I’m a day late today, but this week has been kicking my ass at work and that’s going to be a running theme as we get deeper into Q4. I’m going to do my best to stay committed to three reviews a week, but I may be shuffling them around a bit as to when they actually go live. So let’s get to it with another look at a TBLeague sixth-scale figure! Yes, folks, TBLeague is continuing to stoke their furnaces with my hard-earned dollars with a seemingly never ending stream of their boxed figure releases. This time I’m opening up one of their more recent concept figures, The Imperial Guardian! What Empire is this battle maiden guarding? I guess that’s up to you, but I have a feeling she’s going to look great doing it.
The packaging and presentation is pretty typical fare for TBLeague these days. The open shoebox is made of sturdy cardboard and features a tri-fold cover which connects to the sides with magnets. From an artistic standpoint, it’s not one of their flashier boxes, but as always it relies entirely on pictures of the figure to do the talking. A good number of TBL’s releases these days are based on indie comic characters, but as I mentioned above, this one is a purely a concept figure with no fiction (at least none that I’m aware of) to back it up. A little blurb about this original character on the back of the box would have been welcome, but judging by the poor quality translation in the care and instruction manual, I can understand why they didn’t. Inside the figure comes nestled in foam with her head, armor pieces, and accessories positioned around the body. A second foam tray under that holds her rather long spear. Let’s get her all set up and check her out.
There’s a lot to love here, but I think what attracted me to this figure the most is the bit of Jean D’Arc vibe I’m getting off of her. TBLeague’s concept figures tend to flirt with the historical, but in the end they do their own thing. Fair warning, this figure requires a bit of work to get her ready for display, as the only armor she’s wearing when she comes out of the box is her chest piece and corset. Everything else has to be put on, and while most of it is pretty straightforward, it took me a while to get the armored skirt on and laced up. There’s a lot of excess string, but I will likely wind up trimming that down. Possibly one of the most notable things about this figure is the fact that she isn’t showing much skin. Indeed, you get a glimpse of thigh between her skirt and leg armor, but that’s it. It’s unusual for a TBLeague release to be covering so much, since these are built around the seamless body and the outfits are usually skimpy to show off that seamless bod. So, where TBL usually uses it to great effect, in this case, she could have easily gotten away with a regular jointed body as the outfit covers almost everything. As a result, collectors who are into this line for the skin and more outlandish costumes, may be a little tepid on this release.
But that’s not to say this isn’t an absolutely fantastic looking figure. The Guardian is wearing a red long-sleeved top and pleated skirt with the armor worn on top of that. The individual armor pieces are all cast in plastic, but the sculpt and paint make them totally convincing as actual metal armor. Heck, removing these pieces from the tray, I was tricked into expecting them to have a lot more weight than they do. Each of these pieces is painted with a weathered copper finish. There are sculpted rivets and some interlocking plates, as well as some general pitting. The armor corset is softer and more flexible to allow her freedom of movement in that region. She has leather-like bracers on her forearms under the armor pieces there and stockings, which extend up past her grieves and can be seen behind the knee armor. The straps and buckles on her chest armor are sculpted, but the others are all working buckles and straps that actually hold on the armor pieces. I dig the combination of the copper armor with the red skirt, as well as the bits of red cloth that show between the armor pieces. She also has a decorative pair of red cords that run from her right shoulder and across her chest.
The head sculpt features very short rooted hair, which stays in place and looks fantastic. I actually thought this head was recycled from their Zenescope Mercy Dante figure, and while they are indeed quite similar (and the hair is nearly identical), this one is still entirely new. I’m pretty sure I say this every time, but when it comes to portraits, TBL has really upped their game in the last few years. The paint is superb and realistic. The eyes have that spark of life, which is often elusive to all sixth-scale figure producers except Hot Toys. The paint used for the lips is a deep glossy red, and the skin tone is a little pale, but quite lifelike with a rosy hue to the cheeks.
While it’s a shame to cover up that beautiful portrait, the final piece to the armor is a tight fitting and fully enclosed helmet with an adjustable visor. Getting the helmet onto her noggin is a scary prospect, as it is extremely tight fitting, and I worry about messing up the hair or scratching the paint on her head. The ears in particular make it tough to get on, but with a little partience and care I was able to do it. Although I will probably need to use a pencil to tuck the hair on the right side of her face into the helmet the rest of the way, I could probably leave it as is and it will still look fine. The helmet shares the same coppery metal finish as the rest of the armor and features a hinged visor and a hinged face plate, each of which are independent of each other. There’s also a bright red plume that spills out the back like a long ponytail, which looks quite striking.
Closing the visor reveals a pretty non-nonsense helmet design. If you look closely, you can see that the visor doesn’t really line up with her eyes. If I take another crack at adjusting it, I might be able to fix this, but I really don’t want to rub it on the head any more than I am doing, so I will likely leave it like this. Take away the studio lights, and you can’t really see in there well enough to know that it’s not aligned with her eyes anyway. Since I don’t want to be putting the helmet on and removing it a lot, I will likely display this figure with the helmet on and the visor up, as that gives me the best of both worlds. Because the armor pieces took up most of the room in the tray, there are sadly not a lot of other accessories included with this figure. You do get three pairs of hands, which include fists, accessory holding hands, and relaxed hands, and these are all very nice sculpts with some detailed work on the armor. The only other accessory included is her long spear. Nope, you don’t even get a stand, so I had to dig into my box of generic sixth-scale figure stands.
The spear is a nice enough piece, and it even includes a grizzly coat of blood on the tip, showing that the Imperial Guard is not a ceremonial position, but a skilled warrior. I really like the design of the blade, as it’s practically a short sword mounted on a pole. The shaft is smooth and it terminates in a pointed cap that looks like it could do some damage as well. The spear works well in her accessory hands, and she looks great holding it! Still, I really feel like this figure needed a sword and scabbard. Sure, I could borrow one from another figure, but I’d rather not deprive one of my other TBL ladies of their weapons. I also think a red ribbon, streamer, or standard is called for on the spear. Heck, I could probably fix that myself, even with my non-existent DIY skills.
As a basic figure, the Imperial Guardian set me back about $160 and she is indeed a very beautiful figure for that price. TBL has managed to keep the cost of their figures locked in for a while now, and I maintain that these offerings continue to be among the best value in the sixth-scale market these days. Everything that’s here is expertly crafted and looks absolutely amazing, but to be honest, I felt like the accessories needed to be padded out a bit more to make this figure feel complete. This would have been an excellent opportunity for TBL to offer a Deluxe version (as they frequently do) with maybe a sword, scabbard, and shield, or perhaps just a sword and some kind of battle standard. As it is, I think the extra armor pieces just took up most of the budget. Still, a great figure with some opportunities to bulk her out if you’re game for a little sixth-scale accessory hunting on Ebay.