Otters n'n guns baby. The German name for Inflatable Boat with Explorers is "Inflatable Boat with Poachers." While working on last week's articles, I was poking around and basically was stunned to find river otters were made - I had to have some, and they're in 3 sets so far. This one, 5376 (a cheap Specials set coming to the USA next year), and 6816, a fisherman with birds and an otter. I was initially turned off by the whole poachery.shtmlect of the set, but it was available in the USA now and cheaply. Do I need trashy otter murderers and a boat? No, but I wanted those otters. I wanted those otters when I was 7. So I'm getting me some otters. (As all kids I've been a fan for a while, but this may have fanned the flames.)
The meat of the set is a giant boat - you plop on the bottom, there's a steering wheel, and a little blue windshield. You also assemble the motor and clip it to the back. It's pretty easy to do - just be sure to put in the steering wheel before the window. There's seating for one, room for someone to steer it, and a place for some of the gear. Playmobil did a good job fudging the mold by adding deco to look like sculpted bits. Older boats would frequently have actual ropes and loops on it, with removable tools on the sides. They cost a little more even back when they were new, so merely decorating a boat like this helps keep costs down. It also means it's a much less cool toy - Playmobil's endless array of moving parts and accessories make them great... but on the other hand, this was a relatively cheap $17.
Other gear includes a net, a gun, and a box - with the packaging photo showing the two swamp-dwellers shoving the goose in the box. This is not typical explorer behavior. Fish were included to serve as the meal for the otters, and a rope was also included for, I assume, some sort of swamp bondage thing. It's the 21st century, these things happen.
Each 3-inch figure is, well, it's definitely what someone in Germany probably thinks how an American fur trapper in 2016 might look. Vests, plaid, hats, boots... they're not bad. You'll notice some stubble, graying hair, and what appear to be cargo pants or some sort of fisherman's garment to keep their junk dry. The plaid pattern on the shirt of the older fellow is quite nicely decorated - pay close attention to the pattern on the sleeve and torso. The figures stand, sit, and fit in the boat precisely with the same level of perfection that almost every figure in this line can muster, and interact with their hunting gear accordingly.
You've seen the goose before - it's a non-articulated figure - but so are the otters. Both otters are identical, non-jointed little adorable creatures. Cast in brown plastic, Playmobil long ago found a way to mold its animals to look like there's some sort of fur pattern baked right in to the plastic. The faces are fairly realistic, with big black noses, little black eyes, and some light brown on the mouth and belly. They're hollow underneath, presumably to float or cut plastic costs. As a fan of toy creatures, I appreciate how they delivered a more realistic creature to the line. Compared to the beavers, this feels like it came from the far-flung future. They're not too far off in terms of scale, but they're basically cute display pieces - they're accessories. It's a sharp turn from the classic Playmobil toy ethos, where the playsets and vehicles were the real toy and the humans were the accessories which served as a proxy for the kid. You can't drive a car - but you can pretend to drive a car as this little plastic person. Most Playmobil animals have jointed legs or necks, but as you get smaller it gets tougher. A moving neck would have been nice, but Playmobil positively delivered a superior sculpt as a decent substitute.
If you just want otters - and if you're me, you just want otters - you may as well hold out for next year's surprisingly cheap Specials Plus pack. It's four bucks. If you must have the animals now - or want poachers and a boat - get this. It has a tiny piece of land representing a swamp environment, which is sort of amazing and abstract and weird. Considering these toys are made for German kids, the fun house mirror through which we see their culture is always amazing. To German kids, these are poachers - labeled as such, with guns and mean-looking people in a boat. By definition that means there's criminals, and unlike most toys sold in the USA there's no hero counterpart to arrest them or stop them. They're just going to try to catch and kill the otters. Or maybe the otters are coordinating with them to take that unruly goose down a few pegs. The story is up to you - but the thing that truly matters here is that you can get otters.
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