Velvet Batrass from Shining Ark

Velvet from Shining Ark

In the anime figure world, Tony Taka is clearly the man of the moment, with Kotobukiya’s Daisy having generally received positive acclaim and with Native having recently put Touko on the Can up for preorder. Recently, however, it has been Alphamax who has shown the most enthusiasm for bringing Tony’s artwork into the three-dimensional world. In the last few months they’ve released not one, not two, but three figures based on his illustrations, including Iris, Rikka Himegami, and Velvet, the figure we’re looking at today. Velvet stands out a bit from her Skytube counterparts in that she is not an ero figure – unsurprising, being that she comes from a PSP game – and that she’s nominally a bit smaller than her catalog cousins. Nonetheless, I’m a big fan of Alphamax’s recent work, and I had high expectations for Velvet; happily, her quality is well in keeping with the standards set by her forebears.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

Velvet Batrass (a rather unfortunate last name, in my opinion) comes from the Sega game Shining Ark, which was released on the Sony PSP early last year. I’ll spare everyone my usual rant about the state of Sega’s Shining series and simply note that while Shining Ark sounds like Shining the Holy Ark – one of my favorite games on the Sega Saturn – they don’t have anything in common, as far as I can tell.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

While Shining the Holy Ark had a ninja heroine, Shining Ark’s Velvet is obviously a pirate (or at least, a girl who dresses up as one). Pirates have enjoyed something of a resurgence in popularity, chiefly driven, I’m sure, by Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. I’m a big fan of the historical Age of Sail but I have to admit I’ve never been that interested in pirates, or at least the typical pop culture representation of them, which is typically highly romanticized and often more comical than I like (I saw Pirates of the Caribbean mainly for the ships rather than Captain Jack or Legolas).

Velvet figure by Alphamax

Pirates sometimes even get the sexy treatment, and Velvet obviously falls in that category, which overrides my otherwise formalist preference in regard to the theme. That’s only to be expected of a Tony Taka-designed female character, and while Velvet lacks full explicitness, she does look very appealing in her own right. First, though, the usual litany of statistics: Velvet is sculpted in 1/8 scale, and she sits a bit over 16.5 centimeters in height, including her high heels. While she is smaller than the Skytube figures – which are generally listed as 1/6 scale – she still looks quite large, about as large as Alter’s 1/8 scale figures (which are typically bigger than most). She comes with several accessories, including a pirate hat, a treasure chest – which features a removable lid, so you could secret your own treasures within it should you so desire – and a base, which is modeled to look like the deck of a ship. Her skirt is obviously removable, with her torso separating at the waist, just above the waistband of her bikini bottom.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

Tony’s character designs are sometimes criticized for being a bit bland, and I can’t necessarily disagree with that, as he is a very prolific artist with both a singular style and commercial sensibilities and thus his art occasionally looks a bit repetitive. However, while Velvet’s face is very obviously based on Tony’s work, she looks quite striking, with a mutable expression that seems to fluctuate from an inviting smile to scornful disdain. Her blue eyes also command attention, providing a bright bit of color in an otherwise monochromatic design.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

Another impressive aspect of this figure is Velvet’s hair, which is considerably more complex than that found on the average figure. Her tresses coil and tumble below her shoulders, with no bowling ball or helmet hair to be found here. Considering that she can wear a big pirate hat, I’m impressed that the sculptor put as much detail into her hair as he did.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

Speaking of which, her hat is a loose accessory which can simply be placed on her head; no magnet is provided to keep it in place but one isn’t really needed. It’s a nice, feminine take on the tricorn hat so often associated with naval fashion. The big pink flower is another attractive touch that adds a splash of color.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

If the hat weren’t enough of a clue, the big Jolly Roger on her bikini top clearly points her out as being a pirate. Her skimpy clothing obviously provides a large amount of her appeal. As does her pose; Velvet pulls off the rare trifecta of figure design, with her face, breasts, and buttocks all being visible at the same time from the most typical viewing angle.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

Another appealing aspect of her design is the length of her legs. Tony often draws his female designs as looking a bit older than the typical anime character, with large breasts, slender waists, and long, fully-formed legs being typical in his work. This figure takes Velvet’s design a bit further, making her legs particularly lengthy. Indeed, each of her thighs seems to be about the same length (and size) as her whole torso. Her assertive high-heeled boots further enhance the sense of length of Velvet’s legs. I think this sort of character design might look a little awkward if Velvet were standing up, but it looks great here.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

For those who prefer a less showy appearance for Velvet, she does have a miniskirt, which doesn’t really hide anything but provides a little more modesty.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

I prefer to display her without the miniskirt; I figure that since she’s wearing a bikini top, she might as well show off the bottom part of her swimsuit as well. Removing the skirt does make her left hand more conspicuous, though, and the finger position she shows appears rather awkward. I know I can’t replicate her gesture myself; I’d be curious to know if anyone else can manage to lower their index and middle fingers while elevating their ring and pinky fingers like she’s doing.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

The treasure chest is nicely modeled, though quite plastic-looking; nobody’s going to mistake this for an old wooden chest. It mounts to the base so that it doesn’t slide around. Speaking of the base, it’s not entirely necessary, but Velvet’s perch is quite unstable without it, as there’s a peg where Velvet’s foot can mount. Even so, she tends to topple over fairly easily.

Velvet figure by Alphamax

Alphamax’s Velvet is a beautiful figure that maintains the tradition of quality and appeal established by Skytube’s earlier Tony-designed figures. She’s much more than just another Tony Taka swimsuit figure; she effects a strong sense of personality with her sharp, enigmatic expression and by the seductiveness of her pose. Her crossed legs and revealing swimsuit strongly emphasize her sexiness, which is another big plus. Of course, anyone who is a fan of the sexy female pirate motif will have another reason to like this figure; for everyone else, there is still a ton to like about Velvet, and I’m quite happy to have this figure in my collection.

Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax

Another review of Velvet is available at Reflective Boundary.

Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
Velvet figure by Alphamax
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30 Responses to Velvet Batrass from Shining Ark

  1. Tian says:

    I love this figure! It was a fun shoot because I went out and bought a load of fake pirate treasure. I really like her casual pose, and without skirt it looks like she’s about to pleasure herself. Awkward but interesting.

    This was also my first Alphamax figure. I was really impressed by the quality – not so much the design of the base because of the toppling over – but the finish was very good.

    • Tier says:

      Amusingly, my first impression of Alphamax’s PVC stuff wasn’t nearly as positive (it was one of the Muv-Luv Total Eclipse girls in her underpants – Yui, I think. It’s not nearly as good as Kotobukiya’s figures.). They’ve got some really great stuff, though, and it helps that they have no compunction against ero figures.

      Funny that you mention that, since I didn’t think about it. The product description for the Touko on the Can figure also mentions that her hand is plunged between her thighs, which I didn’t notice either; I kinda feel like I should have, since for some reason or another I’ve gotten this reputation for photographing lewd figures or something.

  2. Cerberus says:

    Alphamax/skytube’s recent figures of Tony Taka’s Characters are all great works. I’d like to say this is Velvet is my favorite of Tony’s heroine figures, after collecting so many of them. It is a little bit awkward from some angles with her left hand not directly touching anything after taking the skirt off. Other than that, everything is just perfect. I love that she has beautiful and realistic body proportions. I wonder why they did not make if fully cast-offable. it should be quite easy since she’s already in some swimsuits type of outfit. I guess they don’t want to do this for a Shining series character since the game is not rated for adult only.

    • Tier says:

      Yeah, that’s my guess as well; I notice that this figure was also sculpted by a different guy than the one who is credited with the Skytube figures. It doesn’t really seem like too many licensed properties would allow that sort of thing unless they were borderline ero in the first place, like Queen’s Blade or High School DxD or something; off the top of my head I can’t think of any explicit figures from console games.

      As great as Velvet looks, I think Daisy is my favorite figure from Tony’s art; I’ve had her sitting here on my desk for the last few months and she is really cute. If I had a big pirate fetish, though, Velvet might contend for that top spot.

    • icelava says:

      The illustration artist may be Tony Taka, but it is still a Sega game character, and there would be restrictions on the “creativity” a sculptor is allowed to practise.

  3. sienar3 says:

    You forgot to mention her bikini top cannot be cast-off. =3
    Considering former and upcoming Skytube’s lineup from Tony’s I can’t really understand this decision.. well it was a huge letdown for me, but other than that, yeah she’s stunning.

    • Tier says:

      I think that was to be expected, since there have been a ton of swimsuit figures from Shining Wind/Tears/Ark and none of them are explicit. I do not think Sega would have allowed Alphamax or anyone to make a figure of one of their characters that featured nudity though admittedly, they were sorta blasé about it back during the Saturn era, when there were a lot of softcore VNs released for the console (there was even a softcore 2D shmup, which gets big bucks on eBay these days, as I recall).

  4. Wieselhead says:

    Alphamax steps up their game, it’s good to have another quality manufacturer who create as appealing figures as the top dogs ^^ Alphamax isn’t that new, but a few years before their stuff was less impressive. I’ve seen Velvet at some places now and yeah I love how she turned out, the promo pics did give a different feeling, after I’ve seen user pics I also like Iris a lot ^^

    Thx for mentioning that Velvet is 1/8, I imagined it was 1/7. Than it is even more amazing how much presence the pretty girl has, I just love her facial expression with the stunning deep eyes. This gives her more personality than the average Toni Taka woman. There are of course more Taka related figures that were also quite expressive, like Seena Kanon from Max Factory back then. Velvet has a delicious body sculpting together with her pose.

    I already spent too much on figures this month and April also looks terrible, but afterwards I would likee to have a copy of her, she’s exceptionally enchanting. Hehe your pictures are really convincing I must say.

    Next time Alphamax should take part on Wonfes, well maybe they already did, but maybe not.

    • Tier says:

      Alphamax has done some really nice stuff lately. So has Kotobukiya, and Max Factory. Alter hasn’t done so much nice stuff recently, which is still odd to think.

      Velvet is really pretty; I remember back when I did Max Factory’s swimsuit Shining Tears (or was it Wind?) girls (Kureha and Xecty), I felt really uninspired and wasn’t too sure how much I liked those figures (I actually like them more now than I did back then). Velvet, though, I like very much. I also remember feeling pretty fatigued by Tony figures (maybe most exemplified by that one Miku Hatsune figure) but lately I’m very enthusiastic about figures based on his work; I’m looking forward to Iris though I have no idea how to photograph her.

      Haha, yeah, I was glad to get notification that Sheryl Nome and the Lineage II Kamael got kicked back to April, as my March preorder list was otherwise looking very large. I don’t think I had anything ordered that was set to ship in April, actually, so spreading out the expense is nice.

      It was a little odd that Alphamax seemed absent from Wonder Festival. Then again, it’s also kinda nice to be surprised when you load up Amiami or Hobby Search and see a figure that you’ve never seen before.

  5. Dvalinn says:

    Damn, she’s gorgeous. Her curves are wonderful, she’s really rocking that ‘sexy pirate’ getup and her pose is quite nice as well. I like the detail on that hair as well, and her base rocks. You’re right in that the chest seems kinda plasticy though. Still, Alphamax can really be counted among the top manufacturers nowadays, as far as I’m concerned. Now I’m hoping that they make some more swimsuit figures of random anime, as I sadly don’t have enough affinity with the series she’s from to actually buy her.

    Though they should also start showing up at the big events. Alphamax is always conspicuously absent on those for some reason. Mostly it’s just magazine scans and such.

    As for stuff about pirates, have you played Assassin’s Creed 4? Because I kind of liked its reproduction of the age of sailing in that one, and it goes for a more melancholy tone of the pirate life there as the story goes on, instead of just going all ‘pirates, fuck yeah!’. It even takes the piss out of the pop culture version later. Not to mention you can play it while ignoring the rest of the series anyway.

    • Tier says:

      They’ve done some really nice stuff. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Saber Bride turns out; I hope she’s on par with GSC’s Fate/stay night figures, which would be a really impressive achievement.

      Yeah, that’s pretty strange that they seem to not have much presence at the typical shows; I guess it wouldn’t be too surprising (nor would they be missed much) if they were still doing those big polystone statues but they seem to have gone all-in on PVC so it’s odd that they seem content to sit out while all their competitors are there.

      I have not placed Assassin’s Creed 4; in fact, I’ve never played any of the Assassin’s Creed games. That’s mostly because I thought the presentation of the storyline sounded interesting, with the whole present time/past event thing (story presentation is something that’s really important to me, and I find a lot of games don’t really do it too well). I had thought that I’d start with the first game, but now the franchise has grown so much that it’s kinda hard to get motivated to play through the whole series; however, since you mention that AC4 can be played by itself, that sounds like a good reason to take a closer look at it, especially if it takes a more subdued approach to the theme.

      • Dvalinn says:

        Yeah, I can imagine it would be hard to get into a series with a story that spans seven games at this point. Hell, even I haven’t played them all (I missed the PSP one). The ‘past’ stories are kinda self-contained, luckily, and the in-game encyclopedia’s and such can give you the basic gist of the overarching ‘present’ story. Seeing as AC4 is one of the best ones in the series, you might as well start there.

        • Tier says:

          That sounds good; I’ll see if I can get it cheap on the 360 one of these days, then; being that none of the new consoles excites me much, I’d like to go through my backlog of worthy 360 games sometime. I’ve got a bunch of games like Saint’s Row III and Mass Effect and Lost Odyssey that I still have to complete.

  6. Tsunami3k says:

    This has been a must-get figure for me since I first saw her but I’ve gotten buried so deep by my wish list that I still don’t have her yet. Hopefully I’ll fix that soon since I’m all the more amped up about her from this article.

    I’ve been a Tony Taka fan for ages so it was frustrating early on to see the majority of his designs getting picked up by [at best] B-team figure companies. Clearly the T2 lineup has reached critical mass since my preorder and “to preorder” lists are laden with his works. Alphamax, Native and SkyTube [among others] have turned my famine into a feast so much so that I can barely keep up.

    As with Velvet, I still need to get the already released Rikka whereas Iris comes out this month and, like clockwork, Shoubi and [Shining Ark] Sakuya are just around the corner and I know that somehow another figure that I forgot about will surprise me. First-world problems, right? Ah well, I adore the lot of them and one day I will round them up. I mention this mostly because I’m curious if you have the same dilemma. I know you’re more prone to see some “saminess” in Taka’s work than I am but I’ve got to think at least some of these stellar ladies have caught your eye.

    Also, is it just me or did you change up your lighting style this time? I don’t know if it’s a product of your recent reading or my imagination but, among other things, you seem to have gone with a decidedly lower-contrast style than usual. No worries either way, just curious mostly.

    • Tier says:

      I’ve noticed that a lot of the recently-released Tony figures have been very high quality; I’ve still got a couple of Kotobukiya’s Blanc Neige figures here and they are kinda the epitome of mediocrity, but Daisy looks fantastic, and so does Velvet.

      I do sometimes get fatigued by figures that look the same, whether they come from the same artist or if they’re of the same character. Both of those sentiments converged not that long ago, back when that Max Factory Miku Hatsune figure based on a Tony picture came out (I’m pretty sure I wrote about my Tony fatigue around that time). It’s occurred more recently, with Super Sonico; I like her design but with a bunch of figures (including the one Yamato babydoll one that I haven’t reviewed yet) and one big-ass vmf50 doll, I think I’m pretty happy with the number I’ve got.

      Yeah, I actually did; I wanted something that looked natural and understated rather than dramatic, so I basically used a big key light with a reflector placed in front of and under the figure. I did take a few shots with the usual rim light but I didn’t dig the look so much so I didn’t use one for most of the shots.

      • Tsunami3k says:

        Good call on the lower contrast. It hadn’t occurred to me, but it was clear as day from your sample shot, that she’s naturally contrasty already.

        I like your stony background texture. I’ve been intending to use stone or rock in a shoot for ages but have inexplicably failed to do so for just as long. Now that the weather’s easing up a bit maybe I’ll get out and clean up those leftover flagstones that have been awaiting a purpose in my garage.

        • Tier says:

          Using a fill light placed in front of the figure with just a slight tilt towards the subject is something I never tried before the middle of last year, and on figures like this I really like the results; the light is still directional but is softer than what I usually use, but doesn’t get the flat look I sometimes get when placing a fill card opposite of the key light. I think it looks pretty good with Velvet, but I don’t think I’m going to use that sort of lighting placement with Tharja.

          The great thing about the background is that it’s just made of wadded-up newspaper covered with plaster cloth; it’s a lot easier to work with than stone and it looks fairly convincing. This particular background has an old history; I think it’s the same backdrop I used with Alter’s bounty hunter Yoko Littner years and years ago. (More recently, I used a similar background, though painted gray, for Samus Aran; I’m surprised at how versatile this type of setting is.)

          • Tsunami3k says:

            I’m having trouble wrapping my head around your fill light placement but maybe I’ll get a chance to see it in a future shot breakdown at some point.

            Now that I know your stone background wasn’t stone I’m all the more intrigued by it! I really like innovative uses of otherwise mundane materials in table-top photo shoots. Occasionally I’ll have a good idea but they come far too infrequently.

            Perhaps I should dedicate some time solely towards experimentation and see what comes of it…

          • Tier says:

            It’s a fill card (basically an 8×10 white card) placed right in front of her, very slightly angled up towards the subject; it fills in some of the shadows under her chin, along the bottom of her breasts, and so on while leaving the light still looking very directional. I usually don’t like using fill but I really like this effect, whenever I’m not going for that big dark scary shadow effect that I often use.

            Plaster cloth is great stuff. I saw this video – well, not exactly that video but one from the same company – that showed how to use plaster cloth and I’ve used the stuff a lot. To paint it, I use what I guess is kinda like a drybrush technique, or at least it seems similar to what model builders do to show off texture and detail in their models. After painting on a base color, I get a dry chipboard brush, jab it into some fairly thick paint, wipe off a lot of it, and then repeatedly jab the hell out of it onto the plaster surface. I’ll do this with a couple of colors (shades of brown in this case), and also with black and white paint. I’m not a very skilled diorama builder but this method seems to get the job done.

          • Tsunami3k says:

            Ah, got it! When you said you had placed a reflector directly in front of her I was imagining it upright and facing her already so the “slight tilt towards” threw me.

            Plaster cloth looks like it’s a more convenient variant of plaster of Paris and newspaper. As it turns out I’m pretty sure I have a couple of boxes of plaster of Paris lying around from when I did model train stuff as a kid.

  7. icelava says:

    Personally i’d have preferred Velvet to spot her badass coat. That of course, would mean a different pose away from the original illustration. Beggars can’t be choosers, i guess…

    • Tier says:

      That would’ve been a neat touch. Personally I’m just glad they ditched the animal ears, since I like displaying her without her hat.

    • icelava says:

      I am sad to announce as i packed up my copy for transport, I found paint from the treasure chest stuck onto her butt.

      Yet another one of those eraser days…

      • Tier says:

        Yeah, I had the exact same problem as well; she fell off the chest a few times while I was taking pictures and her bottom got marked up. I cleaned it up with rubbing alcohol; I don’t like doing that since sometimes it leaves the finish looking conspicuously dull, but I don’t think I saw any change and nobody will ever see it.

  8. GalihPr says:

    Dear Tier, i like your collection of figure photography very much, your photos and figure collection are almost the best that i can found on the internet. May i use some of those photos for personal wallpaper? Especially photos of Cryska Barchenowa santa ver. She is very cute that i want to touch her! Thank you for your concern.

    • Tier says:

      Certainly, go right ahead. And thank you very much for the kind remarks, I definitely appreciate them.

      • GalihPr says:

        by the way Tier, if you have to choose 1 photo or 1 set of photos from your collection of figure’s photos as your wallpaper, which one do you like? (i personally like your cryska santa set because she is sexy (and cute), cryska pilot suit comes in 2nd because she is sexy and because it is blue)

        • Tier says:

          I use the first picture in this post. Well, more specifically, I use a cleaned-up version of that photo; I’m a lot better now with Lightroom and Photoshop than I was back when I uploaded that post.

          • GalihPr says:

            🙂 i use that as well, but i think her facial expression is a bit boring, so she doesn’t take cryska place in my heart

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