In many ways, the Touhou Project phenomenon is similar to the success of Vocaloid and Minecraft. In each of these cases, the users are given a blank slate of sorts. Vocaloid is just a dense piece of voice-synthesizing software, Minecraft throws players into a sandbox world with no objectives whatsoever, and Touhou presents players with a large cast of characters with virtually no background beyond their name, their title, and few meager lines of dialogue if they are lucky. But when players take up on the challenge of inscribing their creative energies onto these seemingly blank slates, things quickly got out of hand. Countless songs, illustrations and animated PVs merged from the Vocaloid camp. Mind-boggling feats of virtual construction (like the model of the earth and a 1:1 scale Starship Enterprise) began to surface in the Minecraft community. And similarly, when Touhou creator ZUN gave his audience a bunch of crudely drawn girls wearing funky costumes in a compelling game with his own homebrewed music, the situation quickly snowballed. Today, you’ll find image sites like danbooru absolutely chock-full of Touhou-related fanart, a vast discography of Touhou music remixes, a slew of doujinshi games, novels, videos of all sorts, etc, etc. In essence, the fans have taken the modest foundation provided by ZUN and strapped it to a rocket, propelling the franchise into astonishing heights.
On the chopping block this week is Ques Q’s 1/8th scale Hong Meiling, a character that began as one of ZUN unflattering scrawls. Of course, one quick glance though danbooru would reveal many of the creative liberalities taken on the original design by the legions of fan artists. This particular figure is based off of an illustration by Iwamoto James, and like all Touhou-related merchandise, it’s only sold through limited venues. But honestly, considering that this figure was purchased through Amiami, does ZUN still have any claim left to his policy of exclusivity for Touhou-related merch? Just a thought.
But back onto the character: Hong Meiling the gatekeeper to the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Lovingly dubbed as “China” by fans, she is a youkai proficient in martial arts. For reasons unknown to me, my friend Ningyo holds a borderline psychotic obsession with this character. I think it’s his life’s mission to scour the earth for all things related to the Chinese redhead. Being the devious bastard that I am, when he ordered the figure through me, I took advantage of my position as the middleman and hijacked the figure for this review. But Ningyo my man, I gotta say: this figure of your one true waifu is probably going to fall short of the lofty heights she resides in your heart.
Like my favourite figure, Meiling is rocking a strange pose. However, unlike that figure, I have no idea as to what Meiling could possibly be doing. In the original illustration this figure is based on, Meiling is completely upright, as if she’s assuming some sort of martial art pose. However, something went awry during the translation between 2D and 3D, and what came out at the end is a somewhat confused spectacle. While Meiling’s upper body is almost perfectly upright, her legs lean heavily to her right, giving her a teetering appearance. The best explanation I can come up with is that Meiling is running very strangely while giving salute. Of course, I haven’t the slightest clue why anyone would be running and saluting at the same time, but given the absurdity of the pose, all I can do is scratch my head at it.
Like her pose, Meiling’s face is also hard to explain, though I find there’s a cute quirkiness to it. Also contributing to the unusualness of her face is the wide space between her eyes, which also gives the character a spacey look, whether it’s intentional or not.
Meiling’s fanned-out hair is to me the highlight of the figure. Its colour looks especially vibrant under proper lighting, and even more so when viewed through my brand-spanking-new 21.5 inch 1080p monitor. Shit is so cash.
In terms of physical proportions, Meiling’s got an absurdly long pair of legs. This is hardly surprising, since the appeal of the figure is riding on that high slit of her dress. On a less appealing note, Meiling’s neck is also exceedingly long – the result of another unwelcome deviation from the source illustration. Though Meiling measures at a respectable 19 cm from the top of her head to the tips of her toes, because of the extreme length of her legs, the rest of her body looks diminutive by comparison. As the result, this figure feels a little short of its advertised 1/8th scale.
Unfortunately, Ques Q did not do a great job on the skin. While there are pink tones around the joints on her limbs, there is an overall feeling of flatness. From what I can tell, the face is completely flat; and as long and shapely as Meiling’s legs are, they’re not very exciting to look at when they’re pale as death. I guess living with a bunch of vampires would do that to your skin, but I still expect a slightly healthier skin tone from the Scarlet Mansion’s resident China girl.
Update: When I was looking over my favourite figures last night, it occurred to me that not all of them have noticeably flushed skin. Sure, the adept use of pink tones definitely scores some brownie points with me, but it doesn’t make or break a figure. Both the GSC Dead Master and Hatsune Miku had really pale skin, yet I don’t have too big of an issue against either. After thinking it over, I realized it’s not that tones of the skin that bothered me, but rather the finish. It’s got that toy-like plastic sheen to it – a quality not exhibited by the surfaces of her costume. This leads me to believe that the skin is under-painted, which is what ultimately put me off.
Thankfully, the paint on Meiling’s costume fares better than her skin. I know I made a stink about Meiling’s colour scheme before, but I have to admit I am fond of the light yellowish-green colour they chose for this figure. Depth is evident in the use of highlights and shades on the green parts of her dress. I’m also pleased to find that the yellow lining and embroideries on her vest are cleanly executed, as is the case with the metallic details on her skirt and the bells at the ends of her braids. While the general sculpt of the figure isn’t anything to leap out of your chair for, the respectable amount of detailing on the costume is enough to give it some aesthetic appeal.
This is not to say the costume is not without its problems, however. Meiling’s beret suffers from a significant paint defect on its side. Ningyo has also complained about its flattened cabbage-like appearance. Personally I don’t know any better, so I’ll trust the words of the resident Meiling fanatic on this.
Surprisingly, in spite of the high slit on Meiling’s dress, her panties are pretty well-hidden from plain sight. Those who are curious would find that she’s wearing plain tighty-whiteys with zero detailing whatsoever. Boo.
Meiling is attached to her circular staged base, which is of a modest 7.5 cm diameter. Because of her heavy-leaning pose, the figure shakes ominously whenever I bump into the table she stands on. Whether or not the figure will continue to lean is a question I don’t have an answer to. Ques Q has yet to establish a clear reputation for itself, so one can only hope that Meiling will not stumble into the same pitfall as some other recent figures.
At the end of the day, I find myself feeling indifferent at best towards Ques Q’s Hong Meiling. She doesn’t really have any exceptional qualities, and for a 7,400 yen figure, her overall presentation feels lacking. Her size could be bigger, her skins tones could use more depth, and her beret would’ve been better off without that paint defect. Mind you, none of these faults are catastrophic in scale, but when combined together they make the figure feel like a glorified UFO catcher prize figure.
However, this figure is still worth considering to the diehard Meiling fan. Personally, I think Ques Q’s Meiling trumps the Griffon version, and since Meiling isn’t exactly the Touhou character with the highest demand, there’s no telling whether we’ll see another mass-produced Meiling figure in the near future. So, if you are a supplicant to the cult of the prismatic maiden, then this figure would make a decent idol of your unchristian worship. If you aren’t, then this figure sadly won’t be turning you into a believer anytime soon.
- Vibrant crimson hair
- Leg, and a lot of it
- Inexplicably strange pose
- Cheap work on the skin
- Feels smaller than her scale
- Quality control mishap on the beret