Medicom VCD Yoda 

Tonight we have a celebrity guest review!  Please welcome comic artist extraordinaire Adam Hughes, as he checks out one mighty cool Yoda...what's the scoop, Adam?

A very heartfelt 'thank you' to Michael for allowing me to do my first-ever toy review! I personally find that reviews are most helpful if I know the disposition of the critic; if a reviewer likes the same things I like, I find I can trust their reviews. If they let me know up-front that their opinions are the opposite of mine, I can take their poison with a grain of salt. That being said, I've been collecting 1:6 scale figures since 1999. However, I've been a die-hard STAR WARS nut since 1977. I love the Original Trilogy for the boon childhood companion its always been, and I learned to make peace with the new films about 20 minutes after my first angry viewing of THE PHANTOM MENACE. To my mind, my favorite band from the 70s got back together and while I don't like ALL their new material, it's always a gas when they play STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN or HOTEL CALIFORNIA. I say all this, just so you know who's reviewing your toy: a diehard SW nut who is a very forgiving purist. OK, are we all set? Great!

Since I'm a noob, I thought I'd start small: Medicom's Vinyl Collectible Doll (VCD) Yoda, brought to our shores by your local manufacturers of 1:6 scale STAR WARS fabulousness, Sideshow Collectibles! Sideshow has been giving us some really excellent STAR WARS 12-inch figures since they acquired the license two short years ago, and in the entrepreneurial spirit of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!", they have also started importing STAR WARS figures from Japan's Medicom Toy Corporation. While a fraction undersized for most hardcore SW 1/6 scale enthusiasts, Medicom's Real Action Heroes line of Star Wars figures have excellent production standards. Their VCD line is no exception! IS this the 1:6 scale Yoda you've been waiting for, all these years? Does Sideshow need to even bother making their own Yoda? Read the review and find out! 

I'm not really sure why this Yoda figure is in the VCD line and not the RAH line, as he is (to my calculations) in excellent scale with all your 1:6 scale STAR WARS figures. He stands nicely next to the Sideshow Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi figures; he'll fit in nicely with your current 1:6 scale STAR WARS collection. I guess this is as good a time as any to point out that the Medicom VCD Yoda is based on our little green friend from his appearance in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, not from any of the Prequel Trilogy films. If your favorite Jedi Master is a live-action Muppet and not computer-generated, this is the figure for you! 

Packaging - *** 
A tough call, as I've seen several reviews here take Medicom's stylized SW packaging to task for being plain and uninformative. While I agree that it's great to have a lot of nice photos and information on a nicely designed box (like Sideshow's packaging) there's one thing I've wanted to point out since I first saw these negative packaging reviews... High-end STAR WARS merchandise all share similar packaging. Whether it's a deluxe action figure from Medicom, a lightsaber replica or Harrison Ford-signed Millennium Falcon from Master replicas, or Boba Fett's Slave One from Code 3 Collectibles, all these high ticket STAR WARS items share the same packaging design ethic: satin-finish black box with either gold or silver embossed trim. It's a very classy way to say more with less, I feel; much the same way that if you go into a gallery there aren't price stickers on the paintings. Real art collectors know how to find out the value of the art in question, and the art dealers know that only a rube would come in and say "How much is that there Van Gogh cost?" High-end SW merchandise doesn't need to advertise itself on its own package: high-end SW collectors have already done their research and made their purchasing decisions long before they ever have the box in their hands. Also, if you go up to a dealer at a convention looking for SW items, you're confronted by a veritable SEA of colorful toy packaging, all brightly colored boxes vying for your attention. The minimalist Medicom packaging stands out like a sore thumb; it's very easy to find it when shopping in person. 

VCD Yoda comes in the same style black box as the Medicom RAH Luke Skywalker, Darth Vaders, and Imperial Stormtroopers. The dimensions, 7.5" H (191mm) x 5.5" W (140mm) x 5" D (127mm), make for a nice small shipment (if you order your fun online), and the Sideshow specs that say it's 3 lbs.; that includes all the layers of cardboard boxing protecting your purchase in that weight. The front flap of the box fastens to the box with Velcro, so you can peer at the figure and accessories through the window, if you don't wish to unbox your toys and play with them. The graphic on the box is the same as the others: the stylized image from the RETURN OF THE JEDI movies poster of Luke's hand's holding his lightsaber. Did you know that on that poster, those are actually George Lucas' hands? How's THAT for useless trivia! 

Yoda comes in a clamshell of two clear plastic trays, mercifully untaped. Yoda is held in place by superior package design, not twist-ties and tape. However, I recommend using caution when opening the two trays, to avoid Yoda's three accessories flying in all directions. 

I give the packaging 3 stars because it looks classy and does its job of getting you your purchase safe & sound. Why not 4 stars? On principle, I NEVER give out maximum stars unless something is so mind-meltingly perfect it deserves the highest accolade. 

Sculpting - **** 
And, on that note, I give maximum kudos to the sculpting on this figure. Master sculptor and designer Yamashita Shinichi has outdone himself in my opinion. The pictures at the Sideshow site do not do this figure justice; hopefully I can show you some images of just how dead-on this likeness is. "Likeness?" you say? "Of a puppet?" Well, Yoda is a fully realized character to most of us SW fans, and as real as any of the actors. Any SW collector can tell you how there are a few characters whose appearance is so subtle that they've rarely been captured in collectible form. Have you ever seen any action figure or statue properly nail C-3PO's sway-backed posture? Only the 1:6 scale Kaiyodo vinyl model kit from the early 90s does it for me, personally. 

Compare the VCD Yoda to Hasbro's last attempt at the Jedi Grand Master, or with Gentle Giant's excellent mini-bust. Sideshow's product description says "Yamashita's sculpture of Yoda is a very unique interpretation of the character."; to which I say "Balderdash, sir!" Yamashita Shinichi has NAILED Stuart Freeborn's EMPIRE STRIKES BACK sculpt of Yoda, a mix of Freeborn's own face with Albert Einstein's eyes. I firmly believe that any and every toy/bust/statue is 33% better looking once you have it, unboxed, in your own hands. Jpegs, photos, and box art can only convey a portion of the quality; rolling it around in your hands is the final 'tale of the tape". Looking at Yoda in three-quarter profile, matching the angle to shots from EMPIRE, you can see just how much the likeness of this STAR WARS character has been nailed. 

The facial expression is nicely subtle, as well. Whether you wish to have the VCD Yoda in a diorama where he's the revealed Jedi Master or when he's messing with Luke's head and pretending to be some weird frog that knows where the presumably human retired sage lives, this face fits either bill nicely. 

One thing that must be a hair-puller for any sculptor doing Yoda must be, well, Yoda's hair. How do you approach it? Do you sculpt it into the head? Do you take faux hair and apply it to the final toy, as with HASBRO's most recent Yoda? Shinichi has opted to sculpt Yoda's hair and the result is fantastic. It LOOKS the way Yoda's hair looked onscreen, and for my toy-buying dollar, that's gold. I don't feel that a 1:6 scale item has to be fabricated in the identical substance/material as the original subject. Some things just don't scale well, and if a sculpted ammo bag looks more realistic than a real cloth one that scales down poorly, then I personally prefer the one that looks the most realistic. VCD Yoda's hair is the perfect solution. 

The sculpt on Yoda's hands and feet are excellent as well, but will be better covered under the Articulation review. That being said, his hands are not identical, and they have a nice natural asymmetry to them. As EMPIRE STRIKES BACK Yoda doesn't really handle a ton of props in the film, he isn't really suffering from the lack of extra hands that blessed the RAH REVENGE OF THE SITH Darth Vader. Finally, he holds his accessories well enough with his two distinct hand-sculpts. 

Paint - *** 
There's not much to paint on this little guy but what he's got, he's got in spades. The one thing I've never really seen anyone nail is the texture of Yoda's latex puppet skin, and this figure has it. There is a subtle wash going on here that is truly sublime, especially when compared to the slightly more heavy-handed dry-brush on the last HASBRO Yoda. The contrast in values between his skin and eyes is dead-on, something that can make or break a likeness in a 1:6 scale figure. Look at a picture of the actor your favorite figure is based on. Is his or her eyes lighter than their skin, or darker? How about the contract between the values of the skin and hair? I've found that you can actually get skin and hair and eye color a little wrong, and still you end up with a great likeness, but it's the contrast of the values (light versus dark) that can really blow a likeness, no matter how hard the sculptor worked. Check out the Gentle Giant Yoda minibust. It's great sculpt, but the eyes are almost lighter than the skin. VCD Yoda has (to my humble eyes) the correct ratio of lights-to-darks that help "seal the deal" with this likeness. 

The eyes are the only place where it falls a little flat for me. I love Sideshow's use of different levels of gloss to differentiate between skin, lips, and eyes. VCD Yoda's eyes are nicely painted, centered evenly, and overall well-done. I think a little gloss would help bring him to life, as well as a color other than titanium white for the sclera of the eyes, a perennially consistent "mistake" that has plagued toys and statues forever and a day. Go look at your eyes in a mirror. The"white" of your eyes isn't actually white, not PAPER white. It's a dingy ivory or mother-of-pearl white. Sideshow broke that mold back when they started doing their Civil War and World War One figures, and many other manufacturers have taken their lead. VCD Yoda has nice eyes, but not GREAT ones. But it's nothing a little paint and gloss can't fix, if you're as custom-oriented as I am... 

Yoda's robe is pristine and not very dirty. Sometimes, it's the muck and mire that really sells a good figure. Yoda is a guy who wears a floor-length bathrobe 24/7 and lives in a swamp; filth is his middle name. Some stains and muck on the edge of his robe would've been nice, but it's certainly not a deal-breaker. It's nothing a nice tea stain won't fix, if you're of a mind to tweak your own figures. 

Articulation - ** 
Here's where I quell your growing fear that I'm a Pollyanna who is all sunshine and bunnies about life in general and toys in particular. VCD Yoda gets 2 and only 2 stars because he has two kinds of articulation: nice and NONE. If there's an area where this figure could've been a little better, it's here. We'll work our way from top to bottom... 

Yoda has some very nice heard articulation, only one point, but it's a ball-&-socket joint at the neck. He can look up about 40-50 degrees, and manage some nice eye-lines with the taller human Jedi he's stuck working with. If you push the head to far in one direction, it doesn't want to stay in that extreme pose, but it's a minor quirk. Yoda's head articulation is 75% of his rating. 

The other 25% comes from Yoda's arms, or more specifically from his HANDS. Yoda has the same wrist joints as all the Medicom RAH 1:6 scale figures, which is to say he can both pivot and rotate his hands at the wrist. This allows for a variety of hand positions, which is nice! His arm articulation kind of ends at the wrists, sadly. He has no elbow articulation whatsoever. Some might argue that the Yoda PUPPET didn't, but I don't care to have a 1:6 scale Frank Oz arm as an accessory with my Yoda, either (meaning: authenticity be damned, sometimes). Yoda's elbows are sculpted in a permanent 90-degree angle bend. His shoulders aren't much more thrilling. His arms can only rotate up-and-down; there's no lateral movement whatsoever. A simple ball-and-socket joint would've sufficed, but it's sadly missing. 

And that's it for the Medicom VCD Yoda's articulation. The rest of him is as fixed as a Todd McFarlane 'action' figure. Yoda has no waist articulation, no hip articulation, no knee articulation, and no ankle articulation. Now, EMPIRE Yoda is not the energetic acrobat that he is in ATTACK OF THE CLONES or REVENGE OF THE SITH, but he could at least sit on a log. It's a shame that this simple bit of posing can't be accomplished by this otherwise stunning toy. Yoda has a great neck and excellent wrists and absolutely nothing else going for him, articulation-wise. Two sad little stars, just barely. I'd've given him just one, but he can manage some nicely emotive poses with his neck and hands as they are, which is a step up from the most recent HASBRO Yoda. 

Accessories - **1/2 
Yoda doesn't come with much. He has his gimer stick, which looks nice. He comes with this strange little gadget that for the LIFE of me, I can't figure out what it is. I've seen EMPIRE STRIKES BACK maybe 900 times, and I can't spot this little bit of fluff. He also comes with the little bread stick that he stole form Luke's survival rations. It's nothing you or I couldn't make from a twig, so it's hard to really rate it. It's a tiny half-eaten bread stick. 

Yoda also comes with his little necklace, which is nicely sculpted. I have no idea what it is, but it looks spot-on. 

And that's pretty much Yoda's accessories. When Sideshow announced their STAR WARS 1:6 scale license, all my toy-collecting buddies had a great meal, oohing and aahing over what we'd like to see SS do. When we got to Yoda, we all kind of wondered in unison "What sort of accessories could Yoda have?" being such an undersized figure, we all agreed that some crazy-cool extras would really make him worth getting. HASBRO's last Yoda came with his Prequel Trilogy Jedi council Chamber chair, which was excellent. Yoda could, off course have his lightsaber. What else? Snakes? Some small stones, for stacking? Crockery, for making his awful-tasting root-leaf stew/gruel? Yoda's a tough one, when it comes to extras and accessories. 

That being said, don't expect much with this purchase. You're getting your money's worth from the head-sculpt. I would recommend that you go to your local hobby store or craft store, and buy those little zip lock bags that crafters use to store beads and little items. I use them to keep all my tiny little accessories organized and more importantly, HARD TO LOSE. 

Yoda comes with no display base; because of his low center of gravity and lack of lower torso articulation, he doesn't really need one. He stands just fine on his own. However, a $10 aquarium log from your local PETSMART makes for a nice diorama accessory. I popped him on the Dagobah base that came with Sideshow's 1/4 Luke from EMPIRE for a quick pic, and it's perfect. Making a dedicated base like this might be a fun Saturday afternoon... 

Outfit - *** 
All Yoda comes with is his brown undertunic and his burlap-like outer robe...but it's just fantastic. Nothing is more frustrating (to me, anyway) in the world of 1:6 scale collecting than FABRIC. 1:6 scale clothing just doesn't lay right, it never folds right, and it's one of the big scale issues. Microweave fabrics have really made for some nice outfits in the last few years, I think DRAGON pioneered the use of the. And the smaller the figure, the harder it is to get fabric to behave like it's 1:1 scale counterpart. On the Hasbro Yoda, his robe constantly floats about his shoulders, as if blown up by a string wind; and the fabric never falls in an eye-pleasing way. I have no idea how they fabricated VCD Yoda's robe, but it looks amazing. It's not much; maybe that's WHY I find it amazing. 

It lays over his hump perfectly. The sleeves are square kimono-style sleeves and they fall perfectly from his inarticulate arms. The gathers at the crux of the elbows are very real looking, and basically, his clothing looks almost exactly like the full size version from the film. 

You can see the white Velcro they used to fasten his brown undertunic in the front. Since Yoda's never seen without his outer robe in EMPIRE, I would have had this undertunic either join in the back, or simply sewn shut. It's nothing major, just an observation. Nothing a seam-ripper and some brown thread won't cure. 

Fun Factor - *** 
Let's face facts: the only people interested in this imported figure are serious STAR WARS collectors. That being said, there sure are a LOT of serious STAR WARS collectors out there, and as a fan of 30 years, I can say with absolute confidence that there has never been a better time to be a collector of cool STAR WARS stuff. There's more out there now than ever before, at all ends of the purchasing spectrum. Medicom's VCD Yoda is definitely a must-have if you are a hardcore Yoda fan (yes, YOU, Liz Wrightson!). If you are a STAR WARS collector but NOT a Yoda nut, then this figure is also worth your time and money. He goes with all your other 1:6 scale STAR WARS figures, and plays well will the Kotobukiya kits as well. As Sideshow releases more and more SW figures, this gem will occupy a nice place in that collection. When SS eventually releases an EMPIRE STRIKES BACK Luke Skywalker in what is usually referred to as his "Bespin fatigues", you're probably going to want an excellent Yoda to go with him. While not super-poseable, the fun factor on this great toy is a solid 3 out of 4 stars.

Value - ***
Sideshow's price of $59.99 was just about right, but I don't mind paying for quality. If you are a bargain-hunter, has VCD Yoda for $53.99, which is about as low as I've seen him selling for. Sideshow is sold out, but their Wait List for this figure is still available. It's my experience that the SS Wait List is pretty reliable, and if you get on it, you usually get what you want.

Things To Watch Out For
Just have a way to keep his small accessories safe and organized, and you should have no problems with this figure. He fell off my shelf earlier, as I hadn't stood him up well (he likes to use that gimer stick to keep balance). He fell 4 feet to the hardwood floor, bounced, and hasn't a single scratch on him.

Overall - ***
While not for everyone, almost any level of STAR WARS fan will probably love this figure. A 1:6 scale collector who isn't a SW specialist might sniff at the lack of articulation and accessories, but it's the nature of this particular beast. I hope that Medicom continues with these VCD figures, perhaps using it as a platform for some more STAR WARS 'little people'. Some VCD Jawas, with bandoliers and droid stunning rifles, would be really nice; especially with the quality of clothing Medicom can manage. 

Does Sideshow need to do a 1:6 scale Yoda? Not the EMPIRE/JEDI version, in my opinion. This release cover's the OT Yoda almost pefrectly. The agile Prequel Trilogy Yoda, with his lightsaber and other cool possible accessories is a definite Sideshow must-do, however, and they should really makes sure he's in some ways articulated from the arms down.

Where To Buy - 
You'll have to get on their Wait List, but...

Corner Store Comics has him for a great price, and in-stock!

Dark Figures also has him at the slightly higher price of $60.

Also, as we are about to start the 2007 convention season, bear in mind that any big con will be a good place to buy him! The Wizard comic book shows all have a great toy seller presence, and if you can't find VCD Yoda at San Diego Comic-Con, you're not looking very hard. Also, this year is STAR WARS' 30th anniversary, with two official SW Celebrations cons; one in Los Angeles and one in London. VCD Yoda will probably be all over those particular shows! Other shows with excellent toy selections are Emerald City Con (Seattle), MegaCon (Florida), and the big New York show in February. Cons are a great place to do some toy shopping, as you can sometimes haggle (especially on Sunday!)

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ****
Paint - ***
Articulation - **
Accessories - **1/2
Outfit - ***
Fun Factor - ***
Value - ***
Overall - ***

Figure from the collection of Adam Hughes.

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