Kill Bill Series 2
Pai Mei

Kill Bill was a great movie. Kill Bill 2 was a great movie. Together, they make an amazing cinematic experience, and are arguably Tarantino's best work.

NECA picked up the license for both films early on. Their first series of figures was based on the initial film, and included 'the bride', Go Go, and three Crazy 88's. They also produced an 18" version of the Bride, and a special convention exclusive version of a Crazy 88 with Tarantino's head.

The second series is now hitting stores, and is based on the second film. This time she's called Beatrix instead of the Bride, and we get her along with Elle, Pai Mei and Bill himself. The Elle and Beatrix figures are designed to go together as well to form a scene from the film.

Bill doesn't appear to be shipping yet, but he should show up soon. I picked Mr. Mei at Hot Topic, were he was $13. Interestingly, the actor who plays Pai (Gordon Liu) also played one of the 88's that was in the first series, so he manages to match Uma Thurman in number of Kill Bill action figures based on his likeness.

Packaging -  ***
Using the theme of Kill Bill 2, they've done a nice job with the graphics and artwork on the insert. Of course, it's not character specific, and the text is mighty light, but there is an additional sticker telling you the character's name. A little more detail - an accessories list even - would be nice, but the clamshell is certainly sturdy and will keep the figure safe.

Sculpt - ***1/2
While not quite as impressive in this scale as it was in the 2-up prototype, the sculpt is still extremely strong. There's a ton of nice detail in the hair and face, particularly in the wrinkles around the eyes.

There's also a nice mix of texturing on various areas, and the pose is a sensible one, given the lack of lower body articulation. The left hand sculpt can hold the beard or appear to be pointing, while the right hand fist can hold the sword or stick. He stands fine on his own, and looks terrific doing it.

I haven't seen Bill in person yet (at least not the production version), but of the three on the peg, this sculpt was the strongest. Beatrix was difficult to get a good read on, because the blood splattering was so heavy on her face, and Elle has a rather harsh, rough appearance to the sculpt. The likenesses aren't way off, but they aren't as nice as Pai Mei.

Paint - ***
There's good news, and bad news. Some of the Pai Mei figures I saw had excellent paint ops, with just the right amount of wash on the face, hair and beard. But the bad news is that some of the Pai figures had way too much wash in those same areas. If you're buying them off the peg, pay special attention. If you're buying them online, cross your fingers. Even if you try buying them in the store, you might only have one or two to choose from, so there's going to be luck involved no matter what.

This inconsistency in their paint work and the over use of dry brushing and paint washes is something NECA really needs to address. The sculpting is often amazing, certainly on par with other companies, but the paint work deep sixes that nice work all too often.

I had the luxury of picking out this guy from 3 or 4 on the peg. I found one that I was happy with, but the paint wash was still a bit overdone on the beard. The hair is good though, as is the face, especially around the eyes. Most of the rest of the small detail work is nice, but there is a weird gold colored wash on the edging of the outer robe that just doesn't work. It looks more like stains or splotches, especially around the shoulders.

Articulation - **
I have a number of pet peeves when it comes to action figures. One is that the figure should be able to stand on it's own, as long as the design of the character allows for it. No trouble for Pai there. Another is that I shouldn't have to 'fix' anything, like gluing down a piece, changing a paint color, etc. Pai is cool on that count too (although I found eyebrows I liked, as noted above). Finally, and perhaps the most important, the damn thing shouldn't be broken (or break) right out of the package.

Unfortunately with Mei, he had a broken left shoulder pin right inside the package. I couldn't see it, because the twisties hold everything in place so well. But it dropped out even before I had them completely loose, and it was a clean snap across the peg that enters the body. Out comes the super glue, and such ends the possibilities for that shoulder articulation.

My low score is directly attributable to this issue, but if I had gotten one without this added 'feature', he would have scored another full star higher.

He has that ball jointed neck I love so much, along with the ball jointed shoulders, cut elbows, cut wrists, ankle and hip joints. The ankles and hips are fairly restricted though, so it's mostly the upper body articulation that you'll be using.

Some folks may find the ball jointed shoulders unattractive, but I prefer their range of movement over cut joints and can deal with the slight loss of beauty. It is only skin deep, after all.

Accessories - ***
Pai comes with three sheathed swords, one un-sheathed sword, and his walking stick. The stick and sword can fit into the fist of his left hand.

There's also a small display stand for him, with pegs for his feet, that appears like a section of his garden area. There's a second piece of diorama, which includes a hunk of wood, just right for punchin' til your fists are bloody.

BTW, before you go bad mouthing NECA for not putting any sort of slots on the sword rack, double check the instant replay.  There were none on it in the movie, and the swords simply leaned against it.

Fun Factor - **1/2
Kill Bill isn't exactly a kid's movie, but the figure has the detail and articulation to make a decent toy. He fits in scale-wise with other 6 - 7" figures, and has that 'sensei' look to him that might make him useful to a kid who has no idea who the actual character is. But if you're Santa, don't expect him to pop up on a lot of Christmas lists.

Value - **1/2
At around $12, he's a pretty average value with today's market. I certainly miss the 'old' days where figures like this were routinely $8 - $10, but considering that the first series that came out over a year ago were $12 as well, I won't complain too much.

Now, if you do pick these up around $10, and I have at least one suggestion below where that's possible, then you can add another half star to this score.

Things to watch out for - 
The figure *should* be sturdy enough for you, unless you get a bum version like I did. Watch out for any limbs or appendages that look even the slightest bit loose in the package. The swords are very thin as well, and could break when you're taking them out of the package if you aren't careful.

Also, picking this one out on the shelf, be sure to pay a lot of attention to the paint work on the face, hair and beard. There was a tremendous amount of difference between figures as to the amount of wash used, and you'll want to find the one that matches your preferences the best.

Finally, the eyebrows also appeared to be glued completely down on some of the ones I saw. Whether you want them down or up is up to you, but you should look for one that matches your wants the best.

Overall -  ***
Pai Mei is the winner of this set, although none of the figures I've seen so far are as bad as Go Go was. If you liked the first Bride or 88's, you'll probably be pretty happy with these.

Of course, his arm breaking hurt his overall score for me. Hopefully this was just a one off situation, and they don't have a bad bunch of ball joint connectors. I'll be interested in seeing if others report any problems in this area, but I'm hopeful that it won't be systemic.

NECA still has to do something about the paint washes and dry brushing though. A little can go a long way, and finding a Mei that had a reasonable amount on his hair, face and beard was tough. Pay extra attention when you're picking yours out.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - **
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall -  ***

Where to Buy -
I snagged them at Hot Topic this week. Online options include:

- has them for the excellent price of just $10 each! They're still a preorder though.

- CornerStoreComics has them up for preorder at $12 each, or the full set for $44. They also have a set of Bill and Beatrix for just $23.

- Amazing Toyz has them for preorder as well at $12 each, or the set for $44.

- YouBuyNow has the figures for preorder at $12 each, and still have some Go Go figures from series 1 for $9 each

Related Links -
I've revied both the Crazy 88's and the Bride/Go Go figures from the first wave. You should also hit NECA's website for all the info on upcoming stuff, including photos of the Bill figure that will be shipping with this line.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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