I think it's safe to say that many tomopop readers love garage kits. Or rather, they love looking at them. When asked if they would like to try and make one, I think the most common responses would be "they're too hard," "I can't paint" or " I don't have the skill." Perhaps in response to those kind of answers, some garage kit circles, in recent years, have been releasing kits which have had their parts pre-molded in colour. The idea is that buyers could simply clean up the parts a little with sandpaper and then glue the parts together for a completed, presentable figure without any of the hard parts associated with the usual kit building process, like painting.
Then Volks, a company who still regularly release resin kits, decided to take the idea and give it a bit of their own spin. The result is the Charagumin line. The first releases were of the specially designed Charagumin mascot and Lina Inverse from Slayers. And next in the lineup are Mistral and Maxima from Shining Hearts. Mistral has already seen her release while Maxima will be released soon. Having said that, Maxima seems to be rather popular, having seen at least a couple of figure releases of her already so I decided to go for Mistral. As a kit builder, I was curious to see just how well the new line of figures stacked up compared to both other GK and the PVC figures.
Now, before we continue, I should say that all the photos of Mistral in this review were taken of her build straight out of the box. Aside from a little sanding and removal of excess resin, nothing was done to the kit beyond gluing certain parts together to ensure they hold. Later on, I am likely going to paint her and do the full works but for now, this is how she would look like if anyone bought the kit and just put her together.
With that out in the open, lets get it on!
Figure Name: Charagumin Mistral Nereis
I purchased Mistral using the Tokyo Hunter proxy service when she was on sale at Hobby Round 5. Since then, Volks have added Mistral to their international website store, meaning that they are able to ship this kit to international buyers. You can use either their international store or proxy services to buy her, but I suspect that buying direct will be a little cheaper once the final total is worked out.
For once, the box deserves a little mention. It's a clear plastic box which contains the above image of Mistral which was used as the basis of her sculpt. I'm not sure why Volks decided to use plastic for the box. The usual cardboard would have been much cheaper but it does make the kit stand out a little!
And here are all the parts lined around. There are more parts here than for usual garage kits but that is to be expected, seeing as each coloured part needs to be individually made. Having said that, the parts are all well crafted and fit perfectly.
Sadly, one thing Volks couldn't get rid of entirely were the parts of excess resin. On the plus side, they are all easily removed and most are in areas which will not be seen in the finished kit. But you still need to cut them off and do a bit of sanding, otherwise the parts won't fit together 100%.
There are also seam lines on various parts. It's up to you whether to remove them or not. They won't hinder the build process but they can look a little... unsightly.
The instructions are pretty clear but the parts pretty much tell you where they are meant to go anyway. They were also designed to fit in only one way so the part for the left thigh won't fit properly on the part for the right leg for example.
Volks also saw fit to provide two different sets of eyes for the kit to go along with the 2 faces. The ones on the right are decals while the ones on the left are stickers. The stickers are meant to go on the face with hollow eyes, as there is a separate part for the stickers to go on so they can be inserted.
The above image shows the completed kit with the full face which will eventually have the decals applied. The rest of the shots were done with the second face and the sticker eyes.
And here's the complete kit. Given that the kit is pieced together by the modeller, it's rather impressive. Of course, some compromises had to be made due to the nature of it being a kit rather than a pre-made figure. It lacks any sort of very small details but it could also be argued that the design of Mistral didn't really have any minor details of note in the first place. There are still some folds and creases on the dress and some clever use of layering the various parts give some level of depth to certain parts, the skirt in particular.
The back shot helps show just how well the parts fit together with only a little effort required to remove the excess resin. The red section is actually made of two parts, if you look closely, you can just see the separator down the middle section. You can distinguish the individual parts due to their different colours but the fact that they fit so well togetheris a testament to the great work Volks have done to find the balance between ease of assembly and good general appearance of the final kit.
The large heart pattern on the upper skirt kind of stands out in my build as I have yet to glue it down due to my intention of painting the kit at a later date. But it does serve as a good example of the clever layering Volks have done to make things look almost seamless.
Remove the red heart and you can see how things look underneath. Pretty simple, but such simple things are used to great effect in this kit.
Another back shot where you can see the split between the red parts a little more clearly. You can also see the bow which dominates the left side of the kit.
A closer look at the shoes show that there are some extra details on them, which may show up better when painted but they look fine as they are as well.
The bows on the skirt and shoes are the smallest parts of the kit and can provide some frustration if you misplace them but they hold onto the parts rather well. No chance of an upskirt shot with Mistral though, but if you really want one, you could just remove the whole skirt!
I did say earlier that most of the excess resin were in areas which were not usually in plain view but there are some exceptions, like on the hair pieces. Again, a little extra sanding should remove most elements from view without the need to crack out the paints, but I'd be amiss to not at least mention them in this review.
Removing one of the hair pieces allows you to see the side parts more easily. It also allows you to see the ribbon on the arm and the body more clearly. Remember, each coloured part is a separate piece.
Looking at the face in more detail, we find that the stickers give a slightly harsh stare for the expression. I think the decals will give a softer look but we'll have to find out later. The stickers were applied to a separate black part which was then inserted into the back of the face. Without the stickers, the kit would just have some freaky blacked out eyeballs. You may have seen the effect in some of our event coverage pics where the charagumin figures have been present. The stickers themselves were very easy to apply, primarily because there was only a limited area for you to apply them on. If they weren't in the right area, then it would show up immediately when you looked at the face because the black area underneath would be visible. The eyebrows were a little trickier but it did seem to allow you to remove it a few times without losing its adhesive properties. I wouldn't test it too much though.
All this leaves us with an interesting little product. Certainly, for seasoned garage kit builders, Mistral (and the Charagumin line in general) doesn't really add any particular incentive to get her by being done as a colour resin kit. With much of the work done for them, there's no challenge in making one, though the line seems to be focusing on older, more neglected characters as well as more recent ones, as the kits for Lina Inverse and the upcoming Lime from Saber Marionette J will attest so there will be some appeal there but seasoned kit makers are not the target audience for this line.
For those new to garage kits or those too afraid to try making one for fear of messing up the painting, the kit is far more enticing, particularly if those people are interested in having a slightly more personal connection to the kit as opposed to doing a simple unbox and display. She's easy to build, looks good out of the box can give new builders a sense of accomplishment when they are done and one will probably feel a greater level of attachment to the completed figure, given that they had to spend some time and effort to actually put her together in the first place. On the downside, the completed figure does lack a certain "punch." She's nice to look at and will stand up well against many other PVC kits but I don't think it'll turn heads in the same way some other kits or figures will.
The easiest way of describing Mistral is that she is what you make of her, In spite of the hardest part being removed from the equation, she is still a resin kit at heart so it's down to the maker to bring the best out of her. I don't think that kits like Mistral will give rise to a boom in new gk builders, but when it's so easy to make a kit look as good as this, perhaps some of those who have stayed away from the idea of assembling their own kit will give it a try now that the entry barrier has lowered considerably. And if they do, I think we can say that the Charagumin line has done its job successfully!
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