SOTA's Street Fighter line is sooo good, that it's almost universal. Last year I picked it as one of the top three lines of the year, and series 2 has continued the tradition. But if you think there's a lot of Batman variants, you ain't seen nothing.

I'm not going to list them all again, but you can check my review of series 2 for a complete list (at least at the time - I believe there's a couple more additions since then). Fortunately, most of these variants make complete sense because they match up with the games. Tonight's review covers one of those variants, the Player 2 blue version of Blanka.

This exclusive was awarded to, so that's were you need to head if you want to pick one up. They just got them in a week or so ago, so they smell of plastic is nice and fresh. They cost $13 each.

Series 3 and 4 have been announced already. Series 3 will consist of Guile, Balrog, Sakura, Gen and Adon, and series 4 includes Akuma, Birdie, Ibuki, Fei Long, and Remy. The current plans calls for series 3 to hit this summer, and series 4 to hit before Christmas. Expect plenty of variants and exclusives once again!

Packaging - **
SOTA's packaging is their Achilles' heel. For those that are openers though, it's a good thing that the least important aspect is their biggest problem.

The packaging is still too thick, and the attempt at making it look video game-ish failed. The interior artwork is only so-so, and in general, it isn't as eye catching or attractive as it needs to be in the crowded market.

Sculpting - ***
Blanka's sculpt is not his greatest quality, but it's certainly not bad. He comes with two heads, so that he can look pissed off, or extremely pissed off. I suspect that pretty much runs the gamut of his emotional menu.

Both head's look great, with a ton of small detail in the eyes and teeth. The body sculpt is well done, although the hairs on his chest, arms and legs are very thick and unusual. It matches up pretty well with the game appearance though, where big and blocky tends to be the format.

The sculpt and articulation work together well, although I still have an issue with the hair. To get a good range of movement on the ball jointed neck, it was sculpted very high in back. Because it's heavy, it tends to force the back of the head down until the hair is resting on his back. If you hunch him over, as he is so often portrayed in the game, it works out though, and is a fairly minor nit.

Blanka is in desperate need of a good pedicure, although I'd assume any poor Asian woman at the local nail salon would pass out at the sight of his feet. Oddly enough, I also made note of the funky toe nails on Dr. Satan in my review of the House of 1000 Corpses figures today. Perhaps this is the sign of some sort of new mental aberration. I might want to discuss it with my doctor.

I love the open hand sculpts, because the poses for both hands are so dynamic and well thought out. While the extra fists are nice, they are no match for the cool appearance of the open hands. The open hands can also hold the accessories fairly well, although that wasn't the main consideration for their design.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint ops on Blanka are all very clean and neat, although there's little small detail work. What's here is in the eyes and teeth, and of course in those funky nails. The majority of the paint ops are over large areas, like the hair or body, but these are consistent and show no signs of lighter or darker areas. The paint works well with the articulation too, and I didn't notice anything rubbing off or wearing through at the joints. Major pieces were cast in the appropriate colors, which is a very wise choice in a case like this.

Articulation - ****
This is one of Blanka's strongest category, which isn't surprising considering how well articulated the entire line is. Blanka has the all important ball jointed neck, although the hair restricts it somewhat, ball jointed shoulders and hips, double jointed elbows and knees, pin joints AND cut joints on the wrists and ankles, a cut waist, a cut mid-foot, a pin joint at the ball of the foot, and a very cool chest joint that allows him to stand hunched over.

All this articulation works really well, and none of the joints is wasted or extremely restricted. The joints are tight as well, which means he can hold many of his fighting stances, and look great interacting with the other highly poseable figures from the line. He can't do ever special move, but that shouldn't be a major issue for any collector or fan.

Accessories - ****
This is the other category that Blanka does extremely well in. When compared to most other Street Fighter figures, especially the other big boys, he ends up having plenty of extra goodies.

He comes with his extra set of hands, sculpted in fists. With one pair sculpted into very cool open positions, and one set in fists, you have quite a few interesting combinations. The hands pop off and on easily, and are unlikely to break even with repeated use.

He has the extra head I already mentioned, with open mouth and bared fangs. The heads pop on and off much easier than you'd expect, and the thick peg for the ball jointed neck won't break or wear out easily.

He also has a big hunk of watermelon, a pineapple (he's a hungry boy), and a human skull. All of these accessories sport great paint ops and even better sculpts. They are all the same accessories that were included with the original version however, and there are no unique accessories for the exclusive.

Fun Factor - ****
If you know a kid that loves the game, and still loves action figures (video games seem to kill people's love for action figures), then they'll love Blanka and the rest of the gang. They are extremely close to the source material, and have some of the best articulation on the market.

Even if he or she doesn't care about the game, these figures are still a ton of fun. Match up Blanka against any superhero or movie character, and just watch the fur fly!

Value - ***
The regular release figures cost around $12, so $13 for a figure that is exclusive to a single online retailer is not a bad price at all. Considering the level of articulation, the exceptional sculpt and paint, and the variety of accessories, and you can see where some lines (like DC Direct) are going to have to step it up in this market if they want to compete.

Things to watch out for - 
Nada, zero, zippo. Nothing to worry about here, since the figure is extremely well built, with tight joints and consistent quality.

Overall - ***1/2
When I reviewed the regular release version of Blanka, I was a little tougher on him. He only scored three stars, but as time has gone by, I've softened up a bit. While his sculpt isn't my favorite of the second series (Both Vega and T-Hawke take that honor), the exceptional quality in the rest of the categories easily makes up for it.

I'd hate to be a completist on this line, but the blue version of Blanka is one that certainly makes sense in the context of the game. I also prefer the color blue over the color green, so he's quickly replaced the original on my shelf. I have lots of green figures, but blue is such a rarity!

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

Where to Buy - 
There's pretty much one choice - (which stands for Oh My God, Cheap New Figures Online!) has this as a site exclusive.

Related reviews:
There's a handful of useful links:

- here's my review of series 1 and series 2.

- at SOTA's website, you can order some of the figures as well as see plenty of photos of upcoming figures.

- at Action Figure Express, they have a set of other variants of the line available for sale as a group.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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