In the 1980’s, ninjas were all the rage! From movies like “American Ninja” to television series like “The Master”, the Japanese mercenary warriors were in most popular media that I consumed at the time. More often than not, the shinobi have been portrayed very traditionally—using the same weapons and style of uniform as they have for centuries. Only the Night Creepers of the classic series and the Foot Tech Ninja of the amazing 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series have given these warriors a natural evolution- the fusion of traditional martial arts techniques with modern technology. While some might argue that “the old ways are best”, a franchise such as G.I. Joe can easily merge the old and the new to create a lethal infiltrator with a technological edge. Enter- the Cyber Ninja!
One of the reasons that the G.I. Joe brand has been able to produce a fairly diverse offering of character concepts over the past few years is due to the extensive reuse of parts and the Cyber Ninja is no exception. The bulk of this figure appears to be based on the Rise of Cobra Elite Viper—the best of the villain troops released for the first film. The exception for this seems to be the lower legs which feature the rocker ankles that are currently en vogue with designers. The result is a uniform that is realistic and fantastic at the same time. The addition of the torso armor gives the body some much needed layers while adding in the impression of durability. To give the figure a “tech look”, the design team borrows an idea from the Tron franchise and adds electric blue piping along the arms, legs and torso armor. The result is similar to the aforementioned Foot Tech Ninjas from the 2003 TMNT series as well as a nice update to the Night Creepers of the classic line.
For the head of the Cyber Ninja, Hasbro opted to reuse the helmeted countenance of the 30 th Anniversary Crimson Horsemen figure. For me, this is the one weak aspect of the figure’s design. While the helmet works well with the “cyber” part of the character concept it doesn’t quite blend with the “ninja” side. Again, maybe it’s the influence of the Foot Tech Ninjas mentioned above but I’ve always assumed that a ninja would want to take advantage of his or her own senses to achieve supremacy on the battle field. The bulk of the motorcycle-styled helmet removes the wearer from that combat environment and makes them a bit more dependant upon the suit’s own systems. Sure, a stealth suit should have some pretty insane optic and audio pickups but it represents a weak link in the overall concept. I’m probably nitpicking here but if this figure has one flaw, this is it.
When it comes to gear, the Cyber Ninja carries a pretty varied assortment. He’s got the two “standard swords” that have been packaged with the Dark Ninja as well as a backpack scabbard. For firearms, the hi-tech shinobi appears to have raided Agent Helix’s locker as his kit includes both of her automatic pistols and the boxy assault rifle that were included with her Rise of Cobra release. The gear kit is rounded out by a repainted version of the backpack that was included with the Pursuit of Cobra Firefly figure as well as a sky hook that works with the “action feature” rope line. All-in-all, this is pretty solid assortment of equipment. The assault rifle is of limited use given the articulation of the figure—I think some hinged wrists would have been of tremendous benefit here. The paired pistols work quite well for a modern “John Woo” effect and the paired swords are perfect for a modern ninja. I’m especially happy with the paint apps applied to the weapons to give them a similar “stealth tech” vibe akin to the rest of the figure. The only real puzzler here is the backpack only because it limits the figure a bit. If the Cyber Ninja is wearing Firefly’s old backpack, then he can’t also carry his swords. Had the figure been packed with the two sonic mines that came with Firefly this piece of equipment might have made more sense. However, it seems an awfully large ruck to carry two pistols and ultimately I’ve not really used it on any of the three Cyber Ninja’s I’ve picked up.
So, at the end of the day, is this figure worth picking up? I may have tipped my hand when I mentioned that I own three of them currently. Initially, I’d purchased one but after releasing it from its cardboard prison I found that the figure really did have a lot going for it. The body offers a nice range of motion, the gear is, for the most part, very appropriate, and the aesthetic of the figure is very affective in conveying “modern hi-tech warrior.” After snagging two more I came to realize that these guys were Cobra’s own version of the Night Creepers—developed and trained “in house” and completely loyal to the organization. In a world where the Red Ninjas/Arashikage and the Night Creepers exist as independent factions, it only makes sense for Cobra to keep a few loyal ninjas in their own organization. Even with the motorcycle helmet, this figure completely works in conveying that concept. While I don’t feel the need to run out and buy a large number of the Cyber Ninjas having a small cadre of them suits my collection perfectly. The Cyber Ninjas are one of the surprise hits of the Retaliation line—especially considering that these figures are made up entirely of previously-used parts!
End result: Snag a few of these figures as a nice Retaliation update to the Night Creeper concept. Just lose the backpack!