The 25th Anniversary line started off as a beacon of hope for those wanting exciting, all-new sculpts. By wave 3, it became painfully obvious that a large part of the line was going to be a few molds recycled, repainted, and given a new head. Sometimes this doesn't work, but when it comes to figures like this one, it makes a lot of sense to take these shortcuts.
Like most other figures from this line, you'll find a ball-jointed head, double-jointed knees, articulated ankles, and more. Of course, great articulation doesn't mean great poseability-- so how did this guy turn out?
Since I'm a sucker for ninja toys, the Cobra Red Ninja was a bit of a no-brainer. It's a tribute to an obscure action figure from Brazil which looks similar to a recent Toys "R" Us exclusive. However, the paint and card art of this figure suggests a tribute to the former, so we're going to go with that.
One thing Hasbro has grown quite good at in recent years is reusing old parts. Be it a mold from 1982 or one from last week, it's a pretty safe bet that if it's in good working order, you'll have a few opportunities to get it. For this line of Joe toys, Hasbro is going back to the well quite frequently. Several figures use parts from Duke, and this red ninja uses parts from both Storm Shadows, which are basically the same figure anyway. The good news, though, is that it's one of the better molds in the line. While the Cobra Red Ninja can't sit down perfectly normally due to some obstruction in the hips, he can sit well enough to pilot some vehicles. For example, we crammed him in the recently released direct-to-consumer Cobra H.I.S.S. vehicle and he had no problems fitting right in the driver's seat. He's not too tall, and fitting him inside didn't require awkward repositioning. Since the figure's file card indicates he's a specialist in vehicle operations, it's good to know that he can actually fit in the driver's seat. It's pretty hard to claim expertise in vehicles when your feet are hanging out the door, or when your head is pressed against the canopy.
The figure has, depending on how you count, from 14-18 points of articulation. (Some people like to count the elbows and knees twice. I leave this up to you.) The figure is capable of a wide range of motion and can be posed for a number of combat situations, plus he can stand upright. This is more important than you might think, and it's good that the figure can hold its weapons and not look like a doofus. Arm movement is somewhat limited due to the kind of joints used, but the figure doesn't suffer greatly as a result. Since his arms can swivel fairly well and bend at about a 90-degree angle, really, you can't ask for too much more.
When it comes to the legs, I feel there's a bit more reason to complain. Some figures in this line, like Scarlett and the Baroness, feature ball-jointed knees which allow for knee bending and rotation. This is key if you want a figure to sit cross-legged, or if you're shooting for some more interesting battle action poses. Some sort of thigh swivel would have made for a good substitute, but sadly, all you get is the double-knee joint which almost lets him touch his ankle to his butt. While an excellent feature, I'd have preferred to see a little more lateral movement in the lower leg. Also, the hips are somewhat restricted, as I've mentioned before, which may or may not effect your ability to enjoy this figure as a toy. As a carded collectible or a display piece, though, the articulation is more than we deserve. As a toy, it's certainly good enough, but could be better.
The head sculpt is different than those used on the Storm Shadow figures, and this is most obvious by the little corners/horns/whatever on the sides of his head. Are these meant to be a visual cue to indicate devil horns that call back to his Brazilian namesake? The original figure didn't have these "horns" on the character art, but the new one does. It's a nice touch to distinguish it from other ninja figures, and as Hasbro has plans to release several more red ninjas in a troop pack in the next few months, distinguishing characteristics are a good thing to include here.
The face paint is clean, the eyebrows have a slightly evil flavor to them, and the eyes are clearly defined. Since the figure has most of his facial features obscured by the mask, Hasbro didn't have to worry about the facial expression outside the eyebrows, which speak volumes. This is an angry guy. When Hasbro wants to, their sculptors do a wonderful job of injecting personality into their toys, and this one does a great job with such a small window into the face. Kudos.
Like Storm Shadow, the figure has an area on his belt that sticks out in which you can store a knife. While a nice touch, there is a down side, and that's that the weapon feels like it might snap if you pose the figure badly. As such, I wouldn't advise storing it here as it feels like something could go wrong and then you wouldn't have a knife to worry about storing any more. Still, it's a great feature, and it's really amazing to see what little extra storage areas you can expect to find on a figure of this size these days.
Everything you expect from Storm Shadow, and then some. You get a stand, a quiver, a bow, a... claw thing, a knife, two swords, and the satisfaction that Hasbro probably couldn't physically cram more goodies in the package without significant changes.
If you already have one of the two Storm Shadow figures from this line, everything here except the claw weapon is old news. It's worth noting that the swords fit in the backpack much better on this release, and that the deco on the weapons is just as good if not better than previous releases. The claw weapon is sturdy, and can hold another similarly sized action figure in its iron grasp-- quite cool. It doesn't feel flimsy, which is important if you plan on using this for dioramas. I'm not saying it won't sag with time, but it's not going to bend immediately. The swords are fairly rubbery, as expected, but everything else is about the best you could hope for.
For the 25th Anniversary, Hasbro got some brand new card art for the first-ever US release of the carded Cobra Red Ninja. (US release being the key here.) The art is nice and similar to the original Brazil figure, the logo is a shiny silver, and there's also a silver border surrounding the cardback. The result is eye catching, and the packaged figure itself looks really great. If I had more money and space, I'd buy a set of these to keep packaged.
The shiny foil logo takes some getting used to, and is tough to photograph. A basic, printed logo would be nicer if you ask me, but hey, that's me. It's all a matter of opinion. The design retains the modern J-hook on top and includes the 1982-style Hasbro logo rather than the modern one based on Mr. Potato Head's smile. As a packaged toy, it's awesome, and if you like good character art it would be in your interest to save the cardback.
Finally, it's worth noting that, like the rest of the line so far, there are no product photos anywhere on the package. All products are instead represented by artwork.
At press time, the figure had only just recently been made available as part of the third series of these figures. Which, oddly, hit within days of the second wave of figures. Wave 3 featured five new action figures, including the Cobra Red Ninja, Sgt. Stalker, Shipwreck, Cobra Trooper, and Zartan. At press time Hasbro has not announced it to be shipping in any future assortments.
As a figure unto itself, it's a neat one. The name is very odd, especially when Hasbro has sold "Cobra Ninja Viper" figures in the past. "Cobra Red Ninja" is just a weird name, despite being appropriately descriptive of what it is you're buying. If someone says to you "bring me the Cobra Red Ninja" when you're looking at a pile of action figures, it won't take a lot of brain power to pick the right one out of a line up.
There's a lot to like here, and a little to be desired. If you want more Cobra figures, are a Joe collector, or like the idea of owning a ninja army, this is a figure you'll want to get at least one or two of. There's so many accessories that you can set up a few of them and they can all look a little different, plus it's colored differently than the Storm Shadow figure(s) you most likely have already. A repaint with a new head and a new weapon doesn't exactly have a lot new to offer picky toy fans, but that doesn't mean it isn't any fun.
If all you want is a ninja, though, wait. The 5-pack version of Storm Shadow is coming out as an individually carded figure near the end of 2007.
Personally, I like this figure for what it aspires to be: a new version of a hard-to-get foreign figure, a trooper, a ninja, and another member of Cobra. Plus, it's a pretty nice figure for the money. I wouldn't start your collection with this guy, but if you want to rebuild Cobra as a mighty force, or just want a fun figure for your desk, you can do much worse than this one.
Text and photos by Adam Pawlus
Review posted on October 11 2007
Sample purchased in October 2007 at Target
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