And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... Astro Boy: Buzzsaw Samurai

Figure Information Name: Buzzsaw Samurai
Line: Astro Boy
Scale: 6 inch
Manufacturer: Jazwares
Year Released: 2009
Original Price: $9.99

Full disclosure: I know next to nothing about Astro Boy. I mean, I'm aware that it was an early manga that became the "first" anime program, and I've just learned a bit more since I looked it up on Wikipedia in order to link the article here, but before that all I could've told you about Astro Boy is that the titular character is some sort of robotic child who looks like a slimmer and mostly naked version of Big Boy... with red rocket boots instead of a hamburger.

Well, I could also have told you that there's a new Astro Boy movie making the rounds now, and that it's animated by the same company responsible for 2007's TMNT. I've got little interest in seeing it (at least in theaters), mind you, but the new toys did catch my eye -- particularly the Buzzsaw Samurai. I have no idea whether he's a modern interpretation of a character from the old manga or show or was created for the movie, and I certainly don't know whether he's a cool character in any incarnation (though considering how quickly he gets his ass handed to him in the exclusive clip on this page, I'm thinking he's pretty weak). In truth, I just wanted the figure because he kinda reminds me of Huitzil (aka Phobos) of Darkstalkers fame. Anyway, now that we've gotten the introductory remarks and rationale for my purchase out of the way, let's see how the Buzzsaw Samurai measures up as an action figure!

Packaging

Score: 8.5 / 10

Buzzsaw Samurai in packageAstro Boy 6" figure card, rear view

FINALLY, a figure that's not packaged in a hateful clamshell! Really, if a figure's not going to come packaged in a collector-friendly box or plastic "container" of sorts, this is how I prefer them -- plastic bubbles on cards make for simple and easy to open packaging whether you care to preserve the card (to this end, I like to slide a box cutter around the bubble where it meets the card) or just rip it off to get right at the toy. I really like the look of the packaging, too, with its clouds and cool blue coloring that seems appropriate for a line whose titular character roams the skies in rocket boots. And hey, there's Astro Boy himself, flying right above the title of the line! It definitely matches the style of the promos and lets you know what the figure is from, yet it also doesn't detract from the figure itself -- placed smack in the center of the irregularly-shaped bubble adorned with odd little symbols, the Buzzsaw Samurai commands your attention. To his left there's a small and somewhat superfluous image of the character as seen in the movie; in the right corner of the package the character's name is flaked various child safety warnings. In a way, that serves to make him seem even more menacing! It's like he's so dangerous that they felt the need to warn consumers twice... just in case the name "Buzzsaw Samurai" somehow convinced parents that proceeding with caution was a bad idea. The cardback pretty much mirrors the design of the front, with the toy itself replaced by co-sells (which include books and the video game as well as other figures) in the center of the card. There are also technological details on both sides of the card in this area, though they're much more noticeable on the back.

I only have a few minor problems with the packaging. On the back, it seems like there's not enough going on -- even with the various co-sells and abundant copyrights, there's still a lot of unused space back there. I'm also not too keen on the book and video game ads, as there are a whole bunch of Astro Boy figures from the line's 3.75" and 10" scales that would have made for more appropriate plugs. I'd also have preferred it if the back had been more tailored to this particular figure, sporting perhaps a larger graphic and a bio, but it's clear that Jazwares used the same generic card for each figure. Deductions for laziness.

Conversely, on the front, there's almost too much going on. The stuff around the Buzzsaw Samurai looks crowded to the point that it encroaches upon his space and almost completely obscures his accessories, and the bubble itself is so large that its plastic actually overlaps the logo. Admittedly, some of this might have to do with the width of the Buzzsaw Samurai -- a thinner figure like Astro Boy would look great, and there would be space at his sides to showcase his accessories effectively -- but still. I'm also not the biggest fan of the hole that allows consumers to test out the Samurai's light-up eye feature (I've never been keen on folks playing with my toys before I do, and for all I know those people could have swine flu or something), but it's not that big a deal. Parents have to make sure they're not giving their kids busted toys, after all!

Visual Appeal

Score: 7.5 / 10

Buzzsaw Samurai from the front......and the back.Stare into the face of your DOOM!

Out of package, the Buzzsaw Samurai is a great-looking figure -- at least from the front. I like the character's cartoonish build, with a large upper body and arms and tiny legs, and the head is both cute and menacing at the same time (especially when the glowing eye feature is used). There's also a surprising amount of detail on the figure, as there are various armored sections and rivets adorning his robotic hide. Granted, these more involved elements are still done in a simplified, cartoonish style -- you won't find any extensive technological circuitry, and the armor is generally smooth except for the rivets and outlines -- but I'm impressed that Jazwares went to the trouble of adding these details for an audience that likely wouldn't miss them if they weren't there. The simple drybrushing job also adds to the figure by really making it look as if it's made of tarnished bronze, but be warned -- the paint on these figures can vary wildly from figure to figure. I picked the best one I could find on the shelf at Toys "R" Us (and even it originally had a bit of paint on its left eye; I was able to scrape it off), but there were some with really streaky jobs that looked more like dried mud. To see what I mean, compare the figure seen here to the one Jin Saotome ended up with (apparently I'm not the only person who saw the Huitzil connection)! And while I'm not extensively familiar with the character, the sculpt does a great job of replicating his appearance in the film. Of course, the Samurai's shoulder and head spikes look sharper in the film, but it's understandable that they'd be blunted on a children's toy!

Really, the only thing I dislike about the figure from a frontal view is the button on his chest. Even it doesn't look that bad, but it's a little annoying there considering that Jazwares could and should have stuck it on his back. After all, with all of the bloody screw holes on the back, the button would hardly have been as distracting back there! I generally don't mind exposed screws on figures, namely because they tend to facilitate the dismantling of said figures -- which can be effective for customizing -- but the Buzzsaw Samurai doesn't seem especially useful for that purpose. As such, the screw holes here are mostly an eyesore, and they're unnecessary with the exception of the one over the battery compartment. I guess an enterprising customizer might find them useful for removing the arms completely or replacing the light inside the figure, but for me they detract from the look of figure with few other visual flaws. Kids probably won't mind them, though.

Articulation

Score: 6.0 / 10

The Buzzsaw Samurai isn't very flexible.

As you can see, the Buzzsaw Samurai is definitely lacking when it comes to articulation. The swivel-hinged shoulders are a surprise and work relatively well -- they not only allow for the usual rotation and outward movement, but also allow the Samurai to bring his arms in a tiny bit due to their slight offset from the torso. The hinged knees are also surprising, but they're largely worthless because the legs don't have any other jointing. Like most of the Playmates Splinter figures released in recent years, the skirt is solid at the bottom -- and unlike those Splinter figures, the Buzzsaw Samurai doesn't even get swivels at its base. As such, about all the hinged knees are good for is making the Samurai look more convincingly defeated when placed on his back. Finally, the hinged elbows, wrist swivels, and waist swivel move well enough, though the elbows are a bit restricted due to the size of the biceps and forearms. The wrists feel a touch loose, but that's probably ideal given the swappable limbs feature -- these limbs do swap pretty easily, and this is a kids' toy.

In any case, while what's here is decent -- and while you can effectively manipulate the Buzzsaw Samurai's arms and turn his waist to tweak his appearance -- he ultimately seems like he only has two or three poses. Bicep swivels and extra leg articulation would really have benefited the Buzzsaw Samurai, and a swivel at the top part of the head would also have been pretty cool. Given the design of the face and fairly uniform jaw, turning it would still have made it look as if the Buzzsaw Samurai were glancing about -- and assuming that that part of the head were hollow and the light remained attached to the bottom, the light-up eyes would still have worked no matter which direction the Samurai faced. Ah, missed opportunities.

Accessories

Score: 6.0 / 10

The Buzzsaw Samurai attacks with... buzzsaws!For accessories, the Buzzsaw Samurai gets interchangeable sawblade hands. That seems on the skimpy side, but admittedly -- having not seen the movie -- I'm at a loss concerning what else he might've come with. Yeah, a trading card might have been nice, and perhaps a chromed Astro Boy coin or something... but this is junk I'd just have thrown to the side anyway, so I don't mind the absence of it. In fact, while I assume and hope the Buzzsaw Samurai returns in the film (if that quick scene is his entire role in the movie, it seems silly that he got an action figure when Astro's girlfriend got the shaft), it's worth noting that he doesn't even have regular hands in the exclusive clip. As such, if the Samurai goes through the movie with just the buzzsaws, then I've got to commend Jazwares for the extra hands -- they'll make for play and posing options that aren't even in the film.

Anyway, the buzzsaw hands are pretty decent. They do look a little long compared to how they appear in the film (in the movie, the buzzsaws are situated closer to the segmented portion of the arm), but maybe the Buzzsaw Samurai demonstrates extendo-powers at some point. In the paint department, they've got those muddy-looking drybrush streaks that don't look great and don't match this particular figure, but I don't mind it so much because they're accessories. The flat grey paint on the blades is also less than ideal, as it contrasts with the more realistic bronzed look of the figure itself. Again, however, that's not exceedingly disappointing for swappable accessories. And finally, the hands and buzzsaws swap easily -- probably more easily than any of my other 6" action figures with swappable appendages. That's good, since it suggests the kids playing with the Samurai will be spared torn pegs and teary eyes!

Fun Factor

Score: 7.5 / 10

"Hey, watch the chrome!"SpoOoOoOoOoOokyIf the Doctor can get behind the Buzzsaw Samurai, his sonic screwdriver will practically *guarantee* the heroes' victory.

Children should love this guy. For kids who love the movie, this figure will fit in well with the 3.75" Astro Boy toys (even though Astro Boy seems even smaller in the clip). And for kids who aren't familiar with Big Boy's naked cousin, he's a big killer robot! He'll fit right into kids' action figure assaults whether he's battling Batman, Iron Man, Optimus Prime, the G.I. Joes, the Power Rangers, or any other plastic hero(es). The swappable hands also add to significantly his playability, and the light-up eyes are fun as well. Despite the Samurai's cute and cartoonish proportions, he can still look downright wicked when the feature is used in a dark room.

Yet while kids might not be bothered by his limited articulation, the lack of poseability will probably make the Buzzsaw Samurai somewhat less fun for collectors who care about that sort of thing. Even so, collectors of the Astro Boy line will enjoy how he looks standing among the 3.75" figures -- and those who don't will likely find some use for him. He stands just above 6", so he's arguably a bit too short to hang with 6" figures and look appropriately imposing, but with smaller lines he looks really good. (Given the disappointing lack of villains in Bandai's 5" Power Rangers RPM line, I imagine my Buzzsaw Samurai will be spending much of his time masquerading as a Venjix attack bot.) Collectors will probably enjoy the swappable hands just as much as kids, as they do add a bit more to him in terms of display potential. Conversely, the light-up eyes probably won't entertain collectors for very long, but hey -- free cell batteries can always be used for something!

Value

Score: 7.5 / 10

We're the DARK-(boom boom)-STALKERS! Sorta.Helix gives the Buzzsaw Samurai an occasion to bend his knees!

$10 seems to be the standard price for 6" figures aimed at children these days. At that price, the Buzzsaw Samurai isn't an awful value, but he's not a particularly great one either. You do get a fairly bulky and relatively well-painted action figure, and the swappable hands, light-up eyes, and even limited articulation help to make him a better value than other figures from kids' movie lines (he's better than most of the figures in the Monsters vs Aliens line, for example, and trounces all of the Terminator: Salvation figures but the endos). For parents -- especially ones with kids who saw and liked Astro Boy -- he's a great buy for the youngsters.

The Buzzsaw Samurai is a similar value for you collectors out there, but it's worth noting that for just a few dollars more you could get a superior 6" figure -- whether it's a Mattel DC Universe Classics offering, one of NECA's many cool video game figures, or a Hasbro Spider-Man toy. And if you're into smaller scales, Marvel Universe and G.I. Joe figures are at least a couple of dollars cheaper and will probably be more fun for you than this guy (even though I'd argue that the Samurai is a much better value than a 3.75" figure at $8). That said, none of those other figures have the Buzzsaw Samurai's cool design, so if it appeals to you I say pick him up. You might feel that you've overpaid by a dollar or two, but you won't feel like you've been ripped off.

Review Summary

Packaging
  • Easy-to-open carded bubble
  • Attractive design matches feel of film
  • Too much blank space on cardback; could use more personalization
  • Too busy on front; beware of swine flu
SCORE: 8.5 / 10
Visual Appeal
  • Impressive detailing for a children's toy
  • Paint makes for an excellent bronzed effect, but varies among figures
  • Chest button and screw holes on back detract from figure's appearance
SCORE: 7.5 / 10
Articulation
  • Swivel-hinged shoulders work very well; hinged knees are almost useless
  • Other points work well enough
  • Not much posing variety; needs swivel biceps and additional leg joints
SCORE: 6.0 / 10
Accessories
  • Only has swappable buzzsaw hands
  • Arms are longer than film versions
  • Muddy-streaked paint and flat grey saws contrast with bronzed robot
  • Hands and buzzsaws swap easily
SCORE: 6.0 / 10
Fun Factor
  • Will look great with 3.75" Astro Boy line
  • Fits in well with other figure lines, too
  • Kids will enjoy light-up eyes
  • Collectors will want more poseability
  • Swappable hands will be loved by all
SCORE: 7.5 / 10
Value
  • At $10, not a bad value for a bulky, relatively well-painted 6" figure
  • Better than other kids' movie figures
  • Decent value for collectors, but +/-$3 might net one more appealing toys
SCORE: 7.5 / 10

Overall

Score: 7.5 / 10

"Need a pizza sliced? He's your 'bot!"

Admittedly, I don't have a lot to say about the Buzzsaw Samurai by way of closing. The Buzzsaw Samurai is certainly better than average on almost all counts, and at $7 I'd highly recommend him. At $10, he's still an excellent buy for parents -- even if they're unfamiliar with Astro Boy, kids will likely enjoy this figure immensely -- but only a so-so one for action figure collectors. Of course, he's a no-brainer if you're into Astro Boy or find the design of the robot appealing, but anyone else will want to save the money for better figures in slightly more expensive lines. It's a shame, really; with better articulation and fewer screws marring his appearance from behind, the Buzzsaw Samurai could've been a fantastic toy for kids and collectors alike.

-- Wes --

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