Knuckle Bears

I'll be the very first to admit it - I don't know jack about the Asian vinyl market.  Yes, they look an awful lot like dog chew toys, but I'm sure that's simply because I don't yet have the sophistication and taste to understand the simple beauty.  Can you grab me a beer?

But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't pay them a little more attention, and stretch my boundaries a tad.  And so tonight I'm going to look at four of the 8.5" vinyl Knuckle Bears from Qee.

Toy2R is the company that produces these, along with many other designer toys.  They do figures from 3" to 8" from a variety of talented young designers. The Knuckle Bears are from Touma, a young Japanese designer who once worked for Sega.  There's a great interview with him at Vinyl Pulse if you're looking for further info.

The four Knuckle Bears I'm looking at are all Tower Records exclusives.  There's Guardian, with his red scarf and beads, Iron, with his bronze metallic paint job, the brightly colored Tattoo, and King, who wears a nifty faux fur coat.  These retail for about $30 each, and are limited to only 500 each.


Packaging - **1/2
Three of these four bears come packaged in simple bags, very much like the bags used when I was a kid for rotocast Warner Brothers cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.  Nostalgically fun, but not particularly complex.  Still, they are the definition of collector friendly, since you easily open them up, take the figure out, and return it any time.

The fourth bear, King, comes in a large box.  Again, it's collector friendly, but very basic in design and style.  More info on the packaging about the line and the artist would have been a really nice additional touch.

Sculpting - ***
Knuckle Bears remind me of teddy bears meet industrial art.  The sculpts are fairly simplistic, but still very artistic in this minimalist industrial style.

These are very large too, and while I told you they were 8", that might not sink in until you have them in hand.  They are much larger than I had expected, and I've added a shot with some other figures to try to get the point across a little better. 

The bears are all identical in sculpt, and only differentiated by paint.  The bear looks like he went a couple rounds with Mike Tyson, with a chunk of his right ear missing.  The large, clawed paws he had for hands are very different than the cube paws he has for feet, and while the feet are small, the bears stand great on their own.

Paint - ***1/2
With such a small run on these figures, it should be no surprise that the paint ops are extremely well done.  Since this is how the figures are really differentiated (with the exception of King's coat), it is surprising how different each appears.

By varying the size, style and placement of the eyes, the figures have very different looks, and the bright colors of the body are very clean and neat.  There's no slop or over spray, and the boundaries between colors are even and clean.

Many of the figures also bear (har har) some sort of Tower Records marking, although Tattoo has the most interesting interpretation.

Articulation - *1/2
If you're looking for super poseable, you might want to look elsewhere.  Most art isn't particularly poseable, and these vinyl bears are no exception to that loose rule.

The bears have articulated shoulders, and that's about it.  While the shoulders might look like ball joints due to the design, they aren't, and the arms simply move forward and back.  The legs are not articulated although the appear that they could be.

Accessories - King **1/2; Guardian **; Tattoo, Iron Bupkis;
Hey, it's art man!  What accessories could they need?

Actually two of the four get some accessories.  King comes with a faux fur coat, that fits pretty well, and looks pretty pimp.  The material is rather unique, and the jacket can be easily removed and replaced.

Iron and Tattoo come with zippo, but Guardian has a red scarf, and a set of beads around one shoulder.

Fun Factor - ***
Here's a surprise for a piece of art - these actually make pretty fun toys!  Okay, they aren't super articulated, and don't come with a ton of accessories, but the simple designs and bright colors will capture the attention of the under 6 crowd.

Value - **
At $30 each, these aren't cheap.  But if you collect vinyl, you know that it could be a lot worse.  Many vinyl figures from top designers cost far more than this.

Overall -  ***
Okay, so I'm not going to rush off and buy dozens of vinyl figures next week.  But these are nicely done, with some excellent designs and great colors, and I can see how folks get caught up in the theme.

If you enjoy vinyl but haven't checked out the Knuckle Bears yet, these are worth eyeballing.  And if you haven't tip toed onto the lush grass of the designer toy lawn, these would be a great place to start.

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - ***
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - *1/2
Accessories - King **1/2; Guardian **; Tattoo, Iron Bupkis;
Fun Factor - ***
Value - **
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -  
All four of these are exclusives at Tower Records.  Suggested retail is around $30 each.

Related Links:
I don't have much in the vinyl world on my site, but there's some other useful links:

- Toy2R makes all kinds of interesting vinyl designer toys.

- and there's a nifty interview with the designer of the Knuckle Bears, Touma, at Vinyl Pulse.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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