2013 is on the verge of twerking its way into memory and of course, that means it’s time for a customary year-end list. Such lists often purport to rank the best things of the nearly-departed year, but that’s not the case for this particular list. Rather, this list contains my favorite figures, which means I speak for nobody but myself and I rate solely by a single criterion: how much I liked the figure. Hype, popularity amongst the collecting community, and manufacturer reputation count for nothing here. We’ll also talk a little bit about the year that was in figure collecting; without further ado, let’s jump in.
I could probably select from a half-dozen figures for this slot, so why not go with the one that I’ve been anticipating for years. Irma’s action pose looks great, her fierce expression is striking, and her outfit is, of course, agreeably abbreviated. It was quite the wait for her but it was worth it. Sympathies to any Melpha fans that might be out there.
Kotobukiya has made figures of many of the girls from Muv-Luv Alternative, but my favorite is Yui Takamura, the only one of the group – for some reason or another – to be posed standing up. Her sleek, glossy, impossibly-tight bodysuit sheathes her body perfectly, and her nonchalant expression suitably reflects her no-nonsense attitude. All of Yui’s best aspects are on full display here, and it’s hard for me to find anything I don’t like about her.
#3. Dark Elf from Lineage II
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a figure from Lineage II. For years, Orchid Seed has been teasing us with concept art of a dark elf figure, but this year Max Factory has hoisted them by their petard, releasing a figure that few companies could match in both overall quality and aesthetic appeal. I really only played Lineage II because I liked the dark elf character models so much, and so it should be no surprise that I like this figure very much as well. Her outfit is particularly appealing, but her cold, enigmatic stare is just as attractive. She’s certainly not a typical figure from Max Factory, but I think she’s one of their best.
The total quantity of figures released in a year must number in the hundreds, and yet every now and then a few will come along with will raise eyebrows and cause collectors to murmur, “Oh my.” Kuroyukihime is surely among that select group. For one thing, she can be displayed in two very different ways, and each of those modes is spectacular. Me, it’s quite obvious which look I prefer. Not only does Kuroyukihime look beautiful, with her lithe body all but entirely exposed, but her photo shoot was a lot of fun as well. The sheer wrongness of this figure is stunning but she looks so right nonetheless.
#1. Peace Keeper Daisy from Tony’s Heroine Collection
I had to think hard about this one. If this were a “best of 2013” list, I don’t think she’d be in this spot; in fact, I’m not sure she’d be on this list at all. She’s got at least two peculiar issues, one of which is such an obvious problem that I don’t know how she made it out of the factory in her current state. But on the shelf, looking at her with my eyeballs rather than through a viewfinder, I think she looks great. I really like her cute pose and her palpable effervescence. I also quite like the fact that she’s wearing just her panties; it’s one of my favorite aspects of this figure. Another thing that I very much appreciate is that she is really big, being 1/6 scale. When I evaluate a figure, size is an important quality in itself; taken with everything else, Daisy is my favorite figure of this past year.
A Note on the Ranking
Aside from being entirely personal, this list is also very much fungible; I’ve got a bunch of figures here that I haven’t even opened up, which is why figures like Lucifer and Ignis aren’t on the list. There were quite a few figures that I liked, but not many that I loved; my own five-favoritest-figures-of-all-time ranking remains unaltered from this time in 2012.
Speaking of Alter …
Like a lot of figure collectors, I’d label Alter my favorite manufacturer. Their quality is consistently excellent and they’ve made numerous figures of characters that I like. I trace my entrance into this hobby to one of their earliest figures (KOS-MOS from Xenosaga; technically, I collected figures earlier than that but KOS-MOS was, at that time, a huge jump over my other figures in terms of sculpt quality. The other two figures I received at around that time were Yamato’s Kanu Unchou and Max Factory’s Kasumi.). For Alter fans, 2013 had to have been rather depressing; they put out a fairly small number of figures, only a few of which were notable. They did, at least, get out that long-awaited figure of the Steins;Gate girl with the bike. It also feels like that, of their new figures, they chucked out more figures of dudes than female characters. I can’t fairly criticize that; anime in general caters heavily towards horny, hormone-driven men and if I didn’t fall into that category myself, I’d resent that reality. It’s nice to see that female collectors (and other collectors who want figures of male anime characters) have some options. Selfishly, though, I hope Alter does make more notable figures of female characters, because it feels strange that after having bought so many of their figures, I don’t care much at all about their entire last year’s worth of releases.
How Max Factory gots its groove back
A lot of people would also label Max Factory as one of their favorite manufacturers. In previous years, I hadn’t bought very many of their products and I had felt that they were becoming mostly a Figma maker, leaving the scale-size figures to Good Smile Company and its partners. However, I’m very pleased at how many fantastic figures they’ve released this past year. Tomo Asama, Kuroyukihime and the two Lineage II dark elves are personal favorites, of course (I didn’t get the brown-skinned dark elf but I do like it a lot), and I’ve also got the Lineage II regular elf, Medaka, Nozomi Akiyama, and Nyarlko here, awaiting their respective turns in front of the camera (Nyarlko is particularly nice, nice enough that I thought about putting her at #5 in the list above). Had Sheryl Nome made her original October release date, I’m sure she would have been a contender for the top spot on this list. Next year is looking just as strong, and I can probably already pencil in Sheryl, Momo Deviluke, and Tharja for spots on next year’s list.
Old is the New New
The figure industry seems to be fairly stable; nobody notable exited the business and not a whole lot of companies got into it. Dragon Toy seems to be composed of industry veterans, Orca Toy seems to have ties to Okayama Figure Engineering, and I guess Vertex/Dwell is the only other company I can think of that entered the market this last year (though technically, I think their Eva cockpit Asuka figure was released in late 2012). However, there was still some flux in the industry from existing companies. When I started this website, Alphamax was a niche maker of really expensive polystone statues that nobody seemed to buy. I eventually bought Mai Shiranui – one of their final polystone statues, if memory serves. Soon after, they started making less-expensive PVC figures and now, they seem to be making a little bit of everything. They’ve got ero figures (previously the province of makers like Native), a couple of Saber figures (a character perhaps most associated with Good Smile Company), bunches of swimsuit figures of popular characters (mirroring Wave’s Beach Queens line), and so on. It’s really impressive how rapidly they’ve transformed their product range.
In contrast, Kotobukiya is one of the biggest companies in the hobby, and they’ve always had a very diverse range of products, from PVC figures to mecha toys to polystone statues of American comic book characters. I own a number of their figures and generally speaking, I’d say most of them are pretty average. However, it appears they are trying to elevate their profile; Daisy is a very nice figure, and their upcoming figures of Olivia, Sakuya, and Tomo Asama look just as nice. As they should, given the price tags they are sporting. It’ll be interesting to see if they continue trying to make higher-quality figures than they have in the past, and if they succeed in doing so. (Also, a few years ago, I remarked to another figure reviewer that I’d like to see some Mortal Kombat bishoujo figures. He didn’t think there was much of a chance of that, as Kotobukiya is a Japanse maker and Mortal Kombat’s popularity is almost entirely Western, but being that it’s clear that the Bishoujo series is firmly targeted at the North American audience, I wonder if we might ever see some Bishoujo figures of the Mortal Kombat girls. I think they’d make for a nice addition that would fit well with their Street Fighter and Tekken figures.)
The Internet is for Porn
Back around when I started collecting, it was very difficult to find a figure with exposed breasts. It was unthinkable for a figure to have exposed genitalia, aside from certain model kits, and those were typically very limited items sold only at Wonder Festival and other model kit-related conventions (anyone remember when Wonder Festival was mainly a garage kit thing?). However, in this past year, Native has opened up orders to international customers, Alphamax has made a number of fully-explicit figures that are distributed through normal retail channels, and Dragon Toy seems to be trying to out-do everyone in terms of mainstream, high-quality ero figures. For anyone who happens to be an enthusiast of porno figures, this past year was a happy year.
Tony, Tony, Tony has done it again
This part year was also a happy year for Tanayuki Tanaka, better known to international fans as Tony Taka. Some artists have styles that don’t seem to work as well in three-dimensional works as they do in illustration; Redjuice, Nishieda, and Raita come to mind. Tony’s style, however, works so well that almost no manufacturer has difficulty interpreting his (admittedly not at all inimitable) style in plastic. Alphamax made a number of ero figures based off his work; Daisy is based off his work; Native and Dragon Toy both have ero figures in the works based off his work; and there is the usual litany of figures from Sega’s Shining series that are, of course, based off his work. I’ve written in the past about being a bit tired of all the Tony figures but when they look this nice – and lewd – I hardly have cause for complaint.
Dollar Dollar Bill y’all
Perhaps the best trend of all doesn’t even directly relate to figures. It is, however, of great concern to overseas figure collectors:
American figure collectors may remember just how much it sucked when the exchange rate plummeted to around 75 yen to the dollar. Happily, the rate has hovered around 95 to 100 yen to a dollar for most of the year, meaning that figures are around 20% or so cheaper than they would have been not much more than a year ago. It seems that market analysts expect the exchange rate to improve (in the eyes of overseas figure collectors) in 2014, so that’s great news for most of us.
And that wraps up this post. Happy New Year and we will resume normal posting shortly, in the next year.