As we get older, it seems that time moves quicker and the world changes more rapidly. However, there are some constants that do not change. Death and taxes are among the less comforting, but for figure collectors, there are at least two happy certainties: Good Smile Company will continue to make exceptional figures of the Black Rock Shooter characters, and those exceptional figures will invariably find their way into Amiami’s bargain bin. I initially waffled on preordering Strength and then decided to pass on her. However, after seeing some reviews of the figure, I changed my mind and thought about buying it for full price. I felt a price cut was likely, though, and the maxim that good things come to those who wait sometimes holds true in figure collecting – more so with the BRS stuff. So it happened that Strength got her price slashed by more than half; not quite the 2,500 yen or so that Black Rock Shooter herself went for, but still a very welcome discount.
Strength is the latest Black Rock Shooter character to receive the PVC treatment courtesy of Good Smile Company. Like the other figures in the lineup, Strength is sculpted in 1/8 scale and, with her base included, measures a bit over 15 centimeters tall. Unlike the Animation Version of Black Rock Shooter, Strength is straightforward to assemble. An instruction sheet is provided but isn’t really necessary.
Strength is ostensibly the alter ego of Yuu, the cheerful manager of Mato Kuroi’s basketball team. If I remember correctly, Strength shows up for a few seconds in the OVA but doesn’t do anything, and while there isn’t an explicit link between Strength and Yuu, they seem to have the same eye color and body stature. Perhaps a more definite explanation will be provided in the Black Rock Shooter TV anime, which is scheduled to air next season – albeit with only eight episodes. There’s a preview available on the official website. It seems that the anime will carry over the insipid plot points of the OVA while degrading the visuals – though, of course, it’s too early to draw conclusions. Hopefully it’ll be good.
Strength is a surprisingly small figure – surprising because her box is so large. Her shipping cost exceeded the cost of the figure, somewhat mitigating the value of her discount. She still has a powerful visual presence, however, courtesy of her gigantic Ogre Arms. Her hood and cowl also attract attention by directing focus towards her impassive, inscrutable stare. Less conspicuous but no less interesting is her tail, which brings up a curious and seldom-discussed aspect of figure promo photos: pantyshots. Figure makers sometimes take exquisite care to avoid panty flashes in their official pictures, and so I didn’t even know Strength’s underpants were visible. However, when viewing the figure it is nearly impossible to avoid catching a glimpse of her panties, and that directs attention to her tail. Otherwise, her tail might go unnoticed; I didn’t even know she had one until seeing some figure reviews.
The Ogre Arms are the main attraction of this figure but to be honest, I thought they looked silly and that was one of the reasons I didn’t preorder the figure. They’re obviously huge – too huge, I felt. I’ve since changed my mind, though. Seeing the figure in person, I really like the juxtaposition of Strength’s massive, mechanical arms with her tiny, waifish body.
One thing that surprised me was that her Ogre Arms actually are her arms; I thought they were some kind of power armor but no, her natural arms appear to be amputated below the shoulder. I think this is the first figure in my collection equipped with prosthetic limbs.
Her arms conform to the industrial motif of the other Black Rock Shooter figures, with a satin-like metallic finish and faint wear marks. There’s no articulation provided with the limbs or the fingers, which would have been fun to play with but I suppose might not have been very practical.
I love the fist logo painted on the arms. It conveys a sense of power, of confidence, and even of menace, and yet it is also blocky and rather cartoonish and childlike. Of course, it features only three fingers, so the fist unmistakably represents Strength’s fist, as if to simultaneously say that she stands resolute, unbowed and undeterred in the face of resistance and opposition – and also that she wants to punch people in the nose.
This figure is tagged the “Animation Version,” though there is no regular version of Strength and while the Animation Versions of the other characters depicted them in mid-charge or leaping like a psychopathic ballerina, Strength looks like she’s leaning comfortably, seemingly content to lounge on some rocks. Of course, she’s probably actually leaping backwards, but her placid expression and relaxed body language make it difficult to think she’s doing anything but chilling out.
Strength’s face is pacific, with no discernible emotion on display. Curiously, Huke’s distinctive eye design is subdued; a bit of a departure from the other figures, all of which prominently showed his trademark styling. Specifically, Strength’s eyes show a single semicircle of color as the iris, while the other figures featured two semicircles, which gave them a very recognizable look. It’s a small difference, maybe, but it’s enough for Strength to stand out quite a bit from her compatriots.
She still has a very appealing look, however, despite her apparent impassivity. Her sedate expression contrasts sharply with the latent aggression manifested in her mechanical arms. Her cowl hides her mouth, adding a sense of mystery to her visage. As does her hood, which also serves to exaggerate the size of her head, thus emphasizing her youthfulness. Her slinky black sheath dress belies her age, however; it is cut dangerously short and clings to her body, and would add a large dose of sex appeal if she had the frame to properly fill it out. She does not, however, and so it gives the effect of a young girl experimenting with her wardrobe, trying to sex herself up – and failing completely. Nonetheless, she still looks adorable, and though her clothes are perhaps designed to tantalize and arouse, one would rather scoop her up and give her a big hug.
Less open to interpretation is her underwear, which is plainly visible. She wears standard-issue white panties. Maybe black panties would have been saucier and less obvious.
Like many anime characters Strength wears a pair of thigh-high socks. A humorous touch is added by white bowties that are placed along their tops. They have a shiny, latex-like look, adding a certain fetishistic element to her design.
She also has a tail which curls back behind her. It’s segmented with vertebra-like sections and calls to mind the tail of a xenomorph from the Alien films. There’s something vaguely reptilian or insect-like about it, adding an aura of disquiet and perhaps even aversion to her look. I don’t mind it, though; I did dislike tails on characters for a while, but a couple of years playing a draenei shaman in World of Warcraft and my unabashed affection for Dizzy have in large part cured my previous disposition.
Like the other Black Rock Shooter figures, Strength comes with a stylized base. Again in keeping with the motifs of the series, Strength’s base comprises a series of black and white blocks arranged in an abstract manner. Despite the breadth and heft of this figure, Strength is quite stable.
I waited a bit for this figure and I wasn’t certain I was going to like her, but now that I own it I’m quite pleased with Strength. She manifests a number of interesting and attractive contrasts, and she possesses a very appealing design. Her apparent youth and cryptic stare give her a sense of cuteness that is unique among the Black Rock Shooter characters. Among all of the Black Rock Shooter figures, I think Strength is my favorite.