Some things are just completely review-proof and there’s no real reason to spend any time critiquing them. Harry Potter books and Transformers films fall into this category, and of course, so do any of Good Smile Company’s Black Rock Shooter figures. GSC is gonna make them, people are gonna buy them, and you know what you’re going to get, so we may as well spend our time talking about other things. So let’s begin: have you noticed that not many figure review sites are updating anymore? Or have you noticed that there are a helluva lot of figure news websites these days? I’ll often look at the link feed on Tsuki-board and see the same promo pictures over and over as a half dozen or more sites post the same news. Over and over. Weird. Oh, and have you noticed that Hobby Search only has their Japanese site up? Maybe they’re planning on shutting down international sales! Wait, it’s back up? Never mind then, let’s talk about this figure instead.
This is the third scale-size Black Rock Shooter figure that Good Smile Company has done, coming after the original rock cannon and black blade versions. It’s titled the “animation version” though I’m not entirely certain why, as it’s not especially different stylistically from the other figures. Doubtless someone more familiar with the franchise will be able to discern any differences. She does arrive after the release of an anime OVA – months after, so if she was intended to drop in concert with that show, Good Smile Company missed the mark badly.
Speaking of the OVA, the anime is a plotless, pointless mess of a show with dual personalities, as poorly-animated scenes of the Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master characters battling each other intermesh with the trite, undeveloped story of how schoolgirls Mato and Yomi became best friends forever before falling out. The transitions between the schoolday scenes and fight scenes are jarring and the plot development – such as there is – during the Mato and Yomi parts is poorly explored, and one gets the feeling that the creators were either bored and just wanted to get back to the fight stuff, or they realized they were running out of time and needed to get to certain plot points. Character development is also relegated to an afterthought, with much of the characters’ personalities being defined by familiar archetypes rather than the show itself.
Given that the anime seems to solely be a marketing vehicle to expand the popularity of the Black Rock Shooter franchise beyond just figure collectors, I think it would have been better served being made into a hentai show. Okay, okay, I know you’re rolling your eyes and thinking, “Of course you think that” but my reasons aren’t entirely perverted. First, the lack of plot isn’t nearly as much of a problem in an h-anime. And second, anime shows are becoming more risque every season; broadcast shows like Yosuga no Sora and OVAs like Aki Sora and Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo show that there’s a general market for softcore material. And third, Good Smile Company’s other favorite source – Fate/stay night – has its roots in eroge, so such a move would present a symmetry of sorts. As it is, the OVA is creatively bankrupt, and while there is a lot of potential for the characters, the creators don’t seem to be interested in exploring it.
Anybody who avidly follows figure news knows of Good Smile Company’s mistake regarding this figure: they forgot the star on her jacket. Oops.
GSC has issued a somewhat wishy-washy apology with an offer to either send out a star decal or repair the figure if you send it to them. None of this applies to anyone outside of Japan, of course; Amiami has said they’ll be sending stickers but Hobby Search has not, and as I bought this figure from the latter retailer I doubt I’m going to be getting a sticker. It’s a shame since while I’m not particularly perturbed by this error, I’d like to plant the sticker square on her ass, just because I think it’d be amusing and distinctive. There are going to be thousands of these figures out there, but mine would be unique. Oh well.
And while I’m not too bothered by this defect, it does provide evidence of a disturbing trend. There is sentiment among some figure collectors that Good Smile Company’s quality is declining. I recall that James had a number of issues with his World is Mine Miku figure, and Aka’s Rina Ogata evinced a surprising level of sloppiness. Then there’s their Rin Tohsaka figure, which went from one of the most anticipated figures to most controversial once her painted sample debuted, with the resulting outcry forcing GSC to go back to the drawing board. This error, though, seems to go beyond their previous foibles because it affects their entire initial production run, which is just a colossal quality control mistake. Now, an honest mistake is perfectly understandable but this isn’t an honest mistake. People make honest mistakes; international corporations make stupid mistakes. I don’t plan on taking a pitchfork and torch onto an airplane headed for Tokyo, but it would be extremely regrettable if this trend represents the new norm for them rather than a set of peculiar but unconnected aberrations.
Anyway, on to the figure. Ms. Shooter is sculpted in 1/8 scale and she’s about 21.5 centimeters tall from the bottom of her base to the tip of her gun and about 20 centimeters in length. She looks a little smaller to me than the rock cannon version, but I took a tape measure to examine the length of her limbs and they’re about the same length on both figures. The animation version’s head might be a little bit smaller; it seems to be about a millimeter or two shorter, and her left hair tail is definitely shorter than the rock cannon version.
Unlike the rock cannon version, the chains on the animation version are made of plastic, and they have to be in order to maintain their shape. Speaking of the chains, putting her together was quite an effort; GSC provides an instruction sheet but it’s a bit difficult to match up the black and white photographs with where all her pieces are supposed to go. Her chains don’t seem to stay in place all that well, which is probably a consequence of me not assembling her correctly. I never did figure out where to attach the chain that runs over her hair; the sheet indicates there’s a socket somewhere on her head but I didn’t see it. At any rate she’s sturdy enough as long as you’re not moving her around, and her gun attaches securely to the base, unlike the first figure.
This version of Black Rock Shooter has a much more interesting pose than the previous figures, depicting her dashing forward, tresses and chains streamed out behind her. It’s a dynamic sculpt that looks great. She’s got a swappable forehead, one with her glowing eye and one without. I prefer the glowy eye, and it looks better than the one supplied with the rock cannon figure; its transparency is graduated, with a deep blue color over her eye fading to a lighter aqua at its tip.
Black Rock Shooter’s character design is growing on me; I can’t hate on a girl wearing a bikini top and booty shorts, even if she doesn’t really have much to fill out either. I also find it difficult to dislike a girl with a gun, though I’m disappointed to learn that her gat doesn’t actually shoot big black rocks. Her clothing has a glossy finish that gives her a futuristic, fetishistic look that complements her chains and scars well.
It’s not all great stuff, though; GSC gave her boots a yellowish trim which is quite apparent when one compares her with the earlier figures. I’m not sure why they didn’t paint the trim white. Oh well. Fortunately, the striping on her jacket and the star on her jacket – the sole star – are white, as they should be.
She’s a remarkably detailed figure that is a pleasure to admire. Her zippers have teeth, her jacket features numerous creases and folds that dramatically enhance the energy of the sculpt, and her hair is intricate, eschewing the flat helmet hair that you see on so many figures. Her gun has a weathered, antique appearance that contrasts with her modernistic fashion. Her base comprises a set of black and off-white cubes arranged in a checker fashion, a trademark style of the franchise. These details look wonderful and make one wonder just how the heck Good Smile Company screwed up the small star on her jacket.
I think I ought to pay less attention to the hype and hoopla that surrounds the Black Rock Shooter franchise and just enjoy the figures on their own merits. I have a peculiar but consistent tendency to dislike anything that becomes enormously popular for no apparent reason, and the anime taught me nothing about her character, but I do like this figure a lot on its own. I like action girls, girls with guns, and girls who don’t wear a lot of clothes, and she fits all three. Her pose is particularly attractive, and I think it elevates her far over the rock cannon version, which is a lot less interesting to me. Okay, I wouldn’t mind it if she had a more substantial chest, but one can’t have everything. And yeah, the star thing is annoying, and it’s certainly understandable if people are bothered by it, but to be honest, I didn’t even notice until the internet firestorm began. I’d rather that GSC had gotten the figure right but its omission doesn’t seriously detract from my enjoyment of this figure; she still looks fantastic.
I’m surprised that Good Smile Company hasn’t debuted any figures of schoolgirls Mato and Yomi yet, though it’s probably just a matter of time until they do. Me, I’d like a figure of Black Rock Shooter chained up with her legs spread, like in the picture above. Hey, it’s a canon scene, right?