Buffy the Vampire Slayer
12" Willow

Every Buffy fan knows that while she might have been the star, she wasn't the only - or perhaps even best - babe on the show.  Alison Hannigan playing her best friend and super witch Willow often stole the show, and more than a few hearts of both men and women.

While we've gotten regular versions of Buffy, Angel and Spike, we still didn't have the all important Willow, at least not in her normal appearance.  The vamped version of Willow (a hugely popular appearance on the show, since she was the ultimate good girl gone wild) came out late in 2004, but it wasn't until know that we got the sweet, innocent but oh so fun version.  Interestingly enough, the vamp version was also in the same episode as this cute, fuzzy look, called Dopplegangland.

Sideshow has just released her, along with announcing and taking pre-orders for a slew more BTVS and Angel figures - Origins Angel, Vamp Buffy, Der Kindestod, and even Willow's first main squeeze, Oz.

There is the exclusive version, which included her backpack.  Willow sells for $40, and is still available through Sideshow, but I also have some additional retailer suggestions at the end of the review.

Packaging - ***1/2
The packaging is just what you'd expect from Sideshow.  However, unlike many of the monster lines, the photo on the cover is not of the toy, but of the lovely Ms. Hannigan.  It's a perfect shot too, that pretty much sums up her entire personality.

Once again, there's no twistie tie going through the cardboard tray, which is a good thing.  There's also a ton of those new little dental floss type ties though, which are a tad annoying, but certainly better than twisties.  You'll have to use some tape to keep things in their slots in the tray if you put it back, but it's not a major problem.

Sculpting - **1/2
Hmmm - what's wrong, what's wrong.  I just can't quite place my finger on it, but something went wrong from prototype to production head. 

There is a bit of an issue with quality control, because there's some clear deformation of the head, probably caused by pulling it from the mold too soon.  This deformation is around the face, particularly the cheeks, and I'm not the only person to notice it.  Trust me, it wasn't on purpose.

Even if you set that aside though, this looks like Willow at 25 or 30, not 16.  You can see her in there, and if you'd gone to high school with her and met her on the street 15 years later, you'd certainly recognize her.  But it's not her at that moment in time.

Unlike some botched looks, it's not the fault of the paint ops.  I'll get to that more in a minute, but there's no real problem with them.  No, it's a problem with the sculpt - perhaps the face is simply too thin, or perhaps it's an issue of scale, with the mouth too small and the nose too large.  It's not one thing that leaps out and says "Hey, I'm the problem you idiot!" but rather a combination of things that simply add up to a missed opportunity.

However, I would like to point out that I love the hair sculpt.  Rather than going rooted, which Sideshow is experimenting with on some of the figures with long hair, they went sculpted, and I think they captured it as perfectly as they possibly could have.

Another plus in the sculpting department is the hands, which work nicely with the accessories.  They are also made of a softer material, so that they can conform to a variety of items without issue.

Paint - ***1/2
The face is a much flatter finish - thank God.  Rather than look like she's been recently shellacked, she has a soft appearance to her skin tone, and it looks great.  The hair is given a slightly glossier appearance, as is the lip and eyes, giving her a much more realistic look.

Okay, it's not all perfect - the hairline is tad fuzzy in spots, with some paint going either way, and the paint on the fingers is a little too goopy looking, with some chunks between the fingers.  But overall the ops are clean, neat and well intentioned.

Articulation - ***1/2
I'm a big fan of the Sideshow bodies, and this newer, smaller female body works perfectly.  Not only does she have all the articulation you could ask for, but she's nicely in scale with the rest of the line.

The joints were all nice and tight as well, and she had absolutely no trouble standing on her own.

I did dock them slightly this time though for something I've complained about in the past.  It seems like every figure I get these days, I have to take the clothes off to simply try to get the hip and shoulder joints turned into the correct position.  This is particularly bad with the hips, because if they are in the wrong position, the joint juts out oddly.  Tell those factory workers to get them in the right position before they get dressed.

Outfit - ***
This outfit matches the particular episode extremely well.  It's right off the screen, and includes a pink, fuzzy 'love' sweater, short polka dot skirt, old tennis shoes, and white tights.

Overall the fit is fairly good, although the sweater is just a hair off.  The skirt fits well, and the tights look great as long as she's facing you.  They have a rather large and obvious white line running up the back however, so you'll want her to face the front of the shelf.

The shoes are a great sculpt, and are dirty and rough, just as you'd expect.  A slightly different look for the laces would have been a nice touch, but isn't really necessary. 

Accessories- ***1/2
Willow comes with four accessories, plus the always present display stand.  The stand is labeled with the BTVS logo, and works great, but there won't be any real need to use it.

Willow has some very show specific accessories.  In Dopplegangland, Amy is still a rat, unfortunately.  Amy makes an appearance here, and while she's a pretty big rat, I like the scale.  Too often, accessories like this are far too tiny.

There's also Willow's seemingly ever present book bag, which has a velcro closure, and can hold fairly large objects, including Amy if you like.  It fits either over both shoulders or one, and looks terrific.  It's made from a nylon material, and the zipper pull, while not functional, is on the outside, adding to the realism.

There's also an extra right hand, and the hands pop off easily and smoothly.  This hand is designed to work with the final accessory, the tranquilizer gun she used to knock out her Vampire self in the episode.

I don't know if the scope is supposed to come off (it looked like there was some glue residue), but mine popped off with just normal handling.  It didn't break though, and snapped right back on.

Fun Factor - **1/2
If you're kids are into Buffy, they'll enjoy this figure.  The odds of that are pretty slim though, and without the background, Willow is just a better articulated (and armed) version of Barbie.  Those tights also won't hold up to a lot of play time.

Value - **1/2
At $40, she's an average value.  You get a show specific costume, with a nice set of accessories, all in a licensed line.

Overall - **1/2
I had to really agonize over this score.  If you review all the category scores, it looks more like a *** star figure, but remember, all categories don't get equal weight.  The sculpt on a figure like this is so critical to its overall appearance, and after going back and forth for some time, I decided the other attributes, cool as they are, weren't enough to pull the sculpt score out of the hopper.

I'm glad I have her, but she's also such a missed opportunity.  I hated Faith last year, and still contend that she was one of Sideshow's worst females ever.  I don't have that kind of general dislike toward Willow, but it is a little disappointing to see the final product miss the mark.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Be particularly careful with her nylons, as they are pretty easy to run.  And you wouldn't want a run in her stockings, especially after dropping forty big ones on her.

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

Where to Buy - 
I got mine through Sideshow.  Your online options include:

- Fireside Collectibles has her for just $33.  They carry a ton of other Sideshow product at great prices as well.

- Sideshow still has her in stock for $40.  You also might want to check out the Vampire Willow, also still available.

- Alter Ego Comics has her for $32.

- Southern Island doesn't have her (they've stopped carrying Sideshow product moving forward), but they do have the Vamp version for just $25!

- Killer Toys has her for $40.

- Time and Space Toys has her for $35.

I also wanted to mention the new Buffy Collector's Club, ran by Time and Space Toys.  The club has great pricing on all the upcoming Buffy products from Sideshow, Palisades, Diamond Select and others.  Check it out!

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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