Model kit/action figure hybrids have been around for a while in Japan. The idea that you can buy and build a model that is also an articulated action figure is pretty cool, and now Bandai has brought the concept to America.
Sprukits are so called because all the pieces needed to build the figure come on sprues. In case you didn’t grow up building model kits, a sprue is the little plastic frame that holds all the various pieces. It’s the plastic left in the passageways used when multiple pieces are made by injection molding, when plastic is shot into a mold to form things. In model kits, they leave the pieces on the sprue to make them easier to package and identify.
Bandai showed off these kits at Toy Fair last February, and they started turning up in stores and online over the summer. They’re offering buildable action figure kits featuring DC Comics characters, HALO, and an Anime property called “LBX.” The kits are offered in three sizes, at a variety of price points, and let you build figures that range from four inches tall to nine inches tall, with varying amounts of articulation.
I wanted to see if these were any good, so I picked up one of the two “Level 2” Batman sets, this one based on the video game Arkham City.
On the plus side, these kits do not require glue or paint. You have everything you need to build an action figure. The detail is great, and the finished figure has an amazing amount of articulation.
On the minus: This is not a quick process. You have to set aside a reasonable block of time to assemble these kits. Some of the pieces are very, very tiny and you will need a clear workspace so that you don’t lose the tiny parts. The finished figure will seem very fragile to you because you’ll know how it was put together.
The instructions are in full-color on a sheet that folds out to a very large size. They are rather easy to follow, using pictures of the pieces, and not relying on language to convey the action.
I have a few tips: Do not remove the pieces from the sprues until you need them. The identifying numbers are on the sprue, and you’re going to need to know which pieces go on which limbs. You may also want to keep an emory board handy, so you can clean up the excess plastic where the piece was attached to the sprue.
The kit I picked up had six sprues, plus a bag with the cape. The larger sprues had as many as thirty pieces attached, while the smallest one just had one piece–Batman’s flesh-colored exposed lower face.
I started in on the assembly, and here’s a few photos to show how it went:
So, the end result is a super-articulated five-inch tall action figure. For twenty bucks that’s about the same as a pre-assembled figure that you might find in a hobby shop, but the fun here is building it. Not only do you get the cool figure, but you get to enjoy the experience of making it yourself.
Which is great if you enjoy that sort of thing.
I found it relaxing and a nice escape from the pressures of writing about music, toys and trading cards (talk about stress). It’s a cool toy and a fun way to pass the time. As an added bonus, you get multiple hands that you can trade out so that Batman can hold his Batarang or a zip-line launcher.
The drawbacks are that you need a decent block of time. It took me about 100 minutes to finish this figure. Level 1 kits probably won’t take more than ten minutes (the finished models only have five points of articulation). I don’t know if the Level 3 kits would take more time or not. They might take less because the parts are bigger and easier to handle.
I spent a lot of time looking for pieces that flew across the room.
I’m hoping these catch on because while I like the idea of these kits, the offerings don’t really appeal much to me. Both Superman figures they offer are new versions without the red trunks. I don’t want to waste my time on a pantless Superman. HALO figures look cool, but I’ve never played the game and have no emotional attachement to the property. The LBX stuff is Greek to me, but it might appeal to a huge Anime fan.
What would be great would be if Bandai extended this concept to 1/6 scale figures, and maybe decided to cater to a neglected market by creating a GI Joe-type figure, who could then be dressed in GI Joe clothes. It’s not going to happen (and it’d probably cost a heck of a lot if it did) but I can dream, can’t I?
Now that I’ve built a five-inch figure, I’m intrigued by the idea of the larger Level 3 kits. The problem is that they don’t really offer any Level 3 kits that interest me enough to drop the fifty-five bucks that those sets cost. I don’t really need a nine-inch tall Batman or HALO figure.
At twenty bucks the Level 2 guys are a fair deal. If your kid is starting to get bored with his LEGO sets, you might want to try these.