Tomopop Review: Kotobukiya's ARTFX J Cardcaptor Sakura

May 20 // Martin Siggers
Figure Name: ARTFX J Sakura KinomotoFigure Maker: KotobukiyaRetail Price: ¥11,000Available at: HobbyLink Japan | Hobby Search | AmiAmi | CD Japan | Plamoya | Big in Japan  As I say in pretty much every one of my reviews, I'm a big fan of 'less is more' when it comes to box design. Sakura's box isn't exactly spartan but it's pleasingly straightforward. I particularly like the big 'wraparound' window which carries all the way round to the side of the box.  It makes the entire thing look modern and airy and gives you a great all round view of the figure. The left hand side of the box includes the original CLAMP illustration which this figure is based on. There's been some controversy over this decision to use the manga design over the far more recognized anime design, which I'll address momentarily when we get to the figure itself. I will say the box feels a little big - though Sakura isn't a small figure, I'm pretty sure smarter packaging could have at least cut the ends off of what's a pretty large package. Once out of the box, Sakura is a very nicely sized and weighted figure. She's a 1/7-scale sculpt but feels a little more like a 1/8 occasionally, probably because of the character's small stature. Regardless, it's a size which feels hefty and solid. Sakura is attached to her cloud base and can't be separated, not that you'd want to anyway considering the pose prohibits any other form of display. One thing I will point out is that the base is a hollow shell, rather than solid plastic. There's no real issue with stability but it's disappointingly cheap-feeling for what's meant to be a high end product. Sculpt quality is excellent all around, with Kotobukiya's decision to go with a massively ruffled look vindicated by the amount of life and movement they can bring to that gigantic skirt. It may be a touch over-the-top for some readers, but it definitely embraces the extravagant shoujo styling of the source material. Plastic and paint feel textured and high quality to the touch, and overall the entire product (bar the aforementioned base) feels well worth your money. Sakura's main accessory is a pair of plus-sized wings which give a huge boost in presence and impact to her overall presentation. I'd go as far to say Kotobukiya should have made these wings a permanent part of the sculpt, since I can't imagine anyone owning this figure without wanting to use them. Still, if you're tight on space, I suppose it's nice to have the option. As you can see from this picture, the bigger wings aren't actually replacement parts but instead add-ons. They plug into the top of the existing wings on the sculpt, which split at the top to allow room for pegs. This arguably doesn't look quite as good as an all-in-one sculpted piece would, but it's also less fiddly and more durable. The other, absolutely essential accessory included is a miniature version of Sakura's ever-present companion Kero-chan. He's very well detailed for his size, with a smart red bow-tie (unfortunately damaged on my example as you can see in the picture) and miniature translucent wings. He has a tiny peg on his right leg which slots neatly into a hole between the frills of Sakura's dress, thus matching the pose of the original art and making him appear to seamlessly 'fly' alongside Sakura. Let's talk a bit about that face. I've seen a lot of complaints about the hair colour and also the fact that she seems a little too 'chubby' in the cheeks, or round faced in general. I think these people are totally mad. I love this entire head sculpt to bits and I think the decision to go with the manga art style is totally justified considering the much more interesting look. Kotobukiya have done a great job with the hair, fading from a lovely brown-orange to nearly translucent at the tips. It's an important splash of colour in a figure that might otherwise be overwhelmed by pink and white, as are Sakura's trademark vivid green eyes. Though it's difficult to tell without a strong backlight, both the crystal at the base of Sakura's staff and the 'eyes' in its head are made of translucent red plastic. Note the subtle creases in the sock fabric at the knee joint, a lovely little touch. Detail sculpting is beyond reproach, with fantastic small scale work like the bow on these shoes. You can just about see where the peg attaches the shoe and base here. If there's a weakness here, then it's the same one I mentioned in the Eren review - ultra fine paint detail. You can see in the upper right hand corner of this shot that the piping on the dress band is slightly sloppy. Even if we leave aside the damaged bow tie on Kero there are a few minor examples of paint splash or slop on the figure. Though Kotobukiya are getting closer every time, I still wouldn't put them quite on the pedestal with Alter and GSC as far as razor sharpness goes. Overall though I'm scrabbling for things to criticise. It's another superb figure from Kotobukiya and without a doubt the definitive Sakura figure at this point in time. After so many years of dreaming, fans of Cardcaptor Sakura finally have a full size, top quality figure to call their own, and I'd say any collector who loves the show owes themselves this one. Now we just have to wait for Syaoran...  
ARTFX Sakura photo
Nice to see you, good to meet you
When I reviewed FuRyu's trading figure version of Sakura Kinomoto last summer, I was positive, but also still a little disappointed that we weren't getting a full-fat, big money version of the character to stand alongside the...

GSC x MCM photo
British Invasion
The anime figure and toy scene in the UK is still pretty small in the UK compared to the USA or the Far East, but it's been slowly growing for a while now. One thing which has helped is a regular presence from Good Smile Comp...

Bishoujo Sakura photo
Spunky Street Fighter stalwart fully unveiled
It's only been a few days since she was teased, but now Bishoujo Sakura has been revealed in all her sailor-suited glory. And you know what? I think she looks pretty darn great. Sure, there's the contentious face which is com...

Mako Two-Star photo
Two Stars Shining
Everybody agrees that magnificent klutz Mako Mankanshoku was the breakout star of Kill la Kill, but now she's getting a bunch of attitude and a whole lot more badass. Good Smile Company revealed that Mako will be returning fo...

MF Link photo
Legend of Zelda hero appears
What with figma Link and Nendoroid Toon Link popping up in Good Smile's portfolio over the past few years, it was surely only a matter of time before a full fat scale version of the legendary hero broke ground. And here he is...

Tomopop Double Review: Nendoroid Link

Feb 03 // Martin Siggers
Figure Name: Nendoroid Link The Wind Waker ver.Figure Maker: Good Smile CompanyRetail Price: ¥4,000Available at: Hobby Search | AmiAmi | Plamoya | Entertainment Earth  Martin: So Rio, after we had such an uneven experience with our last Link review, why did you decide you wanted to revisit the character once again? Rio: Nice to team up with you again, Martin! Well, even though the last Link figure we reviewed was rather... poopy... I couldn't leave my love for Link behind. Plus, as a bonus? - It's Toon Link, so it's much more simple. They couldn't screw that up, right? Martin: I will say that as a Toon Link lover from day one (yes, I am being a Nintendo hipster) that it's pretty great that the design has retroactively become a classic. Plus, he looks almost exactly like a Nendoroid to begin with, so that can't hurt. Rio: I will fully admit that with my younger mind when Wind Waker came out, I wasn't too happy about Toon Link originally. Granted, I also had a major crush on Adult Link, so... you can see why I wasn't thrilled we got a kid! Of course, I got over it and loved the art style after I got off my fangirl mode. Martin: I think some of that art style does bleed through to this Nendoroid. Though it's tough to make Link look explicitly cartoonish because that's pretty much how all Nendoroids look anyway, the big bold flat colours work really well here and do give a strong impression of just leaping out of the screen. Rio: Yeah, I'm definitely glad for the simple style, as it translates well and it doesn't go overbearing one way or the other with its style. Martin: I'll agree wholeheartedly with one exception - I think without the advantage of constant emotion the eyes can occasionally look a little big and dead, depending on viewing angle. Rio: Yeah, that does become a problem with certain poses. On occasion I feel like the Pokemon Banette is staring at me with soulless eyes, which can get kind of weird considering the cute package the stare is coming from. Martin: Big praise for the rest of the sculpt though. It's pretty plain and simple but with that nice crisp edge only GSC seem able to achieve on figures of this scale. Rio: Yes, the sculpt definitely looks nice, and does well for the figure with keeping it clean. Shall we move onto the accessories? Martin: I think so. Given that Nendoroids are pretty much static figures the accessories are a pretty big part of making them unique from each other. How do you think GSC did on that count? Rio: I felt there weren't very many accessories, in comparison to how many items Link uses, but maybe one day we'll see an accessory kit of some sort. What items they did include I felt were pretty well detailed and cute for the size of the figure. I will say this is one action motion accessory that I actually really like. Usually I find myself somewhat underwhelmed. Martin: Yeah, it definitely fits the more cartoonish style of the figure. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much was included, considering I feel GSC's products have been getting a little bare-bones as of late. Is there anything you wish had been included instead of or in addition to what we got? Rio: I think the only thing I would have loved to see specifically and didn't, was just a bomb accessory. I thought it'd be cute to have one he could hold as if he was going to throw it. I think I'm pretty happy with him quite honestly. It's definitely an upgrade from the last Link we reviewed in my book. Martin: I'd have liked to see a Master Sword and maybe one of the more Wind Waker unique items, the Deku Leaf perhaps. Rio: Oh! The Deku Leaf would have been adorable! Martin: The problem with any Zelda-related figure is there are always going to be WAY more potential accessories than can possibly be included! Rio: Haha isn't that the truth? Link and his many gadgets need to have 5 or so accessory packs just to keep up with the little guy! Martin: I'm sort of surprised that hasn't happened actually. Just look at Bandai and their S.H. Figuarts Mario. Rio: Yeah, I really wish it would have. The items in a Zelda-related pack would have been more interesting and fun for me. Martin: I will say of the accessories provided though I absolutely love the Wind Waker and the extra arms. it would have been near impossible to put those standard arms into a composing pose, so the little extra touch is much appreciated. Rio: Totally, it helped immensely. I also love the heart container, because when you put it behind him so you can't see the stand so much, it's really cute how you can recreate him getting one like in the game. Martin: Honestly, I found the heart container one of the most frustrating accessories. The reason why it's in front of him in the pictures is because I found it almost impossible to get it to stand up behind him. The stand was just too flimsy and loose, though I'll admit this may be sample-to-sample variation. Rio: It was definitely frustrating. I had issues with it too, but once I get it where I want it, it's not moving. Martin: Perhaps it's just a case by case thing. What did you think of the face selection? Rio: I love the side-eyed grumpy face - that thing makes me laugh so hard every time. I do wish we had an actual "cat-faced" Link, but we got a pretty good selection otherwise in my book. Wind Waker was so expressive it's hard to knock it down to just a few. Martin: My big complaint here is the absence of wide eyed shocked Link. This harks back to a recurring complain I have with Nendoroids, which is the perennial inclusion of the 'neutral' face. Is anyone really going to use bland straight-ahead Link here? I think not. Rio: Yeah, definitely not. I agree, the shocked face would have been hilarious and great for so many photoshoots! Martin: Having said that, four faces is pretty generous so I'm not too aggrieved. Also, here's a plug for you GSC - I would totally buy a scale King of Red Lions to go with this figure. Make it! Rio: I was JUST thinking this the other day actually, especially with the figma horses and all that coming about. Martin: Let's start wrapping this up then. I always find Nendoroids a little tough to review because they're pretty same-y, but in this case GSC's usual fit and finish is a boon, as is the range's unique style. Rio: Agreed! I've not been super in love with many of the newer Nendoroids, but I'm really pleased with Link. I love having his cute little self sit by me while I work. Martin: He's earned my desktop spot too, so I think we're of one mind here. Any final words before we call this one? Rio: Just one: HYYYAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! Let us know what you think about the review format in the comments! We'll be back soon with the biggest, baddest Double Review yet!
Nendo Link photo
Maestro please
Last time our reviews editor Rio McCarthy and I teamed up we talked about our collective joy and frustration over Real Action Heroes Link. It seems only appropriate then that we reunite in textual form to look at another vari...

WonFes  photo
Snow Miku, F/SN, KanColle figures available
With Winter WonFes 2015 less than a month away, Good Smile have stepped up to reveal the exclusive goods that they'll be selling at the event, thus saving us the agony of speculation and second guessing that used to character...

Tomopop Review: Kotobukiya's ARTFX J Eren Yaeger

Jan 13 // Martin Siggers
Figure Name: ARTFX J Eren YaegerFigure Maker: KotobukiyaRetail Price: ¥11,000Available at: Hobbylink Japan  Eren's box is certainly going for the 'grimy, gritty, military' aesthetic, plastered as it is in camouflage pattern. Problem is, it just contributes to the overall messy look. I've made my liking for clean, simple box designs apparent in past review but I think even someone who prefers a lot of stuff on their packaging would agree this is not the way to do it. There's two names (both spelt wrong, since the official romanization is 'Yaeger'), a bunch of logos and just general sloppy look to the whole thing. Not a great start. Fortunately, this base gives off a much better impression. It's a hefty chunk of solid plastic with a beautiful glossed finish and some excellent paintwork. It's always hard to reproduce wood, and it's probably fair to say this looks more like an artist's impression of a tree than an actual tree, but it's still a fine effort. Too often people forget how important a decent base or stand is to the overall look of a figure, so it's nice to see some effort put in. Speaking of that overall look though...wow. This is one of those toys that really leaps out at you immediately (no pun intended). I've long praised figures that go for dynamic, in-the-moment poses and this is definitely one of them. You can feel the action and the motion come out at you. The entire thing feels like a freeze frame more than a static scene. From behind the arrangement is equally striking and it's pretty clear Kotobukiya didn't frontload all their care onto the display side of the figure, since the reverse is still beautifully sharp and detailed. This also gives us a good look at how the figure is able to appear to 'fly'. It's because Eren is only connected to the base by one peg and that's on his gear rather than on himself. I was initially a little nervous about this method but it's a strong, solid peg that plugs in deep and has the dual bonus of being tough and not being very obtrusive. I will say that while Eren balances quite well if left untouched, this is definitely one figure you don't want in the range of glancing blows. One light bump will send the whole construction tumbling, so take care. There's also a second display option for Eren, which is to have him on show without the cape. This is achieved simply by popping his head off and lifting the entire part out through the nect joint. There are pros and cons to either look - he looks more streamlined without the cape, but personally I appreciate the drama it adds. Note as well the fine detail touch of the trad on the soles of the boots. I've always found that detailed shoe bottoms are the sign that someone took real care with a figure, as silly as that may sound. Butt shot time! However, unlike most review butt shots, this one actually has a purpose, namely to show off the exquisite care that's been put into reproducing the show's trademark 3D Maneuver Gear. All of these pulleys and rigs would be hidden under the cape were it attached, but that hasn't stopped Kotobukiya from achieving an impressive level of micro-detailing.  From the side, as well, the gear is a masterpiece in miniature, showing off sharp, crisp paint lines, excellent metallic textures and fine sculpting. Kotobukiya haven't gotten piping down to as fine an art as, say, Alter yet - check out the slight spill on the leg strap - but overall fit and finish is highly commendable. The plastic tubes which run from the gear to the sword handles are in fact solid pieces of flexible plastic which come in a separate package and simply plug in peg style to the belt. The other end attaches to the handle of the sword, as you can see here. The swords are again the beneficiary of an excellent detailing job - check out the patterned grip on the sword, which is an actual textured sculpt rather than just a paint-on. The sword blades come separately and plug into the handles, and are alarmingly thin and bendy. This helps in one sense since it means they're less likely to snap, but you have to take great care or else you'll end up with permanently kinked blades. Incidentally, the sword handles aren't removable, as the hilts and the hands are permanently molded together. Eren's face is simple, but excellent, conveying rage and intensity without looking too insane or over the top. A little bit of texturing to the hair helps it avoid the dreaded plastic-bowl-cut syndrome. As anyone who's read one of my previous reviews knows, I love flashy cloth sculpts, so it's no surprise I much prefer Eren with his cape on. There's some good detailing here too with the bunching cloth around the neck area and the breezier flapping as it comes out. There's also a telling indication of the strong and weak points of Kotobukiya's work here. The cape's logo is actually embossed rather than simply being paint or transfer, which a lovely, expensive feeling touch. But it's also rather sloppily painted, with the blue and white quite clearly not reaching down to the base of the raised segments. It's a great touch but also one that's not quite all the way there yet. Gratuitous crotch shot! It's worth it for the chance to see the great work Koto have done with the cloth around the stomach and groin area, which pulls and wrinkles very naturally. Notice again though some slight sloppiness in the paint, particularly around the straps and buckles. You have to look hard but it's not quite 100% there. More great texture work on the boots. I'm especially impressed that the little trailing lace at the top is actually independently moulded and not just sunken into the surface of the main boot. It's very fragile and easy to catch on things though so beware. Overall though, I am very very impressed. Kotobukiya still can't quite go toe-to-toe with GSC or Alter on pure fine detail work, but they're getting closer and closer every time and the strength of the fabulous sculpt alone is enough to carry this figure over any minor quibbles and into highly desirable territory. In a sea of lookalikes, Kotobukiya have succeeded in making this the one you should care about, and for all intents and purposes it's the essential Attack On Titan figure. [Colossal thanks to Hobbylink Japan for supplying Eren for this review.]
ARTFX J Eren photo
Titanic Effort
It's difficult to argue against Attack on Titan being the biggest breakout hit in anime in years. The manga is selling millions of copies, the TV show has been a sensation both in and outside of Japan, cosplay of the characte...

Nendo Tomoyo photo
Sakura's best friend and costume maker shows up next year
I've already spent my fair share of time raving over the adorable Nendoroid Cardcaptor Sakura, but as everyone knows a magical girl is nothing without her friends to back her up. That's why I'm delighted to pass on the news t...

Cardcaptor Sakura photo
Sakura's beau joins her in the figure world
While we've had a lot of Cardcaptor Sakura merchandise recently, almost all of it has been centred around the titular character herself. The story wouldn't be the masterpiece that it is though without another key piece o...

What Toys Are Up To: Penguins in Berlin

Dec 02 // Martin Siggers
For those of you who haven't read my previous posts, the concept of these trips is very simple. I love shooting toys in new and unfamiliar surroundings, but I'm too much of a wuss to bring anime girls or action figures with me. The three penguins supplied with figma Princess of the Crystal however are perfect - small, distinctive and easy to carry about with no loose parts. So with that in mind, let's go off on our tour of Berlin, a city that stood at the centre of 20th century European history. One of Berlin's few remaining historical landmarks is the Siegessäule, or Victory Column. Sixty-seven meters tall, it commemorates a series of victorious wars waged by what was then Prussia in the mid to late 19th Century. Originally standing in the Königsplatz directly outside the German Parliament building, it was later moved several hundred meters to its present location, the large traffic intersection known as the Großer Stern (literally 'Great Star') The column is hollow and for a few euros you're able to go inside and climb to the top, where you can take in the gorgeous view. It may seem slightly odd to see what's apparently a massive wood in the middle of an industrial city, but this is the Tiergarten, a gigantic park that lies at the heart of the city's political and historic district. At 210 hectares, it's practically a forest. Visiting in autumn ensured the park was dappled in a fantastic variety of reds, browns, greens and yellows. The stylish blue of the penguins looks rather out of place in such a location. Also located nearby is the Reichstag, the mighty palace where the German parliament meets. Though it looks gothic and old, like most historical buildings in Berlin it's actually a bit of a facade, since the original was bombed into a shell during the last days of World War II. Large parts of the building were only restored following German reunification in the early 90s. The gorgeous all glass dome seen on top is a creation of famed architect Normam Foster and is open to the public. Though the Reichstag building may be newer than it looks, some parts of old Berlin really are old, such as the magnificent cathedral here. It was however significantly damaged during the war and took decades to be restored to its current condition. Somewhat unbelievably the most severe damage the church took was not from Allied bombing but from the Soviets, who blew up the northern wing in 1975 because they disliked its imperialist connections. Elsewhere, the ruins have been preserved as a memory of the hardship the city suffered. Here, the bombed-out remains of the original Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Chruch sit between the modern church and belfry of the same name. While much of its own history may have been lost to the ravages of the war, Berlin still loves looking back, and museums are a particular attraction. In fact, there's an entire district of the city dubbed "Museum Island" which plays host two five world-acclaimed museums - the Altes (Old) Museum, the Neues (New) Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum. The last is particularly unusual, as its main attraction is a number of detailed full-scale recreations of real life historical locations and artifacts, including the namesake Pergamon Alter and (alert, Fate/Stay Night fans!) the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. Here, the Penguins are lounging about outside the Alte Nationalgalerie, which houses a huge collection of art ranging from Neo-Classical to Modernist, The statue outside the museum is of Prussian King Frederick William IV. But really they should just replace it with a statue of Penguin #1 By far and away the most famous historical landmark in Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate, which has become an icon of the city and in fact thee whole of Germany. Patterned after a Roman triumphal arch, it was built between 1788 and 1791 by the Prussian Emperor Frederic William II. Of course, it's nearly impossible to say anything about the history of Berlin without mentioning its defining landmark of the last century or so - the Berlin Wall. I'm sure plenty of you are familiar with the structure, but those of you who aren't, a brief history lesson. After Germany was defeated in World War II, the country was split into four segments, each under the control of one of the major Allied Powers - Great Britain, France, the United States and the USSR. Britain, France and the USA quickly joined their segments and formed the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany) while the Soviets countered with the establishment of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic). This meant that for over forty years Germany as we know it today was in fact two entirely separate countries, each on either side of the Iron Curtain and each allied with a different power bloc. The West sided with NATO while the Soviet dominated East signed the Warsaw Pact. Berlin lay deep inside the Soviet-controleld sector of the country, but by agreement was also split into four corresponding zones. Once again the three western allies combined their segments leading to a direct division of the city. Many who lived in East Berlin took this opportunity to cross over into West Berlin and from there on to the Federal Republic by the permitted rail and plane links. The Soviets were desperate to stop this exodus of people, and attempted to blockade the western half in mid 1948 to force the Western Allies to abandon the city. Thanks to a huge airlift program the plan failed and the blockade was lifted almost 12 months later. Anyway, the net result of all of this was that by 1961, the Soviet government decided to take the most direct route possible to prevent escapees and simply built a bloody big wall between the two halves of the city. The wall stood for 28 years, becoming a symbol of the brutal divide between the western and eastern halves of Europe. Lined with barbed wire, spotlights and watchtowers, as many as 200 people were estimated to have been killed attempting to cross the 'death strip' that lay between the inner and outer walls. Though the war was gradually torn down following a public uprising in 1989 and the subsequent re-unification of Germany in 1990, large chunks of it still remain, as you can see behind the penguins above. The segment is in original concrete grey but other parts of the wall have been daubed in graffiti or even turned into outdoors art exhibits.   I actually arrived in Berlin during the week leading up the 25th anniversary of the wall's fall. There was widespread commemoration of the occasion, with special displays, planned exhibitions and a massive concert party to be held at the Brandenburg Gate, which since the end of the Cold War has become a symbol of a reunited Germany. Even 25 years have not fully healed the scars of division though. One of the places that best represents this lingering gap is the forum of Alexanderplatz, once under Soviet control. Though much has been done to renovate the area, it still has an undeniably grim, socialist sheen about it. Glass fronted skyscrapers and department stores sit uncomfortably alongside slab-sided Communist constructions. Looking the opposite way is a stark reminder of the way this world used to be. In the foreground the Communist built world clock turns slowly, reminding visitors of the time in long since irrelevant Soviet cities. In the background meanwhile towers one of the jewels of West Berlin, the TV Tower, which was when built the tallest building in Europe and a reminder of the West's superior financial and technological prowess. The observatyion deck of the tower provides a sweeping view across the city and seems an appropriate place to end our journey. Berlin's an odd, interesting city, one in which the old and the new seems constantly at war. It's less glamorous, less artful than the cities I've traveled to with the penguins before, but there's a sense of deep history in the very stones you walk on. It's a city torn by past conflict but with a bright future ahead of it. For that and many other reasons, I highly recommend a visit.
Penguins in Berlin photo
Ich bin ein Berliner
They've been to the city of water, and the land of chocolate and beer, so where would my intrepid penguins and I end up next on our tour around Europe? Well, what better place could there be than the heart of the continent, Germany? Or more specifically, its capital Berlin. Let's see what our intrepid adventurers could find this time round.

Tomopop About Town: MCM Comic Con London 2014

Nov 25 // Martin Siggers
The vast majority of the 'scene' for toy collectors at the con is the wide variety of independent stores, who cover bases as diverse as gunpla, plushes, anime figures, old toys and handmade goods. As the con has grown larger and major companies have moved in there's perhaps a slight sense that the indies have been pushed out, but there's still a whole bunch of them about, and the floor is better for it. With the success of Build Fighters and Unicorn gunpla has become a much bigger phenomenon over here in the UK, yet oddly enough Bandai weren't hawking their wares in person. Nevertheless stores picked up the slack admirably, including the impressive spread shown here. Probably the biggest name to attend in person were Good Smile Company. Once again they showed up at the show under the guiding hand of European representative Maritan, who we'll hopefully be talking to again soon. The company bought a fine array of merchandise, including several difficult to find Halloween Miku Nendoroids. Needless to say, demand was high for everything and the store was mostly cleared out by the end of the weekend. An unexpected but delightful treat was also at the GSC store, as we got a glimpse of prototypes for Nendoroid Sakura and (the then unreleased) Nendoroid Link. Maritan classified that only two each of these early production run examples had been allowed outside of Japan, with the other headed to the United States branch. Square-Enix's giant glass cabinets are a familiar sight at the convention now, but still a welcome one, and the company had bought along an army of Play Arts Kai figures, including the new DC Variant Superheroes along with the traditional avalanche of Final Fantasy stuff.  Remember how I said it was odd Bandai weren't selling Gunpla? It's especially odd because the company was actually at the con and selling other merchandise to boot. The company had a godly section of Dragon Ball Z collectibles, as well as plenty of One Piece trading figures. Bandai also had a cabinet full of achingly gorgeous Power Rangers Legacy merchandise, including Titanus, Saba and the beautiful Dragon Dagger on display here. Perhaps the most interesting toy-related thing present was the presence of an actual Ichiban Kuji auction. I have no idea how 'official' it was but it was certainly set up in the classic way - you paid £8 (about US$12) for an entry, then drew a raffle ticket with a letter on it denoting the group you'd get a prize from. I entered hoping to snag the nifty looking Madoka Magica prize figures, but ended up with an Attack On Titan hand towel covered in kanji I can't read, reminding me why I don't gamble. Overall I'd still say the Con is a great resource for collectors, although it's maybe less of a place for those of us who are 'in deep' and have our own ways to get this stuff imported in. Instead, it's a window shoppers' delight, stalls bursting to the brim with cool and exotic looking merch that will hopefully persuade many more people to pick up a box and give our hobby a go.
MCM London photo
London Calling
As I covered last time I was at the show, when it comes to anime, manga, sc-fi, fantasy and just general geek gatherings in the UK, there's no event bigger than the twice-yearly MCM Comic Con in London. Though the con scene h...

Yukata Misaka photo
Yukata Misaka

Hop to it for FREEing's Yukata Mikoto Misaka.


Electric Orange
Nov 19
// Martin Siggers
FREEing has found big success in their recent forays into Yukata figures, and A Certain Scientific Railgun remains a perennial merchandise favourite. It's hardly surprising therefore that the two have crossed paths, with...
ARTFX J Sakura photo
All the ruffles you can handle
I was too excited for words when Kotobukiya announced they'd be adding Sakura Kinomoto to their ARTFX J line back at Wonder Festival. Now the first part of the waiting process is over, as she's up for pre-order alongside a ba...

figma Sakura photo
Pretty in Pink
Surprise! In what almost seems like an intentional piece of counter-programming, the figma blog decided today was the day to release the first fully painted shot of the upcoming figma Sakura Kinomot. Though we've seen he...

SHF Sakura photo
SHF Sakura

S.H. Figuarts Cardcaptor Sakura flies to pre-orders


Bet on the cards
Oct 30
// Martin Siggers
Bandai certainly don't waste any time do they? Just a shade over two weeks after the company revealed the existence of S.H. Figuarts Sakura Kinomoto from Cardcaptor Sakura, she's now up for pre-order at all your favourite int...
GSC Ren photo
Shirt purely optional
I don't know too much about DRAMAtical Murder but the visual novel (and now anime) has already made it's mark in the toy world, with several fine figures mostly of protagonist Aoba. During today's Kahotan Station stream,...

SHF Sakura photo
But they're both so adorable!
It seems like only yesterday I was complaining about how there were no Cardcaptor Sakura figures, but now we're practically drowning in them, as Bandai have announced they'll be producing an S.H. Figuarts version of Saku...

Good SMile Company photo
Good SMile Company

[UPDATED] Good Smile is coming to MCM London and bringing loot


Including limited edition Halloween Miku
Oct 20
// Martin Siggers
Update: GSC have also confirmed they will have a very limited number of Nendoroid Halloween Miku available. Only twenty will be sold, ten on Friday and ten on Saturday. Get them before they're gone! It's still tough bein...
figma Sakura photo
figma Sakura

figma blog shows off Cardcaptor Sakura prototype


I'm already dreading the Hentai Woody photos
Oct 17
// Martin Siggers
As I've noted several times before, I'm a huge Cardcaptor Sakura fan and the series's recent return to the front lines of the anime toy world has filled me with unmitigated glee. We've known for a while now that Max Fact...
Nendoroid More photo
Silence at the back!
To celebrate its release this week, the Good Smile Company Lab blog took a quick overview of the new Nendoroid More Cube #01 set. Designed to recreate the interior of your average Japanese classroom, the set comes with a blac...

GaoGaiGar photo
Amiami blog posts extensive preview
After appearing in scans a few weeks back, Bandai's Soul of Chogokin GaoGaiGar went up for pre-order yesterday. Despite the wallet-battering ¥32,400 price tag customers weren't deterred as several stores sold out immediat...

$$$ photo
$$$

Pre-order Good Smile's Colossal Titan for a colossal price


Massive monster limited to 500 pieces worldwide
Aug 28
// Martin Siggers
Yesterday we saw Kahotan preview Good Smile Company's astonishing new Colossal Titan polystone statue, and we simultaneously cooed over the detail while ruminating over the surely epic price tag. Well, now pre-orders have beg...
Colossal Titan photo
Mega statue kicks off new 'Wonderful Hobby Selection' ramge
We've seen Good Smile Company's breathtakingly massive rendition of the Colossal Titan from Attack On Titan at several trade shows now, but he's finally reached the last stage of his journey - a Kahotan preview shortly b...

Amakuni's new Asuka is a cut above

Aug 25 // Martin Siggers
Amakuni Asuka photo
Evangelion 3.33 heroine a Hobby Japan exclusive
Amakuni have recently carved out a lucrative niche collaborating with Hobby Japan magazine, producing high quality exclusive figures for the publication. That collaboration doesn't look like it's about to stop anytime soon ei...

Soul of Chogokin photo
Soul of Chogokin

New scans reveal Soul of Chogokin GaoGaiGar release date, price


Crushing evil and also your savings
Aug 21
// Martin Siggers
Ever since it was announced last November, I've been chomping at the bit to know more about Soul of Chogokin GaoGaiGar. Who wouldn't be eager to see more of one of the all-time great super robots joining the undoubted king of...
GSC delays photo
GSC delays

Nendoroid Link sails to two month delay, brings others along for the ride


He'll drop them off in September though
Aug 19
// Martin Siggers
Bad news for those of you who were eagerly anticipating getting your hands on Good Smile Company's rendition of Nintendo's Wind Waker hero - he's been delayed until October. This news was revealed in GSC's regular resche...
Kantai Collection photo
Kantai Collection

Take tea with these Nendoroid Hiei preorders


Latest Kantai Collection lady now ready for orders
Aug 19
// Martin Siggers
The unstoppable  Kantai Collection merchandising juggernaut rolls onwards, and though I've long since given up attempting to identify the individual characters, I know a cute Nendoroid when I see one. That's exactly...
Birthday Club photo
Birthday Club

Tomopop Birthday Club: A present for Martin


What's in the box?
Aug 15
// Martin Siggers
I'm normally very meticulous with keeping track of my figure mail. I log every purchase and keep an eye out for every package. So when this large box turned up my doorstep, I was a touch confused. It's pretty clearly postmar...
Ryuko Matoi photo
Kill La Kill heroine takes even more clothes off
[ Spoilers ahead for Kill La Kill! ] Back at Wonder Festival we saw Good Smile Company unveil a prototype for new figure of Kill La Kill heroine Ryuko Matoi. Rather than go for any of her more common looks though, the co...

Akuma Homura photo
Akuma Homura

Nendoroid Akuma Homura completes the trilogy


Small wings, big head
Aug 11
// Martin Siggers
Warning: Madoka Magica movie spoilers ahead! There's pretty much a holy trilogy when it comes to super popular characters - scale figure, Nendoroid and figma. You have to be pretty in-demand to merit all three, a feat wh...
figFix Shimakaze photo
figFix Shimakaze

[NSFW] Wonder Festival 2014 Summer - figFix Shimakaze kicks off new line


None of the joints, none of the clothes
Aug 07
// Martin Siggers
Wonder Festival saw Max Factory unveil a brand new line for the company - fixFix. As you might be able to guess from the name, it's a spin on their omnipresent figma line, but without the signature poseability. Instead, these...
Wonder Festival photo
Wonder Festival

Wonder Festival 2014 Summer: Good Smile Company Girls


The fairer sex out in force
Aug 01
// Martin Siggers
Though we're seeing a lot more boys making their way into figure collections these days, it's still the ladies who reign supreme. Good Smile Company were certainly doing their part, with a bevy of figures of all shapes and si...
Nendoroid Snake photo
Down to the last pixel
After lurking in the shadows for a while, Nendoroid Solid Snake has finally emerged into the glaring light of a proper preview by Kahotan, and to say he's looking great would be an understatement. It really looks like Good Sm...

Cardcaptor Sakura photo
Cardcaptor Sakura

Wonder Festival 2014 Summer: Kotobukiya announces ARTFX J Cardcaptor Sakura


And Syaoran too!
Jul 28
// Martin Siggers
Those of you who've followed the blog will know of my near continuous requests for scale Cardcaptor Sakura figures. Well, good news has come out of Wonder Festival - it's finally happening!  Surprisingly, though, th...
Aniplex Pus photo
Aniplex Pus

Wonder Festival Summer 2014: Aniplex Plus


Butlers, bikinis and black-clad girls
Jul 27
// Martin Siggers
Though it hasn't been around long, Aniplex's exclusive plus line has already garnered an enviable reputation. It's partially due to smart pairings with established manufacturers such as Good Smile Company and partially due to...
FREEing photo
FREEing

Wonder Festival 2014 Summer: FREEing


Summer Festival at Wonder Festival
Jul 27
// Martin Siggers
FREEing definitely know a good thing when they see it, as their booth was packed with their popular range of yukata-clad ladies. It seems like paired sets are the new hotness in FREEing's world. For me the highlight here is d...
Kotobukiya Yotsuba photo
Kotobukiya Yotsuba

No assembly required for Kotobukiya's new Yotsuba


Someone needs to make a 'Blue Forever' version now
Jul 22
// Martin Siggers
It's a well known fact that all decent human beings love Yotsuba&! and therefore should feel nothing but glee when new merchandise is announced. Today it's Kotobukiya's turn to draw out our 'awwwws' as they're puttin...
Kotobukiya Rikka photo
Banishment your money
I was very excited after Kotobukiya showed off their prototype for Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!'s Rikka Takanashi, and now the final painted version has showed up that excitement hasn't diminished one bit. In fact, col...

Tomopop Review: FuRyu's Cardcaptor Sakura

Jul 20 // Martin Siggers
Figure Name: Sakura KinomotoFigure Maker: FuRyuRetail Price: ¥1,500Available at: Toys Logic  Sakura's box is big, bright and colourful. There's an immediate association with the series too, thanks to the very distinctive red and gold colour scheme, a recurring design motif that has been used on various Cardcaptor Sakura goods for over a decade (it's based on the distinctive design of Sakura's Clow book). What with that, the logo, the various other text and Kero (!) it's kind of a messy design, but it stands out for sure. The sides of the box are adorned with this classic illustration of Sakura that fans should recognize from the cover of the first volume of the DVD release. There's also a chance to see a bit more of the magic circle design. One thing I will say is that although the box looks smart it definitely feels a little cheap when you pick it up - the cardboard is barely cereal box quality and gets dented pretty easily. Sakura has a pretty unusual base - it's shaped like the top of an ice cream cone, with the pointy bit cut off, so it's wider at the top than the bottom. The top also slopes at an angle, making the entire thing a rather odd shape. The top is emblazoned with the Clow magic circle, still to my eyes one of the most iconic magic circle designs ever. I also love clear bases, so I'm alright with this one - it's unusual, but smart. Out of the box, it's immediately apparent that this is a pretty ambitious work by prize figure standards. Sakura's depicted in a relaxed pose, sitting on the magical staff that doubles as her broomstick. It's already a pretty cute pose, but what really gives it extra impact is FuRyu choosing to add the giant wings that allow her to fly. It's both more show accurate and gives a really 'big figure' look to the whole setup. Sakura's been a girl of many outfits, but FuRyu here have opted to go with probably her most iconic look, the pink ruffled outfit from the first anime opening. It's a bold, easily identifiable style and one which allows for considerable flourish and some lovely details, like the big wings on her back or the ruffle-filled dress. This angle also gives a better look at how she's perched on the staff.  Sakura's attached to the base at three points. There's a peg on her right foot, a peg which goes into the back of her skirt and a 'cradle' for her left leg. I really don't like this setup, and it feels very unstable. The pegs are flimsy and the holes loose fitting and it's difficult to make Sakura sit correctly on the cradle. It holds together sure, but there's no impression of solidity, and I'm a little nervous every time I move her. Moving in closer reveals that contrary to what you might expect, there's actually quite an impressive amount of detail. You can see the little ruffles in Sakura's sleeves for example, or the crinkles on the end of her gloves. The undoubted highlight is the Clow Book and Cards, which are beautifully replicated down to the tiniest details. The book is unerringly show accurate, as are the two cards (The Move and The Jump for you fans out there) and while there's a little paint bleed where the two cards meet, by and large it stands up to closest scrutiny. I like Sakura's expression a lot - the wide eyed shout of joy is very appropriate for her character - but the face definitely isn't the highlight of the figure, and it's one point where more expensive examples definitely pull ahead. I think the main problem is the hair, which unfortunately looks very rough and 'melted', all the individual strands sort of squashing together. It looks very much like it was poured out of a mold which, well, it was of course. Also the paint around her mouth is kind of sketchy round the edges, which looks odd from far angles. Given they're such a centerpiece of the figure, it's a good job FuRyu paid close attention to the wings. They're nice and big and have a smart texture to them. The detail level is nowhere near, say, Tenshi, but you probably wouldn't want it to be. The lack of shading helps with the bright, cartoony style and is more accurate to the show's relatively simple art. A general note on materials - this is one area where Sakura really suffers in comparison to 'proper' figures. The plastics used are of a palpably lower quality and feel way weaker and more flimsy. The paint is more roughly textured and lacks the delightful soft-touch feel that companies like Alter nail so effectively. That's not to say Sakura feels poorly constructed or cheap, but she definitely feels cheaper than fully priced figures. There are also one or two nagging quality issues, for example the plastic burr clearly visible along the upper edge of this wing. You can see here that the line on Sakura's dress is painted a little sloppily, and generally piping and sharp lines are good, but not great. Credit where it's due though, the attempt at reproducing the ruffles in her dress is very solid and while it can get a bit blended together, it's only under close scrutiny like this that you'd really notice. There's even the occasional wrinkle and run in her socks to help simulate cloth texture. Again, some slight paint spill on where socks meet shoes, but it's really very minor. Instead check out that nice crisp bow sculpt, especially at this tiny scale. It's a good overall summary of the figure - the details may not always be perfect, but they've definitely put effort into making sure they're there. FuRyu haven't made my dream Sakura figure, and let's be honest, they were never going to at this price. What they have done though is produce a really rather lovely little rendition of the character that's cute, charming to look at and surprisingly strong all round. It punches well above its ¥1,500 price point, and consequently I'd say it's pretty much a must have for fans. After such  long wait, it's rather gratifying to say there's now a Cardcaptor Sakura figure that's worth owning.
FuRyu Sakura photo
Catch You Catch Me
The drought of Cardcaptor Sakura figures has long been a source of incredible frustration to me. The series has everything you need to make an army of great collectibles - cute girls, handsome boys, annoying mascots and ...


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