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Takara Batman Begins
(and a comparison with Medicom/Hot Toys)

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that both the Hot Toys Batman and Takara Batman from Batman Begins have been released. These are both sixth scale figures. They both cost big bucks. And they are competing with each other (and Medicom) for your dollars.

So which should you buy? I reviewed the Medicom earlier in the year, and a couple weeks ago covered the Hot Toys version. Rather than simply review the Takara version tonight, I'm going to do something slightly different. Oh, he'll still be reviewed, but at the same time I'll be comparing and contrasting him with the previous two, to help you get a better idea of which figure is right for you.

And that's really what it comes down to - which is right for you. There isn't one of these figures that is so perfect or outstanding that it crushes the competition. Each has issues of it's own, and each has strong points. Which aspects matter most to you - sculpt, size, outfit, articulation, posability, cost, displaying with other lines - will determine which one is the best fit.

However, I was originally going to include the DC Direct version in this comparison. But I have to simply say it's a no brainer on that one. Skip it. If cost is an issue for you, go with the Action Cape version from Mattel for just $20. You'll be happier than spending $70 and not getting something more than 3 times better.

The only case in which I would recommend getting the DC Direct version is if you're buying a large number of the rest of the series, and want that Batman to fit in. Since DC Direct decided to go with their own made up scale with that series, you'll need to buy theirs to have a modern Batman to fit in.

The Takara Bats started shipping about a week or two ago, and most online stores are already sold out through pre-orders. If you really think you want him and see him for $150 or less, definitely snag him, as the price is only going to rise.

Packaging - Medicom **; HT ****; Tak **1/2
The strength of the HT packaging is its collector friendly nature - you can pop Batman in and out with no trouble or damage. It's also sharp looking, and is put together with the quality you expect at this price range.

The Medicom fairs poorly because it's way, way too big. When gas costs $3.25 a gallon, you start getting a lot more conscious of waste in all areas.

The Takara package looks good, with the shot of the costume up front, and a fifth panel for the accessories.  It also has instructions for the figure, always a big plus.  But it's huge drawback is that it is NOT collector friendly, and you'll need to destroy it to remove the accessories.  In the current market, this is something that Takara needs to fix. 

Keep in mind that getting all three in *exactly the same spot for each shot is harder than you'd think, particularly with the slight (or more than slight, in the case of the Medicom) differences in size.  I gave it my best shot.  Also, I switched backgrounds on these shots to attempt to get rid of the slight deep purple appearance of the cape in shots with the blue background.  I have no idea if it helped - you'll have to tell me!

One final note on the photos - in all the comparison shots of three across, they go Medicom, Hot Toys, then Takara.

Sculpting - Head: Medicom ***1/2, HT ***; Tak ****
If you go back and read my old reviews of the HT and Medicom Bats, you may notice differences in the sculpt scores from here. That's because in those reviews, I was including the sculpt of the body, head and hands as all one score, and some good aspects out weighed other bad. Here, I'm splitting the score into two sections - Head and Body - so that you can get a better feel for which figure does which part better.

The three heads are all interpretations of the same cowl. It's interesting to see that all three are different, even if only slightly. It is important to attempt to take the paint quality out of your assessment of the sculpt - look at shape and texture, not overall realism of the head. If you aren't careful, the quality of the paint will effect your opinion on the quality of the sculpt, and it can be very, very difficult to separate the two.

The Medicom head is actually a soft rubber, rotocast 'mask' that fits over a blank, solid head and neck underneath. Because it's soft rubber, the sculpt isn't quite as tightly defined, especially in the mouth and chin. The neck and head of the cowl are all one solid piece, with the neck articulation at the torso. Because it's one piece, there's less definition between the head and neck, and it all flows together a little to much. Also, the widest part of the head should be at the center, right where you would draw a horizontal line through the eyes. Instead, the Medicom has the widest part at the mid-jaw line. This differs from the look in the movie ever so slightly, and takes away from the slightly rounded appearance that the cowl had on film. Along with the solid lines down the neck, it lengthens the overall sculpt, making his head appear longer, rather than the appropriate width.

The HT head suffers the same fate. Again, the widest part is at the jaw line, and the head and neck are all one solid piece. This head is solid though, giving it much better definition in the chin, jaw and cowl lines. The ridges are more pronounced, and the nose is longer and sharper.

The Takara version has both these beat because the got the shape of the head correct. The forehead is flatter and wider, and the face rounder, with the widest section at the half way point, right at the eyes. The head is also rotocast, although thicker than the rubber mask that Medicom is using. It has less detail then than the HT version, but this turns out to not necessarily be a bad thing. Of the three, he's clearly the winner, and looks both most realistic and most like the source material.

Sculpting - Body: Medicom **1/2; HT ***1/2, Tak ***
Ah, but Taks doesn't have the best sculpt on the body armor. Damn, and here I thought this would be easy. I'll be considering the sculpt on the body armor and hands in this section, although I'll come back to things like fit and materials when I get to the outfit section.

The Medicom body armor has the softest sculpt of the three, with the shallowest of the cuts and definition. It's not a huge difference though, and is unlikely to be a swaying factor for anyone. He also has the narrowest chest, proportionately, but the rest of the proportions - head to body, arms to body, hands to body - are all quite good. His cuffs are different from the other two, with a horizontal ridge running around the cuff. I'm pretty sure that this is actually movie accurate. Of the three, the Medicom has the best sculpted armor from the waist down, and I really like the boots.

The HT armor is slightly more defined than the Medicom, and he has the largest chest of the three. The hands are a touch small, but the other proportions are good. Because of the larger chest, the bat symbol is larger than the other two as well.

The Takara Batman is actually wearing slightly different armor than the other two. The design of the abdomen is very different, and all three do show obvious changes to the source material. Of the three though, I think the Takara version is the farthest from the actual film representation.

That's not a bad thing in the torso and arms though, and these look terrific. The hands are an excellent size, and while the type of materials they used for the suit might not match the movie exactly, it worked as an interpretation quite well. However, from the waist down he's the weakest of the three. The sculpt is weak in definition and style, and the most toy-like of the trio.

The other aspect of the 'body sculpt' that I always discuss is the size and scale of this figure in proportion to other sixth scale figures. This is what pulls the Medicom score down for me. While the Medicom figure has an excellent sculpt on most of the armor, his diminutive size (about 11 3/4" at the tips of his ears!) puts him completely outside of 'sixth scale', and too large to be seventh scale. I hate it when companies decide to ignore the six foot = 12 inches concept, and to with some weird interpretation. While the Medicom body sculpt looks great, it won't look great with any other superhero figure you have in your collection, including the newer Medicom Marvel stuff.

The HT Batman stands at 12.5 inches tall at the tip of the ears, and the Takara Batman stands just a smidge shorter. As you can see from the photo, either can work with something like a standard Sideshow figure or the Medicom Marvel stuff, but the Takara looks slightly better.

When it comes to the this category, Hot Toys wins for me, with Takara in a close second. I prefer the larger chest, and the better definition. Now remember, this is about the sculpt...not the construction or material used in the outfit. We'll discuss that further down the review.  If movie accuracy is critical to you, then you'll you may prefer the Takara version, except for those boots and the lack of the horizontal ridges on the cuffs.

Paint - Medicom, HT ***; Tak ***1/2
There's not a ton of paint here, but there are some key features to what is applied, and there's also some things worth noting about the finishes on the suits.

The HT version has the very cleanest application around the face and mask. The mask is black - the face is skin tone. The cut between these two is clean and neat. His eyes are also clean and neat, but lack life, and are more mannequin in appearance. His skin tone is the lightest of the group, which is a big negative, and he appears to be wearing lipstick. Extremely well applied lipstick, but lipstick nonetheless.

The suit on the HT version is flat black, almost entirely. The cowl and cuffs have a slightly more shiny - let's call it semi-gloss appearance - than the rest of the suit, but it's not extreme. He does have a much glossier bat signal on his chest however, which looks terrific and makes it stand out great.

The Medicom is also wearing lipstick, but has a slightly darker skin tone. His eyes are clean as well, but are also very mannequin in appearance. I believe that this is because the whites of the eyes on both the HT and Medicom are very, very white. Humans don't have pure white, artificial color, but rather an off white, which is captured much better by the Tak.

The Medicom is also sporting some of the face paint on the edge of the black cowl, but not too much. You have to pay attention to really notice it. He does not have the highlighted symbol, but his cuffs are a glossier appearance than the HT.

And then there's the Takara version. Again, the suit is all matte black, with no gloss on the symbol. The cuffs are much glossier than the other two though, and are much shinier than any other part of his costume. There's also a difference between the head, which is a very matte black like the soft rubber body suit, and the neck cover, which is slightly glossier and made from a harder plastic. It is not particularly noticeable in photos, but in person and under room light, it's quite distinct.

The Tak has the best face paint in all but one regard. The eyes are excellent, with a slightly off white realistic color, and a nice glossy wet appearance. They're also smaller than the other two, another plus, because he doesn't appear 'surprised'. The skin tone is darker than the other two, and again more appropriate, and the lips are perfect - no Mabelline here.

The one place he fails is in the skin tone riding up on the mask around the face. The edge of the mask should be black, not tan, and at least half of the edge around mine is the wrong color. It's a very small detail, but one that you may notice pretty quickly when they are side by side.

Although the Takara version has a couple issues, the edge in this category goes to him. You will see spots and flecks on his suit in all the photos though, and this isn't a paint issue but rather dirt that the slightly tacky rubber picks up like flypaper.

 

Articulation - Medicom, HT ***; Tak ***1/2
All three figures come on highly articulated bodies. The differences in posability are largely due to the type of suit material, and how tight the fit is, with the exception of the neck joints. Let's change this up a bit, and do a rundown of all three joint...

When it comes to the neck joint, Takara wins, at least for me. The Takara ball joint is actually down inside the sculpted neck underneath the black neck piece. However, the head is a separate piece from this neck cover, allowing the head to tilt, turn, and twist at the top of the neck, under the jawline. That means a more expressive figure, with more realistic poses. It also means no gapping at the point where the neck of the whole cowl meets the chest.

Unfortunately, it does mean that there's a joint line around the head at the jaw. Because the finish of the head and neck is slightly different, this joint is very obvious in person.

The Medicom and HT versions both have ball jointed necks, but they turn, twist and tilt at the torso. This means they are more restricted, and have a noticeable gap between the bottom of the cowl and torso in many poses.

Next, let's look at the shoulders, elbows and wrists. The arm articulation on the Medicom is a tad restricted, and he can't quite reach his face and chest as nicely or easily as the HT version. Of the three, the HT has the best arm articulation, and is able to take and hold many more arm poses than either the Medicom or Takara. The rubber suit on the Takara allows it to take the pose - and then pushes the arm back out of position. That wasn't an issue for me with the HT or Medicom arms.

In the photo below, you can see that the Takara Batman holds the slightly slumped infamous movie poster pose the best of the three.

The wrists posts on the Medicom and Takara Bats are very long, which means the hands attach well and stay attached. Unfortunately, the posts are very short on the HT Bats, and I have issues with the hands dropping off when you reposition the cuffs. It's easy enough to put them back on, but it's still an unnecessary hassle.

The battle of the torso articulation goes to the Takara, and he is much more capable of holding a bent position than either the Medicom or HT versions. For both of these, they are more likely to be pushed back into a straight position by the torso armor.

Ah, but what about the legs? This one is real easy. As much as I dislike the appearance of the Takara leg armor, I have to admit that it's much, much more poseable than the other two. It ain't even close. Even those ugly ass boots of his, with the separate shoe over the boot top, allow for greater posing.

The HT Batman has the poorest leg articulation, and can't do too much beyond very basic posing from the waist down. Be particularly careful when working with leg poses, as it appears to me as if the cod piece could damage the stitching in the underlying material with repeated stretching of the joint.

So who wins? The HT version takes it when it comes to arm articulation, but everything else goes Takara's way. On top of that, while I was adjusting the arms on the HT Batman, the left shoulder either broke or dislocated! I bet you know how pissed I am about this one - there's no way I can see to repair it, or even get to it to find out if it just popped loose!  I'll be calling both the dealer and Hot Toys to see what happens, but I don't feel good about this AT ALL. $#%*!

Accessories - Medicom ***; HT ***1/2; Tak ****
All the figures included extra hands and batarangs, but some go quite a bit further than that.

The Medicom version includes two batarangs, one large and one small, and three interchangeable hands. He's clearly the lightest in the extra accessories department, but the hands look good and swap easily, with little chance for breakage. Oh, and there's a display stand, but you really won't need it unless you want him in a tough pose.

The Hot Toys version includes five interchangeable hands, two of which are designed to specifically work with the accessories.  There are two batarangs, indentical in size, a small bomb, and the grappling gun.  The gun is the best of the accessories, with an excellent sculpt and paint job.

While he has plenty of hands, the poses of a couple make a lot less sense. Also, these hands pop onto pegsthat are in the arms, and the connection is very close to the palm, making their movement limited.  Like the Medicom version, he also has a display stand.

The Takara version blows the other two away, although he doesn't have a display stand.  There are four hands, all in great poses.  These compliment the two fisted hands he comes with very nicely, and are very well proportioned.  They have extremely long pegs, but be careful, because the very end must pop in first, and you can snap or bend the long peg easily.

He also comes with what amounts to a whole new figure, with a swappable unmasked head, rigging for his body, and black hood.  This outfit looks terrific on him, and although I didn't shoot it with it on, the hood is quite useful.  Put it on with the Bale head, but push it down around the neck, and it hides the rather long neck quite well.  With this stuff, you might find yourself wishing for two of the figures, to have both versions displayed.

He also comes with three batarangs, all the same size, the grappling gun, and a clip to attach the gun to the belt.  Below you'll see the HT gun above the Takara gun. I suspect the HT version is a bit more in scale, but both look good.

Since all three come with batarangs, I've included a comparison shot.  Again, the Medicom's are the two on the far left, with the HT in the middle and the Takara on the far right. The Takara versions are quite small, even smaller than the smaller of the two Medicom versions.

Outfit - ***1/2 across the board
The outfit includes the tailoring and material of the body suits, the cape, the belt, and the boots.

The Medicom has a great looking outfit, and my favorite of the three capes. The pleather suit under the armor allows for a little more flexibility in the legs than the more rubbery undersuit on the HT version, and looks better to boot. The cape is medium length, longer than usual but not gargantuan. His belt has a great sculpt, but does not allow for any of the accessories to be attached. I actually revised my Medicom score down slightly from the original review after seeing the HT and Takara versions.

The HT outfit has the longest cape - it's huge. It has an inner and outer layer, but the outer material is a little rougher to the touch than the Medicom. The stitching is high quality, and the fit is terrific, but I'm not real happy with the look and restrictiveness of the under suit. The belt looks great, and allows for both batarang accessories to be attached.

Finally, there's the Takara version. Here the cape is a disappointment, with no inner lining, and no hem along the bottom or neck edge. His cape is removable though, and his belt allows for not only the batarang to be attached, but the grappling gun as well.  I like how it does it too, as there's a separate clip that attaches to the gun, and then attaches to the belt with a peg.  That way, if you don't want to mount the gun on the belt, you can also remove the clip and have the belt smooth in back.

In the next photo, you'll see cape spread wide behind him.  The cape is thin enough to let through quite a bit of light in any pose like this.  Had I back lit this photo, it would have been even more apparent.

I already gave the rubber suit kudos in other categories for film accuracy and ability to pose.  Here it also gets points for a nice tight fit, but I hate his boots. God, they're ugly. There is a separate shoe with a rubber upper and hard plastic sole, fitted over his foot. Then the boot upper fits into the shoe, rather than all being one piece. It allows for better ankle mobility, but looks really dopey.

In the end, the outfits all weigh in about the same. Each has enough pros and cons to put them at about the same level, so there's no easy clear winner in this category. 

Fun Factor - *** across the board
None of these figures was ever designed to be played with by a kid. They'll tear them up faster than Kevin Federline's music career. But I'm giving them a decent score, because for the older kid and adult looking for a high quality yet POSABLE version of their favorite caped crusader, these can't be beat.

Value - Medicom *1/2; HT **; Tak **1/2
The original price on the Medicom version was $200, although you could find them as cheap as $175 if you pre-ordered early. The Hot Toys version was initially $120, and the Takara came in at about $140. Again, both of these prices was if you pre-ordered early.

All three are excellent figures in their own ways, but none of the three truly justify the high price. The Medicom is the worst deal, with fewer accessories and a smaller body, but the Takara gets the best score because of the additional swappable head and rigging. Getting a second sculpted head added quite a bit both to the manufacturer's cost and your overall enjoyment, so the higher price was at least justified, if not a great deal.

Things to watch out for - 
I'll focus this section on the Takara Bats, since he's the only one I haven't discussed in a previous review.

Well, with one exception. In posing the HT Batman for this review, something went wrong with his right shoulder. It's either broken or dislocated, but either way I can't figure a way to repair it. Be careful!

The Takara has few issues, although I'd be careful with the body as well. Remember, if any of these has joint issues like my HT version did, it's almost impossible to correct.  His biggest issues is the tackiness ofthe rubber suit, which picks up dust and dirt really easily.  Keep him in a clean environment and definitely, without any shadow of any doubt, don't keep him someplace that gets hotter than 76, or 78 tops.  I have my worries about this rubber suit, and you might end up with nothing but a nekkid dude in a cowl in about 5 years if you aren't careful.

You'll also want to take care with the hands.  The fat part of the post that has to snap into the wrist is at the very end, so you could bend or break the post when pushing it in.  Grasp it down low, not up high, and pay attention.

Overall - Medicom ***; HT and Tak ***1/2
Overall I have to go with the Takara version. I am concerned about the long term health of the rubber suit, and I MUCH prefer the boots and arm articulation on the HT version. I also prefer the higher quality capes on both the HT version and the Medicom version, but these things aren't enough to outweigh the fact that he's superior in all other ways.

He doesn't get four stars though because of those very issues. At this price point, I expect at least a decent hem on the cape all around, and not having a lining is silly as well. The quality of the Takara cape is identical to the quality of the $20 Action Cape version, and I don't understand why they dropped the ball here.  Had they just given us a slightly better cape (and it didn't even need to be longer), he would have gotten four stars hands down.

Still, if you can only afford to get one - or your sane, and only need one - go with the Takara.  He's the best looking sixth scale Batman I own, without a doubt.

Score Recap
Packaging - Medicom **; HT ****; Tak **1/2
Sculpt - Head: Medicom ***1/2, HT ***; Tak ****
Sculpt - Body: Medicom **1/2; HT ***1/2, Tak ***
Paint - Medicom, HT ***; Tak ***1/2
Articulation - Medicom, HT ***; Tak ***1/2
Accessories - Medicom ***; HT ***1/2; Tak ****
Outfit - ***1/2 across the board
Fun Factor - *** across the board
Value - Medicom *1/2; HT **; Tak **1/2
Overall - Medicom ***; HT and Tak ***1/2

Where to Buy - 
The Takara version is hard to come by at this point, but if you search around you might still find an online retailer with one in stock. Ebay is an option, but you better act quickly, because prices will top $200 soon.

Related Links -
I have no shortage of Batman reviews, but letís just stick with the versions particular to this film:

- thereís the under $20 Action Cape version, the $200 Medicom version, The $120 Hot Toys version, and the $70 DC Direct version.

- and if youíre looking for something more in the toy line, thereís the Microman version, the Collector Edition, and the Battle Gear version.

- oh, and if you prefer your Bats big, thereís always the three foot version.

- and I recently reviewed the Takara Catwoman, who goes great with this figure.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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