[Note: Will continue to update this.]
Based on what I've seen from bobbing in and out of the premier spectacle sport of wrestling over the years, the quality of matches pumped out by WWE's women's wrestling division has fluttered wildly. Without nit-pecking too much, recently it has finally perched in a warm, sunny place, and I enjoy the performers enough to nab the inevitable action figures that, uh, fowl
I've been watching a lot of parrot videos lately, alright?
Like all the best monsters, Asuka hails from the land of the radioactive sun, Japan. She swanks down the ramp in robes that make The Glorious Bobby Roode jealous and wears a rainbow of tassels, like all the best warriors.
Asuka is packaged in an alpha-female pose, daring anyone to issue a challenge for her NXT Championship title. Well, you'll have to pretend she has the title belt because it isn't included with this release, but hey, there's other stuff in there!
While standing only about 5' 3'', Kanako Urai is able to toss around opponents 3 times her size!
Recently, Mattel started including a baseplate and cardboard diorama piece with their Elite series of figures. They connect to build a large backdrop depicting a stage to spruce up any display. There's a preview of it on that cardboard bit glued to the front because you can't see it through the window. Also included is Asuka's Noh mask.
The packaging for these figures looks good on display at any angle, they're also easy to open to preserve the packaging when removing the figure.
While Mattel's WWE toy lines have rampant parts reuse (and what collectible toy line today doesn't), this figure has almost entirely new parts. Kanako Urai is 5' 3'', so to keep the fig in scale with the others in the line, Mattel had to create a new smaller frame. This figure stands about 5.8 inches tall. (A little taller if you count the hairpiece.)
Since many new parts had to be made, and probably can't be used for any other wrestler anyway, the parts were tailor-made for her body type and given lots of sculpted details. You won't see any of the nonsense the other female figures have where their clothes are simply painted on. The little clasps on the thighs, the wrist wrap, glove, the choker, even the laces and tassels on the top are sculpted. The result is a figure that feels worth the price tag.
Asuka, The Empress of Tomorrow, has no patience for the minutia of the past, like tying shoelaces, or remembering to wear underwear UNDER her hotpants. During her time under the name of "Kana", she wrestled barefoot with kickpads to protect opponents from her savage blows. Due to petty things like OSHA regulations and basic human rights, she has to at least wear five-finger-style shoes while dominating in the WWE.
However, it does bug me that the tiger-bikini isn't sculpted, though I'm guessing that facilitates the paint apps. The shape of the pelvis piece itself bothers me a little, I think it needed a little more refining, at least to let the legs close more.
The ubiquitous pimp-hand that plagues all the female wrestler figures is here in full force, but it's not totally useless on Asuka. Combined with the gripping hand, it helps make some moves look better, like an arm bar or snap suplex.
At some point, Kana accidentally managed to enrage every female wrestler ever with a written manifesto about how much they all suck (it was a scripted event, but had unintended consequences). Instead of letting the heat cripple her career, she absorbed it like the monster heel she was and turned it into a fireball of success that's apparently still smoldering in storylines throughout the female Japanese wrestling community today.
Like many of the trivial things in life, action figure likenesses are a polarizing topic. One person can view a sculpted piece and say it's incredibly life-like, while another will say the same piece totally sucks bawls and needs a stinkface ASAP.
I think Asuka's likeness is there, however, I'm not a fan of the exaggerated Spongebob Squarepants smile. I was hoping this figure would get the more subdued grin, but Mattel went with the deranged look. I hope if we get an Asuka figure in the less-expensive Basic line of figs (now called the Core line) it'll have the grin instead.
The paint apps are as neat as can be expected on a mass produced figure, especially impressive in this case because of how many there are. Without a darker wash, the solid pink hair looks like artificial candy, but it works with the rest of the, dare I say, garish attire.
If you're wondering why there's a sculpted seam on the flesh-colored thigh, that's because Asuka sometimes wears a flesh-colored legging there, it's not a mistake. Also, she sometimes has different hair colors and wears the tassles on the opposite sides because her fashion is as unpredictable as her wrestling. I mean, if you can call smashing the opponent in the face with 20 spinning back elbows unpredictable.
Asuka's favorite pastimes include wearing surreal ornate coats, smiling menacingly, and creeping everyone out. She also really enjoys putting opponents into painful submissions and wailing on fellow world-famous Japanese wrestler, Tajiri.
Carrying over a design element from her reign in Japan as Kana, Asuka keeps wearing panties over her short-shorts. I think her attire looks a lot better in the WWE because of the wild slashes of color. When her attire had solid colors, she looked like she belonged in a window in Amsterdam instead of a ring.
Asuka's new look is here to stay. After all, Jimmy Snuka wrestled for years in nothing but a tiger-print speedo and no one ever told him to put pants on!
As much as I want to like the female figures in this line, the limited articulation quickly becomes a nuisance, like one of those little spiky balls that invade your socks when you walk through tall grass.
While all the other stuff, like rocking ankles and ball-jointed hips, are there, Asuka has only single-hinged elbows and knees. They're further restricted by the sculpt and kneepads, limiting pose potential.
Unfortunately, Mattel is still using the same articulation scheme for the female figures that they were using when the line started, including the barely-functional "floating" upper body. It can tilt like 5 degrees along the 4 cardinal points, but nothing in-between. Ideally it would at least also swivel, but instead the swivel is at the waist, where it looks ugly in any position other than neutral. It's tough to get expressive poses.
I don't know if it's a patent problem, or the hollow chest cavity is incompatible with a barbell system, or they just don't want to spend the money to redesign the female figs, but Mattel/WWE needs to take cues from Hasbro's Marvel Legends figs on how to make good-looking and functional articulation.
Hey, it looks like they took my advice! That was fast! Asuka's elbows can also swivel, which is helpful to achieve poses where the bicep piece is pinned against the body.
Hold on, though! Before you start wrenching on that swivel, be warned that the sculpt of the elbow area tends to put a lot of stress on the elbow's peg. Don't swivel it past the point where it naturally wants to stop or you'll risk tearing the peg. The swivels on my figure didn't even want to turn until I boil-'n-popped and reassembled the joints.
Upon beginning to work for a new wrestling promotion, Kana devilishly McMahon'd her way to being half of the Reina World Tag Team championship, and no one could take it from her until she had to relinquish it because she was leaving that promotion. That's like if you went to work for Bill Gates, and on the first day you crumpled him through a steel office desk, declared yourself the boss, and no one had the power to do jack about it until you (or your character) died (and you presumably didn't come back as a vengeful spirit to continue your reign of terror!).
I can't even talk about this without foaming at the mouth, or fingertips, or whatever, either sounds unhealthy lol. To sum it up; Toys are expensive nowadays.
Figures from this WWE Elite line cost $20 due to all the articulation, increased paint apps, and accessories they tend to include. Accessories could be championship belts, ladders, vests, and even extravagant cloth robes.
Asuka wears a fantastical robe with a Noh mask to the ring. There are many types of Japanese theatrical masks, and if I had to guess which one Asuka wears, it's the kind that makes opponents cower behind a ringpost. The figure includes a mask but no robe, which is, as the kids say, a bummer. I'm guessing we'll get the robe and NXT Women's Championship belt included when/if Mattel releases an Asuka figure for the Defining Moments series, which costs $5 more than the Elite series to compensate for all the stuff in the package.
Speaking of kids, if you're a young buck (or doe) wanting to collect any line of articulated figures, you need to either have Scrooge McDuck as your uncle or run the world's most nefarious lemonade stand, extorting money from your customers like that little girl in the T-Mobile commercials.
If you're an adult needing all these fine-lookin' little plastic people on your shelf, looking down on you as a reminder that you that you need to step up your DDP Yoga sessions and clench those glutes harder, then I suggest you find a dedicated retailer like Ringside Collectibles. You'll save gas money and won't have to pay scalper prices at the local swap meet.
Ms. Urai has many irons in the fire. From journalism to graphic design to fashion to being an unstoppable shitkicker, there's no limit to what The Empress of Tomorrow can do creatively and inside the ring.