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Tamashii Nations C-3PO


"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 a very cool C-3PO. Take it away, Jeff!

As always, a massive thank you to Michael Crawford, a man who has kept many a collector up to date and in the loop for over ten years, myself included. Mike’s reviews have been influential in keeping me in the collecting community, however it could be said that I really got the collecting bug because of the Star Wars movies! Like a lot of people whose formative years were the late 1970’s, it was the tireless gathering of the small scale figures that first made me realise that you’ve ‘gotta catch‘em all!’ Meaning that for many years it became something of an obsession to get my hands on every piece of merchandise and paraphernalia I could afford!

Then the teenage years hit, hormones kicked in, and my interest shifted. Luckily I decided to keep all my figures, but the ships and environments all got sold off to fund my then wayward lifestyle, and no, I wouldn’t change a thing (at least that’s what I tell myself).

Then in the mid 90’s Hasbro rebooted the line, and with my new found interest in the Thrawn Trilogy of books, the new Dark Horse comic series and the multi media assault that was Shadows of the Empire, it seemed that Star Wars was back on my agenda. Then Uncle George announced he was getting off his fat denim clad hairy ass and actually going to give us some new movies… Could things get any better?

Well, with hindsight, yes they could, but lets not dwell too much on the enduring legacy of everything from that period, lets instead wrap ourselves in the warm fluffy blanket that is the original trilogy.

So getting back on track, I feverishly collected the new Hasbro 12” figures managing to amass well over 100 figures in a few short years (all still in the collection I hasten to add), and though the quality ranged from the sublime (Han on Taun-Taun) to the quite frankly ridiculous (Zam Wessel… shudders), my collecting torch had very much been reignited!  


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I then ‘accidentally’ fell head long into the world of high-end figures, but the first time I spent a serious amount on a Star Wars character was when I ‘invested’ in the Marmit: Stormtroopers initial release. This thing was a world away from the Hasbro figures, and the semi model kit approach certainly made it feel like a more sophisticated and grown-up affair. And that air of sophistication came with the sweat inducing need to cut pieces down, glue them in place and use heat (in the form of boiling water or a hairdryer) to get the armour to fit onto the base body, (after you had dressed it in its fabric black body-glove). I then felt compelled to get the Marmit- Sandtroopers, Boba Fett and AT-AT pilot… to my eternal shame I never bothered with the TIE pilot! There were also ‘advanced’ plans (with prototypes produced) to release the ‘then definitive’ 1/6th Vader, but because the first releases hadn’t shown the return they needed to be economically viable, he was put on ice!

Years later Sideshow managed to wrestle the mainstream 1/6th license from Hasbro’s sweaty fist, and with the release in the Asian territories of the Medicom Star Wars figures it looked like things were on the up… but were they?

Well, essentially yes… however, if the Expanded Universe leaves you a little cold, and if the prequels leave you a little disappointed… or even ANGRY… then maybe not so much!


However, regardless of your loyalties we had a whole new batch of characters to look forward to, and as Sideshow began to delve into the world of aliens, droids and armoured troops, the quality stepped up a gear as well. The area Sideshow had always struggled with was their human figures. Often they would be blessed with a strong sculpt, but let down by the poor factory paint apps, and the tailoring was hit and miss to say the least.

But then they agreed to share the 1/6th license, first with Hot Toys, for the creation of their very cool Luke Skywalker DX, reviewed here, showcasing once again a massive leap in Star Wars collectibles quality, especially in the paint apps, outfits and accessories. Then they announced a link-up with Bandai, under the Tamashii Nations brand, to bring us the figure that we shall be looking at here today, C-3PO (Threepio to his friends) and I can honestly say, it is, at the time of writing, quite simply the most outstanding 1/6th Star Wars figure I have ever had the good fortune to own!

Why is it so outstanding? Well, I shall dissect that over the course of the coming categories. But in a nutshell a certain Mr Seiji Takahashi was the impetus behind its creation!

Not familiar with the name?

Well if you are a Star Wars fan, perhaps you should be. He is a designer and master model maker (priding himself on scaled accuracy) and was the man that brought us those early Marmit figures that still stand up so well today, OK, Fett’s helmet shape was a tad off, but for the time of release they were outstanding (and remember they are now over ten years old).

He was also the man that co-wrote the original Japanese Star Wars Chronicles, a weighty tome, and still just about the best reference book available about the movie series. He then put the first Japanese edition of the Star Wars- The Action Figure Archive book together with Steve Sansweet (its worthy of note that both these books superseded the English translated versions). So ultimately he is quite the authority of anything from Lucas’s universe… and I dare say he probably knows more about its machinations than its creator!

In fact, if you want a good read on just how well researched this figure is there is a rather interesting interview with Takahashi in two parts HERE and HERE.

But enough of my waffling, and the brief history lesson that brings us up to this figures release, lets crack this baby open!

Packaging - ***1/2
Threepio comes in a nicely designed and very well made and sturdy box. The outside is a slipcase showing a close up of the droids face on the front, while the rest of the panels show a weathered gold metallic finish. The back panel has the Tamasshii Nations logo alongside 12” Perfect Model, Sideshow and Lucas Film, but tellingly, not Disney, perhaps this was created before the ink had dried on the deal with the devil mouse.

Slip the sleeve off and we are met with a large detailed image of Threepio’s mid section, where the gap between his chest/torso and the pelvis has the multi coloured wires exposed.

The front opens up like a book cover where a vac-formed transparent over tray holds everything in place, under this the figure is laying in a heavy duty Styrofoam tray, alongside his extra hands, com-link and the restraining bolt. The top section can be lifted out to show a second layer holding the figure stand and the instruction booklet, all held in a vac formed tray.

With this being such an expensive figure, there was part of me expecting some nice soft die-cut black foam, or a flocked tray, but in all fairness this baby weighs a hell of a lot. I’m pretty sure that Styrofoam was the best and safest option (it reminded me of the old 1/6th Aoshima metal T-800’s form about ten years ago, that were packed in the same way). So ultimately it isn’t that pretty, but I’d rather have him arrive undamaged in one piece than indulge in a whimsy of luxury that I’ll probably only look at a handful of times.

So, why no full score? Well, it has nothing to do with the materials or construction, it’s purely down to the design, which though strong, doesn’t really get me that excited. However, it’s a solid bit of design, and to my eyes is visually more striking than a lot of the 1/6th Star Wars figure boxes we have had of late, which seemed to attempt an aesthetic of sophisticated simplicity, but just end up a bit lifeless and dull.

Sculpting - ****
There are no two ways about it, this is a masterpiece in scaled model making, and I don’t say that lightly!

For me there are a holy trinity from Star Wars in hall of fame for character design, in the forms of Vader, the Stormtroopers and Threepio. Three faces that though masked, are strangely difficult to get 100% right. The look of these three is so indelibly inked on our collective consciences, through the multiple times we have watched the original movies and looked at still images, that as fans we have developed a sixth sense as to when things just do or don’t look right. Of course there are varying degrees of this condition and how it manifests itself. Ranging from the obsessive customiser, through to the ‘mint in boxer’, I’m in the middle being a ‘break that sucker out’ kind of guy, but with an innate genetic obligation to keep the contents box fresh… how else will future generations know what these things were ‘meant’ to look like when they left the factory?

So, we have established that you may or may not have heard of Seiji Takahashi, now lets establish if you have heard of Liz Moore… you see, if you consider yourself a Star Wars geek then you really should have! 

Why?

Well, she was amongst the group of artists that took McQuarries amazing concept art and translated it into the 3D designs and sculpts that we have grown to love, she was responsible for the Stormtrooper helmet and C-3PO in his entirety, so its my opinion that she deserves quite a heap of respect! The tragedy being that someone so young, beautiful and talented was tragically killed in an car accident before the original movie was even released, so she never got to bask in the glory of the love her creations would generate. You really should check out her profile here and maybe even buy some of those prints of her work on the costumes!

It’s a well-documented fact that Lucas briefed Ralph McQuarrie to imbue some of the Mashinenmencsch, Maria’s humanoid and erstwhile charms into Threepio. And in case you are not familiar, Maria was the iconic female robot from Fritz Lang’s seminal 1927 motion picture Metropolis… but we all knew that… right! And if you didn’t, keep schtum, there’s nothing worse than a fan boy whose not versed in the classics, go and watch it NOW! So our favourite golden droid carried over some of her Art Deco influences into his semi asymmetric design. You just have to look at Maria and it’s obvious to all just how instrumental her look was to McQuarrie’s paintings, and that influence carried on elegantly into Moore’s sculpts.

But here we are looking at just how well those details of the classic design have carried over into the 1/6th representation in front of us now, and it is nothing short of astounding! I’m what I would think of as a reasonably knowledgeable Star Wars fan, I grew up with it, studied pictures and as kid/teen would often sketch the various characters. I was obsessive, but not to the degree that I would check the uber subtle differences that the costumes underwent over the course of the movies, of which there were many; sometimes through continuity oversights by the costume department, who were operating on a tight shooting schedule, or because of constant modifications and repairs that the suits required due to the rigours of the ‘on set’ location work, and of course others were intended design tweaks. All I really developed from my fixation was an innate sense of when things looked right, or didn’t. And here, it all looks very, very right.

The head is always the toughest cookie to crack, but this looks just as I always remember it looking down at me from that classic poster I had hanging on my wall all those years ago. The general shape of the head, with the slightly raised ‘tiara’ section is minutely observed with recessed lozenge shapes and the tiny delicate retro aerial pointing forward from the top. This blends into the circular disks on either side of the upper neck, like an elegant version of the Frankenstein monsters bolts. The dimensions of the face, with the letterbox mouth, angular ‘nose section’ and highly detailed eyes looks faultless!

However, Threepio is about so much more than getting the head right. The entire figure needs the same love and attention, so I’m glad to report that the devotion to detail carries over onto his whole body, and the proportions just work so very well. It really is like a shrunken down version of the original suit to the minutest of details. He has the all the requisite bumps, nodules and raised linear markings, traversing his torso and limbs, with those all-important asymmetrical lines on this thighs and calves being perfectly executed. The raised ‘battery pack’ on his upper back is finely carried out, as are all the details on the tiny working pistons, that have both a sliding telescopic parts and also working track and grooves. You’ll also notice that the mid-riff section has layers of moulded wires rather than a big sculpted section. It’s that kind of comprehensive detailing that makes this such a joy to examine!

During my research I came across a wealth of cool websites with fantastic reference shots, like starwarshelmets.com HERE.

And there are some faultless images over at C3PO builders HERE where I also found a link, that finally debunks the Topps C-3PO trading card with his ‘golden rod’ on show once and for all HERE.

And finally there are some more great reference images here.

Paint - ****
Ultimately what we have is a golden droid, with one silver lower leg. Now, that might seem like an easy thing to get right… but to get it right consistently, with an even all over colour and a convincing depth of tone on a metal surface is quite the trick. And to be fair we have had a few good cracks at it from Hasbro at this scale and the Medicom one was pretty outstanding, however, this time it feels just right. Tamashii/Bandai have gone for the regular look he sported throughout the movie, rather than the super polished makeover he had for the medal giving ceremony at the end or the oil dripping weathered look he had on Tatooine. The end product has a fine quality finish right up to the edges of his joints and small working parts. The areas of particular note, because of the delicate detailing have to be the eyes and the abdomen. The eyes have a light up function, but the tiny slits that cover the surface are beautifully executed with either some incredibly accurate paintwork or tiny laser cut disks… I rather favour the latter, but it’s exquisitely carried out whatever the method. The cables around his stomach area are as I said all separate individual wires, but each one is painted to duplicate the colours on the suit used in A New Hope.

So, is there anything I could fault… well, if I had to be an anally retentive and somewhat obsessive reviewer (and lets face it, that is my job) then I guess there is, but its so slight that I feel like a killjoy even mentioning it! On the original suit there were colour coded wires running over the palm of the hand, going from the wrist to the base of each finger (beneath the tiny gold studs), and it pains me to point out that although the studs have been beautifully rendered, the wires are not there! Who will notice this? To be fair, very few, but I felt it was my geek duty to point this out!

So, apart from that miniscule oversight I am happy to award a full score here, as the final product is just simply outstanding. Now we just need a solid gold and silver version to be made so we can compare it like for like alongside… I’m sure Bill Gates or some Saudi prince would snap it up!

Articulation - ***3/4
It’s a well known anecdote that Anthony Daniels said he wanted to take a sledgehammer to the outfit once filming had wrapped, and who can blame him? He was so immobile that he could literally only shuffle about. Just check out these images of the outfit HERE and HERE that clearly show the moulded trunks that so hampered his leg movements. Though it also has to be pointed out that his entire body was restricted, not to mention his field of vision. So numerous were the falls and breakages in the suit that many of the desert scenes had to be shot from the waist up, and even the bits in shot were often held together with hastily improvised repairs involving duct tape, glue and string. But somehow, against the odds they managed to pull off enough footage to give us one of the most believable screen robots (OK, droids) of all time.

The figure here replicates almost perfectly the sections of the suit seen in those images above, with just the smallest of modifications to that upper-leg/groin area to afford a tad more articulation. But even here, to anything other than the trained eye of an expert it looks fully accurate. This all adds up to a range of articulation that is a virtually faultless representation of what Daniels could achieve in the suit.

So as a breakdown, we get an ankle with swivelling joint, (I would imagine there is a double ball ‘dumb-bell design under there), it affords a fair range and means that what ever position you put the legs in, the foot is able to sit flat on the floor. Then we get a smooth ratcheted knee that can achieve a bend of about 35 degrees, all the articulation here is disguised within the detailing of the mechanism. The upper thigh area is the most limited, as the die-cast metal used is obviously thicker here in a scaled representation than it would be on the fibreglass suit. However, the designers have compensated for this by making the leg of the ‘trunks’ section marginally narrower, meaning the amount of clearance between them and the upper thigh is just about the same as on the actual suit. This was also the area (along with the knees) that suffered the most breakages on set, even splintering and injuring Daniels on occasion!

Between the trunks/groin and the upper body is the abdominal area, which has a ridged black under section, covered in multiple coloured wires that cross over its surface disguising the joint. There is movement at both points of contact where this section disappears into the ‘armour’, and the range once again lets you mimic the way the droid stood and move virtually perfectly, it also allows for that perfect flowing curve of his stance when seen in silhouette from the side. The shoulders have a revolving cut joint that can turn a full 360 degrees and within the sleeve/cavity that the upper arm disappears into is another joint that means the arm can swivel and turn as well. The elbow is a disguised hinge and has two working pistons on each arm that both telescope and slide on a groove, replicating the suits movements incredibly well.
The wrist is a push on peg design that allows a small amount of swivelling motion in all directions, and the other hands swapped over easily. I guess the only extra I would have liked would have been some articulated hands, similar to the ones we got with the Hot Toys Iron Man figures, but to be honest Threepio isn’t famous for his hand gesticulations, and the selection provided allow you to pretty much capture any iconic pose you could want.

Lastly we have the neck, which is just a simple push on clip joint that allows for just the right amount of tilt and swivel to capture the droids prissy and neurotic demeanour. This all adds up to a near faultless range of mobility for this specific character, and because of its limited nature it means you cant help but get a great pose… in fact you’d have to go out of your way to make this thing look bad!

Accessories - ***
This is one of those figures where you can see where all the money was spent as soon as you pick it up, but there is still a part of me that’s wants some extra bang for my buck. However, to be fair this is representing Threepio as he appeared in EP IV, now forever to be known as A New Hope (but to us old schoolers it will always just be plain old Star Wars… THE ORIGINAL).

As such he doesn’t need a whole mess of accessories because at the end of the day he simply didn’t use many in the movie. What we actually get in the box is a magnetic restraining bolt that lightly grips the surface of his left hand chest panel, fitting over a small nodule to indicate where it goes (don’t worry, the nodule is accurate to the screen seen suit, its not just for our benefit). The magnet is as I said of medium strength, with just enough power to stay in place without gripping so tight as to damage his gold-chromed surface. Next up is his tiny com-link, which is merely a small, sculpted plastic barrel shape. He also has a selection of six hands, including the ones he’s fitted with in the box. They consist of two flat, two relaxed and two in a gentle gripping position, ideal for holding that com-link.

He’s also equipped with a figure stand that has a black moulded plinth and a gold plaque baring the C-3PO nameplate, plus you can attach a white, lower wall section of the Tantive V to its rear. I have to admit an alternate higher wall section might have been cool as an added extra. You see I don’t usually use stands or bases, and even though I found the figure could stand perfectly solidly without one, his weight made me paranoid that over time the ankles could droop, and a shelf dive would not just be catastrophic to the figure, but also to anything within the flight-path of its trajectory. Hence I decided to use it, and I’m on the whole pleased, however a little paint effect and the swap-over choice of that higher wall section would have improved things even further. The base is also equipped with an adjustable waist gripping support bar that has a gentle ratcheted pincer to hold the figure steady.

So on the whole this is a good little selection, and lets face it, as a representation of the droid from A New Hope, its pretty much all we need, can you think of anything else?

Outfit - N/A
Obviously in the ‘real world’ this was a suit worn by Anthony Daniels, and had we got a ‘behind the scenes’ extra head that showed his face with the infamous black hood, then I might have considered covering this category as a mock suit. But we don’t, so I wont, and this is basically a 1/6th droid, no base human figure is inside!

Light Feature - ***3/4
The figures eyes have a great light up feature that illuminates brightly when activated. To achieve this you have remove the head (this just pulls off easily). Then you separate the face and rear section of the head, once you have done this you will see a tiny switch that just needs to be flicked over to illuminate the eyes. There are three tiny LED apertures in each one of these and the effect is incredibly well executed. I have read that some other collectors feel the colour should be a little warmer and browner in its tone, and to be fair they may have a point, but as I already explained, I have an innate obligation to keep all my figures as box fresh as possible, and the colour is far from offensive… in fact it looks great!

Fun Factor - ****
We all know that Threepio is not an actioneer, and apart from an embarrassing moment of ‘head swapping’ high jinx in the terrifyingly bad Attack of the Clones he has never seen any active duty. But that is a given, a fact, a point of common knowledge… you do not buy Threepio to put him in an action pose with a lightsabre in one hand and a blaster in the other… no, no, no you do not!

The reason you buy him is because you want him to stand on your shelf looking like a shiny gold, prissy protocol droid, and ultimately you will want his trusty Astromech sidekick to stand beside him. And for that reason I am quite simply knocked out by this figure and can find virtually nothing to fault, except maybe that Tamashii Nations didn’t bring out R2 to go with him at the same time!

A prototype has been shown of his barrel shaped counterpart but it appeared to still need a few modifications, and no date has yet been announced for its release. So even though I still consider this figure a small work of art, (that you will delicately and subtly repose time and time again whilst saying in your head ‘I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations. And this is my counterpart R2D2’ or maybe even ‘Artoo Detoowha bo Seethreepiowha ey toota odd mishka Jabba du Hutt.… OK, not in my head, maybe it was out loud!), he still feels a little like half a display, and my old Hasbro Artoo that is serving as a place warming tool looks incredibly lack-lustre while standing next to his splendid companion!

Value - **1/2
If you buy this in North America the official importer is Sideshow Collectibles (and as the holder of the SW 1/6th license their logo also appears on the box), but the RRP is an incredibly hefty $399.99… yep, you read that right. However if you do a little online rooting around you will find it is available for some much more reasonable prices. Of course what you are paying for when you purchase a figure from Sideshow is the customer service and the supposedly ‘no quibbles’ return or replacement that they offer. However I have learnt from fellow collectors that with this particular figure there seems to be a no quibbles return, but a less likely replacement service, make of that what you will!

In real terms this figure is obscenely expensive, and with prices in general across the 1/6th spectrum heading steadily northwards it can get increasingly hard to justify spending these huge amounts, especially if you do it on a regular basis.  However, even with such a hefty price tag, you can still actually see where all the money has gone. In that respect its similar to the Hot Toys Iron Monger and the recently showcased Star Craft figure of Raynor by Sideshow that was unveiled at SDCC. Both of these later figures had a price tag in the $500 arena, but the sheer scale, level of R&D on engineering and investment for the official licenses end up putting them at a price point that many are uncomfortable with spending, especially in this fickle world of collectibles! It’s worth pointing out that even though $100 more than this figure, they are huge, but Threepio claws some kudos back with his full metal construction and globally iconic status!

I always reiterate that you should only ever buy a figure because you want it, not to invest in it! As lets face it, you might be lucky and buy one that doubles in price on the secondary market in six months… however it might also end up on discount for significantly less than you paid.

And if you are in it for long term capital gains, lets face it, in twenty years from now will people still be watching Iron Man or playing Star Craft… who knows? But will people still be watching the original Star Wars trilogy… I suspect yes!

Of course by then we will all have laser scanning eyes directly linked to a 3D printer in our stomach area, so we can output far more complex models directly from the hard drive in our brain as we glide to work on our hover shoes… but you get my meaning!

So, with a mere two and a half stars in this category you might think that will impact badly on this guys final score… read on!

Overall - ****
OK, this is a figure that retails with an RRP of $400… yet it gets a full four stars, am I kerazee?

Well maybe just a little, but hey, we are mostly ‘adult’ toy collectors in these here parts, men and women who somehow manage to rationalise spending obscene chunks of our hard earned cash on toys! So there comes a point (as there does in all art collecting), when the price actually becomes academic and a little abstract. Of course that’s not to say that when I spent 250 on this baby it didn’t hurt. And what’s more, when I hit the payment button there was more than a flicker of ‘what the hell have you just done you irresponsible fool’ that went through my brain. However, a mere 48 hours later I was lifting Threepio’s 12 inches of heavy metal golden perfection from the box, and all my anxiety just melted away (but not all of the guilt... do you get those pangs… I hope so). Not since Hot Toys Iron Monger have I been so enamoured and impressed by a figure. But the plain fact of the matter is that as much as I enjoyed the first Iron Man movie, it just doesn’t have the personal resonance with me that the original Star Wars trilogy does. And where as I can appreciate most 1/6th figures (even the ones I have little interest in the IP of) as mini works of art, with Threepio here it is more of a personal joy to behold. It truly has me yearning for Artoo to be released so the pair can sit with pride of place on my bookshelf!

It does also have me wondering what will happen if/when Sideshow or Hot Toys decide to have a crack ol’ goldenrod, as its hard to see just how much this could actually be improved upon, but I’m sure that making it in plastic will bring the price down, and as long as the quality is matched, that might be all the incentive people need. And I’d certainly consider buying a weathered ‘bashed up’ and oil dripping version if they choose to go down that avenue!

Where to Buy -
You can still order Threepio direct from Sideshow for the full RRP of  $399.99 here, but be careful, an incompetent web monkey has used the Tamashii figure on their new sparkly website to advertise the Medicom Threepio as well so beware!

I tried the sites sponsors with a search of ‘C-3PO figure’ but nuttin, nadda, zilch!

Alternatively I’d say have a look on Amazon (where I purchased mine) as there seem to be some much better deals, at least that’s what I found here in the UK!

Or your last port of call can be ebay where prices are between $310 right up to $745, but remember if buying from Amazon or eBay check where your seller is based, as the shipping and possible customs could be a killer!

Discussion:
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This product was provided??? for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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