Star Wars Action Figures

Yodasnews Review:  C-3PO and R2-D2 (Vinyl Model Kit) 

Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498) - Sponsored by Things From Another World (TFAW.com) 

Review Date: November 3, 2008

 

PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS 

They are the “Odd Couple” from a galaxy far, far away—a gold-plated Felix and a tin-can Oscar.  Their relationship a symbiotic one, the duo of C-3PO and R2-D2 are frequently depicted together in artwork and sculpture, and many companies have produced interpretations of the inseparable pair through a variety of media.  In the realm of sculpture, however, few pieces have turned out as classy as Kotobukiya’s soft vinyl model kit.  Simple in design and standing atop a themed yet simple display base, this kit is among the most iconic-looking pieces in the ArtFX line. 

Today’s review takes an extreme close look at this popular two-pack model kit—currently on sale at our sponsor Things From Another World (TFAW.com). 

Before we move on, however, something needs to be addressed with regards to Kotobukiya’s claim on the box that these models are 1/7th scale.  They are not, and this is noticeable simply by comparing them against each other.  Placing either droid next to the Scout Trooper makes the Imperial look like a hulking giant.  This is not necessary a detriment to the ArtFX line because each piece (for the most part) is meant to be treated as its own entity.  Nevertheless, there are collectors who would want to see their Kotobukiya display have a consistent scale, and they should know that this will not be the case. 

And now we can get started. 

 

SCULPTING 

C-3PO:  Excellent 

Things get off to a fantastic start in this first category.  Not only are the body proportions faithful to Anthony Daniels’ iconic tin-man suit, but the chosen pose is very reflective of both the character and the man inside.  The placement of Threepio’s arms provides a glimpse into the heart and soul of the character.  The extended arm rests compassionately just behind Artoo’s dome, conveying the sense that ol’ Goldenrod is a loyal and protective friend.  Bent and cocked out at an angle, the right arm works in conjunction with the off-balance stance and lateral head articulation to demonstrate that this is a timid and awkward droid.  He is unsure of him and tends to depend upon the same mechanical friend to whom he is so protective.  Lastly, the clumsy tilt to Threepio’s stance is indicative of the constricting movement Daniels endured inside the suit.  This is not a graceful costume to wear by any stretch of the imagination, and Kotobukiya’s posing of Threepio makes you believe not only are you seeing the character brought to life but also an authentic realization of a man in a suit.

The next areas to examine are the accuracy of the model compared to the filming costume and the plethora of details Kotobukiya crammed into this kit.  Overall, the shapes and angles of the head and upper body are accurate.  These include the layering of the metal plates as well as both the sharp and gently sloping edges on the torso and face.  However, the head is a smidge too rounded, and the face is too flat in the region beneath the eyes.  The large rippled pack on Threepio’s back, which conceals vital controls as evidenced during Chewbacca’s repairs in The Empire Strikes Back, appears accurately scaled. 

Those minor qualms, however, are rendered inconsequential when one takes in the sheer amount of nuances that Kotobukiya’s sculptors faithfully replicated.  On the head and neck area, these details include the microwave emitter/sensor protruding from the top center of his head and the olfactory sensor centered directly below the neck.  Both of these are extremely small yet possess an insane level of detailed sculpting.  When one looks closely, they see the microwave emitter has a bulbous tip and ridged sheath, reminiscent of a ray gun from the B-movies of the 1950s.  Kotobukiya also gave the olfactory sensor the very tiny and delicate pattern of a triangle within a circle.  The same level of minute detail can also be found on the various pistons and servos protruding from the elbows—although their thinness makes them among the most fragile and brittle elements of this kit. 

Furthermore, Kotobukiya’s sculptors did a fine job replicating the unevenly spaced concentric rings of the primary power coupler outlet in the center of the torso, and they successfully recreated the chaotic, garbled tangle of wires in the exposed stomach region.  They even included the dented section of the gold plating on the bottom of Threepio’s right hand side breastplate.  Lastly, with regards to the upper torso, the hands are extraordinarily detailed with careful attention paid to simulating the appearance of individual plates on each finger.  The golden pads on Threepio's palms have been delicately sculpted too.  The pads are missing the small thin wires connected to them, but their absence will not be noticeable to the masses.  In fact, they are barely visible in The Complete Visual Dictionary (the source of this review’s comparisons).

Threepio’s lower body is much more streamlined and naturally flowing than the upper body, and Kotobukiya continued striving toward full accuracy here too.  The key here rested in imitating the patterns and depths found on the seams of the metal plates—some of which were actually arterial tubes responsible for directing the circulation of oil (this would be the rumble-strip patterns running horizontally on the inner thighs).  The knee joints are the areas with the finest amount of detail, and Kotobukiya’s artists did not disappoint.  The discs on each side of the knees were sculpted with machine-like precision, and the intermotor actuating couplers protruding downward from the sides of the knees are properly sized and detailed.  Look behind the knees, and one will find an exposed area that resembles wires running across tin foil.  The crinkling is highly realistic and helps sell the aforementioned illusion of a man in a suit.  The nicest touch though has to be the simulated Philips-head screws found on Threepio’s sides.  The first two are located just above and below the exposed stomach, and the third can be seen at the top of the large thigh plate.  Each “screw” is a different size and made for three different “screwdrivers”, proving that the artists took the time to sculpt each one separately and didn’t simply reuse the same one again and again.

 

R2-D2:  Excellent 

The short version: insanely detailed and very faithful to the original filming prop. 

But our reviews rarely leave it at just the short version, so here we go… 

There is an enormous amount of detailing on the Artoo model although it’s not quite perfect.  The main shortcoming is the depths of some details are not as accurate as they could be.  One example would be the rectangular shapes to the left of Artoo’s large eye.  They should be much deeper.  Also, the ventilation system in the center of the chassis should have slots that cut straight through to the hollow interior.  On the plus side, the heat exhaust and recharge power coupling socket on Artoo’s lower section have more accurate depths in addition to very precise sculpting.

The negative out of the way, it’s time to focus on where Kotobukiya went right with this sculpture.  In fact, there are so many areas that it would not be practical to address them all.  First, the etched door panels covering Artoo’s main chassis are spot-on accurate right down to the off-center alignments and the relative dimensions (relative to each other and to other sculpted areas on the chassis, that is).  The golden-bronze powerbus cables attached to the all-terrain treads have a very miniscule yet authentic woven texture to them which immediately makes them feel unique when touched.  The column of six blue system diagnostic input receptors is evenly spaced and in proportion to those on the mechanical prop.  As for Artoo’s dome (which can rotate a full 360 degrees), the large primary photoreceptor eye and the two smaller projectors appear to match the prop’s depths and angles very well, and the holoprojector eye even has a subtle and clever bonus—it’s sculpted in a slightly upturned angle as though frozen in mid-movement. 

Kotobukiya’s sculptors added one final touch to Artoo that demonstrates their commitment to excellence in their products.  While the underside of the model is unseen when mounted on the display base, the artists nevertheless sculpted Artoo’s retracted third leg—complete with recessed wheel bottoms.  It’s something that will go unnoticed by people looking at the finished product, but knowing the detail is there gives this model a greater sense of completeness.

 

PAINT APPLICATIONS 

C-3PO:  Excellent 

This is a tricky category because the vast majority of Threepio’s body is not colored via paint specifically.  It certainly would have been easier for Kotobukiya to apply a matte gold-tinted yellow paint, thereby emulating a weathered and dulled version of the character.  However, they took the classier route and created Threepio as he was in the final frames of Episode IV—glistening under the Yavin sun.  While attempts to 100% verify this have yielded no concrete confirmation, it appears as though Kotobukiya’s artists used a process known as “vacuum metalizing” to give Threepio his finish.  Collectors of the Hasbro action figure line will recognize that term from 2002’s highly sought-after Toy Fair edition of Darth Vader as well as the Toys R Us exclusive R2-D2 later that year.  In a nutshell, vacuum metalizing involves applying a thin coating of metal onto another material (soft vinyl in this case) to achieve a quality metallic finish at a fraction of the cost.  Kotobukiya’s efforts paid off, and Threepio’s golden exterior (and his single silver foot and shin) are beautifully emulated in this model kit. 

That leaves very little in terms of traditional paint applications, but Kotobukiya does not drop the ball here either.  To simulate the glowing feature of Threepio’s photoreceptors, a flat yellow hue has been cleanly applied to both eyes.  There is a single small paint run, but only a camera’s discerning lens can detect it.  Another attribute that is hard to detect without the aid of a camera is the faint green dry brushing applied on the clear plastic covering the eyes.  When viewed with the naked eye, this green application gives a subtle definition to the eyes, enhancing their realism.  The second and last part of the traditional paint applications is found on the exposed multi-colored connection wires in Threepio’s stomach and on the backs of his knees.  The paint here is intentionally sloppy because this area is meant to be a jumbled-up mess as well as exposed to the harsh elements of various planets.  Even still, there is a sense of order and precision to the sloppiness, and one can tell that each paint smudge is there because Kotobukiya’s painters intended them to be there.

 

R2-D2:  Excellent 

Just as the characters differ drastically in composition, so do the Kotobukiya models.  Artoo relies on metallic and glossy paint to simulate his metal components as opposed to the vac-metal approach on Threepio.  The results are a success.  The silver paint on the dome has been applied smoothly and evenly with only two small dark blemishes on the left hand side.  The dark blue paint on the panels stay within their designated boundaries as does the remainder of the silver paint and the gold on the powerbus cables.  The only areas where the paint looks chipped and strays ever so slightly beyond the lines are the drybrushing on Artoo’s panel doors.  However, this appears to be intentional as there is a pattern to be found (black paint accumulates most heavily in the corners and the streaks are a single hairline or two of paint).  The only disappointing paint application is Kotobukiya’s choice for the red on Artoo’s processor state indicator.  A brighter hue would have better simulated a glowing light.  Instead, the chosen shade is too dark and does not stand out as it should.

 

DISPLAY BASE:  Excellent 

Readers of our Imperial Scout Trooper and Yoda Kotobukiya reviews will undoubtedly be surprised at the apparent lack of complexity with this base.  Still, it is very important that every element of an artistic product serves the overall vision of the piece.  This barren stone base does that.  First, the model is a replication of the Yavin IV award ceremony scene, so this is the only option for a base.  Second, it allows the attention to remain focused on the characters.  Furthermore, the sculpting and painting are extremely good for what they are—a simulation of hard chiseled rock.  There are shallow contours that best resemble icing spread out on a cake, and the crevices are appropriately deeper and rougher around the edges.  Lastly, close examination will reveal faint traces of tan mixed into the gray paint, which heightens the realism on a subliminal level.

 

EASE OF ASSEMBLY:  Below Average 

Do not let that score give you a false impression of the product.  This model takes under five minutes to assemble, but this score is based relative to other Kotobukiya Star Wars vinyl kits.  Compared to items like Yoda and the Imperial Scout Trooper, the droids are much harder to assemble because a great deal of care is required.  First, both robots are hollow, light, and (in Threepio’s case) potentially brittle in parts.  Artoo’s legs are the most difficult to assemble for two reasons: 1) the pegs need to be pushed into the chassis with a good deal of force, resulting in the potential for broken pegs, and 2) the chassis is hollow, and too much force may crack that part of the model.  At all stages, you can hear the creaking and near cracking of the model pieces, leading to a “sweating bullets” kind of feeling.  This is especially true when attaching the droids to the display base.  In that step, the best approach is to connect Artoo first and attach the left and right rear holes into the pegs and then gently push the front holes into place next. 

In all honesty, solid pieces similar to previous models would have made for a less stressful experience.  Just be very careful and patient when building this.  Look over all of the pieces and assess the situation before doing anything rash.  The instructions are no help either because they are written in Japanese. 

By the way, this is not a model that you’ll want to take apart after you build it, so that is something to keep in mind if you tend to store items after X amount of time.

 

DURABILITY:  Below Average 

The model’s durability is closely tied to the relative difficulty in its assembly.  Again, do not let the “below average” rating turn you off from this item.  Just remember to continue exercising extreme caution when handling, storing, and displaying this model kit.  Unlike previous Kotobukiya kits, the droids are hollow and feel very brittle—particularly Threepio’s thin spindles and pistons.  The slightest pressure on any of these will easily result in breakage.  Artoo fares better because he does not have any such pieces sticking out.  With him, the greatest chance of breakage (other than a fall from the display shelf) would occur in the assembly process. 

Therefore, “below average” durability here simply means that this is most definitely an adult collectible and should be handled accordingly.

 

OVERALL RATING:  Excellent 

Kotobukiya hit another one clear out of the ballpark with the C-3PO and R2-D2 vinyl model combo, but anything less than excellent would be surprising with this company.  If other companies boldly claimed “craftsmanship” on their corporate logo, it would likely be greeted with cynicism, skepticism, and the feeling that they were more than a little conceited.  Kotobukiya, however, knows how to put their money where their mouth is, and the quality of artistry present in this kit is stellar—particularly the high level of accuracy with regards to the smallest components of the droids.  Beyond that, the visual composition of the sculpture is very iconic and true to character. 

The price does warrant some discussion.  In terms of surface area and mass, this kit is on par or less than the Imperial Scout Trooper.  However, the droids cost approximately $150 as opposed to the $100 of the Scout Trooper.  There could be a couple reasons.  One, the cost of the suspected vac-metal procedure done to Threepio could have increased production costs.  Another possibility is that Kotobukiya treated the droids as one and a half characters and charged accordingly ($100 plus $50).  Regardless, this set is a bit overpriced at the regular retail price. 

Fortunately, it is currently part of the 50% Off Kotobukiya sale at Things From Another World (TFAW.com), so the droids are now an extremely reasonable $75.  For those who may be reading this review in our archives after the fact, this promotion ran (or is still running) from October 27 to December 31, 2008.  Even if the sale has come and gone, check out TFAW.com anyway.  Many times, items with non-mint “nick and dent” boxes go on sale for a heavy discount, and the items themselves are in fantastic shape. 

And, quite honestly, it may still be worth it to drop the full retail amount on this kit if you want a well-made iconic Star Wars item in your collection.