Harry Potter 3 3/4" NECA series 1
Harry, Hermione and Ron

This is the week (actually one of TWO weeks in July) that Harry Potter fans have been waiting for in anticipation. Oh, not the anticipation they have for the 21st when the 7th book hits and they get a NEW Harry Potter story, but the film version of Order of the Phoenix is still mighty high on their list. Reviews so far are mediocre, but what the Hell do critics know. And yes, I get the irony.

I couldn't possibly let the week go by without one Harry Potter collectible review, but I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the action figure and bust lines. Ah, but NECA has released an early set of their 3 3/4" figures as a Borders Exclusive - Harry, Ron and Hermione with a full size version of the Marauder's Map. The three will come out separately later of course, but this is your only chance to get the map.

I mentioned it earlier with my review of the Snape 7" figure, which NECA released early at Borders, but I'll mention it again - putting these figures in non-traditional retailers is very smart move. I complained on message boards aplenty back when Mcfarlane did the first series of Lost figures that properties like that needed to be in stores like Best Buy or Circuit City, not Toys R Us - the millions of viewers don't generally shop the action figure aisle at TRU. By stepping out with a retailer that doesn't traditionally carry 'toys', NECA is putting their product in a location that's more likely to garner new interest.

The three pack runs $20, and is currently available at most large Borders locations.

Packaging - ***1/2
The only thing I like more than clamshells is boxes. They store easily, they are usually compact, and they are usually collector friendly, with fewer twist ties and less trouble getting the figures out and putting them back in.

This package boasts all that, plus some very attractive graphics using the map as a theme. There's the Borders Exclusive sticker on the front, but a little more background text, especially around the map, would have been a nice addition.

Sculpting - Hernione ***1/2; Ron, Harry ***
Not surprisingly, the sculpts here are very much like their 7" counterparts. Since these are just shrunk down versions, you'd fully expect them to look every bit as good. What is surprising (perhaps) is that in this scale, they actually look a bit better. I'm not boosting the scores here over the 7" versions, because of the still somewhat awkward stances (they don't quite mesh with the articulation), but it's easier to appreciate the head sculpts in this scale.

Hermione is particularly good. Not only does it look very much like the character, but the hair fits the head much better. Her stance is still a bit wonky, and the articulation and sculpt don't work particularly well together, but in one (or two) poses she'll look great on the shelf.

Harry has the usual glasses problem, which are a bit too big for his face. Oddly, this seems less of a problem in the smaller scale as well, although that's likely just a matter of perception. It's probably due to the fact that in this small of a scale my mind doesn't expect perfectly scaled eye glasses, and therefore I'm a bit more forgiving.

Ron looks like Ron, including the pudgy cheeks, and the hair detail is good. I'm the least thrilled with his pose though, which makes him appear bored and uninterested in the action going on around him.

All three are just about 3 3/4" tall, and actually look pretty good with other figures in that scale like your Star Wars figures. 

All three can also stand on their own, although Ron has the most trouble. You'll have to get his arms and torso in just the right place to get his center of gravity in line.

Paint - Hermione ***1/2; Ron ***; Harry *1/2
One of my biggest complaints on the 7" series was paint quality - in this scale, it's actually improved. There were still some specific issues, but there's nothing quite as bad as we saw earlier.

Hermione is actually quite good, especially around the face and hair. The sculpt stands out because the face paint is so clean and neat, and the slightly odd highlighting of her hair has grown on me over time. Most of the cuts are clean, and there's very little slop. The hose color is a little bit inconsistent over the legs, but it's a fairly minor gripe.

Ron doesn't have the atrocious face paint of his bigger cousin, although his cheeks are still a little too ruddy, making it look like weird shadows. His tie is fairly clean as our the cut lines all around, although the stripes on the shirt are a bit sloppy here and there.

Harry has the most problems this time, highlighted with two key issues. First, the temples of his glasses are silver. I kid you not. The rims are black, but the temples are silver. On close examination through the lens of the camera, it looks like they are cast and silver and just not completely painted.  EDIT - after seeing the film, it does appear that his current glasses have silver temples and black frames.  So they are screen accurate, but still very sloppy.

Next, he appears to have an ear wax problem with his left ear, where dark paint has collected. You'll also notice that his tie has some missing paint, appearing to hang in mid air rather than wrap around his neck. And finally, there's a slightly lighter area on top of his head, where the brown paint didn't quite get down into the detailed hair sculpt.

There's also more slop on Harry than the others, pretty much over the entire paint job.  There's a huge difference between the quality of the Ron and Hermione, and poor Harry.

Articulation - *1/2
Figures in this scale can certainly be well articulated, and they can even to it while still looking good. Look no further than my recent review of Bossk to see an example. However, these figures follow the very basic articulation of the larger figures, and then deduct from there.

All three have what might be ball jointed necks, but because of the sculpts (Hermione's hair, high collars on Ron and Harry), they operate as cut joints. There's also cut shoulders and a cut waist on all three. These waist joints, like the necks, could be ball joints in the strictest sense, but only operate as cut joints.

Hermione goes two joints further with cuts on her thighs. These are handy to get her in a perfect standing position.

There's no wrist joints, no working ball joints, and very little you can do with what's here outside of the main sculpted pose.

Accessories - ***
There's the standard small oval black base, which is useful, particularly for Ron. The other two stand fine on their own, but in this scale even the slightest bump is going to topple them without the stand.

All three come with their appropriate wands, although when they're this tiny, they start looking pretty much alike. They fit nicely in their hands though, and do the job.

Finally, there's the exclusive map. I was disappointed that it was folded incorrectly before being placed in the box. Folded correctly, and the printing is evenly divided, and the cut down the center of the front page lines up perfectly. However, mine is folded off about a half inch, creating another fold in the front and screwing up the appearance completely.  The map is about 81/2" x 11" when folded.

Value - ***
At $20, you're getting three 3 3/4" figures. That's less than $7 a figure, and it's an exclusive which means a lower run size. Of course, these figures will also end up getting released at mass later, but for now it's a pretty decent deal.

Fun Factor - ***
This scale is a lot more fun, even with the limited articulation, than the 7" size. With these kids are more able to reinact and play out their favorite scenes, but the limited articulation is an issue. If you're looking for the perfect kid HP action figure, I'd check out the Cards, Inc. stuff, but these are really the best bet if you live in the U.S.

Things to Watch Out For - 
I had a few stuck joints, and one (Ron's right shoulder) couldn't be freed up without risking breaking it. You'll also want to pay as much attention to the paint as possible, and finding a set where all three are perfect is probably going to be tough.

I managed to snap Harry's wand taking it out of the package, so take some care there as well.  These wands are pretty stiff plastic, and mighty tough to fix once you've broken them.  Trust me.

Overall - Hermione, Ron ***; Harry **
I have a good friend in the U.K. who is going through the trouble of getting the Cards Inc. Harry Potter figures for me. I have high hopes for those figures, and suspect that they will be much, much better toys than these

Harry is the only real problem of the set, with the atrocious paint hurting what is otherwise a solid looking figure.

However, these aren't that bad. If NECA could get the paint issues and consistency under control, they'd be in a much better place with this line (and all their lines of course). Getting them into Borders was brilliant, and for most Americans looking for small scale Potter figures, these guys are going to be the only choice.

All I have to do to appreciate these is remember the figures we got from Mattel. *shudder* These could certainly be improved upon, and I'm hoping that when we get to characters like Dumbledore or Snape, or the 10" Hagrid they've announced, that the paint issues are corrected. But the die hard Potter fans are likely to look past the issues these have, and enjoy them quite a bit.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt -  Hernione ***1/2; Ron, Harry ***
Paint - Hermione ***1/2; Ron ***; Harry *1/2
Articulation - *1/2
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  ***
Overall - Hermione, Ron ***; Harry **

Where to Buy -
Obviously, this set is a Borders Exclusive so that's your best bet. They run $20 for the boxed set. 

Related Links -
Oh, I have reviewed more than a fair share of HP collectibles:

- my last was on the series 2 Snape released early at Borders.

- there was the guest review of the Tonner dolls

- I also reviewed the first series of figures from NECA, along with the first series of OOTP.

- there's the other mini-busts, including Voldemort, Hagrid and Mad Eye Moody, Ron and Hermione, Snape and Dumbledore, Dobby and Dementor, and a guest review of Harry and Sirius.

- Gentle Giant also did a statue of the Hungarian Horntail, and the Riddle Grave.

- the Noble Collection has done some nifty wands.

- just case you forgot how bad some of Mattel's figures were, here's Extreme Quidditch Harry and Dueling Club Harry.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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