Some of the best action figures produced today are being made by Japanese toymakers. U.S. based collectors unfamiliar with Japanese toy companies the likes of Bandai / Tamashii Nations, Good Smile Company, Kaiyodo and Medicom are missing out on a toy renaissance. In fact, the competition in Japan is so fierce rivals are driving innovation and thus redefining what an action figure is. We’re seeing a whole new level of engineering, articulation, aesthetics, detail and even packaging emerging from Japan and its influence is making its way stateside, albeit slowly.
Medicom’s highly articulated Miracle Action Figure line or MAFEX is the Japanese toymaker’s foray into the highly popular 6-inch scale line. One of their first entries in the new line is their MAFEX Batman figure based on Christian Bale’s appearance in the Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. Medicom’s MAFEX Batman comes packaged in small window-style box with artwork depicting the figure and its features on the surrounding panels. A collector-friendly inner tray keeps the figure and accessories in place and the figure can be easily removed and placed back in the tray for storage.
The figure itself is impressive. The sculpt doesn’t leave out any detail; from the pattern on the armor, the accessories on the belt to the grid pattern on the soles of the boots. The paint applications are also well done and there are no wonky eyes or paint bleeds, which we’ve been seeing a lot of in domestic lines. To be fair, there isn’t much paint work needed, but what is there is crisp and precise.
Normally, a great sculpt with an accurate silhouette results in sacrifices to the articulation, but not in this case. Medicom’s MAFEX Batman is loaded with articulation from head to toe, while retaining an almost seamless aesthetic. I’m particularly impressed with the way the shoulder armor is engineered. The armor flaps are made of a pliable plastic that responds to any movement in the arms so as to not obstruct posing. This means you can lift the arms above the head without any problem… sort of. The shoulder joints on the Batman figure are a little wonky. One they reach a certain point, they’ll pop out of the socket. At first, I found this as a fatal flaw, until I realized that being able to pop the arms off allows me to re-position them any way I like without having to twist and bend them on the figure. It’s not an ideal situation to have the arms pop off, but I can overlook it because it’s almost a beneficial mistake.
Something on the MAFEX Batman that I can’t overlook are the floppy toe joints. While they don’t hinder the display or ability of the figure to stand, they’re pretty much useless and tend to be in the wrong position at the wrong time. If you’re looking for a dynamic pose, the included stand will help achieve just about any stance imaginable. The stand plugs into a small hole in Batman’s back, hidden by the cloth cape otherwise, but again, the floppy toe joints will frustrate any poses you attempt beyond belief.
Besides the clear articulated stand, the MAFEX Batman figure includes several switch-out hands, and EMP Rifle and grapple gun. Strangely, Batman’s most iconic weapon, the Batarang, is not included. This is a pretty significant oversight, in my opinion, especially since one of the included hands looks like an ideal candidate for handling the weapon.
Despite its flaws, the MAFEX Batman figure is an excellent first attempt at the 6-inch scale from Medicom and is highly recommended: the pros just outweigh the cons. With additional MAFEX figures and a Batpod from The Dark Knight series revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, the MAFEX line looks very promising. What’s more, we’ve seen the MAFEX Batman figure hover between $25 – $45 on Amazon and if you can score one on the lower end of the price spectrum, I think you’ll be very happy with the value.