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There are times when a toy explodes into popularity by riding off the the momentum of the series from which it came from. There are other times when the toy finds success by virtue of its design and aesthetics. The subject of the review — Max Factory’s Figma Drossel — is an exemplary case of the latter.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Fireball was ever significantly popular amongst audiences. It is a 13-episode series of CGI shorts produced by Disney and Toei featuring Drossel, a sassy robotic duchess, and Ged√§chtnis, her hulking quadruped robot servant. The series is quite surreal, full of loopy dialogue chock-full of strange references and puzzling puns, while the setting is always a giant room within Drossel’s manor. I cannot speak for the Japanese anime community, but asides from the initial remarks on Drossel’s striking similarity to another certain pigtailed gynoid, Fireball received little attention in the English-speaking anime community.

Of course, with the announcement of Drossel’s Figma treatment, there was a boom of interest. Regardless of whatever reaction (or lack thereof) Fireball received, toy collectors were quickly captivated by the initial promo shots of the Drossel Figma. Not only did the character’s sleek design and striking blue eyes catch the attention of collectors, Drossel marked a rare departure from the Figma line’s often criticized tendency to release only schoolgirl variants. Thus, for the first time even strict fans of the Revoltech line of robot action figures were taking interest in Figma.

As the result, the rabid demand for this toy caused the initial release to slip through my fingers while I was still contemplating the purchase. Thankfully, indecisiveness did not afflict me a second time as I quickly secured a preorder of the initial re-release, which was also quickly gobbled up. When Drossel finally arrived at my doorstep around two weeks later, I had the pleasure of being able to discover the source of the toy’s burgeoning popularity — a pleasure I intend to share with you.

First Glance

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For a Figma, Drossel definitely possesses a presence that’s uncommon from her predecessors. For one, she feels considerably taller and bulkier than other Figmas. This is partially due to her unique proportions, which consist of very large forelegs and feet, as well as a large head. Drossel also owes her uncommon presence to the glossy paint job she received, which reproduces the clean look of CGI animation excellently. Finally, since she is a robot, Drossel does not suffer from the awkwardness of visible joints, as all the points are integrated into her design — it’s as if Drossel was meant to be a Figma.

Closer Look

The great initial impression does not falter even under close scrutiny. There are no small details to nitpick about due to the elegant nature of the design. The black lines that run across her body may have look slightly blurred here and there, but the degree of these faults are so minuscule that I cannot possibly raise a point of criticism here. The markings present on the back of her head, her pig tails, and all of her other head accessories are very crisp. In short, every detail you can possibly expect from a Figma of Drossel is not only present, but expertly executed.

Articulation

For the sake of aesthetics, some figures sacrifice articulation. Drossel does not fall under this category.

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Drossel’s limbs make good use of the tight Figma joints. Both the elbows and the knees can bend upwards to around 140 degrees. The ankles retain the same level of stability as Revoltech joints while free of the limitations of revolver joint’s imprecise clicks. Drossel’s waist consists of a single large ball joint. It is arguably the greatest thing about this particular toy. The waist design allows Drossel to bend in all directions, and this flexibility is the key in the creation of many particularly fun pose such as Drossel’s signature contrapposto pose (wow, never thought i would use that word again after high school art history). The hips limit the legs’ articulation somewhat, setting the limit at around 45% forwards and backwards. While this might ruin Drossel’s dreams of being able to squat, it really isn’t much of an obstacle to your fun for the most part.

The real problem lies in her shoulders. While they are lovely and double-jointed, they are also frighteningly stiff. My first attempt at moving them was greeted with steadfast resistance, followed by a sudden lurch towards my intended direction. I have also heard horror stories of the joint snapping completely from others. While the hot water/hair drier trick might alleviate the problem, it nevertheless is a pressing point of criticism.

Update (1/9/2010): Reader Kitsune_rei adds: “I treat the figure pretty delicately but I had the unfortunate accident of one of the ‘bunny’ ears clear nub snapping off when I was removing them. I was startled to see it had broken, it felt like I’d simply popped the joint out as normal so it broke quite easily. At least it wasn’t that hard to glue in since it was a clean break, but I’m concerned it will come apart again.”

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Once you DO get them to move, they work very well, allowing you to set the arms in virtually any position imaginable. The ability to swing the arms forward and backward is great. You won’t be able to something dramatic like crossing her arms, but Drossel’s shoulders are definitely more than you would expect for action figures in general. The rest of the joints on Drossel are also tight, but to a lesser degree.

The weakest of the bunch is the neck joint and the twin tails, which feel less secure than the rest and might possibly prove to be problematic in the future. I’m not too concerned about them, though — you can always apply nail polish to the nubs on the twin tails. As for the neck joint, I am not aware of any easy fixes. You can always replace it with a small Revoltech joint or purchase a replacement part, I suppose, but the concern is too distant to make a fuss about it right now. I’ve played around with Drossel for quite a while, and there has not been noticeable signs of deterioration.

Accessories

Unlike other Figmas, Drossel does not come with interchangeable faces for obvious reasons. What she does come with is a wealth of hands, two and a half sets of alternate head parts, the standard Figma display base, as well as a ridiculously detailed tome.

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In addition to two hands already attached onto Drossel, you will find four more pairs of chubby-looking hands included in the package. In total you will get a pair of fists, a pair of open palms, a pair of pointing hands, a pair daintier-looking open hands, and a pair of gripping hands in which you can put a thin circular shaped object into (Figma Saber’s swords fit perfectly in these, and I suspect Figma Miku’s microphone stand would as well). Each hand is articulated in the wrist with one axis of movement.

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Drossel differs from previous Figmas in its lack of nubs at the end of the hand pegs, which has been blamed for various breakage problems. The new nub-less pegs function well with no risk of arbitrarily falling off while attached to the figure. However, the same cannot be said for its relation with the hand organizer, as the hands will fall very easily from that. This would be a bigger problem if Max Factory decided to stop including those handy Ziploc bags to store your parts in. Fortunately they didn’t, so even if the hand organizer fails to do its job, Drossel’s extra wayward hands is bound to be sealed in that little plastic bag somewhere.

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In addition to the generous helping of hands, Drossel comes with some very cool head accessories. The first among these is a headgear with blue translucent ribbons looped on each side. Neatly-printed floral patterns adorn the front and the sides. To attach it, simply fit the holes found in each side of the headgear onto the black protrusions found on Drossel’s temples. It’ll take a bid of fidgeting to get the headgear in the right position since gravity tends to pull the plate downwards over Drossel’s eyes, but it is by no means a difficult feat.

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The second head accessory is Drossel’s massive “rocket buns”. Like the headgear, splendid floral patterns adorn its surface — this time on the back side of the buns.

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As you probably have suspected, these “rocket buns” contain a pair of jet engines within — a feature enabled through simple part-swapping of the side pieces. In the alternate mode, not only do the engines protrude from each side, but wings as well. There’s a lot going on in this head accessory, to say the least.

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However, as fun as Drossel’s rocket buns may be, the accessory is ultimately marred by a notable stability flaw. The buns are attached using the same two holes allocated to the “pigtails”, but no matter what I do, the pegs on the buns would not fit into these holes completely. The result is an uncomfortably loose fit with the head of the nub clinging onto the entrance of the holes. I’m not sure whether this is the result of faulty engineering or a production error, but it is rather regrettable. While the buns stay on Drossel’s head easily enough, I can’t shake the feeling that this is now how it’s meant to fit.

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Lastly, Drossel comes with an open book, the subject of which appears to be anthropology. Like the rest of the figure, it is very well-produced even down to the printing of the contents of its pages, which are almost clear enough to read. However, there are no pegs and holes placed at the back of the tome, nor are there hands specifically made to hold onto the book. As a result, it’s quite tricky to actually get Drossel to hold onto the book. With patience, the feat can be accomplished, but I can’t help but to wonder whether it could have been made easier.

Final Say

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Despite a couple of faults, Figma Drossel is an absolutely phenomenal toy. It is a effortless fusion of aesthetics and posability. What she lacks in facial expression, Drossel makes up in pure fun factor. With her impressive level of articulation, one can easily lose a couple of hours in one sitting by putting her through an endless variety of expressive poses. If you loved Drossel in Fireball, get this toy. If you like the Figma line, get this toy. If you enjoy toys to any degree at all, GET THIS TOY.

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Pros

  • Joints are blended seamlessly into the figure
  • Glossy paint job looks spectacular
  • Clean execution of intricate markings
  • Superb stability and articulation

Cons

  • Extremely stiff shoulder joints
  • Rocket-bun accessory does not fit into the head well
  • The book accessory is difficult to hold
  • The hand-organizer doesn’t exactly do its job