Takara-Tomy Beast Saga DX Starter Set Action Figure Set Takara-Tomy, 2012
Day #564: January 1, 2013
DX Starter Set Featuring Owlmyty, Repermint, Donwhale, Rainborsam, Wolfen, and Olrich
Beast Saga Action Figures
Item No.: BS-20 Manufacturer:Takara-Tomy Includes:6 shields, 6 spears, 6 shields, 16 dice, play mat, game instructions, 12 trading cards Action Feature:Dice launch out of stomach Retail:3,675 yen (or about $45, $60ish at importers) Availability: November 2012 Other: Seriously, Go Buy This
I wanted to get the DX Starter Set up immediately, but these damn things take forever to shoot, plus I had a bunch of completed reviews in the queue already. (Due to the awkward way I design sites, it's a lot of work to bump stuff.) So hey, it's a few weeks "late" but at least that gives me time to shoot the six buggers for one of many too-many-image reviews you'll see here. This batch of Beast Saga figures is an incredible variety pack which dumps 6 all-new figures with 6 all-new weapons in your lap.
This collection of 6 figures is excellent. If you're at all on the fence about this line being interesting, go buy this set because it's better than the Kingdom of Sea Death set we looked at in November, and that was really awesome too. This pack has a whale, an orca, a great horned owl, a wolf, a parrot, and a panther that seems to continue to prove that male action toy lines are really bad at integrating women into the mix. (Why do the girls need pink hearts and high heels? Because it's hilarious.) The LEGO Friends 2012 mix of girl-driven sets were largely about shopping and leisure activities, while the boy line was more about fantasy, adventure, combat, and jobs. At least the bizarre panther gets to fight and play on the same playing field as the boys on their terms. But... hearts?
Each figure has 4 points of articulation and is made of a soft plastic, but not as soft as many previous figures. Weapons easily slide into hands without the struggle of some earlier releases, I see little or no warping, the sculpts seem better, and they're just superb concepts. The only real drawback I see in this really amazing set is that we're seeing Takara-Tomy take shortcuts, with some areas on some figures going unpainted like ammo belts on the wolf or the parrot's talons. It's an expensive purchase but not one I'll regret unless Hasbro brings it out in the USA for a fraction of the price next year.
Let's start with the Air Tribe's Owlmyty, a great horned owl whose name I cribbed from Takara's quasi-English on their web site. I assume the name is a twist on "all mighty," which is funny on many levels. While not explicitly a gag figure, the little guy has some wonderful jokes sculpted into his person. For example, the shield is actually a book (wise owls, and all) with a clearly visible spine and, if you look at the sides, pages! His magic wand, or whatever it is, has little wings and ears, so I assume it's some sort of owl wand. It's cute, but it's no book shield. The blue flames sculpted into his armor are a nice analog to Aldyle, and aren't a reused sculpt. I'm really surprised how each new figure seems to be 100% new tooling, save for the dice launcher. It's not like Takara-Tomy to leave a good idea un-repainted.
Faux armored wings are sculpted to his shoulders rather than his back, and he has a fairly realistic sculpt of an owl head on his body which just barely peeks over the neck armor. It's quite cute. One of the eyes on my sample is a little wonky, which is a shame because this one has surprisingly prominent peepers. Unlike previous birds in this line, the owl's talons are left unpainted but you'll notice some really great sculpting on his legs. His shoulders move freely, but as with most of these figures, the legs are a little restricted. The original Battle Beasts line had a couple of Owl figures, Knight Owl and Strong Hurricane. He does not appear to be an intentional update of either, aside from being a similar creature to the latter with the coloring of armor of the former.
Next up is Repermint , a confusing character on all fronts. From early photography I assumed this was a bear, but the die in the chest makes it clear that no, it's a panther or a big black cat of some sort. For the time being, she serves as the line's sole female warrior and, uh, it's a little ridiculous. (Pictures from the manga are floating around and make her look more like a domesticated housecat.) They decided to give the poor little panther a heart shield, a sai of some sort, boobs, high-heeled boots, and hearts plus what are effectively gold earrings. The sculpt is quite good, the face looks like a big cat and the armor is cleanly done. Her feet move forward a little and back a lot, with freely-rotating arms and weapons which fit right in her hands.
When I think of effective armored outfits, and I admit most of the ladies in my toybox don't get particularly functional clothing, a lot of it has to do with (I assume) tradition. New Leia figures aren't going to come in, say, a sensible pilot's flight suit like in Prometheus as many are remakes of character designs from the 1980s. Heck, G.I. Joe may have some of the more sensible outfits and redesigns. Who puts a big ol' heart on your armor? Aside from, I guess, Hicks in ALIENS. I don't get that either. (I heard the story of why it's there. I still don't like it.)
As a guy-- and not exactly a smart one-- I probably am not one to poo-poo gender roles on how women are perceived in male toy lines, but oof. I'm glad they thought to integrate female characters, and kudos for not confusing future generations of Japanese kids' sexuality by giving it a metal bikini or something, but it's still just really weird. And for that reason, she's a keeper. She seems to be of the same species as the vintage Black Panther toy... but this is clearly not an update. It's a good thing she's part of a set.
The Sea Tribe's Donwhale is part of the reason I got super-excited about this set. As a kid I always wanted a whale Battle Beasts figure and never got one. Sure, Japan had Sea Panic, but I still don't have one of those. Modeled after a blue whale (I think) this little guy has sculpted surfboard armor, a laser on his head, what seem to be sculpted barnacles on his neck, and an awesome whale tail-themed staff plus a matching shield. It's really nice! He has a big yellow smile with painted baleen, and he feels like he got the most love in terms of paint. Orange rotors on his shoulders, black eyes, and more just make this guy pop. Did I mention he has a tiny whale tale sculpted to the back of his armor? He does. He's awesome. I've wanted a little whale of my own since 1987 and by gum, I'm glad I got this one.
If you're thinking of buying the entire set just for this one guy, let me assure you I'm not sorry I did it. The rest of the set is great but this guy is just wonderful.
The parrot Rainborsam may well be an update of a Laser Beasts figure of the same name (well, "Rainbow Sam" anyway.) The 1980s figure had yellow armor and a red head, while the new one opts for green feathers. Mechanical green wings sprout forth from his back, and he sports green hands and feet as well. I assume he's a "gag" figure in that he carries a gun like the pigeon and hamster, but that's just a hunch. The face is really cute, with a pointy crest out of his skull and a slight smile on his beak.
When I think of this kind of tropical large bird I generally don't think "green!" but hey, it's cool. I'd love to see a redeco with more colors, but I'm guessing Takara-Tomy don't much want to add extra paint applications on these guys. His gun doesn't immediately bring another weapon or creature to mind, and his shield vaguely resembles a feathery tail.
Another seemingly obvious update of a vintage Laser Beasts toy is Wolfen, who is incredibly similar to Ground Wolf. The armor color and bared teeth are right on target, although the vintage toy has more dark brown while the new one has light grey with a white snout and a scar over his eye. The sculpting on his mouth is really fantastic, and a little more paint could probably make it even better. As it is, the eyes, scar, nose, and everything else make him look really big and mean, with broad shoulders and no neck. I was disappointed to see they sculpted some sort of armor on his legs plus what may be ammo belts on his arms and legs, but these elements were left unpainted. It happened on the original Battle Beasts so it's not like it's a terrible tragedy.
His range of movement seems superior to the other figures in the set, and he has two really good weapons. His shield doubles as a claw weapon, while his sword just looks vicious. It has two blades, plus a wolf's head on the handle. (It's weird to think a species would put its own head on its weapon, but as a toy it looks pretty awesome.) This might be one of the best weapons in the set, plus it has a, uh, interestingly shaped giggle-worthy tip. You really can't go wrong with this one. He's definitely going to give the Armorvor figures here a run for their money.
Wrapping up the figures of this set is Olrich, which is another figure I've been wanting in this format since I was a little kid. (Despite what you may or may not feel about theme parks today, who didn't dig Shamu or Free Willy growing up?) I was incredibly thrilled to hear he was coming, so I was more than a little sad to see him come up short. Quite literally, in fact, as he was the shortest figure in the set. If this plays into some story where he's got a Napoleon complex, hey, cool... but I wish he was a smidgen bigger. The sculpt is good, with sharp teeth, eyes, and a blowhole which is visible through the armor. There's a nifty loincloth and what seem to be He-Man style furry briefs around his backside, plus little jets on the back of his head. And oh yes, you get the dorsal fin, which is super-important.
Deco is acceptable. While Donwhale has 7 colors of paint on his person, poor Olrich only has 4. The decision to leave the eye and teeth unpainted is disappointing. Even if it was just more white, that'd be welcome. A white chin would be nice too. The blue armor has a nice complimentary orange stripe on the shoulders, but on the whole the figure is black and blue. I dig this guy and I bet he's going to get a lot of attention around here by virtue of his being an orca, but the killer whale could stand to have some more paint. I look forward to seeing one or two customs pop up of this guy.
His sword is appropriately Orca-themed, with the white spot represented on the very large weapon. The shield is a bit of a mystery to me, it looks like either a bola or bubbles. It's not bad, but it's not as cool as the other ones if you ask me. He's the other reason I was really excited for this set, but compared to his other whale buddy it's really no comparison. Donwhale got all the love here.
In addition to each figure's individual trading card, six bonus (and different) cards were thrown in based on the first figure 3-packs. They're slightly different, and not knowing Japanese I can't tell you what the words on the yellow stripe are. You get new bonus dice as well, with clear blue 3s and some clear orange arrows which... mean... something? There are smokey clear black dice as well. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with these.
As such, let me assure you that if you're like me and you like Beast Saga because you loved Battle Beasts as a kid and want something that trades on the promise of those old toys, it's a worthwhile set to consider. This batch makes collecting the entire line to date seem worthwhile, and I gotta tell you a few of these didn't exactly have me excited to be paying import prices, let alone shipping. This set, I'd have paid more for.
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