The core team consists of Robin, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire
It was a little surprising that Bandai got the license for these toys, at least to me, since Mattel had, at the time, just recently acquired the DC license from Hasbro. For whatever reason, apparently Mattel wasn't all that interested in the Titans, and Bandai readily snapped them up.
Bandai's line of Teen Titans toys has focused on several size ranges - 3-1/2", 5", and 10" figures. The 10" ones don't amount to much. They're little more than plastic statues. The 3-1/2" ones started out pretty cool, actually, but then Bandai cut the articulation in them and even started preposing some of them. Pass. The 5" line was decently impressive, but rather limited in cast. It focused, somewhat predictably, on the male characters, and emphasized variants of Robin, Cyborg, and Beast Boy.
But I had heard reports that there were very nicely made 5" figures of Speedy and Aqualad out there. And I was certainly interested in obtaining them. Along with being classic Titans in the comic book, they'd both been featured several times in the animated series.
This review will focus on AQUALAD. I'll review Speedy in a separate review.
In the comics, Aqualad's real name is Garth, and for many years he was sidekick to Aquaman. He was one of the ealirest members of the original Teen Titans, and remained on good terms with the other incarnations of the team over the years. These days, he's known as Tempest, a hero in his own right.
The animated series has never been much for origins, so how much of this plays into the animated character I really can't say. The information on the back of the toy's package card reads as follows: "A member of Titans East, Aqualad is buff, charming, and can breathe underwater and swim at superspeeds. In addition, this native of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis has limited super strength when on land, due to his Atlantean molecular density, which his race evolved to withstand the intense water pressure on the ocean floor. He can telepathically communicate with all aquatic life and 'summon' columns of water to use offensively or defensively."
Stripped of any really personal biographical data, that's not a bad summation of Aqualad in either the animated series or the comics. I'm not sure, however, that the average boy is going to care whether or not his Aqualad figure is "buff and charming". Granted in his first appearance in the animated episode, he definitely seemed to attract the attention of both Starfire and, surprisingly, Raven. But I don't see too many boys playing out THAT sequence with their action figures...
What's especially interesting about the Aqualad character in the animated series, as far as I'm concerned, is that his costume design is a vast improvement over anything the character in the comics ever wore. Aqualad in the comics tended to have a red shirt and blue shorts. As Tempest, his uniform has tended to be mostly red with waves of black running through it. Granted, his mentor Aquaman has been best known for a costume that's orange and green, so there's no accounting for taste. But these color schemes don't really scream "underwater hero" if you think about it.
But the animated Aqualad is a different matter entirely. For the most part, the Titans designs in the animated series have stuck reasonably close to their comics counterparts, even if the animation style is even more stylized than other recent DC animated efforts such as Justice League. However, in the case of Aqualad, the animators came up with an entirely new costume design for him, and really, it's the best ever. The character in the comics should definitely consider altering his own wardrobe to match. The costume is two shades of blue -- a medium blue "shirt", and a distinctly darker blue neck, gloves, legs, and boots. To top it off, around the collar, waist, gloves, and boots, are jagged white "wave" details. The end result is a very impressive costume design that leaves little question as to the origin of its wearer.
The 5" Aqualad figure is really a superb piece of work. Bandai has been getting sneaky lately with some of their figures, especially in the Titans and Power Rangers, in leaving off painted details whose borders are still sculpted into the figures. One of the victims of this was the 3-1/2" Aqualad figure that was released about a year or so ago with a large Titans vehicle. They left off some of the white wave details. Fortunately, Bandai gave the 5" Aqualad the full paint job, and he really looks superb.
Then there's the articulation. It's excellent. Aqualad can move at the head, neck, arms, swivel-srm, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, and ankles. The neck movement allows his head to pivot forward or, and more necessary for a swimming position, back a bit so he can see where he's going. The articulation in the knees included not only a backward motion, but a pivot, as well. While not especially physically possible for the average human, it does allow for a bit of extra articulation in the figure for various swimming positions.
About the only articulation points lacking that I would've liked to have seen the figure have would've been waist articulation, and outward movement in the arms and legs as well as the standard forward and back motion. But I'm NOT complaining. This is really a superb figure.
Aqualad's primary accessory is a green dolphin. This is undoubtedly intended to be Beast Boy. There are two pegs on the dolphin's back that allow Aqualad to be attached to the dolphin. Underneath the dolphin are wheels on a "pull-back" motor. So, you can send Aqualad "swimming" across your living room on the back of a green dolphin.
This is a little silly. Aqualad needs a dolphin (Beast Boy or otherwise) to help him swim the way Superman needs a car to get across Metropolis. The man can FLY, for pity's name. And I certainly wouldn't recommend using this accessory in a bathtub or a swimming pool. I doubt it floats, or would work well underwater, despite the fact that the official complete name of this toy is "Dive Action Aqualad". But, for the sake of simple play, it works, and trying to install wheels and a motor in Aqualad himself would've ruined an otherwise truly excellent figure, so let's allow for the green dolphin on wheels.
Aqualad's other accessory includes a small missile launcher with a two- pronged spear. Guess he hasn't worked his way up to a full trident yet.
I'm really not sure how available this figure is likely to be. These weren't figures I just "stumbled across". And with the 2006 Titans figures coming out at the same time, on a new package design, unless Bandai chooses to carry over Speedy and Aqualad onto new packaging (not impossible), then I'd say these are likely to be a couple of rather scarce Titans.
With that, however, do I recommend DIVE ACTION AQUALAD? If you're any sort of Titans fan, then my answer is -- Most Definitely! It's a superb action figure, well designed, well painted, and well articulated, and an excellent likeness of a popular animated character that actually dresses better than his comic book counterpart. What's not to like? If you can FIND one, then you should definitely make Dive Action Aqualad part of your Teen Titans collection!