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Sora Bulq

Itís only into month 3 of the 2006 collecting year and weíre 3 waves deep in figures. Wave 3, or the ďGeonosis WaveĒ, also appears to be giving people fits in finding it across the states. While some areas are getting figures in routinely, others have stores that donít even have pegs for Star Wars figures anymore (I can attest to this in Pittsburgh actually, as 5 out of 6 Wal-Mart stores I frequent have no space for basic Star Wars figures unfortunately). Needless to say the hunt isnít going great for all of us, myself included. Still, Iím making my way through this yearís offerings. Itís just unfortunate that when I do find something I need for my collection, itís often had a flaw or two (or more) that have really let me down.

That brings us to my latest review of Sora Bulq, Weequay Jedi extraordinaire. Do you know what scene heís from? Well, if you blinked you probably missed this Jedi who was frolicking through the arena on Geonosis hacking droids to bits. The big questions then are did Hasbro knock one out of the park in 2006 finally or did the articulation cutbacks this year hit Sora like so many others? Well, thereís a lot to like with this Jedi and at the same time thereís some real head-scratching decisions Hasbro made with this figureís design... so basically heís like every other figure. Weíll dissect this one and see what makes him tick though, and we can all ask ourselves why those feet needed to move but the legs didnít.

PROS

-Sculpt: Sculpt is Hasbroís forte` anymore, with crisp realistic detail abounding in most of their figures. The level of realism from figures in the last several years is really above and beyond what we really had hoped for at the start of the line. Just look at any resculpt like the Hoth Waveís AT-AT Driver if you need proof of how far the line has come.

Sora Bulq gave Hasbroís sculptors an opportunity to make one of the truly exotic looking species from the classic trilogy in an updated form. The Weequay havenít seen a new figure since the Weequay Skiff Guard came out in the POTF2 line almost 10 years ago. Sora Bulq takes the Weequay to a whole new level, and really makes you hope for that Weequay Skiffmaster someday in the modern line. The detail is outstanding on this figure and really stands out with realism.

The characterís costume is sculpted almost to make the figure ďneutralĒ in look and pose, yet to still give the character life enough through subtle details like the slightly ďflappingĒ sculpt of the ďskirtĒ piece on the figureís tunic. This kind of detail almost seems like itís to help the figure fit into the Geonosis Arena dioramas collectors may have out there, as many (if not all) of the Jedi from the original Saga line in 2002 were sculpted in extremely exaggerated ďactionĒ poses. Could it then be that the sculptor creating Sora Bulq was trying to make sure this figure didnít stand out as too neutral among his shelf-mates in a display? Itís purely speculation of course, but a thought.

The Jedi tunics and pants are sculpted with plenty of realism either way. There are 3 layers or tunic robes clearly sculpted into the figure, and the wrinkles and ruffles of the tunicís fabric give a lot of life to the character. The ďskirtĒ piece is indeed a little pre-posed but not enough to find it distracting. The figure looks ok just standing around or swinging his saber like a kit at a piŮata party, and thatís fine by me. I will say though that the knees are bent a LITTLE beyond what I normally like, but not too much. I prefer neutral with articulation, but alas articulation is lacking on this figure like so many others in 2006.

The headsculpt is, no pun intended, out of this world. The bumps, spikes, crevices, creases, and wrinkles all over the Weequayís face are outstanding. Thereís a lot of life and character sculpted into Soraís face without it being unnatural. The eyes are sunk into the figureís head and have a nice intense look to them. With the figureís dreadlock hair things being sculpted separately and glued to the figureís head, they look like theyíre really hanging off the back of the figureís head and down his back and shoulders. Fanís of the character (I guess he has a comic?) should be quite happy with the outcome, he seems quite accurate indeed.

-Paint Aps/Deco: Paint applications on Sora Bulq arenít overly complex, even for a Jedi figure, but that doesnít mean thereís anything bad about them either. Sometimes simple is for the best, and Sora is no slouch in his detailing.

Soraís tunic is a simple light brown color with a slightly darker brown wash lightly covering it. The wash highlights the texturing sculpted into the tunic and adds a lot of depth to all the folds, wrinkles, and various layers of clothing sculpted on. The figureís boots are a simple brown, as is the belt. While the boots have buckles thereís no paint aps highlighting them which was a slight disappointment, but the belt features a number of number of bronze-ish details highlighting buckles, equipment, and button details sculpted onto it which make it stand out against the dull brown coloring.

Bulqís hair is brown with a lighter brown wash to again highlight the details of it. The head is similarly painted with it being a dark brown color as the base and a darker brown wash over it to highlight the detailed sculpting. The figureís eyes are a white eyeball with a simple dark brown or black dot for the pupil, but it works well for the intended intense look of the Weequay character. Overall, the paint details are simple but quite effective at highlighting the intricate sculpt and making the figure overall much more appealing.

-Accessories: Sora Bulq doesnít come with a lot of gear, but he does at least come with what any self-respecting Jedi should have; his trusty lightsaber. Now, at the same time he doesnít have a separate hilt, which is a flaw on this figure and any Jedi figure, but for what he is he comes with what he NEEDS... just nothing extra that youíd want.

Sora comes with what seems to me to be an all-new sculpt Lightsaber. The design is plain and the paint application is simply silver for the hilt. Still, itís what the figure requires above and beyond anything else. The hilt is nice and has some rather unique detailing to it that sets it apart from others. This is what makes me assume it is indeed a new sculpt and not another figureís weapon stuck in the packaging. With the saber, the figure is complete for the most part.

Other pack-ins are then the usual suspects that have come with figures in 2006. There is an embossed stand featuring the film the character appeared in raised on its surface and a silver name of the character painted on the one edge. There is also a randomly packaged holographic miniature figure snuck into the packaging as well. While the stand and miniature are nice, both required molds and effort to be produced and itís my opinion that the money put into these ďgimmickĒ accessory pack-ins would be better put into the figure itself. I prefer quality toys over gimmicks.

-Packaging: The Saga Collection packaging for each figure is an interesting mix of styles. You can definitely see some elements of the ROTS line mixed with elements of the OTC line, and that makes for a unique package on the shelves. I really enjoy the black cardback with silver lettering, and I hope itís something Hasbro is willing to stick with for a long time to come.

I also highly enjoy the unique backgrounds for each figure. Pulling an element from the OTC line, the new Saga Collection packaging uses a film shot that pertains to each unique character, and really individualizes the figures. This is drool-worthy for the carded collector and it makes even the die-hard openers want a figure here and there to keep carded just because of how special the backgrounds are.

The bubble is a little closer to the ROTS line in its overall size and shape, but should lend itself more to staying mint for the carded guys. Thereís also an insert depicting the specific character and the characterís name, packaged into the bottom of the package just as the Revenge of the Sith figures had. The insert features the bold blocky silver lettering of the Saga, and lets fans know that this is the universal collection of figures encompassing the entire Star Wars universe.

Thereís a lot to like with this packaging so I hope it stays as the standard for a while. I would say that The Saga Collection and Original Trilogy Collection will go down as some of the most liked packaging by collectors for quite some time if Hasbro gives it a while, and this is coming from a guy that rips almost everything off its card at some point or another.

CONS

-Articulation: Articulation has been the main sticking point with me in 2006. Itís hard to go from what we got in 2005 and just accept anything Hasbro throws our way with a grin. I mean, do you really think that articulation should be cut for almost the entire line simply because itís a new year and thereís no film out to back the line? I donít think thatís how it should be and neither should you.

That said, Sora Bulq actually adds up to have a lot of articulationÖ Itís not how much poseability a figure has though, but more how the articulation is placed and used, that can make it great or not. On Sora Bulq, Hasbro went through all the expense of tooling up a figure with impressive articulation totals but not putting them on the right parts of the figure to maximize his poseability. It cost no more or less to make Sora Bulq, he just didnít get the articulation points he needed to be a good action figure.

Sora Bulq has articulation at:
- 2 ball/socket shoulder joints
- 2 ball/socket elbow joints
- 2 standard wrist joints
- 2 standard hip joints
- 2 ball/socket ankle joints (why?)
- 1 ball/socket neck joint
- 1 standard waist joint

With a total of 12 points of articulation, Sora Bulq looks pretty decent on paper, but as an action figure his poseability is limited from the waist down. That puts him with most of his 2006 brethren actually, but whatís really annoying as a fan of poseable figures is that Hasbro designers decided that Sora needed ankle ball/socket joints instead of knee articulationÖ Why? The ankle joint is a great point of articulation on any figure, donít get me wrong, but itís probably one of the most unnecessary points of articulation on Star Wars figures. Itís one of the points you actually could do without and it doesnít affect the figureís poseability dramatically. Unfortunately in this case Hasbro included ankle joints and omitted knee articulation which is probably one of the most important points of articulation to put a figure in action poses.

Sora is yet again another figure this year that is so close to perfection that it makes you want to pull your hair out as a collector. Heís quite good overall, but for reasons you just canít understand without a Hasbro rep explaining them (and even then they probably wouldnít make any sense and youíd still want knee joints on him) they omitted articulation you want for articulation you probably didnít care about. Frustrating is the best way to describe my thoughts then on Sora Bulq and his poseability. What can I say? I like playing with and setting up my collection.

-No Saber Hilt Accessory: Sora Bulqís accessory count was pretty weak if you looked past the gimmick pack-ins like stands and miniatures, but at the same time Bulq came with what any Jedi should as an accessory. The lightsaber is nice, but something extra could have made the figure better and itís something that many Jedi came last year in one fashion or another.

Sora couldíve definitely used an extra hilt for his lightsaber to clip onto his belt latch. The irony about the saber hilt gripe is that Soraís belt clip for a lightsaber actually looks like it was sculpted at one point or another to accommodate a lightsaber hilt accessory. I donít care if theyíd included a whole separate hilt or if they made Soraís blade removable on his lightsaber. Either way works for me, and the latter is probably the best way to make everyone happy. Iím just disappointed that Sora canít clip his only accessory onto his belt and just be ďstanding aroundĒ because of that. Itís something I think that should be standard for Jedi Knight characters from here on out in the line. I loved it with the 2005 Jedi we got, so Iíd enjoy it as a line standard.

Really, saber hilts that clip to a figureís belt are the kinds of features that you should just want in the line and that you are extra happy when you get a figure that actually has that. Itís like removable hats or helmets, or working holsters on figures. Any figure with a blaster should have a holster for it (unless it wasnít on the costume) and any figure with headwear should have it be removable. The modern line needs standards like that, and Jedi should always have an ignited lightsaber and a hilt to clip on their belt, no excuses.

-Price Hike: Star Wars figures have taken a jump in price at some retailers, and while we paid $5 - $6 for most of our ROTS figures throughout most of 2005, figures are up to $7 at most retailers with only Wal-Mart sticking to a $6 or less price point right now. Hopefully Hasbro and Retail will see the light that price increases in this day and age means that people may become more tight with their spending.

I know a price hike will affect my buying habits, and Iíll buy fewer extras of any figure I maybe wanted extras of. Iíll cut back on army building, custom fodder buying, and other areas that I otherwise maybe would have spent more freely. That $1 or $2 starts to add up over 60 or so figures though. Hopefully at least Target will adjust to compete with Wal-Mart in the near future, if nothing else, and we all maybe will have more to spend on more figures.

OVERALL

So Sora Bulq is here, and while I didnít hear a huge outcry to get him, Iím sure a lot of people were happy to get another prequel figure that wasnít from Revenge of the Sith since thatís what we were inundated with last year. At the same time, Sora Bulq is a letdown when compared to the other Jedi figures from 2005 (for the most part), as he just wasnít nearly as poseable, and all due to some lame leg articulation and bad choices by Hasbro toy designers.

Where does Sora stand with me then? I wonít be picking the Weequay Jedi up off my shelf anytime soon because of the lacking knee joints, while the Episode 3 Jedi are still just fun to mess around with. Sora does look nice though, and he displays pretty swell. The arm articulation is really great, the look of the sculpt and paint are fantastic, and he is still somewhat neutrally posed as compared to almost ANY figure from Attack of the Clones, especially the Arena. Thereís some positives there too like most every figure this year.

Iím happy I got Sora when I found him but the poseability disappoints me enough that I refuse to buy my extra one Iíd like for customizing and such, especially with the price-hikes in full swing around my area. Iíve seen the figure a couple times now (was tough to find for a while though) and at $7 I have a hard time justifying buying a 2nd figure when its quality isnít up to my standards. Knee articulation just NEEDS to be on most every figure, especially a Jedi, so itís sorely missed on this figure. The ankle joints on him almost mock you too, itís really frustrating knowing what the right articulation choices were and that Hasbro went the wrong way on them.

Some of you will be happy with Sora Bulq, but some of you wonít, and Iím in the latter category overall. He fills a hole I didnít really care about, and he is a lacking action figure, so to me if you can find him cheap heís worth having but if you can live without 3rd tier characters youíd live without this one.

 

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