It’s the end of the year and in accordance with tradition, it is time for a list of my favorite figures of 2010. As with last year, this list only includes mass-produced PVC figures.
#5. Tamaki Kousaka
Max Factory has mainly manufactured Figmas this year and Tamaki Kousaka is sort of an oddity in their lineup. However, it turns out that Max Factory was prescient as their product presages a deluge of Tamakis scheduled to drop in early 2011. However, none of those upcoming figures can match Max Factory’s. It combines cuteness, seductiveness, and innocence all in one beautiful figure.
Momohime’s unpainted sculpt didn’t attract much notice but her painted sample set the collecting community on fire, and the love she’s received is well-deserved. One of the most attractive sculpts Alter has ever produced, she combines the dynamic appeal of an action girl with the classical elegance of a Japanese princess.
Many figure collectors hoped that Bubba’s superlative sculpt of Velvet would be produced in PVC format but few anticipated – or preferred – that Yamato would be the ones to do it. However, Yamato has surpassed themselves with their adaptation, crafting a beautiful figure that even offers an attractive castoff option. And yet, in defiance of my usual practice I’ve never removed her skirt other than when I did my review because displaying such an elegant figure in her underwear seems overly crass, even for me.
With her tight bodysuit and her action pose, Vivio’s design hearkens back to the late 1980s and 90s anime that I grew up on. It seems that she may be the last of Alter’s StrikerS line, although I wouldn’t mind seeing Ginga get a figure and I’m hoping that they look at the characters of Force, particularly Isis Egret, whose official art shows that she has some attractive qualities. Vivio does as well, with her dynamic look, but unfortunately she’s been consigned to the bargain bin of just about every major Japanese retailer. More the shame, that, but the least I can do is honor her with runner-up status. When I got her, she was set to take the crown, but another figure that was released only recently has surpassed her to claim the throne.
I was surprised when Alter unveiled their prototype of Buddy, as she’s an obscure character from one of Leaf’s most obscure properties. I’m very glad that they did, though, because I loved her character design from the moment that I first saw it. Is she the most exciting figure of the year? No way. Is she the most impressive? Probably not. But like Metatron from last year, Alter has plucked a character from an ero game and done a wonderful job in bringing her to three dimensions. Her enigmatic expression, her fearsome scythe – and yes, her lack of pants – all come together to make for a gorgeous sculpt, and Buddy is my favorite figure of 2010.
Thoughts on 2010
Anime hasn’t changed much in the last few years. Studios still make shows based off of the same tired tropes and cliches. Goods manufacturers still pump out merchandise. Every season is more of the same thing. If you look at a list of the 2011 winter season shows, I bet you can make reasonably accurate guesses as to which series will succeed and which will fail just based on recent history. And yet, it feels like 2010 was a year of transition for the figure collecting hobby. There were a number of shifts that occurred and progressed this past year, some of them subtle and some of them readily apparent.
It was common to speak of Alter, Good Smile Company, and Max Factory as the Big Three of the figure manufacturing industry, but that Big Three has now become the Big One. Max Factory has become mostly an action figure company, with their scaled figures mainly comprising some Shining Wind girls in swimwear and a couple of undersized Vocaloid figures that rapidly hit the bargain bin. Likewise, Good Smile Company mainly chucked out nendoroids, even though they produced arguably the two most anticipated figures of this year. However, their Black Rock Shooter figure was marred by a very peculiar production error and their Dead Master figure seems to have not made so much as a ripple in the collecting community despite the number of people who bought her.
Alter had a typically superb year, producing a number of beautiful figures. I really hope they don’t ever get into the chibi figure business. Unexpectedly, Yamato also had an excellent year, with Velvet being a product that any manufacturer would have been proud to call their own. They teamed with REFLECT to make a couple of fine figures with their Shunya Yamashita-inspired Asuka and Kiriko Hattori, and they also further established their commitment to their doll line by introducing a number of new vmf50 products. Their Compact Hog was a bit of a miss and it’s disappointing that Heat Blade got kicked back into 2011, but overall, they did very well.
Another noticeable change has been in the figure collecting community itself. It seems like the community has become markedly stratified, with nendoroid, Figma, scaled PVC, and doll collectors consolidating their collections and focusing on their respective core interests. It also feels like that the scaled PVC market is the loser out of all of these niches, with more companies introducing chibi-style products and getting into the action figure market at the expense of their PVC figures.
Doll collecting took off this past year, and it’s not hard to understand why. Dollfie Dream dolls in particular became very popular, although they’re really not my thing and the proliferation of Dollfie Dream stuff on figure.fm is a major reason why I don’t often visit that site anymore. I do like Yamato’s vmf50 stuff though, and you’ll be seeing more vmf50 stuff on this site soon. However, I’m still mainly a scaled figure collector, and that will always be the focus of this site.
Speaking of figure sites, a whole bunch of them withered and died or are on long-term hiatus. Even foo-bar-baz wasn’t immune to ennui, having taken a couple of long breaks through the latter half of the year. Back when I was scrabbling for traffic, I used to try to get my pictures done and my review up as quickly as possible with the expectation that being first would lead to more hits. These days, I don’t really care about being first and yet, my posts are sometimes the only English-language reviews of a figure up on the web. Sometimes I feel like the guy at the party who doesn’t realize the music’s been turned off. Sometimes I feel like the hobby’s hit a saturation point where people see so many new figures and products coming out that they start to tune the coverage out.
However, 2011 is already off to a bright start, with GSC’s Saber Alter and Rin Tohsaka and Alter’s Dizzy looking to be instant winners, and undoubtedly there is more high-quality stuff yet to come. 2010 was a year of change and not all of it was for the better, but 2011 is looking very good already. Here’s hoping all its promises are golden.