I like to think I have my collecting habit more or less under control and that I've found some sense of balance in my life. But every so often
something comes along that makes me think I may just be fooling myself. The latest example of that arrived at my office over the last two weeks:
Factory Entertainment's Limited Edition Prop Replica of Raphael's Sai. When this life sized version of Raphael's weapons complete with his
disembodied forearms and a display base to hold them was announced, they struck me as an interesting concept, but too large to easily display and
quite pricey. So of course I ended up with two! At some point, as I was preordering all of the Ninja Turtle statues that were slated to be released
this year I figured I might as well add Factory Entertainment's replica prop set to the list as well. And then of course, if I was getting the
regular version, then I should get the Comic Con exclusive grey version as well, in part because I prefered the monochrome look but also it was
in large part due to the completionist in me. So now I have two large statue sets that I hadn't originally planned on buying and hoping that I don't
end up really regretting that decision.
Packaging - Monochrome 3/10, Regular version 5/10The packaging for the sai sets is entirely underwhelming. It is a large box (twenty by fourteen and a half by ten and a half inches) But they didn't put much effort into the appearance. The front and back are identical, a fairly small photo of the prop set against a shell logo in the background, a TMNT logo and the name of the set. The top, which is also the largest panel just has a huge TMNT logo on it. Similarly, they slapped a line art image of Raphael into the background of both side panels and left it at that. It's not very impressive looking. But at least it is passable for the regular version. But they were exceedingly lazy about the monochrome version and stuck it in the exact same packaging. They just put two UPC codes on the bottom of the box to indicate if it is the regular or monochrome version. Putting out a limited edition and then giving no visual indication that that is what is in the box is extremely lazy. Even if they just changed the color to gray to match the actual prop replica, that would have at least been something. And it's not just the graphical design where the packaging falls short. Both of the sets I received were still sealed in the factory shipping carton but both had a fair amount of damage to the corners of the boxes due to the thin material used for the boxes. It's not enough to have actually damaged the items inside. But for the price point these sell for, I would expect them to arrive in better shape. And long term I'm concerned about how well the boxes will hold up. That is important for statues and fragile items like this as it is a really good idea to save the in order to reuse them in the future if you need to transport the items. I don't have a lot of faith in how well these will hold up in the long term.
Sculpting - 8/10The sculpting for both versions of the sai prop replica sets are identical save for the engraved medallion that fits in the front of the base. The base is sculpted to look like a fairly realisticthough scaled down, manhole cover. It has three indentations, one for the medallion and one for each of the forearms. I sort of expected them to put some lettering on the manhole, "City of New York" or something similar. But I suppose that would be a largely wasted effort since most of the lettering would be covered anyway. The sculpting for the arms is subdued, but quite well executed. It would have been quite easy to go overboard with detail and skin texture on the arms. But this is a much better representation of what the cartoon character would look like in 3D. Unfortunately they made the decision to not sculpt the wrist bands and instead made them out of real cloth. I admire the intention. But the cloth that they used is too thin. If you actually worn wrist bands like this, they would get torn apart almost daily. And for the statue, we now have to worry about that material deteriorating over time and how to clean it if it collects dust since they aren't removable. The sai are made of real metal and have a leather-like vinyl material wrapped around the handles and a cap on the end of each handle that attaches magnetically. The sais are a fairly basic design. But I'm glad to see that they resisted the temptation to embellish them. When everything is assembled, they form a decent display piece. It is a bit of a space hog. The base is just a hair over one foot in diameter and the sais extend over fifteen inches high. So you need a fairly large space on a shelf to properly display the set.
Paint - 8/10The paint work for both sets much like the sculpting for the arms is fairly subtle and subdued. That is not to say that there is a lack of paint work. But the effort was put into very subtle shading of the creases and veins of the arms and hands.
Articulation - 0/10These are essentially statues, so no articulation. If you are curious as to how the sais can be placed into the hands since they don't open, each sai has a small cap at the end of the handle with a powerful magnet in it. When you want to remove the sais, you just pop off the cap and slide the handle out of the fist. The hands themselves are held on the base in the same way. There are several stong magnets in each of the indentations of the base and in the bottom of the arms. They do a great job of holding the arms in place without the need of tools or mechanical connections that could come loose over time.
Accessories - 7/10For the purposes of this review, I'm going to count both the sais themselves and the medallion that fits into the base as accessories. Technically, the sais are the primary prop and the entire base is an accessory. But I know that I bought the set first and foremost as a display piece. The sais have an impressive heft due to being solid metal. Then the handles are wrapped and a cap is added to the end of the handle. At first glance, they look impressive. But the wrapping material is quite thin and the wrapping is inconsistent and sloppy in places. In particular, the cap on the end of the handle doesn't actually cover the end of the wrapping, so there is a small area of exposed metal where the wrapping ends. I suppose that they figured that the wrapping was going to be covered by the hands for the most part, so it wasn't worth the extra effort. Technically they are right. You won't see most of those issues. But that doesn't mean that I'm not aware that they are there. The medallions that are included are a nice touch. Each is just over two inches in diameter. The regular version has a large TMNT logo, the name of the set, the Factory Entertainment logo and the production number of the set. The exclusive set includes all of that as well as a large box which Kevin Eastman signed. I really like the medallions. While I normally find the idea of production numbers to be a silly idea. If you are going to individually number each piece it is nice that they found a way that is easily displayed without appearing tacky. (Interesting side note, the exclusive version is suppose to be limited to just one hundred pieces. But according to the shipping cases, there were 105. And the regular version is suppose to be part of a run of 1000 pieces. But the shipping carton indicates that there may have only been 560 produced, that or there was more than one shipment.
Value - Color version 3/10 Monochrome 2/10The retail price for the regular, full color sai set is $300. The monochrome set sells for $350. Truthfully they are a bit of a rip off. You can find ample listings for sais online for well under $50 for a pair. And the quality is likely to be at least as high as these. So you are paying $250 to $300 for just the display base and they just aren't worth that price, not even close. Maybe if they had included weapons for all four Turtles if would have been worth that price. As it stands, I would have to suggest that if you wnat one of these sets, be patient and wait for the inevitable price drop.
Happy Hunting:I bought the regular, full color set from Big Bad Toy Store. But it is also available from quite a few online retailers. So take some time and shop around. The monochrome set was suppose to be exclusive to San Diego Comic Convention this year, but it is also available directly from Factory Entertainment's website: www.factoryent.com.