2011 has flown right by, and as usual, here is the wrapup for this past year. I’ll start off with my five favorite figures of the year and then talk a little bit about what some figure makers did in 2011.
#5. Sasara Kusugawa
Volks’s Moekore figures are hit-or-miss in my experience. Sasara, fortunately, is a fantastic figure, exuding confidence and sexiness in equal measure. Of all the To Heart 2 figures out there – and there’s a helluva lot of them – Sasara ranks as among the best, and given the price premium this figure is commanding on the secondary market, I’m surely not alone in that assessment.
#4. Lacia from BEATLESS
The newest figure in my collection, her inclusion in this list wasn’t certain until today but it was by no means a hasty decision. I’ve been looking forward to this figure since the sample reviews went online and it’s as good as I hoped it would be. Her outfit is tremendously appealing, particularly the high heels, which she makes look right despite how incongruous they ought to be, and I’ve also got this thing for purple hair.
As good as Sasara is, I don’t think she’s even the best armored girl figure to be released this year. That honor goes to Good Smile Company’s Saber Alter, which forgoes Sasara’s leg-baring sexiness and replaces it with badass attitude. Is this the best Saber figure ever? I think it’s either this or Saber Lily; who you got?
Collectors expressed doubts about Good Smile Company’s Rin Tohsaka – her shirt was too glossy, the eyes on her prototype were badly misaligned. However, in the end GSC came through and the final figure is absolutely beautiful. Her sculpt is stunning, her attitude is defiant, and the result is, I think, one of the best figures ever made. Any other year, I’d call it my favorite. But not this year.
This one is a fairly obvious choice, though I did have to think about it for a little bit. Truthfully, if I had never played Guilty Gear, I might’ve picked Rin here instead. Objectively, I like the Rin figure a bit better; the sculpt is a bit more appealing and Rin’s size is much more attractive than Dizzy’s, who has one of the smallest 1/8 scale bodies Alter has sculpted. However, Dizzy is one of my favorite video game characters and that’s all the tilt that this decision requires. Dizzy is my favorite figure of this year. Looking forward to 2012, a Mu-12 figure would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it?
Overall, I think it’s been a great year for figure collectors. Last year, the list wasn’t too hard to put together – though in retrospect, I might’ve bumped Momohime off the list, added Sora Kasugano, and if I had received Kiriko Hattori earlier, that figure would’ve been #1. This year, I had to put some thought into the ranking and it was very difficult to leave off figures like Fate Testarossa, Junko Hattori, Chie, Matabei, and Triela.
Let’s take a look at what a few individual manufacturers did during this last year.
Alter is, by general consensus, the best manufacturer of scale-size anime figures, and they had a pretty good year. However, I can’t say I was as excited by their product range this past year as I have been in years prior. Consider the source breakdown of their 2011 lineup:
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha – 4 figures (+2 re-releases, +1 limited edition)
Strike Witches – 3 figures
Bakemonogatari – 2 figures
A Certain Scientific Railgun – 2 figures (+2 re-releases)
K-On! – 2 figures (+2 re-releases)
Fate/stay night – 2 figures
Guilty Gear X2 – 1 figure (+1 re-release)
Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls – 0 figures (+2 limited edition)
Okami-san and her Seven Companions – 1 figure
Shining Wind – 1 figure
Working! – 1 figure
Yosuga no Sora – 1 figure
Here’s the thing: almost all of these properties have someone else making figures of those characters right now. Good Smile Company is making figures of the Bakemonogatari characters that are at least as good as Alter’s figures, and quite possibly superior. I get Kotobukiya’s Strike Witches figures confused with Alter’s all the time. Same with their casual clothes Nanoha figures. And the same with their Railgun figures. Wait; I take that back, I can remember the difference between the two Saten figures, because Alter’s Saten-san has a head shaped like a melon and Kotobukiya’s does not.
Compare that lineup to their product range from 2009:
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha – 4 figures (+2 re-releases)
Tower of Druaga – 2 figures
Teppen Toppa Gurren Lagann – 2 figures
Zero no Tsukaima – 2 figures
Bamboo Blade – 1 figure
Beat Blades Haruka – 1 figure
Demonbane – 1 figure
Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls – 1 figure
Kara no Kyoukai – 1 figure
Makai Tenshi Djibril – 1 figure
Penguin Musume Heart – 1 figure
Persona 4 – 1 figure
Sengoku Rance – 1 figure
Xenosaga – 1 figure
You used to be able to count on Alter to produce figures from eroge, obscure shows, and other sources that you’d never heard of but recently, most of their figures come from very mainstream series. Houmei is possibly the least-known character they made a figure of last year, but every figure collector has heard of Shining Wind. Dizzy is possibly the least-known character they made a figure of but one can’t really call Guilty Gear an obscure series, being that it’s on a half-dozen platforms and is internationally renowned.
What’s Alter got on tap for next year? Another Nanoha figure, another Strike Witches figure, and another Samurai Girls figure, among other things. Hopefully they’ll mix things up and surprise us.
FREEing has made a bunch of 1/4 scale figures in the past, mostly of Lucky Star characters, but they’ve recently released a number of 1/4 scale ero figures, including a couple from Freezing (Satellizer review is pending here) and two figures of Shiratori Amane (review also pending here). That’s a great trend and I hope they keep it up – but I also hope that they make some of those Freezing figures stand up rather than lie down, because I’ve got no shelf space available for Satellizer, let alone the entire West Genetics student body.
What a difference a year makes. In 2010, I bought only one Good Smile Company figure – the Animation Version of Black Rock Shooter – and immediately regretted it because her price plummeted to 2,500 yen a few weeks after she was released. And then there was that problem with the star … which I still haven’t placed on her ass, by the way. But they’ve had a great 2011. Their Fate/stay night figures are amazing, Junko Hattori is, in my view, the best Queen’s Gate figure, and Triela and Nadeko Sengoku are also superb. They’ve also reached out to the international community, offering an English version of their company blog and taking overseas orders in their store. Maybe the biggest dud in their catalog are the actsta figures, which are rather undersized and hugely overpriced for what you get, particularly given that you can get a Figma for about a third of the price. Oh wait, there was one other dud, a most mysterious one that still demands clarification:
What the shizzle? And yes, that is an actual tweet from the Doggfather hisself. So what’s that about? Where’s my 1/8 scale Snoop Dogg figure? Lacia needs an owner, you know.
Kotobukiya is perhaps the most consistent of all figure makers in that their stuff usually isn’t terrible and it usually isn’t outstanding. A curious thing is how similar their product lineups are to a couple of other manufacturers: Alter does Nanoha figures in casual wear, Kotobukiya does figures in casual wear. Max Factory does figures of Shining Wind characters in swimsuits, Kotobukiya does figures of Shining Wind characters in swimsuits. They pretty much did what they’ve always done: pump out nice but not particularly ambitious figures of popular characters.
A second interesting trend is how hard they’re pushing their Bishoujo line. They must be pretty good sellers for them but personally, I think I like Yamashita’s artwork more than the figures themselves. On that note, one wonders if they’re monopolizing all his time or something, since it seems like they’re the only ones making figures based on his artwork now.
Every Wonder Festival, Orchid Seed shows up with a bunch of artwork showing off what they plan to make figures of. We’re still waiting on a lot of those. They had a really quiet year; Super Sonico was nice and Eleanor Mercer was very cute, but lately, they’ve been scheduling recolored versions of older figures. One wonders if effects from the calamitous earthquake or some other problem is disrupting things over there. It seems like we’ve been seeing that figure of Ignis in the wedding dress with the bouquet-hilted sword forever, and I’m still hoping they’ll make that dark elf figure from Lineage II.
Perhaps the most eclectic manufacturer in the hobby, Yamato’s catalog is more diverse than the We Are The World rehearsal and less consistent than Tim Tebow. They’ve got mecha toys, including some of the best Macross Valkyrie toys out there. They’ve got big-ass vmf50 dolls, of which I’m a big fan. They’ve got PVC anime figures of wildly varying quality and polystone figures based on Western fantasy art, also of wildly varying quality. They’re bringing back 1/7 or 1/8 scale poseable figures. I think I have more affection for Yamato than most collectors, but I didn’t buy many of their figures. I did get Heat Blade, which was finally released after a very lengthy delay. I also got Yukihime, whose review is still pending. Most of the Yamato stuff I got was vmf50 clothing. And although it’s not a Yamato product, this is a good time to bring up the tentacle stand again, just because it’s that awesome.
That’s that for 2011. Happy new year everyone. Next review goes up in a few days but for now, here’s some bonus pictures for the photographers out there.