As I’ve remarked before, even though Japanese anime culture has a number of parallels with Western pop culture, they don’t seem to intersect that often. This is particularly and peculiarly evident in manga and comics; despite their similarities (and the influence of American comics on the development of manga), I don’t know too many anime fans who read Western comics, and I’m certain that there are many comic book readers (particularly older ones) who don’t care that much for anime.
Despite this separation, fans on both sides frequently share a passion for collecting things, particularly figures. Figures of characters from Western properties often have some differences compared to anime figures; they are often sculpted in polystone, they are typically on the larger side, and they often come from specialist manufacturers unknown to collectors of anime figures. However, that is not the case with this particular figure; this figure of Psylocke comes from Kotobukiya, a company that every anime figure collector knows. Strangely, this figure is not the first, nor the second, nor even the third, but is the fourth figure of Psylocke that Kotobukiya has released in the last four years. Kotobukiya has made some attempts at integrating the two audiences, particularly with their Bishoujo series, which combines Western comic book and science fiction characters with anime-style design sensibilities, but they also make a number of statues targeted squarely at Western comic book collectors. We don’t often look at such figures here but as Psylocke is my favorite character in all of comic books, for her we will make an exception.
Psylocke, whose real name is Elizabeth Braddock, is one of the main members of the X-Men. She made her debut in comics way back in the 1970s, appearing in several minor titles before joining the main cast of the Uncanny X-Men. Originally a British woman, she later had her memories and personality scooped out and shoved into the body of a Japanese woman. In American pop culture, being Japanese generally means you’re either a nerd or a ninja, and since Psylocke already possessed acute mental powers, she got turned into a sexy physical combatant.
When the X-Men franchise was split into two books, she moved to the new, adjectiveless X-Men series. She later moved on again to the series X-Treme X-Men, in which she was killed in its second issue. She stayed dead for a while and for a long time it looked like she wouldn’t be coming back, but after an absence of many years, she was finally resurrected and rejoined the Uncanny X-Men, almost 250 issues after she first became part of that team.
Historically, comics have been stereotyped as being formulaic and lacking in ambiguity (the phrase “comic book plot” has come to be used to derisively described anything that is simplistically-constructed and overly black-and-white). However, straightforward good-versus-evil storylines have fallen out of fashion, and so it is not surprising that Marvel Comics has adjusted its own titles to fit with the times. Accordingly, a new book – titled X-Force (re-using the name of a comic series that appeared back in the 90s) – was spun off from the X-Men franchise. Its members – including Psylocke – comprise a “superhuman black ops” team whose members will “spy, torture, and kill” those who threaten mutantkind (I’m quoting from Marvel’s website). I have to admit that I find that sort of thing to be badly clichÃ©d. This book has gone through several iterations; it was originally titled X-Force, and then they launched a book titled Uncanny X-Force, and now I think it’s just called X-Force again. This sort of saturation is a major emphasis of Marvel’s publishing strategy; in total, there appears to be at least a half dozen X-Men titles currently being published, including “Amazing X-Men,” adjectiveless “X-Men,” and “Wolverine and the X-Men.” The long-running The Uncanny X-Men title was ended at issue #544, concluding a publishing run that spanned nearly half a century, only to be relaunched a few months later as “Uncanny X-Men,” apparently dropping the “the” from the title. It’s extremely confusing. Suffice to say, I don’t really read comic books anymore. Hopefully someday they’ll streamline things.
Psylocke is perhaps the X-Men’s most famous action girl (although in the comics I’ve read, she seems to lose a lot of the fights she gets into), and she’s also a very popular subject in visual media and video games. She’s gotten a number of figures, and this is her most recent one. As mentioned, it’s manufactured by Kotobukiya; the sculptor is Erick Sosa, who has previously worked with both Kotobukiya and Yamato. She’s sculpted in 1/6 scale and stands about 26 centimeters in overall height. It’s made of polystone rather than the more familiar PVC used in virtually all anime figures. Like many larger polystone figures, her arms are detachable and she also comes with an extra left arm which features her psychic blade molded in transparent plastic.
I have to admit I’m not really a big fan of polystone figures; they are generally extremely fragile, with none of the elasticity of PVC figures. I’ve had numerous PVC figures fall to the floor without the slightest hint of damage; no polystone figure would survive that sort of incident unscathed. Fortunately my copy of Psylocke arrived without any damage.
Another concern, quite probably more apparent to other viewers, is that polystone figures are often obviously hand-painted and their quality level tends to leave something to be desired, particularly when compared to a PVC figure from a company like Alter or Max Factory. Paint is often flat in tone, skin tones tend to be brownish, and in the worst cases, imprecision of paint application is glaringly obvious. Those flaws are evident to some extent on this figure; for example, this version of Psylocke shares the same peculiarly-dark skin tone as Sideshow Toys’s Psylocke and Pop Culture Shock’s Kitana; perhaps they share the same factory in China. Her skin tone is very matte, though her outfit shows a shinier satin finish that looks more appealing.
Maybe the most obvious flaw visible in these pictures concerns her right eyebrow, which isn’t completely painted, and obviously stands out. In person, though, it’s impossible to see it; the area in question is perhaps a tenth of a millimeter in width, and so I don’t feel compelled to try to touch it up with dark paint, as doubtless I’d botch the job. It does indicate that these sorts of figures tend to be more camera-unfriendly than many anime PVC figures, though.
Psylocke is shown here wearing a variation of her most iconic outfit, a sleeveless high-cut leotard with form-fitting thigh-high boots. Normally her leotard colored a deep, brilliant blue with a red sash tied around her waist, but here she’s wearing a black outfit with a gray sash, which I suppose is meant to be more indicative of “black ops” styling. It’s still an attractive look, though; black and gray often work well together in style. I’m not entirely sure if and when she wore this outfit, though; I think the early issues of X-Force had her wearing her usual blue outfit, and then her design was changed so that she wore a rather lame-looking bodysuit. In current comics, she wears a bodysuit slightly reminiscent of Julia Carpenter’s Arachne costume, which is a little less lame but is still disappointing, being that her older outfit is still her best outfit.
One thing about her depiction here is that the upper part of her outfit is oddly squared off, like a collared tank swimsuit; in the comics her leotard tapers towards her neck.
One hallmark of her former design are the bands that encircle her thighs and upper arms. In Jim Lee’s original design of her Japanese body, she wore a varying number of bands on each leg, which I’m sure confounded every other artist who had to draw her, and eventually the most common interpretation of her design included two bands on each limb, as seen here.
In the comics – or at least, in the comics I used to read – Psylocke generally fought hand-to-hand rather than with weapons. However, a lot of standalone art has her holding swords, which isn’t surprising, as a sexy, half-naked fighter girl holding swords typically looks cooler than the same character just standing around bare-handed. And of course, if one is emphasizing the coolness factor, the character needs to be dual-wielding, since two weapons look cooler than one. Psylocke is holding a couple of swords here done up in a Japanese motif, though the blades are straight-edged rather than curved. I’m no expert in medieval Japanese weaponry so I have no idea whether this is a realistic portrayal or not. I have to admit that it reminds me a bit of Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, whose swords also lacked a curve, at least in the original cartoon.
And I’ll admit that her toes remind me a bit of the ninja turtles as well. She’s wearing tabi-styled thighhighs, which wasn’t a feature of her most iconic costume, but I think it looks both cute and cool. It also gives her outfit a bit of Japanese flair.
She’s standing on a broken pillar, which also looks pretty nice. Just as nice is the fact that it’s quite compact, considering her stance; the more typical circular base would have been huge if they had gone that route.
Speaking of her stance, she’s set in an action pose, leaning forwards with legs spread wide. It’s a great look that emphasizes her femininity while conveying her eagerness to get into a fight.
A character can’t wear a costume like this without having a good-looking ass and as expected, Psylocke’s ass looks great.
The immodesty of her outfit was one of the more divisive aspects of Psylocke’s character design. It’s too bad that Marvel has gone away from this sort of style with both Psylocke and Ms. Marvel (who, as I understand it, is now named Captain Marvel). Fortunately, figure makers seem to prefer this look.
Her left arm can be swapped out for an alternate piece, which features her psychic knife, the focused totality of her psychic powers, as the comics were fond of telling us. It doesn’t look too bad, but as I’ve often written, I’m not a big huge fan of special effects sculpted in transparent plastic, and even if I were, I like the symmetry of her two-sword look better.
Her eyebrows are sharply slanted, enhancing the aggressiveness of her look. Her eyes aren’t as slanted as some depictions I’ve seen, which I’m grateful for; it seems like many Western comic book artists try to make Japanese characters look Japanese by giving them wildly slanted eyes. Being Japanese-Korean, I’ve always thought that that is weird as hell; my eyes aren’t slanted and I don’t know any Japanese or Korean people whose eyes are slanted like that.
One odd thing about her design is that artists never seemed to really settle on her eye color. Her eyes are sort of bluish-green here; elsewhere, I’ve seen them colored brown, blue, and violet.
I really like this figure; Psylocke looks sexy and dangerous, just as she should. Her pose is great and I love her design. I do wonder what would happen if they combined this sort of Western design with their PVC figure manufacturing techniques; personally, I think that would make for a better product. But then, it doesn’t seem like too many people collect both anime PVC and Western comic book-derived polystone statues. It’s neat to see Kotobukiya making products like this and I hope they keep it up.
Here’s the newest Kotobukiya Psylocke with the oldest Kotobukiya Psylocke. I have to admit that the Bishoujo figure isn’t one that I regard all that highly these days.
And just for kicks, here’s a size (and style) comparison between two 1/6 scale Kotobukiya figures, Psylocke and Daisy.