Review by Fred Meyer & Chris Chung
Pics by Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe Collector's Club Figure Subscription Service 6.0
Ninja Commando - Code name: Dojo
In the early 1990’s, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero had long held a position of dominance in the toy aisles but the landscape was changing. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were capturing the attention of children and the future powerhouse that was the Power Rangers franchise was set to debut in 1992. Military toys were starting to become passé and martial arts were experiencing resurgence. To counter this, the minds behind our favorite brand developed a counter-attack—the G.I. Joe Ninja Force. With brighter colors, action features, and shift in tone, Hasbro stood poised to do battle with the product lines of Playmates and Bandai once more. Yet, despite helping ARAH achieve some of its best sales years ever, the Ninja Force concept has been widely panned by fans in the intervening years and many of its case languished with only a single release. Such would have been the case for Ninja Commando Dojo if it weren’t for G.I. Joe FSS 6.
While I had the figure to complete the team, Dojo was tied with T’Jbang as my least favorite NF members. First off, they didn’t look like ninjas---and two, the colors were wholly inappropriate and more suited for a clown than a warrior. And really, how could anyone possibly hold up against the glory of Nunchuk’s deco? For that matter, I have no emotional attachment to the character and I wish the Club would have instead; shoehorned the rest of the Oktober Guard into open slots to complete the team rather than how they did it with Ninja Force.
(And as a side note, what’s with his stupid codename? That’s like someone calling themself “Ballet Studio” or “Indoor Gym”… )
Is this 25A construction release worth adding to your collection? Read on and find out what our intrepid reviews have to say!
Dojo possessed the most flamboyant uniform of any member of Ninja Force. (At least until Scarlett shoehorned her way onto the team.) In Scarlett’s case it was okay since she was female, and she could get away with flamboyance more than a male could---at least in that time period. White pants, yellow sash, blue pirate shirt, and a yellow mask—all made for a uniform that could only have happened in 1992 ! In recreating this look, the Club chose to dig deep in the well of recently-released martial arts-based characters. Dojo’s recipe appears to be as follows:
I must admit—the parts come together far better than I would have thought. While I’m not a huge fan of the Retaliation Red Ninja hands they do look the part. Oddly enough, the Retaliation Storm Shadow legs work pretty well at recreating the 1992 Dojo’s pants/boots combination. While I have grown tired of seeing the Renegades Storm Shadow torso used over and over and over, it fits the base design of the original figure. There’s some funky turkey waffle happening on the figure’s neck but we’ll discuss that in a moment.
The one part of Dojo’s build that I find a bit odd is the double-layered web gear. The original figure design featured some odd raised yellow shoulder pads, a fairly detailed sculpted bit of web gear with a knife, and a fabric sash. To simulate this, the Club chose to layer the web gear of the last 25A comic pack Storm Shadow with that of the Renegades Storm Shadow . The resulting combination was molded in yellow plastic and, at first glance, looks okay. However, the more I stare at it the more I can’t help but wonder if a better parts option existed. Did Dojo really need the sash for instance? It’s a minor detail that I can easily correct myself but I have to wonder if the omission of a single part here might have provided any additional accessory for another figure in this series. Bah, I’m probably overthinking this whole thing… Chris, I’m sure you will have something more insightful to say.
Insightful? I dunno about that, Freddie! Dojo is basically a repainted Storm Shadow with a new head sculpt. To further take this figure down a notch, he wears the ridiculous puff-pants. With all the leaping and running ninjas allegedly do, you’d think they’d want tight fitting clothes that won’t snag on stuff. But nope, not this guy. He wears Hammer pants .
“You can't touch this (oh-oh oh oh oh-oh- oh)… ”
In terms of deco, Dojo is pretty much a spot on recreation of the original, parts differences notwithstanding. The blues, yellows, and white are all applied where they should be with some extra detail on the feet highlighted in yellow. There’s even a blue star pattern painted on the back each hand just like on the 1992 release. Honestly, there’s only one area where the painting and molding conflict and that’s on the neck.
Bear with me on this. The torso used comes from the Renegades Storm Shadow which was intended to be a fully covered figure. As such, the molded neck has a series of sculpted fabric folds and wrinkles. Dojo however, being the cool ninja that he is, prefers his uniform open and so the neck is painted to simulate exposed skin—which means he has a serious case of turkey waddle going on. Now, it’s not a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination but it makes Dojo look a LOT older than he really is. It’s one of those minor details that is hard to “ unsee ” once you’ve seen it. Again, a minor nitpick but something that I find particularly amusing. Otherwise, I’ve got no issue with his deco whatsoever.
You pretty much summed that up. Not much I can say here. He still has the clownish blue, white, and yellow, and he still looks like a joke. A bad joke.
We live in an age where no new head sculpt goes un-repurposed. Dojo is the recipient of a new head sculpt that captures almost all of the key details of the original design. The handlebar moustache and “cool guy” goatee are present as is the pony tail and even the shaved head. It’s a darned good recreation of the original design with only one design compromise hinting at this mold’s next use.
The original Dojo figure was sculpted wearing a fabric mask not unlike those worn by a certain band of terrapin-themed martial arts that were also popular on store shelves in the early 1990’s. This figure, however, eschews the fabric mask for one a bit more tailored. In fact, this man’s head is sculpted wearing something much closer to goggles or a super hero styled mask not unlike another figure released in 1992. This figure also had a similar moustache and a ponytail but he ran with a different group of hunters. If my heavy-handed hints aren’t a complete giveaway, I’m going to call it: I’m willing to bet a pile of Snake Eyes variants that we’ll see this noggin used again—as the Headman !
Normally I’m keen on new portraits, but here not so much. The original figure’s portrait had gritted teeth and a high cut mask that helped to make him look sort’a badass. The Club’s version however, looks really creepy. The thin domino mask, facial hair, and pony tail make him look not badass, but more like a sleazy 70’s porn actor. Or a guy who drove a rusted panel van with “Free candy” painted on the side. But hey, as you stated Fred, I think we all know what’s going on here: this head was designed to be Headman first and foremost. However, had the Club painted the mask higher on this figure, it would have helped make him look less like a molester.
Dojo comes with the following accessories:
I’m not a martial arts expert by any stretch of the imagination so I have no idea what kind of gear should comprise the kit of a “ninja commando”. (Although I always thought that Snake Eyes had a lock on that particular title.) Dojo’s kit is simple, consisting of only three pieces: the Dao sword, crescent blade, and kusarigama.
Both the Dao sword and kusarigama were present in Dojo’s original 1992 kit and it’s good to see them here again. The third item is a bit of a headscratcher for me only because I’ve had a devil of a time identifying what it is. It’s definitely something new for Dojo and yet it does give the figure a bit more flair. Personally, I’m more partial to his original two weapons but that would also be because I’m not entirely certain as to the practicality of the crescent Wind-and-Fire Wheel. Otherwise, I’m down with his kit—it recreates the original and stays true to the character’s roots.
Yup. Dojo’s weapons are common faire for the ninjas. He also comes with a belt sash, stand, and a chest harness. Sadly none of his weapons attach anywhere. Again, not much to showcase here, either.
At the end of the day, is Dojo worth adding to your G.I. Joe collection? The answer to this is going to come down to one simple caveat: how much do you like Ninja Force? As far as updates go, I actually like Dojo quite a bit. Sure, there are some design oddities in this Club build but these are likely to occur when no new parts are available. His colors are spot-on and his head sculpt, while also evocative of the Headman, is a pretty good match for the original. As far as Club updates go, he’s pretty solid and I’ve found that the longer I own him the more I’ve come to appreciate this brightly-hued ninja. This is saying something as I was long out of G.I. Joe by the time he debuted meaning that I have zero nostalgic attachment to the character. However, not everyone is as enamored with some of the more odd ARAH designs as I am. While Ninja Force and 90’s fans are going to want to snag him to help complete that initial Ninja Force roster, fans of the 82 – 87 years might find him a bit too odd for their tastes. As such, he’s not for everyone but I’ve found him to be far more fun than I’d anticipated. Of course, that’s just this Joe fan’s opinion…
As for my opinion, overall I’m not keen on Dojo. I think he was a weak character during his inception, and I think he’s an ever weaker character now; especially since he’s actually supposed to be someone else. I’ll give the Club credit for the new head sculpt, but only when Headman comes out. As for now, this guy looks more pedo than ninja. I will say fans of Ninja Force will appreciate Dojo and will likely want him, but for me, he’s a total pass.
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