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By Thomas Wheeler

I’m not sure if this qualifies as irony, coincidence, happy circumstance, or something else entirely. But about a week ago, I went into Suncoast Video, hoping to find the latest assortment of SOTA’s excellent line of 6” scale STREET FIGHTER figures, and they didn’t have them. However, they did have Takara’s MICROMAN Street Fighter figures!

This was a surprise. I didn’t expect these would reach American shores. The last group of Microman figures that did were the BioMachine Series, a concept that existed “within” the Microman universe. These turned up at Suncoast and, interestingly, K*B Toys. However, I wasn’t about to complain either. So although somewhat disappointed that I hadn’t found the latest SOTA series, I was sincerely delighted to take home the Microman Street Fighter figures.

There are only two in the series at the moment, and they’re both females. It’s probably worth noting here that the Microman line, across the board, seems to have an unusually high percentage of female characters, both “in-universe” and in its licensed products, than the average action figure line. To what degree this has anything to do with Japanese pop culture, I really don’t know.
Anyway, the two characters in the Microman Street Fighter line are CHUN-LI and SAKURA.

CHUN-LI is one of the long-established characters in the Street Fighter concept, second only, really, to Ryu and Ken as far as overall popularity and recognition are concerned. Guile would probably be next in line, because of the emphasis his character received in American outlets.

Chun-Li is Chinese, and a powerful character in the Street Fighter concept. According to the story, her village was raided by the evil M. Bison, and her father killed by the tyrant when he tried to oppose him. She’s been on a vendetta to bring down Bison ever since, and the Street Fighter tournaments are a means to gain eventual access to the man.

The figure is superb. An excellent likeness of the character, who has a fairly ornate design to her outfit. Unlike previous versions of Chun-Li action figures, including any of the Hasbro versions and the more recent SOTA version, Chun-Li’s outfit here has been given a METALLIC blue finish. This, quite appropriately, makes it look very much like it is made out of some sort of silk.

The head sculpt is excellent, as is the overall detail of the figure. No shortage of unique parts had to be made to create this figure, but the overall design stays well within the assembly parameters, and of course the high articulation, expected for any modern Microman figure.

It’s interesting to note something here – the head is actually made from a rubbery plastic, rather than the hard plastic of most Microman heads. I’m not sure why this was done, but it doesn’t really hurt the look of the figure. Granted, it might be a case of it being impossible to mold a standard Microman head in rubbery plastic, since most of those characters have chrome-plated heads, and that would be impossible to do in that sort of plastic.

Some other parts of the figure, including the billowing sleeves and the length of her outfit, are also molded from the more rubbery plastic. In the case of the sleeves this is a distinct advantage, since if they had not been molded in a fairly flexible plastic, the articulation of the arms would’ve been substantially hindered.

Now let’s consider the SAKURA figure. Although a somewhat more recent addition to the Street Fighter concept – that is, a character beyond the core sixteen that have been well-established ever since the days of “Super Street Fighter II”, Sakura is quite probably the most popular character among the several dozen that have come along since then.

Sakura is Japanese, and regards the well-known Street Fighter RYU as a personal idol. She has seen him in fights, and is training herself to emulate his fighting style, and has even traveled with him on occasion for additional training. I’m not sure what the Japanese word for “spunky” is, but she’d probably fit the definition. But despite her small size and relative inexperience, she’s not to be underestimated in a fight.

Sakura is dressed in a modified Japanese schoolgirl’s outfit. As with the Chun-Li figure, some portions of this figure have been molded in a rubbery, rather than rigid, plastic, including the head, the sleeves, and the skirt. As with the Chun-Li figure, this is a good thing, especially with regard to the uniform details, as it allows for a greater level of articulation than had these parts been molded in a rigid plastic.

About the only “problem” between these figures is that since they use pretty much the same body mold, they’re the same height. And Sakura, in the Street Fighter concept, is a young teenager, and quite a bit smaller than most of the Street Fighters. So from that standpoint, Chun-Li and Sakura really aren’t to scale with each other.

Both figures come with display bases, which consist of brick wall pieces that include a transparent display peg that can be plugged into the wall, to make it appear as though the figure is in the midst of an airborne fighting move. The figures also come with multiple alternate hands.

Of course, both figures have the astounding level of articulation that any modern Microman figure is expected to have. The current figure format has been designed to be based on actual human proportions, and is assembled from over 50 distinct parts and has over 30 points of articulation. In the case of the Street Fighter figures, this helps them achieve just about any of the various martial arts fighting poses that the characters use in the video game.

However, I would like to take this opportunity to address one problem that continues to plague a considerable percentage of the Microman toys. Although I haven’t had any problems with these two Street Fighter figures, I can’t say the same in this regard with some of the others I own, and after consulting with a couple of people who are more expert on Microman than myself, apparently the problem is rather widespread.

These figures are horrifically fragile. Recently, one of the figures in the Biomachine Series (see my review of these elsewhere on the Web Site), lost his foot. The ankle joint, where it is connected to the lower leg, just plain snapped. We’re talking about a fairly slender “loop” of plastic that fit over a peg in the lower leg. And it just plain broke.

They also don’t take falls very well. One of my other figures fell from a shelf onto a hard surface recently, and it shattered his shoulder.

Now, in fairness, I’ve been told that the Microman Biomachine figures that were sold in the American market were much more fragile, or at least had poorer quality control, than their Japanese counterparts. But even so, this isn’t the first time I’ve had this sort of thing happen, and I understand that the Batman Microman figures are very prone to breakage, roughly one in ten, and that the recent Alien vs. Predator figures have an even worse ratio. And these were not intended for the American market.

The design of the figure does lend itself to a certain fragility. But the Biomachine figure hadn’t been doing anything more than standing on display! Takara really needs to look into what’s causing this, and remedy it, whether it means using different materials, or adjusting the molds.

Now, I could get into a long tirade on the increasing lack of quality control anywhere in the toy world today, and I could make some unpleasant comments about a toy company cheapening a certain series of toys to be sold in America as opposed to their home Japanese market, but if you’re reading this review, then I would imagine as a fellow collector, it would be “preaching to the choir”. You know the problems exist, and you’re likely just as frustrated with them, and it goes well beyond the world of Microman.

But it doesn’t hurt to bring the subject up on occasion, if for no other reason than to keep it in the public eye, and hopefully garner some attention from the toy companies.

As for Microman specifically, I would sincerely hate to see this magnificent toy line’s reputation damaged, perhaps severely, I would hope not fatally, by a problem that I sincerely believe can be dealt with simply by paying better attention to overall quality, and maybe making a few simple adjustments in the manufacturing and packaging of the product.

What effect the recent merger between Takara and Tomy will have on any of this I don’t know. Hopefully any changes will be positive ones.

Okay – there’s my rant, out in public. I’ve said my piece on the matter for now.

Returning to the subject at hand, regardless of my concerns, these are two really superb figures. Takara has made quite a few “licensed” Microman figures (as a pictorial article in a recent issue of ToyFare will attest), and granted, many of them are from Japanese concepts that many people in America would not recognize. Technically, Street Fighter is Japanese in origin, as well, but has certainly gained considerable popularity in the United States. And while SOTA may have the main American toy license, Takara has done a really nice job with CHUN-LI and SAKURA, and I would most definitely recommend them to any fan of either Street Fighter or Microman!