The longevity and impact of the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise is nearly without peer in anime, and a large part of its lasting popularity is due to its iconic characters, particularly Rei and Asuka. And what’s not to like about them? Both are young, sexy girls who are curiously well-developed for their age and wear tight bodysuits when going into battle. One is a taciturn, robotic introvert and the other is an assertive, mercurial hotshot with the temperament of nitroglycerin.
None of Gainax’s other properties have come close to the endurance of their foremost creation, and so they’ve taken the obvious course of action and remade the series, sticking in a new girl in the process. In this hobby, it’s the closest thing to having your own money printer.
I didn’t watch Evangelion until around 2000, years after its original air date, and so I don’t have a good grasp of the context in which it achieved its popularity. Nonetheless, I can’t say that it made all that great an impression on me, and at its end I was still wondering what the show was about. Ten years later, the main things I remember are the cute girls, abysmally poor parenting, and the copout where Toji survives his fight. Oh, and the peculiar and exploitative religious imagery, it’d be hard to forget that. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if George Lucas made a new Star Wars movie where the Sith antagonists were all evil Shinto spirits with Japanese names; would that look any more silly?
Mari Illustrious Makinami is the newest of the teenaged warriors and like most of the characters in the series, her names come from World War II-era warships. In this case, she is named after HMS Illustrious and the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Makinami. The Illustrious played an integral role in the Battle of Taranto, the first action in which carrier-based aircraft struck against a hostile fleet. She later served in the Pacific, where the resilience of her armored flight deck compared to the wooden decks of the American Yorktown and Essex-class carriers was noted. The Makinami met its fate during the Battle of Cape St. George, where she was engaged in a night battle by the destroyers of Arleigh Burke’s DesRon 23. She was crippled early in the fight by a torpedo and sunk by gunfire, most of her crew going down with her.
Both names are still in use, the current HMS Illustrious being an Invincible-class light aircraft carrier and the JDS Makinami being one of the newest destroyers in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. Somewhat ironically, the most capable units in the JMSDF are derivatives of the American Arleigh Burke-class of warships, making the current Makinami an escort to ships built to a design named after the captain who sunk its forebear.
Mari is manufactured by Kotobukiya in 1/6 scale, and like their Elwing and unlike their Psylocke, she’s a big figure, measuring around 23 centimeters tall. She’s straightforward to set up; her bangs are swappable for one with glasses, and she has a very nice base that she doesn’t actually attach to, but she’s stable enough anyway.
Tsukuru Shirahige has sculpted three other 1/6 scale figures of the Evangelion characters for Kotobukiya, and they all have a distinctive look to them. Rei has an enigmatic, dreamy expression, Asuka has a contented, peaceful smile, while Misato wears a look of anxiety. In contrast, Mari’s expression seems to be saying, “Hey man, check out my ass.” Her grin is sly and seductive and her backside is thrust out for examination and admiration. And it is most worthy of worship – it’s big and round and her plugsuit shows it off perfectly.
Mari seems to wear glasses most of the time, and while I don’t mind glasses on an anime girl, I don’t like how Mari’s look. Red just doesn’t go well with brown and pink, and the oval frames are a fashion relic that shouldn’t have been exhumed.
The base resembles a petrified head of one of the Eva units, perhaps one of the mass production units. I’m not really a fan of the Eva mecha unit designs and never paid much attention to them, so doubtless someone will correct me if my guess is wrong. It’s highly detailed, looking very much like stone, and it doesn’t take up much space, making it the best sort of base.
The sculpt looks great, due in no small part to the appealing pose. It’s fairly faithful to the source, as Mari’s body is long and lean. Her chin is also quite prominent and could turn off some people. The paint is good, although some of the black tracing over her legs is rather rough and uneven. The pink paint of her plugsuit doesn’t quite have the latex-like look that is sometimes used in artwork.
I haven’t seen the movies yet and I don’t know anything about Mari’s personality or demeanor, but I do know that I like this figure a lot, and I have no problem admitting that the exquisiteness of her ass is the principal reason. Too many sculptors neglect to provide the proper curvature for this most important part of the figure, but like Kotobukiya’s Rei, it’s highlighted here and looks fantastic.
Kotobukiya has been providing teaser pictures of Asuka Langley Shikinami – what a dumb name change – all week, and that figure is looking great as well. I’ve been thinking of picking up Kotobukiya’s previous Asuka, but if this test plugsuit figure is of similar size as Mari, I think I’ll just get that one instead. I like the contrast between the two – with Mari being all blatant and inviting sexuality while Asuka looks innocent and nervous. Quite different from what I expect of Asuka, most of the time.