Wednesday 19 February 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Jawa (40th Anniversary Packaging)

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Release Date: May 2017
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

Much of Star Wars success in regards to toys comes down to just how iconic some of the designs the franchise spawned are, but another reason that it has dominated the action figure market for so long is simply because of how expansive it is. No matter how long they appeared in the films, there was a time when seemingly everyone received an action figure at some point - leading to toy lines filled all manner of alien species. But the most popular ones will always be the ones that had some integral role in the films, and when it comes to screen presence few races are quite as memorable as the Jawas. Tatooine's junk-hunting, droid-selling nomads led to R2-D2 and C-3P0 falling into the hands of Luke Skywalker, and so the adventure began. Because of this the Jawas have more than earned their place in Hasbro's Black Series line, and as one of the first characters released in Kenner's original Star Wars toy line the Black Series Jawa initially came as a somewhat special release.

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While the Jawa would later be released in standard Black Series packaging, its initial release was part of the line’s Star Wars 40th anniversary celebration - and to mark the occasion Hasbro featured all 12 of the characters originally produced by Kenner in 1978 on special edition cardbacks that mirrored that original packaging. The card goes out of its way to check all of those nostalgia tick boxes, from its silver Star Wars logo border to the Jawa picture that sits in its centre. The character name is printed on a small box at the top, and Hasbro have even gone the extra mile to include the Kenner logo as well as a special foil 40th Anniversary one in the top corner. The back of the card features a classic layout of the figures included in the assortment, each on a coloured background that matches the box the name is printed in on the front. Hasbro even produced a 40th Anniversary Legacy pack – featuring a display stand much like the one collectors received back in the day as a guarantee that Star Wars figures were coming. It really is the perfect packaging for such an important milestone, and with no easy way to open the figure without damaging the card it’s almost certainly aimed at MISB collectors more than anyone else. But while the standard box version might be more suited to those who like to open their toys, if you’re like me and managed to get this edition at half price then of course you’re going to open that sucker up.

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The Star Wars universe is home to some really weird and wonderful creature designs, but the Jawa is a real testament to how simplicity can often work the best. Creepy unseen creatures wrapped in baggy brown robes, the only real visual the audience ever gets of just what’s under those hoods are an unsettling pair of glowing yellow eyes. Those eyes are so important to the overall design that Hasbro even gave this figure glow in the dark eyes for extra eeriness (though not the easiest thing to photograph - sorry)! The face here almost has a bandaged look to it, which doesn’t give a whole lot away but perfectly fits the tone of these strange little creatures. That body is all wrapped up in that distinct robe, which Hasbro have inexplicably decided to realise here with textured brown plastic. The Black Series as a whole genuinely tends to steer more toward soft goods for robes so Hasbro’s decision here does feel a little odd, but the texturing as well as the fading colour gradient on the bottom do make it look rather great. Around the body are two sashes, both of which have a number of pouches to house whatever Jawas tend to need when they’re on the go. Like the robe the pouches also have the right amount of colour mixing to look like the actual material, in this case being leather rather than fabric. So while the design of the Jawa itself may be relatively simple, there's a lot going on with the sculpt that makes a really appealing-looking figure.

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However the overall quality of the figure takes a turn for the worse when it comes to the articulation. Now the Jawa itself is actually pretty poseable – it features a swivel hinge head, shoulders and elbows, a waist swivel and peg hinge wrists. Even the legs are fully articulated, with that creepy black body sporting ball jointed hips, single hinge knees and even ankle tilts. The problem isn’t the amount of articulation Hasbro loaded into the figure, it’s the fact of it is utterly useless because they decided to give it a plastic robe. As the lower half completely surrounds the legs and isn’t malleable enough to bend out of the way of the legs all that lower body articulation is hindered completely. Had a fabric robe been used instead there would have been the potential to put the Jawa in all manner of poses that conveyed some sort of emotion, but without the use of the legs it’s up to the upper half to do all of the talking. What the Jawa has there isn’t especially bad per se, but the baggy robe design and small limbs means it’s still fairly limited in what it can pull off. Had they gone the soft robes route you still may not have been able to see the legs, but at least the Jawa would be able to make of the most of what it has.

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Unfortunately things don’t get much better with the accessories either. The Jawa comes packaged with its CA-87 Shock and Ion Blasters, the latter of which is a loose item and the former connected to the figure via a flexible hose. Both weapons are nicely sculpted and great representations of the onscreen props, so rather the trouble stems from just how they interact with the figure itself. As it turns out the Jawa is completely incapable of holding either weapon in a proper firing pose, so any use they have as actual blasters is completely defunct. It can hold them in a decent resting position or more as though it’s going to use them as clubs, but that’s about the best you can get out of either of them. The arms can’t rotate inwards enough either for the figure to hold a single gun with both hands either, so those decent resting positions are going to be fairly basic as well. Supposedly when not in use the Shock Blaster can also be stored in the holster on its left side, but that’s another area Hasbro really dropped the ball on this figure. The Shock Blaster features thin parts made up of very soft plastic, so even the smallest amount of pressure will bend and misshape it. The holster is so tight that the weapon won’t fit in without some real force – and even second you’re pushing it in (not to mention pulling it out) feels like the whole front section is about to rip off. It’s such an ordeal that you’re much better off just having the Jawa hold the gun at all times, or alternatively just tucking it behind the figure out of sight since the hose it’s attached to is fairly malleable. Considering that the image used on the card depicts a Jawa holding his gun properly, it’s baffling how these issues managed to slip by Hasbro during the production process.

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On looks alone the Black Series Jawa really is a fantastic figure that initially Star Wars fans could probably see themselves buying multiples of – the sculpt has lots of personality and the glow in the dark eyes are a really nice touch. Which makes it all the more disappointing that Hasbro made so many odd choices everywhere else that really spoil the overall product. The solid plastic robe completely nullifies most of the articulation, and the fact it can neither hold nor holster its weapons is pretty inexcusable. The 2019 Offworld Jawa from The Mandalorian fixes some of these issues with its soft goods robe, but as nice as that variant is it just isn’t quite the same as owning the original. As flawed as this figure might be, there’s just something inexplicably loveable about these horrid little droid goblins that still make it worth the purchase if found at the right price.

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