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The thing about action figures is that they imitate the appearance and movement of actual human (and sometimes non-human) beings, allowing the recreation of scenes
from real life, art, or the imagination. Yet, although 1/6-scale action figures have made strides towards perfection over the last decade and a half or so, they
have remained divided between the hitherto contradictory choices of realistic appearance and realistic movement. The former objective has produced aesthetically
pleasing appearance at the cost of articulation, while the latter has achieved sometimes super-human articulation at the cost of realistic appearance (consider, for
example, Hot Toys’ TTM16 and TTM19). Phicen Limited’s super-flexible seamless bodies, however, have shown that this polarity can be overcome. After several
years of producing seamless 1/6-scale female bodies and graduating from a plastic to a stainless steel underlying skeleton, in 2015 Phicen released its first male
seamless body, the muscular PL2015-M30 (henceforth, M30). Its next male body type, the slender PL2016-M31 (henceforth, M31), was released several weeks ago, in
Spring 2016. Although each of these bodies falls short of absolute perfection for reasons that should become clear in this review, they demonstrate the potential
for attaining it. As it is, they are arguably the best 1/6-scale male action figure bodies on the market. I was looking for action figure bodies to recreate
scenes from Greek and Roman warfare and daily life, which would have had to show some skin; Phicen’s seamless bodies were a natural, and for the most part very
successful choice. Because one of the two bodies is anatomically correct, although I will keep the review clean and clinical and show nothing explicit, proceed at
your own risk.
Packaging - M30 ***1/2; M31 ***
M30 and M31 come in identical rectangular glossy boxes with a stylized image of a muscular seamless body (appropriate for M30), and text advertising the body as super flexible and seamless, its stainless steel skeleton, 1/6 scale, and 26 points of articulation. Additional captions note that a head sculpt is not included, and that the skin tone is Suntan (see Paint). The box for M31 has an added sticker specifying that the box contains PL2016-M31, as opposed to the earlier body. The lateral sides of the box have stylized images of a series of poses theoretically attainable by the muscle body (see below), while the back and bottom of the box have choking hazard warnings on account of the small parts, and define the product as an adult collectable recommended for consumers above the age of 15. There is also a notice that the packaging is intended to simply protect the product and damaged packaging will not be replaced by the company.
The inside of the box includes a user manual sheet (identical for M30 and M31) that recapitulates some of the information above, states that the body can replicate human movement with 90% accuracy, and describes the “skin” of the body as a non-toxic, environmentally friendly medical-grade skin-like material intended to be durable, anti-cracking, easy to clean, and hard to stain. The manual also includes a disclaimer that although the body is anatomically correct (this is only true for M30), it is not designed to be a sex toy. The user manual proper consists of a large number of diagrams showing the internal ball-jointed articulation system of the body, cautioning against extreme pressing of the elbow and knee joints to avoid “pricking” of the body surface, instructions on the recommended use of the shoulders, elbows, waist, and legs, and on the swapping of the removable hands and feet.
The body, its accessories, and a small desiccant package lie inside a system of transparent plastic treys, including a simple lid, a bottom trey, and a smaller intermediate trey covering the body itself. Everything here is completely collector friendly and unattached, while securely stowed away. In the case of the M30 packaging, the intermediate and bottom treys are shaped in such a way, that you could store the body with an attached head sculpt of your choice within the original packaging. To do so with the M31 packaging, you would have to get rid of the intermediate trey. Some partial see-through feature on the box might have been useful to help inform the buyer of the product within. Still, while the packaging is fairly basic and not particularly exciting, it succeeds in protecting the product in full.
Sculpting - M30 ***3/4; M31 ***
Since both M30 and M31 come without head sculpts, here this category applies to the shaping and stature of the body. Both bodies come with the stainless steel skeleton encased within a soft and flexible silicone sculpted “skin.” The bodies have a nice feeling of heft and realism to them. The skin texture lacks the fine hair detail found on the much admired and much copied Hot Toys TTM19, but such detail is probably impractical for the softer silicone “skin.” The muscle body, M30, does include some fine representation of muscles, tendons, and veins, especially on the neck, chest, arms, and upper legs. The slender body, M31, has less of this detail, although the muscles are still nicely sculpted, but in a much less expressive way. Both bodies feature softly sculpted nipples that are not always overly apparent.
Of the two bodies, M30 features by far the more attractive sculpt, especially considering that a bare-chested action figure is likely to depict some hero or athletic type. It is perhaps just a little bit too muscular, although certainly short of the greatest excess of extreme bodybuilding. M31, on the other hand, is perhaps a little overly slender, especially in its upper body and its arms. Although this might simply be an indication that we are conditioned to expect an overly muscular physique from a hero, warrior, or athlete, the vertical length of the pectoral area here seems a bit longer than it should be.
Paint - **1/2
One might not expect this to be a significant category for headless base bodies, but for a couple of reasons it is, not least because seamless bodies are intended to show some skin and to produce a realistic effect. M30 and M31 each have an even skin tone over the entire silicon body, and this is described in both cases as “suntan.” However, the skin tone of M30, while identical with the “suntan” of Phicen’s female seamless bodies (like S09C), is in fact considerably paler than the skin tone of M31. While both skin tones are believable, as in the case of the sculpting, Phicen may have gone too far in two opposite directions with them: M30 is too pale for most action figure head sculpts (although it works well with the Tom Cruise head in the images), whereas M31 is sometimes too dark, although certainly closer to the coloring of most head sculpts (like the Chris Evans head in the images). While Phicen cannot possibly be expected to produce an action figure body that could match every head sculpt at once, an intermediate solution (but one closer to M31) would have been preferable. (Some observers have detected a slight difference in skin tone between the silicon body and the harder plastic hands and feet, but this seems to be too minute to be easily noticeable, if at all.)
Unlike other action figure bodies intended to allow bared chests (like ACI Toys, Hot Toys, Kaustic Plastik, World Box), although Phicen sculpted the nipples on both M30 and M31, it did not paint them. This is unfortunate, difficult to defend considering industry practice and the fact that Phicen’s female seamless bodies come with painted nipples. As the saying goes, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Besides equality between the sexes, although I take it for granted that most of us are much less excited about male nipples than the female variety, it should be obvious that in most of human society, male nipples are the ones more likely to be visible, whether we are talking about boxing, wrestling, swimming, sunbathing, etc. Given that we are talking about a seamless body aiming at realism, not painting this detail detracts from the body’s realism and appearance. There is an easy enough fix (mix the desired combination of acrylic paints with clear silicone glue and apply with a tiny brush; to undo, apply silicone finishing powder; proceed at your own risk!), but one should not need to modify what is supposed to be a realistic action figure body, especially one this expensive.
If Phicen was too shy (?) to paint the nipples, it surprisingly painted one set of accessories that come with M30 (but not M31), representing the male genitals. These feature a little flap of skin (intended to secure them to the rest of the body) covered with finely sculpted hairs painted brown.
Articulation - ****
In this category both M30 and M31 are near flawless. Although the user manual describes the seamless bodies as achieving 90% accurate human movement, they seem able to attain pretty much any posture possible for any human who is not a double-jointed contortionist. The possibilities are too many to list or illustrate individually here. Both bodies can fold forward and backward to a greater extent than any other male action figure I know. At times, M31 seems slightly more flexible than M30 due to its longer height, limbs, and slenderness. Although they have “only” 26 points of articulation, the Phicen male bodies can replicate or surpass the range of such versatile bodies as TTM16 (with 38 points of articulation). Admittedly, M30 and M31 cannot rotate freely around the waist, at the shoulder, or at the hip without twisting the silicon “skin,” and their more realistic ankles cannot match the flexibility of the peculiar connection between the lower leg and the foot in the True Type bodies. However, since these limitations of M30 and M31 correspond to those of the actual human body, I do not consider them in any way detrimental to the figures’ articulation. The remaining limitation of M30 and M31 is that they have solid feet, unlike bodies that feature feet with bendable toes for crouching positions. However, such feet would defeat the notion of a seamless body, and the problem could be easily overcome with the use of an additional alternative set of feet (see accessories).
Accessories - M30 ***1/2; M31 **3/4
While these might not be considered accessories for action figures representing characters, several items merit discussion in this category. M30 comes with a pair of fist hands attached, with a spare pair of relaxed hands, and with three discreetly wrapped attachable sets of male genitals in various attitudes. M31 comes with a pair of relaxed hands attached, with a spare pair of fist hands, and a spare pair of grip hands. The hands included with M30 appear to be of softer, more easily manipulable plastic than those included with M31. All the hands are nicely sculpted and proportional to the body, unlike the over sized hands of many other action figure bodies. At least some other companies’ hands (like those by Hot Toys) can fit on the metal wrist pegs of the Phicen male bodies. Overall, one could say that M31 is more handy, while M30 is more complete. In changing the choice of accessories between M30 and M31, Phicen may have been reacting to comments demanding additional hands, or hostility toward the additional appendages (whether motivated by shortsighted pragmatism, offensive immaturity, or defensive insecurity). I would agree that in the vast majority of instances having additional hands is the more useful option. However, additional hands are easily found, and in ample numbers. On the other hand, the additional appendages of M30 were one of the features that made Phicen’s male seamless bodies novel and unique (and actually male). A number of Phicen’s customers have expressed disappointment with the change, perhaps especially because the prototype images for M31 implied the same level of completeness as M30. Although I do not intend to display these figures in a state of explicit nudity (except perhaps if imitating pieces of classical art), I find a certain peace of mind that M30 is a complete male even when entirely covered up in clothes; conversely, I cannot help but resent M31 for being incomplete.
M30 and M31 come with a pair of solid feet attached. Like the hands, these are nicely sculpted and proportional to the body. They allow the figure to stand with considerable stability in a variety of poses. The absence of bendable toes (which would defeat the point of a seamless look), however, presents limitations (making it impossible to attain some of the poses depicted on the lateral sides of the box). These could be overcome with the use of feet sculpted with bended toes, like the alternate set of feet provided with ACI Toys’ “Christian” medium built body, which do fit the Phicen male bodies (as shown in one of the images). Phicen has provided a similar alternate set of feet with bended toes for its female body S12D. Adding a set of such feet would be helpful here.
Outfit - N/A
The bodies come without any clothing, but one would presumably need to outfit them. The rubbery silicon bodies are rather difficult to clothe, although applying some silicon finishing powder to their surface helps. Long-sleeved tops and long-legged trousers present the most difficulty, but I have managed to stuff even M30’s bulging upper arms into long-sleeves, armed with finishing powder, patience, and plenty of cursing. (This raises the question of why one would choose to clothe completely a seamless body, when the same look could be achieved more easily and more affordably with more conventional action figure bodies.)
Phicen’s feet, while proportional to the body, are slightly larger than those usual for 1/6-scale action figures. As a result, it seems impossible to stuff them into the tight footwear designed at this scale. The solution is to borrow compatible feet (from, e.g., Hot Toys, or ACI, or World Box bodies), and use them for this type of footwear. Footwear that is designed to accommodate a peg rather than an actual foot (e.g., Hot Toys or Toys City combat boots), presents no difficulties with the Phicen male bodies.
Fun Factor - ****
Provided that you are ready to outfit your Phicen seamless bodies and equip them with a head sculpt and other items, there is little or nothing you cannot do with these super flexible figures. And although these are not children’s toys, they are in fact surprisingly sturdy and resilient.
Value - ***
This is difficult to gauge, in part because there are no other male seamless figures of this scale or quality, to the best of my knowledge. While I expect an action figure with a stainless steel skeleton and a silicon seamless body would be more costly than the more traditional plastic options, a headless body retailing in the region of $80-100 (or more, with free shipping on ebay) might be prohibitively costly, especially for a base action figure body. For comparison, less than four years ago, the well-liked TTM19, which featured a very fine head sculpt, retailed at $55; headless muscle bodies retail less than $40 even now. But let us say the price is fair (even if it would preclude collectors from acquiring too many of these, and that, in turn, might not help Phicen). It might be less objectionable if the bodies were not just better than others, but actually perfect. But that would mean (for starters) a body as tall, as handy, and almost as dark as M31, as sturdy, as complete, and almost as muscular as M30, with painted nipples and additional bended toe feet, to sum up some of the shortcomings of the two bodies outlined above.
Things to Watch Out For -
I have had no special cause of concern with M30. After swapping the hands, M31 tends to have wobblier wrists; in some instances, detaching the hand takes with it the metal wrist peg that should remain attached to the body. (I have had the same problem with one of Phicen’s female seamless bodies.) This is relatively easy to repair, but it does present an inconvenience, and contributes to a wobbly wrist. While bending the arms of M31 at the elbows, one feels the same sensation of potentially poking through the silicon skin with the steel skeleton as with the Phicen female seamless bodies (which actually did happen in one instance). As a basic precaution, you should probably not leave your figures posed in an extreme position for too long, although the usual issues with cracking rubbery “skin” might not apply here. Also avoid clothing Phicen seamless bodies in dark colors without having first tested whether they would stain in an inconspicuous spot. My M30 was stained by a set of black shorts in just minutes, but has recovered after the frantic use of a lint roller, of silicon finishing powder, and perhaps simply because of the silicon absorbing the stain. But I wouldn’t risk it if I were you.
Overall - M30 ***1/2; M31 ***1/4
If action figures are to replicate the appearance of the human body and its range of movement as closely as possible in their respective scales, overall Phicen’s male seamless bodies have come closer than any others in 1/6 scale. It is unfortunate that they have not really attained perfection (then again, they are only on their second product in this category), while clearly within reach of it: combining the respective strengths and accessories of M30 and M31 would have come very close to a perfect result. Although each of the two bodies has its strengths and weaknesses, the sturdiness, appearance, greater detail, and completeness of M30 makes it the better product in my opinion. Still, M31 has grown on me over time. One can only hope that Phicen’s next release, PL2016-M32, would improve on at least some of the unfortunate shortcomings noted above, while capitalizing on the achievement and potential of these products.
Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - M30 ***1/2; M31 ***
Sculpting - M30 ***3/4; M31 ***
Paint - both **1/2
Articulation - both ****
Accessories - M30 ***1/2; M31 **3/4
Fun Factor - both ****
Value - both ***
Overall - M30 ***1/2; M31 ***1/4
Where to Buy
Online options include these site sponsors:
- or you can search ebay for a deal.
Related Links -
A number of years ago, Michael did a comparative review between the Hot Toys TrueType 20, 21, and 22 bodies.
You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.
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