I had honestly started to believe that we'd virtually seen the last of SOTA's excellent line of STREET FIGHTER action figures. So you can imagine my surprise and delight when Wizard/ToyFare announced that they were offering an exclusive Street Fighter figure from SOTA. That figure is one of a character that had not been previously produced in the Street Fighter line. His name is DAN HIBIKI.
Dan is one of the better-known characters in the Street Fighter universe, even though he's not one of the "core group", as I call them, those that have basically been around since Super Street Fighter II. Dan came along in a later game, first introduced as a secret character in Street Fighter Alpha, then appearing as a regular character in Street Fighter Alpha 2.
Initially, he appeared to be cut from the same mold as powerhouses like Ryu and Ken. He had a similar muscular build, and even had an outfit similar to theirs, even though his was pink, as opposed to Ryu's white or Ken's red. But it soon became apparent to game players that Dan was a lot of bluster and not much else. Dan has gained a reputation for being the character you would choose to play if for some reason you actually WANTED to get beat up in the game, unless you were so incredibly proficient at playing Street Fighter that there was actually some reasonable chance you might win playing this guy. Some people see Dan as a challenge. Most see him as the comic relief of the Street Fighter universe.
Dan's most recent appearance, of which I am aware, anyway, was in the Street Fighter comic book mini-series that starred Sakura. And yeah, he ended up face down in defeat repeatedly. Although musclebound, he can't even manage a decent fight against a high school girl in a cute uniform whose action figure is wearing tiny Converse sneakers and is easily the smallest character in the entire lineup.
In fairness, he's got to have some measure of skill, or he wouldn't be getting involved in the Street Fighter tournaments in the first place. I think it would also be wrong to classify Dan as evil. Evil in the Street Fighter universe is someone like M. Bison, a tyrannical dictator. Evil in the Street Fighter universe is someone like Akuma, who wants to leech the life-force and special abilities of the other combatants. Dan isn't really evil. I'd say a better description would be to call Dan a bully, a crybaby (more on that over the course of the review), and one who believed too many of his own press releases about himself and can't catch a break because he really isn't quite as skilled as he thinks he is. It'd be a little like suiting up a five-year-old in a football uniform. He probably enjoys running around the backyard with his father, throwing a Nerf football around and thinking of himself as a real football player since he's got a jersey and a helmet on, but that doesn't mean that he's going to fare well if you put him on the field against the NFL Super Bowl Champions.
Still, he might not be entirely incompetent, despite the reputation he's gotten. According to the character's profile: Dan's father, Go Hibiki, was a rival of Sagat. Go gouged out Sagat's eye and Sagat beat him to death in retaliation. Because of this, Dan sought revenge on Sagat, training to become a fighter, but was expelled from Gouken's dojo when his motivations were learned. Dan thus developed his own style of Ansatsuken merged with Muay Thai elements and called Saikyou-ryuu, "The Strongest Style", despite the complete weakness of his techniques.
After the events of Street Fighter Alpha 3, Dan believed he had achieved his revenge by defeating Sagat (who had actually thrown the fight), and his motivation switched to promoting and expanding his Saikyou-ryuu school, even to the point of offering exercise videos and correspondence courses. He has seemingly had some limited success promoting saikyo-style.
In SFA3, he was Sakura Kasugano's supposed sensei, who followed him around in order to meet Ryu. He's also good friends with Blanka too, since Blanka saved Dan when he was young. Notably, he (along with Ken and Ryu) is one of the only characters who defeats M. Bison completely of his own power in his ending.
Assuming the character lives that long, one would surmise. Hey, if you can get to the end of the game using him, you probably deserve to beat M. Bison. We're talking about a character whose special moves include a preposterously short energy projectile called the Gadouken, and another move called "Premium Sign" where he autographs a photo of himself and throws it at his opponent.
Now, let's discuss the Dan figure. Actually, let's discuss the packaging. It's quite unusual. Up until now, although there haven't been any new Street Fighter figures in while, SOTA packaged their Street Fighter figures on a plastic sealed card, not unlike Toy Biz's Marvel Legends (SOTA has always made it a point to note that their Street Fighter figures are compatible with Marvel Legends, for those of you that would like to re-enact some of the battles of the Marvel vs. Capcom video game). Dan's packaging is entirely different, and whether it was done specifically for this Wizard exclusive figure, or if this will be the package design for all future Street Fighter figures, I really don't know. But it's an interesting design.
Dan is packaged in a box, and I have to say that I have seen some other manga/anime-related figures packaged in a similar fashion. The box has a large window in the front, and a smaller window in the back. I like this, because it allows the buyer to get a good look at the figure from all angles (okay, this was a mail order, but if it maintains for the next Street Fighter retail releases...). Dan and his assorted accessories are essentially "sandwiched" between two form-fitting plastic bubbles within the box, which have a series of six plastic "snaps" along their frames. This is reasonably easily undone, and yet also holds the figure and his accessories very securely, and is certainly preferable to the ever-aggravating plastic coated wire twist- ties and transparent rubber bands.
The body Dan uses, according to one report I've read, is the same body style used for the Ken and Ryu figures from the recent "Revolution" line of Street Fighter figures, which started off with new versions of the two best-known Street Fighters. I'll have to take that at face value, since I don't have those two figures. I have the original Ryu and Ken, and honestly, I'm sort of hoping that SOTA doesn't do too many repeats without completing more of the massive Street Fghter cast.
It's a good body design, though, and certainly well compatible with the existing Street Fighter figures. A comparison with the original Ryu and Ken is, however, inevitable, given the similarity of the body appearances. The original Ryu and Ken, of course, did use the same body molds for the most part, and I tend to view them both as a sort of "standard look" for the Street Fighter line, which admittedly has a wide range of character designs and physiques. If we accept Ryu and Ken as "basic", then Guile is a but more muscular, T. Hawk is something of a giant, and Blanka -- well, face it, he's the big green guy.
As for Dan, he's about the same height as Ryu and Ken, but somewhat stockier. That's okay. Nobody said they all had to look the same. He seems to have about the same range of articulation, which on all of the Street Fighter figures to date has been considerable. In Dan's case, he has, by my count, 27 distinct points of articulation, some with quite a wide range of motion. The box he comes in claims 33 points, but they might be doubling up on a few, or I might've missed something. Either way, certainly the figure is super-poseable!
If we operate off the report that Dan's body molds were also used for the Revolutions Ryu and Ken, and if memory serves, SOTA's objective with the "Revolutions" line was to create somewhat more "anime" looking versions of the characters, then apparently that involved slightly "beefing up" the builds of those two classic characters. In any case, I am abundantly content with the original Ryu and Ken, and as I said before, there's no reason that Dan has to have the exact same physique, and he still looks good alongside the other Street Fighters.
Sometimes SOTA has had a few production difficulties, although the closest thing I'd say we have to that here is that Dan's legs are just a little loose. It's not that serious, though, and I'm not really complaining, just making an observation.
The overall paint work is excellent. By their own admission, SOTA had some serious problems with the last major assortment of Street Fighter figures. The group known as "Round 4", which included characters such as Akuma, Birdie, Fei Long, and a couple of others, was rife with problems, including loose articulation, sloppy paint, broken parts, parts that weren's properly attached, all of which, basically, could be traced back to carelessness in what was apparently a third-rate production facility in China. Perhaps one of the reasons Street Fighter went on a bit of a hiatus was so that these issues could be dealt with.
In Dan, it's clear that they have been. Although Dan is not the most complicated figure visually, he is clearly well made. The only detailing on him that looks to have been hand-painted are his wrist-bands and gauntlets, and even here, they are very neatly painted with an attention to accuracy that I would not have thought possible in a mass-production mode. The rest of the painted detailing on the figure, most of which is on the head, of course, has been done very neatly and obviously through proper stencils, including the neck, which leads down to a black undershirt. There's one little swipe of paint on his jaw that apparently covers some blemish, but at least someone took the time to do this, and it doesn't look bad at all. I'm just being my usual picky self.
The Street Fighter line is one of those more collector-oriented lines where the ENTIRE figure is painted, head to toe, so really I'm only citing the more obvious painted areas of specific detail. I would offer this word of caution, though. Sometimes on figures like this, the paint can stick a bit in the articulation points. Caution should be exercised in moving them initially so as to not damage the paint.
I'd also like to point out that Dan's pink uniform is not, thankfully for the sake of whatever dignity he has, the sort of glaring pink that one might expect to see from a Pink Power Ranger or the Barbie aisle. It's a more subdued pink, almost a pinkish orange -- like his outfit was white and got tossed in the laundry with Ken's red uniform. The black undershirt, something neither Ryu or Ken have, also helps the overall image from looking too silly.
I'd also like to mention how solid these figures are. I think most action figure collectors are used to action figures that are molded from somewhat hollow plastic, this often being a necessity of the assembly of the figure. But at 6-3/4" in height, Dan weighs in at a solid six ounces. That may not sound like much, but compare that to a Marvel Legends Hercules figure, which is actually a bit taller and more muscular, but weighs in at 4 ounces.
Dan comes with a good assortment of accessories, including four extra hands in different poses, his tiny little energy fireball projectile, and a second head -- which shows Dan crying his eyes out. Yeah, this guy's a spoiled brat, and this apparently is his usual reaction when he loses. Fortunately, the head that's attached to the figure is a more reasonably expression, one which I might define as moderately over-stated determination, but it still looks better than the crying head.
I should mention that there is a variant of this figure out there. SOTA has become known for doing multiple versions of their Street Fighter figures. In the case of Dan, the variant was an exclusive to the San Diego ComiCon, and it wouldn't surprise me if it turned up at a WizardWorld Convention or two, either. This Dan has a pale turquoise uniform. It's otherwise identical. It looks cool, but since Dan is best known for wearing pink, I'm pleased that I have that version of the figure. But, for you variant completists out there, there is the turquoise one to track down.
Also in the box is a nicely illustrated poster of Dan, measuring 11x17, by the good folks from UDON Studios, which turn out some excellent work and have produced a fair range of Street Fighter comic books. The flip side of the poster outlines a lot of their Street Fighter offerings, and some other books from other lines. I would personally like to recommend the book "Street Fighter Eternal Challenge". It is jam-packed with art and details on every character that has ever appeared in any of the Street Fighter games over the years. If you're any sort of Street Fighter fan, you will want this book.
I'd like to conclude with a word about the future of SOTA's Street Fighter line. Honestly, I wasn't sure it had one. Between the production problems of Round 4, and some adjustments and reorganizations within the company, I was pretty much of the impression that Street Fighter was done. And that saddened me, because there were still a number of characters from the core cast that hadn't yet been made.
Street Fighter has had an interesting toy history. Hasbro produced the first Street Fighter figures, loosely affiliated with G.I. Joe. It was (and is) a very cool line, but unfortunately, it came up short by tying itself too closely to the live-action Street Fighter movie, which wasn't very well-received. ReSaurus produced a small series of Street Fighter figures that were nicely detailed but not very poseable, but that company went out of business before they got very far. SOTA has been the Street Fighter fan's best chance yet to see many of these characters turned out in truly superb action figure forms. So needless to say, I've been concerned.
Dan was a nice and unexpected surprise. But an even better surprise was that SOTA announced at the San Diego ComiCon that Street Fighter will definitely be continuing, with more characters, and the four remaining members of the "core cast" will be part of the first two assortments! This means that we'll finally see Dee-Jay, Zangief, Dhalsim, and the massive sumo wrestler, E. Honda! The presence of Honda makes me think that this boxed packaging that Dan came in is liklely the new standard for Street Fighter. You're not going to stuff Honda into a CARDED package very easily! But I look at this box that Dan came in and I think -- yeah, you could get him in there.
Obviously, I'm skeptical enough to not start getting too overjoyed until I actually have the figures. But I can hope, and I sincerely hope that we're looking at the return of SOTA's excellent line of Street Fighter figures in full force.
Meanwhile, we can bridge the gap with Dan. He can be ordered online
-- at least if he's still available by the time you read this -- and
DAN HIBIKI, although he may not be the best Street Fighter in the history
of the games, certainly has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!