A couple of months ago, I was reading The Lord of the Rings, and one of the things that’s always struck me about J.R.R. Tolkien is how few books he ever had published. His bibliography basically comprises The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and several short stories. His most famous work is barely over a thousand pages in aggregate, shorter than many single volumes of contemporary fantasy series, and he labored virtually his entire adult lifetime on The Silmarillion without completing it.
That’s not to say that he wasn’t an active writer, though. Tolkien wrote prodigiously; the thing is, he constantly trashed his stories and started anew, coming up with new ideas, defining and redefining characters. One of his most famous characters, Frodo Baggins, was originally Bingo Baggins, Bilbo Baggins’s son. The character is refined over decades through numerous iterations and revisions until he becomes the Frodo that everyone knows from the movies. Despite the paucity of Tolkien’s published work, it’s safe to say that his characters are some of the most beloved in all of fiction and have, thanks to the films and the books’ enduring appeal, become pop-culture icons.
There is, however, another way to develop characters and ensconce them in the hearts and minds of the masses, one that doesn’t require a lifetime of toil. Start with a female anime character with big eyes, give her some attributes that hit on a variety of fetishes held by anime fans, get an associated video or a song up on the web, and chuck some merchandise out into the market. Then, when the inevitable anime and manga and video game tie-ins come out, you’ll be able to move more merchandise and sit back and watch panting fans drop thousands of yen on your goods. Character background? Don’t need it. Personality? Make it up as you go. Just be sure that it falls within one of the common, proven-to-sell archetypes. If it does, you’re good.
Normally when I write a figure review, I write something about the character’s history, but in this case, I have absolutely no idea where the Black Rock Shooter comes from, apart from being an illustration that I think inspired a song or a video on a Japanese website. I don’t even know if that’s her name, or if she has a real name; if she doesn’t, I guess that’s one other thing a character doesn’t need to sell stuff.
Now, I’m being unfair when I suggest that all you need to do to sell figures is to pander to the usual fetishes. Well, that’s all true, but in the Black Rock Shooter’s case, she stands apart by featuring less-popular, perhaps even controversial traits. Scars certainly aren’t very high on the list of appealing attributes, and a number of people don’t particularly like scantily-clad characters (I’ll never be able to figure out what’s wrong with those sorts of people). She doesn’t have headphones or a schoolgirl outfit or a maid uniform or a fang or glasses or thighhigh socks. What she does have is a very prominent scar, a pallid complexion, and a bulimic body build, all combining to present her as the very image of unhealthiness.
As a side note, there’s a character in the game Sengoku Rance who constantly coughs up blood and is thwarted from seeking a cure by several strange creatures who believe that frailty is moe. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
The Black Rock Shooter is sculpted in 1/8 scale by Good Smile Company. She’s a bit under 20 centimeters tall to the top of her head, but she is quite a bit larger due to her hair and gun and the huge, chunky base. The base is big and heavy and is sculpted quite nicely, although I’m not sure what it’s depicting.
She comes in a really big box but she doesn’t have too many accessories. Her gun fits in her hand without any pegs or fastening points, and there’s a small black chain that you can loop around it and her arms. Good Smile Company thoughtfully provides an instruction sheet to show you how to wrap the chain, but I thoughtlessly ignored it and just draped it over her weapon. Finally, you can give her a glowing eyeball by scalping her; her bangs detach so that a separate forehead piece with the transparent blue plastic glowy effect can be fit into place.
Here’s her normal face, which isn’t nearly as interesting as the glowy eyeball.
The sculpt is pretty good; looking at the source artwork on the side of the box, it appears faithful, although the figure’s facial expression seems a tad angrier than the illustration. I like the pose a lot, she’s leaning back with one leg crossed over the other, giving her a sense of nonchalance. I’m not really a fan of flat chests, and her bikini top isn’t doing her any favors, but I always approve of skimpy costumes so I’m not going to complain.
The paintwork is similarly good. She’s got a very simple but eyecatching color scheme, with glossy black paint used on her clothing and dark, blue-tinged paint used to color her hair.
I wonder how this character got the scar. Did someone slip some roofies into her drink and extract a kidney while she was out? It looks a bit like half of a train track, with those lines going across it. Maybe they’re supposed to be from stitches? I don’t have much experience with major lacerations so I guess I wouldn’t know what such a scar is supposed to look like.
True to her name, she comes packing heat, and what a gun it is. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to shoot, but it looks very impressive. It’s mostly hollow and isn’t all that heavy. It comes with some scraped paint along its edges that I assume is supposed to highlight the desolation that this figure portrays.
I bet everyone who wanted this figure made up their minds about how they viewed it months ago. Me, I think it’s a pretty good figure. I don’t really understand the tidal wave of hype and lust that enraptured so many figure collectors for so long, but then again, I suppose my taste in figures can be a bit peculiar. This is a pretty good looking and altogether distinctive figure and I’m happy to have it, but I’m more curious as to how long this character’s appeal will last.