It has been a long time since I reviewed an of the basic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figure. The fall of 2005 was remarkably
slow time, especially for secondary characters. After Gen, Hamato Yoshi, General Blanque and Feudal Shredder hit shelves
late in the summer, there were just two other characters released before Christmas, Karai and the Minnetonka Mutant. Karai
is a character that has been waiting for a figure for ages, ever since the City at War story line from the first volume of
the Mirage comic book. The Minnetonka Mutant lacks the history of Karai, but there is a good story behind it. It was
designed by a fan as an entry to a contest. It is a very cool idea. But do the figures stack up?
Packaging - 6/10Both Minnetonka Mutant and Karai come on the new card designs. The bubble in which the figure is packaged is rectangular in the back but shaped partially like a turtle shell near the front before expanding at the bottom for the cityscape insert. The insert has the character's name and features. The top of the cards has the new design with the enemies icon on the left and a small TMNT logo on the right. The back of the card shows the figure with all the accessories along with a brief character description. The Mystic Fury turtle figures and several vehicles are pictured at the bottom. I like the redesign. It isn't overly complex but bring in even more of the cartoon style artwork. I think Playmates should have included a picture of the original contest submission for the Minnetonka Mutant though. It would have been cool to see the original child's artwork juxtaposed with the final toy.
And of course there is already a slew of variants. Both figures were originally released as a part of the special assortment of figures with bonus DVD's last fall. The DVD's are glued onto a plastic tray just above the figure. There are three DVD's available, numbered 1 through 3. Each one corresponds to one of the first three episodes of the cartoon series. The DVD's seem to be randomly packed, so it is likely that both figures are available with all three DVD's. I have found the Minnetonka Mutant with both the #1 and #3 disks. But so far all of the Karai figures I've seen have had the same disk, #2. Karai has also been released without the DVD, though in very limited numbers.
Sculpting - Karai 5/10, Minnetonka Mutant 7/10Ever since the prototype was shown months ago, a lot of fans have been upset that Karai was not going to be based on her appearance from the first three seasons in favor of her Lady Shredder outfit. Of course now that the show has gotten to the point where Karai has taken up the mantle of the Shredder, that doesn't seem like quite such a bad idea. The outfit is fairly accurate to the show but they did compromise on the torso. The figure lacks the plate armor across the chest and the collar area extends a bit too far down. It isn't as accurate as it could be. But the plate armor would look strange without the shoulder pads. And when the should pads are attached the difference isn't that obvious. The only other quibble I have with the body is that they attached the tails of the belt to Karai's belt buckle rather than hanging off the side as they should be. The face turned out well. The mouth is a bit large, but otherwise it looks good.
Having finally seen the Minnetonka Mutant on the cartoon today, the figure turned out remarkably close to the animated version. The face, body and insect arms all turned out well. I was particularly surprised that even the shredded shirt looks like it did on the show. Of course the figure isn't perfect. While the long preying mantis style legs are present on the back, the smaller insect legs that should be behind the figure's head are not present. Of course, there is no way to know whether they are actually missing on the figure or if they are just something the animators added later. The left hand appears to be formed by two parts, one for the arm and two fingers and another for the thumb. But they failed to mask the seam between the two pieces at all. The gap is large enough that at first I assumed the thumb must have been articulated. There is also the second head hidden within the body of the figure. It is suppose to represent the winner of character design contest. Of course since I don't think they ever released any photos of the winner, it could be the sculptor's favorite paperboy for all I know. It looks really strange on such a large body and when it is exposed, the regular head hangs off the back of the body.
Paint - Minnetonka Mutant 3/10, Karai 6/10The paint work on both figures looks good. Karai in particular turned out well. There is the issue of using a slightly metallic blue color in place of a more accurate gray. But that is a change I don't mind since it helps add some contrast to the figure. And that is something sorely lacking on the Minnetonka Mutant. The heads are both nicely painted. They also painted the chest and shirt, though the shirt doesn't match the flannel pattern from the cartoon. But on the entire rest of the figure including the arms, legs and insect arms. The only paint on all eight limbs is the black fingernails on the right hand. The plastic colors don't even match between the different limbs. The result is a figure that has a somewhat cheap look to it.
Articulation - 3/10Articulation hasn't been a strong suit for this line. And these two aren't bucking any trends. Karai has eight rotating cut joints: neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, and hips. The Minnetonka Mutant actually has fourteen points of articulation: ten cut joints at the hips, waist, shoulders, elbows, neck and antennae plus four ball joints for the pincher arms on his back. Fourteen points of articulation on a figure with eight separate limbs is rather pitiful. And it shows on the figure. The hip and waist articulation is all more or less pointless. Even the neck joint only allows the figure to twist his head slightly rather than actually looking to either side. the only truly useful articulation is the ball joints for the pincher arms. and even they only allow you to control in which direction they stick out. Karai's articulation is slightly more useful, with the emphasis on slightly. The hip joints are pointless. The arms are not capable of anything beyond the most basic poses, and even those look very awkward with her weapons.
Accessories - Minnetonka Mutant 0/10, Karai 4/10 (add a point for the DVDs)The Minnetonka Mutant has no accessories at all. It's not like he really needs any. But a small monster like those that came with the Monster Trapper figures would have been a nice bonus. Karai comes with a small armory. Of course she has her shredder helmet and spiked shoulder pads, both of which are cast in translucent plastic. The helmet fits well. But as with most removable helmets, it is quite bulky and slightly dwarfs the shoulder pads. Even without the helmet, the pads should be a bit larger and the spikes moved out to the tips. The shoulder pads also have the downside of further restricting the already limited articulation. Karai's weapons include a pair of wrist spikes, a large shield, two Tengu style swords, a spiked staff and a spear. The silly thing is that all of her weapons are so large that they are basically worthless. (If you are looking for a more fitting weapon for Karai, someone on the Technodrome Forums pointed out that the swords which have come with the various Marvel Legends figures such as Brown Costume Wolverine, Elektra, Deadpool or Blade make a great alternative.)
The bonus DVD's are nothing to get too excited about. There are three different disks, one for each of the first three episodes of the cartoon. It's surprising that they didn't use some newer episodes but at least they do contain a full episode. They also have a bonus feature section which includes most of Playmate's recent toy commercials for the TMNT line. A DVD full of commercials may not seem like much of a bonus, but those are the types of things that are fun to have around and look back at in the future.
Action Feature - Minnetonka 3/10, Karai NAKarai has no action feature which is just as well. Most of Playmates' action features have not turned out well. And speaking of action features that looked better on paper, the Minnetonka Mutant's action feature has his mutant head flip back and the second head, the one of the contest winner, pops up. It is a cute idea and a great homage to the contest winner. But a kid's head on a large mutant cockroach's body looks as strange as it sounds. And because of the feature, the regular head does not sit securely on his shoulders.
Value - 4/10Karai isn't a great figure by any means. But it is an okay figure of a fairly important character in the TMNT universe. While the Minnetonka Mutant isn't likely to prove anywhere near as important as a character. But I have a soft spot for bug figures. He reminds me of some of the vintage figures like Scumbug, Anthrax or Muckman. And with a retail price under $5 in most stores, the price is tough to beat.
Happy Hunting:The TMNT line is available from most stores that carry action figures. Toys R Us, Kmart, Target and Walmart all carry the figures. Unfortunately these two haven't shipped in very large numbers. They showed up briefly at Walmart stores with the last batch of bonus DVD figures and later at Toys R Us stores in smaller numbers. Karai also shipped in extremely limited quantities with the basic figure assortment. But currently neither seems to be shipping to stores. But based on Playmates' track record, it is quite likely that they will be included in future assortments.