Friday, 1 January 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Ahsoka Tano

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Release Date: October 2020
RRP: $24.99/£24.99

Despite her not appearing until live-action until 2020 in season two of The Mandalorian, the popularity of Ahsoka Tano cannot be understated. Despite her rocky introduction as Anakin Skywalker's Padawan in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka developed throughout the series to become one of (if not the) its most engaging characters - eventually reappearing in Star Wars Rebels and now in The Mandalorian. But prior to her live-action debut Ahsoka also had another big revival in 2020, as the newly produced season seven of The Clone Wars showed the path she took after leaving the Jedi Order before teaming up with Bo-Katan's Mandalorian loyalists and the clone troopers once more to fight against Maul during the Siege of Mandalore. Now this version of Ahsoka Tano arrives as part of Hasbro's Black Series line in a wave of Walmart exclusive (fan channel exclusive outside of the US) figures dedicated to this closing arc of The Clone Wars.

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As with the rest of her wave mates Ahsoka features the still relatively new style of Black Series packaging, replacing the old black boxes with a new thinner design that features an angled spine and combining character artwork. The artwork, lettering and borders all share a vibrant yellow colour, which is the specific colour Hasbro have chosen to represent The Clone Wars (each aspect of the Star Wars universe having its own designated colour). The front of the box is fairly basic in design, mainly consisting of a large window to view the figure trapped inside. At the top is the Star Wars Black Series logo, with the name of the figure at the bottom in a yellow border. The flat spine continues that window with another logo, whilst the angled spine sports the aforementioned character artwork. The back is mostly designed the same as it previously was, featuring a short character bio and a close-up version of the character artwork. Disappointingly the bio is exactly the same as the Rebels version, rather than something more specific to season seven or even just The Clone Wars in general. Open up the box to find the entire transparent plastic piece slides out, and underneath the window section is a tray holding both the figure and her accessories.

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As previously mentioned this Ahsoka figure is based on her Clone Wars season seven look, which gave her a new blue outfit with gunmetal grey sections and black pants. To create this figure Hasbro naturally had to make some new parts to pull off this look, but on closer inspection you'll see that the boots and forearms are actually reuses from the previously released Rebels Ahsoka. As such it means those areas are oh so slightly inaccurate to the animation model, but if you were to compare the two the differences really are minimal. The more noticeable issue really is how these reused parts affect the scaling, because it makes this Ahsoka the same size as her Rebels counterpart when she should be a little shorter. It's not that bigger deal putting those two figures side by side, but it is when you put her next to someone like Rex who she should be a little shorter than. The scaling isn't so off that it spoils the figure, but it's worth bringing up for those who pay close attention to that sort of thing. Despite these recycled parts though the figure looks pretty great overall, and a far better offering than the somewhat disappointing Rebels version. Naturally there's a brand new head sculpt that captures her more youthful Clone Wars look, and the sculptors have kept far closer to the animated model here than the did with the Rebels one (both the original and the 2020 photo-real re-release). This head sculpt looks fine along the more realistic aesthetic the Black Series goes for, without sacrificing anything from the animated version. The lekku have also been redone to match the Clone Wars version more closely, sporting far more blue than the Rebels version. The body is nicely detailing with its silver paint apps and segmented soft plastic skirt which in turn features some crisp paintwork. 

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Due to the reuse of parts this Ahsoka's articulation isn't too different to the Rebels figure, but she does benefit from some new parts that benefit this figure in areas where the previous one was sorely lacking. Altogether she features;
- Ball jointed head, waist and hips,
- Swivel hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists and ankles
- Butterfly joint shoulders
- Double hinged knees
As expected the lekku do impact on the head articulation, but are made of a soft plastic so some sideward motion and head tilt is still possible. That little tilt she does have is great for injecting that little bit more personality into poses as well. The addition of butterfly shoulders is a huge plus for the figure but sadly the arms still aren't perfect, since those swivel hinge elbows Hasbro insist on using on female figures just aren't that good at all. They only manage a little more than a 45 degree bend, which is nowhere near enough to pull off some of those cross-armed Ahsoka poses. The ball jointed waist and hips are fantastic though, especially since the segmented soft plastic skirt doesn't restrict the hip articulation anywhere near as much as the Rebels version's fabric skirt did. Moving down the legs and you bump into a fair few restrictions again though, with the DOUBLE-hinged knees not able to do much more than 45 degree bend either and the ankle tilt almost completely nullified by the boot cuffs hanging down on either side. This makes tilting the feet to match the poses very difficult at times, so even when the rest of the body can pull off a great pose you get those feet balancing at an awkward angle. It's not awful by any means and you can still get some cool poses out of Ahsoka, but I just wish Hasbro would go back to the drawing board and think about how they can make their female figures better on all of their collector lines.

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Ahsoka's two accessories are her new blue lightsabers, which were given to her by Anakin at the beginning of the Siege of Mandalore arc and the abandoned by her following the events of Order 66. As per Ahsoka's fighting style, one is standard lightsaber whilst the other is a smaller Shoto lightsaber with shorter hilt and blade. As these blades are newly designed the hilts are very different to the ones included with Rebels Ahsoka, sporting far more moulded traditional lightsaber detailing compared to the simplified curved hilts that figure has. What really stands out with these sabers though is just how vibrant the blue blades are, which not just look fantastic but also contrast nicely with the pale blue (that should really be white) blades of the Rebels figure. Both blades are removable from the hilts as per all Black Series lightsabers, and when the figure isn't being posed with them active the hilts can be clipped on the sides of Ahsoka's skirt. This is done by threading a mushroom peg through a hole in that soft plastic, which can be a little fiddly and might lead to some plastic stress over time. However once those pegs have been successfully threaded through, they'll stay on the body pretty tightly.

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It's crazy that it took us this long to get a Clone Wars version of Ahsoka Tano given that this is the show she debuted in (and is still most famous for), but at least Hasbro didn't waste that season seven hype and delivered fans another great figure to add to their collections. Taking all the reused parts into account it isn't 100% perfect looks or scale-wise, but the inaccuracies really are minor at best. Far more impressive though is that Clone Wars-era head sculpt, which is a far better blend of animation and realism than her Rebels counterpart - resulting in a figure that just looks and feels far more like Ahsoka Tano. With her recent appearance on The Mandalorian giving the character newfound popularity more versions of her are inevitable, but hopefully her original Clone Wars look won't be forgotten alongside the live-action version. That's still going to be the version a lot of Star Wars fans want to see the most, and arguably it's still the most deserving of a 6" Black Series figure.

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