Despite not being particularly religious, I always like to play as a paladin in role-playing games. I’ve always admired the ethos of the paladin: the self-sacrificing knight devoted to justice and charity. My party leader in the Bard’s Tale games was always a paladin. My Baldur’s Gate parties always had two paladins – my player character and Ajantis in the first game and Keldorn in the second. I played a paladin in EverQuest despite the hindrance of the hybrid experience penalty. I stayed away from World of Warcraft for years because I was told that paladins were only good for healing and I didn’t care to spend my game time staring at a CTRaid status window while mindlessly spamming the Decursive key (I wound up doing that after I bought the game, anyway). When Volks announced that their Sasara figure was called the “paladin” version, my curiosity was piqued, and when I saw the promo pictures, my interest was confirmed. I had some slight misgivings because Volks’s Moekore figures tend to not feature the cleanest production quality, but I figured Sasara looked good enough that I wouldn’t care. I figured correctly, because pally Sasara is a very impressive figure indeed.
Sasara Kusugawa is a relatively recent addition to the expansive cast of To Heart. She first appeared in To Heart 2 XRATED, the PC port of the original title, and has swiftly become one of the franchise’s most popular characters. This particular figure is derived from her appearance in To Heart 2: Dungoen Travelers, the PSP adaptation of Final Dragon Chronicle: Guilty Requiem. Kotobukiya has released several figures of characters from that series, including samurai Tamaki, and Volks has a figure of valkyrie Tamaki and bishop Manaka. An OVA of Dungeon Travelers is scheduled for release next February. And if you like seeing the To Heart characters in oddball games, Aquaplus also published the Examu-developed crossover fighting game Aquapazza, starring various characters from To Heart, Utawarerumono, Tears to Tiara, and other Leaf games. Here’s the debut trailer. Unfortunately, Sasara doesn’t appear in the game, nor Buddy or any of the characters from Kimi ga Yobu, Megido no Oka de.
This figure was, like all of Volks’s figures, sold only in Japan, which necessitated an additional expense to procure it. Sasara is sculpted in 1/8 scale and stands about 21.5 centimeters tall, making her appear quite large relative to other 1/8 scale figures. She’s about comparable in size to Alter’s 1/8 scale sculpts and is noticeably larger than Kotobukiya’s samurai Tamaki figure.
She comes with an oval base and sword and board. Her weapon fits easily into her hand – a happy change from how difficult it was to get Kaguya Nanbu equipped – and her left hand detaches to get her shield onto her forearm, making setup a very simple affair.
Every good pally requires appropriate equipment. Sasara’s arms and armor comprise a broadsword – rather plasticky-looking, unfortunately – and some very fetching white enamelled plate. Her design keeps troth with female warrior convention in fantasy art – though her limbs are encased in armor, her torso is basically protected by a plate brassiere. Her accoutrements include a red dress with a plunging neckline and a very high cut above her legs – very attractive.
It’s a bit rare to find an anime girl who carries a shield since, curiously, it seems to have played no role in the history of Japanese warfare. Though you won’t see any ninja or samurai girls toting shields around, some of the characters inspired by Western martial styling – like Leina and Annelotte from Queen’s Blade – do carry them, and so does Sasara. Sasara’s shield features the same white color as her armor, with a large black cross, affirming her allegiance. It looks good and adds a conspicuous element of distinction to her design.
Sasara’s statuesque pose is one of the best parts of this figure. Legs set wide and head cocked to one side, she radiates competence and confidence, with just a touch of arrogance. And sexiness as well – her aggressive stance emphasizes her armor-sheathed legs, calling attention to her bare thighs. The sinuous tilt of her body exposes the swell of her hips and highlights her narrow waist, both of which are perfectly complemented by the flare of her dress.
Her expression lies somewhere between casual nonchalance and cold-blooded disdain. Narrowed and icy blue, her eyes convey almost no emotion, and that in itself establishes a great deal of this figure’s personality. Sasara projects a somber, serious attitude – wholly appropriate given her role as a reverent avenger. It is a good thing that her eyes can carry so much of the weight of effecting her disposition because her mouth is all but vestigial. Look closely and you can sort of see that she’s scowling, but from a normal viewing distance, her mouth is basically invisible.
Though her gaze is grim, her headdress adds a bit of lighthearted counterpoint to her look. She’s wearing something reminiscent of a pair of floppy bunny ears and a hair ribbon. I tend to dislike animal ears on anime characters but since this is obviously an article of clothing, I’m fine with it here, and it’s not completely obvious that they’re animal ears, anyway.
Incidentally, her white armor and red and gold color scheme remind me a bit of A Song of Ice and Fire, specifically, the armor of the Kingsguard and the traditional colors of House Lannister. Sasara doesn’t have the right eyes, though.
I think it’s pretty hot how her navel is visible through her dress. And for people – such as myself – who don’t mind explicitness, pantyshots are easy to come by. Her underwear is cut very high, which I’m glad to see, since I think the high-cut waistband looks a lot better than the low-leg style you see a lot, such as on samurai Tamaki.
In my experience, Volks’s PVC figures aren’t exemplars of exceptional production standards, and unfortunately Sasara isn’t an exception. Look closely at her and you’ll see tiny paint flecks, little pockmarks, and all sorts of other small problems that become obvious up close or through a macro lens. However, I think her construction is a notable improvement from some of the other Moekore figures I own, particularly the Super Robot Wars girls.
It would be nice if Volks upped their game to match Alter, Good Smile Company, and Max Factory with respect to PVC figures, but even without their painting precision, Sasara is an awesome figure. There are a ton of things I like about her: her elegant armor, her steely stare, her fearless composure, the revealing tightness of her panties. And of course, I like that she is a paladin. All of this adds up to make Sasara one of my favorite figures released this year. It’s a bit of a shame that she won’t get a general release, because she definitely merits all the love the collecting community can offer her.
Daiki Kougyou is making another figure of Sasara from Dungeon Travelers; theirs is based on her samurai outfit. I have it preordered and I’m quite looking forward to it, though I’m undecided as to whether she looks better fully-clothed or cast off. I wonder if anyone will make a figure of Sasara in her Tyris Flare-inspired outfit?