Kouko Kaga is the lead female character of the light novel and anime series Golden Time. The show seems to have done reasonably well, having received a full 24-episode run along with the usual array of merchandise – posters, telephone cases, keychains, and so on – that accompany a popular series. However, it has yet to draw attention from figure companies, which is too bad, since the characters are both memorable and attractive. This particular figure of Kouko was not sold by itself; rather, it was a pack-in with the limited edition version of the PS Vita game Golden Time: Vivid Memories. That means that expectations need to be tempered, as such throw-in products are rarely as good as a figure that is sold by itself. However, it is to date the only figure of any Golden Time character, at least as far as I know, and I’m not aware of any upcoming figures depicting any members of the show’s cast. Again, that’s too bad, but I suppose one figure is better than none.
First, a bit about the character and the show (which, presumably, follows the books reasonably faithfully). Golden Time stars Kouko Kaga and Tada Banri, who are both first-year law students at a Tokyo university. Kouko is wealthy and beautiful, commanding attention from everyone in her presence. However, her outspoken and confrontational nature conceal a neurotic and wildly insecure persona. She is in turn warm and thoughtless and loving and vicious, and at times she serves almost as an antagonist. She is an interesting character, a young woman who doesn’t quite fit into any one of the conventional, commonly-seen female anime archetypes.
Unfortunately, those same qualities also make Golden Time hard to watch at times. I got through the first five or six episodes before getting tired of both Kouko’s tempestuous tendencies and the random melodrama, which the show delights in serving up. It doesn’t help that the lead male character, Banri Tada, is prone to his own random outbursts of moodiness. It also doesn’t help that he’s afflicted with amnesia, which is one of the lamest plot devices in any entertainment medium. It’s too bad because I enjoyed the first episode, which showed Banri’s first day at school; it reminded me a lot of my own college experience, which was the most formative time of my life and also the period of my life that I look back on most fondly. The awkwardness of club recruiting particularly brought back some cringe-inducing memories. Maybe the show gets better. I kinda doubt it, though.
Regardless of my mixed feelings regarding the show’s characterization and plot development, I do really like the show’s character designs, particularly Kouko’s, which is why I bought this figure. I don’t expect to ever play the game, as I’m not a big huge fan of portable systems and don’t intend to buy a PS Vita (I have a PSP somewhere here, but I really only bought it to play Pangya Fantasy Golf).
Kouko is sculpted in 1/8 scale and stands about 20 centimeters in height to the top of her head, and 21.5 centimeters tall overall, excluding the base. She comes ready for display right out of the box; however, I had a hard time getting her feet aligned with the base pegs; she tends to lean forward when they are inserted all the way, and I thought that looked fairly dumb, so I only pushed her feet in partway. I’m not sure if that’s a quality control error or an intentional design choice.
I dislike talking about manufacturing quality but being that Kouko is a cheap figure – the price difference between the standard game box and the limited edition is about 3,600 yen – that seems like the proper place to start. Kouko’s technical quality is somewhere between bad and mediocre, and I suppose it depends on how one is observing the figure. Up close, or looking through a magnifying glass or macro lens, Kouko’s flaws are apparent; she has huge seamlines running up her legs, her skin is pitted in places, and her paint job is conspicuously rough.
However, from a normal viewing angle it’s difficult to discern those issues. Part of the reason for that is that Kouko is rather small; despite having a more-or-less adult body build in the anime, she looks quite young here, with a large head and a very slender physique. She’s noticeably smaller than almost every other 1/8 scale figure, which makes her technical flaws less obvious.
One other aspect in which she differs from almost every other figure is her skin tone; she has a very ruddy complexion, which looks very unusual when she’s placed on display with other figures. I like it, though; I think it gives her a healthier, more vibrant look, though it also makes it so that other figures look a little jaundiced in comparison.
This figure is based on artwork done by Eiji Komatsu, the illustrator of the original light novels. He’s a well-known artist whose style – like many anime illustrators – tends to be on the fan-servicey side of things, and so it’s not too surprising that Kouko is depicted wearing a very skimpy swimsuit. Her top is typical but her bikini bottom is much more unusual. It seems to consist of two bottoms, one that is apparently more substantial and another that is strikingly immodest. Her inner bikini bottom is cut high on her hips and comprises a thong in the rear, which looks great. Also attractive are the contrasting black and white colors of her swimsuit.
Kouko’s pose is also appealing; the anime shows her to be flirty, particularly when pursuing her destined mate, and this figure does a good job of giving Kouko a look that is both sexy and tantalizing.
Her rear is also very cute, though any close-up inspection is hindered by the poor workmanship on display.
Her hair is just passable; it’s a prominent aspect of her anime character design but it’s not a standout part of this figure. It is, after all, a cheap figure.
And that pretty much sums it up; it’s a pack-in that, although failing to impress in technical terms, still looks appealing, at least stylistically. If one can get past the manufacturing flaws – they’re far more disconcerting in photographs than in normal observation – Kouko has a number of things going for her, particularly her saucy pose and revealing attire. And of course, there’s the prospect that there may be no figures of the Golden Time characters from any of the major manufacturers. I’d be mildly surprised if that occurred but then, we’ve seen ostensibly popular series go by without getting much in the way of figures. It would have been great if this figure had been made by one of the bigger figure makers as a standalone piece rather than a game pack-in, but being that there aren’t any other choices if one wants a figure of Kouko Kaga, it will suffice.