Chap Mei Toys Animal Planet Giant Squid Deep Sea Adventure Set Chap Mei Toys, 2013
Day #646: April 25, 2013
Giant Squid Deep Sea Adventure Set Big Squid and Deep Sea Suit
Animal Planet Toys R Us Exclusive
Item No.: n/a Manufacturer:Chap Mei Toys Includes:Giant squid, SCUBA mask, flashlight, king crab, deep sea suit Action Feature:Tentacles move, sort of Retail:$14.99 Availability: Early 2013 Other: Good enough
The Giant Squid Deep Sea Adventure Set feels like a modernized (and encheapened) 3 3/4-inch scale action figure set in the vocabulary of Fisher-Price Adventure People. The quality is, on the whole, OK - the human figure is the weakest part, the squid isn't bad, and the suit is what makes it particularly interesting (and I believe is currently unique to this set, as the squid can be had separately and more cheaply and in different colors, too.) I would say this is how you should take the set: it's good, not great, and ideal if you're going to use the creatures and suit as accessories for your other toys that you already own.
Since it's unique (currently) to this set in the USA, focusing on the suit is a good idea. It's a large toy and stands alone well on its own, with its head enlarged and arched forward similar to Marvin from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. The figure has articulated arms and rotating claws, plus removable fans, tanks, and cameras on the side. There's a hook on the back so you can use a winch on a boat to pull him up, and I'm not entirely sure this was designed with water play in mind. The suit doesn't seal up, so water will enter through the holes in the feet as it's lowered in to a pool or tub. Also, there are no weights on the feet to make sure this happens.
What's surprising is that the suit, which looks tight, is surprisingly accommodating for other figures. The included diver fits just fine, as did random Iron Man, Spider-Man, G.I. Joe, and other 3 3/4-inch scale action figures I placed in here. It stands up well, has a good weight to it, and is quite charming in appearance with its four windows on the helmet. The only place where this could be better are the yellow painted tank and camera, or the red fans. Light paint applied to dark plastic doesn't tend to look too well, and it would no doubt be better as molded yellow or molded red parts. Or, for that matter, unpainted molded brown parts. It still looks pretty good.
As giant squid toys go, this may be one of the best on toy shelves today. It's also one of the only ones available. The mechanism is laughably impotent, as a button on the body moves two of the tentacles a couple of centimeters each. If angled correctly, you can use them to grab the diver figure but generally it just wiggles them around a bit. With a 5-inch long body, it's a sizable toy and the plastic quality is pretty good. There's no articulation to speak of, but the black, white, and yellow paint applications make it look like a more expensive toy. He has a little beak as well as suction cups, making this a less-than-authentic but still fun little toy. The squid has also been sold in a little box for about $8, so you might also consider buying him alone if you don't want the deep sea suit.
The crab is an unarticulated (but neat) king crab, and it's cute enough. I can't do much with it, but it's neat and a nicely painted bonus. Rounding out the set is a diver which is the set's weak link. It's OK. With 7 points of articulation including jointed ankles, the figure manages to surpass his 1970s and 1980s ancestors by allowing his feet to do a "swimming" pose, plus there are removable swim fins which have a tight fit. The SCUBA mask doesn't connect to anything, but it basically fits just fine. Rounding out his gear is a plastic flashlight, giving this 4-inch tall blond male diver just enough gear to be somewhat interesting. The plastic quality does feel a little cheap, but given the price point that's to be expected. The outfit paint job is OK, but you can tell it's a shirtless, nippled man with a wet suit painted on top. He also has some straps on his person molded in flesh color and this makes the item look pretty cheap.
As bang for the buck goes, these sets do deliver a lot of plastic at a low price point and make a convincing argument for gift-givers over, for example, Imaginext. There really isn't anyone else doing figures quite like this nowadays, so unless you want to buy Adventure People on eBay this is a pretty good nonviolent, mostly unbranded and not-very-commercial toy alternative. There's also a small collector's market for this stuff, which I think is helped along mostly by the fact that there really isn't any definitive guide to the toys Chap Mei makes or what all is out there. If you're looking for a hobby on the frontier of toy collecting, this is it.
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