Yodasnews Review: Imperial Scout Trooper (Vinyl Model Kit)
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498) - Sponsored by Things From Another World (www.tfaw.com)
Review Date: October 27, 2008
Seemingly taking a cue from his hot-rodding youth, George Lucas amped up the adrenaline level in Return of the Jedi with the introduction of a new high-speed Imperial craft and a specialized soldier to pilot it—the Imperial Speeder Bike with Biker Scout Trooper. These reconnaissance troopers underwent rigorous training to be not only highly self-sufficient and independent but also to work effortlessly as part of a two-man team. While unfortunately seeing little screen time and confined to only one action set piece, the Imperial Scout Troopers made an indelible mark on the minds of Star Wars fans and collectors, and several higher-end collectibles depicting them have been produced—most notably Sideshow’s massive $800 mixed media statue.
But for those collectors without bottomless pockets, Kotobukiya produced their own depiction of the Scout Trooper as part of their highly successful and high quality ArtFX soft vinyl model kit line. Featuring the soldier in a crouched action pose amidst the wreckage of his speeder bike, the dynamic model captures the resilience, determination, and bravery of the Scout Trooper as he fights to defend the tyrannical government in which he has been deeply conditioned to believe.
Today’s review examines the Kotobukiya Imperial Scout Trooper model kit in thorough and exacting detail. It also marks the beginning of a collaboration between Yodasnews and Things From Another World. As the holiday season kicks into gear, Yodasnews will be presenting a multi-week series of Kotobukiya reviews of models which are currently available from TFAW for 50% off their original price. Additional information can be found at the end of this review.
And now, the Kotobukiya Scout Trooper…
Accuracy: Above Average
Make sure you’ve topped off your drink or replenished your snacks before starting this part. There is a great deal to discuss with regards to Kotobukiya’s sculpting work, so this may take a little while.
To start, the anatomical proportions on the model appear to be spot-on accurate, and that is particularly impressive for this piece because the trooper is not standing in a neutral pose. His body is compacted and twisted in mid-motion. It also makes it more difficult to accurately assess whether or not each body part is the correct shape and size. Adding to the realistic proportions, the sculpting of the armor gives the illusion of hanging very naturally on the trooper’s body frame.
Next, we will break the trooper down into smaller sections, and the first area under specific analysis is the helmet. Overall, the sculptors did a terrific job, and no single facet seems to have been missed. The comlink system (which doubles as a mouthpiece) is extremely nuanced with the vocoder’s speaker and comlink grille possessing a tremendous amount of detail. The layering of the canopy-style squared-off visor is accurately proportioned, but the general shape of the whole helmet is not completely accurate to the screen prop. The face is too slender, and the skull cap is too flat. As with many such observations in past reviews, this will only be apparent under close comparative scrutiny. One flaw, however, that is noticeable to the casual viewer is the crookedness of the vents in the rear left side. Because of its location, this won’t be noticed while on display. Yet, the sloppiness of the etching is surprising. In the grand scheme of things, this is still only a very minor blemish on an otherwise spectacular sculpture.
As previously mentioned, the body armor, while sculpted directly onto the model, simulates a very natural hang. The elbow pad on the straightened arm pulls down toward the forearm as if gravity were acting upon it, and the torso armor (including the simulated fabric portion) pulls tight and upward as its real world counterpart would in such an arched pose. The utility compartments hanging from the sides of the trooper’s belt also have natural orientations with one freely hanging and the other pushed up and outward by the soldier’s thigh. Even the splayed fingers of the outstretched hand are bent backward just like real fingers would be under that kind of weight. All of these adherences to real world physics truly sell the look of the model on a subconscious level, which is usually the most effective level.
Republic and Imperial trooper armor types are defined by the shapes, angles, and grooves in the plating, and the Scout Trooper armor is no different. Kotobukiya’s artists clearly recognized this and thus paid close attention to those subtle details. The torso piece is rather simple with the predominant feature being a pair of opposite-facing right angle grooves (one over each pectoral muscle), and this has been successfully translated into vinyl. The cloth over the stomach area and the accompanying oversized utility pouches have very distinctive fabric-like wrinkles, and the pouches also have thin lines etched where the stitching and seams would be. The knee pads were probably the most challenging part of the armor due to the intricate combination of varying angles and grooves. Nevertheless, they turned out to be the most impressive part simply because the sculptors hit the bulls-eye on their execution. The last notable portion of the armor is the excellent work done on the boots. Throughout the various elements of the trooper’s uniform, Kotobukiya’s artists effectively replicated various materials by manipulating the ways in which they sculpted the natural folds and creases (or lack thereof) of the real-world materials. The boots are no exception, and they clearly look like a rubber-leather combination.
The Scout Trooper armor looks fantastic and is accurate in nearly every regard, but it does miss the mark in terms of full authenticity. In fact, the error is downright puzzling in how it was overlooked. The large white codpiece is completely absent. Even Hasbro didn’t miss this one!! Most people won’t notice this because of the lower body’s crouched and compact pose, so that’s a silver lining. However, it will stand out under analysis by either pictures of the original costume or people familiar with the armor.
Now back to the positive. The body glove is even more impressive than the armor—as surprising as that sounds. While the armor looks impressive, the majority of its visual appeal is the result of stellar paint applications (to be discussed later) rather than its sculpting. Also, the missing codpiece knocked its accuracy down a notch. For the body glove, Kotobukiya gave collectors a matte black jumpsuit that has mind bogglingly authentic and natural wrinkles. One look at the neck, and you can believe that a real neck would make those creases and pulls, and the joints have incredibly well-crafted simulations of bunched-up fabric. The stitching and ribbing on the gloves are so convincing that they look like miniaturized black leather gloves, and the rest of the body glove has numerous areas where stitching and overlapping fabric have been successfully replicated in sculpted vinyl form.
Given the voluminous amount of space already devoted to the sculpting of the Scout Trooper, discussing the holdout blaster seems insignificant. In fact, it borders on overkill—so we won’t spend too much time here. The only reason for even mentioning it is because Kotobukiya’s team did a very impressive job recreating the many ridges, nooks, and crannies of the pistol. The scaling also appears accurate, but it is very hard to accurately determine that claim because the pistol is not a removable accessory and the boot holster is not sculpted to be fully functional. Therefore, this is based on an eyeballed assessment.
PAINT APPLICATIONS: Excellent
Let’s be honest.
A pristine, fresh-off-the-line Imperial trooper would be very, very boring to look at in terms of color. Thankfully, Kotobukiya added an environment-specific deco to their Scout Trooper—specifically a muddy outdoors color scheme that is reflective both of the display base and the character’s appearance in Return of the Jedi. In terms of the upper armor, the gritty applications help highlight and define the otherwise-invisible grooves in the armor—the torso armor being a great example of this. The shining stars here, however, are the boots and kneepads. Kotobukiya’s painters paid very close attention to detail by clumping heavy deposits and shades of paint in the sculpted crevices of the trooper’s boots and smearing streaks of brown on the smoother areas. Even the soles of the boots are appropriately stained with a variety of vile and sloppy earthen shades. Kotobukiya simulated exactly what pristine white garments would look like after a day’s hike through the damp and soggy ground of the Pacific Northwest (or Endor if you prefer). Just looking at this replication of mud and grime is enough to make you want to scrub your own footwear with a heavy dose of soap and industrial solvent. The only way Kotobukiya could have amped this up was if they had applied dirt and mud to the lowest areas of the body glove.
There are plenty of other excellent applications as well. The glyph on the left side of the helmet is very accurate and painted with machine precision. The lower section of the torso armor (cloth section) has a subtle off-white coloration that augments the differentiation between “plastisteel” and “fabric”, adding to the realism factor. The silver and red areas on the backpack’s upper controls also sport good applications. Rounding everything out is the faint bluish-gray drybrushing on the gloves, which simulate stretch marks in the leathery fabric. This is one of those applications that would not be missed if absent but its presence really adds to the subconscious effect on the viewer.
Not everything is rosy though. One spot where Kotobukiya dropped the ball is on the back of the helmet again. The two upper vents have gray areas that are misaligned with the sculpted grooves. The fortunate part is that these flubs are not very noticeable unless your eyes get really close to the helmet (or if you turn the unforgiving eye of a camera on it as we have). The other weak point is around the black visor because Kotobukiya’s painters got a tad carried away with the grimy look and it becomes a detrimental distraction.
All in all, the painting on this model is absolutely lifelike and spectacular.
DISPLAY BASE: Excellent
Perhaps even more impressive than the Scout Trooper himself is the environment display base that supports it. Kotobukiya products are works of art, and they strive to give each and every element the appropriate amount of respect and attention that they deserve. To that end, this model kit is akin to a diorama, and the Imperial Scout crouches on a patch of Endor’s war-torn surface, his downed knee resting next to a piece of the mangled wreck that used to be his speeder bike. Pictures cannot possibly convey the wealth of detail incorporated into this diorama-style platform. Shredded leaves, ruts and smears in the mud, soggy weeds overgrowing on metal, and a partial log—all have been thrown into a proverbial mixer and the concoction that emerged is nothing else than a perfect representation of the chaotic natural world. Best of all, Kotobukiya’s artists sculpted and painted predetermined locations for the trooper’s foot, knee, and hand, and all three spots are just as realistic as any other part of the model. This is a superb example of how display bases should look.
EASE OF ASSEMBLY and DURABILITY: Excellent
The Scout Trooper is an extremely easy model to build. Without looking at the directions (they are written in Japanese after all), this was fully assembled and attached to the display base in roughly 30 seconds. No word of lie—it’s really that simple! The pieces are similar to the Yoda model in that they are solid with no extraneous fragile pieces. In fact, it is so durable that a child could safely build and handle this model. Even attaching the figure to the base is straightforward thanks to the aforementioned sculpted markers (see the picture below for their locations).
OVERALL RATING: Excellent
Helmet and codpiece issues aside, the Kotobukiya Scout Trooper vinyl model kit is worth every cent and then some. It is one of the most dynamic poses ever done for this character, beating even the “Joe Cool” attitude of the Gentle Giant statue. The effective simulation of gravity and body positioning on the armor is top rate, and the realism of the body glove’s sculpting adds to the illusion of a real person beneath the uniform. The grimy mud paint deco is among the best applications on any collectible and lives up to the high standards Kotobukiya has set for itself. Similar praises can be said for the creative and complex display base. To top it all off, the model is cinch to assemble.
As mentioned in the beginning of this review, the Imperial Scout Trooper is currently available at TFAW.com. Simply click here, and you will be taken directly to a special Kotobukiya sale page. If for any reason this does not work, simply go to TFAW.com and enter the following coupon code at the checkout: SWKOTOS. This will apply the discounted price to eligible products. For those of you who may be reading this review in our archives after the sale is over, limited quantities may still be available, so be sure to check out the site anyway.
Stay tuned to Yodasnews for our next entry in this Kotobukiya review series.