Lion-O (Modern)

During the 1980’s, toy manufacturers decided to begin conditioning the minds of a generation. Instead of satisfying themselves with 20 seconds of airtime during commercials, they decided to take over Saturday Morning and field their own cartoons. Hasbro dominated with boy-centric shows like Transformers and G.I. Joe, but also included some girl-geared shows like My Little Pony and Jem & the Holograms (Truly Outrageous!) in their Saturday Morning syllabus.

Aside from the Hasbro stuff, there were also a few other cartoons that eventually spawned toy lines. Shows like Inhumanoids, M.A.S.K., and Sky Commanders all saw their inception in the 80’s and hit it pretty big with the toy buying public as well. Dino-Riders probably had the biggest draw, pairing boys’ love of dinosaurs with huge guns, but there were a trio of programs from Rankin/Bass Productions that still holds a special place in a lot of kids hearts.

Thundercats was the first of that trio. The first episode aired in 1985, ran for four seasons, and ending in 1989. Despite my love for Transformers and G.I. Joe, I remember Thundercats’ 125 episode run as one of the best shows of my childhood. Though it doesn’t hold up well through adult eyes, the show was one that really seemed to have a lot of heart, and had recurring themes of family, loyalty, and bravery.

I still haven’t been able to watch the new Warner Brothers Thundercats that was started in 2010 and aired on Cartoon Network, but seeing the designs made my heart jump. They had a distinctly anime feel to them, but they looked good! By the time Bandai announced at the 2011 International New York Toy Fair that they were making a line of figures for the series, I was sold. Never having collected the LJN produced toys (1984–1987), I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to own Lion-O and friends.

Bandai had announced that in addition to role-play toys, there would be 3 action figure lines to choose from: 1) a 4” line for younger kids that included playsets and vehicles, 2) a 6” Modern Thundercats line with better sculpting, articulation, and accessories, and an 8” Classics Thundercats line for the collectors (later reduced to 6” scale after the initial 2 figures). I chose to go after the 6” scale figures.

Not knowing if the figures would arrive here in the Philippines (the show isn’t carried by local channels), I decided to join a group buy on the local forum, Cybertron Philippines, and got the first three figures in the first wave, Lion-O, Panthro, and Mumm-Ra, for Php 850.00 each (about $19 US). Of course, the first one I opened was the Thundercats’ young leader, Lion-O.

Despite some reservations after initial solicitation photos and early reviews, I was floored by Bandai’s efforts in the manufacturing of this figure. Bottom line is that it’s a well-sculpted, fantastically articulated, sturdy figure that is nicely accessorized and competitively priced (depending on where you get it). About the only problem with it is the paint, but it’s easily overlooked once you get hands-on with the toy.
Let’s break it down.
The package of the new line is pretty sweet. The 6” figures are in big carded blister packs. The plastic bubbles have tongues on either side that wraparound the card back to secure it in place, preventing it from falling off in the toy store due to mishandling. The tongues are secured with cellophane tape, so a knife is handy to open it. The packaging gives good protection for the toy.

The look of it is pretty nice, too. Bandai chose to go with displaying the toy, rather than adding a lot of graphics on the card. They make up for it by adding a nice insert with a portrait of the character in action. The art is fantastic and with the big logo on top, the effect is eye-catching.

The back of the card features a great group of action photos of the toy, the accessories that are included, a small write-up of the character, and “also available” images of the other figures in the toy line. It’s a lot of information, but it’s well laid out and easy to read. Definite plus points.

Out of the box, Lion-O stands a little on the short side. This is OK, since he’s supposed to be a young Thundercat. In the original show, he was barely older than the twins (as in pre-pubescent) when they left Thundera (the Thundercats home planet) and was still pretty young when they reached Third Earth, despite growing older on the voyage. Having him the size of a teenager makes a lot of sense to me (again, I’m basing this off my knowledge of the first series, not the new one). The sculpting of the toy looks like a pretty good likeness of the model, though I do bemoan the lack of any expression. The face looks so passive that it feels wrong with the expressive poses you can get from him with the superior articulation.

He comes with several accessories that have been well thought out and go great with the character: he comes with two versions of the Sword of Omens (extended and un-extended), two versions of his claw shield (with and without the claws exposed), and a swappable hand. He also comes with a removable shoulder pad for his right shoulder, but then I’m not sure you can count that.

The claw shield is awesome. I’ve always wanted one that fit me (the role play toys don’t fit adults), so this is the next best thing. The closed version fits on his hip via a small strap with a ball at the end. The ball snaps into a hole at the shield’s opening so that it can hang at his hip. What makes it even better is that the dagger version of the Sword of Omens fits into the gauntlet! Geekgasm!

The dagger will also fit into the shield if it’s attached to his arm as well, but I’m not sure anyone’s going to display him like that. Either the open or closed version of the shield will fit onto his arm (you just need to pull off his hand and snap the new piece on). About the only problem with the shield is that the claws look rather awkward, splayed out wide, instead of curved as if in attack. Not enough to bug me though.
The Sword of Omens is another great item. As I’ve said, you can store it in the gauntlet when the figure is posed at rest, or you can put it in his hand. Both one will grip the haft well, and the wrists are articulated so that he can actually point the sword forward some. Super job, Bandai!

Speaking of articulation, I’ve already mentioned that it’s superb. Bandai has managed to work in about 18 points of articulation into this little toy and all of it is useful!

There is a ball-jointed (with a possible hinge?) neck that allows him to look up and down a little, swivel-hinge shoulders, double-hinged elbows, swivel forearms, the aforementioned hinged wrists, a nice ball-jointed torso crunch, swivel-hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, hinged ankles, and a rocker joint on the feet that allows him to be very stable on your toy shelf. Awesome!

At first, I thought the exposed rivets and pegs (the pegs are cast in the base color of his armor) that Bandai had worked into the figure would bother me, but once I got started posing this guy, I forgot all about them. The poseability is that good, and the thicker pins make me feel like this is a toy that will last (crossing my fingers on that one).

Lion-O is mostly cast in color, with some paint applications on his armor and face. The face is the biggest problem area because the applications are so flat. Most of them are just a single later of color with no gradation at all. The result is something that looks eerily blank. Lion-O doesn’t suffer as much as Panthro in this department, but it does make the figure cheaper than it is.

Other than that, I’d have to say that this figure is one of my favorites this year. It is a decent looking toy with excellent play and display value. The fact that it’s in the dying 6” scale makes it even better!

It’s too bad that the Thundercats toy line didn’t take off (reports say that the rest of the announced toys have been canned). I probably won’t get to see a Modern Tygra figure at all. Still, if you have a chance, get this figure. Even on his own, this toy rocks. Check out Toy Kingdom or Toys R’ Us (both have stock the last I checked). They run around Php 1,000.00 each, which is still cheaper than any Marvel Legends or DC Universe Classics figure has been in years.

Hopefully, I can still score that Cheetara at Greenhills...

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