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REVIEW: BEN 10 ULTIMATE ALIEN ARMODRILLO
By Thomas Wheeler

Okay, the first time I saw this figure, and I'll admit I've been, at best, a casual viewer of the show "Ben 10: Ultimate Alien", I thought his name was "Armordillo". Makes sense, uses the same number of letters, he looked armored, whatever. But when I went to look up some background information under that name, I was taken to the profile of a character from Transformers Beast Wars!

Whoops... Then I read the name on the package a little more carefully. So, either I'm going dyslexic, or I'm having random flashbacks to older toy lines. Neither is really an especially appealing option. So I'm going to try to be very careful with my spelling here.

But, just in case I goof, since my spell-check isn't terribly fond of either name, this character's name is supposed to be "ARMODRILLO".

Few animated series in recent years have enjoyed the success of BEN 10. Unlike many animated series, which are based on previously established concepts, Ben 10 basically came out of nowhere, although admittedly with a heck of a pedigree in the genre on the part of its creators.

Its third series -- not season, but series -- BEN 10: ULTIMATE ALIEN -- has commenced on Cartoon Network. It has had two live-action movies. And it has an ongoing toy line of considerable size and quantity produced by Bandai, which at this point some stores are carrying even ahead of Power Rangers.

The core of this toy line is quite probably the 4" "Alien Collection". This line plays off the basic concept of young Ben Tennyson's ability, through an alien device, to transform himself into a host of alien heroes for a limited period of time. The figures are all roughly 4" in size, which sometimes means they're not especially to scale with each other, since the aliens that Ben is able to transform into vary in size from the minuscule to the massive. But it would be impossible to present a "to scale" action figure line for this concept (the mental image of a shelf display alone boggles the mind), so the compromise had to be made. The end result is nevertheless a very cool line of assorted animated alien action figures.

The third Ben 10 series, BEN 10 ULIMATE ALIEN, features, as one would expect, a host of new alien forms for Ben to transform into. Bandai, as one would also expect, has begun to turn out a line of action figures based on them, including, of course, Armodrillo. (That's "d" before "r".).

Let's have a look first at the particulars of the new series, with the assistance of a little online research.

In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, the series picks up a few weeks after the previous series, Ben 10: Alien Force leaves off. This is a considerable divergence from the previous transition, in which nearly six years had passed, and the formerly ten-year-old Ben Tennyson was now sixteen. Personally, I felt that the aging of the character was somewhat pointless, but it certainly didn't seem to diminish the popularity of the concept.

The Omnitrix, the device which allows Ben to transform into the various alien heroes, has been destroyed, and Ben now must learn to master the secrets of a new device called the Ultimatrix, a gauntlet-like version of the old Omnitrix that not only gives him access to his original abilities, but also allows him to evolve his alien forms into even stronger versions (called "ultimate" forms -- what a surprise). To activate this change, Ben presses the Omnitrix symbol on the chest of whatever alien form he has assumed, causing it to grow four spikes and transform the alien into its ultimate form. Additionally, Ben now has access to all of the aliens he transformed to in the original Ben 10 series.

In the pilot episode, a young fan deduces Ben's secret identity and reveals it to the world. Ben becomes an overnight celebrity, hailed by kids as a hero but distrusted by adults as a possibly threat. With Kevin, cousin Gwen, and Grandpa Max still at his side, Ben continues to battle alien threats to the galaxy, including finding five aliens that were attacked by a villain named Agreggor, who kidnapped these aliens. They escaped to Earth, and he is now hunting them, intent on draining their powers to obtain what he calls a "greater prize".

Armodrillo was a little hard to miss. He's wider than he is tall, if you count his arms, and he's predominantly bright yellow. Not a frequently used color in the Ben 10 world, or much of anywhere else in action figures these days. This guy couldn't have been more obvious if he'd had a sound chip installed that yelled, "HEY, I'M NEW! BUY ME!" every five seconds (and that is categorically NOT a suggestion to toymakers.)

So who, specifically, is Armodrillo? Well, according to the correct online research, Armodrillo is a yellow, bulky, robotic, armadillo-looking alien with drills on his limbs. His head looks similar to a Roman helmet and he has a long, gray tail. With the devices in his arms, he can drill into the earth, or form jackhammers that cause tremors. He is also very strong. He is scanned into the Ultimatrix from Andreas in the episode "Andreas' Fault", an alien kidnapped from the Andromeda Galaxy by Aggregor.

So, how's the toy? Well, for the most part, it certainly lives up to the description of "yellow, bulky, robotic, armadillo-looking alien", although the head looking similar to a Roman helmet is a bit of a stretch. Maybe it looks like a yellow version of a Roman helmet if the Romans had somehow been inspired in design by armadillos.

An armadillo is an odd-looking creature, with a fairly narrow head, short ears, and a long nose and mouth. Armodrillo's head has the ears, to be sure, and two little green eyes, but the long nose and mouth are more stylized into an otherwise semi-dome-shaped head, that admittedly bears a superficial resemblance to a Romanesque helmet. Overall, it's an interesting combination.

Armodrillo's torso is absolutely massive, easily the largest part of him, and is bright yellow, which makes him so easy to spot in an action figure display. The figure's overall build is more or less humanoid, which hasn't always been the case with Ben 10 aliens, so it's worth mentioning. But Armodrillo has a general humanoid shape to him, with a huge chest and back that taper into a fairly narrow torso, immense arms, and relatively small legs. Honestly, I'm almost surprised the figure can stand up on his own, but he does so very agreeably.

The arms are gigantic, and almost touch the floor. The upper arms start our yellow, and taper into black. The lower arms are mostly yellow, with exposed areas near the wrist that show a mechanical drill-like stricture. Four-fingered clawed hands, very well sculpted with individual fingers, emerge from the base. There's what look like spring-loaded triggers on the back of each arm, but these don't really do anything. I thought they might have, which is a little silly since no Ben 10 Alien Force figure in the 4" series has ever come with such a feature, but it's not as though there wouldn't have been space if they'd wanted to.

Armodrillo's abdomen is black with gray ridges. He appears to be wearing yellow armored trunks. His upper legs are black, his lower legs are yellow, and his feet are dark grey. His lower half looks more armored than robotic, and is significantly smaller in size than his upper half, which is clearly where all of his power is centered. And there is a dark gray tail on the back. Somewhat to my surprise, it wasn't a separate piece that needed to be attached. Tails on figures in this line more often than not are separate.

Armodrillo has a fairly limited color palette -- most of the Ben 10 aliens do -- and consists almost entirely of black and bright yellow, with some dark gray. He has bright green eyes, and the symbol of the Omnitrix/Ultimatrix is on his chest, in grey, black, and bright green.

The figure's articulation is impressive, and moreso than I would've expected. One never quite knows what one is going to get here. Generally speaking, Bandai puts an adequate level of articulation into these figures, although sometimes I think there could be a little more here and there. Conversely, there are some times where a character's arms or legs are so small or narrow there's just no way that here's going to be much that can be done with it.

Armodrillo's head does not turn. Granted, it doesn't have much room for movement, but I think it could have been articulated a bit. The arms move, and there's what I would call an angled rotational at the elbow. Given the design, it works. The arms do not move forward. I tried this and the lower arm fell off. Fortunately, it snapped right back in. The legs move, and the knees are also articulated. THIS surprised me, since I would've expected that the legs were so small relative to the rest of the figure that they would not have been. And yet I have noticed that the figures I have brought in from this Ultimate Alien line do seem to have just a little more articulation. It seems that Bandai may have gone from an attitude of, "Well, maybe it's not needed" to, "If we can work it in, we will." I don't have a problem with that, certainly. The tail also rotates around

The paint detailing is very neatly done on the entire figure. This seems to be one of Bandai's specialties, certainly on this line.

So, what's my final word? Hey, if you're a fan of Ben 10, or even just an interesting, unusual, and offbeat collection of action figures, look no further. Ben 10 Ultimate Alien carries on where the other two series left off, and continues to produce an interesting array of animated aliens showcasing a great deal of imagination, creativity, and fun. And that certainly includes Armodrillo.

The BEN 10 ULTIMATE ALIEN figure of ARMODRILLO definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!