Katana’s SDCC Exclusive Gives High Hopes for DC Super Hero Girls’ Second Semester [Review]
Now that the DC Super Hero Girls toy line has expanded beyond its soft launch home of Target, more of those academic heroes are finding their way to stores around the world. For now, despite releasing new figures in the line, the primary waves still consists of the same characters that have been available since the spring. Though Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Bumblebee and the rest are all great, the cast of DC Super Hero Girls is so expansive it's a shame it's taking so long to get more of them released.
We got our first glimpse at one of the "second semester" releases at San Diego Comic-Con in Katana, who was offered as a deluxe exclusive at the show. Though her actual mass market figure won't see shelves until 2017 --- and it'll be a bit more barebones than this version --- Katana's debut in the line is impressive, and shows there's a lot of promise to still explore in the DC Super Hero Girl Universe.
The standard figures which you can find at most any retailer these days are fairly basic, at least from an accessorization standpoint. That's not outside the norm for the 12" doll arena, though there are more substantial packages that do offer more bang for your buck, provided you've got more bucks to offer. The normal figures in the DC Super Hero Girls line all retail for $19.99, but Katana here comes in a deluxe package that fetched twice that price at SDCC 2016. With all that's included, you could easily find comparable Mattel collectibles, just not in the DCSHG collection.
As the first deluxe figure to be offered, Katana establishes a very high bar for what to expect from future releases of this kind. I find myself actually talking about packaging more and more with these Comic-Con exclusives, but that's for good reason. Mattel and the DCSHG's design team went all out with Katana's presentation. Rather than just being stuck inside a clamshell card, Katana is housed in a rather elaborate box within a box. The outer layer is painted in such a way as to invoke Japanese wall scroll art, with character in a few poses on the front and back all tied together with a cherry blossom tree.
Inside is yet another box, which is made to look like a dojo of sorts. The outer layer gives you a silhouetted glimpse of Katana meditating inside, while there are shadows of her enemies lurking on the opposite wall. When you flip the box over, the reverse image is shown, giving you an idea of just how meticulously this special packaging was put together. There's a sliding panel on the front, which when moved, reveals Katana posed in mid-flight, ready to strike down anyone that would dare set foot in her domain. Again, in the background you can see the cherry blossom, which nicely brings the outer and inner boxes together.
Once you can get Katana out of the box --- which once again proved difficult thanks to that needless doll packaging practice of fastening heads to the package --- you can see just how much more effort went into getting her just right. Despite the basic color scheme, Katana easily has one of the most elaborate costumes in the line so far. In addition to the regular tailored clothing, she's got a full upper armor set bringing the whole look together. Like the rest of the DC Super Hero Girls to this point, Katana has transitioned well from her regular comic appearance to the world of teen academia, and you get a true sense of her character from everything she's wearing.
Her armor is removable if you want to take it off for some reason. The clothing beneath is more in line with the rest of the figures released so far, but still has some very good screenprinting and detailing. The cherry blossom pattern returns here across all the black elements, though it's hard to spot unless you're looking closely. The gunmetal gray coloring of her pants and sleeves is a more muted palette than we're used to seeing in the DCSHG space, but again, it suits the character even if she doesn't have the same vibrancy of the others. The wash used on her chestplate and boots works to great effect though, giving them a worn look, and hinting that she's seen conflict before.
Unlike Harley Quinn and Batgirl, Katana's mask isn't separate from her head. Both the other two heroes merely have domino masks though, and having Katana's traditional facemask painted on the head sculpt actually works better here. If it were stuck on above the face, it wouldn't sit well with the rooted synthetic hair, and you'd lose a little bit of the attitude she's clearly showing. The other dolls in the line all have fairly straightforward gazes, but Katana is giving the world some tremendous side-eye, which sets her apart in the same way the rest of her design does, while also still staying true to her personality.
Katana comes with her weapon of choice, the katana, just as Wonder Woman came with her lasso and Harley Quinn with her mallet. That will probably hold true of the mass market version that arrives next year, but the exclusive set also included two sais, a naginata, a sheathed tanto, and a handful of shuriken. Even though all the figures are quite capable of standing on their own, Katana also includes a display base with her name plate (which doubles as a sword stand). Those likely won't be making the leap to the full release, as Mattel has kept each of the action dolls fairly simplistic at retail. When you start including more items, the base price point starts rising, and you can't have that otherwise parents might skip out on a given figure just because it costs slightly more. The only exception of course is cases like this, where it's offered as a deluxe exclusive.
The DC Super Hero Girls line is one that's already very strong, with it's first six figures coming hard out of the gate and setting Warner Brothers' and DC Entertainment's expectations very high. When you get your hands on one of the action dolls, it's not hard to understand why. The designs are sharp, the articulation is exceptional versus the competition, and the tailoring is thus far on point. The smaller-scale action figures maintain that aesthetic to a degree, but it's the larger action dolls that really make DC Super Hero Girls a legitimate contender in the space. Katana keeps the upward trend momentum, and you'd be hard-pressed to a find another toy line that's done so much so right this early in its life span.
Yeah, it's a shame most people won't be able to get their hands on Katana until next year, but if the rest of DC Super Hero Girls' second wave of characters is as strong as this one, the wait will have been well worth it.
The DC Super Hero Girls Katana figure was available exclusively at San Diego Comic-Con. A basic version will be available in 2017 worldwide. This figure was purchased for review.