Blip Toys Battle Warriors Ninjas vs. Robots Blip Toys, 2014
Day #1,002: September 5, 2014
Ninjas vs. Robots Army Men - 12 molds
Battle Warriors Army Men Tube
Item No.: No. 20292 Manufacturer:Blip Toys Includes:96 figures in a tube Action Feature:n/a Retail: est. $5.00 Availability:August 2014 Other: 3 red ninjas, 3 red robots, 3 blue ninjas, 3 blue robots
When was the last time you got a toy (that wasn't Hot Wheels or a blind-bagged figure) for under $5? Action figures keep flirting with the price point, but generally speaking it's not as common. Some toymakers do giant tubs of army men for $10, but a few are experimenting with lower price points. Imperial toy did Army vs. Cavemen, Zombies vs. Anti-Zombie Squad, and Pirates vs. Ninjas. Now Blip Toy - the Squinkies people - are bringing us Monsters vs. Army and Ninjas vs. Robots. While effectively playing out the four sacred pillars of easy Internet love - Robots, Monkeys, Ninjas, and Pirates - this format revives the cheap figure of the 1960s and 1980s. I would say these veer more toward the 1980s due to the slightly thinner plastic, cheaper feel, and slightly more stylized look.
In short - the variety and quantity is nice, but the quality is on the low side. Compared to other similar toys in the marketplace - including many much older ones - these do look and feel cheap. But hey, they're cheap!
For those of you who aren't aware of such things, the small "army man" format ruled the roost in the 1960s and earlier as G.I. Joe and action figures had yet to come on to the scene. Louis Marx Toys put out non-articulated space men, cowboys, army men, and other licensed characters as cheap, unpainted playthings for a few cents each. The toys are quite nice, and tended to be realistic interpretations of various presidents and whatnot. Blip Toys' take on the format has slightly squatter, bigger-headed, action-oriented figures with more mold flash and a slightly smaller size. While the recently released Star Wars Command and classic Galaxy Laser Team are about 60mm (2 1/2-inches) these tubed fellows are about 40mm (1 1/2-inches). If you bought Hasbro's Marvel Handful of Heroes, they're basically the same size. It's worth noting Hasbro's figures were about $1 each, though.
The format seems to be having a quiet comeback, not unlike the MUSCLE/Keshi boom of a few years ago that, seemingly, has already burned out its energy. Ignoring the classic green army men, we're seeing a fair amount of new toys of this kind from Imperial, Tim Mee, and Hasbro so far - I assume more are going to be coming as Chinese wages have quintupled over the last decade and toys are starting to swing back over to the "value" rather than "quality" column. At 5.2 cents each, these are basically the quality of a slightly-better Skeeball prize.
While usually each team has its own color, this set mixes things up a bit - the robots are 3 red and 3 blue, as are the ninjas. The robots are rather modern-looking and you can sniff out inspiration from Halo and various futuristic miniature figure games. There are no markings to identify them beyond "CHINA / CHINE BLIP LLC" meaning that these will probably be ignored, junked, and sold by the sack down the road. There's no real branding here so odds are they'll only be known to the people whose parents orbited the cheapo toy section at Target.
Some of the robots look vaguely like Super Battle Droids from Star Wars, but with gun arms or claw hands. Yes, you too can enjoy the clamps. The sculpts are quite simple and they make a lot out of having no texture and no deco. You'll notice some are standing onr ocks or mounds of dirt, and many have little creative flourishes. The clamp-hand robot has wheels for feet, while one has a whale-like head and two swords. A blue figure with a wide stance has a cannon arm, a Samus Aran pose, and what seems to be a Master Chief-inspired helmet. The set does not seem to be telling any particular story, and the varied looks offer value but I'm left wondering what - if any - instructions were given to the designers. They're really neat, but what is the takeaway here?
Joining the robots are ninjas, and cheap ninjas are pretty plentiful between vending machines, the aforementioned Pirates vs. Ninjas set, Ninja Mites, and countless other similar toys. Figures are ninja-ish, in that they use weapons commonly given to ninjas in popular cutlure and various looks which are also given to things we decide to call ninjas. I'll let somebody else pick that apart, and just say you've got a nice sextet of warriors armed with various bladed weapons and cool costumes. Some even have masks - a leaping, dual-sworded warrior has motion trails on each katana, a bare chest, and some sort of ornate mask. He seems a little too specific to be a part of an army - the same can be said of many of these - but it's a striking figure.
Three of the six ninja figures are standing on one foot, but stand just fine. Thank you, display bases. A lady ninja was included, and just like the men her anatomy is exaggerated to be visible at this scale - her head is a little larger, she has a ponytail, and she wields a nasty sai set. Her smaller torso and oversized head is a little strange, but at this scale exaggeration tends to be important as toys go. Her face seems to have a mask - the head, especially near the neck, makes it seem as such - but the face also has a nose and a mouth. I get the feeling that this figure was unfinished, or this is an unfortunate lady ninja who does not enjoy the cultural cache that having a chin brings. It's not like these are fine miniatures to be painted by a skilled hand under a magnifying lens - the point is to have these figures fight, or be destroyed because the kid is pissed off he wanted a Power Ranger or Batman.
With clawed weapons (like Vega from Street Fighter), a bo staff complete with severe motion line, and other clawed weapons, it's a pretty well-thought-out set. Someone clearly decided to go against many of the conventions to provide a varied squadron of 48 ninja warriors, although the lack of fun accessories like nunchucks or throwing stars is a bit of a downer. The bulk of the figures stand just fine - a couple are wobbly, but as you get 8 of each you're going to get at least one dud in the bunch. The sculpts are a little soft, and the faces are pretty clean.
The decision to pair these up as a versus pack is sort of strange. When given a set of wheeled cybernetic warriors with firearms and a set of plucky but well-trained humans with bladed weapons, I assume the robots will probably wipe the floor with them. The army-building.shtmlect is one I had a tough time with as a kid - I'd rather have variety than quantity - so the way I see it, I paid $5 for 12 unique figures. For that price, they're pretty good - I have plenty of spares to give away or lose, should it suit my whims. The other set feels like it was created with a little more joy and reverence for the format, while this one seems like someone tried to make something for the kids of the late 1980s and the Halo generation. I like it, it's neat, but I would have preferred at least one "classic" ninja - as in, no visible hair and no fancy masks or bare chests - presented here. Still, if you dig this kind of toy, it's a worthy purchase for you or as party favors for your kid's birthday party.
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