Written by Jonathan Wojcik
The crooning, conveniently descriptive introductory theme to this low-budget, cheaply animated series should tell you almost everything you need to know up front about Virus Attack. Wait, sorry, that's WHEEE-OHH, VIRUS ATTACK. This 2011 Italian children's franchise consisting of both the crudely motion-tweened adventures you see here and, of course, a toy line. Like America's Captain Planet, it was intended primarily to raise environmental awareness in its young audience, as giant, alien "viruses" invade the Earth, "infecting" plants, animals and even cars to create vicious new terrors, or according to the song, "virus-like demons," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.
Like many of mankind's greatest artistic achievements, Virus Attack was also created to sell a toy line, but while the series ran for a full 52 episodes, it failed to generate enough buzz to spread as far as any real world-threatening virus, and faded into obscurity before its graven images ever had the chance to come stateside. I was fairly lucky to be able to purchase sixteen of the beautiful little critters from a fellow collector of weird, small toys, and they arrived just in the nick of time to review in the final three days of Halloween 2, fitting in with all the bizarre-looking aliens and lovely disease-monsters we've been looking at since August.
So, let's look at what is actually exactly half of the toy line's basic virus selection, and all the fun, peculiar surprises that were packed into these inventive designs...
(CLICK ART TO VIEW COLLECTIBLE CARD!)
Let's start with Kromur, a monster resembling a cross between a hamburger bun, a grumpy crab and a cabbage, with the ability to release an all-corroding "slime full of dust and rust." Every one of these guys has a double-sided collectible card, one side featuring artwork in 3-D!...and yes, 3-D glasses are also included. You'll also notice a weird little bar-code looking thing near the bottom. These display the virus's "contamination level" when filtered through either the red or blue lens, if you're interested in knowing their power score or whatever.
Kromur is one of several hollow, solid rubber figures, which are the most pleasant to play around with. These figures each include a cute, tiny accessory, like Kromur's toxic waste barrel, which can fit completely inside their hollow bodies. Green viruses like Kromur are also residents of the planet Phyxo, and I've got four from each, so let's review them planet by planet.
I can kind of take or leave this one's design, as much as a crab with a big brain is kind of fundamentally my jam, but his power is to generate parasitic worms, which definitely compensates, even if they're not really represented by the figure sculp.Unfortunately, Wihur is also the first of many figures to demonstrate a gimmick of this line that is both blessing and curse: sticky parts.
Wihur's entire gelatinous brain is removable, and it is made of gooey, sticky material. Anyone who's ever had a sticky toy knows that they aren't made to last. Unless they're kept in nearly air-tight, everyday dust will fast reduce them to tattered, fuzzy rubber boogers. As incredibly fun as it is for little plastic aliens to have squishy guts, I'm sure every single one of these ever played with by a child is now a shell of its former self. Decades from now, Virus Attack figures with intact goo could be rarer than albino penguins.
This guy's pretty interesting. He's shaped like a huge porthole, with a giant acid-filled transparent stomach and a single grouchy eye. I also dig his crusty barnacle-like surface, by far one of my favorite categories of biological texture.
My favorite of the viruses from Phyxo and one of my favorites overall, Uromes looks a lot like a mite, but with a huge, warty, bulbous nose not unlike the head of an octopus, with a pair of grotesque sucker-like "nostrils" from which it emits radioactive gas! I love how the artwork shows its snout inflating and deflating, and how the whole thing is like an organic gas mask. Uromes is also one of the good, reliable non-sticky figures, a major plus.
Our first from planet ZOAR, Oxonet, another hollow rubber one, doesn't have all that remarkable of a design, but its power to jam communications is pretty interesting, and how adorable is that worded? "Shhh!" Apparently the beings from planet ZOAR are all psionic brainiacs, contrasting Phyxo's emphasis on poisons.
Netestor is a pretty cool one. It emits "terrible sound waves that make you crazy," and it actually looks like that's what it would do. It's like a living, evil radio tower or sonar array. I especially like all those creepy organic "struts" supporting its limbs.
Netestor's sticky accessory just gives it a subtly different head, unfortunately not as weird and extreme a difference as its card art. If they weren't going to push it farther, they might have been better off maing this one of the non-sticky ones with a more dramatic sculpt, but it's interesting to imagine this gooey face as, perhaps, a separate organism. That kind of thing seems somewhat implied by the cartoon intro, doesn't it?
I was all set to think Veganet wasn't that exciting at first glance, but this nightmare-inducing virus was one of my favorites as soon as I really looked at it. The figure fails to recreate the "hooded shadow" motif in the concept art, but that's okay, it's still pretty cute with its puffy jelly-head and sticky parka.
Veganet's inner body is pleasantly segmented, nicely flaring up into that globular face, and to me, reminiscent of various Ultraman aliens. What I learned from taking these photos, however, is how much Veganet hates standing up of his own accord. Especially when wearing the parka.
Veganet, don't do this. You are a big boy now. You can walk in your big boy clothes.
Vorgonet here seems like a tough cookie. It can turn invisible, it can make whatever a "gelatinous shadow" is and a gelatinous shadow can "investand" paralyze you. Invest in paralyzing you? I don't know. Despite all this, Vorgonet's figure design didn't look all that amazing when I pulled him out of the package, except for its resemblance to a fat penguin...but then I noticed just how squishy he was, like there wasn't all that much underneath....
Oh shit! Vorgonet, you're beautiful! You're like a cross between an insect, a fetal bird and a mummified Mind Flayer whose tentacles fell out. This does a way better job of living up to the creepiness of the card art...it's just too bad they didn't make the sticky suit transparent, so you could really see his pruney little skeleton.
Wait, what? How is this goofy humanoid remotely the same character as its card art? A lot of them vary to some degree, but this metallic virus from planet Crux might be the most glaring, and the most disappointing. The art shows such a terrifying, needle-encrusted nightmare, and what we get is a fat dinosaur. I'm not knocking fat dinosaurs, especially not when they have cute tube-mouths, I am totally cool with Birdo, it's just that when you show us a demonic flying lobster head with bloody maws in its barbed arms, I expect you to make better on your promises. For shame.
Okay, this shows a little more effort. There's still some major disparities, but the figure does its best to represent what is basically an angry mucus-covered brain with dozens of clawed "energy sucking" feelers.
Stripping off the clear membrane, Ormark doesn't look much like a brain anymore, but it does have a neat octopus-spider-head feel to it.
It's too bad Ethomar isn't as rotten and grody-looking in figure form, but I appreciate a giant monster that just eats and pukes, eats and pukes, apparently through raw, red craters in its rocky hide.
Ethomar's removable skin is another that makes kind of a minimal difference, but its presence does give the craters an appearance even closer to festering sores erupting from a sickly hide.
Damn it, I wrote this one up, uploaded this article, and only realized a day later that I accidentally deleted poor Kamarzon, who's even one of the best here. Look at him. He's a fanged leech-maggot in a stately red robe. His art makes him look like a tongue monster. His powers are being slippery, irritating, and hot.
Naked Kamarzon doesn't look as much like a slug cultist anymore, which is a shame, and also reveals little spider-eyes on his head, which, oddly, I don't find quite as cool as I would if he were just eyeless, or better yet, if the big yellow spot on the stomach had been the actual eye. Seems like it's actually some sort of heat-generating nucleus.
Last of the hollow figures, and from our last planet, the desert-covered Shiwa. Gamsat is a reasonably endearing, grumpy turtle-beast with two legs and a head that can split open, but it's another one far cuter in its card art, where its face is less anthropomorphic and its body more bulbous. Plus, it's supposed to have a hose-like tentacle!
I'll show you "naked" Igarsat first, since it's his less interesting look; basically nothing but your run-of-the-mill rock man. Whatever. I guess somebody has to be the rock man.
With his sticky "bandages" on, though, Igarsat becomes a slightly cuter mummy-like virus, and apparently, those bandages can come off to "give birth to terrible clones." He still looks a lot better in the artwork; a drippier, gooier sand-mummy. A gooey rock-man sand-mummy alien virus. My that is a lot of things.
This is easily one of the cutest, and seems to have been a franchise favorite, since they also released giant figures of Satekor. Giant, squishy figures filled with guts and fake blood, like our friends the Nausea Maggots! This cuddly squid-fish also has the most delightful description I've read thus far. "If he joins his mustaches, he triples the power of ultraviolet rays trapped in his eye sockets." What? What does any of that mean!?
Satekor is even cuter with his skin pulled off. Nearly the same creature, but nubbier, more pathetic, and more grouchy looking. He seemed so happy before, but now he's a shrunken husk, and his mustaches are gone! no wonder he is sad!!
Ready for the last and very best of these clowns? At least, best of the sixteen I own? I almost couldn't tell which side was Esateryus's front; I had to look pretty hard to spot the eyes. He's one of the creepiest looking of the bunch, with a mouth and limbs that can apparently flare open into gaping "suckers" full of spores that dehydrate stuff, basically a crop-withering blight that even looks a lot like a scarecrow or a wicker doll...but that's not the best part. Remember how much of VORGONET was just the sticky stuff? This figure was the floppiest and jiggliest before I exposed the truth...
Oh my god. Look at him. Look at naked Esateryus. He's a god damned broom. He's a dried-up little stalk with a sad, angry, tiny face. I know all three yellow things are likely intended to be eyes, but I keep reading the middle one as a nose...and then we have that tiny frown under it. That's what that is, right? Not just an accidental notch in the sculpt?
That's it for the figures in my possession, but at least that's most of the series. I'm only missing the first and last of each planet, here. The first form the four main villainous leaders in the cartoon show, and the last were apparently exclusive to vehicles and playsets. I do wonder what's under the seahorse-like Keisaten's skin, but I'm otherwise happy with what I got. Overall, Virus Attack is absolutely up my alley, even if the designs err towards the "menacing is cooler" school of creature design that I usually just find unremarkable. I just wish their sticky bits were made of something more durable, and I'll probably have to find tiny little jars to keep all of these guys in. I might even have to keep their skins and organs separated, since over many years, some varieties of sticky rubber tend to secrete weird oils and even dissolve harder plastics. I've seen it. As appropriate as it would be, I paid too much money for my space viruses to digest their own bodies.
Now, if you're intrigued by the cartoon series, you can actually find every episode on youtube as of only three months ago, almost like the fates knew I would finally get to introduce you to it...but if you're on the fence about giving it a watch, I'll let you decide after watching some viruses hatch a nefarious plan:
Halloween 2014 Archive: