Toys and figurines representing early hominins and human evolution in general are rare in this hobby. The few that do exist by the likes of Safari, Bullyland, and CollectA are usually poorly sculpted and poorly researched, either looking like caveman stereotypes or generic upright monkeys. If anyone was to tackle this significant group of animals and do it the right way it would of course have to be Kaiyodo and their Dinotales line of collectible prehistoric figurines. Kaiyodo has sculpted everything from Cambrian era invertebrates to our closest relatives and today we’ll be reviewing one of those relatives, the Kaiyodo Paranthropus (formally Australopithecus) boisei.
For those not up to speed on hominins P. boisei also known as the “Nutcracker Man” lived between 2.3 and 1.2 million years ago in east Africa. Although bipedal like us humans P. boisei would have looked more like extant African apes than modern humans but is never-the-less significant in our understanding of where we came from. P. boisei is most famous for its large chewing muscles attached to a gorilla-like sagittal crest and heavy enameled cheek teeth set in a strong jaw. These specializations allowed “nutcracker man” to live up to its name and feed on fruits, seeds, and you guessed it…nuts. While P. boisei does not represent a direct human ancestor it does represent a curious evolutionary off-shoot on the road leading to humans. The Paranthropus genus evolved along its own path and lived simultaneously with members of our own genus, Homo.
The Kaiyodo P. boisei stand 2.5” tall but like all the Dinotale models packs a lot of accuracy, detail and craftsmanship in a small package. The head is particularly noteworthy because in order to do P. boisei right you have to get the head sculpt right, and Kaiyodo does just that. Overall the face looks similar to that of the extant great apes with a thick brow and flattened nose but the characteristic wide cheeks are immediately noticeable.
The rest of the model looks how you would imagine something like an upright ape would look with a thick barrel chest and hair over much of the body save for the pectoral area and face. Five little digits are sculpted on the hands and human-like feet. Anatomically this is a male and even that detail is included. When viewed from behind the shoulders look quite prominent with the back arched slightly inward. The musculature of the legs, arms and buttocks are well defined on this tiny hominin. Small red eyes are set deep in their sockets and while it is striking looking I have to question the red color choice here. The model itself is colored much like a chimpanzee with various shades of grey, black and brown. Even the tiny toe and fingernails are individually painted black.
Although static in pose the model has a presence about it, as if he’s contemplating something or about to embark on some grand adventure, maybe scanning the African savannah for his troop. The Nutcracker Man is standing on an earthen base with some sort of rock or bone set in the dirt. He’s putting his bipedalism to good use too and clutching a branch in his right hand. The base is detachable and connects via pegs on the bottom of the feet. Seams show where the arms and head attach because like other Dinotale models there is some assembly required in putting these together.
Although not very popular among children or collectors, models representing the human evolutionary story should be a welcome addition to any prehistoric collection. While most models fall short in executing their depictions of these creatures we can at least rest assured that there is one company that knows what they’re doing. P. boisei is not just important for what it represents but is also a fascinating creature in its own right and the Kaiyodo model is a masterful representation of this little hominin.