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Tomopop Review: AmiAmi's Shinonono Houki

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Kenran Butou!!

It has always bemused me why <IS> Infinite Stratos hasn't really seen many figures of the girls in their actual <IS> suits. We've had them in their school uniform, swimsuits, pilot suits and even the girls wearing animal ears which was only shown in one episode of the (awful) second season of the anime! 

When it comes to the <IS> figures, we've had the AGP line but that's about it... until now! Rather than getting an established company taking in the challenge, instead we have a newcomer in the shape of AmiAmi, in their first major figure release, to give us the first figure of the <IS> suit and who we get is Shinonono Houki in Akatsubaki! There's been a bit of history with this figure. She was first shown two years ago with pre-orders opening soon after. She was initially meant to be released in late 2013 but delays meant that she only got a release recently and her initial price was... severe. However, it was lowered when she was finally released but the price is still somewhat on the high side. 

So, we have a figure which has been beset with delays (making Bayonetta seem punctual), with a high pricetag and by a manufacturer with little history. Not exactly a recipe for instant success! But, not only did AmiAmi rise up to the challenge but they also laid the gauntlet down to all the big figure makers with their first release!

Figure Name: Shinonono Houki & Akatsubaki
Figure Maker: AmiAmi
Retail Price: ¥20,365
Available at: Amiami | HobbySearch

First, let's take a look at the box...

Seriously, this is the box that Houki comes in. A completely nondescript cardboard box! Of course, once you take her out, you can see her actual packaging!

To be honest, I have no idea why they decided to double pack her as the main box itself seems pretty sturdy. The box gives us a small window to take a look at the article within but otherwise keeps things pretty minimal.

And once you get her out of the box, you find out that she is pretty damn huge!! Seriously, Houki can give my TriggerHeart Exelica and Nanoha StrikerS Takamachi Nanoha a run for their money and they're the two biggest figures in my collection (excluding 1/4 scale garage kits). For a more recent comparison, Houki takes up more space than μ-12. At least μ-12 could fit in my usual photo shoot apparatus. No such luck with this monster! (hence the variable quality of the shots).

The figure itself comprises of Houki with arm and leg armour as well as four wings. two of which are attached to her back with two larger wings held by their own supports and not attached to Houki in any way.

There have been reports from other buyers of some issues with the connection between the armour and Houki's back, but I can't say that I've had any problems with the connection myself. The parts fit quite well, although I advise putting the upper wing sections on after you've attached the rest as the hair can get in the way.

Houki herself is held by two bent metal poles which insert themselves into holes in her feet. not the most eloquent way of holding her up, but the supports need to be metal in order to support the weight. In the photo above, you can also see the chromed paintjob on the armour parts as they shine in the light. A neat touch and one which definitely beats the usual boring matte finish.

As for the armour itself, AmiAmi did a wonderful job on the depiction, with the <IS> looking both mechanical and armour like. Sadly, none of the parts are moveable, unlike the AGP figure but that doesn't detract from the aesthetic. You can see more rounded areas in the knee section to really get the feel that the armour surrounds the pilot while becoming an extension of them as opposed to a bulky tack-on. 

The arm parts show this off very well as well. Note that there are no distinct seam lines between the armour parts and the unarmoured parts. 

A closer look at the side satellites. To be honest, they don't really add much to the figure other than volume and completeness. More often than not, they will be blocked from view by the figure, but Houki doesn't look complete without them! They aren't much to write home about either, especially with their limited positioning. Their main use is to compliment the figure and give off a greater sense of scale.

However, even with all my praise, this figure is not perfect. There are two glaring issues which are rather prominent. The first one is that the figure does not come with any instructions whatsoever. This isn't too much of an issue of you're a real veteran to figure collecting but for the beginners/intermediates, it can be quite difficult to work out which parts connect where, especially regarding the back wings. You'll get it eventually but it can take quite some time if you don't have your wits about you. 

The other (even bigger) issue is what you can see in the image above. The swords are designed to slide into the hands, but there's nothing holding them in place, and the grip on both hands is incredibly loose, meaning that the swords (especially the one in the right hand) are prone to slipping and even falling off at times. There have also been reports of structural weakness in the hands as well...

Like many other buyers, the right thumb of my Houki snapped off very easily when first putting the sword in place. Luckily, it's always a clean break (at least from what I can tell from other buyers) so it's easily fixed with a little glue but it's definitely something you don't expect. Placing the swords can also be a little fiddly as they are quite large and can struggle to fit initially. Those finger bits are also rather sharp!!

The pose itself, while fantastically dynamic is also a little odd. It's like the left arm and legs are preparing for a cut while the rest of the body is finishing it... The lack of grip on the swords doesn't help as it looks like she's relaxed. The pose would probably have benefited from moving the right arm back a little and leaning the body forward, but lord knows what would happen to to the balance of the figure...

In spite of some of the larger failings, I can't recommend this figure enough. A while back, I wrote a feature which explained why I was worried about the future of the anime figure industry because so many of the new releases were so limited and dull. None of the new releases really sparked my interest for a long while and then Houki came along and pretty much single-handedly restored my faith in the industry. Remember, this is a first release from a company with no history of figure making and she pretty much knocks the ball out of the park in their first attempt!! And they're set to do it again! Check out their Cecilia in our Wonder Festival coverage!

This really feels like a wakeup call to all the other figure manufacturers. We've had new companies pop up and basically disappoint with lacklustre releases (Pulchra and their Noire, anyone?) but AmiAmi just turned up and not only showed the newbies how it's done, but even showed up the established players as well! Houki is one of my favourite figures in years and I can't wait to see how Cecilia turns out (pretty damn amazing if the previews are anything to go by). AmiAmi just need to do a few tweeks and then their future <IS> releases will be near perfect!

Yes, Houki is pricey, but she's worth it, a bit of a rarity in recent times! Easily one of the best <IS> figures out there and if you're a fan, you really should think about stretching your wallet! There's really nothing else quite like her at the moment. 

...Lets just hope that they stick with the superior original designs instead of the ones created for the new novels.


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AmiAmi: Shinonono Houki reviewed by Chris Seto

 

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Chris Seto
Chris SetoAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Chris is one of the many tomopop writers. While often hibernating (even in the summer), this creature will often arise from his slumber to cover some of the more niche parts of the japanese figur... more + disclosures


 



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