It has been a rather slow time for me toy collecting wise. And it doesn't look like it is likely to pick up much this year. But that may be a good thing,
because the few items that are coming out are going to be real bank busters. The first such drain on my bank account has arrived in the form of Roku Toy's
first series of Usagi Yojimbo statues. Meant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Usagi Yojimbo comics which was actually in 2009, this first series
brings us Miyamoto Usagi, Gennosuke the bounty hunter, Tomoe Ame, Jotaro (Usagi's son), Katsuichi (Usagi's sensei) and a young version of Usagi.
I'm not usually a fan of statues. But in this case I was willing to take a chance and overcome my normal cheapness because I am a fan of the Usagi Yojimbo comics, so much so that after I started reading them a few years ago, I went back and bought all of the graphic novels of the issues I had missed. (For those fans of the Mirage version of the TMNT that have not read Stan Sakai's comic, I highly recommend it.) But there hasn't been much in the way of Usagi Yojimbo merchandise despite the comic's long history. There have been a few figures of Usagi produced in the TMNT action figure lines as well as one of Gen. But they have been based on his appearance in the TMNT cartoons. There was a figure based on the comic book version of Usagi produced by Antarctic Press years ago as well. But this is the first time fans have had a chance to get 3D versions of so many Usagi Yojimbo characters in one scale. And I wouldn't hold my breath for another.
Packaging - 7/10All of the statues come in the same box. It is a very simple, clean design with the Usagi Yojimbo logo on a black background with Usagi's clan symbol in the background. The back has the names and headshots of all six statues (in black and white) on the back with a sticker to indicate which statue is packaged in each box. Inside, each figure is packed in styrofoam. If these were action figures, I would complain about not being able to see the figures without opening the packaging. But with a statue, it is more important that the packaging be able to fully protect the statue during transport. And all of my statues made it intact. And if you are buying statues and leaving them in their boxes, you are really missing the point.
Sculpting - Tomoe 6/10, Jotaro/Young Usagi & Gen 7/10, Katsuichi & Usagi 8/10I'm not one for buying statues, so I don't have much of a frame of reference to compare these to. The sculpting is superior to the action figures that I usually buy, but honestly, not by much. Most of the surface areas are somewhat uneven, either because of the material from which the statues were cast or possibly because the original, master sculpt wasn't smoothed out completely. In some areas, that works to the overall benefit of the sculpts, particularly for the clothing. But on others such as Katsuichi's hands, it just looks like poor quality control. There are also a few places where the detail in the sculpt should be sharper. The bows for Usagi's and Gen's belts are a good example. But the one that really stands out to me is Katsuichi's staff. It has some sculpted texture, but it pales in comparison to the detail on Jotaro's bucket. In terms of size, Usagi stands roughly nine and a half inches high while Jotaro is about six and three quarters inches tall. Obviously that puts these out of scale with any of the Usagi Yojimbo figures that have been produced. Unfortunately for my fellow TMNT fans, it also means that they are too small to fit in with the Turtle statues that were produced from 2003 through 2005.
Of the six statues, my favorite is Gennosuke. The poses selected for him is perfect for the character. The only complaint that I have is that the sliced off version of his horn has no texture or detail sculpted into it. That's fine for me since I bought the exclusive set and have another option. But for the regular version where it is the only option or if you prefer his current look, it would be a bit of a drawback. Both Usagi and Katsuichi are great looking sculpts. I was a bit apprehensive about the pose chosen for Usagi at first since it didn't seem to fit well with the more relaxed poses of Katsuichi, Gen, Jotaro and young Usagi. But it actually turned out better than I expected. His sword is drawn but he is not in an obvious fighting stance so it strikes a nice balance. By contrast, Tomoe is posed in a sideways fighting stance which makes her look very out of place with the rest of the statues in the series. The sculpting for her head and face is the worst part of the entire series. The small amount of fur detail sculpted across her checks is easily overshadowed by the pock marks and unevenness of the rest of her face. The lack of sharp detail really hurts when you get to her hair which becomes something of an amorphous blob, though I believe that some of the fault for that lies in the paint rather than the sculpt. Finally there are the statues of Jotaro and young Usagi. As you could probably guess, they used the same sculpt for both, but repositioned the right arm for young Usagi. It is a nice sculpt and I would have been happy with either of them separately. But together, the recycling becomes quite obvious and they both look somewhat generic as a result.
Paint - Usagi & Tomoe 3/10, Gen & Katsuichi 5/10, Jotaro & young Usagi 6/10I repeat myself a bit here and point out that I don't buy many statues. So I don't have a lot of experience as far as what to expect quality wise for the paint work here. But for the price of these statues I was expecting a higher level of quality control than I see on an action figure. But that is about the level of quality here. The lines where colors meet are not very neat. This can be particularly noticeable on the feet where the brown for the sandal straps often gets onto the white of the socks and vice versa. It also seems like the paint that they used was either too thick or applied too heavily. This results in some of the finer details of the sculpt being filled in and either muted or covered completely. Tomoe has the worst quality paint applications of the six statues I got. The black paint for her hair is very sloppy around her ears and bow. And it is very thick. I suspect the paint has a lot to do with why the hair came out looking so much like oozing, crude oil sludge instead of a flowing mane of hair. The last complaint I have about the paint work is in some ways quite minor, but it sticks out like a sore thumb. They screwed up one of the clan symbols on Usagi's gi. The Mifune clan symbol is just three black circles but they managed to get the symbol so far off center on his left side that one of the circles is actually falling off of the white background! Ordinarily that wouldn't be such a big error, but when it is on his clan symbol right on the front of the figure, and on such a simple clan symbol compared to the symbols on Tomoe and Gennosuke, to allow such an error be made and not corrected reeks of laziness and a lack of quality control.
Articulation - NAThese are statues. So there is no articulation at all.
Accessories - Usagi 6/10, Gennosuke 7/10, Jotaro 8/10, others 5/10Each of the figures comes with an individually numbered base with a metal rod that fits into the statue's foot to hold them in place. The statues can stand without them, but would not be nearly as stable. Beyond the bases, what each statue includes depends upon which version you purchase. Each statue except for young Usagi is available as either a standard edition or an exclusive edition from Roku Toys' website which include additional, bonus accessories. The Young Usagi figure is only available as a regular version which includes only the base.
The best of the accessories come with Jotaro who no matter which version you buy, comes with an excellent Spot the tokage lizard. (I'm counting Spot as an accessory since he his a completely separate piece from Jotaro and does not connect to the base.) The exclusive version also includes a water bucket. Both Spot and the bucket are very nicely sculpted and painted. The only downside is that Jotaro can't really hold the bucket. So unless you intend to create a diorama in which to display the statues, the accessory will likely end up in storage or lost. Sadly that is a common short coming for the accessories included with most of these statues.
Gennosuke's regular version should come with a small bundle of Ryo (coins) which can be set in his right hand. The exclusive version comes with a sake cup which can be set on his right hand in place of the coins as well as an alternative, uncut horn. For those who do not know the history of the Usagi Yojimbo comics, Gen's horn was cut off during a duel with Zato-Ino. The inclusion of the extra horn is a real bonus not only because it gives you the option of which version of Gen you prefer, but also because the uncut horn is more detailed than the rather bland stump.
The adult Usagi statue has no accessories with the regular version. The exclusive version comes with a straw hat. With the exclusive version, Usagi's ears can be removed and replaced with the straw hat. It is a great idea and the hat itself looks great. But there is a significant shortcoming with the straw hat, it doesn't attach to the statue. The hat has a slight divot in the top that rests on the statue's head once the ears are removed. It does look good that way. But there is nothing to hold it in place or prevent it from falling off (and potentially breaking). There is no reason why the hat couldn't have used the same peg hole that the ear came out of to hold it in place.
The standard versions of Tomoe and Katsuichi have no accessories beyond the bases. The exclusive version of Tomoe comes with a four piece Tea Ceremony set. The set includes a large water jar, a kettle, a bowl and a tea container. It is a nice looking set. But there is no way for Tomoe to hold or use any of the pieces. And her fighting stance makes the tea ceremony pieces seem even more out of place for her. Katsuichi was originally planned to have a removable eye patch. But that idea was scrapped when they could not get the removable patch to sit on the statue's face properly. So instead, Katsuichi includes two of the pieces from Tomoe's tea set. And just as with Tomoe, there is no way for Katsuichi to hold the tea accessories. But at least in his case he is not in an action pose that makes the tea set look out of place.
Value - Usagi, Gennosuke & Katsuichi 6/10, Tomoe 4/10, Jotaro 5/10 (if purchased separately)The four large statues in this series (Usagi, Tomoe, Gennosuke and Katsuichi) all sell for $90 each from Roku Toys web site while Jotaro is listed for $50. While normally you might be able to get a slight discount on the suggested retail price if you shop around, the edition size on these is so small that I doubt many will be sold anywhere but through their site. That isn't a bad price for statues of this size. Unfortunately I don't think that these statues are up to the same standards as you would see in a statue from other companies such as Yamato, Diamond Select or Sideshow Collectibles, particularly the paint work. While the inclusion of the extra accessories with the exclusive versions is nice, most add little value to the statues.
If you purchase the full set, you do get the young Usagi figure as a bonus. That certainly helps the overall value. But ideally if they wanted to include a bonus for purchasing the complete series, I would have really loved to have seen them find a way to include the paper wall backdrop that was used to display the prototypes at the 2009 Comic Convention in San Diego or even just a group base that would allow the statues to be displayed together without needing as much space as the individual bases.
Happy Hunting:These statues were produced by Roku Toys and are available from their web site at Rokutoys.com. Unfortunately they have already sold out of both versions of Usagi right now as well as the regular version sets. They do still have the exclusive version set in stock as of this writing. But if you are interested, you may want to watch their site next week. The deadline for people to pay for preordered statues is just about up, so they may have more stock added. But even if they do, they are not likely to be available for long. Alternatively, you can also shop around and find the regular versions online at a few web sites, including Big Bad toy Store who have a great history with their customer service.
Click to see more photos of Jotaro
Click to see more photos of Katsuichi
Click to see more photos of Tomoe