Monday, August 22, 2011

REVIEW: ThunderCats 4'' Lion-O

Produced by Bandai | Released August 2011

Lion-O wields the Sword of Omens and leads the ThunderCats to victory against Mumm-Ra, the ultimate villain.

Packaging Shots

4'' Lion-O
With the new ThunderCats show airing on the Cartoon Network (Fridays, 8:30PM EST) it comes as no surprise to see the release of a variety of tie-in toys. What is surprising though is just how many lines Bandai has populated the shelves with. There's the 6'' modern line, the 6'' collector line, roleplay toys and - the subject of today's review - the 4'' modern line. Fans of the ThunderCats must be in hog - or kitty - heaven, right? Well... kinda...

We address this right now: the ThunderCats 4'' figures are toys. Whilst you can - of course - collect them, they don't really fall into realm of the ''collectible action figure.' They're simply designed, robust, brightly coloured playthings that even feature a magnetic ''Thunder Lynx'' system that triggers sounds whenever they're connected to the larger toys/play sets. They're very good at what they do, but if you're looking for a super-articulated, highly-detailed, well-equipped action figure to display on your shelf, then this is not the toy for you.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at Lion-O's sculpt. It's a great likeness of his on-screen counterpart and although fairly simple, it's well-designed and a nice bit of plastic. The sculpt depicts Lion-O in his battle armour, complete with a large shoulder plate on his right side, hip guards and lower-leg greaves and the detailing - whilst not particularly complex - captures the character's look perfectly.

The facial sculpt is particularly good, with Lion-O's youthful appearance and determined look both captured well. The hair - which was an area of the sculpt I expected to hate - works surprisingly well and whilst it could never be considered a natural look, the designers have managed to convey the look of the animated character's mane very nicely.

Articulation is simultaneously good and weak. In the former camp are the shoulder and hip joints. The shoulder ball joint allows for a wide range of movement. It can be rotated through 360 degrees and - within that space - laterally extended from the down position to vertical. This movement is, however, restricted somewhat on the right shoulder, thanks to the armour plate. The hip joints use a ball/rotator joint, which also grants a good range of movement. The hip can be rotated a full 360 degrees and Lion-O's stance widened to a near-splits position. I think I actually prefer this system to that used by the Marvel Universe line.

Sadly the rest of the articulation is fairly weak, with the elbows,  knees and ankles featuring a single plane of movement. There's no secondary twist movement at these joints and they're limited to simply bending in a single direction. That means Lion-O can't - for example - hold the Sword of Omens up to his eyes and you can't rotate the knee to help with his stability. It's not a massive issue but when you're used to something like a GI Joe or Microman, it's disappointing to see that the articulation is so limited.

One point also worth noting is that the head joint uses a single plane of rotation (which is fine) but the way the piece is sculpted to include a neck ''sleeve'' means that the head's rotation tends to be restricted by the right-side shoulder plate.

Paint is eye-catching and the app is OK. I had the choice of three Lion-O figures and of those, this was the best - and even then, it's still not perfect. There's some nice detailing such as the edging on his armour but everything is just (A) a little slapdash in its application and (B) very shiny. Bizarrely it's also quite ''flat''-looking and there's no attempt to give the figure any sense of shading or realistic lighting. Which again, is fine, as it's designed to use an ''animated''-style of colouring and in that respect it works. My advice though is to check each figure, as the quality of the paint app is quite variable.

Interestingly the face uses a tampo transfer. Whilst this would normally just look strange, here - thanks to the animated look the designers have adopted - it works well.

Lion-O comes with the Sword of Omens (both extended and retracted) and a claw shield.

I was disappointed to see Bandai hadn't come up with some form of extending/telescopic weapon, as that would - in my opinion - be a better option than having two versions of the same sword. Still, the sculpt work on both is cool and the paint app - which is limited to the Eye of Thundera - is fine. Again though - to play Armchair Toy Designer for a moment - I think there was scope to do more with this. Why not have one side of the Eye open and the other closed? That would have been a nice little touch.

The claw shield fits snugly over Lion-O's arm and features an imprinted ''holder'' for the Sword of Omens when it's in dagger mode. This is a nice touch that reflects the animated version of both weapons well and also allows you to store the mini-Sword when not in use.

What's not so great is that the accessories are cast from an incredibly soft plastic. I assume Bandai were worried about kids injuring themselves with sharp, pointy objects. I understand that and would be fine with it were it not for the fact that the figure's packaging has bent the Sword of Omens, leaving it with a pronounced curve. No amount of counter-bending or flattening it between books has helped and it's frustrating to see this lack of care on Bandai's behalf.

Lion-O does not include any form of base or stand, but that's not really that much of an issue, as he's actually pretty well-balanced and stands without assistance fairly well.

Final Thoughts
If you're a fan of highly-poseable, intricately-detailed, super-articulated toys, this is not the line for you. However, if you like the ThunderCats character designs or you're looking for a cool toy for a younger sibling/child/nephew/niece/yourself then this is a pretty good option. There's enough articulation to make posing him fun (but only just), he's robust, competitively priced, there aren't too many pieces to lose and he's a very good likeness of the cartoon Lion-O.

As a collectible, Lion-O doesn't have that much going on for him. He's the kind of toy you'd probably display at your office, rather than in your hermetically-sealed display case. But for the target audience - kids who want an affordable, robust Lion-O figure to take into the yard, carry in their pocket or to battle Mumm-Ra in epic smash 'em together figure wars - then he's right on the mark.

Production QualityB
Final ScoreB+

Image Gallery


  1. I was very pleased with my Mumm-Ra figure i picked up from this and i think most of the figures in this scale are what i call "Throwback" figures because they are more simple and are not overly articulated which is fine by me. I just hate the plastic shine they have but it might not stop me from buying more lol.

  2. It was a tough one to Score, to be honest. They're not great collectible action figures but as toys they're kind of neat.

    I'm not disappointed that I bought Lion-O but I doubt I'll buy another from the line.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...