Star Wars Action Figures

 Yodasnews Review: SSC Anakin Skywalker (Exclusive Edition) 

By Jeff Gouse (SithLord0498) 

In the preface of my Luke Skywalker review, I put forth the idea that the first figure in a new line is typically the weakest link.  Unfortunately, Sideshow Collectibles’ second release in their 1/6 scale Star Wars line, Anakin Skywalker, is the weaker link between the two.  As you’ll read in the paragraphs below, there are many outstanding features to the figure, ones that even surpass Luke Skywalker.  However, several issues prevent this from being the unbelievably stellar figure it could have been. 

It’s not so much that Anakin is a bad figure because it’s not.  It’s that Luke was a better figure, and he came first.  Had this been the first figure in the series, I would very likely have been blown away by Anakin.  Luke merely set a very high bar.  Anakin meets the bar in many respects, surpasses it in others, but stumbles in one core area (obviously read on to find out which area). 

Packaging:  4.9 out of 5 

This is extremely similar to the packaging used with Sideshow’s Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker.  The concepts are the same as is much of the color scheme.  The figure photos provided are from the prototype, which does live up to the idea of “Images may differ from final product.”  I’ll discuss that in more depth when I get to paint application.  

 Once again, the accessory tray does not include slots for the hands that are already attached to the figure, a criticism I leveled at Luke’s packaging.  This is an even larger problem now that two of the interchangeable hands are now interchangeable ARMS.

 Now, it is entirely possible that the packaging for Anakin was done far in advance.  However, I would suggest that collectors who similarly feel this is an oversight should contact Sideshow Collectibles via e-mail or telephone and make it known.  While I’m a relative newbie to SSC, word on the Net is that they are very collector-friendly and will welcome any and all constructive criticism.  This review is certainly filled with that. 

If we act now on this, later releases such as Mace Windu and Qui-Gon Jinn may have accessory trays that can accommodate ALL accessories and appendages. 

A few more tidbits.  The magnetic clasp…still a great and innovative idea.  The trays are also just as easily removable as they were in the case of Luke Skywalker. 

Sculpt:  4.5 out of 5

 A new figure and a new sculptor.  This time around, Andy Bergholtz takes a crack at the 12 inch Star Wars universe.  The fruits of his labor are a face that, while it doesn’t entirely look like Hayden Christensen, exudes the essence of Anakin Skywalker and, to a certain extent, Darth Vader…mostly due to the expression surrounding the eyes.  Because he wisely steered clear of using a scene-specific expression, Anakin’s face looks natural in the great majority of poses in which he can be modeled.  

The lightsaber scar on his face is an appropriate depth as are the small nicks on the lower opposite side of the face.  Bergholtz’s approach to the hair also pays off.  As opposed to most other Sideshow figures, Anakin’s hair was sculpted as a two-piece design in order to amp up the realism of its layers.  While the seams are virtually unnoticeable, the effect is unconsciously apparent.

The elimination of the “bobble-head” look made infamous by Luke is thankfully absent from Anakin.  However, I believe this is more the result of a bulkier outfit as opposed to a smaller head.  Truth be told, both heads look to be roughly the same size (minus the added mass of the hair pieces).  

Finally, the best news of all…no “monkey arms” this time!!!  Because Hayden Christensen is just over six feet tall, Sideshow was able to use its regular size body as opposed to the “short” male body type used on Luke.  Everything is rightfully proportioned on Skywalker Senior. 

 Paint Application:  4.5 out of 5 

By now, most of you have seen the pictures and mini-reviews about the lip color.  They’ve been floating around the Internet, specifically in the forums of both Rebelscum and sideshowcollectors.com (aka Sideshow Freaks).  And yes, it’s true…the painters over in China botched the color.  Even Sideshow Collectibles acknowledged this.  While it doesn’t help with Anakin, I would hope that they’ll be tightening their quality control in light of this error. 

But is it really that bad?  I’ll admit that it did irk me greatly when I first broke it out of the packaging.  Now, it is several hours later, and I have to say that the lips don’t bother me very much anymore.  No, it may not be what was intended, but it’s a trivial, insignificant complaint in the grand scheme of things. 

From the skin tones to the scar to the paint washes on the belt pouches and boots, the paint application is on par with Luke.  Unfortunately, Sideshow continues their trend of laying it on thick, which gives off too much of a Revlon spokesmodel appearance from certain angles.  The longer you have this figure and the more you interact with it, I think you’ll find the deco’s shortcomings less irritating.

 

 

Articulation:  3.75 out of 5 

Forget being scared of bad dreams (even if they are about his wife dying).  The articulation, sadly enough, is what sends this Anakin Skywalker falling from grace.  Fortunately, the catalyst for this lower rating is a feature that is unlikely to affect any other character in the line (with the exception of the SDCC Darth Vader Sith Apprentice figure).

 It’s the interchangeable arms.  They fall off WAY TOO MUCH!!!  

The problem, as far as I can tell, is the way the arm connects to the body.  First, Sideshow failed to implement their new peg design (which, ironically enough, was intended to prevent this sort of problem).  Secondly, the connection point is directly between the elbow joint and shoulder joint.  Because of the constant movement plus the un-secure connection, it’s very easy to have the arm fall out.  Lastly, the sleeve of the inner shirt is so tight that it adds even more pressure on the arm. 

Many collectors on various boards have stated that it is this inner sleeve that is the major cause.  Not true, I say.  My arm still falls off easily, especially if I’m using the cloak as well.  I can confidently say the sleeve isn’t the major cause because I took the bold step of CUTTING OFF THE SLEEVE!! 

Yes, you heard me right.  I took the scissors to the inner shirt sleeve and pulled a Kurgan on him (that one’s for all you Highlander fans out there).  Visually, it doesn’t make a noticeable difference because of the outer shirt sleeve.  If you’re bold enough to follow my lead, I think you’ll be OK with the arm most of the time if you take extra care when moving it.         

However, if you decide to follow the tutorial posted by Dave Myatt of Rebelscum where you can rubber band the sleeve to the arm (giving it that “tucked-in” look), you’ll reawaken the beast.  The arm is so heavy that the added snugness of the banded sleeve pulls on the connection again.  The best way to combat this is to bridge the gap between the arm and the connector as much as possible. 

I know it’s difficult to visualize, but unfortunately it’s not something that can be shown very well through still images.  Basically, it works like this.  When you rubber band the arm to the sleeve, you’re creating an extension of the shirt.  So when you put the shirt back on Anakin, there is a definite place where the arm peg rests.  To connect it into the socket, you have to push the arm up into it.  Between the peg and socket is extra fabric (the upper sleeve).  You need to reduce that gap and put the starting point much closer to the socket.  To do that, bunch up more of the sleeve and rubber band that.  Think of it as tailoring the shirt sleeve.  Now, there’s less space between the arm peg and socket.  The peg is nearly touching the socket.  The result is a more secure connection.

 Hopefully, you can follow that. 

Additionally, both the mechanical arm and the gloved gauntlet lack the wrist articulation that Luke has.  They only have swivel wrist articulation.  This impacts the subtler poses that Luke was able to achieve.  Honestly, there is no reason I can think of for Sideshow to not include said articulation on the gauntlet (I’m willing to accept that the mechanical arm design wouldn’t accommodate it). 

This is not to say that Anakin is horribly articulated.  Like his son before him (there’s a time travel paradox for you), he can freely stand on one leg in a kicking motion without the need for the stand (although he’s not as steady on his feet as Luke is).  Additionally, Anakin’s human hand does have Luke’s wrist articulation. 

Essentially, it comes down to this fact:  Anakin is less poseable than Luke. 

 

 Costuming:  4.9 out of 5 

If articulation toppled Anakin from his pedestal, then the costuming and accessories help him climb back up a bit. 

For as many layers as Anakin has, he’s practically bundled up for a cold New England winter.  What’s pleasing is that each layer of clothing has a distinct texture and appearance.  The leather-like vest feels very authentic and is light years beyond the version shown in the prototype pictures.  The outer shirt is made of a thin gauze-like material that accurately hangs loose on the figure’s body.  The inner shirt and pants are made of a stiff fabric akin to the material used for Luke’s jumpsuit. 

The Jedi robe is a definite improvement over Luke’s cloak (although I suspect it was meant to look ragged and custom-made).  Sideshow hemmed the majority of Anakin’s robe, which cuts down on the chances for fraying.  However, the bottom is still un-hemmed, and that may result in fraying down the road.  The sculpting wire is again used in the hood, but once more the hood has too much material in it and too much of a point to it.  

The belt is probably the most intricate and fragile piece of the costume.  The leather is thin in parts, so definitely use caution when handling it.  The Covertec clip for the lightsaber is easy to use and holds the hilt in place firmly enough.  My favorite part of the belt would have to be the three pouches (one soft plastic and the other two hard plastic).  All are functional and designed to carry the following accessories:  Jedi communicator, aquabreather, and holoprojector.  The “food capsules” mentioned on the order page are the colored rods attached to the belt, so they’re more costume decoration than actual accessories.  

The boots, unlike those on Luke, are heavy and well-sculpted…even down to the treads on the soles. 

All in all, a solid effort on the costume!  

 

 Accessories:  5 out of 5 

Aside from the clothing accessories, here’s what you get with the Exclusive Edition Anakin Skywalker, which is what I own:

The Sideshow exclusive edition accessory is a holographic Darth Sidious.  It’s not exactly the most imaginative accessory, but it was the biggest surprise.  Contrary to previous pictures, it’s not just a piece of sculpted translucent blue plastic.  In fact, it’s only the slightest bit translucent when held up to light.  Instead, it is blue plastic with lighter whitish highlights painted onto it, giving it a more three-dimensional look.  In terms of size, it’s the size of my thumb or the AOTC Yoda GG Bust-Up. 

The lightsaber is a faithful plastic reproduction of the original prop.  However, the paint decos on mine vary between the versions.  The ignited version has a sloppy gold and black deco near the emitter switch.  Contrary to that, the hilt version has an impeccable deco in the same area.  A minor complaint.

The real treat in terms of the accessories is the ungloved cybernetic arm.  Aside from the extreme rubbery feel to the hand itself, the rest of the arm is solidly constructed and made of several layers, which adds to the realism and depth of the piece.  This is not some haphazardly chiseled piece.  This is a piece to which the Sideshow artisans paid extraordinary attention.  As mentioned before, there is swivel articulation in the wrist as well as the upper forearm.

The Jedi holoprojector was probably the strangest accessory because it was held in the tray by some type of adhesive.  It was easy to remove the accessory from the tray, but the sticky residue remains.  Even now, a day later, it is still sticky.  Also, it is extremely small but detailed for its size.  The same is true of the aquabreather.  Both are smaller than a Tylenol, but they look like miniaturized versions of the “real” things.  The Jedi communicator doesn’t have any paint application beyond a mild black wash, but the sculpting is a top-notch effort.

 

 

“Fun Factor”:  4.5 out of 5 

Honestly, Anakin is not as much fun as Luke because it takes more time and patience to change poses.  The greater attention to detail in the costuming leads to more fragility in the pieces.  For example, the first time I removed the belt, it was a nerve-wracking experience because it’s not immediately clear how it unlatches.  For the record, there are two gray pegs that fit into the right hand side of the leather.  Gently separate the leather from the pegs.  

The biggest gripes, however, are the shortcomings of both mechanical arms.  They were terrific ideas, but execution leaves something to be desired.  As I said before, the plus side is that none of the other figures announced to date (except SDCC Vader naturally) will have such a feature, so the next figure (likely Kit Fisto) should present a return to the full articulation that Luke has.  

Once you get the hang of it (it took me an entire evening), posing Anakin starts to become almost as fun as posing Luke…especially if you have any Photoshop experience (the images in this review were done in Elements 4.0 and/or CS2).

Overall Rating:  4.6 out of 5 

Make no mistake:  this really is the best 12 inch Anakin Skywalker out there, and I don’t regret buying it.  Just look at the overall rating.  It’s the same as the rating I gave to Luke Skywalker. 

The problem is that this easily could have been a perfect score, but Sideshow dropped the ball on enough aspects to really put a damper on what this figure could have been.  But at least they took a risk and tried some innovate features, and I have to commend them for that.  Also, this figure demonstrates the kind of elaborate costumes that Sideshow is capable of creating.  It fills me with great hope for figures such as Boba Fett, Darth Vader, and Darth Sidious.  

This was a slight stumble for SSC, but it’s one from which they can easily recover.  Ultimately, I’m enjoying Anakin.  I’m glad he’s part of my collection, and I still look forward to my next figure…Obi-Wan Kenobi.