Rama and Hanuman

One of the highlights of reviewing pop culture collectibles for me is when I get to see something truly 'new'. I love it when some small company pops up, bringing out actual product to market and surprising me with not only it's existence, but the quality and design. That's what tonight's review is all about.

Kridana is one such new company. Kridana means toy or plaything in Sanskrit, so if you were guessing that the theme of the company and it's founder are Indian, you'd be right. The goal of the company is to bring the ancient epic stories of India to children through action figures, allowing them to role play with Rama right next to Batman.

The first two figures released are from the classic story Ramayana. This epic is a crucial story in Hindu canon, and the hero is the perfect man Rama. The first release of figures includes Rama and his best bud, Hanuman, who also just happens to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Starting with these two critical characters makes sense of course, but Kridana has plans to release Ravana in 2008 too, who is the evil protagonist of the epic, giving these first two someone to battle. Other figures are still up in the air, although if you visit their site you can leave them feedback on who you'd like to see. Sita, anyone?

I also wanted to mention that the company is clearly very concerned with providing the safest toys possible for kids, and have gone so far as to post the actual results from a third party testing lab, right on their web site.  I was pretty impressed by their willingness to be so open and straight forward.

Ordering these direct from the company is your best bet right now, and they are $15 each and currently shipping.

Packaging - ***1/2
The packages are quite brightly colored, show off the figures well, and the design has a very cultural look. The boxes can be opened and the figure removed without damage, although there are a few twisties you'll have to untie to free them.

Another big plus is that on the back of the package is a nice synopsis of each character, and regular readers know that I love that kind of personalization on the packaging, rather than the cookie cutter approach.

Sculpting - Rama ***; Hanuman ***1/2
There have been many variations on the appearance of both these characters over time, so I can't judge for you if these look 'right'. This allowed the company to interpret the characters their own way, which is going to be subject to your personal tastes.

However, the technical quality of the work can be easily discussed. The sculpting has a nice sharpness to it, with no soft, cheap appearing work. The textures are all quite nice, particularly on the 'fur' of Hanuman and the clothing of Rama. There's plenty of small detail work, particularly for the first release from a new company.

These are done in a 7" scale, with Rama standing 7 inches tall (not including the pony tail) and Hanuman standing just under 7" on bent knees. He has to stand bent kneed due to the sculpt, even though the pin joints at his knees allow the leg to stretch out. The lack of any ankle joint means that foot is frozen in a position that only a bent knee stance can work with.

Both have hands that are sculpted to work specifically with the accessories. Rama's right hand sculpt is designed to even work well with the small arrow accessory, and Hanuman's flat left hand has a peg that allows the mountain accessory to be attached to his hand.

Putting the technical aspects aside, I personally prefer the Hanuman sculpt. The texturing helps him really stand out, and I like the style and expression used on the head sculpt. Rama isn't bad, especially the work on his costume, but his face ended up a little too anime-ish for my tastes. The artwork on the cover shows him with a tougher, rougher appearance, whereas the final product is a bit more childish in expression and wide eyed wonderment, and less heroic.  I think the sharply angled face that's show in the comic cover is a much better representation.

Both figures stand fine on their own, although the limited leg articulation means there aren't a lot of leg poses you can do.

Paint - Rama ***; Hanuman ***1/2
Some companies (like Mcfarlane or NECA) go for a very realistic look for their figures, whether they're real characters or not. Other companies take a more stylized or cartoonish approach, with brighter broader colors and fewer details. The latter is the approach of Kridana on this line.

The quality of the paint work is top notch, with no appreciable slop, very clean cut lines between colors, and nicely done small detail work. As with the sculpting, my personal preferences is for the Hanuman figure, because the Rama looks a tad too cartoonish for me. It's not a major issue, but one of personal preference.

Articulation - ***
Neither of these figures are super articulated, but they have enough joints to make play and posing possible.

Both have ball jointed necks, and these work pretty well. Of course, the joint works better for Hanuman than Rama, since Rama's long hair restricts things a bit.

The also both have ball jointed shoulders, jointed only at the torso. These move smoothly and work quite well.

Moving down the arm, there's also pin elbows and cut wrists. Cut biceps would have been a nice inclusion of course, particularly for Rama since it would have allowed for better posing with the bow and arrow.

Only Rama has a cut waist, and he also has a terrific ball jointed chest. This joint works great, allowing for quite a bit of additional upper body personality in various poses.

They both have standard T hips, as well as pin knees. There's no cut joints or ankle joints. The leg articulation is really the only disappointment here, since it does limit the poses a bit, especially for Hanuman who must remain bent at the knees to accommodate the sculpted foot position.

Still, the articulation is solid and well made. The joints are tight, the pins are thick and sturdy, and there's enough articulation to allow for both great play and great posing.

Accessories - ***1/2
Both figures come with three accessories and a nifty comic book. The comic books both have the same cover art (with the different character name across the top), but the interiors are completely different parts of the story. The interiors are not inked, but rather black and white drawings. The little books are good quality, and add some background to the characters for those unfamiliar with the overall epic.

Rama comes with his own golden bow, strung with a filament line (think fishing line) that's quite strong. He also has a Divine arrow that he can hold in the sculpted right hand, but unfortunately, the articulation doesn't allow him to hold the arrow engaged on the bow.

Rama also comes with Shiva's broken bow, which in this case means it's not strung. You could string it if you wanted to (it has loops on either end), but breaking Shiva's bow was a important moment in the story,. From what little I know, I thought he broke it in the middle though, so this isn't quite accurate to the standard tale. Still, you can fit either end in his hands and have him bending it.

Hanuman also comes with three accessories. One is his Gada Mace, which fits nicely in his right hand and looks terrific. He also has an intricate golden crown that fits on his head fairly well (although it might be a little frustrating for the kids to keep it there), as well as a Himalayan mountain. Yes, he comes with a mountain. I think this is the first action figure ever to have a mountain as an accessory. You see, he is so powerful he can move mountains...this one is small and surrounded by clouds, and fits on a peg in his left palm. In the story, he must find a herb on distant mountain to save Rama's brother, Lakshmana. When he can't find it, he just picks up the whole mountain and brings it back with him!

All the accessories are well sculpted and painted, and they are all very specific to key moments in the story.

Fun Factor - ***
These are solid, well designed action figures for play. The joints are good quality, the plastic isn't too soft or breakable, and these guys can hit the sand box and survive quite nicely. Parents looking to bring these Hindu characters into their children's lives in a three dimensional way will be quite happy with the quality, and kids will find these better than most current mass market toys in terms of articulation and accessories.

Value - **1/2
I'm not a big fan of the recent rise to $15 by many action figure lines, but considering the size of this company, the limited availability of these figures, and the likely very small run size of this first wave, the price tag actually seems about right to me here. The quality of the plastic, joints and paint on these is as good as other figures in the current specialty market, with a nice assortment of accessories on top of it.

Things to Watch Out For - 
The center of both bows is somewhat soft plastic, much softer than the hands. That means you should take some care putting them into the fists, because they could tear if you use too much force.

Overall - Rama ***; Hanuman ***1/2
For a first release from a new company, these two figures are very impressive. There are other companies that talk about making great figures for years and yet never get close to actually producing anything of this quality.

It also helps with my assessment that I think this is a very cool concept, and one that I hope meets with success. For the general pop culture fan it's going to be a tough sell of course, but for the target audience of Indian and Hindu parents looking to get their young children in touch with these classic characters, they might just have a hit. They've certainly given it their all, producing a quality first pair of figures. I look forward to what else this young company produces.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Rama ***; Hanuman ***1/2
Paint - Rama ***; Hanuman ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories -  ***1/2
Value - **1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Overall - Rama ***; Hanuman ***1/2

Where to Buy -
You're best bet is to pick them up directly from the company at this point. You can get them at their website, and they will also be attending a number of conventions this year, selling the figures. The single figures are $15 each, or $30 for the pair. If you buy them in a pair, you get an additional 18"x24" poster for free.

- Related Links -
I have to admit that I haven't reviewed any other similar figures...this is a very unique concept.

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Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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