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REVIEW:
G.I. JOE SIGMA SIX NINJA B.A.T.
By Thomas Wheeler



I wasn't originally going to add this oddball entry in the Sigma 6 line to my collection. He looked just a little too strange, has a few articulation issues, and honestly, the concept of a Cobra Battle Android Trooper trained to be a ninja was just a little too weird for my tastes. But, these B.A.T.s did appear a fair bit in the animated series, came across rather well, I've always liked the B.A.T.s to begin with, so I ultimately decided to add him to my collection. It helped that he was in the lower price range.

One speculation here - clearly the other B.A.T. currently in the Sigma 6 collection, the SKY B.A.T., owes a lot of its appearance to the B.A.T. v. 5 which turned up in the B.A.T. ATTACK 6-pack in the 3-3/4" line, originally part of the DTC offerings, later found at Toys "R" Us. It's been reported that had the 3-3/4" line stayed on course, the theme following "Valor vs. Venom" would have been something along the lines of "Rise of the Robots" or some such, and would have heavily featured B.A.T.s.

So one wonders - was there ever a 3-3/4" design for a Ninja B.A.T.? Would it have been called that? B.A.T. v.6, perhaps? I've never seen any reason to think that there is one, and the Ninja B.A.T. doesn't bear an especially strong resemblance to any previous B.A.T. Then again, neither does the SKY B.A.T./B.A.T. v.5. And, I suspect we'll never know, either. But it's just a thought on the matter that I wanted to mention.

Structurally, the Ninja B.A.T. is an interesting piece of work. I believe it was ToyFare magazine that likened this android to a cross between General Grievous from Star Wars, and Ultron from the Avengers. That's not a bad comparison, either. The head definitely has some Grievous overtones, at the very least. To what degree this was intentional I have no idea, but I'm no great believer in coincidence.

The body, while humanoid, is clearly not human. There's no way this could be mistaken for a living being, even within the somewhat exaggerated world of Sigma 6. The figure is pretty good-sized for the Sigma 6 world, for one thing. In a line claiming an 8" standard scale, he's 8-1/2" in height -- 9" if you include the ear-antennae things. But as for even considering that this thing might be a human being within the concept, the proportions are just too strange. A very slender waist, massive lower legs, and then there's the feet. The Ninja B.A.T. has unusually weird feet. They don't even go that well with the rest of the body. I tried to find something to compare them to, to present some idea of how weird they are, and the closest I could come was this scene from Star Trek VI, where the crew of the Enterprise is trying to find the suspects in a murder situation, and they find gravity boots in one crewman's locker. That the boots were placed there by someone who clearly didn't know the crewman is made evident when the crewman is called in, and while he is otherwise more or less human-looking, except for a few facial prosthesis, he has these massive, strange feet that would make one believe that there is perhaps some duck and/or frog somewhere in his planetary ancestry.

The Ninja B.A.T's feet are just about that weird. They are far less armored-looking than the rest of the figure, and seem to feature five spread-out suction-cup devices - although they are not actual suction cups, so don't try sticking your Ninja B.A.T. to a wall or anything. It won't work. What reason the Ninja B.A.T.s would have for needing a feature like this is anyone's guess. Scaling walls, perhaps. The feet do have a little more articulation than some Sigma Six figures, in that they not only move forward and backward at the ankle, and swivel around, but also move side to aside.

The Ninja B.A.T. has several interesting built-in features. His chest plate can be removed to reveal a number of molded-in gears underneath. This is in keeping, somewhat, with earlier versions of the B.A.T. in the 3-3/4" line, which tended to feature either a lenticular-motion chestplate that showcased "internal moving parts", or a pop-off panel revealing internal workings.

Both lower arms have a spring-action feature. Press the spike near the elbow, and a red energy blade comes out near the wrist.

There is an additional feature, that unfortunately has a negative effect on the overall articulation of the figure. The lower left arm is on a cable, which can be extended for a fair distance, and then retracted by pressing the button beneath the chestplate on the figure. It's a clever set up, and it can't have been all that easy to work out to allow this mechanism to work and still give the figure a full range of motion at the shoulder, and still incorporate full wrist movement and the lower arm spike into the separate lower arm piece. But it does cost the figure his elbow articulation, and I maintain that any built-in feature that results in reduced articulation generally isn't worth it.

One note - if you want to be sure that this lower arm is as tightly in place as possible, extend the upper arm out to the side of the figure, and then press the button. The cable will retract as far as it possibly can, and the lower arm will fit nice and tightly into the upper arm when lowered. If we can't have articulation, we might as well try to get a decent tight fit.

Let's discuss the paintwork and assembly. Here we have a few problems, unfortunately. Although the overall design of the figure and most of the articulation is good, and the basic color scheme isn't bad - a sort of pewter-silver with black trim - there are some problems, and they boil down to unchecked sloppiness, something I'm really getting tired of seeing on Hasbro (or anyone else's) products.

The spiked armor on the upper arms is a separate piece, glued into place. And not very well. Visible globs of glue can be seen along the edges near the articulation joint. Similarly, the ears/antennae along the sides of the head are glued into place, and there is also visible residue here. Even a third spot is affected, some of the suction cups that are glued to his feet show visible residue, although not as badly as the head or arms.

The red trim along the sides of the head is clearly hand-painted, as are, much to my surprise, the eyes. I suppose I should give the factory workers in China some credit for managing to hit such a small target as these (although it does raise my suspicion once again about small hand-painted details turning up on Bandai's Gundam figures), but I can't commend sloppiness and cheap short-cuts under any circumstances, and that's ultimately what this is. The "suction cups" on the feet are also hand-painted, although not too badly. Fortunately, at least, there's no significant sculpted detail to be obscured by the thick coat of paint that this practice requires.

While it could be argued that Cobra doesn't pay a lot of attention to putting their B.A.T.s together all that neatly, the factory SHOULD. This sort of assembly and paint sloppiness really crosses the line. I've never seen globs of glue hanging out like this before, and the paint issue is getting to be really insufferable.

The toy companies really need to start leaning on the factories in China, or contract with new factories that will do a proper job with making the toys, and abolish this practice once and for all and get back to making proper paint masks and stencils for this work. They may well not be aware of the extent of the problem if the factories are "cherry picking" the product samples they're sending to the companies, and I know for a fact that THAT has happened before. This is really one of my anger points these days with regard to action figures, and I will continue to bring it up when appropriate as much as possible until the matter has been dealt with once and for all.

Now, in fairness, it's not impossible to find decent Ninja B.A.T.s. Not long after I purchased this one, I saw a much better-looking specimen at Toys "R" Us. I saw no apparent glue residue, and the paintwork on the whole was generally neater. So it is possible to get a decent-looking, neatly-enough-assembled Ninja B.A.T. But that's not really my point. My point is the sloppiness disasters I encountered on the first one I brought home shouldn't've happened in the first place! This sort of thing should not be tolerated by Hasbro, especially with the high hopes they have for this line.

Back to the B.A.T. I do like his color scheme. The figure is molded in a sort of pewter-silver color. It's got more of a pearlescent than metallic sheen to it, but it still looks very robotic. About the only drawback is that using these somewhat "reflective" colors does tend to bring out any molding defects or problems. However, to a degree, the B.A.T.s can get away with these a little more easily than a figure based on a human. A mold crease in a B.A.T., while annoying, can more easily be written off as a ding or dent from combat than it can in an individual's face. I don't like it, certainly, anymore than I like to see globs of glue or sloppy paint. But I can live with it on a B.A.T. more than I can on a "human" character. And overall, the color scheme on the Ninja B.A.T. is excellent. The color makes the figure appear quite menacing, honestly a lot moreso than his bright blue cousin, the SKY B.A.T. However implausible a ninja-trained B.A.T. might be, this thing certainly looks hostile, and like it means business.

One of the highlights of Sigma 6 is something that I don't usually pay a lot of attention to - the accessories. When I buy an action figure, I'm buying the figure. I don't really care that much what sort of gadgetry he comes with. However, the workmanship across the board on the accessories that come with Sigma 6 figures (including, I might add, extensive spray-painted details) IS impressive, and the Ninja B.A.T. is no exception. The figure comes holding a huge energy sword. This thing looks like a lightsaber that would send Luke Skywalker back to the moisture farm on Tatooine and have him glad for the boredom of it.

But it's also not the only sword it comes with. There are two more in the package - once again getting a little Grievous out of it in my opinion, as well as a very weird rifle that doesn't especially resemble any known firearm, and looks even stranger than some of the oddball alien weapons that have turned up in the hands of Spartans in the HALO line. Still, it's all very well made and pretty impressive equipment.

The file card for the NINJA B.A.T. reads as follows:

COBRA B.A.T.

Code Name: NINJA B.A.T.

Specialty: Extreme Combat

History: Under the command of Cobra ninja Storm Shadow, Ninja B.A.T. troopers are highly advanced android units programmed for martial arts combat. Their built-in weaponry is designed to capture, disable, or destroy their targets and includes knives, swords, pistols and retractor claws. Ninja B.A.T. forces are often used to attack Sigma 6 forces with an unrelenting onslaught of powerful fighters who cannot be reasoned with and are difficult to stop. They are especially dangerous because their arms can extend to an abnormal length, allowing them to reach Sigma 6 teams who believed they were at a safe distance from the evil androids. Once caught in those deadly claws, it is almost impossible to escape.

Not a bad file card, although I still find it a little implausible -- even within the Sigma 6 concept -- that a robot could be programmed with martial arts, and you'd think that Storm Shadow would've not been pleased with the idea of trying to prgram machines to replicate the moves of his ninja clan. Villain in the world of Sigma 6 Storm Shadow may be, the guy still has some pride.

Ultimately, do I recommend this figure? If you can accept his shortcomings, then yes, I do. And that's more than I expected to say about this particular entry in the Sigma 6 line. Don't get me wrong - it DOES have shortcomings, some of them part of the initial design, some of them unfortunately part of shortcuts taken on the assembly, the blame for which can't really be laid on the figure or its designers, but with the factory. However, the overall design is very decent, even if it will make one ponder the coincidence or lack thereof of some of its resemblances, and just how plausible even within the world of G.I. Joe a ninja-trained robot is.

But, the NINJA B.A.T., on the whole, is a lot cooler than I expected it to be, and it is a worthwhile and distinctive (unlike a lot of the repaints coming out these days) addition to the SIGMA 6 collection. I do believe, however, that he's been cycled out of the current assortments, so if you see one, you might want to grab him quick before they're all gone.

The NINJA B.A.T. does have my recommendation!