In the midst of a global economic recession, common sense dictates that prices should drop or at least freeze to accommodate for the reduced spending power of consumers. Unfortunately, the otaku population is not known for being too keen on the concept of common sense. After all, these are the sort of people who would be willing to spend around 5,000 yen on a two-episode DVD of Endless Eight. With this in consideration, it’s hardly surprising that figure companies are ramping up their prices after seeing their goods being gobbled eagerly regardless of price. At the forefront of this movement is Good Smile Company, who not only ramped up their prices in accordance to the trend, but has also launched an ambitious rush of new products backed with a robust promotion effort.
The Good Smile Company 1/7 Saber Lily, along with the 1/8 Black Rock Shooter are Good Smile Company’s flagships for the year 2009. Fans have been salivating over Saber ever since the unpainted prototype was revealed in Wonfes Winter 2009. When the painted prototype was revealed, anticipation was at a feverish pitch, the heat of which seemed unaffected by its hefty 9800 yen price tag or its two production delays. As the released date neared, all the spotlights were pointed on this particular figure. And naturally, after 9 months of anticipation, no amount of button mashing on Fate/Unlimited Codes Portable is going to subside my bursting excitement.
When the fated package finally arrived, I carefully opened the package as if it was some sort of ancient treasure, half-expecting something to happen. But nope, no golden rapturous light enveloped me, whisking me away to magical lands far away. No influx of sensations flooded my brain, sending my body convulsing on my carpeted floor. I finally calmed down and came to my senses: it’s just a figure. Is it a nice figure? Yes, undoubtedly. But after all that hype, it’s hard to not to be let down somewhat. Both its promotion and its price led me to expect a distinctly new standard of figure production, but that expectation was proven false. The flaws of the figure are made even more glaring due to endless number of spotlights raining down upon this figure, and as much as I would like to, I cannot join the chorus of praise for Saber Lily and must opt for a slightly milder opinion.
From a distance, Saber Lily is definitely a sight to behold. Her sculpt is absolutely phenomenal. Her dress flows in a whirlwind of movement and grace. You can almost visualize the wind flowing around her and between the fabric folds of her skirt. The armour shines in a brilliant metallic tone. Rather than cheap shiny plastic or ridiculous chrome plating, I must compliment Good Smile Company for taking the effort to achieve a convincing paint effect on her armour. With the help of her wide and dynamic pose, Saber feels considerably larger than she actually is, and when placed with your other figures and toys, chances are she will dwarf her unfortunate competitors in terms of sheer presence.
The intense gaze indicated on Saber’s face is yet another highlight of the figure, and when combined with the rest of the package, it really brings the figure to life.
The floating Avalon sheath is secured to Saber’s palm with the help of a clear prism piece that fits snugly into the back of the scabbard. An optional slot-less right hand is also included should you wish to not display the sheath. In addition, Saber comes with two swords: Caliburn, the weapon used by Saber Lily in her originating game Fate/Unlimited Codes, as well as Excalibur, the signature weapon of the regular version of Saber. The latter features a slightly larger, but simpler design than the former and is able to be fitted snugly into the Avalon Sheath.
When it comes to initial impressions, the bottom line is this: Good Smile Company’s Saber Lily will capture the eyes of the observer with absolute impunity.
When you approach Saber for a closer look as you’ll be compelled to do, you will still reach a pleasant conclusion. But it definitely will not live up to the standards already created in your imagination.
Let’s start with the good points: The shading on the detached sleeves and the outer portion of the dress (the “pedals”) is lovely. Rather than a flat white tone, Good Smile Company has added tinges of pink here and there while keeping the edges of the folds white. This achieves enhances the sense of depth in the dress, though the shading looks slightly clumsy at some parts. The paint is also rather glossy on these pedals are also rather glossy – a quality that I don’t quite particularly like, since it undermines the fabric feel of the dress.
The frills under the side guards are made of flexible rubber. While they don’t quite achieve the frill look exactly, it’s an admirable effect nonetheless.
Figure voyeurs will find the underside of Saber’s skirt to be extremely alluring. While it’s not up to me to question the practicality of fighting while wearing lace garters, I can inform you that the lace on her thighs look exquisite. The tone of saber’s skin is discernible under the flower patterns that adorn the lace stockings. The panties, on the other hand, are rather plain. I guess Good Smile company really wants to direct your attention to the less morally objectionable parts.
The other major highlight of the figure is the details on the weapons, particularly on Caliburn. The highly ornamented sword is moulded and painted so brilliantly that no amount not nit-picking is likely to find any problems with it, except for perhaps the minor mould marks that run along the hilt of the sword.
However, the rest of the figure cannot quite match up to its highlights – the quality control simply isn’t up to par. The black edges of the skirt, though they look fine from a distance, are not painted with the utmost precision, often falling short of the margins.
The black lines on the chest are also slightly botched upon close inspection. Mould marks are visible along the outer rims of the skirt and most noticeably along the sides of the detachable sleeves. I also got a pretty noticeable scratch on the back of the skirt, which is unfortunate.
Another prominent issue with Saber Lily is the shading of her hair. The back half of her hair is what you would expect – blond with shades of darker yellow mixed in. However, I can’t find any discernible shading on the front half of her hair. This is pretty shocking, as hair-shading is pretty much the standard these days, especially for figures of this price. In addition, the difference between the two halves of her hair is pretty noticeable up close under regular room lighting, which won’t afford you the shading you see see here in these photos. Like a lot of other things in this figure, the hair is a mixed bag – its sculpt is great, but at the same time the paint leaves something to be desired. These faults in Saber’s quality control are small, but they do add up.
I’ll end this section on a positive note with Saber Lily’s display base. Not only does it firmly secures Saber’s considerable weight, but it also features a very detailed portrayal of an ill-fated patch of marble flooring of the Einzbern Castle, as well as a the logo of Fate/Unlimited Codes. It’s functional and good-looking – what else can you ask for?
So, after all that negativity, do I like the 1/7 Good Smile Company Saber Lily? Certainly – I don’t think I can bear saying the contrary after nine months of waiting. When it comes to a figure like this, many things boil down to subjectivity. Sure, objectively speaking it’s an unquestionably great-looking figure despite its shortcomings, but when she is the bloody marketing flagship for Good Smile Company, you can’t help but to wonder what went wrong. Were the two delays signs of production difficulties? Was the figure rushed to avoid further delays? Did Good Smile Company bite off more than it could chew? These questions occupied my mind after the initial reception, rather than the usual satisfaction from a recent haul, and that really isn’t a good sign.
There are top-tier figure manufacturers out there like Alter and Max Factory, and then there are figure manufacturers that would like you to believe they are top-tier. Good Smile Company is definitely the latter. This is not to say they are bad – far from it. But the truth is: Good Smile Company’s success is rooted in the fat profit margins of its Nendoroid line, which is still as popular as ever despite the hefty 3500+ yen price tags. I’m guessing normal figures aren’t really Good Smile Company’s forte – that honour definitely belongs to GSC’s PV department, which has done a pretty stunning job at making everything they produce absolutely delectable.
But I digress. The bottom line is this: Saber Lily is a good figure. Its faults are well within acceptable limits. Its craftsmanship may not be quite on par with current Alter and Max Factory figures, but despite that there aren’t many other mass-produced PVC figures out there that will top this one in terms of overall presentation. As long as you don’t let the promotion and the hype pull the carpet from under your senses and keep in mind that this is not the be-all and end-all of bishoujo figures, you will find a Saber Lily to be a great addition to your collection.
Beautiful, dynamic sculpt
Brilliant details on the weapons
Convincing metallic paintjob on the armour
Uncommon sense of presence
Pretty rough around the edges for a figure of its price range