Tuesday, July 10, 2018

1993 Ninja Force Banzai

I have neglected Ninja Force for many, many years.  I reviewed one Ninja Force figure in the site's first 16 years of existence.  In the next year, I finally got around to showcasing both a Shadow Ninja Figure and another member of the standard Ninja Force.  I then left them be for a while.  Now, in 2018, though, I've been on a Ninja Force kick.  The Banzai figure becomes the third member of Ninja Force to see time on the site.  A big part of this is that I've reviewed so many figures that there aren't many left to profile.  So, naturally, I end up looking at figure subsets I've neglected over the years.  But, another part is that I'm back on a neon Joe kick.  I was once among the only defenders of neon Joes.  But, as time has passed, many collectors have found the fun in the brighter releases from the 1990's.  In that time, I focused my collection on more traditional Joes for quite some time.  But, neon is back in a big way in my collection and, as such, I find myself discovering understated quality in many of the brighter character releases I've ignored for the past ten years.

Banzai, though, is a tough nut.  While Slice has some great points and is a useful figure, Banzai is...not.  The guy's wearing a hot pink costume.  The splatters on his pants give the illusion that these are his weekend paintball clothes.  And, he's bare chested.  There are some guys who can pull off the shirtless look.  But, after a while, it becomes overkill.  (And, not in the robotic Overkill way.)  But, Banzai also has his hot pink weapons against his bare skin.  You would think this would be irritating to him.  But, over time, he would probably callous and then the chafing would be less of a issue.

As a piece of action figure design, Banzai is interesting.  In 1993, Hasbro introduced plastic strands of hair onto certain members of the Ninja Force.  For Banzai, the golden locks of blonde hair that create his pony tail are an odd feature.  On a mint specimen, the hair isn't terrible.  But, a figure that saw even a little bit of use can have strands of hair that are forever out of place.  And, since the pony tail does not have a cinch on the end of it, the hair looks odd with even a few pieces flaying off from the standard design. 

As I raced to find every Joe figure I could at retail in 1995 and 1996, Ninja Force figures were the bane of my existence.  Most were available, even if all the other Joes were sold out at that store.  But, I could not bring myself to buy the Ninja Force figures.  Eventually, I caved and bought a Night Creeper.  It had some good points.  But, at the time, I was too stuck in my ways for Joe and needed a figure to be standard construction.  So, the rest of the figures (which stuck around well into 1996) were left behind time and time again as I dropped into Toys R Us stores in central Indiana and Southwest Ohio.

While the Banzai character never appeared again, his mold did get some use.  The body was reused on the Street Fighter 2 Vega figure.  As Vega's coloring is close to the 1994 Night Creeper Leader, it's a far more useful figure than Banzai.  The body appeared again in the Mortal Kombat Movie line on Johnny Cage.  Again, the coloring is far superior as he's arsenic, silver and black.  If the figures were more conducive to customization, a simple headswap from Banzai onto either of these other figures would make for a better use of the Banzai character.  But, there's really no compelling reason to do that and each of the other two uses of the Banzai mold are far better than Banzai.

While Banzai's are not popular, he has gotten caught up in the general uptick in later year vintage line pricing.  Dealers will sell him for $10 and carded versions for $20.  With a little patience, you can buy them on the open market for 1/2 that.  I'd gladly open a $10 carded figure to get a mint and complete with cardback version of this figure.  But, I'm also a completist and have an odd desire to own all the vintage Joe figures: regardless of how bad they are.  I have a nostalgic dislike for Ninja Force figures that has evolved into something like grudging respect.  I enjoy the figures for what they were and no longer despise them for what they could have been.  A figure like Banzai is never going to be anything more than a check off a list for me.  But, from time to time, it's fun to see figures like him: just for something different.

1993 Ninja Force Banzai, 1994 Night Creeper Leader, Battle Corps

1993 Ninja Force Banzai, DEF, Headhunter Stormtrooper


  1. The Rising Sun Ninja...whatever that means. Isn't the rising sun red on white? Not pink. Makes me wonder what his original colors were meant to be (if there were). Also he' a white guy who has a name and a theme that invokes Imperial Japan.

    And his file card mentions how he's a nunchaku master...screw you, Nunchuck, you've already been replaced! Too bad the only nunchaku Banzai comes with are molded to his chest.

    Also he's blood brothers with Bushido...the arctic ninja and the shirtless guy are an odd pairing.

    All that said, my only real major complaint is the glued together construction style.

    1. Most of the Ninja Force dudes had really odd filenames. Though, Dojo and T'Jbang's odd skin tones were probably intending for them to be people of oriental descent.

      I always figured that Banzai and Scarlett wouldn't have been made if not for the Street Fighter 2 line. I feel some of the Capcom $$$ allowed for those figures to happen, since Vega and Chun-Li wouldn't be easy frankensteins. This way Hasbro could to two for one's, that Dhalsim, Sagat and E. Honda wouldn't allow.

  2. I was just about to write about this guy in a week or two! Ha!

    The most substantial memory I have of him is finding one buried in my backyard with my brother. This was probably in like '97 or so, so who knows how long that it had been there. It gave me the idea that my yard must have tons of toys buried in it, so I began a project to slowly mine my entire yard, to my father's dismay. As such, Banzai is responsible for me getting my kid-sized shovel taken away.

    I had owned another Banzai prior to that though, but oddly had no understanding of what his character was supposed to be. As a kid, I thought he was a bad guy. So usually he ended up being a henchmen of Zartan and Gnawgahyde if I bothered to use him, but the pink deterred me from ever paying much attention to him. To this day I often forget he's not a Cobra.

    1. He was instantly Lord Humongous from Road Warrior to me.

  3. " Also he's a WHITE guy who has a name and a theme that invokes Imperial Japan." You don't have to mention his race. we can all see it, unless you're trying to virtue signal or accuse the figure of "cultural appropriation".

    1. Considering he's an American and the USA was at war with Imperial Japan (albeit, decades before this character would be "born"), it seems odd to me. As he's already and oddball, I'm curious what the designers were going for, not being P.C.