Mugen - Samurai Champloo
following is a guest review. The review
and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford
or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the
|Jeff checks in tonight with a
look at another terrific Triad Toys figure! Their take on the movable
eyes is a bit different - but I'll let Jeff tell it!
Samurai Champloo, OK wadaya like, a bit of old skool Kung Fu, a little
hi-jinx sword play and how’s about a big dollop of Hip Hop stylee to
boot, well Chamlpoo has the lot. A good old mash up of Chop-Socky
images set in a Jidaigeki style with some phat beats over the top, I
mean, WHAT IS NOT TO LIKE?
It told the story of our anti-hero here Mugen, a restless and troubled
young traveler who while stopping at a tea house for refreshment has a
chance encounter with Jin
a young Ronin Samurai.
Jin is a traditionalist, a stoic, studious individual with little time
for frivolity, he carries the traditional Daisho; twin Samurai swords,
the long Katana (daitō) and short Wakizashi (shōtō) and fights in the
classic and noble Kenjutsu style, his elegant moves serve to highlight
the freestyle way that Mugen manoeuvres and throws himself about, his
style owing more to break-dance and acrobatics than anything you would
learn at a Dojo. Mugen calls his style ‘Champuru Kendo’ it’s messy but
effective, and surprisingly the pair find themselves pretty evenly
This encounter goes less than well, ending up with our two young
warriors engaged in a bitter battle that sees the tea house go up in
flames, the dual would have been to the death, had it not been for the
fact both pass out from smoke inhalation. They awake in the local jail,
awaiting trial for the murder of the local magistrates son who perished
in the blaze. However a young waitress who worked at the tea house,
Fuu, agrees to help rescue them from the jail on the condition they
join forces to help her track down a mysterious warrior, known only as
‘the Samurai who smells of sunflowers’. And so an uneasy alliance is
formed, with Mugen and Jin agreeing to put aside their differences till
the missions completed. But will they be able to stop being at each
others throats to actually do the job.
Well, that’s the basic preface for the story, and over the 26 episodes
that made the series up, a lot more obviously happens. But at its core
this is just a good old-fashioned buddy movie, with buddies that hate
each other… at least to begin with!
Triad have a tradition of keeping their boxes simple and relatively eco
friendly, and the trend continues here. It can be a bit of a double
edged sword packaging. If you are spending $140 + on a licensed figure,
then you kind of expect all the stops to be pulled out, whistles and
bells, not to mention full colour printing, embossing, foil blocking
with the occasional magnet thrown in for gimmicky good measure, and
every now and then it’s nice to get the luxury of a die cut foam
surround…. Mmm, die cut foam!
However, Triad have managed to keep this figure at $119.99, so
considering he’s licensed, he comes with real metal swords, a newly
developed body and has the positionable eyes feature, well you can
colour me impressed.
The box is a compact tight format with striking graphic images of a
ceremonial Daisho display stand and some funky typography. This is all
set against rich, warm oranges and reds. The back has a brief bio of
the series and the character, while the front opens up in the classic 5
panel flap fronted design. The inside flap holds his accessories and
opposite is the fully dressed and constructed figure, visible through a
full-length window. The clear plastic accessory tray is heat welded
through four circular holes on the inner flap, you just need to pop a
couple of these and it opens up without having to destroy it or do any
So, like I said, this isn’t going to getting the Palm d’Or at this
years prestigious 1/6th packaging design Grand Prix, but it is however
really nice and sturdy with a solid robust feel, and it hasn’t added $5
or $10 to the price. So I’m more than happy, and with space being the
ultimate premium in just about every collectors mind, it’s nice and
compact as well, which means easy to store!
I really like this sculpt, it captures the whole skinny wiry anime look
of Mugen to a tee. The basic silhouette and frame reminds me of the old
early Medicom ‘spider’ figures, like Lupin III and Cowboy
Bebop which is coincidentally, like Samurai Champloo also a
story created by Shinichirō
Watanabe, now you see how these things go full circle!
The face here is just perfect, full of astute observations on his
ski-jump nose and ultra pointy chin. The nose is narrow, almost blade
like, while his brow is furrowed in a determined scowel, but the the
attitude and character is all there. A lot of this is got from those
movable eyes and the articulation at the top of the neck, as with a
simple tilt of the head and a quick reposition of the way he is looking
and you achieve 100% more character than with a fixed neck and eyes.
The hair style is also handled in a graphic style, reducing Mugens wild
mane down to simple flowing shapes. They hang curtain like on either
side of the face, then sweep back to form points at the back. This is
then given a flat black coat of paint, but the underlying forms still
stand out well, catching the light and shadows to give it a striking
look. This hair can also lift off to access the moving eye mechanism.
It’s a straight pull up, and then you’ll see two slots at the front and
rear of the head where the two pieces match up when you replace it. As
for the positioning of the eye’s, you’ll find two plastic rods, polly
bagged and taped to the inside tray. The points of these just insert to
the rear of the eyeball and you turn and twist to the desired position,
but be aware that Mugen has catch-light dots painted on his iris’
(always excusable on animated characters… BUT ONLY ON ANIMATED
CHARACTERS), so be aware of where they are positioned and make sure
they are symetrical when posing them.
His ears are also fully sculpted but sit half under the hair, they are
pierced with small metal wires that have blue beads hanging from them.
Both hands are sculpted in gripping positions, these look like they
could be a little bigger, but it’s a tough call as they are closed up
in near fists. The left hand has the thumb fixed to the fingers, so I
decide to carfully cut this open with a scalpel so he can hold the
Katana in a double handed grip, which I’m happier with. Then lastly
there’s his feet, these are sculpted bare with a splayed big toe so
they can fit into the thong of the Geta, they are also kept in place
with two small countersunk magnets in the underside of the feet, it’s a
technique that works surprisingly well.
The paint here is taking its lead from the Anime again, and as such it
does a great job of showing Mugen
as he looked in the show. It also reminds me yet again of those old
Medicom Anime figures, as the paint apps are all clean, crisp and
unfussy. It’s all pretty minimal as well, as lets face it, in the show
they didn’t use lots of subtle flesh tones, it was just a flat colour
with a primary shadow tone to give form and add definition like
this or even this.
The individual whiskers are picked out on his top lip and chin, and
they even remembered to put the cut in his right eyebrow,
the eyes are also painted accurately, but make sure those light dots
are in the same positions (I have to admit, because of the nature of
this feature I think the dots would have been better left off). As I
said above the hair is painted in a flat black tone, but apart from the
tattooed blue bands on his ankles and wrists, that’s about it.
So to sum up this is a paint app that is designed to serve the subject
matter it is based on, and as such it’s pretty well hit the nail on the
- *** 3/4
This is an all new body that Triad have developed for the two Champloo
figures, and I’m always impressed when any company goes the extra mile
to develop character specific bodies.
I’m 99% very happy with this figures performance, so lets get that 1% I
didn’t like out of the way first, then we can focus on the good stuff.
OK, my main gripe is the wrists, they move well, and can get some great
positions but they are just too loose, at least they are on mine, you
may be luckier. It’s made more noticeable by the fact he needs to wield
his metal sword, which though not hugely heavy, still poses a problem,
especially when holding it with one hand at an acute angle. But that
really is about it on the negatives; well I say that the knees bother
me a little bit too, as the double joint doesn’t seem to work quite
right. The lower joint between knee and shin works fine but the joint
between the knee and thigh won’t bend back fully, perhaps it’s not
meant to? I do however like the sculpted knee caps, I know these have
bothered some folks, but I have no problem with an articulated figure
looking like it’s articulated (go figure) in fact I’ve always liked a
little visible engineering as long as its aesthetically pleasing and
well designed. The main material used on the figure is ABS plastic but
the head, hands and feet are a softer rubber material to aid the
removing of the hair, gripping of the hands and positioning of the
feet. The pelvis/groin area is also made of this rubber material to
help in the posing at the waist and top of the thighs, and the fact
it’s not a brittle plastic means it has a certain amount of give and
flexibility when getting into those more awkward positions. The
shoulders also have an unusual new joint; it’s a sprung ratcheted
mechanism allowing the arms to go up high over the head for some cool
double-handed sword grip poses. The neck articulation is fixed at the
base where it is molded and sculpted into the shoulders but at the top
it can swivel in all directions to tilt from side to side and look up
and down. Everything else is as you’d expect to find on a good quality,
hi-end 1/6th figure. I have to admit I really enjoyed posing this guy
and with just a little manipulation the body hangs and poses incredibly
– *** 1/2
Mugens outfit is not what you could call classic, considering Champloo
is set in Edo-era Japan, which was a pretty volatile a feudal chapter
in Japanese history (in fact it was during the Edo period that the word
Ninja was first introduced). You might expect him to be wearing
something at least a little more
traditional, but this is where Watanabe’s genius come into
play. Like in Takashi Okazaki's Afro Samurai, he doesn’t get bogged
down in the minutiae of historical accuracy; instead he just used the
timeframe as a backdrop, taking some important occurrences to tell a
story that could be happening anytime. This meant the confused young
‘MTV’ generation with the attention span of a goldfish could be sucked
in and swept along for the ride, getting an impromptu (all be it
slight) history lesson, without even realising it.
His basic wardrobe consists of a pair of metal soled Geta (with magnets
concealed in the blocks), grey baggy shorts with red ribbon detail
running around the hems, a white vest with brown lace up front (the
laces aren’t tied but worn loose tucked inside the collar) and then
lastly he has his short sleeved open fronted red shirt. All the
garments are tailored to be baggy, but fit well to the skinny frame.
Because of their loose nature you will need to futz and tweak to get
everything hanging and looking how you want it, but with a little work
you can get the outfit to drape really nicely for some kick-ass poses.
The red shirt had a few long threads on the inside seams, but this was
tidied up easily with a pair of scissors. I have to admit I’m loving
the Triad feature of concealing magnets in the feet and Geta, it means
that with a metal base you can get some great action poses… even
running up your fridge!
Mugen comes lightly equipped, but the apparatus he does have is pretty
much all he really needs. It consists of his Saya (scabbard) that holds
his main Katanna in one end and his smaller dagger hidden at the other
end. The Saya has a cord attached to a padded section that is worn over
the shoulder. That’s about it for accessories apart from the bonus
circular window sticker, I still think Triad should consider including
a flat printed metal disc instead of these stickers as it would work
great as a stand for all these figures with the ‘bullet time’ magnetic
feet. The small dagger was quite a loose fit in the end of the Saya for
me so I coated the inside of the aperture with a thin layer of
super-glue and it fits much more snugly now. It’s also worth pointing
out that both the blades on his weapons are real metal with a shiny
chrome finish, nice!
So, considering Mugen is little more than a vagabond, constantly
traveling with virtually no material possessions except for that trusty
blade, then I guess he has all he essentially needs.
Value - ***1/2
Like I said in the packaging section, this figure retails direct from
the Triad site for $119.99, and we all now that’s not cheap. However in
the present climate of hi-end 1/6th figures prices creeping ever
higher, and $150 becoming the norm, then this seems like a relatively
good buy, especially when you take into account it has –
1- Newly developed body specific to the character
2- Real Metal swords
3- Positionable eyes
So, a bundle of features that make the price a whole lot more
acceptable, but not quite full score acceptable!
However he’s not far off, and the main reason for that is how much fun
I had posing him.
Factor - ****
This is full score category without a doubt. It takes a little while to
get used to the body, like every other base body out there it has it’s
little idiosyncrasies, but once you have familiarised yourself with
it’s strengths and weaknesses you will have a ton of fun posing
him. I freely admit I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of
the series, but even with my limited knowledge of the show I remember
the gymnastics and break-dance moves Mugen used to throw, and it’s cool
that this figure can achieve most of them.
- *** 3/4
This figure is getting so close to a top score from me, there is a lot
to like, and very little to get upset about. The sculpt is strong, the
paint apps (though not complex) are carried out crisply and accurately
and that new bod poses really well, of course it has a few limitations,
every base body I have ever encountered has, but it’s still got some
cool moves. Throw into the mix the cool magnetic feature in the feet,
moving eyes and metal accessories then your close to ticking all the
boxes of what makes a 1/6th figure perfect. However those weak wrists
and the $120 price tag just hold it back by a whisker… but it’s damn
(Note, with some rooting around this guy is available out there for
$99, if you can score Mugen for that price it’d be a full score, hands
Where to Buy -
You can get this direct from Triad’s website for $119.99 here.
Or you can try Michael’s
sponsors below where you stand to save over $8 if you’re quick -
Big Bad Toy Store -
or you can try
eBay where I’ve seen him going for BIN prices of $99 to $130.
This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer.
Photos and text by Jeff Parker.