Alter released their second Rei Ayanami figure back in 2008. Collectors waited for an Asuka counterpart but none was forthcoming. That was strange because when you have Rei, you have to have Asuka too. They need each other, like Mario and Luigi, peanut butter and jelly, Asians and rice, schoolgirls and tentacles. Time passed and Alter’s Rei faded from memory until they finally got around to making a movie version of Asuka. And yet, it doesn’t really feel like a counterpart to me. She’s stylistically dissimilar from Rei – she’s got a perch of stone and twisted metal rather than just a flat black plate to recline on, and from observing her, it’s easy to discern how Alter’s production quality has improved since Rei’s release.
I have yet to see the movies and so this version of Asuka is something of a stranger to me. She’s got a new name – Shikinami, which means “rolling waves.” She takes her name from a Fubuki-class destroyer, a sister ship to the Ayanami. The Shikinami served the Imperial Japanese Navy until September 1944, when she was sunk by the USS Growler, roughly between Hainan Island and Luzon.
Besides the new name, Asuka’s also got a new suit, which I’m definitely not a fan of. The original Eva plugsuits are a classic design, iconic and an integral part of Rei and Asuka’s character designs. The new test suit is form-fitting, like the original suits, but is much less flattering. It’s got a red and green color scheme, a combination that works only in the context of Christmas. When I try to decide whether a pair of colors works well together, I try to think of a sports team that uses those colors. I’m familiar with the colors of a couple hundred teams but I can think of only one that used those colors on their main uniform. She’s also got this unsightly wifebeater-shaped orange part chopped out of the torso. It reveals the top of her ass crack, which I suppose some might find sexy but doesn’t appeal to me. The test suit looks like a mashup of a bodysuit with an archetypical school swimsuit, and the result is a ghastly mess that suffers badly compared to the sleekness of the original. It makes me wonder why they even bothered changing it.
Asuka is sculpted in 1/8 scale and stands about 22.5 centimeters tall overall. The figure is attached directly to the faux wreckage, so you can’t pull her off to have her lie down on something else. A metal offset is provided to attach the figure and girder combo to the circular orange base.
Alter has done a very nice job crafting Asuka in a style reminiscent of the source material. She’s got the broad face, pointed chin, and wideset, oval eyes characteristic of the Evangelion character designs. Admittedly, from some angles her head and face look a bit simian, though perhaps that’s just my imagination.
No figure makers are as ambitious or as attentive to detail as Alter, and they’ve done a typically fine job with Asuka. Paintwork is clean and bright, with her suit sporting a very attractive latex-like sheen. She’s got a lot of details to admire, such as the way her bangs are layered, the wrinkles in her suit, and even the cleats on her soles. Someone’s going to have to tell me why she’s got those protrusions coming out under her feet.
Alter typically does a nice job sculpting the backsides of their figures but they’ve gone above and beyond for Asuka, lavishing extra special love to Asuka’s hips and rear. And I supposed they’d have to, given the way her suit is riding all up in there. The sculpt of her butt is marvelous, as is the painting – they’ve added some conspicuous shading to bring her ass to life, which looks fantastic. Her hips are equally praiseworthy, turned almost perpendicular from her body to show off some very sexy curves. Alter truly deserves all the plaudits they might get for these aspects of the figure.
The base also looks great. It’s not all that complex but its flat, industrial texture contrasts nicely with Asuka’s techno-fetishistic costume. The desolation and ruin it represents also give counterpoint to Asuka’s shy, good-natured expression.
Speaking of which, I have to admit that Asuka’s pleasant smile and demure look are also unfamiliar to me. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the television show, but the things about Asuka that stood out to me were her making Shinji cross-dress for one of her earliest missions, her lasting psychological damage that never scarred over, her slapping Rei upside the head in an elevator, and her last stand against a host of mass production Eva units. I associate her with tragedy, pain, and in the end, dying alone in terror and agony. I’m told that her movie version alters her personality somewhat, so I suppose her friendly, agreeable look might make more sense to me once I get around to watching them.
One reason I haven’t yet watched the movies is that they don’t seem very necessary to me. The TV series isn’t that old, and while the endings were ambiguous and not all that satisfying, they did at least bring some closure to the narrative. Rebooting the franchise seems to be motivated mostly by commercial concerns, since there’s a whole generation of consumers who aren’t familiar with Rei and Asuka. Why bother developing new and potentially unprofitable characters when you can just reprise old and successful ones?
I guess it could be worse. The movies seem to have gotten a positive reception so I’m sure they’re not that bad. A bad remake can be completely soul-crushing. For example, a while back I learned that some singers decided to update the classic song “We are the World” – my first favorite song – to reflect 21st century sensibilities. When I listened to this new version, I was infuriated that UNESCO hasn’t yet classified that atrocity as a crime against humanity. Some things just cannot be forgiven.
Judged on its own merits, Alter’s homage to Asuka is a fine figure. Her pleasant smile is appealing and her 14-year old curves look fantastic. Her ass is particularly gorgeous, but there’s a lot more to like about this figure. It’s a very accurate rendition of the original character design and the juxtaposition of a lithe young girl recumbent upon twisted stone and steel comprises an evocative contrast. The only thing I have to complain about is my dislike for the test suit, but I suppose I’ve done that vociferously enough already, and I’ll simply just say that this is a great figure. Is it my favorite Asuka figure of this year? That’s a good question; I’m not sure if I like Yamato’s version better or not. One thing is for sure: with those two figures and Kotobukiya’s 1/6 scale test suit figure already released and with Wave scheduled to release a very cute figure of her in a cooking apron, it’s a good time to be an Asuka fan.
For another review of this figure, check out foo-bar-baz. I’d link more except that’s the only one I’ve seen. Where is everybody?
I like Asuka, but she’s not a character I obsess over – I don’t think she’d even make my list of top ten favorite anime characters. Though maybe she would; I’d have to think about it. Let’s see … Yomi Isayama, Mireille Bouquet, Iria, Miriya Sterling … gee, I’ll have to think about this some more. Anyway, I own a few Asuka figures even though she’s not in my most exalted pantheon of favorite characters.