As I was perusing a local Toys R Us earlier in the week, I happened these little monstrosities: Pokemon Cheebees. I thought to myself, “Pokemon vinyl figures? That almost makes sense,” and snapped up all four of them right then and there.
Overall, the Cheebees follow the same pattern as most vinyl/designer toy series: they take a basic body shape, in this case a small body and a humongoid head that dwarfs said body, and apply it to all of the characters in the series regardless of whether the body is a perfect match. This usually results in some pretty awesome distortions and caricatures of said characters, and the Pokemon Cheebee line is no exception.
This first round of Pokemon naturally includes Pikachu. Pokemon toys without Pikachu would be like GI Joe without a Snake Eyes toy or Star Wars without 15,323 versions of Clone Trooper toys. Its the natural order of things.
What I like about this particular figure is the fact that the Cheebee body makes Pikachu look more like his “baby” form, Pichu. The proportions of an actual Pikachu character are relatively balanced, but the unevolved form of him leans more in the big-head-tiny-body direction, and I like that the Cheebee body skews in that direction. Despite the paint scheme, he doesn’t really LOOK like a typical Pikachu, and I rather dig that.
As for that paint scheme, let’s start with his face. That’s a pretty happy face, don’t you think? Rather chipper. Almost like he knows something that you don’t know. “Yeah, human” he says in his pikalanguage, “just you wait. One day the Poketariat will rise up and overthrow your oppressive, cock-fighting regime. And it will be beautiful.” That’s what those white, piercing eyes are telling you behind that deceptively innocent grin.
As for the rest of Pikaché’s design, he’s appropriately Pika-like. The yellow body is offset by the right splotches of black on the tail and ears, and his red, rosy, electrical cheeks stand out and complete his face. Definitely simply, but it definitely works.
Something to note: Pikachu’s ears and tail are “articulated,” in that they’re separate pieces that have been connected to the body, rather than being molded to the body as a whole. If you really wanted to, you could spin his ears and tail around into various positions. Nothing drastic, but there’s some degree of movement. The only other movement, which is standard to all of the Cheebees, is at the base of the head. You can spin that baby right round 360 degrees. Want a possessed pokemon? There you go. Otherwise he’s pretty much frozen in space like so much carbonite. And that’s all right with me.
Overall, I dig Pikachu. I like how the Cheebee body forces the figure to stray from what you’d expect a Pikachu to look like. It makes the figure a bit more stylized and unique, despite the body being shared with his pokepartners.
Munchlax. Unevolved form of Snorlax, who was killed in the movie Seven to represent the sin of gluttony. Better watch out, Munchie, Kevin Spacey might be out to get you if you eat too much and evolve.
While I love the Munchlax design overall, my main complaint is that the Cheebee body makes him look like… a Munchlax. Unlike Pikachu, who gets warped and distorted compared to his normal design, Munchlax just looks like what he’s supposed to look like. So, in terms of accuracy the figure does a pretty good job, but since I care more about moving awayfrom the original design and seeing interpretations of said design, Muchlax doesn’t score quite as well as Pikachu. He looks pretty snazzy regardless.
Munchlax’s face isn’t quite as “complex” as Pikachu’s. He has a simple black line going around his head to represent his mouth, and jutting out of said mouth are two little fangs representing Muchie’s under-bite. The eyes are equally simple, being large white orbs with single black dots for irises. But those small, sad, longing eyes are full of character. He’s like a sad little pokepuppy, looking up to his training and asking “when will you stop hitting me?” I think Munchlax needs to go to Poke-Child Services and issue a complaint.
And much like Pikachu, the remainder of Munchlax’s paint is fairly simple but accurate to his character. You get his white belly and white feet, with the rest of his body being drab blue. Very mucherific.
Unlike Pikachu’s “articulated” ears, Munchlax’s are molded into his head desgn. This tells me that we’ll see future Cheebees with pointed ears just like this. Im hoping one of these is one of my all time favorite Pokemon: Jigglypuff. Pretty sure I’ve seen pictures for a Meowth Cheebee as well, and this head type would be perfect for him as well. Coupled with Munchlax’s lack of a tail, these are the only differences between the two bodies.
My biases tell me to love Munchlax. He’s one of my favorite Pokemon in terms of characterization and design, but his Cheebee doesn’t quite do it for me in terms of what I’m looking for (distortion and stylization). Still, he’s a pretty nifty little dude. Love that absently emo face of his.
I’m really digging these Cheebee figures. At $10 a pop they’re practically bargain basement from the get-go for what you’re gettng. Yeah, they may be mass produced, souless corporate abominations compared to the limited edition stuff like the Moofia figs I looked at last week, but they still have that “look” that I like in vinyl stuff. They’re the best Pokemon toys I’ve seen to date.
The Goods: Awesome designs. Unintentionally twisted facial expressions. Cock-fighting cuteness.
The UnGoods: No accessories to speak of. No combat action-ness. Pokemon may offend the testosterone and grown-up-ness in your DNA.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Later: More Pokemon Cheebees, and maybe some non-Vinyl awesomeness.