ACI Toys : 'Christian' Muscle Body - Review

Over the past few years we have witnessed the evolution of the 1/6th scale action figure body far beyond the GI Joe or Action Man roots they can be traced back to.  Whilst advances have been made in the durability and articulation of these bodies, the desire for a more realistic looking torso has led to the rise in 'muscle' bodies hitting the market, and recently a surge of affordable options has appeared within the 1/6th community.

DSCF9651Of these brands, three manufacturers stand out as having kept the wheels of evolution turning, each trying to almost out do each other with what can be achieved, these are Hot Toys, Kaustic Plastik and ACI.  Hot Toys were probably amongst the first to produce the standard format muscle body torso as both a complete figure release and loose carded item, and more recently they've taken a side step back to a better articulated body, at the slight cost of realism.  Then you have the relatively new kid on the block, Kaustic Plastik with their 'KP-xx' line of bodies used in their fantastic Roman series of figures, and also available as a loose carded item.  Then we have ACI toys, who are no stranger to producing accessories for the 1/6th market, and within the last year and a half have released two highly affordable muscle bodies onto the market, the likes of which create good competition between the manufacturers and help lower prices.

The first series ACI released was the 'Andrew' range which became one of the most affordable, large-framed muscle bodies available at the time.  Proving to be extremely popular, these sold out pretty quickly at most retailers, but still appear on eBay at albeit higher prices.

Following on from the success of the 'Andrew', ACI Toy's latest release is the 'Christian' body, which takes some of the elements of the 'Andrew' figure and improves upon it further to offer better articulation and more posing potential, but keeping it as realistic as possible.

Available in three different types, 'Plain' unpainted, Caucasian and Asian skin-tones; all of which come with 8 hands and 2 pairs of feet.  These are set to be the next hot muscle body item and are bound to sell out quickly.  ACI were kind enough to send us one for review, namely 'Christian Version 1', the Asian skin-tone model.  Let's take a closer look:

The box that the 'Christian' body is supplied with is just how I like it, nothing fancy, but entirely practical and performs the job it is supposed to do, keeping the figure safe during storage and transit.  Not only does this keep the production costs down, but it keeps the weight down which means cheaper shipping costs for you and I!  Plus the see-through plastic serves will to show the figure off too.

Removing the inner plastic tray you will notice the main figure body, snugly fitted into shaped recesses, along with the 6 various pose hands and a separate smaller tray containing the 'bent toe' feet.  A small piece of paper, the only instructions really required, warns you to heat the hands for approx 1 minute with a hair-dryer before trying to remove; I strong advise you heed this warning!

DSCF9658Out of the box the body is fitted with both of the clenched fist hands and what is immediately apparent is how tight the joints are, almost scarily tight.  I had visions of another Triad Toys Otaku disaster happening here, but after some gentle working of the elbows, shoulders, hips and knees they soon loosened up and made me feel a lot less nervous in the process.  I wondered why the joints were so tight, and it would appear (although I could be wrong) that the paint application is made after the body is assembled.  Therefore I believe that initial stiffness is due to the protective varnish that has been used as worked its way into the creases.  It's nothing necessarily to be worried about, but do be prepared for it and don't be afraid to use a little blast from the hair-dryer to get things moving.

With regard to the skin-tone, as mentioned previously the version I was sent was the 'Asian' version.  I was initially a little worried as I didn't think I would have a suitable head-sculpt available for the photographs, but as it transpires you discover that the skin-tone is very similar to that of the Caucasian.  The different is somewhat subtle, a little darker and with a 'smoother' appearance', but to that end finding a suitable head-sculpt stand-in wasn't a problem.  You may notice that the head used in these photos is that of Soldier Story, and although strictly speaking it's not meant for this kind of body, I did have a spare neck plug handy that I quickly modified to make fit the larger ball-joint of the ACI neck.  It's not perfect, but it would do for now, and as you can see not a bad colour match either!  The detailing on the body is fantastic, showing good muscle definition.  The veins are prominent but not too exaggerated as can be found on some of the bodies produced by CM Toys for example.

In terms of the articulation points, let's look at these a little closer and detail the pros and cons.  Starting at the top and working our way down, the neck has the standard HT type ball jointed peg that will accept those type of sculpts.  As mentioned above, it is possible to get Soldier Story heads to fit, but they do require a little modification to do so properly.

DSCF9683The joints on the arms, as usual on bodies of this type, are the most restrictive.  In raising the arms straight up with no shoulder rotation, only 90 degrees in parallel to the body is achievable, however the shoulder offers full 360 degree rotation so rotating the arms into the upwards position gives you something in the order of 160 degrees.  Unfortunately it was in rotating the arms that I noticed one minor flaw in the design, and this is something that could be easily addressed in future releases.  You will notice from one of the pictures that the under-arm has some slight cut marks to the plastic, this actually occurs from the contact with the sharp inner seam of the torso as the arm is rotated.  For me, this does not cause too much concern as it will not be visible in the clothing I will be using, however anyone posing their figure may wish to take some caution in this area.  As expected with regards to the elbow joint, the maximum achieved here is again only 90 degrees, and this is to be expected with the single jointed design used to offer the most realism.  This is by no means any fault of ACI; it is something that has to be expected and also something that Hot Toys addressed on their recent carded muscle body release which includes double-jointed elbows, at the expense of realism.

Differing from the 'Andrew' body, the 'Christian' version offers some mid-torso and waist articulation, whereas the 'Andrew' was a one piece design.  Oddly however, there although side-ways 'lean' and rotation articulation is present, the torso only articulates slightly backwards and not forwards.  This is something that ACI have addressed on their website for the related product page, their exact words being '...To achieve the best outlook of Christian's abdomen, we sacrifice some degree of articulation (bending forward) for it'.  I'm not quite sure the reason for it, but I'm sure there is a good one and perhaps something ACI will address on future design releases.

Further down still, the articulation in the lower legs is very similar to the 'Andrew' body, which offers excellent posing ability with the double jointed knee, something that the Kaustic Plastik body does not have.  The 'Christian' body has been marketed as an 'action muscle body', so the lower articulation really helps in achieving these sorts of poses.

DSCF9685The wrist pins will accept the majority of after-market gloved hands, such as Soldier Story, HT, Crazy Dummy etc, but the pins themselves are not designed to be removed.  Similar to the KP muscle bodies, these are firmly held in place within the arm of the body and probably would only come out with some modification should one break and needs to be replaced.  This is unfortunate as with Hot Toys bodies, they do provide you with a spare set of wrist pins in the event of a breakage, however the advantage with the ACI pins is that they are further recessed into the wrist, therefore the amount visible between the wrist and base of the hand is minimal.

Ankle pins take inspiration from the wrist pins and offer a clever double jointed ball system offering full rotation, sideways and forwards motions in a number of different combinations, making this one of the more posable muscle bodies available on the market, from the waist down certainly.

The provided hands and feet offer some very good combinations.  You have the pretty standard 'right trigger hand' which as you can see from one of the pictures, holds a pistol pretty nicely (that is an Art Figures Beretta pictured).  You then have a left and right 'open palm' hand, and a fairly unique 'pointing finger' hand.  A pretty standard left 'relaxed grip' hand and 'knife wielding' fist top off the set, on top of the previously described clenched fists.  The standard feet offer the articulated toe, with a second set of fixed 'bent toe' design, particularly useful when crouching on a bare-foot figure.

In relation to the fit of clothing, looking through my spares box I picked up two readily available items which serve to show you the overall build of the figure.  The pictured T-Shirt is a standard Dragon make, designed to fit an original 'Neo' body, as you can see they're normally a little too loose on the skinny Dragon body, but hang nicely on our ACI torso.  The ACU combat trousers are from a DID carded set, and again hang very nicely with plenty of available material left to tuck into some boots.  The waist was a nice fit, not too snug which can often be a problem when looking at a muscular torso.

Conclusion:

In general I was extremely pleased with the ACI 'Christian' body.  I'd actually been thinking about picking one up to use in a kit-bash when ACI contacted me regarding reviewing one, so naturally I jumped at the chance.  Had I of purchased this body, I would not have been disappointed for the approx £29 that I would have paid for it here in the UK, and I think it represents fantastic value for money considering the latest Hot Toys carded muscle bodies are double that price!  We need manufacturers like ACI to help provide healthy competition within the 1/6th market, who actually help in lowering the prices, but not the quality.  As I mentioned earlier, the 'Andrew' range were hugely successful so I can see this latest offering being equally as popular with kit-bashers and customisers.

Many thanks to ACI Toys for allowing us the opportunity to review the 'Christian' muscle body.

exercise caution when rotating the arms!

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