If any one series brought me back to anime and manga ... it was actually InuYasha, but it was Yotsuba&! that really kept my attention going when I was looking for something new to dive into. Kiyohiko Azuma's previous work Azumanga Daioh had been one I enjoyed, and when I got a hold of his series featuring a 6-year-old with green hair and endless curiosity for everything in the world, I was hooked immediately. Ever since, I've been slowly adding Yotsuba&! figures to my collection, and Kaiyodo's most recent gashapon release caught my attention. That would be the Yotsuba & Monochrome Animal series, featuring five different animals paired with Yotsuba doing various things.
Are Kaiyodo's latest CapsuleQ figures worth it for Yotsuba&! fans, though? The answer is right behind the jump; see you there.
So we start with ... the ball. Yeah, there are no boxes here, just a large pink ball with a plastic wrapper holding in all the figure goodness. Not a lot to talk about here, except that the balls were a lot larger than I expected ... and that last statement shouldn't be taken in inappropriate ways, readers.
And here's what's inside. In case you're wondering where the heck the figures even come from, they draw inspiration from a picture book called ... wait for it ... "Yotsuba & Monochrome Animals." The entire book is Yotsuba playing with animals, and it was released more than six years ago in December 2006.
The random assortment of 8 pieces gives us four of the five figures from the set; sadly, the Abyssinian Colobus figure is missing, so it can't be reviewed, but let's hop on in and check the other four out:
First off, here's the dalmatian figure. It's basic enough: Yotsuba is reaching out with a smile on her face to shake the dog's paw. It's my favorite of the bunch because it seems like such an everyday kind of thing that you can imagine Yotsuba doing.
The black spots on the dalmatian's face do obscure this a little bit, but Kaiyodo has included detailed eyes on the dog. They're small, but I can assure you they are there and in Kiyohiko Azuma's style. It's nice to see they weren't forgotten about even on a small mass-produced figure such as this one.
As for our star here, Yotsuba is perhaps at her best with this figure. Kaiyodo has done a wonderful job capturing the essence of her personality with the sculpt. It's the largest of the four Yotsubas in our review, which gives Kaiyodo a bit more leeway to add in details.
Next up, we have Yotsuba and the anteater. The anteater is just kind of trudging along, and Yotsuba is watching with curious wonder. Simple, yet effective.
The tail of the anteater is a separate piece that fits in, and a seamline is visible there. The anteater's fur has some volume to it even on such a small sculpt and the paint on both figures here is clean.
I am still puzzled, though, about why these small figures have a seamline in the hair. I'm guessing it's for assembly purposes to avoid paint issues, but you'd think on such a small figure, they'd have figured out how to get the same effect sans seam? It's not as if this is a figma or Revoltech and you'll need to swap her head out ...
Speaking of the head, though, Kaiyodo has included one nice little feature: neck articulation. There's not a lot you can really do besides tilt and rotate Yotsuba's head with the ball joint, but it's actually a nice little feature. Why? What little articulation it provides can be used to create some different looks for the gashapon, depending on if you want her trying to emulate the anteater or just staring at it curiously. Nothing earth-shattering or breath-taking, but still, an option that's alright to have.
Next, we move on to Yotsuba and the Holstein cow. The cow is a two-piece figure, joining just behind the front legs (you can see the seam line in the photo) and attaching to the base via holes that slot into little pegs. It took me a little bit to get on there, but it doens't tip or fall apart once the cow is on there.
The one noticeable defect I found was a surface paint crack on her shoes. It is noticeable from a distance, but it doesn't appear to have any other effects besides looking like it's worse than it really is.
As for Yotsuba herself, she's tiny to fit in scale with the cow and probably about the right size, too. She rests on a peg and is a little prone to falling off since it's a small peg, but again, Kaiyodo has done well getting small details included without defects being present everywhere. And of course, she's drinking a glass of milk; adorable.
There's a little less detail in paint (and more in sculpt) on the cow's head. The eyes are not painted in the same manner as the dalmatian, but they are defined better with the sculpted eyelids. However, unless you're looking at it from close up, the detail can get a little lost in the monochrome color scheme.
For our last figure, we find Yotsuba in an environment that suits her well: the water. Except she's with an orca. Seems kind of dangerous to let a small child play around with such a big beast, but then again, it's a manga character and I am probably on the verge of overthinking this.
In any case, we have the two swimming together, Yotsuba in her wet suit, with a look of determination on her face. What impresses me most is how clean the paint is on Yotsuba for a figure her size; it would have been pretty easy to mess this one up.
This is the tiniest Yotsuba of the four, slightly smaller than the one with the cow, and also has the tiniest point of attachment. If you can't see it, it's on her right hand and attaches into the fin of the orca. Needless to say, this makes her really easy to dislodge, so be careful handling the gashapon piece.
Like the cow, the orca's face has some detailing for the eye but it's not easy to see. You know, just like orcas in real life, but what is here is decent enough to do the job. Also like the cow, it's a two-piece figure, assembling together near the tail with a visible seamline.
The orca's peg is a bit larger, attaching on the tail, but it was also the hardest peg for me to fit into place. It just didn't want to cooperate at first and I was afraid I might snap the PVC piece in two for a bit. However, it eventually did fit in and it's sturdy as can be once you get it assembled.
Kaiyodo's first crack at Yotsuba gashapon figures isn't a bad one. The figures are definitely more for Yotsuba&! fans than anyone else, and for their expected price range, they're what you'd expect to find. Kaiyodo's team has captured enough of the essence of Yotsuba — the youthful energy, innocence and curiosity that her character portrays — to make these figures worthwhile for fans of the green-haired little girl without seeming like a cheap cash-in effort. Fans who just want more Yotsuba, period, will probably enjoy this series of figures more than those just looking for something to add to their collection, but regardless of why you might pick them up, they're a good purchase if you do.
[Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for sending the set along for review!]
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