Tamashii Nations’ Brilliant Samurai Interpretations of Star Wars Just Keep Getting Better
Since 1978, there have almost always been Star Wars figures of some kind of the pegs at your local toy shop. There was a bit of a lull for a few years between the end of Kenner's run and the start of Hasbro's, but these days it's almost impossible to walk into a store and not find some kind of Star Wars toys. As such, there have been a lot of different versions of the same characters and outfits repeated with slight adjustments over the years. It's hard to craft a new Star Wars figure that stands out while also staying true to the core idea of the original interpretations.
For those of us that have been collecting Star Wars figures since the '80s, the new iterations from companies like Square Enix and Tamashii Nations have been eye-opening. This is particularly true of Tamashii Nations, as the company's variants aren't just stylized interpretations. Instead, Tamashii's figures are rooted in the storied history of Japan's samurai culture, which itself is an inspiration for the original Star Wars films. Already a few figures deep with the likes of a Samurai General Darth Vader and a Teppo Ashigaru Stormtrooper, Tamashii officially unveiled a new Royal Guard and Sandtrooper to join the ranks of its growing army.
Being as the Movie Realization line is based in reality as best it can be, there are some amazing details throughout each of the figures. The Akazone Royal Guard is based on the rare akazone samurai who got their name from the armor they dyed with bright red lacquer. In that era, such a thing was an extravagance, and it was typically reserved for only the most elite soldiers. That's something that carried through to Star Wars, as the Royal Guard are truly the first Empire troops we see in anything but white and black in the original trilogy. In addition to having the cloaked appearance familiar from Return of the Jedi, there's also detailed chestplates to show of the Empire's insignia underneath. The Royal Guard also come with a ceremonial mace/staff and a katana in a red sheath.
Though the swordsmen samurai often get romanticized in popular culture, there were indeed gun-slinging samurai soldiers in the employ of armies during the Sengoku period, too. The Teppou Ashigaru Sandtrooper actually shares a lot of similarities with the previous standard Stormtrooper, which makes sense, but has a few flourishes to make it just different enough. The matchlock guns included with the Sandtrooper are a nod back to the past, where teppou asigaru would use matchlock weapons in battle. He's also got a stylized backpack with markings of the era and a katana.
Seeing these samurai homages to Star Wars' original homages to the samurai culture has been a treat so far, and there are indeed rumors of even more classic Japanese figures coming from Tamashii. To this point, every character that's been done has had a unique armor of his own, but it would be great to see Tamashii expand to include some of the Jedi as well so this Empire-heavy line has some balance. The figures are due to arrive in early 2016 overseas, so hopefully pre-orders for US versions will come closer to the end of this year.