Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM

Believe it or not, Scott Baker and I haven't entered into a demonic pact to review the same stuff, and we're sure not competing! I think it's just because we have similar tastes, so we get the same things. Anyway, check out his review of this figure (which has great photos), and I'll try to think of something different to say.

First, let me also plug Toy Syndicate again for shipping this & some Dragon "Wolf" figures out in record time. Shortly, everyone will be selling the "Wolf" figure, but you're going to have a harder time finding folks that sell more off-beat stuff like this and the Marmit Stormtrooper. Plus there's bunches of other neat stuff that they have, direct from the Pacific Rim. So check 'em out!


Here's the obligatory "what you get" shot. Not seen here is the paper documentation-- It's packaged in a beautiful box, with colored pencilwork on the front and interior-- The picture at the top is also on the cover of a color booklet (in Japanese) which accompanies the figure. Also included are instructions for tying knots in the Katana (sword) and Hakama (the skirt) in both Japanese and English-- this time, they recognized the English-speaking market. This seems to be something that the Japanese companies are slowly coming to recognize: Some of us Gaijin really like their stuff!

Here's some of the vocabulary-- He's wearing the Kimono, which is secured by the Obi (belt). The Hakama (pleated skirt) is the large black thing on the lower right. The black things on the lower left are the Tabi, a Japanese sock with the big toe separated out, which fit into the Zori (same name as those cheap rubber beach sandals. The Zatoichi figure came with wooden Geta). The Hyotan is the lacquerware gourd-- the porcelain Sake (rice wine) bottle and cup ought to be pretty recognizable. Finally, the Katana-- The long sword is called the Daito and the short one, Shoto (also called Wakizashi).

Underneath the kimono, he's wearing a traditional stomach wrap and the diaper-like underwear.

One thing that I've come to appreciate and which distinguishes Alfrex's products is the use of varied materials-- for example, the sake bottle and cup are actually made of porcelain, the gourd is made of wood, and the Katana blades are made of metal. In their Zatoichi figure, the second pair of footwear (Waraji) was actually weaved of straw, just like what Tatami mats are made of (Although they were a bitch to put on, they look fantastic!)

Of course, they do rely on plastic casting too-- the Katana handles are wonderfully detailed with a thread-like texture-- At first, I thought they were lacquered thread. The Zori are made of a three layer sandwich of rubbery materials, and the straps are a separate braided cord.

I really can't say much about the figure itself that wasn't already covered in my Zatoichi figure articulation article. Unfortunately, the figure's identical except for coloring-- this one's darker. The figure's articulation is great, but Toshiro Mifune wasn't quite as pudgy as Shintaro Katsu.

The headsculpt is what makes the figure Toshiro Mifune, and they did a great job of capturing his characteristic scowl. However, in this scene from the movie "Yojimbo to Zatoichi", he's drunk and has just skewered Zatoichi... except he's forgotten to unsheath his sword! (Zatoichi just plays along with it.)

The "Golden Age" samurai movies have been compared to "Golden Age" westerns (The Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven). There are a lot of similarities in the plots, motivations, and the strong, memorable characters. Culturally, they're half a world apart though, and it's an interesting visit.

Toshiro Mifune died on December 24, 1997 at the age of 77.