Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 1,726: Obi-Wan Kenobi

OBI-WAN KENOBI vs. Grievous Bodyguard
Revenge of the Sith Battle Arenas
Item No.:
Asst. 85241 No. 85456
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: n/a
Includes: Display stand base, Magnaguard figure
Action Feature: Dueling action, sort of
Retail: $19.99
Availability: April 2005
Appearances: Revenge of the Sith

Bio: Battle as Obi-Wan or one of General Grievous' bodyguards, as they face each other on the sinkhole planet Utapau! One remains - the other falls! (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' desk.

Commentary: This Obi-Wan Kenobi figure has sat unopened in my toy stash for over seven years. Seven years. For some reason, this Battle Arena just never got opened up, most likely due to my having several other fine and/or dandy Obi-Wan and Grievous Bodyguard figures from other parts of the line. I never felt I was missing anything, and this is as someone who feels a need to get his mitts on damned near every action figure Hasbro makes. While it's an interesting figure in terms of construction and its purpose, it does prove one of the things I keep saying in the Q&A column-- collecting is best done when a line is older. The perspective you gain from being a few years removed from a product line often helps you make better decisions and, in this item's case, results in cheaper pricing. It also can show the benefits of being obsessive about this-- Obi-Wan Kenobi just might be Hasbro's best take on the character as an actual plaything for kids.

The figure itself is not a good stand-alone action figure. It's acceptable-- but given its price at the time, it wasn't much of a deal. Obi-Wan has a bizarre swivel thigh joint, a waist joint, a right wrist joint, jointed shoulders, and a moving neck. This is actually enough to get the figure to be able to stand up without the support of the included display stand which effectively turns action figures into a low-rent copy of the Mattel Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots game. As a figure to hand a kid to play and fight with, though, this is actually a good example of Hasbro correcting its mistakes from Attack of the Clones figures. This time around, the lightsaber is designed to hold up to more abuse rather than just snap if it falls over. It is, unfortunately, embedded in his hand but that means you'll never lose it. The lightsaber, I mean-- if you lose his hand you're out of luck. The limited articulation prevents use in vehicles, but he's actually damn near perfect for holding up and slashing other action figures. It's somewhat remarkable really-- as collectors we rarely examine this sort of thing, but few if any Jedi figures can actually fight your other toys. If you take your average Vader figure, put a lightsaber in his hand, and have him start mowing down Rebels, the lightsaber will fall right out of his gloved hands. (There are exceptions, but most of them weren't designed for battle.) Obi-Wan here will never drop his lightsaber, I had him "fight" a bunch of figures on my desk a I write this and you know what? It works. It works very well.

The sculpt is good, as is the paint job. You can see a darker shirt inside Obi-Wan's sleeve, his lightsaber is painted in three colors, and his outfit is, on the whole, devoid of dirt. The face sculpt is vintage 2005 and could use a little more personality, paint could probably beef up his eyes and add some excitement to an otherwise bored-looking toy. Since his right hand has a dedicated lightsaber, it's no surprise his left hand was posed with looks in mind and won't be able to hold many (or any) accessories. His fingers are sculpted separately, and that's a nice touch. His outfit is nicely textured, but again, this is a figure from 2005-- it looks pretty great, but things have evolved since then and I doubt many (or any) of you will find this satisfactory after having bought so many Kenobi figures with over 12 points of articulation.

This figure-- indeed, this entire Battle Arena segment-- does show that you can make figures designed for play but certain kinds of play will cost you niceties like articulation. Having said that, his lack of joints is oddly refreshing and I think he will make a good display piece. While this likely will never be your go-to Obi-Wan from Revenge of the Sith, I can't deny that it was fun to pick up a figure and have him row down a couple of small Transformers and M.U.S.C.L.E. men without feat of snapping the blade off at the hilt. Oh-- the figure also comes with a big, bloated arena accessory. I can't say I'm particularly fond of it, but I'm old and it wasn't meant for me anyway.

Collector's Notes: A loose sample of this figure-- sans arena-- sold for $1.25 on eBay. Complete samples with the companion figure go for closer to $10. I'd say it's worth at least half that. Off the top of my head the figure was not reissued, although if it appeared in one of the many forgettable Wal-Mart exclusive DVD packs, my apologies. I might suggest tracking this down if you have children who are more likely to make their figures fight than to pilot vehicles. While I dislike figures that can't sit in vehicles as a rule, I will say that this one was extremely well designed when it comes to its function-- this shows a kind of thinking we rarely see from Hasbro since the end of the prequels, and depending on how the new "Movie Action" figures go, this could be a lost art. Which is a shame, I would totally buy a Darth Vader made like this. In the world of action figure collecting, a "toy" is a novel thing.

--Adam Pawlus

Day 1,726: January 25, 2012

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