Let’s get back to more interesting things. I’ve skipped all of Alter’s preceding Nanoha figures other than the original Fate Testarossa, but I couldn’t pass up Vivio. I wonder how popular Vivio is; almost all of the Nanoha girls had reviews up on the web right away, but I don’t think I’ve seen any of the odd-eyed girl. It is time to remedy that.
Vivio comes from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, the franchise’s third series. She first appears as a child, but as one might imagine she is not all that she appears to be. She takes Nanoha Takamachi’s surname but is also titled “Sankt Kaiser,” which a translator tells me means Saint King in German. I’m not sure what’s up with Japanese anime and its fetish for the German language; I wonder if it’s some latent cultural exchange tendency going back to the Axis days. In her adult form, Vivio fills out considerably and, as one can see here, she is more than capable of throwing down with the best of them.
Vivio is manufactured by Alter and is the latest – and possibly the last – of their StrikerS figure lineup. She’s ostensibly in 1/7 scale, and at 25 centimeters tall – 27.5 from the base to the top of her hair ribbon – it actually seems like they are underestimating her size. It’s very rare that a figure comes out larger than expected, and it’s another reason why Alter is the premier maker, the Kwisatz Haderach of the figure business.
She comes with a big square white base which is very boring compared to the dynamism of the figure. And while Vivio is attached to it by only one foot, it seems quite stable, as I had her mounted sideways on a wooden plank suspended over a bowl of water for a couple of hours and gravity seems to have had no adverse effect on her. Her only accessory is a little plastic energy ball which fits into a notch in the palm of her hand. Note that because her hand has that notch, there’s not really a way to display her without the ball, unless you substitute something in its place.
I love Vivio’s character design; with her tight bodysuit, armored corset, and cropped jacket, she could almost pass as one of Marvel’s X-Men. Now that I think about it, there’s not a lot of difference between the superheroes of American comic books and anime-style magical girls; one of the female X-Men – Kitty Pryde – even has a miniature dragon familiar, as does one of the characters in the Nanoha series.
Alter’s figure includes numerous details that many other manufacturers would overlook. The talons and curl of her fingers, the contrasting glossy finish of her jacket and the matte, leather-like look of her bodysuit, and the faux gems in her boots, gloves, and trailing edges of her lower jacket show an admirable obsessiveness towards craftsmanship.
One aspect of this figure that may give potential buyers pause is her face – and since the face is by far the most important part of any figure, that’s a significant issue. Specifically, I can see some people not liking the shape of her mouth, which is unusual indeed. It looks kind of like Pac-Man, and while I’ve seen hundreds of figures and tens of thousands of anime-style images, I don’t know if I’ve seen a mouth shaped like Pac-Man. The other thing is that it’s hard to discern what she’s expressing. When a figure has an open mouth like this, usually there’s some emotion being expressed – usually anger, in the case of an action pose, but here, Vivio doesn’t really look all that angry. Then again, given her background, maybe that’s an appropriate look.
I’ll admit that it took a little while to grow on me, but now that I can see her live and in person, I think she looks great.
Another thing that I like about Vivio’s sculpt are the contrasting widths of the tendrils of hair flowing out behind her. The way that they cross over and under each other adds a lot to the figure’s sense of movement. Also, she doesn’t have the sort of helmet hair that most figures have; lines are etched into her head to show her hair being pulled towards her sidetail, as it should be.
I’m certain it’s no surprise that Vivio’s paintwork is marvelous. I’ve mentioned the contrasting glossiness of her clothing, and they’ve also given her armored parts a metallic texture. Shading is evident on her legs along the blue segments of her bodysuit – perhaps it’s a just a bit heavy-handed, but it still looks great anyway.
Despite being generally unfamiliar with the Nanoha series, I’ve been looking forward to Vivio since her debut, and Alter has exceeded my expectations in providing a figure that not only looks every bit as good as she did in the promo photos, but is also much larger than what I was hoping for. Vivio looks so good that I also sprung for Alter’s Fate T. Harlaown figure – and of course, the day she got here is the day her re-release is announced. Of course. I’m not unhappy at all though since Vivio needs a partner and Fate works pretty well in that role – visually, at least. I’d call this figure one of the best of this year and looking at what I’ve got preordered, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vivio wound up being my favorite of 2010.
One thing that I’m no good at is photographing multiple figures. I don’t have a good sense of depth of field and I don’t have a lot of room to shoot, which limits my ability to back up. I think I wound up shooting this shot at like f/18, which then created another problem in that I didn’t have enough power for my lights to get the effect that I wanted. Being lazy, I just wound up jacking up the ISO.
Anyway, if anybody wants some wallpapers of Vivio and Fate looking cute together, the last shot and the next one are at 1920×1200 resolution. I guess I’ll make some old-resolution versions later on, when I need a filler post.
I wound up taking over three hundred shots of Vivio, of which maybe 250 were me just noodling around, trying out some things to see what would happen. I was surprised as hell when I looked at my camera’s battery charge and it was down to like a third after I’d recharged it the night before. Still got a lot to learn.
I wonder what the odds are of Alter making a figure of Ginga? I wouldn’t mind seeing that.