Kamui Gaiden
Hot Toys

Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

   "The 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 guest author."

Jeff Parker jumps in tonight with a look at another new release from Hot Toys - tell us all about it, Jeff!

Thank you as always to Michael, still THE Captain Toy, and the Sensei of toy reviewers if you will.

OK, I admit it, when I first saw this figure announced I thought ‘Kamui who?’ In much the same way I did when I first read that Hot Toys had landed the Goemon license. But then, as is oft the case with Hot Toys figures, they release the spec and pics and your jaw just kind of hangs there for a moment while you take in what you are looking at. In this case it’s Kamui, a young Shinobi or Ninja who has turned his back on the clan who trained him and who he once fought along side. But the thing is you can’t just leave a Ninja cell, you either have to be killed or kill them all, as if you dare to reject them, they will spend the rest of their lives hunting you down.

So you see the problem young Kamui here has, he must constantly move, never put down roots and never form any friendships, because as soon as he does he will be found, and even if he can move quickly enough to evade his relentless pursuers they will still mercilessly slaughter any people he has even made the slight acquaintance of. The story takes many twists and turns and numerous characters are introduced along the way, but at its core this is the premise of Kamui’s ongoing adventure. It started life as a Manga strip created by Sanpei Shirato, but was then made into a 26 episode Anime originally shown on Japanese TV back in 1969. So fast forward 40 years and here we finally are with a live action movie version, and from what I’ve read the main reason for this was the story is so special effects laden (vintage sea-faring pirate galleons, daggers whistling through the air, arrows deflected with Katanas and flying shark attacks) they needed extensive CGI scenes to bring it to the screen convincingly.
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

The character of Kamui is played by Ken'ichi Matsuyama who many will know for playing L in the Deathnote movies, to say he is a heartthrob in his native Japan might be an understatement, and he is definitely something of a box office draw in many Asian countries.

So even though like me you may have thought ‘Kamui who?’ or even ‘Ken'ichi Matsuyama who?’ I still have a strong feeling this will be a big seller, hell Sideshow have already sold out, and just like Goemon the movie still hasn’t even been released in the US yet, in fact it’s only received a couple of screenings in the UK at film festivals so far. So, if you aren’t familiar with the character, the story or the actor, do you still need this in your collection?

Well, if you like the Jidaigeki style and you need your regular fix of hi-end 1/6th goodness, and if you happen to be a fan of Hot Toys chief sculptor Yulli, well, wadayouthink?

Packaging - ***
As a rule I like Hot Toys packaging, in fact I usually like it a lot. They seem to find ever more creative ways of reinventing the wheel, but sadly this box just doesn’t float my boat. It’s nice, it’s tasteful, it’s well constructed… but it doesn’t excite me. It’s main colour-way is grey and a dark red, the red is over printed onto a mezzotint image of Kamui, and where the over print occurs we get an interesting moiré effect. The one aspect I do really like is the heavy use of Japanese typography, it’s written vertically down the page in a bold calligraphic style. The side panel is held down by a magnetic seal, it lifts and opens to the left showing the figure and his accessories through the large window. Inside it’s the usual vac formed tray, but no twisties are used.

So, depending on your sensibilities this might appeal a lot more to you than it does to me. There’s no denying it’s an attractive and subtle piece of work but it just don’t rock my world!

Sculpting - ****
OK, look at this sculpt, no seriously look closely at this sculpt, then take a look at some pics of Ken'ichi Matsuyama like this or this or I guess more specifically this then I defy you not see how this is approaching utter perfection. The thing is Matsuyama actually has quite an unremarkable face (I mean this in a good way), but he’s almost androgynous from some angles. It’s the kind of subtle face that sculptors the world over would struggle to get right, but get it right Yulli has (Hmm Yoda I sound like).

The thing is all of his features are soft; the curve of his cheek, the slope of the nose and the distinctive pout of his upper lip, and it is all captured here beautifully. The hair is handled in the same way HT seem to produce most of their Asian characters hair, in that it is a separate stuck on piece, made from glossy black vinyl.

Enterbay do the same thing and it’s very effective. It’s worn in a raggedy style here, with loose strands hanging down at various points, other parts are swept back to a long ponytail but the nature of the pliable vinyl used means it can sway and bend without hampering the neck articulation too much at all. He also comes with six hands, two are fists, two are gripping and two are in the kung fu, tiger-claw position.

So, even though I’m sure Kamui Gaiden is a fine and entertaining movie, I’m still pretty sure this figure is going to end up being bashed into quite a few figures of ‘L’, and whilst I can’t complain about that, it seems a shame to spoil what is such a great looking figure straight from the box!

Paint - ****
Considering Hot Toys are a Hong Kong based company, they don’t actually do that many Asian movie stars, but when they do, they really seem to get some special treatment. Not only has Yulli lavished her talents on the sculpt for Kamui, but JC Hong has pulled off another one of his faultless paint apps which has been reproduced by their factory to such an amazing finish that you just cant imagine how it is managed on a mass produced level. The painting here is nothing short of astounding, beautiful skin tones with subtle mottling and graduations, the lip tone is distinct enough from the general flesh colouration without being ‘lipstick’ like at all, but as always it’s those glossy eyes that really bring this figure to life. The eye brows also bear the closest of scrutiny, with individual hairs being evident and all the hands have some gentle tones applied as well. Put simply there is nothing here to complain about, just a striking piece of work. How do they do it… no seriously how?

Outfit - ****
Kamui here has a trade, the trade of NINJA, the art of invisibility, the ability to become a shadow (all be it a very deadly shadow), but a trade nonetheless!

And as amoral as it may be considered, the act of being a gun for hire, it is soooo much more cooler than being a plumber (to any plumbers reading this I appologise, and I assure you your trade is more cool and more in demand than mine… sadly). But if you were given the choice of journeyman ‘Ninja’ assasin… or… journeyman plumber… what’s your choice… EXACTLY, the prosecution rests!
So what am I getting at here, well, being a Ninja who blends into shadows you expect dark colours… no, a Ninja, lets face it you expect black, BLACK (they lock me under the stairs and make me eat pins!) Black!.

But Kamui here doesn’t want people to know he’s a Ninja, he wants people to think he’s a plumber… well, not a plumber but any other job, in fact any other job rather than a Ninja!

And so our young hero is dressed in the attire of a vagabond, his garments are a hotch potch of different fabrics patched and stiched together. It’s a mixed media outfit consisting of cotton, hessian, suedette, pleather, vinyl, ribbons and cords. His feet are sculpted as bound leather mocasins with a double ended ball joint so there’s a great range of movement here as well. The shins and forearms are wrapped in a tan leather that is then bound and tied with cords, under these he wears a pair of light cotton trousers. On his top half he has a woven hessian under garment (like an Edo period kevlar vest), overwhich he wears his patterned patch work long shirt (it kind of forms an overlapping skirt over the trouser tops) and lastly a suede wrap-over long sleeveless waiscoat (think Japanese Jedi) tied at the waist with a multi-coloured fabric belt, the back of this belt also has an elasticated loop to slide the Wakizashi Saya (small swords scabbard) into, the main Saya holding the Katana (long sword) is worn in the traditioanal Ninja style over his back, held by a cloth belt.

So as a basic run down garment by garment that is his wardrobe, but Keith Lai who put this costume together has done a fine job of replicating materials to make this outfit look pretty much perfect. I’m especially impressed by the taditioanal patterns used on the patch work shirt, as the details are just amazing. And the big, big bonus is that the nature of the various garments and the way they are tailored to fit, means it all hangs very convincingly and Kamui loses almost none of that all important ‘Ninja’ articulation, leading us on nicely to…

Articulation - ****
Kamui comes on the slim True Type (TT), which I covered in this link here, it’s a body that a lot of 1/6th fans know pretty well by now, and it suits this character fantastically, as it lets the clothing hang naturally and means you can get him in some great action ‘Ninja’ poses. And even though both his swords are solid metal, the joints are all good and firm so he’ll have no problem holding them up even in more extreme poses.

This particular figure has the two-jointed neck meaning it has a god range of circular motion both where the neck joins the shoulders and the head. I prefer action figures this way, as the word ‘action’ has always gone hand in hand with articulation, well, for me anyway. I know the sculpted neck works better for some characters, but what we gain in aesthetic we lose in the ability to pose naturally. So for Kamui here this works 100% fine, and as I mentioned in the outfit section, the feet are sculpted as the leather moccasins, so combined with the double ended ball joint here, the ankles have a good range for deep stances as well!

Accessories - ****
Kamui comes with a good selection, made all the more impressive by those real metal swords.

The official spec lists-
- Katana long sword with Saya (sheath)
- Wakizashi short sword with Saya (sheath)
- Two iron fists (like knuckle dusters with lethal looking spikes)
- Two Kunai knives
- Small bag (Actually looks more like a bed roll)
- 3 pairs of interchangeable hands
- 2 Scallop Shells (not sure how these are used in the movie)
- Figure stand

As I said, the swords take centre stage here, as like with the Goemon figures they have solid metal blades, the grips are of the classic design incorporating the Tsuba hand guard and Tsuka cord bound pommel. Both have Saya’s (sheaths) included as well. As I went over above, the smaller attaches to his belt while the larger is slung over his back on a strap. The structure on both the weapons and scabbards is finely observed, showing lovely details and finely rendered flourishes like the Hamon (curved wavy line that is etched along the blade edge to show where the folded steel is at its sharpest) on the swords and leather textures and cloth bindings on the Saya. All the other accessories are plastic, but the paint apps still manage to make them loo like little facsimiles of the items they represent. The Kunai knives fit in the gripping hands and the metal claws fit over the fisted ones, I’m not sure what you are meant to with the shells (I feel like Sly Stallone in Demolition man) but I’m putting them in the little draw string pouch that hangs from his belt. The bag is bound shut with a piece of cord and I haven’t tried opening it yet, it looks best just hung over his back and tied in a simple knot over his chest, but it’s not essential for the look of the character and I would imagine it was only used in a few scenes.

Lastly we get the figure stand, all the writing here is in Japanese which at least gives it a cool Asian vibe, but to be honest, it will be staying in the box, as Kamui can stand very well without it.

So, a good selection, beautifully crafted, full score easy!

Value - ****
I have no problem with giving this figure a full score based on the RRP of &149.99, but if you mooch around you can find him for as little $130, and for that price he’s a gem. I have a strong feeling that because of the licence being little known in the West, and having only a cult following in the East, it may have lead to this figure being made in smaller numbers. But that hasn’t lead to any cuts in the final quality of the figure, in fact the lower numbers seem to have allowed for some even tighter quality control, especially on those sublime paint apps. So throw in the cool accessories and you have what just has to be a full score item.

Fun Factor - ****
This figure, like the one of Goemon Ishikawa is just made for posing and playing with, it has a robust build and accessories that don’t need to be treated like fragile eggshells.

So if you are buying this because you are a fan of the character, or a fan of the actor you will be very happy indeed. I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with either, but I’m still very happy, he looks great posed alongside my Goemon figures, but he’d look cool on any shelf.

Overall - ****
I like this figure, I like it a lot, you can probably tell. Now I just need to actually see the movie it’s based on!
I’m so glad that the relative obscurity of this character and the Manga it is derived from hasn’t lead to any cuts in the final quality of the product. In fact it’s been one of my favourites amongst recent releases. 

I know for many he will get lost in a sea of T-800’s and battle damaged Iron Man figures, which is a shame, because come the end of the year this little figure might well make it into my top three. And I also have a feeling there might be a few 1/6th fans out there trying to have complete collections of the figures Yulli has sculpted for Hot Toys so far. As such this is one of her nicest pieces to date, which sadly might slip under the radar for many people with all the high profile licences hitting right now. However I’m glad it didn’t slip under mine and I’d recommend it highly, it’s an outstanding piece that sums just how well put together modern hi-end 1/6th figures are these days, i.e. virtually perfect!

Where to Buy -
Sideshow have now long sold out of what I would imagine was a pretty limited number anyway. He was available for $149.99. Or you can try Michael’s sponsor below-
Big Bad Toy Store - $144.99

or hit eBay where I’ve seen BIN prices of $129.99 to $179.99, good luck.

Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys
Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

Kamui Gaiden sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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