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Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Review of Gandalf the Grey - Hobbit/Lord of the Rings
Sixth Scale Action Figure Exclusive Edition

Asmus Toys
Date Published: 2016-08-10
Written By: Michael Crawford
Overall Average Rating: 3 out of 4

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Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Introduction

Asmus Toys started out their Lord of the Rings/Hobbit sixth scale series with a bumpy release or two. One of the very first figures was Gandalf, but not as we traditionally see him in grey, but rather in his white duds. That release wasn't bumpy due to the costume color (or quality), but rather a weirdly elongated and stretched head sculpt.

Asmus is revisiting the character in his more common grey robes, as seen in both the Hobbit films and the initial Lord of the Rings offering, with a keen eye on making major likeness improvements. He is a limited edition of 1500, and comes in a regular and exclusive release.  The exclusive includes at least one additional accessory, which I'll point out later in the review. The exclusive is only available through Asmus - the regular can be found at a variety of retailers for around $200.

Click on the image below for a Life Size version
Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Packaging - ***1/2
The outer box and interior cover card sports some very cool graphics and a great design.  It's all collector friendly too, and they went with a combination of plastic trays (for the accessories) and a soft foam tray (for the figure) to keep the contents safe and sound. While it's just a basic shoe box design, it works great and looks even better.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Sculpting - ***
Asmus has really stepped up their game in this department over the past few releases, and Gandalf crushes it in two of the three criteria I use to judge a portrait.

First, there's realism. This is an old man portrait, much like Stan Lee was from Hot Toys, and that means LOTS of wrinkles, folds, and bags to work with. They've done a beautiful job, creating a truly realistic face sculpt, and there's no sign of any distortion or manufacturing issues.  The skin texture is fantastic, and the work on the eyebrows and beard is subtle, with a fine detailing in the hair. It's this fine detailing that makes it possible to use rooted hair with this sculpted beard, blending the two together much better than you might expect.

The rooted hair does cause a slight problem, but only in macro photos. Remember, this head is much tinier than what you're seeing in the photo below.  In macro photos like this, you can see the widow's peak formed by the rooted hair and forehead. In hand, it's much, much less noticeable.

That hairline is actually a huge plus, because they were able to create a non-linear line and make it work. Normally, rooted hair goes straight across, creating issues for any characters with less refined looks.  For an example, see Hagrid, where the straight hairline takes away his wild looking bangs. Here, the V of the peak is clearly defined, and looks terrific in hand.

But there's more to it than merely being realistic - it also has to be life-like. That means there needs to be a spark in the eyes, tone in the muscles, and a natural expression on the face.  They've pulled all that off beautifully by raising the eyebrows, pursing the lips, and squinting the eyes just enough to give him a truly Gandalf look.

That's home runs with two of the three criteria...and then comes accuracy. There's one major issue here, both in photos AND in hand, that hurts him enough for me to drop a full star.  It's that huge snoze! Now to be fair, Gandalf does have a rather large, rather long nose.  But this huge bulb on the end is just not him. In fact, it's far more Gimli than Gandalf. I'm not sure what happened there, and why the scale and shape are this far off, but it's the one aspect that's a killer. So close to perfection!

A side note on the rooted hair.  With most figures, particularly those like the Asmus Sarumon, the hair is thin and fine.  That is the way this figure was shown in early marketing photos. But they decided to 'style' the hair for you quite a bit this time, and right out of the box the hair has a lot of dry product.  Strands are stuck together, and it looks quite the mess.  I don't mind too much, since a mess is the way his hair normally looked. This also gives it more of a sweaty, dirty look. I wasn't too keen on it right out of the box, but I softened up to the appearance as I worked with him. I may still wash it out at some point and try something different, but it's acceptable as is.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Paint - ****
The sculpt might have slipped slightly on the nose, but the paint work is excellent across the board.  Getting the subtle colors of the beard just right goes a long way to creating a more seamless look between the sculpted and rooted hair, and I think they did an even better job here than they did with the earlier Sarumon. The variations and color of the rooted hair is well matched by the variations in the paint on the strands of beard.

Skin tone is excellent as well, very life-like and realistic.  The eyes have just the right amount of gloss to create their own catchlights, and finer details, like the eyebrows, are near perfect.  This is excellent production paint work, and I hope we see them maintain this level of quality and consistency going forward.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Articulation - **1/2
Here's the one category really holding this figure back - and I wasn't expecting it. Asmus has had great luck with their bodies on the last few releases, but this time they're hit with floppy joint disease once again.

Overall, the joints are tight and quite posable. From the neck to the knees, you'll get a lot of good movement and solid enough joints to maintain poses long term.  The chest and waist aren't as mobile as possible due to the thicker shirt and robes, but it's a minor nit, and not something that greatly detracts from your enjoyment of the figure.

But damn those ankles - those loose, loose ankles.  Asmus went out of their way to produce some very realistic and very soft boots for this guy, allowing all the excellent ankle articulation to remain useful. And then they ended up with super loose ankles, with no boot to provide support. Gah!

This is a fixable issue, and I'll be wrapping plumber's tape around mine to tighten things up a bit. But at this price point you shouldn't have to fix it, and the underlying body is one of the areas that Asmus needs to get under control and keep under control to give their customers a sense of consistency quality.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Accessories - ***1/2
This one is a bit tricky, because there's a couple extra accessories not listed with any marketing description.  That means I'm not sure if they are only with the pre-ordered exclusive, or if all the figures will have them as a last minute addition from Asmus.

One thing is for sure - all of them come with 5 hands.  There is a set of relaxed pose, a set of gripping hands, and one extra right that works particularly well with the pipe. The hands swap easily enough, but you will have to monkey around a bit with the 'gloves'. The sleeves of the underlying shirt have a hole for the thumb, which works well with the relaxed palms, not so great with the gripping hands. I found that the easiest way to remove any hand that has the thumb inserted in the shirt hole is to pop the hand off at the wrist, then turn it to remove it from the wrist end first. It's too difficult to stretch the shirt sleeve over the thumb, and that method is more likely to stretch out the material over time.

As I mentioned, he has his pipe, which is perfect for reposing with the Hobbits and having a smoke. Scale is pretty good, and it's a nice addition.

He also has a shoulder bag, with a sturdy plastic strap.  Attached to this strap is another small pouch, and the bag/pouch combo hangs on his shoulders neatly.

Gandalf needs some protection, and he has Glamdring and a scabbard.  The scabbard fits inside several loops on the belt - more on that in the Outfit section - and the metal sword fits cleanly within.  While the sword is metal, it's quite thin and lightweight, and Gandalf has no trouble holding in just about any pose.  The blade is sculpted with the appropriate shape, and the metal has a high gloss finish.

One of the extras that has me confused is a long, thick scarf.  I'm going to assume this was a late add that comes with every figure. You can wrap this around his shoulders and arms under the cloak, although I wasn't particularly keen on any look with it in place.  I'm going to skip using it, but you may find it the perfect addition.

Perhaps his most important accessory is his staff.  The marketing materials for the regular release only mentions one, while the marketing info on the exclusive mentions three...but implies that only one of those three is specific to the exclusive. All three are wood, and all three accurately reflect various points in either the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings.

I'm pretty sure everyone is getting the staff he used in Moria in the battle with the Balrog. This one has the crystal within the crown. I'm betting (although I haven't got confirmation) that everyone will also get the Radagast version as well.  This Radagast staff is the one we saw at the beginning of LOTR, with some of the longer branches broken off. The exclusive comes with the early Hobbit version, with the tightly wrapped crown. In the photo below, I have them in that order, top to bottom, and you can check out this image to get a reference.

The marketing materials also promoted two display stands, but that appears to have changed as well.  Originally, there was supposed to be the basic black stand, along with a rock outcropping style diorama stand. This outcropping is supposed to look like part of the remaining bridge over Khazad-dum, and was shown attached to a wall.

Instead, you still get the bridge diorama piece, but it looks like they decided against the wall hanging option.  The flat back of the piece has a large sticker covering what looks like the planned hole. Perhaps it doesn't support the weight of the figure particularly well, perhaps they just decided that enticing you to put your figure on the wall was bound to bite them in returns.  It does look like you could remove the sticker - or tear it - and still use the hole, but I'm betting your results would be dicey.

To still use the bridge piece, they supplied a round plastic base and a threaded post with which you can attach the two. This round base keeps the oddly shaped bridge section flat and upright, and you can then attach the crotch support to the bridge. It's not as easy to attach the two stands as it sounds, however. The threaded post isn't particularly long, and it tends to drop into the plastic base too far.  I found the only way to do it was to screw the post into the plastic base just a turn or two, use a knife blade to keep the post extended, and then twist the stone section into place. It works, but the round plastic base is rather unattractive, and clashes with the look and design of the diorama itself.

He still has the basic square black base as well, which can also use the crotch support.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Outfit - ***1/2
I'm really digging on this outfit - the quality is great all around.

There's an underlying brown shirt which I mentioned earlier, thanks to the holes in the sleeves for the thumbs. Unless you strip him down the sleeves will be all you see, but it does give the underlying body the right amount of padding.

He's wearing some cool pants complete with some funky floral designs around the bottom edges. Over all this is his grey robe, cinched at the waist by both the brown woven belt, and the blue belt for his scabbard.

The tailoring, material quality, and stitching are all fantastic on these layers.  My only nit at this point is with the blue belt.  Two of the three loops designed to hold the scabbard - and there are instructions on how to get this to work properly - are too wide, making it tough to keep the scabbard in place, at least as designed.  You can correct this of course, using a little superglue to make the loops smaller and create a tighter fit, but at this price point you shouldn't have to.

I already mentioned the scarf as an accessory (and yes, I did find photos of him wearing it, although it wasn't easy), but he also has his hooded cloak.  The scale and tailoring is great, and the hood folds down nicely in back without bunching up or looking odd.

His pointy hat is made from cloth, not plastic, and sits on top of his head relatively well.  The scale is good, which is always tricky with hats in 1/6th, and I originally thought that I'd be using the hat more often than not. However, once I had him in hand, I felt that he looked better without, much like he did in that classic battle in Moria. Obviously, your mileage will vary.

I saved the best for last. I mentioned the soft boots in the Articulation section, but it's here that the quality and style boost his score.  The soft uppers, the hard sole, and the actual laces create a very realistic appearance. With tight ankles, these boots would look great AND provide full ankle mobility.

There's not a lot of wear or damage overall, but they did add some dirt to the outer cloak.  I'm good with the level we got, but if you like to futz with dirt and wear, the high quality material should be able to handle it.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Fun Factor - ***
If the ankles were tight, this guy would gain at least a half star, maybe a full star in this category. He has all the makings of a great figure for the shelf, with plenty of potential for a wide variety of poses and partnerships, but those damn ankles make it frustrating to work with him.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Value - ***
I'm grading the exclusive with it's extra staff, and at $200, this figure is a solid value against other current manufacturers in the market. The overall quality is there for this price point, and you're getting a nice assortment of extras.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Things to Watch Out For -
Getting that scabbard to stay in the three loops (that's like the three shells) can be tricky, but it is doable.  I'll go back and superglue the two larger loops eventually, but I was able to get them to work by using a slightly different approach than what's in the instructions.

I also suspect that I'll try washing out the hair at some point.  I would have preferred a less pre-posed hair design, but I think that some warm water should get the hair back to a softer, more flowing look.

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Overall - ***
Asmus already gave us Gandalf the White, and I (like many of you) wasn't particularly happy with the result. That was just two years ago, but my how far Asmus has come. The quality of sculpting and paint work is well beyond where they were, and they've made huge leaps in just the last few months.  The general quality of the clothing and accessories has always been high, but the bodies have been a source of pain.  Sometimes they're great...sometimes not so much, and there isn't a consistent upward or downward trend.

This is easily a figure that deserves another half star, all but for two issues that bother me.  Obviously, the loose ankles are a big issue to me.  Regular readers know how much I hate it when a figure can't stand and pose on it's own.  While this is fixable, it's one of those things that shouldn't need to be fixed.

My other personal nit of large size is his nose...also of large size.  The size and shape are just too far off for me, hurting an otherwise realistic and life-like portrait.

Nits aside, I'm really loving what Asmus is doing with the LOTR and Hobbit license, and while I can still find things to whine about, these are the finest sixth scale examples of Middle Earth we've ever gotten.  They have gone from wannabes to serious players in a matter of months, not years, and I suspect their upcoming releases will continue the upward trend. Bring on the rest of the Fellowship!

Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ***
Paint - ****
Articulation - **1/2
Accessories - ***1/2
Outfit - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Value - ***
Overall - ***

Lord of the Rings Gandalf sixth scale figure by Asmus Toys

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Where to Buy 
Online options include these site sponsors:

- the exclusive with the third staff is only available through Asmus at their site for $200.

- has the regular release for just $190, but is low on stock.

- has the regular edition for $200.

- Sideshow has the regular for full retail - $200.

- or you can search ebay for a deal.

Related Links -
Asmus has been doing the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit license in sixth scale for awhile now, with earlier releases like the Mouth of Sauron, Merry and Pippin, and the excellent Saruman the White. Asmus has also released Tauriel, Aragorn, Bard the Bowman, Eowyn, the Nazgul Steed, the Morgul Lord, Gandalf, Gothmog and Guritz. Other sixth scale LOTR figures include these by Sideshow - Gandalf, Sam and FrodoAragorn, Faramir, Boromir and Legolas. And don't forget the Aragorn from ACI.

Toybiz produced some 12" figures as well, including Gimli, Aragorn, Galdriel, Gandalf, Arwen, and Frodo. Dragons in Dreams did several as well, including Gandalf, Aragorn, and Gimli.

You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.

Discussion:
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This product was provided for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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