Stop! In the name of love!
Kotobukiya's Bishoujo line has touched many licensed properties, but I can honestly say I didn't expect a Mass Effect Bishoujo. I wasn't sure what to make of the Mass Effect Bishoujo Shepard, as she looked quite a bit more conservative (and boring, I felt at the time) than the other Bishoujo figures. Now the release date is almost upon us, and she's sitting on my table.
This figure surprised me in a few ways. It's nice because sometimes, you think you can discern everything about a figure from its promo shots. After all, PVC statues don't move or change. With Shepard (first name Jane), there are a few intricacies to the design that don't really show up in the promo shots. Read on for a better idea of just what you'd be getting.
Figure Name: Mass Effect Bishoujo Shepard
As you probably know by now, Kotobukiya's Bishoujo series of figures are all based on art by Shunya Yamashita. His unique style brings a cuteness and sexiness to female character designs that I find appealing. Understandably, the Bishoujo line has ballooned into many different licenses.
This female Commander Shepard is pretty atypical of a Yamashita design, though. She's the opposite of cute and sexy, instead looking very much more mature and serious.
The box is just like any other Bishoujo figure box, and gives you a good idea of what you're getting. You can also get a look at Shunya Yamashita's vision of the character. I sometimes criticize Kotobukiya's Bishoujo figures for not really getting the face right. In this case, Yamashita seems to be the one who doesn't get the face right. Rather, Kotobukiya's sculpt better fits what I usually think of as the "Shunya face."
Unpacking Shepard was no problem. You get two inserts for her base featuring the Renegade and Paragon symbols. I went with the Paragon symbol because wings will always be cooler than stars. The standard edition, which is what this review covers, has a swappable left arm that holds the M-55 Argus assault rifle. By default, Shepard's left arm holds an omni-blade. The exclusive version allows you to swap the right hand with one holding the Eagle heavy pistol, creating some sweet dual-wielding possibilities.
The omni-blade isn't desperately cool-looking to be honest. Its finish lets it down; it looks more like an accessory you'd get with a small action figure. If it had used glossy plastic, I think that would have enhanced the effect.
Fortunately, you can swap out the omni-blade for a much cooler assault rifle. It really makes Shepard look like she means business. This is my preferred version of the figure; she's either saying "stop" to her teammates, or "stop or I'll shoot you" to you. The interpretation depends on the angle, but either way, she looks more dangerous with a gun.
In photographing Shepard, I noticed how the official promo shots lied to me in some ways. Promo shots have to show the product, and as a result the lighting tends to be even and undramatic. After unpacking the figure, I noticed that Shepard's armor had a lot of textures and facets that didn't come out in her promo shots.
I also didn't expect the sort of metallic finish that came on the figure. It catches light very well, and I found myself using hard lighting to highlight everything going on with the armor. The sculpt is intricate, detailed, and clean. Due to the multitude of plates and ribbing found on Shepard's armor, mold and seam lines are naturally easy to hide. To Kotobukiya's credit, I couldn't find any bad seams even when I looked. Well, there was one exception:
As with most figures, Shepard's hair is made up of several pieces. The seam lines here are not well-hidden. Most people would probably display her so that her right side is out of view, but there's a seam on the left side of her head too. Sometimes you can hide these things with hair accessories, sometimes you can't. Aside from this issue, Shepard's hair is actually well-done. I like the shading on it, and Kotobukiya put some effort into giving the hair some depth.
The quality of Shepard's armor was a big surprise to me. A smaller surprise was how much I wound up liking her face. This is a great interpretation of the Shunya face, mixed in with the Mass Effect aesthetic. Moreover, Shepard isn't really doing the "tee hee I'm a pinup!" expression. Her face is kind of blank, but that's because she means business. My favorite feature is definitely her eyes. They're vivid green and catch light as well as her armor does. You also don't have any of that Bishoujo pink-eye going on.
On Shepard's body and armor, the paint job is clean. On her rifle, it looks a little rough but is not an issue for normal viewing. Kotobukiya is continuing to make progress in terms of build quality, with each iteration of the Bishoujo series getting better than the last. With a design as intricate as this one, I could see it being easy to screw up. However, Kotobukiya has done an excellent job keeping things clean while reproducing a large amount of detail.
Just look at Shepard's abdomen. Seriously, how cool is that armor?
Her legs have a ribbed texture under plates of armor. The sculpt on the individual buckles and straps is meticulous. I had no idea there would be this level of detail on Shepard's legs - just another one of the handful of surprises I got doing this review.
The back view shows something else that caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting her to look so mechanical from this side. From the front, Shepard looks authoritative but feminine. From behind, I thought she barely looked human at all. It's a startling shift in feel - probably unintentional, but an interesting effect nonetheless.
All that armor means, sadly, you don't get a nice butt shot. Any attempt to admire Shepard's butt draws attention to how downright mechanical and robotic it looks. I'd say it has a bio-mechanical look, almost like something out of an H.R. Geiger painting.
I don't want to finish by writing a patronizing thing about how women can be powerful and commanding, or something like that. Depending on your tastes, this figure can be appealing for that reason. Or it might turn you off to see a Shunya Yamashita design showing no skin, with a modest bust, no butt, and a weirdly robotic outfit. All that is down to taste.
What I do want to leave you with is this: I thought this would be a boring figure. None of the promo shots grabbed me, and the conservative design put me off slightly. Then I held it in my hands and found a great many cool, unexpected little details. I thought, after all this time, I knew what I would get with each Bishoujo release. Commander Shepard showed me that Kotobukiya can still manage to pull off a few surprises.
[Thanks to Kotobukiya for this review sample!]
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