We are here today to take a look at a cultural icon, one of the most famous things in its field. Indeed, it is so ubiquitous that some might say that it is overused and overexposed. So without further ado, let’s go ahead and take a look at the Fender Jazz Bass.
The Jazz Bass is, along with the Precision Bass, one of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation’s flagship products for low frequency musicianship. Arguably one of the most significant musical instruments of the twentieth century, the list of bassists who have used the Fender Jazz reads like a who’s-who of rock, funk, and jazz: Flea, Adam Clayton, Tim Commerford, Les Claypool, and so on. Larry Graham, one of the inventors of the slap and pop style of playing, also played on a J bass, and Marcus Miller, one of my favorite bass players, has a signature Jazz.
In its most famous and basic form, the Jazz Bass is a four-stringed instrument with two single coil pickups. Three pots control volume for each pickup and tone, and the headstock features Fender’s distinctive rounded design with all four tuners on one side. Fender offers maple and rosewood fretboards usually with twenty frets, and the body is made of alder.
I know I’m forgetting something … oh yes, there’s a girl holding the bass here! Heh. Okay, presumably everybody who follows and watches anime has heard of Mio Akiyama. Me, I haven’t watched K-ON! and I don’t know much about it other than it has five high school girls who form a band. K-ON! is a curiously polarizing show and I don’t think my lack of knowledge of Mio’s character or personality will matter much here since everybody has already made up his or her mind as to how they feel about her. Other than me, anyway; I have no real feelings either way for the show or its characters.
I do love girls who play musical instruments though. I presume that Mio’s bass is supposed to be a Jazz; however, there’s no Fender logo on the headstock so you could make a legitimate argument that she is using a cheap knockoff. Given how much the American Standard model costs, I suppose it’s plausible. But anyway, let’s assume it’s the real thing. Her version of the J bass is a southpaw model with a rosewood fretboard and maple neck and the always-popular sunburst finish. From my personal observation, many bass players prefer to use the fingers to play their instruments, but Mio here is using a pick. Nothing wrong with that, but she’s not going to get much sound out of her bass since it’s obviously not plugged into an amplifier.
Details, hmm … Mio is manufactured by Alter and is in 1/8 scale, standing just about 19 centimeters tall. She’s got a circular, transparent base that she attaches via two pegs that plug into her left foot. There’s some text on the base that introduces the girl and also advertises “Ho-Kago Tea Time.” I have no clue what that refers to.
Mio’s sculpt is pretty simple, she’s wearing a fairly standard schoolgirl uniform with her hair splayed out a bit. The pose is quite dynamic, right hand on the fretboard and right leg lifted up. Mio can’t slap with that pick but it does give her something to hold up for the viewer’s attention. I really like the ribbon under her collar; its ends are flared forward, adding to this figure’s sense of movement.
As I’ve said, I’m not all that familiar with the source TV show, but it seems to me that this version of Mio deviates a bit from the official character artwork. I’m not entirely fond of the TV design, so I think that this is a pretty good change. Her eye shape reminds me a bit of Alter’s Narika, although I guess there’s only so many ways you can sculpt an anime-style eyeball. I’ve noticed that a few of the other, myriad Mio figures scheduled for release seem to be more faithful to the original design.
Her bass looks fantastic. It’s around 14 centimeters long and you can get a good sense of how big a bass is from this figure. The strings are real strings that go from the bridge through the nut to the tuning pegs; they’re not metal though so don’t expect to be able to play on them. You see the appropriate white outline under the pickguard, and there are little bumps meant to represent the screws holding it to the body. The pots have a level indicator, the bridge is lovingly detailed for something so small, and the fretboard has the dots at the appropriate locations.
Mio is wearing a schoolgirl uniform, and school uniforms are never designed to stand out so her paint scheme is a bit drab overall. That’s not Alter’s fault, though. There are some nice touches, like how her shoes imitate shiny leather.
Back to the bass; Alter’s done a marvelous job replicating the sunburst finish. Not just that, though; the pickguard also looks marvelously realistic. The pieces that are supposed to be metal – tuners, bridge, the plate under the knobs, the strap pegs – look very much like chrome. One very nice aspect of the paint job is the lack of it on the neck; the neck of the J bass is made of maple, and you can see the simulated wood grain on its back and on the stock.
It’s been a long wait for the J bass – err, Mio – figure, but in the end it was well worth it. Mio looks awesome, her bass looks freaking awesome, and I can’t say enough about what a great job Alter did here. Irrespective of how one feels about Mio – and I do understand why many people hold venomous views towards her – I think everyone can agree that the J bass looks great. So if you don’t like Mio but you like basses, you should still buy this figure.
I’m trying to think of the basses that we have seen in anime. Haruko Haruhara in FLCL used a Rickenbacker 4001, also set up for left-hand play like Mio’s. Haruko used hers more as a cudgel, though. Taira in Beck used a Music Man Stingray, another classic instrument. It’s a bit odd that I’ve never seen an Ibanez guitar in anime, even though they might be the most recognizable Japanese guitar manufacturer.
Ehh … I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mio’s choice of undergarments, since I’ve noticed a bit of controversy regarding her unmentionables. She’s wearing plain white panties; apparently in the TV show she wore striped drawers. Personally, I think it’d be cooler if she wore a thong. I know people care about this sort of thing, so here’s the proof: