Yotsuba & Sunflowers

Yotsuba said I should cancel my dental appointment and take her to play with the sunflowers.  Who am I to question Yotsuba?

Broken Alice

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Batsu saw this figure back in December at the Volks shop in Akihabara – truly a beautiful sculpt.  She goes by the name “Alice in Neverland” – and as far as I can tell, she is an original character sculpt (no pre-existing anime, game, etc.).  Pre-orders opened in late January, but the figure won’t be released until late April.

Slender, broken body, part woman and part girl, dream and nightmare, innocence and corruption – simply captivating.  According to the Questioners, LLC website, each eyelash is painstakingly affixed one at a time.  Her crown doubles as a ring, and her little storage box is lined with luxuriant black velvet.  (Watch the video on the link above.)  The latch and detailing of the case is as almost as exquisite as the figure itself.

The artist, Sakarako Iwanaga is one of few recognized female shoujo sculptors.  Reading an interview with her was like reading excepts of a feminist manifesto – not that she seemed overtly militant, but perhaps a bit weathered by sexism in the industry.  This would seem to be coupled by the perception of a woman sculpting – let alone specializing in – female characters.

Of couse Iwanaga has done many other beautiful sculpts as well – apparently one I just missed of Kanako from Mouryou no Hako (click for more pics).  It’s a raw “garage kit” – meaning just parts, no paint, perhaps even independantly produced – made for Wonder Festival Summer 2009.  There may, perhaps, still be a way.

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Bad Medicine

A few years ago, when Square-Enix decided to launch a “exlixer” style beverage to commemorate the release of the FF7 movie, it came in a magical, faceted blue plastic and glass container.  Of course, the container was held in a box, which concealed which type of bottle it contained (collect at 6!), but nonetheless it was magical.  A mere glance was sufficient to conclude that it infused with some ethereal mana of life, that would instantly give you full MP and HP for the coming boss battle.  Which totally made up for the way it tasted like absolute crap.

The newer version of said elixer looks anything but magical.  It looks like a cheap soda can.  Considering that Japan prevalently packages alcoholic beverages in aluminum cans, it contains even more disappointment and less magic than usual.  But somehow, looking at the white box, batsu fell into a time slip and impulsively purchased one of the newer FF13 potions. Upon opening the box, she realized this error.

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R0010755

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Blast and damnation!  Who cares what figure that is – what a rip!

It sat in the fridge for a week or so – remembering the vile serum contained within the aforementioned truly magical elixers.  But then one day, I realized that I needed a boost to finish a project for work.  Expecting the worst, it surprisingly had a pleasant lychee-like aloe taste.  Something definitely worth drinking again, if it only appeared to be magical.

a tribute to all sick people – nurse brightfeather

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Batsu had nurses on the brain last month and couldn’t help but pine for a figure she saw last summer.  Fortunately, bastu has a friend that specializes in finding rare toys – often at bargain prices.  That friend just so happened to be present the first time Brightfeather was spotted – all the better since neither of us could remember what she was called.  A few weeks later, quite possibly the greatest abomination ever made by Bandai was put safely in my hands.  After which I had to carry it out in the open through the streets of akiba…  until remembering a reusable bag in by purse – phew!

Busou Shinki seems to be a concept series developed by Bandai for the express purpose of pandering to other mediums (anime, game, etc.).  At present, through the purchase each figure, you are enabled a free trial period playing as that character in some sort of online game.  I have not, nor do I intend to investigate further.

Aside from all of that, Nurse Brightfeather is one of the greatest concept characters ever developed.  Part nurse, part cyborgic angel, and mind-numbingly moe, with far more interchangeable parts than I’ll ever understand.  She comes with an elaborate back-pack style artillery, showcasing detachable scalpel blades (that double as wing-like apparati) and crash paddles, as well as an over-sized syringe.  Other parts include glasses, two different chest-plates, two different facial expressions, two different hairstyles, and a menagerie of hands.  Tiny, yet deliciously poseable perfection.

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Yamato Dolls, Dolls, Dolls

About a year ago, batsu wrote this article/review for Otaku2.com. The subject of the review was a doll made by Yamato; specifically, a limited edition Obitsu 50cm body Minmei character doll. I don’t think it’s one of my better pieces, but the photos turned out alright. I got to dress her up in a few different outfits, and we took a walk to Kanda Myojin Shrine in Akihabara.  And apparently it was published in some Hungarian magazine, too?  The details on that are fuzzy, but I hear it’s true.

Apparently, someone in the product development department was kind to take notice. Kanda Myojin is actually right down the street from their offices.  And, surprisingly, that same someone still remembered those photos a year later! So in short, today I was invited to their showroom for a peek at new dolls, figures, and accessories.

The new bodies look sharp, and it seems like they’re going to steer away from licensed characters and go more towards original dolls, making them both more affordable and more customizable. The B-type body is admittedly a bit voluptuous and muscular for my taste, but is nonetheless perfect for the Ikitousen character it was created for. Not only ripped, but well shaded to show muscle tone. They’re going to start offering it, along with a bit less beefy (but still quite busty) D-type body in both raw kits and as well as concept characters.  The dolls were deco’ed out today in jeweled nail stickers by the company president, who also took the liberty of adding some up-skirt bling for the precarious passerby.

That said, speaking for myself the best part about Yamato is their costumes and accessories. Factory produced, yet still meticulously detailed. Ms. Yasuge is assuringly – refreshingly – fastidious in regard to particulars, and was quite generous to expound upon the making of various parts, such as wigs, gloves, clothes and shoes.  Just taking one look at those shoes more or less speaks for itself.  Sourced out to a “regular” shoe factory and made of the same materials as “people” shoes, they have a presence all their own – of which the same can be said for their pleather outfits.  The new glasses are also top notch, made with a special thin plastic as to not distort the overall look and shape of the eye, and delicately hinged just like “real” glasses.

There were figures and other dolls as well, but I only snapped picutres of Mercedes from Odin Sphere and the intimidating Macross collection, now with street-legal bike helmet.

You can go see it all for yourself tomorrow, when it’s open to the public:

Doll Holic

10/24/2009 11am-4pm

Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku Sotokanda 2-4-4

Dai-Ichi Denpa Building 8F

In addition to the showroom, there will also be a photospace if you care to bring your dolls.

Life is Sweet – Toshi Yoroizuka

After coming back from a seven year tour of Europe and opening a self-titled sweets shop in 2004, Toshi Yoroizuka has become one of the most famous patissier in Japan.  In the past year, he’s done collaboration chocolate products with food giant Lotte, provided dessert models for the bakery backdrop in anime Antique, and received the honor of having his creations immortalized in miniature plastic form.

Produced by Yujin, there are 2 sets of 6 each, debuting in December 2007 and April 2008, for a total of 12 different little desserts.  They come in a display-like packaging that resembles the signature store boxes, along with a clear logo-embossed display pouch if you care to hang it from a bag or cell phone.  On the contrary, batsu prefers to give them to good little dolls as a special treat.  The models are bigger than the standard 1/8 size, making them perfect for MSD and SD friends.

I’ll admit that I purchased the figures prior to visiting the Roppongi store location, and thought they looked a little too good to be true.  However, after encountering a two hour wait for the cafe on a weekday afternoon, only to decline it for a 20 minute wait just to see the take-away showcase, I realized the myth that was Yoroizuka.  The myth that was manning the register with a humble smile, cordially waiting on patrons, asking if he could validate our parking as we shuddered in disbelief.

Everything glistened in an ethereal glow of perfection, and seemed only to become more fantastic as we snaked closer and closer along the winding course of the line. We selected the Cassis and Jean Pierre, for figure comparison, along with the Olympiad and Almond Shioux Cream for good measure.  Believe it or not, the staff actually refused to sell us their signature shioux cream unless we promised to eat it within 60 minutes – though there was no way for them to provide us with seating on the bitter winter’s evening.  Unchafed, we purchased them anyways and stopped at a nearby generic coffee shop, considering the not-so-generic designer shopping tower (Roppongi Hills) we entered.

The other purchases were taken home to stand side by side with their plastic counterparts.  Though the pictures speak for themselves, aside from size, they’re nearly identical.  Dolls and humans alike rejoiced in a dinner that needed no supplementary course, aside for a cup of tea.

The figures are currently quite difficult to find, assumably due in part to their exquisite craftsmanship, but perhaps also because of limited production and the notoriety of Yoroizuka.

Volks Shop Finder

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The following link leads to a Google Map detailing all of the Volks Showroom and Tenshi no Sumika locations in Japan. In addition to offering a variety of figures, kits, and dolls, including the Dollfie line, Volks shops provide the craftsman and other artists with a plethora of resources for creating and modifying figures, as well as the materials and inspiration to embark on other original projects. Volks shops are also stocked with information about local events, exhibits, and classroom workshops, many of which are organized by Volks itself, and staff are usually friendly craft enthusiasts, more than willing to assist and offer advice.

No two Volks shops are the same, and those living in or visiting Tokyo might find it helpful to visit a few shop locations when collecting materials, or looking for that special SD dress. The main problem with this is actually finding the locations, as they can be hidden in buildings, basements, or dark alleyways in the sprawling urban jungle. With the aid of Google Maps, most of this guesswork has been taken away, as every nook and cranny is carefully documented from an aerial view, and you can often look at surrounding landmarks using the Street View function.

To those visiting for the first time, Volks Showroom locations feature toys, figures, resin kits, and other hobby related materials such as paint, glue, clay, molding tools, and various printed materials. Volks Tenshi no Sumika locations are specialized Dollfie outlets, carrying dolls, clothes, accessories, parts, and special care items among many other things for Dollfie of various sizes. Many Volks locations feature a Tenshi no Sumika area inside a larger Showroom store, though there are some specialized locations, all of which have been detailed on the map.

I hope you find this useful for all of your wants and needs, and look forward to hearing your feedback. And, please, don’t be afraid to mention any mistakes.

Without further adieu:

The Volks Shop Finder

The creation of the Volks Shop Finder has also inspired a number of other maps detailing some of the finer doll, art, hobby, anime, and otaku points of Japan. As such, a permanent page containing links to these maps has been created, and can be accessed under “Pages.”

The maps, however, are still a work in progress.

Figure Review: Ena Ayase

Ena Ayase is the sixth figure released by Kaiyodo as part of their Yotsuba& Revoltech series. Though it was officially scheduled for release September 1, the sexy idea of high profit margins from a cute shojo figure prompted most retailers to stock shelves the last weekend in August. She sold out before the end of the week not only in Akihabara, but also on Amazon.com and the Kaiyodo online shop.

Following the big bang of Fuka, the second figure released in the series and which also sold out in a matter of days, many of the Ena purchases can be attributed to speculators. However, unlike Fuka, demand has seemingly not increased. Even at the time of this publication, the figure can be found at Yahoo! Auctions way below retail price. (I’d even venture to say the price is going down…) But, more on that later.

Packaging:

Ena comes in a cute but simple packaging, suitable for displaying the figure if that’s your thing. The design is reminiscent of the Yotsuba&! bound manga, with plain white background and brown paper obi. The sides are splashed with photos of the figure, and the obi reads “Atashi kara, natsu yasumi,” roughly, “Summer vacation starts with me.”

Contents:

Ena is the only figure in the Yostuba& Revoltech series to be sculpted by Yuki Oshima, the rest of which were sculpted by Tomohide Enoki. At first glance, the figure blends right in with the others, and at least artistically has no distinguishing features to mark it out. On the contrary, mechanically speaking the figure is quite different and perhaps shows some of Oshima’s capsule-toy roots.

Fresh out of the box, Ena is wearing a cute summer dress and holding her bear Julia. However, there are visible seams on the side of her shirt composed of soft snaps. With some careful maneuvering, her shirt and skirt can be removed to reveal a swimsuit underneath. Some more careful maneuvering can put a towel in place of Julia to create a complete beach get up.

The figure is fairly well balanced, but comes with a branded pink base that snaps into the feet.

Playability:

For what reason solid figures were incorporated into the Yotsuba& Revoltech series, I may never know. As it stands, Yotsuba and Danboard are the only two characters to incorporate Revoltech’s extremely awesome joint system, which makes for some the most natural looking super posable figures I’ve ever seen. Actually, the jointing is almost a waste on Danboard as the character is bulky, inhibiting movement. But, to make a long story short, Ena can’t move.

However, her arms and head come off to aid in changing her clothes. This would be of some comedic value, if the process itself weren’t so difficult. There are no instructions on how complete the change, and the clothes are made of a soft vinyl material that could potentially tear if not handled properly. Taking off the garments is also much easier than putting them back on due to the awkward shape and position of the arms. The soft vinyl snaps are no picnic, with the positive ends refusing to connect with the negative ones; after 20 minutes or so trying to restore her previous form, I more or less gave up on making a good seal.

Accessories:

A towel… A bear… A base. Yotstuba can also hold the towel or bear, which is cool, but I’d bet there aren’t too many other things Ena can hold. Personally, I’d like for Ena to have some sort of flotation device, so that when she’s swimming in the bathtub – I mean ocean – she remains safe from drowning.

Verdict:

Ena is ridiculously cute, which more or less mandated this purchase. The other characters like playing with her – I mean, she blends in well with the other characters, helping to create better play scenes… And, yeah. She’s really cute.

The only thing I’m a little dissatisfied with, aside from the moving prospect of “zero points of articulation,” would be the slightly sloppy changes between outfits. It’s difficult to gauge how long her soft vinyl clothes are going to last, especially with the obstacle of her arms. Just from three or so attempts, the color already seems to be bleeding onto her skin a bit. She doesn’t seem to be made for the kind of play I had in mind.

I don’t really consider myself a collector, but she makes a fine addition to the Yotsuba family. But as a stand alone, she might feel a little lonely.

Yostuba&! Figures from 7-11?

In what seems to be a new angle in marketing, figures from Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! series, currently running in the Dengeki Daioh monthly publication, have been branded yet again.

It all began last winter, when amazon.com offered a special Danboard figure – a character dressed in an array of cardboard boxes – wearing exclusively Amazon packaging. This time around, 7&i Holdings is getting in on the action, offering not only 7-11 branded version of Danboard, but Fuka as well. Both manufactured by Kaiyodo, which offers an ever widening variety of Yotsuba&! series figures, the 7-11 Fuka edition will have two alternate bodies, just as the original. One will feature a 7-11 brand t-shirt and matching skirt, while the other body will feature a yellow shirt with “goya” written on it. The shirt references an episode in the comic involving Okinawa, famous in Japan for goya – a green, bumby and uniquely flavored vegetable known as balsam pear, bitter melon, and bitter gourd in English.

Both figures are available from Seven-Net, 7-11′s online shopping service. Pre-orders, which started July 29, will continue to be accepted through September 9, and figures will be shipped as to arrive at 7am on November 27.

Summer Yotsuba…

It\'s a fight to the finish!  Oh no, Tachikoma\'s broken a nail!

…freakin’ rocks.

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