Samurai Predator
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."

Earlier this month, I checked out the cool Samurai Predator from Hot Toys. Jeff is bringing his thoughts to the table tonight in this guest review - take it away, Jeff!

A big thank you to Michael, whose undying passion for all things that frequent the world of toys keeps this site so vibrant… once more I salute you sir!

I’ve never been shy about admitting my favourite killer extraterrestrial is Giger’s A  L  I  E  N, but the big bad that follows him/her up just the length of an extended open mandible behind is the Predator. Ever since way back in April 2006 when I got hold of the first Hot Toys Predator figure of Scar from the AvP movie I’ve been hooked on these ugly mother f***ers. And the pay off has been some of Hot Toys coolest figure releases that benchmark their ascent to victory. You can really see how the company has improved by just looking at the way the Predators have evolved and been manufactured throughout the companies existence. Although I still love those early AvP Preds, one has to admit they are a world away from the latest releases like the classic version from Predators. They have also remained a consistently popular license for the company and apart from a few background lurkers from the lost clan at the end of Predator 2 they have pretty much exhausted all the characters they can actually do from the movies.

But that is not a problem. There are a raft of expanded universe Predators from comics, games and books, and for fans of this particular monster there have always been some great garage kits knocking about too. And in a way it is those garage kits that have been the inspiration for this particular figure. It is designed by the renowned Takayuki Takeya, who may be known to some Sideshow collectors as the man behind the cool Predator on Horseback statue here and the uber cool Alien pile. Just try entering his name under any image search and you will see just how talented this guy truly is. And so it is fitting that the first articulated figure release from this master of his medium should be named the Artists Series. Apart from his original pieces, his distinctive MO is to take a well-known character and give it his own personal twist, exaggerating some of the features to make it fit his own inimitable style!

And so it is that here we have an imagined scenario, where a Predator has visited ancient feudal Japan and taken the armour of various fallen quarry in a hunt to the death… or, like so many troops of an Empire, has he seen the bravery of his intended prey, become inspired and gone native, joining their ranks to defend a citadel against the onslaught of a full A L I E N attack. I guess the back-story is up to you, lets just get on with the review.

If you do want to see and learn more about Takeya’s work, check out a retrospective of some his kits here and also salivate over a tour of his studio space here.

Packaging - ****
The early Hot Toys figure set their own style with the pearlescent foil sleeves over a flap-fronted box. But as they delivered more and more figures from more and more licences they diversified and became more creative with the design, manufacture and materials used.

With the addition of the M-Icon range, DX series and stand-out collections from Iron Man and the Terminator: Salvation lines, they showcased just how dedicated they were to delivering a well designed experience from the moment you open that brown shipping carton to the moment you display your figure.

And so it was that the new Artists Series demanded another statement of intent… and boy do we get one! This box is HUGE measuring 15” x 10.5” x 10.5”, and comes in an oblong cube format. The outer design at first glance looks more like it will contain some rare ancient Japanese artefact, like a vase or set of fine china bowls rather than a toy figure. Its base colour is a dark parchment and is decorated with stark black Japanese calligraphy and an illustration of the Predator Samurai helmet on the front. The top has a gold foil blocked illustration of a Predator and A L I E N in a close quarters skirmish whilst the two side panels have the ‘Samurai Predator’ logo out of a blood smeared background (this logo makes me think of Street Fighter for some reason, am I alone?), then the rear of the box has a panel listing the full design team responsible for the figure.

Lift off the large lid and you are met by two regular-sized figure boxes. These are decorated in a dark brown/red mottled effect that looks a little like distressed antique leather. Both have large open windows to display their contents. One houses the figure alongside some of his accessories, whilst the other contains the slaughtered A L I E N base. These contents are held in place by vac formed plastic trays making the whole un-boxing experience as collector friendly as it can be.

So, I come away greatly impressed by this box, and salute the talents of Vic Chung and Monster Jr for coming up with such a memorable bit of packaging design… Now I just prey that Takayuki Takeya is given the chance to give is an A L I E N warrior to display next to this beauty… an articulated version of his A L I E N pile would truly make my year! (albeit my 2013)

Sculpting - ****
There is one huge thing in this figures favour, and that thing is that it is not from any movie, game, comic or book, it is straight from the mind of Takayuki Takeya. This of course means it’s near impossible to judge it against what came before, but must be viewed as a re-imagined piece by the artist given the task of bringing it to life. However, it would also be hard to judge this too harshly as what we have delivered unto us is such a jaw-droppingly amazing figure that it could well end up being one of my contenders for figure of the year. As I said, it was designed by Takeya, but the job of actually sculpting the figure fell to Yuji Oniki who has done a sterling job of translating his drawings into fully realised 3D splendour.

It is like a dynamic comic book illustration that has just leapt out of the page, and after some careful investigation of its engineering and with some gentle exploration of its articulated potential you will start to formulate just how you want to pose this monster.

In its essence this is a very stylised interpretation of the basic Predators face and physicality. The features are exaggerated in the forms they take whilst still keeping the classic mandible snout in both the closed position, but also in a swap out roaring pose. You will also notice that the inner mouth has the ability to open to shut, another cute new detail. His dreads are made out of a medium/firm vinyl and are sculpted to look like they are in a mid flowing movement pose, whilst cascading like a nest of proverbial vipers down the sides of his domed head. They have a very serpent like quality both in the way they are sculpted and in the manner that they fall. The most ‘over the top’ but still cool re-imagining on this portrait is the way the brow and upper head are portrayed. We’ve had quite a few different ‘ethnic’ variations from the Predators over the course of the movies, and each ‘clan’ has exhibited distinct variations in skin pigmentation and the physical form they took. And here we get an even more extreme variation, with exaggerated bulbous growths radiating over the top of his cranium to form a rather gross looking upturned insect like appearance. The attention to detail here is just beautifully rendered, and the way it radiates down to the angriest, snarling, pissed off expression we have had on a Predator to date is just fantastic. We have seen angry Predator faces before, the Berserker springs to mind, but this guy just looks plain vicious. The blood-lust of a mid battle expression shows that this dude is not resting till every single opponent is a pile of sliced and diced xenomorph meat!

His body also has quite a ‘super-hero’ comic-book feel, in that the already impressive physique of a movie seen Predator has been pumped up to the max, so that every muscle in his body is straining at the very limits of their ability. The chest and abdomen show the kind of taut, strained muscle tone that would make Bruce Lee weep. This is then backed up by legs and thighs that would make your average roided-up body builder cower in the corner of the gym for shame.

In short this is an amazing looking sculpt, and is one that sits perfectly between the movies, comics, paintings and statues that we have all been exposed to over the years, and as a kick off piece for the Artists Series it’s a fitting start to what I hope will become an impressive range of figures.

Paint - ****
The paint control for this figure was also handled by Takeya, and it works well in enhancing the sculpted work carried out by Oniki. Like the sculpt it has a more ‘fantasy’ feel than your average movie Predator, but the slightly glossy application and expertly rendered detailing still deliver an amazing finished result. One that manages to stand out from all the other 1/6th Predators to date.

His base skin-tone is mid to light grey, over which darker tones are applied to help increase the clarity and definition of the sinewy musculature beneath. His abs, thighs and arms come in for special attention in this department. It is however that snarling face that rightfully gets the closest consideration in this stunning paint job. The detailing on his inner mouth is crisply picked out, as are the details on the two sets of mandibles with the differing skin tones on the outer and inner sides of the skin.  Then the quills that erupt from his cheeks are picked out beautifully as are his glossy red eyes. The dreads are a graduating two tone colour that look as they have been dip dyed, and their semi glossy sheen again adds even more to their serpent like qualities.

Much of his armour and accessories also receive a detailed paint app, and the crisp application, coupled with a microscopic attention to detail is as well considered as always. I guess this shows that even without JC at the helm, Hot Toys can still deliver a stunning paint app, albeit one in a different style.

Articulation - ***1/2
This bodies engineering falls into a similar category to the recent super Predators. This means we get a killer sculpt, but end up sacrificing some of the more extreme articulation. In its essences he has pegged ball jointed ankles (think big wrist pegs) and a hinged knee capable of a bout a 90 degree bend. His hips have a universal joint able to bend upwards by about 90 degrees and back by about 45, this joint can also splay out and rotate a little.

His waist can turn and tilt but there is no mid torso articulation. His shoulders have a sturdy universal joint and his elbows have a hinged one that like the knees can bend to roughly 90 degrees. The wrist pegs are of the usual design, but a little of the articulation is lost because the collar of the gauntlets extends over the lower arms. Lastly he has a neck joint that is positionable both where it joins the shoulders and the head, making for a great range of motion. He also features a tiny concealed joint in his lower (inner) jaw, so the mouth can be opened up a little. The dreads are pliable but do not feature wires within them, so they can not be posed.

The armour does hamper some of his articulation a little, but overall I’m happy with the way this body performs, and once you find that killer pose and futz for a while getting everything to look just right, this will look even better than many statues… with the added bonus that you can reposition him as many times as you like!

Accessories - ***1/2
In this category the figure truly shines. The most obvious reason for this being the kick-ass diorama base depicting a felled xenomorph. It’s made of a semi-translucent base plastic that looks to be a dark caramel brown that is then overpainted in a deep maroon/purple colour. The body is sculpted to look like it has just erupted through the ground and you need to slot all of his rear breathing tubes into place. You also need to attach the rear part of the head, which comes in two pieces as the Predator has sliced the front section clean off. Well, I say ‘clean’ there is a certain amount of oomska, acid blood and alien brain spilling out onto the circular plinth. The top of the A L I E N S head is of the classic Giger design, so we get a smooth dome, and can see the detailing of the skull and brain within. The fore section of the head is made in the same style, and has a protruding tongue that the Predator can hold the head aloft by, in readiness to slice it off and add to his already impressive collection.

He also comes with a selection of 4 permanently sheathed Katana’s that are fixed to the rear of his armour as emergency back up weapons, and a further two Katana’s that he can hold. One is a full sword with a real metal blade whilst the other is plastic, and features heavy damage and corrosion from the A L I E N S blood. We all know that the Preds have developed acid resistant super alloys, but sadly even the finest folded Japanese steel isn’t quite so impervious!

His remaining accessories are an extra selection of five hands, bringing his total to seven including the ones he comes fitted with.

Their poses are-

1 left sword grip
1 right sword grip
1 left fist
1 right fist
1 left open palmed
1 right open palmed
1 A L I E N tongue grip

These are obviously either designed to interact with his accessories or are gesturing to aid in your chosen pose. Overall I think this is an impressive collection, made all the more essential by that fantastic environment base, which is without a doubt my favourite stand to date!

Outfit - ***1/2

I am actually pretty darned impressed by the design of this guys armour, belts and robes… so why no full score?

Well, it’s a tough call, and even though I’m impressed by the styling, I can’t help but think that for the price this guy demands, some of the armoured panels could have been more articulated, maybe even metal. The reason being, I have a couple of the DiD Samurai figures who did indeed come with real metal plated armour that was actually laced together. It made for a truly unique feature at the time, and the fact that I got them over four years ago, leads me to believe that Hot Toys could and maybe even should have delivered an outfit of that quality. OK, I admit the metal would have made this guy mighty heavy, but surely they could have made the individually segmented armour out of ABS plastic and laced them together… just saying!

As it is, the figures armour is constructed of a mix of moulded ABS and vinyl. The softer vinyl being used on areas like the panels that hang from his waist, while the ABS is used on the more rigid panels on his shoulders and upper body.

I haven’t been too heavy in my condemnation of the armour, because even though not quite as articulated as I might have liked, it still manages to look totally bad-ass and fits the figure well (plus I knew from the promo pics it would be made this way). He comes with sandals sculpted to the foot and a pair of ornate greaves shielding his shins. From beneath his waist and loin armour hangs a frayed cotton kilt/loincloth that helps to juxtapose the heavy ornate armour that hangs over it. We have various armoured panels (obviously taken from his past Samurai opponents because of their eclectic mix of designs) and a trophy hangs from his broad sash belt. The trophy consists of a finely sculpted bunch of severed A L I E N tongues, gruesome, but cool. These seem to represent the equivalent of Native Americans taking scalps to prove the number of kills on a skirmish, especially in one so intense and violent that you don’t have time to take their skull and spine… c’mon we’ve all been there. He also has a second black fabric belt that you need to attach; this has his traditional Japanese Saya hanging from it, to house his real metal Katana.

His midriff is left bare to show off his impressive six-pack, but then his upper half is semi clad in a kind of Samurai/Gladiator armoured panel combo, a style much favoured by your average Predator. Highlighting once again that those guys like to look macho, but with just a hint of homo-eroticism thrown in for good measure. This covers the chest on the left side and has a strap going around the other side of his body to link up with the armour on his back. The shoulders have oversized domed pauldrons featuring large ring attachments, then the left arm has a secondary piece of armour over a fabric netting swatch and the right has a larger shield attached to the upper arm. Both lower arms feature armoured gauntlets, and the right one has three huge articulated blades that can swing out to form a vicious looking claw weapon.

Last up is his helmet… and I found this a nerve-wracking bitch of a thing to get on. It comes in three separate pieces. First there is the main body of the helmet that circumnavigates the rear and sides of the head. This is the piece that made me sweat. It is a super snug fit, and rather than coming in two pieces that clip together, it has to be firmly but gently forced onto the head sideways. There is a specific way to do this that is explained in the instruction sheet provided, so read and follow them well. It’s made of what feels like potentially brittle plastic, with just enough give to ‘pop’ into place. Once in place you attach the red face-plate section, which simply fits over his mandibles and then position the top of the helmet over his cranium, (this is held in place by a magnet) et voila, job done. For my photography I had to remove and attach the helmet a couple of times more… it’s not something I want to do too often!

The fabrication of the outfit is credited to Pun Lo, and once I got my initial complaints about the armour out of the way I was back to being happy with the way he/she had constructed the suit. My wants for articulated armour might have been a cool detail, but in all fairness it has little or no impact on how this figure performs or looks when displayed.

Value - **
There has been a pretty alarming jump in the prices of top end 1/6th figures recently, and that disturbing trend is again evident here. I can see why some of that jump is relevant for this figure, mainly because of his unique physique, meaning there is little chance that any of the elements created here could ever be re-used on other figures. This is very much a one-off, stand-alone figure. I guess the fact that this is the premiere release for the new Artists Series means it needed to have a USP, and for that I salute it, but I wish it didn’t have to come at such a high cost! If this had come in a known and published edition size, and maybe even had a numbered certificate or plaque on the base it would certainly have helped sweeten the pill.

As it is, when you pay the full RRP on this figure, which is an eye watering $359.99 I think we are paying a whole $100 too much. However, much like when I reviewed the recent Play Imaginative metal Batman figure, it is up to the individual. In much the same way as a pair of Denim jeans from a supermarket are ultimately much the same product as some from a designer boutique, it’s the detail and quality of finish that makes all the difference, and someone with a discerning palette will always want that air of exclusivity. I guess in its simplest terms it’s called snob value ;)

Fun Factor - ****
OK, I’ve got my moan about price out of the way, now I can concentrate of the good stuff! I have truly had fun playing and posing this figure more than almost any other one in the last year. His articulation isn’t quite as good as some others I’ve played with, and the comic book styling might not be to everyone’s taste (especially if you are a dedicated Predator movie fan), but to me this is just a classic fun toy. All be it one that doubles as a very expensive work of art!

It feels mighty robust and heavy to the point I think it could stand up to a fair amount of sand-box torture, were you inclined to give little Joey a $360 figure to mash it up with. I dare say some of his accessories might not fare so well, but hey ho, we all know this scenario will never happen anyway!

Overall- ***
There are times when writing reviews where you feel like it is Groundhog day, playing the same sentences over and over and over again. I say this because the price is once again the key factor in stopping me from awarding a full score. I truly love this figure in almost every sense of its existence… but $360 is just way too much wonga to let me even contemplate awarding a full score.

However, this is called the Artists Series and as such, what price can one put on art. Many people will think nothing of shelling out $500 on a nasty pottery figurine, so I guess value and beauty are in the eye of the beholder. If this figure had come in at the $250 mark I might have still felt like I was paying a little over the odds, but at the full price I feel slightly alarmed, and concerned for the future pricing of high end figures.

Where to Buy -
Sideshow still have this figure available for the full RRP of $359.99 here.

And that high unit price seems to have scared off many of Mikes sponsors from stocking this, but where others fear to tread the BBTS has swept in and has this in stock for a whole $30 cheaper at $329.99.

Your last port of call is of course eBay, where dealers are asking for between $329 right up to $480… but don’t even consider that top price yet, there are still plenty to be had for far more reasonable prices.

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

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