Arc System Works’s BlazBlue is the spiritual successor to Guilty Gear, and on the whole both series are quite similar. Both are fast-paced 2D fighting games; both feature a colorful cast of eclectic and memorable characters; both feature awesome instrumental rock and heavy metal soundtracks. However, there is one area where BlazBlue diverges from its forebear and that’s in how it has been marketed. Guilty Gear is by no means an obscure series but it has always been something of a niche game; furthermore, its popularity has always been keyed by the game itself. With BlazBlue, however, Arc System Works is evidently trying to expand its appeal beyond its core fanbase. The most obvious attempt is its recently-concluded anime adaptation, titled BlazBlue: Alter Memory. BlazBlue has also been the subject of a heavy merchandising effort, including the usual telephone cases, telephone cards (often depicting Noel being molested by Rachel, or vice versa), soundtrack collections, and dakimakura covers – Arc System Works released the first dakimakura cover of Noel Vermillion way back at Comiket 76 in summer of 2009, and apparently she’s getting another one next month, and several other characters (including Jin Kisaragi, which surely made the ladies happy) have gotten or will be getting immortalized on a pillowcase. And of course, BlazBlue has gotten a variety of figures, including one of protagonist-turned-antagonist-turned-protagonist-again Mu-12, which is what we’ll be looking at here.
Returning to their similarities, one other aspect in which Guilty Gear and BlazBlue are alike is in the design of the final boss of the second game in each series. In Guilty Gear X, the final boss is Dizzy, and in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, the final boss is Mu-12. Both characters have a number of stylistic resemblances, both thematic and in the way they play in their respective games. Both characters can deliver a barrage of ranged attacks, with Dizzy deploying a variety of flying, icy, fishy-looking projectiles whereas Mu-12 can position laser-emitting satellites around the game arena. Visually, Dizzy and Mu-12 feature impressive wings. Both also float off the ground. In terms of their clothing, both characters share a complete lack of modesty, though while Dizzy’s outfit is reminiscent of a black leather bondage suit, Mu-12’s is more along the lines of a mecha musume costume. Accordingly, both show the same fondness for showing much underboob and thigh.
While their designs may parallel each other, their established dispositions are polar contrasts. Dizzy is a nice girl who dislikes fighting; Mu-12 is a cold, ruthless automaton who desires nothing less than the obliteration of all life. Also, Dizzy is a single person – albeit with two sentient, squabbling personalities sprouting from her back – while Mu-12 is actually Noel Vermillion. In BlazBlue: Chronophantasma (the most recent version of the game; it’s not coming out on the Xbox 360, which annoys me greatly, as I have all the other BlazBlue games on that console), Noel gains the ability to control her powers, thus suppressing her homicidal instincts.
The BlazBlue story is astonishingly convoluted, filled with grand themes, long and elaborate histories for the principal characters, and a bewildering amount of made-up vocabulary. I had hoped that the anime would clearly explain the story; unfortunately, the show drops viewers right in without clarifying a thing. On one hand, that sort of approach minimizes tiresome exposition; on the other hand, it obviously makes things quite confusing. Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere did much the same thing, but the difference is that the Horizon characters were very likeable and the characters of BlazBlue’s anime adaptation are not. Ragna doesn’t do much but growl and get his ass kicked, which does little to endear us to him. Jin is already insane, which makes him a poor foil to Ragna, and Noel is annoying as hell. Further, the anime really could have used a larger budget for its action sequences. I’ve only watched the first few episodes, so perhaps it gets better, but I really doubt it.
Noel has gotten a few figures before, notably one by Hobby Japan that shows her in her old uniform, and one by Vertex which shows her in her new, sexed-up outfit, of which a nice review can be seen at Reflective Boundary. This figure is by FREEing and is sculpted in 1/8 scale; she stands about 23 centimeters tall from base to the top of her head and about 35 centimeters in height from base to the uppermost tip of her wing blades. Her body is a bit smaller than most other 1/8 scale figures, but this figure will still demand a lot of room. Her wings may present a concern to shelf space-strapped collectors, as they are quite large; they’re about 38 centimeters across. However, she can be displayed without them, as we shall see.
Mu-12 is posed in an aggressive stance, as if she were jumping into a fray. One of the concerns I had regarding her pose is that the way her back was bent looked highly unrealistic, as if her spine had snapped in half. Seeing the figure, it’s not really that obvious, or even all that pronounced; her spine does have a strong curve, but it’s not anything that would look out of place in a fighting game or an action anime. Instead, her posture gives her an appearance that is simultaneously feminine and menacing. It also has the benefit of pushing her breasts out, and being that Mu-12 retains Noel’s modest rack, she needs all the help that she can get.
However, while Noel’s cup size is the subject of frequent jokes throughout the BlazBlue series, it’s hard not to look first at her stomach and her hips. While her upper torso is relatively slender – a trait she shares with the Hobby Japan Noel figure – her hips are exceptionally broad. This figure presents a rather stylized take on her design – her game sprites depict her as having a fairly normal body build for a young, athletic woman – but then, much of BlazBlue’s merchandise and official artwork deviates wildly from the in-game appearances of the game’s characters. With her small upper body, tiny waist, big hips, and thick thighs, the way Mu-12 is sculpted reminds me a bit of Hyung Tae-Kim’s style, which is interesting as I’ve long thought that his artwork was poorly suited for translation into PVC.
She has a toned tummy with a cute bellybutton. Her stomach is rather elongated, which gives her a much more adult appearance than Hobby Japan’s version of Noel, which made her look kind of like a pre-teen.
Moving further down, she wears her famous crotch plate. There’s a small painting error here; the little stud on the upper corners of the garment should be colored in metallic silver rather than gold, but it’s such a small area that I suppose that it’s forgiveable. The little blue part looks like it might be some kind of manufacturing flaw but it really is part of her design.
From the rear, we can see that Mu-12 wears a thong which leaves bare her nicely-shaped backside. Mu-12’s costume design is definitely one of the best in all of fighting games.
The figure comes already attached to the base, which is hopefully rigid enough to prevent leaning. Mu-12’s typically hovers off of the ground and her outfit hides her feet, so the base adds a fiery blue flamey thing to keep her attached, rather than using a big, conspicuous support pylon.
That’s obviously not the case for her wings, which are held aloft by a couple of transparent plastic rods. The longer rod goes on her left side, where the additional length is needed to keep the wing clear of Mu-12’s hair.
Speaking of her hair, it is fairly faithful to her design. The ends of her tresses look a little strange, like a big sheet of torn-up Swiss cheese, but that’s really how her hair is supposed to look.
Typically a figure’s face is the element that I place the greatest importance on. It’s difficult to evaluate Mu-12’s face, though, since it’s mostly hidden by her hair and visor. It seems to adequately convey her customary indurate nature; but then, this figure’s box has the BlazBlue: Chronophantasma logo, so presumably this is really Noel, in firm control of her more violent impulses. Maybe she’s just lost in thought or daydreaming about something.
You don’t really expect a character with smallish breasts to show attractive underboob and sideboob, but Mu-12 definitely does. It’s also cute how she wears a shortened version of her necktie with all this highly-revealing, high-tech armor.
The figure shows this peculiar line where her right leg joins her torso. I’m not sure if this was intentional or if it’s a manufacturing issue that they could not resolve. In a typical viewing position, it’s not that noticeable, but it looks a little out of place.
Collectors with limited space might be happy to learn that she looks fine sans wings. Indeed, as impressive as her wings are, removing them focuses attention on Mu-12 herself, accentuating the contrast between the soft, curved form of her body and the high-tech, rigidly geometric shape and hardness of her armor and outfit. I might actually prefer to display her this way.
I was rather surprised when FREEing unveiled Mu-12. Many of their earlier figures haven’t shown a great deal of ambition in terms of complexity, and Mu-12 is a very complex figure. I think they’ve done a great job with her; not a perfect job, of course, but I really like the way she looks. Obviously, I’m a big fan of her outfit, and it’s rendered very well here, showing off much of her body to great effect. I also very much like the way her aggressive pose is complemented by her impassive expression; it gives her the implacable bearing of an apex predator, which sharply contrasts with how scandalously skimpy her clothing is. Overall, I’m very pleased to have this figure in my collection.
(Well, sort of, anyway; this figure has gotten a big-ass discount at Amiami so I wouldn’t have minded saving some cash. This figure is also getting a recolored variant which looks nice, but when I play fighting games, I almost always pick a character’s original colors, so I prefer this version. Finally, it appears that Alter is also going to release a Mu-12 figure, which muddies the waters a bit for anyone thinking of picking this figure up; it’s almost certain that Alter’s figure will surpass this one in terms of manufacturing quality. However, if they base it off of the artwork they’ve exhibited, their figure will feature a highly ass-centric pose, which means a collector could display FREEing’s and Alter’s figures together and get a front and rear view of Mu-12 at the same time. This seems to be an ideal solution, both sides of Mu-12 have much to offer.)