong way to create an action feature, allowing it to completely dominate the figure. Usagi has a spring loaded waist. When his upper body is twisted to the right roughly 180 degrees it locks into place. Pressing the button on his butt releases the waist, allowing it to spring back around. It is supposed to be a sword slashing motion, but even a white belt should be able to handle a sword better than that. The feature requires the arms to be posed in the silly, straight out, ready to belly flop into the pool position. And it eliminates half of the range of motion/poseability that the figure should have had otherwise. Usagi is a classic case of a figure being ruined by a poorly executed action feature.

Value - 4/10

Usagi and Dr. Malignus are the action figure equivalent of the odd couple. Usagi is a poorly made figure. But the character is both popular and important enough for most people to justify buying him anyway. Dr. Malignus is a decent figure. But the character is pretty obscure and of little importance to the license.

Happy Hunting:

Like Nano and the Foot Tech Ninja, Usagi and Dr. Malignus shipped late and even then in limited numbers. They started showing up on shelves back in November of 2004. But since there was only one of each character in a case of figures, finding them now could be a challenge. With any luck, Playmates will include them in a future assortment of figures for those who missed out the first time. In the mean time, it may pay to check your local stores to see if any are still hanging around. Dr. Malignus is still available online from

UsagiBack MalignusBack