Chag: Welcome to the first article of Hobby Hovel’s second year! Since we are turning over a new page with this occasion, what better time to introduce the new name of this once-weekly segment? I present you: figure highlights.

…Okay, I get zero points for creativity, but at least it’s functionally sound as a title! What do you think, Ash?

Ashlotte: Meh at least it’s better than the last one… You never did explain to me just what the hell it meant.

Chag: You know, mold mark, like injection marks and those annoying lines you find running down the places where the two halves of the mold is divided.

Ashlotte: Oh good lord is that what it was? What a terrible name! You might as well call it “Terrible Paintjob” or something. No, we’ll stick with “Figure Highlights”.

Chag: Hi-Hidoi ;__;

Source of header images: 1, 2, 3, 4

figma Black ★ Gold Saw

Scale: n/a Origin: Black ★ Rock Shooter
Maker: Max Factory Sculptor: ?
Retail Price: ¥2,800 Release: February 2011

Chag: Earlier this year before the details on Black Rock Shooter OVA were released, Aka and I hypothesized about the premise of the story over Twitter. We came up with something like this:

Black Rock Shooter is a working girl of the red light district who wakes up one morning after work to find one of her kidneys missing. Infuriated, BRS embarks on an adventure to reclaim her lost organs, now being housed by Dead Master — a rich girl who recently received a kidney transplant supplied by her organ-snatching father. What ensues is a story of class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeois.

Now that we are introduced to Black Gold Saw, I am almost amazed at how well she would fit into that premise — why, she would be the sketchy back-alley surgeon who doped up BRS and extracted her kidney in the first place!

illy stories aside, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s getting a little tired of the BRS franchise. For a series of character with no real story behind them, I can only invest so much before feeling ridiculous. Yet if I were to get a BRS figma, I’d definitely pick BGS. While she shares a number of similarities to BRS, her exaggerated hands and feet give her a substantially different feel. With her menacing expressions, sharp fingertips and that mean-looking sword of hers, BGS looks absolutely feral, especially in shots like this. I hope her arms and wrists are strong enough to handle that sword, because she looks a lot of fun to play around with.

Ashlotte: Riiight…and here I thought I was the one with the overactive imagination! >_<
I think it’s fairly well-documented that I’m about as tired of the BRS blitz as Chags is – or rather that I never even got into it in the first place. That said, Huke’s character designs are nonetheless very entrancing – as evidenced by BGS here – to the point that I’d probably find them much more charming if they weren’t shoehorned into some half-assed cliché story. I think the BRS line of figures would’ve been better off without the OVA project, but then again, Yamato and Native seems to be the only companies interested in making figures based on art with little to no extraneous material to go along with them.
But I digress as usual…like you said, she has a great menacing and almost bestial vibe to her that Max captured well here with less of the stereotypical “villain” trappings that DM carries…In that regard I’d say she makes a great antagonist and rival for BRS in ways that DM’s chessmaster-like proclivities don’t.

Chag: Yeah, as morbidly obese as the BRS cash cow may have grown, I doubt I can ever grow to hate it. If the concept of pretty girls dressed in black leather does not make you smile whatsoever, I think that may be a sign to reconsider this hobby. =P

Speaking of the different flavours of villainy, I also like the variety they’ve adopted in terms of expression. While BGS looks like the type that will would send you into a world of pain, Dead Master looks like the type that would have a little fun with you first while those eerie floating skulls watch on…. Awwww yeah. Oops, there goes my overactive imagination again. Moving on~

1/8 Hong Meiling & Kazami Yuka

Scale: 1/8 Origin: Touhou Project
Maker: Griffon Enterprises Sculptor: Akiyama Akio (Meiling), Kouta(Yuka)
Retail Price: ¥6,800(Meiling), ¥7,600(Yuka) Release: January 2011

Ashlotte: Ah, Griffon Touhou figures…such a complex feeling they invoke in me (And I’m sure many a Touhou fan in general).

On the one hand you have to admire the dedication and speed they’ve put into this line as they work their way through the full massive cast of characters while their competition are dragging their feet, yet on the flipside of that you get some very, very generic looking figures in the rapidly growing Griffon catalogue. I’ll set aside the issue of pose since that’d take forever, so let’s go with something more basic, namely the face. These two figures illustrate two categories of this line: you either have passable (Yuka) or flat-out horrid (Meiling).

The bizarre thing about it is that even with 4 different sculptors working on these Touhou figures, all of the figures seem to fall under one of these two categories at seemingly random intervals. I’d really pay to be a fly on the wall in that studio to figure out how they managed that feat…

*sigh* Anyway, as for the figures at hand, I quite like Yuka. Her clothes look nice and the paint looks decent, especially with the sunflower complimenting it. The face is perhaps a little on the young side, but it’s not too distracting. Meiling on the other hand..argh. Like I said she falls under the horrid face category with that terrible shape. Even worse is her hair, which looks about as bad as Claudette‘s does – just an ugly lump of red slapped on her head with minimal detailing and no shading. It’s like playing the lottery with these figures, as you can only hope and pray that your particular favorite character doesn’t get beat by the ugly stick…Rather miserable feeling if there ever was one.

As much as I like seeing Touhou get some figure love ones like Meiling make me feel like Zun’s old stance of absolutely no official Touhou Merchandise was completely right…At the very least I wish he had made a contract with Max (Although they’d probably made them exclusive like the figmas and Nendos…bastards) or Alter. They may have made them slow as hell, but they would of at least made them consistent…

Chag: I wonder why Griffon was chosen to be virtually the sole bearer of the torch when it comes to fixed-pose Touhou figures. Did they outbid the towering competition, or did ZUN have a soft spot for a smaller company such as Griffon? A lot of their Touhou figures look decent, yet there’s always a want to personality in their figures. I know next to squat about these characters, but couldn’t they have put Meiling in a more exciting pose? She’s a Chinese martial artist for crying out loud — surely one can do better than this?

Furthermore, as awesome as ZUN is, he’s not exactly a talented artist. Even though his character designs have been polished considerably by the fan community, key identifying elements such as colours are beyond the power of revisionism. Green and red is a terrible colour combination, and the only time those two colours should come together is on a Christmas ornament, yet both Meiling and Yuka seem to be stuck permanently in the festive season. Personally, I think Touhou character designs have a hard time winning the attention of non-fans (though there are exceptions), and when combined with the unambitious tendencies of Griffon’s sculptors, it’s no wonder why Touhou haven’t exploded in the figure scene like Vocaloid.

Ashlotte: Haha, well, you can make those colors work for you to create a badass Meiling, but then that would take skills that Griffon sculptors seem to lack, though in all honesty very few sculptors in the entire figure/GK scene have done Touhou characters sufficient justice, bizarrely enough.

Ques Q got my hopes up with their spot-on Patchy and Sanae, but then promptly unleashed the thoroughly silly Meiling. Kotobukiya is more competent than Griffon as well, but like ques Q, after their excellent Marisa they seem to have fallen into mediocrity. It’s probably hard for sculptors to tackle Touhou characters as there is no definitive image of these characters, so I guess they try to stick to the middle of the road and not piss anybody off. Sadly, this safe middleman approach comes at the cost of personality in the figures.

What I wouldn’t give for a full Scarlet Devil Mansion crew set looking awesome…Meiling crouching in a fighting pose upfront with a glaring Sakuya, knives drawn…Patchy hovering with book in hand and Koa looking on worriedly from her side, and finally, a slightly bemused Remilia seated in the middle legs crossed with wine glass in hand, while Flandre is hidden in the dim background, save for the glimmering jewels on her wings and that faint slasher smile…

Basically this just with different posing and Koa!

Chag: Don’t worry – it’s only a matter of time before ZUN whores out his brainchild completely, and hopefully Alter will swoop in with those Touhou figures you’ve been pining for. By the way, you really ought to considering picking up drawing or sculpting as a hobby – it seems you always have a very particular imagine in mind, right down to the last detail. I often find myself a little overwhelmed by your enthusiastic vision ^^;

Ashlotte: Oh, I can give more details than that if you want to, but then I’d be hijacking these articles every time and making em into terribly boring essays. Anyway, as it stands I have no artistic skill whatsoever, so that’s doubtful I’ll ever have much use for such a worthless “skill”…Comes in handy for photography though!

1/7 Dark Magician Girl

Scale: 1/7 Origin: Yu-Gi-Oh!
Maker: Kotobukiya Sculptor: Shirahige Tsukuru
Retail Price: ¥7,140 Release: March 2011

Chag: If Pokémon is to be considered as the master of the hearts of kids in the 90s, then Yu-gi-Oh would be its right hand man. I know I certainly tuned in every Saturdaymorning to watch the latest entrepreneur exploits of the Kaiba brothers, the latest victim to be mind-crushed by Yugi, Joey’s ridiculous Brooklyn accent, and of course, hardcore hologram monster battles. Even though I only dabbled lightly with the card game before switching to Magic:the Gathering, I would be a big dirty liar if I didn’t fall head-over-heels into Yu-Gi-Oh craze like every other middle-schooler around.

Now that I’m old enough to spend money frivolously, Kotobukiya socks me in the back of head with this monster of a nostalgia bomb. Oh Dark Magician Girl, the subject of quite a few of my questionable Google searches back in the day… how hard it is for me to say no to those bare shoulders, those smooth legs, and that ditzy blond head! The imagination of the horny teenager of yesterday pales in comparison to the infernal thoughts of a mind long-corrupted by the internet. I thought I was done with Yu-Gi-Oh back when I sold all my cards for neopoints, but like my cancerous relationship to Neopets, it never truly went away.

What kills me about this figure are the exchangeable faces. We talked a while back about the advantages of this feature over other accessory features such as cast-off, and Dark Magician Girl makes for an amazing example of this. With a simple change of face, the feel of the character changes completely from coy to playful, and both of them suit the figure perfectly! It’s amazing how much a small gimmick like this adds to the enjoyment of the figure.

Ashlotte: Sadly I don’t have the nostalgia factor going for me with Yu-Gi-Oh (wrong generation), but I do remember catching a few of the episodes in the past and playing the PC versions of the game extensively… Actually, I still do from time to time as it’s a fairly well thought-out bit of strategy gaming you can just pick up for a quick fun match then walk away (with none of the expensive card collecting of the real life version!).

In any case, this is quite the unique-looking figure. The bright color palette lacking in shading paired with the dress design has a very “cartoon” look to it, which is a rather clever way for Kotobukiya to save money while still making Dark Magician Girl look appealing. I kinda fail to see the point of the alternate face though…I mean how often do we get a charming winking face like that? Why ever use the plainer one? *shrug*

Chag: Variety, man, variety! I also prefer the winking face, but in my opinion, the alternative is appealing enough in its own right. I’d think maybe after a couple of weeks/months of one face, the option to significantly alter the appearance of a figure would be a welcome one. I know I’ll be on the lookout for this figure in the future. If she ever lands in the bargain bin, I’ll definitely snatch her up like a hungry vulture.