Beast Saga Carded Action Figures
Item No.: BS-37 Manufacturer:Takara-Tomy Includes:Spear, shield, 2 dice, trading card Action Feature:Dice launch out of stomach Retail:525 yen (or about $7) Availability: March 2013 Other: Also translated as "Mantarei" early on
We toy fans are nothing if not optimistic. New announcements frequently come up promising to revitalize some long lost childhood toy memory, and in the last few years Battle Beasts were given a sudden, tremendous burst of love. LEGO had Legends of Chima, Diamond Select snapped up the Battle Beasts brand and spent more time sitting on it than making stuff so far, even indie darling Onell Design made its Armorvor. Japan's Beast Saga, now seemingly completely dead, managed to recapture the style of the original 1980s toys while skipping the spirit. Many figures look gorgeous, with the upsized 2 1/2-inch figures looking like they're cousins of the originals. Mantarey is a nice update of the original rare Grin Reefer, but with a smaller price tag.
His joints are tight, but obstructed. The legs have very little ability to move, and the arms are blocked by his massive ray head. Since the mid-1990s we've frequently seen style trump functionality, and in the case of figures like these the articulation really doesn't add much to the bottom line of how much fun you'll have. The dice launcher works well, and you can put weapons in his hands, but there were no playsets or vehicles for this scale to interact with and ultimately, the original Battle Beasts had better arm movement.
Sculpting and deco are largely better on these new guys - his head looks like they grafted a manta ray on a mech suit of some sort, with the blue armor featuring numerous aquatic flourishes to give this the appropriate look. Of course it's silly to think a race of water beings would adapt to the future by adding land elements, but whatever, it makes for a nice toy. The darker skin on top and lighter skin on the bottom is a nice touch, and I'm thrilled to see gills on there. There's a nice skin texture on the back of the legs too, showing us that Takara-Tomy made some decent work on this all-too-short-lived line. Start to finish, it began to peter out at about six months and came to a complete stop in under a year. So much for the great "beast" revival - but at least we got a number of nifty figures out of it.
While I generally don't much personally care what my toys are worth (unless I'm suggesting for you to get one), I have a feeling this is one of those things that will go to the bottom of pop culture's dustbins. The line is pretty fantastic - the selection of creatures was largely smart, and this one in particular is top-notch. I love how it looks on my desk, and some day I'll probably build a nice cabinet (who am I kidding, maybe I'll buy one) for the collection. Yet writing about it now, at the end of the year, I'm more disappointed by what never happened. We never got a penguin, or any dinosaurs, or bugs (mushi!), and I was always holding out hope we'd see repaints in original Battle Beasts colors someday. It's possible there's more coming, but generally speaking once you go a year without much chatter it's pretty much done. It's possible these figures could become expensive some day, but well, look at WebDiver. Nobody cares about those now. If you see this figure, or any of the line, on the cheap I'd suggest grabbing some. They're charming, small, and a wonderful little relaunch that just never got off the ground. I'll try to bring in more here over the coming months, I was always hoping I'd have more to say about new releases... but there aren't any. So get while the getting is good, or don't.
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