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Author: Chag

Review: Non-Scale Ayanami Rei (Yamashita Shunya Ver.)

Creator's Labo Ayanami Rei (Yamashita Shunya ver.)-005

Ayanami Rei of Evangelion fame is no stranger to the figure scene. Ever since her debut 1995, Rei’s striking red eyes, pale skin and blue hair have inspired countless garage kit and pre-painted figure incarnations of the character, from BMX tricksters to Mermaids. Though Rei is certainly no stranger to strange representations, Yamashita Shunya’s take on the character definitely stands out amongst the pack.

(Image taken from Yamashita Shunya’s Wild Flower artbook)

Rather than staying true to Rei’s rather slight figure of a 14-year-old, Shunya in his illustration portrays the character as a voluptuous adult in his distinct, western-influenced style. This illustration, like many of his others, proved to be highly popular and was soon adapted into a garage kit and eventually a pre-painted PVC figure by Yamato as part of their Creator’s Labo series. Unlike most other PVC figures, Yamato’s Rei seems to have been in production ever since its release in January 2008. I make this assumption based on the observation of the continuous restock of this figure in online retailers, which suggests that this particular figure has been doing quite well. However, is this success well-deserved? While Yamato’s Ayanami Rei certainly has a great sculpt, one cannot overlook the roughness in the execution of the details. Ultimately, the appreciation of this figure depends on one’s tolerance of these sometimes distracting flaws.

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Review: HGUC Unicorn Gundam (Unicorn Mode & Destroy Mode)

HGUC Unicorn Gundam

For some fans of gundam models (myself included), a series’ story and characters can make and break the appeal of its associated products. But for non-Japanese speaking fans that are unable read the novels written by Harutoshi Fukui, story and characters are non-issues, as Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn has acquired notable attention largely by virtue of Hajime Katoki’s mechanical designs alone. The marketers over and Bandai seem to know of this strong interest in the designs as they have launched the Gundam Unicorn line of merchandise long before the commencement of the OVA series due for release on March 12, 2010.

The Master Grade kit of Unicorn Gundam released one year ago attracted a lot of attention with its level of detail and its unconventional transformation gimmick. Of course, this translated to successful sales of the kit, despite its severely limited level of articulation that came as the result of the kit’s complete accommodation of the complex transformation. Since then fans have seen the release of Master Grade Sinanju, a “Titanium Coating” version of the Master Grade Unicorn, a humongous HGUC Kshatriya, the Neo Zeon grunt unit Geera Zulu, as well as separate HGUC versions of Unicorn Gundam in its unicorn mode and destroy mode – the subjects of the review.

Clearly, Bandai is flooring the pedal of its promotional bandwagon, and before I knew it, I found myself crushed underneath its smooth, Katoki-designed wheels. I was hesitant towards the transformation gimmick of the MG Unicorn Gundam, due to the fear that its moving components would soon lose their holding strength after a few transformations. My lack of resources and steady hands also prevented me from buying the extremely impressive MG Sinanju, as I simply did not possess the means to paint the striking yellowing lining of its chest, collar, knees, shield, and sleeves.

When news of the HGUC Unicorns arrived at my ears, I was pretty excited, though dubious of its execution at the same time. Can the detailed design of Unicorn Gundam really make a smooth transition to a small-scale format? What will be lost in terms of details? As I have found out after the completion of the kit, the answer is “surprisingly little”. Despite their smaller sizes and prices, the HGUC Unicorn Gundams retained almost all of the aesthetic details of its Master Grade predecessor – an impressive feat, especially for the structurally nuanced destroy mode.

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Review: 1/8 Kagamine Rin

1/8 Kagamine Rin

Do you have an overachieving sibling that seems to be better than you in everything they do? If so, you would probably know how Kagamine Rin feels (if she was a real person, that is). As the follow-up to the unexpectedly successful voice synthesizer program Hatsune Miku, Rin makes up for one half of the second instalment of the Character Vocal Series along with her twin brother Kagamine Len (the sound bank for both characters were provided by Shimoda Asami of Idolm@ster fame). But like all the Vocaloid programs that came after Miku, Rin and Len could not quite measure up to the immense popularity already garnered by their predecessor. Rin certainly had her share of hits such as “Meltdown” and “Kokoro”, but she nevertheless pales in comparison to Miku’s seemingly endless repertoire.

Miku’s overshadowing presence is not only felt over at Nico Nico Douga, but in terms of figure sales as well. To this day, Good Smile Company’s 1/8 Hatsune Miku has already seen at least one re-release, while the Nendoroid and Figma Miku has seen at least two. All three figures have all but vanished from the inventories of online retailers. On the other hand, you will still easily 1/8 Rin and Len along with their Figma and Nendoroid counterparts easily (I actually found my Rin on Amiami for 45% off). This really is a shame, as the 1/8 Kagamine Rin is an excellent figure that excels above Miku in many respects. Preferences for characters aside, this somewhat ill-fated figure is simply a great pleasure to behold and should not be overlooked.

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Review: Figma Aegis (Aigis)

Figma Aegis-001

I have a confession: I am a huge sucker for androids. I distinctly remember crying for the films A.I, Bicentennial Man and Iron Giant. I bawled my eyes out over the kinetic novel Planetarian. And as you may already know, I have already reviewed two androids on this blog already (Hatsune Miku and Drossel). Now that you are acquainted with this fetish of mine, you should not be surprised by my instant fascination with Aegis (also spelled Aigis in the game) ever since I encountered her in the PS2 RPG game Persona 3.

Persona 3 is a rather unconventional JRPG produced by Altus that combines element of traditional dungeon-crawling turn-based RPG with elements of social simulation. The player spends just as time defeating enemies as making friends and attending class. While this dynamic seems questionable at first, I was surprised by how mutually complementary these two game elements are to each other, as well as the genuinely interesting characters and well-written dialogue. The game’s charm effortlessly triumphed over my thumb which is usually rested precariously above the “skip” button, and before I knew it I had poured over 90 hours into this game.

Aegis is a combat android that joins the player’s party midway through the game. She’s somewhat like the Tin Man of Wizard of Oz in her eventual acquisition of a “heart”. While she is a charming enough character in her own right, I was sold long before by her pseudo-steampunk aesthetics. The brass shoulders and hips, as well as the headphone-like cooling vents had me admiring Aegis long before her personality shone through. However, I soon realized that I was rather late in my discovery when I looked for Aegis figures on the internet. The 1/8 scale Aegis figure produced by Alter had been absent from the inventories of online retailers for ages, and all that remained was the questionably sculpted version by Kotobukiya. Thankfully, I was able to snag the Alter version at a decent price. However, while the figure looked great, it wasn’t a very accurate representation of the character, and while I overlooked this in the beginning, it started to bother me as the months rolled forward.

Then came the announcement of Aegis’ Figma treatment by Max Factory. Her figma incarnation certainly was less detailed than the full-sized figure treatment, but its facial expressions simply looked spot-on. I wasn’t crazy about getting having two figures of the same character in the same look, though, so one of them had to go. I remained on the fence regarding the problem until I checked the eBay price for the Alter Aegis – there was only one up for sale at the time and it was going for no less than $300 US. Anticipating a dip in sale prices as the Figma version becomes better known, I jumped at the opportunity and parted with Alter Aegis for around $270.

Do I regret it? Nah. Never mind the fact that $270 is a lot of bloody money – while Figma Aegis lacks the intricate shading, flawless paint application and the size of the Alter statuette, its great articulation, accuracy to the source material and the sheer fun factor more than compensates for its shortcomings.

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