By Julian H. Betancourt
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Originally a simple retail hobby shop, the Japanese model maker Kotobukiya has grown quickly, becoming one of Japan's main garage kit manufacturers and ranking high in popularity among Star Wars collectors worldwide.

After Lucasfilm gave the maker the license to carry on with the manufacturing of 1/7 scale soft vinyl/snap fit kits based on the Star Wars films, Koto has been putting out an incredible line which has already awaken the attention of model builders and fans alike.

Exclusive only to Japan at first, the kits burst into the American collecting world through several online retailers with prices anywhere in the vicinity of $90 to $150.00. Rumors circulated the figures were being brought to the U.S. and were going to be sold here. This was well received, since their price and shipping charges were expected to drop.

And in fact, on July 21, 2003 and thanks to its long standing relationship with Lucasfilm, Dark Horse Comics had the inside track on Koto, announcing they were going to be importing the superb Star Wars snap together figures created in Japan.  Ever since then, some webtailers such as EE among others have carried the kits roughly a year later after their release, yet the price drop expected has been minimal.

Consider Kotobukiya to be the cream of the cream, the Marmit of 13" scale model kits. The attention to detail is extreme, the poses are superb and the casting surely assures long lasting quality.

Keep in mind, though, these are soft vinyl statues and therefore lack articulation. Despite their zero movement though, these are fantastic centerpieces, focal points, assets to anyone's collection which authenticate with great realism in their design many of the characters from the Saga.

WHAT THIS GUIDE OFFERS

Created as a reference for those pursuing to obtain these sculpts, this Guide will provide pictures of this meticulously crafted line, their completed kits and the great art work reflected on its poster ads. With this in mind, I found it necessary to take an in depth look at two of the kits, Darth Vader and the all white Clone Trooper, describing and putting them together right "before your eyes" in such way, that we can all get a better idea on what Koto so proudly offers and the first time or undecided buyer will know what to expect once the box has been opened.

     
     

ASSEMBLY and BASES

Minor assembly is required while putting one of these kits together; usually taking no more than 8 steps. Best of all these figures are all offered pre-painted, so those lacking an ability with a brush or air brush will have nothing to fear. There is also no need for glue; the kits are designed to neatly and easily "snap fit," assuring the pieces will remain firmly attached to each other, showing a seamless look once the building is completed.

A textured sturdy base, big enough to balance the weight of the figure, is included with every kit. The figures become attached to their respective bases either by two foot pegs provided on some of them, and connecting to grooves on the stands or, in other intances, the figures present peg holes under the feet while the bases provide the two connecting pegs. In either case the fit is tight and secure.

The design of every display base relates to a piece of the environment the given figure was seen in the films.

KITS MATERIALS and PACKAGE

I was surprised by the sturdiness of the materials used on the casting of the kits. Despite the so called term "soft plastic kits," they are in fact made of very strong plastic (PVC) giving the figures a good amount of weight. As mentioned, I had a chance to build both kits, Vader and the Clone Trooper...

The Clone is definitely manufactured using solid plastic materials. No soft pieces are found other than his blaster and even this piece is not remotely as soft as one might think. He is one solid dynamically posed figure.

Vader on the other hand does have some soft plastic pieces. For instance his cape which, by the way, measures 18" from tip to tip and 11" from top to bottom, is constructed of soft plastic but rigid enough to keep its shape.

The head/helmet and torso of the figure seem to be hollow but again, the plastic is sturdy and flexible enough to allow for the attachment of the extremities without going out of shape nor breaking.

The kits come packed in strong four window boxes allowing for easy viewing from different angles. The windows have been placed on each side of the box, top and front.

Inside the box, the parts are "trayed" and placed separately from the base and in Vader's case, his cape has been "blistered" by itself, protecting it and thus creating a huge package as well.

DISPLAY BASES: CLONE & VADER 

CLONE TROOPER'S BASE: Offers a sand-like texture with terrain irregularities capturing the Arena battle; Although the color of the base is a bit too dark, it definitely adds reality to the overall view of the kit. Some effort is required while attaching the feet of the Clone to the base, thus creating a very tight fit; but once hooked on to it, you know the kit will remain in place.

DARTH VADER'S BASE: It is taken right off the movie scene in the Carbonite chamber; grooves and designs of the platform are cut outs and truly authentic. A clear yellowish acrylic piece has been attached under the base, allowing for light to seep through, should one decides to place the kit on a lit column; a fantastic look when properly executed.

BODY PARTS and BUILDING TIME

In general, there aren't too many parts to worry about but rather very few. Again, those lacking an ability to build kits, HAVE NO FEAR. Torso, legs, arms, heads, bases and saber blades are basically all the parts you will find within every kit to be assembled. Body parts are just complete pieces, with no front and back to put together. There are no halves to these parts, just a protruding piece or peg connector at one end, allowing for a secure snap fit  into the corresponding receiving part.

CLONE TROOPER:  Without a doubt, the Clone Trooper kit can be assembled within 5 minutes. All the pieces went in as easy as 1, 2, 3 without a single problem.

There are 8 Clone Trooper parts inside:

  • Base
  • Legs (one piece)
  • Torso
  • Left arm (from shoulder to wrist one piece)
  • Left hand
  • Right arm (from shoulder to wrist)
  • Right hand with molded on very detailed Blaster rifle
  • Head/Helmet

DARTH VADER: While the clone was easy, Vader's kit became sort of a hassle and took a little longer to put together, giving me a sore thumb after several minutes of trying. This was caused by the fact the connecting peg under the head was slightly larger than the corresponding opening provided for the insertion at the torso. But this can be corrected by shaving off some of the excess plastic. Using an Xacto knife for this work will give the best result, however, be careful as they are extremely sharp.

The figure also presented a bit of a problem holding the cape with the left hand as it is intended. Since the cape was a bit too long, its bottom rubbed against the base, pushing it away from the holding hand. Several tries, moving the cape around, were needed until finally the cape remained within the hand's grip. Other than these two problems, everything else was fine and building time took around twenty minutes.

There are 7 Vader parts you will find inside the box:

  • Base
  • Legs (with attached skirt and torso)
  • Left arm and hand
  • Right arm (with hand holding saber's hilt)
  • Saber's blade
  • Cape
  • Head/Helmet