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Ninja Grade Cortex Kit assembly and thoughts

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baldylox

Recently I was able to get my hands on a Beta version of the Ninja Grade Cortex kit.  This kit contains the body ONLY and must be put together by the customer.  Here is how it looked when it arrived:

 

48221066972_e8d06dfdbe_z.jpgDSC_0155 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

The head in back did not come with the kit, I had that from one of his huge vinyl cast off parts sales he had a while back.  All the tools are mine as well except for the small bag with a bit of sandpaper in it along with some spacers for the neck.  The sandpaper was for sanding down any raised edges on the plastic and to help close seams up more.  The small rubber rings go around the neck peg because if you are using a Cortex head, there isn't enough friction between the parts to hold the head on properly.  The rubber rings give you that friction needed.

 

48221024932_8b49565a40_z.jpgDSC_0184 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

So here is everything that came in the bag all laid out.  Notice that the skeleton is already made for you, all you have to do is put it together when assembling the body shell.  Please notice my phone in the back with the "How To" video on building Cortex from Danny.

 

48221017166_0ef726f02e_z.jpgDSC_0156 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

The frame is exactly the same as a regular Smartdoll.  Here's a shot of the thighs being put together.

 

48221016156_a153516480_z.jpgDSC_0157 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

This was a bit odd but it made sense after I did it.  The main body needs to be put together using these two zip ties that are included with the kit.  At first I had no clue why this was needed but as I put them in and closed up the shell, it made more sense.  You'd have to have 3 or 4 hands in order to close up the body and hold it while letting glue set without these ties.  Once the torso is together you just use some snips to cut off the long pieces of zip tie sticking out.

 

48221083926_cd94405d2a_z.jpg2019-07-07_09-10-22 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

After that was done you just add the upper frame bit and it's looking more like a regular SmD.

 

48221063597_1ce20f9016_z.jpgDSC_0159 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Here's a shot of the bust outer shells.

 

48221085486_651efc5d0f_z.jpg2019-07-07_09-10-39 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

And the insides of them.  You can see where the frame goes in.  Oddly enough, the frame does NOT attach to this part permanently, it will actually slide on and off with some wiggling.  I'm guessing this is so you can add a vinyl bust to it in the future if you want different sizes or the soft style bust look and feel.

 

48221137402_296f475687_z.jpg2019-07-07_09-10-54 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Oh, the parts just above the bust are for the shin and feet.  😄  Yes, you have to put the feet together.  More details in a bit.

While building the arms, I found two different sizes of the hand bits where the hands go onto the frame.  I was kind of lost on this at first because the video doesn't say which ones to use.  But after fiddling with it a bit, I found out what these are.  The smaller ones are for the hard Cortex hands and the larger ones are for regular SmD vinyl hands.  Since the Cortex material doesn't flex, they go on the smaller ones tightly.  But if you want to use different hands for poses or whatever, then you need to use the larger parts for those.  Otherwise they will slip off the ones made for Cortex hands.

 

48221013896_a7480ce8a3_z.jpgDSC_0160 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

I was building this body at a doll meet so I got distracted quite a bit.  😉  I forgot to take any more pics of the progress until I was already finished with the body.  And not having good lighting made me wait until later to take good photos at home with better lighting.  So here are some shots of the completed body with a vinyl head on it.  I'll show details of the seams, some parts breakdowns and a few other things.

 

So here is the completed body!

 

48148201821_9c2179f3bd_z.jpgDSC_0221 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

It's very sturdy and stands on its own nicely, no balance issues.

 

Now before we go ANY further, I want everyone to know that I am in NO WAY a good modeler.  LOL  I've built some Gundam kits in the past as well as some really old car and plane models as a kid.  You don't really need those skills to build Cortex but it will help for sure if you know how to do it.

Danny says that it takes about an hour to build one of these properly.  As I stated before, I was at a meet and distracted so this took me close to two hours to complete.  Had I not been distracted then yes, an hour seems very feasible.

Anyways, from here out you WILL see lots of seam lines.  I tried my best to get them as closed up as possible but I don't have the skills to make them all perfect.  Sure, some of them look really clean and nice.  Others are a bit gapped and the glue had dried before I could adjust them anymore.  I'm fine with how it turned out but if you don't want seamlines on your girls then Cortex is probably not going to be what you want.  That is, unless you are a pro modeler and know how to sand down the seams to make them not be seen.  If you can do that then by all means go for it.  I'm not that talented.  XD

 

So here are some close up shots of the body.  Remember, this head was NOT included in this kit, I already had that.

 

48148201141_70c1b2d463_z.jpgDSC_0222 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

48148200246_d6a7b3dd70_z.jpgDSC_0223 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

In this pic you can see one of two screws visible on the entire body.  These are on the inside of each foot and hold the feet together along with the outer shell.

 

48148199441_3ce89f1770_z.jpgDSC_0224 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Here's the Smartplug on the back, same as a regular SmD since the frame is identical.

 

48148198716_d830141fa5_z.jpgDSC_0225 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

48148198046_2e69fd6b19_z.jpgDSC_0226 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Now on mine, I didn't glue the lower legs together.  The rear covers for the shins seen here snap together quite nicely so I didn't glue them in place.  I wanted to be able to show off the inner frame and how the body goes around it to people.  This is how it looks all closed up:

 

48148286377_ab2893e6ff_z.jpgDSC_0227 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Just use a fingernail to pop open the top near the knee and BANG!

 

48148196601_c5d0ffbf22_z.jpgDSC_0228 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Here you can see the four pegs that snap together around the frame part.

 

48148285047_253eac395a_z.jpgDSC_0229 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

And the holes they go into.

 

48148195261_3b386ede8e_z.jpgDSC_0230 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

There's a little lip at the very bottom that slides in first to line things up.  Then you just press the cover on from bottom to top, very easy.

 

48148194471_23083dc440_z.jpgDSC_0231 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

These two pegs fit right into the notches on the frame piece.  Once lined up they slide right in.

 

48148193721_db1c422340_z.jpgDSC_0232 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

And here's a closeup of the pegs lower down.

 

48148282232_dcda406686_z.jpgDSC_0233 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

There's that lip I talked about earlier, down at the bottom of the cover piece.

 

48148281322_38a4df8a6b_z.jpgDSC_0234 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Here's the feet.  I'm not sure why they are made like this but the screws on the side don't bug me.  The feet pull in and out just like normal SmD feet do, as shown here.

 

48148191386_672ed7ece1_z.jpgDSC_0235 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

You can see the small cover that goes over the bottom of the foot here.  Inside there's a piece of frame that goes into the foot peg that slides into the shin frame.  In order for that piece to hold on the outer foot shell, the screw has to be put thru both pieces.  Danny said this may change in the future if an easier and cleaner way is found.

 

48148279622_6e4ff4b94b_z.jpgDSC_0236 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Back up top we have the bust piece.  I know a lot of people have been wondering about how well this fits since a few people have shown videos of this popping apart while trying to pose the doll.

 

48148189851_355a27c872_z.jpgDSC_0237 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

All you have to do to get the bust off is wiggle it around a bit and it slides off, leaving the frame.

 

48148189111_2c3dd58338_z.jpgDSC_0238 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

This is the inside of the bust.  The frame goes up inside that center piece.

 

48148277632_c13dd8f5a8_z.jpgDSC_0239 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Like this:

 

48148187621_6350473321_z.jpgDSC_0240 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

If you do not glue the bust parts together then I can see how it could pop apart because the tolerances aren't super tight on this piece.  But I think that is due to how its designed to be taken off and swapped with vinyl busts.  I have no idea if there will be larger sizes of the Cortex bust in the future or not, nothing was mentioned of it to me.

 

48148275972_af55f02f48_z.jpgDSC_0241 by Billy  Bennett, on Flickr

 

Another shot of the Cortex without a stand, showing that is still has good balance and looks nice.

 

So in conclusion I have to say there are some points to be made:  

 

 

It is very lightweight.

It poses and holds those poses nicely.

The price *should* be quite a bit cheaper than a vinyl body. ( Still no idea on pricing, sorry )

For people who like a DIY project, it was fun to build!

Customizing should be a breeze since these parts can be painted and sanded easily.

Works with all SmD clothing and heads.  ( Other versions of Cortex kits WILL include a head )

The Cortex material feels similar to the vinyl, it's not slick or shiny.

 

BUT…...

 

If you don't like seeing seamlines then you're not going to like it.

It's light so *some* people will say it feels "cheap".

If not glued together, it *can* come apart.

More prone to breaking if dropped since the plastic is hard.

If you aren't good at building or making things with your hands then get a Cortex that is already built. :)

 

 

That's about all I can think of.  Overall I like it but it is no way a substitute or replacement for vinyl dolls in my opinion.  I understand where Danny wants to go with this style doll and it makes sense in some ways.  I just hope he doesn't stop doing vinyls as well.

 

Feel free to ask questions here if I didn't explain something more in depth!  Thanks for looking!

 

 

Billy

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I gave up counting the girls I own, they keep multiplying and won't stop.

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baldylox
3 hours ago, Jezrah said:

So for stability it's best to glue the parts together.  Do you think this may lead to challenges in the future since you can no longer access most of the internal frame?

Yes, for the most stability gluing the parts would be best.  You might be able to use a type of glue or silicone sealant that stays pliable over time if you want access to the internals later tho.  But that's if you plan to use the doll for lots of photos and posing.  If it will just stay on the shelf most of the time then gluing isn't needed in my opinion.  Those lower leg panels I left unglued haven't had the slightest want to pop out or come loose even when I move her around or pose the legs.  So it might be one of those things where you try it unglued first and go from there.  But if you only use small amounts of super glue in certain areas, there's a good chance you could pop off panels using an Xacto knife and some super glue cleaner/diffuser.

 

15 minutes ago, Eiko82 said:

Thanks for the great review!

Thank you!

 

 

Billy


I gave up counting the girls I own, they keep multiplying and won't stop.

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Heshiko

Thanks for the detailed photos, this is really interesting to see.

I'm curious about what kind of plastic is used... Coming from the PVC figure world and the constant fear of "lean," I can't help but worry about these locking components warping over time, or even the overall structure if you leave her standing. It will be interesting to see how well they hold up over time, although vinyl has its own weaknesses on that front.

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Pihlajakoto

I don't mind the seams, but I do hope they'd invent a way to but the feet together without the screws showing 😕 I'm not fan of SmD feet desing and screws make it even worse.

Building Cortex sounds fun 😁 Though after building couple of Ikea furnitures I'd rather get instructions on paper than video online....


My blog Pihlajakoto

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Zaliayn

Thank you for this @baldylox! I enjoyed reading it, and it was very interesting to hear your thoughts on building the Cortex and how it handles. I have to say I think it would be a lot of fun putting one together for myself 😄 

Seam-wise I'm not over concerned, as I'm used to seeing resin ball-jointed dolls with visible seamlines. I would probably glue most of the parts together for stability (maybe not the bust and torso parts) and then shave the seams a bit just to minimize them. I will admit that the screws in the feet are a tiny bit of a disappointment, but again I can overlook those as my dolls are usually wearing shoes and/or socks; although since the frames are the same, I wonder if it is possible to switch the Cortex feet+frame with the standard vinyl feet+frame, for times when bare feet are necessary?

Overall I reckon I would like a Cortex doll, both to have the experience of building one and to use as an alternate body for when I want my girl to wear a lot of potentially staining clothes, but it probably wouldn't replace the vinyl doll line completely for me - although until I handle a Cortex in person I can't be 100% certain, so I'll reserve final judgement until I do. Still quite excited for the official release, whenever that may actually be! :)

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baldylox
On 7/8/2019 at 12:26 AM, Heshiko said:

Thanks for the detailed photos, this is really interesting to see.

I'm curious about what kind of plastic is used... Coming from the PVC figure world and the constant fear of "lean," I can't help but worry about these locking components warping over time, or even the overall structure if you leave her standing. It will be interesting to see how well they hold up over time, although vinyl has its own weaknesses on that front.

You're welcome!  The plastic for the outer body pieces is the same as the inner frame so they are quite rigid.  I seriously doubt they would ever warp or lean as you describe.  I have lots of anime figures that do the same thing but they are not made anything like the Cortex and feel completely different too.  So I wouldn't worry about that issue happening at all.

 

On 7/8/2019 at 10:42 AM, Pihlajakoto said:

I don't mind the seams, but I do hope they'd invent a way to but the feet together without the screws showing 😕 I'm not fan of SmD feet desing and screws make it even worse.

Building Cortex sounds fun 😁 Though after building couple of Ikea furnitures I'd rather get instructions on paper than video online....

Yeah I wasn't expecting the screws either but since my guys and girls rarely go barefoot, I never see them anyway so it doesn't bother me.  I'm sure something will get figured out on it in the future tho as he mentioned it explicitly.  Cortex was lots of fun to build!  I'd like to do another more complex version tho because I think it would be even more fun.  And I have built Ikea stuff before..... Cortex was WAY easier and WAY more fun.  LOL

 

On 7/11/2019 at 6:39 PM, Zaliayn said:

Thank you for this @baldylox! I enjoyed reading it, and it was very interesting to hear your thoughts on building the Cortex and how it handles. I have to say I think it would be a lot of fun putting one together for myself 😄 

Seam-wise I'm not over concerned, as I'm used to seeing resin ball-jointed dolls with visible seamlines. I would probably glue most of the parts together for stability (maybe not the bust and torso parts) and then shave the seams a bit just to minimize them. I will admit that the screws in the feet are a tiny bit of a disappointment, but again I can overlook those as my dolls are usually wearing shoes and/or socks; although since the frames are the same, I wonder if it is possible to switch the Cortex feet+frame with the standard vinyl feet+frame, for times when bare feet are necessary?

Overall I reckon I would like a Cortex doll, both to have the experience of building one and to use as an alternate body for when I want my girl to wear a lot of potentially staining clothes, but it probably wouldn't replace the vinyl doll line completely for me - although until I handle a Cortex in person I can't be 100% certain, so I'll reserve final judgement until I do. Still quite excited for the official release, whenever that may actually be! :)

You're welcome!  I'm glad you enjoyed it.  :)  

As for swapping out the feet, you definitely can do that!  I tried it and there were no fitment issues at all.  

Danny just listed Gaia as being available soon and pricing is up on his site under the "Coming Soon" section.  There are 3 versions available but it's not clear on what some of the differences are yet.

 

 

Billy

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I gave up counting the girls I own, they keep multiplying and won't stop.

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Testament

I can totally see a cyborg doll out of it, or a full clothed one.

I like vast portion of skin uncovered, so the seam lines are a total turn off... aside for the cyborg stuff XD.

 

But for what I see, comparing to perfect grade gundam more and more and more complex and detailed model kit out there, the price MUST be ridicously lower than a regular doll. Or half of it.


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ShinobisDestiny

I was thinking of buying a Cortex doll someday to make her into Kasumi from Dead or Alive. Is the plastic very fragile? The only hard plastic dolls I know is Barbie so is it comparable to Barbies?

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