The air was hot today, thick and heavy with the changing seasons. Summer was not Mercedes' favorite time of the year. The humidity clung to her like a cloud, adding weight to her paper-thin wings. She had stopped by the stream for only a moment, hoping that the coolness of the water would help her relax. She swung her head back and forth nervously, and tightened her grip on her weapon. The gem on the end glimmered slightly, reflecting the swirling water.
She sighed softly and glanced down at her amphibian companion. "No rest for the weary, eh?" He looked at her with smiling eyes, glad to be out of the heat. "You know we can't stop for long. We have to keep moving." He tilted his head and croaked, nodding in agreement. Mercedes had never quite figured out if he could understand her, but he certainly acted as if he did. In any case, it was nice to have a companion. "Ready?" She said, extending her arm down. The frog jumped up onto her back and settled down for another long ride. Her iridescent wings flapped slowly, catching the slight breeze before lifting off.
"I am sure we will find it one day." She said to the frog, but it was more so to reassure herself. "We just have to keep looking..."
Now I usually do not have much to say about PVC boxes, but Mercedes has a particularly spectacular one. Alter decided to go against the standard white packaging with a window box and images of the figure slapped on every side and instead went for a simple black design with green lettering. The result is truly gorgeous. It would be hard to resist picking this up if you saw it on a shelf.
Mercedes comes in two separate pieces, the base and the actual figure. Putting the two together is very easy, you just slide part of her crossbow onto a peg sticking out of the base. I was a bit nervous that this would not be enough to support her, but Mercedes is very lightweight and appears to be quite solid once put together. I have other Alter figures with more preposterous-looking support systems and they are all very sturdy, so I am not overly worried about Mercedes.
I am honestly so blown away by this figure that I find it hard to correctly describe her magnificence. The first time I held her, I realized that she was as close as I have ever come to a perfect figure. The paint is perfectly applied, the sculpting is magnificent, she has a unique pose, and is full of lush details. She is one of the few figures I own that looks as nice as the original production shots, if not a bit better.
For me, the face is by far the most important part of a figure. No matter how great an outfit or pose may be, I always pass if the face is not up to par. Thankfully Mercedes does not disappoint in this area. Her face is beautiful. It has an almost cutesy feel, mainly because she is a faerie, but the distant look in her eyes and her pursed mouth makes he appear almost regal. Her nose is a bit pointy, and since I never played Odin Sphere I do not know if this is part of her character design, but I for one love it. Usually supernatural characters end up looking human, even if they are vampires or elves or succubi, because of their faces. Mercedes is definitely not a human, and one glance at her face is enough to tell you that.
There are no dull angles on Mercedes. This figure is so full of incredible detail that every angle gives you something new to look at. From the back you get a better view of her wings and the ferns on the back of her base. You can also see all the details on her cute pantaloons much better.
When the first few reviews of her went up on Japanese sites, there was some concern over her skin tones. In some images she looked incredibly pale, with no shading whatsoever. Mercedes is indeed a pale figure, but as you can see there is lots of shading, especially on her legs.
The flowers on her headband are quite beautiful, and they also serve to cover that seamline everyone is so concerned with. Most figures have seamlines in their hair of one sort or another, but companies have been coming up with clever ways to hide them.
The flowers are pure white with no shading, and the paint is perfectly applied. There is no overlap with her hair or the headband thankfully. The yellow in the middle is also very neat, and does not stray on to the petals that much. While this is pretty much the expected quality from Alter, I feel that they really went above and beyond with Mercedes.
The braided pigtails are very well done. The sculpting is superb, and the shading really helps give the sense of real hair. They also flow nicely with the rest of her body, giving the sense that she is in mid-flight and just paused for a moment to look around. Mercedes has a wonderfully expressive pose that really captures the feel of a frozen scene.
I also love her pointed ears. They are far more exaggerated than the usual elf or faerie ears in terms of width, but they add a certain impish charm to Mercedes.
Mercedes' slight frame is covered by some rather voluminous clothing. Her pants and sleeves are puffed up quite a bit, and it gives the illusion that she a bit larger. The detail work on the sleeves in particular is fantastic-- the fabric curves around her arm in a very natural way. The shading is also top-notch, especially on the lime green area. I don't think there is a single part of her sleeve that is a solid color, everything is shaded for added depth.
The positioning of her hand is quite nice, and though her fingers do not really have as much detail as the rest of her body, they are still pleasing to look at. Her hands seem almost child-like in shape, but considering that she is a faerie it seems entirely appropriate.
The lack of detail on her hands is definitely made up for by how much effort went into sculpting and shading her legs. The tendons and muscles are all fully sculpted, adding a sense of realism to a very unreal character. The curves of her calves and thighs are also quite lovely. Mercedes is a thin character, so giving her chicken legs would not have been much of a stretch, but the gentle curves definitely add to the figure rather than detract.
Words cannot describe how much I love her shoes. They are perfectly shaped and the shiny paint is just perfect. They look so dainty. If I had a pair of shoes like that I would wear them non-stop!
The gem on her chest is hard to see from many angles, and I wish it was slightly more visible because it complements her eyes perfectly and also brings out the red highlights in her hair. I might put Mercedes on a shelf slightly above eye level just to make it more visible, but then it would be harder to see her wings.
Mercedes' wings are stunning. Although they are made from translucent plastic, they look very much like stained glass. They catch the sunlight, or any other light for that matter, beautifully. Though they are a pale blue, in the light they look almost teal, and sometimes have hints of yellow. I have no idea how Alter managed to create this effect but props for them to making something truly unique for this figure.
Mercedes' weapon is the only part of this figure that I have any qualms with. Though it looks very nice from the front, and is highly detailed, the paint work on the back is not that stellar. The coloring is fine and the lines to make it look like real wood are there, but the finish is slightly glossy so it looks very much like plastic. This is not an area you see too often, so it is not a huge deal, but it is a small flaw that could have easily been fixed.
The pink gem on the front also seems oddly out of place. I know it is on her weapon in the game, but I do wish that they had toned down the pink a bit or at least used a glass-like plastic similar to the material on her wings or the gem on her chest.
Mercedes' intricate base was definitely one of the main selling points of this figure. Alter managed to create a base that added to the figure, rather than just serving to set it upright. This is a shot from the back-- even the angles that you rarely see are incredibly detailed. The roots from the tree extend all the way to the bottom, as do some of the vines from the lilies. The ferns and leaves are all perfectly sculpted and have quite a bit of shading. They are also made out of very soft plastic and bend easily, so there is no need to worry about snapping them off.
The best part of the base is definitely the little frog in the front. I think he is Mercedes' companion of some sort, because he showed up in the Yamato version as well. In any case, this little dude is truly awesome. His face is adorable, and the speckles on his back and legs are perfectly applied. He is painted as well as Mercedes herself, as is the rest of the base. It is truly amazing that they put this much attention to detail into this figure.
Those are just a few of the many details that can be found on the base. Now remember that Mercedes is a small figure. 1/8 scale, but she is a faerie, so she is a small character. The total height with her wings included is about 8.5". It is astounding that they managed to cram so much detail, and also perfectly paint everything, when it is all quite small.
Mercedes comes with a sheet of instructions for putting her on the base, but the other half seems to show how to remove the top of the base. I wonder what could be underneath?
A teeny tadpole! The hidden base was a delightful surprise, as none of the promotional shots hinted that there would be another layer under the "water." Getting the top on and off is quite easy, but I would recommend that you read the instructions before attempting this. There are some fragile pieces that could snap off if you try to force it!
I really cannot recommend Mercedes highly enough. Despite her one admittedly minor flaw, she is an incredible figure. Not surprisingly, she sold out quite quickly in the major stores, but thankfully Alter almost immediately announced a re-release scheduled to come out in September. AmiAmi has her up for only 6250 yen (around $67), which is a great price for a figure this incredibly detailed.
Thanks as always to the lovely Stephen Donaldson for taking these pictures. He braved mosquito-infested waters for you guys! Of course he did not get bitten at all, but I sat on the banks and got attacked by about 7 million of them. Any of you have this lovely faerie on order?
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