The Nickelodeon Cartoon just started airing in Japan this summer. And with the increased popularity of the TMNT in Japan, there
has also been new merchandise, including a number of items unique to Japan. Certainly the Revoltech TMNT figures have gained the most attention from fans here in the USA. But the TMNT
are also being introduced into another uniquely Japanese market: gashapon. This summer, Takara released two series of
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle gashapon toys, a set of the four Turtles as articulated minifigures and a set of unarticulated
mascot figures (ie keychain) which included the four Turtles and Shredder. I've never been interested in Gashapon toys before,
but these certainly caught my attention for obvious reasons. So I decided to check them out.
Packaging - 5/10These are capsule toys, sold from vending machines. So guess how they are packaged... yep, in capsules. I was a bit surprised to find that they are not blind boxed. You can instantly tell which toy is in each capsule as the capsules are transluscent enough to see through and color coded as well. That makes sense considering if you purchased them from a vending machine, you have no control over which capsule comes out of the machine. And only see the capsule you get after you've bought it. And at that point there is no reason to hide which figure you got. But I have to admit that American style blind box packaging does at least have the advantage of being decorative, where as these capsules are purely functional. I'm not a MOC/MIB collector at heart, so that isn't an issue to me. But it would be nice if there were a way to display them without opening them.
Sculpting - Mascot Figures 8/10, Articulated Figures 6/10The articulated Gashapon figures all seem to share a common set of arms and legs. But each has a unique body and head sculpt. At just under two inches tall, there is not a lot of room for a great deal of detail. And the fact that you have generic limbs attached to four different bodies means that they don't quite blend in with any of the bodies. That isn't an issue for the mascot figures. Each of them has a completely unique sculpt. Because they are so small, it does mean that their weapons are prone to warping. And I am concerned that the loop to connect the chain is attached to each figure's head as it can put a lot of strain on their necks. But aside from those minor issues, they are terrific looking little figurines.
Paint - Don, Mike & Shredder Macots 9/10, Leo & Raph Mascots, Raphael & Leo 7/10, Donatello & Michelangelo 5/10The paint work on all of these figures is impressive. They would look decent if it were on full sized figures. On a two inch figure it is that much more impressive. There is just one big issue, the skin tones. The skin tones for the mascot Turtles are VERY similar. Raph is a bit darker and Mike a bit lighter. But neither Leonardo nor Raphael look right. Of course this issue doesn't affect Shredder. The skin tones are more accurate on the limbs for the articulated Turtles. But they didn't match the limbs to the bodies. Raphael is close. Leo is a bit further off. But Donatello and Michelangelo are really mismatched, to an extent that is hard to ignore.
Articulation - Mascots 0/10, articulated Turtles 5/10The mascot figures have no articulation. The articulated figures have rotating shoulders, ball jointed hips and hinged knees. That was a very nice surprise. But while the range of motion for the legs is impressive, it is a bit wasted since the rest of the figure can't really do much by comparison. At the very least, I can't understand why there are not neck joints.
Accessories - Mascots 0/10, others 6/10The Mascot figures have no accessories. The mascot Turtles have their weapons permanently molded in their hands. That means that they have to be made of flexible material for safety. So they warp easily. The Shredder Mascot has no weapons. The articulated Turtles each has their signature weapon: two swords for Leo, two sais for Raph, two nunchuks for Mikey and a bo for Donatello. Fortunately they are stiffer than the Mascot Turtles' weapons. They aren't fully painted. But at least Leo's swords and Raph's sais are metallic silver. So for their size, they are quite well executed.
Value - 7/10The value of the capsule figures can be a bit difficult to assess since the price you will end up paying will vary. Both series are meant to be sold randomly in vending machines, probably for around $2 apiece. I purchased my figures online in random packs of 10 for $25. I was hoping for two complete sets in each bag, with a few of the articulated series figures to spare. And that is exactely what I received. But I do know of people who ordered the ten packs and didn't get an even assortment of figures. Fortunately these are not blind boxed figures. So it is easy to see exactly what you are getting or trading for even without opening them. But going by the price I paid, roughly $2.50 each, these are fairly impressive whether you prefer the articulated mini figures or the unarticulated keychain figures.
Happy Hunting:Both series of TMNT gashapon figures are from Japan. So your only option for finding them will be stores and sites that sell imports. I ordered both sets from Big Bad Toy Store. As of when I'm writing this, they still have the mascot figures in stock. They also pop up fairly often on eBay as well, though you may have to pay almost as much for just a set of four or five figures instead of ten random figures.