Voice synthesis software and eroge company mascots get scads of figures but fighting game characters are mostly an afterthought in the corporate mindset of figure makers. Heck, I’ve got another Super Sonico on order and another one still in its box, and I’ve got an unopened Miku Hatsune figure sitting on the stack, waiting for me to build her machine of joy. If you’re looking for a figure of a fighting game girl, you’re going to have to look at Kotobukiya’s Tekken figures or Hobby Japan’s Queen’s Gate series, which is where this version of Noel Vermillion comes from.
Aside from being licensed for the Queen’s Gate books and the spinoff PSP game Queen’s Gate Spiral Chaos, Noel Vermillion comes from Arc System Works’s fighting game BlazBlue. A spiritual successor of sorts to Guilty Gear, the game is now up to its third iteration, BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend, which succeeds its predecessors Continuum Shift and Calamity Trigger. Its game mechanics are similar to Guilty Gear’s, more or less, though BlazBlue’s Drive button gives the movesets of BlazBlue’s characters a larger level of distinctiveness.
Personally, I like Guilty Gear quite a bit more than BlazBlue; I much prefer its characters and music, and though I shamelessly admit that I’m terrible at both games, I never really got the hang of playing as any of BlazBlue’s characters. BlazBlue seems to have attained a greater level of popularity than its forebear, though; this might be due to each version being released simultaneously on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, where as Guilty Gear’s releases were wildly inconsistent with respect to platform and release dates. I think that the fighting game resurgence led by Street Fighter IV also played a large role in BlazBlue’s mainstream acceptance.
Noel is nominally the lead female character of the game and plays an integral part in its surprisingly convoluted story mode. Time was that if a fighting game had a story at all, it would invariably be about some shadowy organization staging a tournament for combatants from all over the world. In contrast, BlazBlue’s story is a tale of heroism, rebellion against authoritarianism, family ties lost and regained, and a helluva, helluva lot of confusing, made-up vocabulary. I’ll – again – shamelessly admit that I understood almost none of the plot while I played Continuum Shift, though I was really going through it just to unlock Mu-12 so I can’t say I was paying much attention.
In the game, Noel is a young lieutenant in the Novus Orbis Librarium, the organization that governs the world. She is depicted as kind but shy, diffident, and naïve. She fights with a pair of guns called the Arcus Diabolus Bolverk. They are magical artifacts rather than ordinary firearms, and many of her moves involve using them as physical weapons. Her fighting style is strongly patterned after the gun kata movements featured in the film Equilibrium (which was also set in a futuristic, dystopian city with a dictatorial governing body). Incidentally, this isn’t the only Japanese product to borrow some of the style from Kurt Wimmer’s film: one of the fight scenes from the anime series Grenadier was directly patterned after the movie’s final battle, and I think I remember that one of the fight scenes in the recent anime Aria The Scarlet Ammo also featured a gun kata sequence.
Noel possesses a number of similarities to Dizzy, one of the characters from Guilty Gear. Like Dizzy, Noel is not entirely human; her true form is actually that of Mu-12, a dispassionate agent of the apocalypse intent on destroying the world. She also trades Noel’s short dress and socks for a crotch plate, a pair of striker units, and wing-like projections. Her Steins Gunner moves thematically resemble Dizzy’s laser-shooting fish. Like Dizzy, Mu-12 hovers over the ground. They also share a birthday – December 25. In their debut games, both characters are the final bosses of each game’s story mode and must be unlocked to be made playable; subsequent games make them playable from the start.
I’m hoping that Alter will make a Mu-12 figure to go with Dizzy; the only other BlazBlue figures that have been made thus far are a couple of uninspired efforts from FREEing.
This particular figure derives from Noel’s appearance in Queen’s Gate, the spinoff series of Queen’s Blade which is itself derived from Scottsdale, Arizona-based Flying Buffalo‘s and Nova Games’s Lost Worlds series. Her entry is illlustrated by Takatsuki Nagy.
I felt some trepidation about ordering this figure because the Queen’s Gate figures are so variable in terms of quality. Part of the blame for this inconsistency can be laid on the diversity of manufacturers who have made these figures – they include Kotobukiya, MegaHouse, Alpha Omega (which includes Alter), Good Smile Company, and Hobby Japan. I was not very impressed by Hobby Japan’s figure of Ivy Valentine, nor was I very pleased with how small Yagyu Jubei turned out. I was expecting Noel Vermillion to be undersized and undetailed. Also, there was also a compulsory added cost due to having to order this figure from a proxy service, being that it was a Hobby Japan exclusive. As usual, I used Tokyo Hunter to buy it.
In this figure’s favor was the fact that it is sculpted by Hiroshi of Sakura Zensen, the same sculptor who created Saber Alter for Good Smile Company and 1/6 scale Fate Testarossa for Cospa, among numerous other figures. I figured that if Noel turned out to be smaller than her listed 1/8 scale size, at least she would still probably look good displayed next to Dizzy, who is also somewhat smaller than her scale size suggests.
Happily, Noel is reasonably-sized. She’s 16 centimeters tall to the top of her hat and about 20.5 centimeters tall overall, even though her wideset stance lowers her closer to the ground. In terms of body proportions, she’s similar to Alter’s Buddy, and as both characters appear to barely be five feet tall, that seems realistic. Noel’s accurate scale size is a very welcome surprise, particularly since Hobby Japan’s Ivy disappointed in that respect.
Noel requires minor assembly after unpacking her from her box; the two red ribbons need to be inserted into slots in her armbands. Pop her onto her base – which is a rather peculiar transparent aqua color – and she’s ready for display.
Noel is set in an action girl stance, sighting along one gun barrel while holding the other one ready, her arm cocked and the gun pointed skyward. The energy of her pose is one of the most attractive aspects of this figure, though her left leg looks awkwardly contorted when viewing her from behind, with her face turned away. Then again, even though she has an attractive back, I’m not sure why anybody would display her facing away from the viewer.
Her dynamic pose is accentuated by the red ribbons twirling around her body as well as the movement of her short dress. Her dress also emphasizes her backside, providing a good deal of fanservice from a character who isn’t really cast as a sex symbol within the game. However, Noel is sexualized to an almost ridiculous extent in the game’s supplemental artwork, and of course, her Queen’s Gate artbook is all about fanservice. Nevertheless, her bust is as reserved as it is in the game, perhaps even moreso – in a rather extreme example of anime-style body proportions, her eyes appear to be about the same size as her breasts.
One of the enduring mysteries of BlazBlue is whether Noel Vermillion wears panties while in uniform. I’m not even kidding about that. And while this figure doesn’t definitively settle the issue – being that it’s based off of her Queen’s Gate appearance – it should come as no surprise that she is indeed wearing underwear: white thong panties, to be exact.
They’re not very easy to see, though; the figure is cleverly sculpted to provide the illusion of no underpants from most viewing angles.
Aside from her pose and her shapely rear, her face is also very attractive. Her expression embodies steely determination, evincing none of the timidity that typifies her personality. Rather, she appears resolute, her mouth turned down in a defiant scowl. It perhaps doesn’t represent her true nature but she looks great regardless.
She also looks great from a technical viewpoint. The paint application is sharp and clean, with no visible issues, at least to my eyes. A mixture of paint finishes is evident; metallic paint is used on the band of her hat, the toes of her boots, and her armbands, her socks are a matte black, and her necktie is a glossy red. Subtle shading on the two red ribbons trailing off her arms gives them more of a three-dimensional look.
Overall, I’m very pleased with this figure, much moreso than I thought I would be. She looks like the quintessential anime action girl: two guns, a dangerous look, and a strong dash of sex appeal. The manufacturing quality is quite good, much better than Hobby Japan’s effort on Ivy, which comes as a very pleasant surprise. I don’t want to suggest it’s as high quality as an Alter or Good Smile Company figure, but I don’t see a great deal to criticize, except perhaps the additional expense requisite to all Hobby Japan exclusive figures, but that’s just the reality of the hobby, and for a figure that looks as nice as Noel, I’m not going to complain.
Here’s a size comparison with Alter’s Dizzy; perhaps a better comparison would be with Kotobukiya’s Dizzy instead, since that was also based off of her Queen’s Gate incarnation and features the same anime-style body proportions as Noel. My figure is covered in dust and I remember her hair was a colossal pain in the ass to keep in place, so I didn’t use it for pictures.
Here’s Noel’s theme song, Bullet Dance. Of the songs in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, I like Oriental Flower (Litchi’s theme) best.