Wednesday, February 18, 2015

REVIEW: Magic: The Gathering Chandra Nalaar

The Funko Legacy Line
The Legacy line represents Funko's first move from the world of bobble-heads and ''cute'' toys into the realm of the ''serious'' collectible figure. Currently Funko - in partnership with Gentle Giant - produces two Legacy ranges, based upon HBO's Game of Thrones and the collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering and it's from the latter that the subject of today's Review, Chandra Nalaar, comes.

Chandra Nalaar
The Chandra Nalaar figure stands at around 6'' tall and - according to the Funko blurb - features 20+ points of articulation. We'll come back to that in a moment but let's begin by looking at the figure's sculpt in a little more detail.
Chandra Nalaar is a pyromancer, a sorceress who summons and manipulates flame and fire and this ability is reflected in such elements (ha!) of the character's design as her flaming hair and the ''charred metal'' quasi-steampunk look of her armor and gear. It's a neat look that works well and there's some particularly good up-close detail in the design, with the chain mail shirt and the asymmetrical look of her shoulder pads and knee armor being especially cool.
It's a really cool-looking sculpt, due mostly to the way the designers use ''layered'' pieces to create the effect, such as the attached shoulder-pads and skirt/loin-cloth piece.
Unfortunately, these pieces tend to limit the figure's movement. As I mentioned above, Chandra Nalaar has 20+ points of articulation but a number of these joints are rendered useless due to these pieces. There's really no other way they could have kept this look without compromising her articulation, so it's really a case of which you prefer to have : a good-looking figure or a well-articulated figure. In this case, I'm in the former camp.
As you can see, she can kneel but her hip joints are pretty much redundant due to the skirt. A minor point, especially as she's billed as ''not for children'' and is intended to be the kind of thing you pose and display on your shelf rather than play with, but worth pointing out.

On the plus side, though, the head's ball-joint is great and allows for a wide range of expressive tilts. I like that a lot and it adds a real sense of character to the figure's poses.
The paint app is also very good, with some nice washes and shading techniques used to enhance the sculpt. It's great to see a figure whose sculpt details tally with the paint app - in other words, her clothes and armored pieces are painted with individual colors, right down to buckles and rivets being picked out through the paint job. I also like how lifelike the coloring is, with her skirt and chest armor being rendered with a nice, realistic drab red and the leather pieces of her armor being a suitable dark brown.
So far, so good, right?

Well, not quite... You see, despite the great sculpt and paint app, there are some serious issues with this figure.

First up, and I know this is a minor point, but the packaging is remarkably generic. I know this won't bother most people but if you're somebody who displays figures in their boxes, you'll probably be disappointed with just how bland the packaging is.
And then there's the articulation issues. I've already mentioned the way the sculpt can inhibit the articulation but I'm also a little bewildered by the way the figure is rigged. The arms, for example, feature a bicep/shoulder joint to allow you to ''open'' her arms. But due to the way her shoulder armor is placed, the only purpose these joints serve is to bend the - already very flimsily-attached - armor pieces - to the point where they will eventually just drop off. And the elbow joints are also very limited in their range of movement meaning you can pose her with straight arms or slightly bent arms.

As for the ankle joints, they're an absolute mystery to me. I think they're double-jointed with a twist and a tilt/rocker joint but due to the way they're set by ''default'' I can't get them to work how I think they're supposed to. One foot moves forward and backward (albeit in a limited manner due to the sculpt) and the other is some kind of rocker/tilt joint. But it looks like they both should do this, as one ankle joint also rotates - but the other doesn't. I don't want to force it, however, as all the joints feel very weak.

Which brings us to the major problem with this figure: the construction is terrible.

When it comes to my figures, I'm always very careful as to how I handle them. I don't force stiff joints and I err on the side of caution when it comes to moving parts. Yet the second I removed Chanra Nalaar from her packaging, her hairpiece fell off. I've examined both it and the head and I don't see any evidence that it was ever even glued in place. And in the middle of photographing the figure for this Review, her barely glued-on shoulder-pad dropped off and the piece is now, very precariously, balanced upon the figure as she stands on my shelf.

The fireball accessory is also pretty much useless, as it lacks any kind of ''anchor point'' to attach it to the figure Trying to pose her with the fireball in-hand is a huge exercise in frustration - which is actually a pretty good metaphor for Chanra Nalaar as a whole...

Final Thoughts
Chandra Nalaar is a massively flawed toy.

I really hate being so negative about it but the simple fact is, the Funko Legacy toys are intended as premium collectible figures and so retail at the $20+ mark, yet I own dollar store toys that are put together better than Chandra Nalaar. It's simply not acceptable. 

I'm sure there are plenty of people who own these figures and haven't experienced any such issues but from what I gather, my experience isn't that exceptional. Talking to other collectors and reading online reviews it becomes clear that poor production standards and weak quality assurance plague the line, and that's a real shame for all involved, as with better construction and a little more thought, this could be an excellent figure. And OK, there's nothing here that can't be fixed with a dab of glue but the simple fact is, if I'm paying for a complete toy then I shouldn't then have to start repairing it as soon as it comes out of the box.

I was fortunate enough to find Chandra Nalaar on clearance for $8 but even at that price, I'd struggle to recommend this figure. That is, unless you can live with the weak-feeling joints, look-at-it-and-a-piece-will-fall-off construction and generally poor assembly. It's frustrating, as there's a good toy in here trying to get out. And no, labeling it as ''not for children'' does not excuse weak construction. If anything, as a ''premium'' collectible (and a price-point to match), this figure should feature a much higher level of attention to detail and build quality.

Great potential ruined by weak construction and poor presentation. If you can live with these problems - or you're super-lucky and your Chandra Nalaar comes out of the box in pristine condition - then you'll enjoy this figure. But for everybody else, caveat emptor.

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