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WonFes 2017 Winter photo
Figures from Good Smile Company and more
There were some intriguing Nendoroid and figma announcements at Wonder Festival but the scale figure previews weren't as interesting. Under the Wonderful Hobby Life For You banner, Good Smile Company and associated groups sho...

WonFes 2017 Winter photo
Gaming licenses and a few classics
By my estimates there were about 17 million Nendoroids announced/shown at WonFes. The figma announcements were not as numerous but there were still some juicy ones. Just as with Nendoroids, the figma lineup has diversified ou...

WonFes 2017 Winter photo
Start saving now
I think any responsible financial planner would take Wonder Festival into account (well, provided they collect figures). I mean, look at all this stuff! This is real stuff that is coming! I'm not the biggest Nendoroid collect...

Tomopop Review: DC Bishoujo Wonder Girl by Kotobukiya

Dec 24 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: DC Comics Bishoujo Wonder GirlFigure Maker: KotobukiyaRetail Price: $74.99Available at: Kotobukiya Online Store  This particular Wonder Girl design (as always, created by Shunya Yamashita) is based on the Cassandra Sandsmark character of the classic DC universe - i.e. not from The New 52. Yamashita's take on the character is faithful to the design in the comics. The sculpt ages her up a bit compared to the illustration, making this a straightforward interpretation of Wonder Girl. Wonder Girl's Lasso of Lightning is included. It's made of plastic and painted in metallic gold. I don't find it very convincing close up, but it looks okay from a distance. As you might have deduced from the design of the figure, the setup process is pretty easy. The only thing you have to do is attach the lasso to the hands. The fit there isn't especially precise but hey, you only have to do it once. One feature I couldn't figure out is why she can be pulled apart at the hips. Could there perhaps be a variant edition in the works with swappable parts? The figure comes already attached to the base for even more convenience. It's painted in a metallic red to match the red star motif on her pants and bracers. I'm a huge fan of anything-but-a-circular-disc for bases, so I like the star shape here. I like this sculpt more the more I look at it. Wonder Girl has the bent spine, chest-and-butt-emphasizing pose that's common for female comic book characters. Fortunately Kotobukiya did a great job on her body overall (yes, her butt too). If you look closely you can see some muscle definition on her arms and thighs. There's a nice mix of power and sexiness, enhanced by the strategically exposed midriff. Wonder Girl's pants of choice are a pair of jeans. These have been sculpted with a bit of texture. I don't think it looks like real denim, but it looks better than a flat blue would have. The Bishoujo brand started as a line of budget-priced figures, and as such the manufacturing quality used to be just adequate. Nowadays it's tough to find anything to nitpick about it. Her face is clean, her eye decals are crisp, and her hair is finely sculpted and shaded. There were no flaws to speak of. That's pretty impressive considering these are still priced lower than comparable 1/8-scale figures, and that my macro lens tends to magnify the slightest imperfections. Though I have no attachment to the character, I did enjoy photographing and reviewing Bishoujo Wonder Girl. I find myself drawn to figures born from simple concepts that are executed well. This quality, as well as the distinctly pretty face, made me think of Max Factory's Kaori Miyazono as a comparison. Both are unassuming, yet still photogenic and would fit well on almost any shelf. I have plenty more of Wonder Girl in the gallery below. And if you dig Kotobukiya stuff, head on over to their Facebook page for more. [ Thanks to Kotobukiya for the review sample! ]
Bishoujo Wonder Girl photo
The power of Zeus compels you
In just a few short years, Kotobukiya's Bishoujo line has evolved to cover properties from all kinds of entertainment media including games and film. But the brand began with comic book characters, and here we return to its roots with Wonder Girl. I have lots and lots of Bishoujo figures in my collection, yet I couldn't resist adding one more. Read on for my thoughts and review!


Tomopop Review: Cu-poche Friends Alice by Kotobukiya

Dec 23 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Cu-poche Friends AliceFigure Maker: KotobukiyaRetail Price: $49.99Available at: Kotobukiya Online Store Alice is the fourth Cu-poche Friends figure, joining Anne, Cherie, and Belle. While the others have more modern looking outfits, Alice has a dress that would be more at home in Victorian England. Here you can see all the accessories she comes with. Not pictured is a plastic baggie meant to hold extra parts. I've always appreciated this inclusion with figmas, and am glad that Kotobukiya decided to include one as well. You also get some nice general-purpose hand parts, but unfortunately no extra face parts. I don't have another Cu-poche so I won't be able to go over the face swapping, but it should work pretty much the same as with any other figure. One unique thing about the Cu-poche line is the use of real fabric for clothing. Each of the Cu-poche Friends figures have this (regular Cu-poches are plastic), and you can buy additional fabric outfits separately. This is standard in the world of ball-jointed dolls and 1/6-scale figures, but pretty rare for smaller poseable figures. For Alice, you need to put on her leggings, petticoat, apron, and shoes. None of it was super fussy; just remember to unbutton the apron in the back to get the arms in. There are two headbands included: one with a ribbon, and one with rabbit ears. I like the whimsical touch and the nods to Alice in Wonderland. Her watch pendant is of course a literary reference, but I also like to think of it as a Flavor Flav reference. You can also see in the above shot that Alice's feet have magnets on them (her bare feet and shoes are all magnetized). This feature is meant to provide extra stability if you're using her base. Due to the weight of her hair, I found that she does need to be propped up in some poses. Although you get a good amount of articulation with Cu-poches, the trade-off is that the joints are highly visible. In Alice's case her outfit covers most of them (without really impeding the movement, which is nice). As for the articulation itself, I found it very well executed. For Alice, the range of movement is reduced by her hair. The shoulder joints can rotate quite a bit, and her leg joints bend enough to where she can get into a sitting pose. The wrist and head articulation are the same as what you'd get on a Nendoroid. Speaking of Nendoroids, here's a size comparison with Nendoroid Kuroneko. Alice is significantly taller due to her body proportions. I think in most cases they'll look fine together. If not you can go the extra mile of swapping their heads. Another comparable figure line is Phat Company's Parfom brand, of which there are only a few figures released. Parfoms are much taller with more slender limbs, so they don't mesh as well with Cu-poche figures. Since this was my first Cu-poche figure, I wasn't sure what to expect. Alice did win me over in many categories. The fabric clothing is great as long as you tuck away some of the seams (and don't spill anything on them). I like the articulation and feel of the joints. Most of all, I like that they don't feel as loose and fiddly as Nendoroids do. As much as I like Nendoroids, they can be annoying in that the parts don't always fit well and can drop off easily. Still, I imagine the biggest point of contention for many will be the way they look. Cu-poches don't quite match the chibi proportions of Nendoroids, and the joints on some of them can be rather intrusive. They're not bad in Alice's case but other Cu-poches may not fare as well. I think Alice will appeal mostly to collectors like me, who enjoy using these figures to tell stories in images - or maybe to folks who just like cute stuff. Given the great build quality and competitive price, it's definitely worth looking at other figures in the line too. Be sure to click through the gallery below for the full photo set. And if you want to stay up to date on Kotobukiya's releases, give their Facebook page a like! [ Thanks to Kotobukiya for the review sample! ]
Cu-poche Alice photo
Going down the Cu-poche rabbit hole
Toy collectors have a ton of choices when it comes to small, chibi-fied collectibles. From gachapon capsules to Nendoroids, they'll always be popular due to their accessibility and affordability. It's no surprise, then, that ...

Last minute gift ideas for the figure collector in your life

Dec 15 // Tianxiao Ma
Camera Gear If you really want someone to be poor for the rest of their life, get them into photography. Compared to camera gear, maintaining an anime figure collection costs a mere pittance. Indeed, you can set your loved one up for a lifetime of gear obsession and unnecessary spending by simply introducing them to this one hobby! But what if you want to help that special someone take better photos of his figures without having to take out a loan? You can check out some accessories designed to improve smartphone photography, such as this Photojojo lens set (pictured above). Smartphone cameras these days are already pretty capable, but accessories like this can give them an extra bit of flexibility and creative freedom. Amp up your figure photography, and your collection will feel that much more special! Lighting The art of photography goes hand in hand with the art of lighting. To really get those figure photos to the next level, you're going to need something better than the flash on your phone or camera. Luckily, this also presents the opportunity for some great stocking stuffers! Lighting can be done simply with some $10 clamp lamps from Home Depot. If you want something you could actually incorporate into your photos, check out the Slickforce Softlight (pictured above). They're not super bright, and work best with a camera with manual controls. But they look cool and can help you learn the principles of lighting. Storage Leaving figures in their boxes is no good. A real collector will want a specially designated area to keep his figures in view. This is where that old standby of collectors everywhere comes in: Ikea's Detolf display case. For good reason, these have been a go-to for figure collectors within range of an Ikea. They're reasonably priced and can blend into any kind of decor. The only drawback is that they weigh about as much as a small car, so make sure you have some buddies to help if you do buy one. Also, I guess these don't qualify as stocking stuffers... unless you're a frost giant and have enormous stockings. Dust Management You know what sucks? Leaving your figures out on display only to see them caked in dust a few months later. You know what your figures love? Being dust-free! It's a small thing but for a collector, proper dusting can mean the difference between a janky looking display and a lovingly curated one. For starters I'd get some kind of air blower, like a can of compressed air or an electric blower. Microfiber cloths are always good to have around. For the really intricate or hard to clean areas, you can try using a set of makeup brushes (or specially made anti-static brushes). Your figures will thank you for it. Display Stands Figure collections inevitably outgrow the shelves that hold them. This law holds as true as the laws of thermodynamics. When that happens, any collector will be glad to have a set of acrylic risers on hand. Full disclosure: I've never actually used these. But I wish I had, and my lack of foresight can turn into profit for you. Emotional profit, that is. With a good set of risers, you can make tiered displays that optimize your shelf space. They're especially good for smaller figures such as Nendoroids or Cu-Poches. Backdrops and Sets Want to take those figure displays to the next level? Why not add in some scenery? There are a host of options available, from 1/12-scale dollhouse furniture to purpose-built displays such as the figma PLUS line (pictured above). Max Factory has made a road set and a classroom set to help add a bit of flair to your figma collection. If Nendoroids are more your thing, Good Smile Company has recently put their Nendoroid-sized play sets up for order again. Booze Figure collecting can easily set someone on the path of financial ruin. Why not help them forget that fact with some good old liquid courage? Tomopop does not condone drinking as a response to life's problems. But a few sips here and there can't hurt, right? Pre-Orders Finally, if you can't actually get any of this in time for Christmas, you can always pre-order something. It's like a gift that's okay to give late! Make sure you stick to sites like Amiami or HobbyLink Japan, which both have great reputations and will make the whole buying process less scary. From all of us at Tomopop, we hope you have a happy and safe holiday season!
Tomopop Gift Guide photo
They're kind of affordable!
Christmas (or your winter gift-giving holiday of choice) is almost upon us! While it's fun to give and receive gifts, it can be quite stressful doing the actual planning and shopping. So what do you buy for that special figur...

Kotobukiya Spike Spiegel photo
Kotobukiya Spike Spiegel

ARTFX J Spike Spiegel goes up for pre-order


3, 2, 1, let's jam!
Dec 12
// Tianxiao Ma
One of the most beloved anime series of all time is getting a fitting PVC tribute as Kotobukiya puts their ARTFX J Spike Spiegel up for pre-order! It really is Christmas time! Ever since I started collecting six years ago, Sp...
MegaHobby Expo photo
Upcoming figures from Alter, MegaHouse
It's late fall so you know what that means: MegaHobby Expo time! I'm always hyped to see what kind of new stuff is coming soon (or in Alter's case, much later). Let this be a reminder for all of you to start saving up! Here's...

Snow Miku 2017 photo
Snow Miku 2017

Kahotan shows off the 2017 Snow Mikus


Dubbed "Twinkle Snow"
Nov 22
// Tianxiao Ma
It's that time of the year when we check out the latest Snow Miku design and melt from the cuteness! Or maybe that's just my heater cranked way up. Kahotan's blog has previews up for both the figma and Nendoroid versions of n...
Zombiemonkie photo
Zombiemonkie

Answer the Call of Cthulhu at DesignerCon this weekend


Feeling Lovecrafty
Nov 16
// Tianxiao Ma
Another Halloween has passed and artist Mikie Graham is bringing more creepy goodness to DesignerCon this year. At the show (November 19-20 in Pasadena), he'll be debuting the new Dagon Cultist figurine. Based on the works of...

Tomopop Review: Nendoroid Shoukaku & Zuikaku by Good Smile Company

Oct 17 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Nendoroid Shoukaku & ZuikakuFigure Maker: Good Smile CompanyRetail Price: ¥5,556 (each)Available at: Amiami | Big Bad Toy Store | Hobby Search | HobbyLink Japan As you can see on the boxes, these are Nendoroids 621 and 622. That's an insane amount of Nendos! I wonder if anyone has collected all of them, because that would be a hell of a feat. The first thing that struck me about these Nendos was the sheer number of accessories included in the box. Both Shoukaku and Zuikaku come in the standard Nendoroid clamshell, but there's an entire second tray dedicated to optional parts. On the one hand, it allows for a wide variety of poses and scenes. But on the other hand it's quite finnicky and time consuming to play with all the small parts. Just setting up their default look required a few references to the instruction sheet. When I received the box from Amiami, I also got an item in a black plastic bag. For a moment I wondered if they had shipped an adult item by accident. Actually it was a pair of risers for their bases along with an extra part that allows them to hold hands. They're sister ships after all, so yuri subtext is obligatory! In all seriousness they are adorable together. Both figures come with small fighter planes, accessories to show their Kai 2 upgraded forms, and extra bodies to show the half-damage versions. In the official art the damaged outfits are pretty racy. In Nendoroid form they just look kind of silly. In the game, each girl can be upgraded to a Kai 2 version with heavier armaments and a different design. These Nendoroids include alternate parts for this: leg and foot armor, a second flight deck, a larger quiver in the back, and an alternate ribbon for Shoukaku. The list of accessories is extensive so I won't go on about them. I believe I used every single part in my photos, so check out the gallery to see everything! If you've played with Nendoroids before, there's nothing in this package that will throw you for a loop. The main thing to keep in mind is that despite their simple designs, you need some patience to get the most out of your poses. It's especially true with these two due to the large amount of parts. Sometimes you just need to keep tweaking each of the pieces, little by little, until you get the right pose. I recommend using the promo shots as a guide, as these pieces tend to fit best when positioned according to the promos. Zuikaku has the most flexibility because her hair consists of twin tails. Shoukaku's long hair and side fringes restrict her poses mostly to ones looking straight ahead. You can work around these limitations by adjusting her quiver and stand, but she's still not as flexible as Zuikaku. If I had to name a downside to these Nendos, it would be the expressions. They each have three expressions, but none that stand out. Shoukaku has the standard smiling expression, the half-damage one, and a yelling face. Zuikaku has a smile, half-damage, and a tsundere look. Part of the fun of getting new Nendoroids is mixing and matching the face plates, but these two don't bring anything new with their expressions. I like Zuikaku's tsundere face, though. For fans of KanColle or folks who just like cool military hardware with their Nendoroids, Shoukaku and Zuikaku are a great package. They're even better if you have Akagi and Kaga, because then you can act out their rivalry. These Nendos show Good Smile Company's increasing escalation of their Nendoroid game. It's still crazy to me that they're past 600 now, and each new one seems to be jam packed with more and more goodies.
GSC Shoukaku & Zuikaku photo
The pride of the 5th Carrier Division!
Nendoroids are hugely popular nowadays (even one of my non-collector friends has some) but it's surprising how few Nendoroid reviews we have. I don't buy a ton of them myself, but a few Kantai Collection ones have come around...

NYCC 2016: Good Smile Company

Oct 08 // Tianxiao Ma
NYCC 2016 GSC photo
Lots of toys for gamers!
Good Smile Company's Mamitan has been hard at work revealing their upcoming figures at NYCC. There are lots of Nendoroids and figmas but I wasn't expecting this many video game figures. The full armor Megaman X Nendoroid has ...

Tomopop Review: Kagamine Rin Tony Ver. by Max Factory

Oct 06 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Kagamine Rin Tony Ver.Figure Maker: Max FactoryRetail Price: ¥12,800Available at: Amiami | Big In Japan | Big Bad Toy Store | Hobby Search | HobbyLink Japan This is a rather simplistic 1/7-scale figure so there isn't much to worry about in terms of assembly or packaging. You just unbox Rin, attach the base, and slide the microphone into her left hand. If you're like me and rotate your figure displays regularly, you'll appreciate the easy unboxing and assembly process. I didn't buy this figure out of love for the character. There's just something appealing about the design and its execution. Tony Taka's interpretations of Miku and Luka stayed close to their official designs. However Rin and Len are both aged up a bit. This gives Max Factory a more interesting body type to work with, especially around the underarms and midriff. What won me over more than anything else, though, was Rin's face. I guess it's got that "Tony face" look, but it's never bothered me and looks super cute here. As with the rest of the sculpt, Max Factory nailed it. Don't let the plainness of the design put you off. No, Rin isn't decked out in a crazy outfit nor is she doing some acrobatic, floaty pose. Yet Max Factory has still worked an ample amount of detail into this sculpt. The figure looks and feels like an illustration, which is a testament to how meticulous Max Factory was in reproducing Tony's design. Her hair is especially impressive in terms of its definition. As expected with Max Factory, the paint and decal application are also top notch. Even the tiny lettering on her left bicep looks perfect under a macro lens. The one issue I have is that yellow, white, and black don't make for the most exciting color scheme. The only thing that breaks up this rather muted palette is the aqua color from her eyes. For the most part you'll get the typically excellent Max Factory build quality. The box is thick and sturdy. The figure itself has a subtle soft-touch coating on the exposed skin areas, lending a bit of realism. It's not a new practice by Max Factory but it's still uncommon. However there is one piece I have a big problem with: the base. It's too thin and feels much cheaper than the rest of the figure. It just doesn't inspire confidence in me at all, as I felt like I might break it just trying to put the figure on. This Rin is exactly the kind of figure Max Factory has always excelled at. It doesn't have an elaborate design, but the sculpt just packs in so much subtle detail that it looks almost alive - like it's a one-off piece sculpted just for you. I'm looking at my shelf of Max Factory figures and with a few splashy exceptions, most are like this. It's safe to say this Kagamine Rin is my favorite of the Tony Taka Vocaloids so far.
Max Factory Rin photo
Pop stars aren't usually this cute
We all know that Good Smile Company really, really loves making Hatsune Miku figures. The world just can't get enough Miku. But what about the other Vocaloids? Luckily Max Factory is throwing us a bone. Over the last few year...

Square Enix photo
Square Enix

SDCC 2016: Square Enix


Batman's going crazy
Aug 01
// Tianxiao Ma
You can count on the Play Arts Kai brand to bring some unique (if not overly busy) interpretations of some of your favorite comic book characters. I found a couple such figures at the Square Enix booth at SDCC. They were part...
Shiflett Bros. photo
Shiflett Bros.

SDCC 2016: Shiflett Bros.


Imaginative, original art
Jul 28
// Tianxiao Ma
The Shiflett Brothers have made a name for themselves with their fantastical, steampunk-y sculptures. What first struck me about them was the level of detail in each sculpt. But over the years their designs have gotten more e...
Beefy & Co. photo
Beefy & Co.

SDCC 2016: Beefy & Co.


I love magnets in toys
Jul 28
// Tianxiao Ma
Strange and adorable animal toys are the domain of Beefy & Co. Artist Menh Voong brought some new plushies to SDCC, as well as a preview for NYCC. NYCC will be seeing the release of the plush turtle and penguin (I think i...
Weta photo
Weta

SDCC 2016: Weta


More robots, please
Jul 27
// Tianxiao Ma
I kicked off my tour of Weta's exhibit with their 2017 Ghost in the Shell display. It contained a life-sized replica of an android that I'm assuming will appear in the film. It was reminiscent of the robots featured in Ghost ...
3A photo
3A

SDCC 2016: 3A


Grungy mecha and original creations
Jul 27
// Tianxiao Ma
When I asked the 3A rep what was new for this year, he basically introduced me to every single thing on display. You can see that their artistic vision is still intact, but they've tackled more and more licensed properties ov...
Gecco photo
Gecco

SDCC 2016: Gecco


Video game figures and zombie models
Jul 27
// Tianxiao Ma
I wasn't expecting to see many Japanese manufacturers at SDCC due to WonFes, but Gecco was able to attend the show. They had flown under my radar until last year when they announced the Venom Snake and Quiet statues for Metal...
Yamato USA photo
Yamato USA

[NSFW] SDCC 2016: Yamato USA


Reimagining Greek mythology
Jul 27
// Tianxiao Ma
Yamato has long collaborated with fantasy artists and illustrators for their PVC and resin Fantasy Figure Gallery line. Since the last year they've been working on a series of figures inspired by Greek mythology, based on the...
Tamashii Nations photo
Tamashii Nations

SDCC 2016: Tamashii Nations


Debuting a bizarre new Toy Story set
Jul 24
// Tianxiao Ma
Have you ever wished your Toy Story figures could also be Transformers? Well Tamashii Nations has you covered with a line they're calling Cho Gattai Toy Story. These figures can transform and even combine together to form a s...
Bluefin photo
Bluefin

SDCC 2016: Bluefin


I think I found my favorite thing
Jul 24
// Tianxiao Ma
Bluefin distributes figures from a variety of Japanese companies, so their booth featured toys catering to all corners of fandom. Their most elaborate display was for the classic Ghostbusters, featuring two scenes from the en...
Kotobukiya Kylo Ren photo
He stabbed first
Kotobukiya announced a new Kylo Ren figure at Friday's Star Wars collectibles panel, and shortly after it appeared in their booth. Although Koto has taken on Kylo Ren in the past, this one's the most dynamic yet. The figure i...

Hot Toys photo
Hot Toys

SDCC 2016: Hot Toys


Shocker: lots of Star Wars
Jul 22
// Tianxiao Ma
Without looking you can probably get the gist of what Hot Toys had on display: Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Civil War, and Star Wars. That's not due to a lack of originality on their part; that's simply the zeitgeist of ...
Sideshow Collectibles photo
Sideshow Collectibles

SDCC 2016: Sideshow Collectibles


Another grand spectacle
Jul 22
// Tianxiao Ma
To give you an idea of the expanse of Sideshow's exhibit, I spent about an hour rushing through the photo coverage and still only managed to get half of it. The other half was dedicated to Hot Toys, which we'll cover in a sep...
Kotobukiya photo
Kotobukiya

[Updated] SDCC 2016: Kotobukiya


Ikemen collection announced!
Jul 22
// Tianxiao Ma
[Update: Added photos of the Fine Art Statue Vision] I always love seeing what Kotobukiya brings to SDCC. This year we had a few major announcements, so let's kick off with the biggest: they'll be starting a line called "Ikem...
DC Collectibles photo
DC Collectibles

SDCC 2016: DC Collectibles


Con of Justice
Jul 22
// Tianxiao Ma
With movie and TV universes to build, it's no surprise that DC featured Suicide Squad and their TV shows heavily in their merchandising. They'll be adding to their selection of articulated figures with characters from Arrow, ...
SDCC 2016 GSC photo
SDCC 2016 GSC

SDCC 2016: Good Smile Company


Nice figures tucked into a tiny booth
Jul 21
// Tianxiao Ma
Good Smile Company doesn't usually do Comic Con as WonFes is usually the same weekend. However it seems like they're starting to stake out some territory at SDCC. Their booth was pretty small and tucked away - not what you'd ...
Nendoroid Naruto photo
The first Naruto merch from GSC!
Naruto is, like, one of the most popular things ever. Strangely enough this is, to my knowledge, the first time Good Smile Company has produced merchandise of it. Mamitan tweeted out from Anime Expo this momentous (?) announc...

figma Samus Aran photo
figma Samus Aran

Samus Aran sheds her suit for her newest figma


Now up for pre-order
Jun 14
// Tianxiao Ma
The ever-popular Samus Aran has already gotten the figma treatment, but this time around she'll be shedding that bulky suit. This is the Metroid: Other M version of Samus. I haven't played the game but it seems like we're tra...
Capcom Morrigan photo
Capcom Morrigan

Morrigan changes occupations in this new Capcom figure


Hope you don't need a shot though...
Jun 03
// Tianxiao Ma
Dark Stalkers' Morrigan Aensland has seen a few releases over the years, but I don't remember many wardrobe changes. I think since her main appeal is her sexiness, and her outfit already emphasizes that, there never was a nee...
Max Factory Link photo
Skyward Sword's Link is the latest entry
Good Smile Company's Wonderful Hobby Selection line is getting a new addition from Max Factory! This time it'll be The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword's Link making the transition from artwork to PVC figure. Compared to some o...

Tomopop Review: Velvet with Cornelius by Alter

May 05 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Velvet with CorneliusFigure Maker: AlterRetail Price: ¥13,800Available at: Big Bad Toy Store  I'm going to be totally honest: I really haven't been interested in Alter's releases as of late. They used to be the gold standard of the anime figure world, but have in recent years been releasing rather boring designs. Every once in a while, though, they reach for the stars. The result is a figure that ends up selling out everywhere. Velvet (and Cornelius) is the third of Alter's Odin Sphere releases. The first was Gwendolyn which came out way back in 2008. Gwendolyn came during a time when figures really were limited collectibles, and as such became a grail figure for many. Luckily she's gotten two re-releases (the latest happening just last month). Next came Mercedes in 2010, which has also gotten a recent re-release. So now, hopefully, die-hard Odin Sphere fans can have the full set of gals. Trust me when I say, you do not want to miss out on Velvet. I collect figures to keep as mementos of stories and characters that I love (or sometimes because their butts are shiny). This one is such a memento, but it's also an extraordinary piece of craftsmanship. Its design, sculpt, detailing, and paint job are all a tier above what you'd see in an average anime figure. What's crazy is that this probably isn't even the best figure Alter has ever made. But it takes you to the old days, when you knew that if you got an Alter figure you'd be getting the best. That really says a lot about its construction. It's also surprisingly user-friendly. For a figure with two bodies in leaping poses and a swinging chain, the assembly process was way easier than expected. Velvet and Cornelius attach via metal pegs to the base. Their weapons are pretty simple to attach, with Velvet's Psypher not even needing to hook or peg into anything. In the game, Velvet has a number of mid to long range attacks owing to her weapon being attached to chains. Cornelius is a more straightforward sword fighter who uses his small size and agility. Their contrasting styles are reflected in this figure, with Velvet's chains forming sweeping arcs while Cornelius is in mid-thrust with his sword. I thought Cornelius would me more of a throw-in - maybe just a cool detail on a really elaborate base. He kind of is, but you wouldn't be wrong to call him a full-fledged figure either. You're basically getting two figures for the price of, like, one and a half. You can see the same craftsmanship and attention to detail on Cornelius as you do on Velvet. His armor looks weathered. The leather parts look like leather. His Psypher is translucent just like Velvet's. Despite Velvet being the main attraction, Alter spared no effort in properly painting and detailing Cornelius. Alter has done a remarkable service for Odin Sphere fans. Yes, other manufacturers have tackled the property from time to time. But none of them ever got as ambitious or straight-up beautiful as Alter's figures. There's just something about the way they handle the translation from 2D that's uniquely pretty. It even extends to figures from other Vanillaware titles. Velvet, like her sister figures, is a centerpiece. You can put her on a shelf and even folks who are leery of anime figures will pause and admire her. It just makes me so happy that Alter didn't go with a "standard" pose. It shows that they aren't making figures just to cash in on an upcoming game. They went all out, and the result is a magnificent love letter to the fans.
Alter Velvet photo
A homeless princess and a Tiny Toon
If you're a fan of side scrolling beat-em-ups, you owe it to yourself to try out Odin Sphere. While I enjoyed the gameplay, the thing that elevates Odin Sphere far past the typical rabble of its genre is its artistry. It's kn...

Tomopop Review: Parfom Labrys by Phat Company

May 04 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Parfom LabrysFigure Maker: Phat CompanyRetail Price: ¥5,500Available at: Play-Asia | Right Stuf | Hobby Search | HobbyLink Japan Labrys is the third in Phat Company's Parfom series, following Aigis and Yuudachi. I was interested in this line because it seemed to combine the cuteness of Nendoroids with the poseability of figmas. But for reasons I can't remember right now, I didn't buy Aigis or Yuudachi. So that makes Labrys my first Parfom, and I was interested to see how good these figures are. You can see the full box shot in the gallery (it's a nice, clean design) but this weird little detail caught my eye. This is probably the first figure I've gotten with a message on the box flap. Unpacking the figure took some effort because it comes with a lot of accessories. Labrys is pretty large - measuring to the top of her ponytail she can reach up to 150mm. I don't have the figma Labrys to compare, but my figma Yu Narukami is about the same height. However due to the Parfom's proportions, it ends up being a bulkier figure overall. With these kinds of figures you have a common set of expectations in terms of how to swap parts and such. Labrys comes with four face plates and an alternate hair fringe which includes her visor. It works just like with any figma: pull off the hair fringe and you'll be able to remove her face plates. The fit of the faces felt inconsistent. Her  default face was a bit loose while some others were very tight. Speaking of her default face, it wound up surprising me in a good way. Too often with anime figures, you're locked into a boring, neutral expression for the face. Part of the appeal of Nendoroid and figma is that they offer alternative expressions that might capture the spirit of the character better. Initially, I thought Labrys would just have some boring smiling expression as her default. However, the expression on this default face can look like it changes depending on the angle you view it from. In this shot, Labrys' expression is menacing and her mouth is frowning. But look at the shots above: they're all using the same face! The expression goes from neutral to inquisitive to threatening depending on the angle. This is a rare quality in figures, and I certainly didn't expect to find it here. I love faces with some nuance to them, so this was a pleasant surprise. The package comes with several accessories revolving around Labrys' weapon. "Labrys" was the Greek word for a double-bitted axe, making her weapon her namesake as well (and there are historical examples of giant versions of such axes too). The axe head comes with a peg that lets you attach it to Labrys' back. Each blade is on a swivel, basically turning them into wings. The effects pieces you see above come in two parts and clamp around the jets on the axe. I consulted the instruction sheet to see how they should be attached, but was misled a bit. Each flame piece needs to attach to a specific spot on the axe, but the order shown in the instruction sheet seems to be reversed. It took some fiddling but eventually I figured it out. Here you can see the other accessories for the axe. You'll get a separate stand and base for it in case you want to pose it flying through the air. Unfortunately there's no way to hide that peg if the stand is attached. I guess it's not the end of the world, but it still sticks out. Other accessories include a variety of alternate hands, as well as a chain that goes between the elbow joint and forearm. It's a single, flexible piece of plastic that gives a more dynamic look than a real chain would have. Of course you'll get the shadow version of Labrys as well since it's just a face swap. I would have preferred a smirking expression over this blank one. There's also an expression for Aigis included in the package, which I found weird. Parfom Aigis already has a neutral default face, but you get another one with Labrys for some reason. I thought this figure, with its chibi aesthetic and articulation, would turn out to be like a Cu-Poche. But since I don't have any Cu-Poches, I can't really say. Having played with Labrys for a while, I do think the Parfom line is pretty close to the figma line. The articulation is more extensive than in your typical figma, and the joints are higher quality (while being less conspicuous). The fit and finish is good, though for these types of figures I don't expect perfection. Still, it held up pretty well during my photo shoot, with only one of the hair flaps falling off when I didn't expect it. Generally this is a well-designed figure with a surprising amount of articulation, but doesn't feel like it's going to break or lose its pose suddenly. The paint job's decent too, with some different finishes throughout the body and axe. Phat Company's Parfom line is fairly new, with only three figures currently in the series, and this Labrys figure already feels refined and well thought out. I'd say my experience with it has won me over to the Parfom series. It's wonderful for anyone who wants the cute chibi look but with lots of creative possibilities that you may not get with a Nendoroid or scale figure. Hopefully, Phat Company ramps up the release schedule for these. Six more have been announced, but none of them have dates set for the moment.
Parfom Labrys photo
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