3-D Animation From Japan: Tenchi Muyo!
By: McFarlane Toys
It’s been almost 20 years since Todd McFarlane changed the way we look at action figures. Todd Toys (as it was originally known) brought to the table a larger scale along with more involved sculpts, paint, and packaging. A lot of companies started quickly trying to play catch-up as McFarlane put out tons of awesome action figures of relatively unknown Image Comics characters. Unfortunately, the glory days could only last so long and McFarlane couldn’t keep up the pace with larger companies who could afford to add super-articulation into the mix.
The figure I’m reviewing today comes from one of Todd’s better ideas from his waning days of being relevant in the mass market toy world. Anime and manga culture is relatively new to America, and was really hitting its stride during the late 90s with programs like Toonami bringing all sorts of new shows and movies to our shores and whetting our appetites for more. McFarlane Toys debuted its “3-D Animation from Japan” line in 2000, bringing many popular anime properties to shelves around the US. Tenchi Masaki of the wonderfully light-hearted Tenchi Muyo! (No Need for Tenchi) was featured in series 2. Let’s take a look.
“Clothes make the man. I believe that.” – Joe Versus the Volcano
Mr. Masaki here looks fantastic. Animation in general and anime in particular has a long history of being hard to capture in three dimensions, but the sculptors at McFarlane Toys pulled it off beautifully.
Tenchi is only a teenager in the show, which accounts for the particular roundness of the face. Tenchi’s descended from an alien race from the planet Jurai, and here wears the robes of the house of Jurai, beautifully sculpted and painted to appear just like the anime. There are soft color changes painted on to imitate the cel-shading of animation, as well as thick black lines to represent the ink-lines of the art. You can even see on the white areas some light blue added to re-create the blue-on-white shading of animation along with some darker blue on the hair for sheen. Aside from the unusually dark skin color on Tenchi (who, like most anime characters, usually appears Caucasian) the paint is flawless.
In the package, McFarlane included two swords that fans will recognize from the show, a large base with the show’s title in big awesome letters, and the light hawk wings, a sort of shield that Tenchi manifests later in the series for maximum badassery. The light hawk wings and lightsaber-looking sword are both cast in clear plastic and look great. The other sword is sort of bland looking, but I never really liked the design in the show either, so to each his own.
The two parts of the light hawk wings can be connected to each other and attached to the base to imitate the look of the show. There’s a clip on the back of the smaller one, but I can’t recall what the significance of it is.
The only issue I have with the sculpt itself is that I think the face is a bit calm for such a dynamic pose. By the time Tenchi got to use the light hawk wings or fought in this costume, he was usually pretty pissed or at the very least put out. As it stands now, he looks like he’s doing lunges during his lunch break to keep his ass in check.
Here’s where, once again, I gotta dock points. There’s not much articulation here at all, but more than you might think.
Tenchi’s articulation is thus: Swivel neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, and calves; Pin ankles; and Swivel-hinge hips. I gotta give McFarlane credit on using the swivel-hinge before it really made its mark, but without knee articulation it just kinda pisses me off. I’m like, hmm that’d be nice if it did anything at all, but poseability-wise it’s as useful as a swivel would be. The ankles are actually pretty nice, but the feet are so small that the weight of the figure just uses the ankle as a lever to make him fall over on the base all the time.
This is pretty much what you’re going to get out of him. I was pleasantly surprised that he had more articulation than I thought, but it’s so poorly executed that I actually wish he was less articulated so he could hold that dynamic pose better.
So what we have here is basically an okay shelf piece in 6-inch scale. While he comes with some really nice accessories and looks great, the lack of poseability makes him pretty useless for anything but staring at. I picked him up for $6.99 at PuzzleZoo, who has an awesome flat-rate shipping policy. Even at that price, I would say he’s for die-hard fans only. The sculpt and paint are both admirable, but he’s about as useful as an animation cel.
Tenchi here is just articulated enough to wish he was better. A less dynamic pose would have made him more fun as an action figure, but definitely not fit in with McFarlane’s work at the time. If you’re just dying to get your hands on a Tenchi figure, he does have a really great sculpt and the paint work is well-handled aside from the odd skin color. He’s definitely not your iconic Tenchi Masaki, but as is the case with most male anime characters, your toy options are going to be pretty limited.
Thanks for reading and as always, it’s just a toy. Open the darned thing.