Curiously, the pop culture comics industries of Japan and the United States do not intersect all that often. Sometimes an American property like Star Wars gets a manga adaptation, and Witchblade has the very rare honor of becoming a full-blown franchise with an anime series and all the ancillary accoutrements – soundtracks, figures, its own manga spinoff, and so on. On this side of the ocean, the two big comics companies toy with Japanese visual style – Marvel occassionally churns out titles in their Mangaverse line, and DC has its Ame-Comi series, a catalogue of mediocre toys done in pseudo-anime style. Usually its up to smaller publishing studios like Udon, Devil’s Due, the long-defunct Dreamwave, and very minor imprints like Alias (who I think are also gone) to create comics in anime style.
So imagine my surprise when I learn that not only will a major Japanese toy manufacturer be making 1/8 scale figures of Marvel characters, but that Shunya Yamashita is going to be the one to do the source designs. This has to be the best thing that’s ever happened in the history of humankind, right? Well …
Natalia Romanova, the Black Widow, is the first in Kotobukiya’s Marvel Bishoujo lineup, although I think Rogue was the first to be announced. Natalia’s technically the first Black Widow in the comics continuity; a second Black Widow named Yelena Belova also assumes the moniker and can be distinguished by her short bob of blonde hair. She’s currently gallivanting about as team leader of the Thunderbolts, although judging by the cover of Thunderbolts #137, Natalia might be making an appearance in that series herself.
Natalia’s also been part of the Avengers as well as starring solo in a few of her own series. A couple of those series were written by Richard K. Morgan, the British author of the enjoyable Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, the promising but ultimately mediocre Market Forces, and the execrable Thirteen.
Anyway, let’s talk about the figure. First thing to mention is its size. It’s billed as 1/8 scale but she looks smaller than that to me. Here she is standing next to one of Kotobukiya’s other 1/8 scale figures:
For shame. Oh well, nothing one can do about that. Moving on …
To be honest, I’m not all that familiar with the Black Widow character, as I’m not all that much of an Avengers fan. From what I can tell, this figure is basically faithful to the character design. She’s encased in a tight black catsuit – a wardrobe staple of superspies everywhere – with a clunky black belt emblazoned with a red hourglass symbol. She also has her trusty wristbands which I assume are stuffed with spy-type gadgets and she clutches some sort of gat. I’m going to guess that her weapon is Russian in make but being generally unfamiliar with firearms, I wouldn’t know for sure.
The face is unmistakably designed by Shunya Yamashita but the execution seems off. Her cheeks are puffed out, giving her something of a baby-faced appearance. I’m not sure it works so well for a lethal Russian espionage agent, but then again, I’m assuming Yamashita and Kotobukiya were aiming for cute rather than dangerous.
Sculpting is okay – I wouldn’t call it super great, but I can’t really see anything that stands out as problematic. The same goes for the paint job. Actually, I’ll compliment the job the sculptor did on her ass, which really does look fine.
I wonder how she walks in those heels, let alone does spy work.
To be honest, I don’t think I would have bought this figure if she weren’t the first in this lineup, and I don’t think I’d like this figure all that much if I weren’t a fan of Marvel comics. However, since I am, I’m willing to overlook its small size and uninspired craftsmanship. It’s a nice figure, one that Marvel fans will probably like.
I should be getting Rogue in a week or two. I bought Natalia from an American retailer, the first figure I haven’t imported from Japan in months.
Kotobukiya was giving away this poster at the recent San Diego Comic Con. I wish I could’ve been there (picture shamelessly taken from Marvelous News).
Judging by Rogue’s costume, I’m going to guess that this hug occurred before she gained control over her absorption powers, so Natalia might want to take care not to brush skin and get knocked out or something.
Rogue is next, and the Scarlet Witch is the third figure in this lineup, and then the fourth and fifth are Psylocke and Phoenix. Being that Psylocke is my favorite X-Man, I’m really looking forward to Yamashita’s interpretation of her.