Chag: Since I am drawing a complete blank for a proper intro to this week’s rant, I’m going to go completely off-topic and talk  about something else: out of the sixty-odd subscribers to Hobby Hovel, are there any PS3 players who are looking forward to Call of Duty: Black Ops? Though I haven’t been playing the PS3 at all recently, I’m getting really excited about this game, so much so that I’ve been considering shelling out some money for a decent headset. The problem? I don’t have any real-life friends to play multiplayer with.

So, is anyone up for some Black Ops when November swings around? Maybe get to know this fabulous and handsome plamo/figure blogger? 😉 I know I’m looking forward to being carried credit to team, be it competitive multiplayer or zombie mode. I was a pretty average player (around a 1.5 K/D, I think?) back when I played to fourth prestige in Modern Warfare 2, but I’ve been watching a lot of gameplay videos recently, so perhaps my game has been improved somewhat since then. My PSN ID is Chag89, and I hope to see you online! =)

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1/7 Saber Alter ~Iron Hammer of the Terrible King Vortigern~

Scale: 1/7 Origin: Fate/Stay Night
Maker: Good Smile Company Sculptor: Hiroshi (Sakurazensen)
Retail Price: ¥9,800 Release: April 2011

Chag: Oh Saber, how much will you take from me before you are satisfied? Despite having a self-enforced rule of “one figure per character”, I already have no less than four figures that bear your name. Yet in spite of that, why do I still feel the pangs of temptation when I see your newest incarnation?

…Well, that’s a pretty easy question to answer – she looks bloody badass, duh. I love the way her folds of her dress effortlessly conveys forcefulness of her movement as she steps in to beat you silly with her mean-looking sword. I was pretty surprised when I saw the dark Excalibur effect part. While it looks more like a crystal palm leaf rather than waves of energy, the folks at GSC definitely produced a worthy effort, and its sheer size makes it look intimidating in its own right.

…Ugh, the more I talk about it, the weaker my resolve against splurging on a fifth Saber figure becomes. Gimme a hand here, Ash!

Ashlotte: “Hey guys, the new UBW Movie is out! Let’s take this opportunity to…”

A. Finally Announce the Rin figure we’ve been dicking around with forever!
B. Grow a brain and decide to make a matching Archer Figure!
C. Announce yet another Saber figure…

*facepalm*

As for dissuading you Chags, I have no idea. On a technical level she is gorgeous and oozes all sorts of dark charm, but seriously do you really need another Saber? I mean even me with my unhealthy Nanoha and Miku love only own 1 or 2 of each character. In the case of Miku, the two figures I have of her are substantially different, whereas this is more of a recolor when you get down to the brass tacks.

The sad thing is that I really do kind of like Saber, but the sheer amount of figures released of her just drives me to hate her out of spite. I think the hate is amplified because it makes it feel like every time they make another Saber figure, that’s one less figure they will ever be make of the other characters in the game.

If GSC ever manned up and did a full line of figures like what Alter did for Strikers, that’d be the greatest thing ever, but as it stands right now, they’re just continuously dumping Sabers on us. However, if they actually do decide make a figure of Saber Extra I just might order it because that design is all sorts of sexy awesome.

Chag: To be honest, I really can’t blame GSC for focusing on Saber. Between her distinctive outfits and her status as the franchise poster girl, it’s only natural for GSC to stick with their MVP. Fate/Stay Night is an old franchise at this point, and by this point I think it no longer makes sense to dredge up the supporting characters. I agree that Rin needs to be officially announced before the excitement over the BD/DVD release of the Unlimited Blade Works movie dies down, but other than that, there really aren’t all that many choices. Sakura has proven to be unpopular in the past, and I doubt time would change that, and as much as I love Ilya and Fuji-nee, an announcement of scaled figures of those two would be nothing short of absurd at this point (Although figmas of that pair in their Tiger Dojo outfits would be divine, albeit unlikely).

The only one I see who still has a shot is Rider, who’s yet to receive a definitive figure treatment. If GSC can pull off her chains with reasonable durability, then sky’s the limit when it comes to pose possibilities – the original CG in the game wouldn’t be a bad place to begin with.

Ashlotte: Pfft, as old as it may be, F/SN still stands as one of the (if not the) greatest visual novel ever made, so I’d say there’s always going to be a market for figures from the series, especially for the characters that have so far been snubbed by most makers. It’s just such a crying shame that F/SN came out when it did, because the bishoujo figure industry not quite at its evolved state at the time. I can only imagine what beauties would be crafted from such a rich source if the game was released today.

Chag: Oh well, let’s hope a Heaven’s Feel movie or OVA will be announced somewhere down the road. Maybe the stuff you’ve been pining for will pop up in the merch boom that accompanies the anime.

1/8 Kousaka Kirino

Scale: 1/8 Origin: Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii ga Nai
Maker: Kotobukiya Sculptor: Takaku & Takeshi
Retail Price: ¥6,090 Release: February 2011

Chag: You know what? Disregard that whole think I raised up a couple of weeks ago on Oreimo – who cares what the show is about when the figure is this cute?

As I have suggested back in my GSC Kagamine Rin review, I like energetic figures, and Kirino here has energy by the truckloads. There is a palpable sense of motion in the sculpt, be it the pose of the character or the sculpt of the clothing. To top of it, Kirino’s estatic expression hits me with a force of a sledgehammer to the face – there’s no way I could remain on my feet after that.

But the thing that gets me the most is the fact that you can see her undergarments underneath, and I don’t mean her panties. Her sailor top is swept up so far that you can actually see a bit of her bra, and this to me is a really, really cool bit of detail. It’s kind of like the complex inner frame of MG gundam kits – you’ll never see under normal circumstances, yet the knowledge of their existence makes the model more enjoyable as a whole.

The only thing that’s keeping me from pre-ordering Kirino is my fear of the glossy finish. So Ash, since you’re the resident figure expert around here, tell me: do most Kotobukiya figures suffer from that finish?

Ashlotte: Glossy finish? You mean skin tone wise? I guess you’re referring to Hitagi when you say that. I half a dozen Kotobukiya figures or so, and only one of them has what I’d call glossy-ness to her, but she was also made several years ago when figure making wasn’t quite as refined as it is now. So yeah, I wouldn’t say it is a common problem with their figures.

Mmm as for this figure, I suppose it’s nice in that genki girl kind of way. But I’m not really a fan of seifuku in general, and honestly even though this Kotobukiya version has vastly superior coloring/sculpt, I still kind of prefer the Toy Works version for its subtle pose.

Chag: Hmmm, sounds good. With a February release date, Kirino would make a fine birthday present for myself – chances are I am going to need a bundle of sunshine in the midst of a Canadian winter.

1/8 Lily

Scale: 1/8 Origin: Vocaloid
Maker: Phat Company Sculptor: YOSHI
Retail Price: ¥7,800 Release: January 2011

Ashlotte: To just put my bias in context I’m going to start by telling you I don’t like Lily much at all as a Vocaloid. The whole giant media push behind her has left a bad taste in my mouth. I mean just look at her promo video – it just smacks of corporate garbage going “OH LOOK HOW COOL SHE IS!!!”. Reminds me of some of the misguided “Totally Rad!!!” promotions in the 80’s and 90’s. Plus I’m just not a fan of her voice.

Now that that’s out of the way, believe it or not I actually quite like this figure, though I wish they hadn’t stopped halfway. She has this rather outrageous character design and sports the microphone stand as if trying to look like a real rocker, but if that’s what sculptor YOSHI was going for, then why he give her this placid boring face?

I can’t imagine the reason against going the full measure and making Lily actually look like she’s singing instead of just sticking a mic in her hand as an afterthought. How great would she look if she’s standing on that amp and leaning into the mic looking like she’s really singing her heart out?

Chag: Good God, that Lily promo video is the corniest thing I’ve ever seen. I know they’re aiming to sell the software to overgrown man-children, but this is just overboard. Ughhhh.

I’m completely with you on her face, dude. I mean, for fuck’s sake — she’s got a tramp stamp over her backside, surely Yoshi could manage a face that’s more fitting of her bad girl image, right?

On a side note, ever since I heard Aka call Lily’s boots “pirate boots”, I haven’t been able to shake the association. Replace the amp with a treasure chest, add an eyepatch on her face, throw a hat on her head and give her a cutlass to hold, and BAM, suddenly she becomes the finest lass to sail the seven seas.

Ashlotte: That… actually would have been slightly amusing. Instead of yet another standard pop-idol character – PIRATE VOCALOID!!! That would certainly have more impact.

Oh well, I’ll just file her under Miki as completely forgettable voice-wise. For now time for me to go pray for an Iroha figure…

1/12 Takamachi Nanoha

Scale: 1/12 Origin: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 1st
Maker: FREEing Sculptor: ??
Retail Price: ¥7,800 Release: January 2011

Ashlotte: Yes, yes, I know it’s overpriced. Trust me when I say that no one was more disappointed than me when I saw the first official shots. She’s under-detailed, to put it mildly, and she’s hardly what I’d call impressive compared to some of the superb renditions of Nanoha out there even when you include all the pink magic effect parts.

So why order her? Because as lackluster as she may be solo, she becomes quite magnificent when paired with the upcoming fate. To me the core of the Nanoha series has and will always be the relationship between Nanoha and Fate, and this pair of figures shows the combative nature of that relationship’s beginning perfectly in a way no other current or upcoming figures has.

In the same way that my favorite pieces of fanart are ones with the characters interacting with one another, figures like this have always caught my eye the most. Hopefully we’ll see more figures like this pair that actually feels like a pair. So even if she is overpriced, I’m still more than willing to support the concept behind her in hope that more figures will be made in this style (although preferably with more detailed and in a larger scale).

Chag: Figma-level details on a figma-sized figure — I can’t say I’m all that surprised, to be honest. I am surprised about the price, and while there is llittle sense in harping about it, you can’t really talk about the figure without bringing it up. I applaud FREEing for doing something different to set itself apart from the recent crush of Nanoha figures, but when the figures are smaller the the beach queens yet costs almost twice as much, it undermines its greatest appeal, which is the set value of both figures.

As a casual collector of figures, figure sets make me nervous because of they entail a costly commitment. Figure makers seem to be aware of this, as most “set” figures usually look complete on their own (the GSC Canaan and White Album sets, for example). Yet by taking the safer route, figure makers limit the level of synergy between the figures of the set. Rarely do figure makers run the whole nine yards and produce a full-out diorama like FREEing’s Nanoha Fate set. Sure, the FREEing Nanoha comes with optional parts that’s supposed to give it an independent appearance, but they’re not fooling anyone.

Although FREEing took the risky route of a full-blown set, it has its own saving grace — the size of the figures. Surely a couple of figma-sized static figures with some clear plastic effect parts would be cheap enough to avoid an intimidating price, right? I mean, isn’t that the whole point of making them so small, right?!

To me, this Nanoha set by FREEing represents a severe case of missed opportunities. I didn’t mind its lack of detail and small size — its unique presentation was enough to make me jump when I first saw the prototypes back at WonFes. Of course, these are only the thoughts of a casual collector towards figure sets. What do you guys think about this FREEing set and other figure sets in general?