Yoko Ritona from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (Bounty Hunter Version)


Alter Yoko Ritona from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Review

My long national nightmare is over! I had preordered Yoko back in spring from a retailer that listed June as her release date. June came and went, as did July and the rest of summer and half of autumn. Finally I said the hell with this and ordered her from OtakuFuel. That reminds me, I probably ought to cancel my original preorder.
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Random Thoughts VII – Compelled to spend … but on what?

Of the eight figures that I had preordered this month, six have been delayed till next month or beyond. I’m not sure why figure manufacturers don’t tack on extra month on all their pending figure releases just to sync their schedules back up with reality. Even this pornographic figure that I preordered got kicked back a month. You know things are messed up when a small-scale manufacturer like Giga Pulse can’t meet their projected ship date. I bet transvestite Yoko doesn’t make it out this month, too. (And as I type this, I am proved correct! I wish I could say that this prognostication was built upon careful deduction, but anybody could see this coming.)

Serendipitous it is indeed, then, that HLJ is holding a holiday sale with shipping costs waived if you buy a sale item. With funds freed up for this month, this sale is a pretty good opportunity to pick up anything that I had passed on. Or at least, it would be, if there were anything that I wanted to buy. I went through HLJ’s inventory for Alter, Max Factory, GSC, Yamato, and all the other major figure manufacturers and I’m having a real tough time finding something that I want that I don’t already have. I guess Akiha might be a possibility (where’s the Itsuki figure, GSC?). Given the expense of EMS shipping, I feel like I should take advantage of this sale. I was really hoping that they’d have GSC’s 1/4 scale Nanoha or the Aegis Figma still in stock, but unfortunately they do not. I guess I will have to take a second, less discriminating look through HLJ’s inventory. I should probably also take this as a sign that perhaps I shouldn’t throw money at every figure that I want as soon as it comes out.

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Kotonoha Katsura from School Days


Kotobukiya Kotonoha Katsura from School Days Review

As everybody knows Amiami is now accepting orders from international customers. I order most of my stuff from Hobby Search and HLJ, and seeing as how Amiami’s prices are quite a bit lower than either of those two stores, I was curious as to how good they are. I planned to order MegaHouse’s Aldra since she was on sale, but seeing as how they had one Kotonoha figure left, I tossed her in the shopping cart as well.
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My Photography Setup

Lacking anything more productive to do on this cold, wet holiday, I decided to reshoot Kokoro, being that my earlier pictures were particularly hideous. While I was at it, I thought that I’d provide a look at the “studio” in which I take my figure pictures. It’s not a particularly complicated setup, although it certainly is a mess.
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Yagyu Jubei from Hyakka Ryoran Samurai Girls


Alter Yagyu Jubei from Hyakka Ryoran Review

Fashionably late, as virtually all Alter releases are, Yagyu Jubei is the latest release from what is perhaps the premier manufacturer of scale figures. She comes from the property Hyakka Ryoran Samurai Girls, and I’m not entirely certain what that’s supposed to be; the website lists a few upcoming books, but I’m guessing it’s mainly a franchise built to peddle character goods. The original character designs appear to be done by NiΘ, who has also done character designs for Nitro+ H-games like Demonbane and Zoku: Satsuriku no Jango, both of which have also gotten the figure treatment from Alter.
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Uesugi Kenshin from Sengoku Rance (Volks A-Brand Version) (NSFW)


Volks A-Brand Uesugi Kenshin from Sengoku Rance Review

Let’s talk a little bit about lust. If you collect anything, chances are that there is a holy grail item, something that you greatly desire but is nearly impossible to acquire. Maybe it’s an out-of-print edition of a book, or a rare and valuable trading card of some favorite athlete, or a pretty, limited-run postage stamp. These treasures add a definite zest to collecting, igniting passions, squelching common sense, and obliterating the checking accounts of collectors fortunate enough to add these things to their troves.

For me, Volks’s 1/4 scale Uesugi Kenshin statue is the prize that I’ve had my eyes on for years. I never expected to own her; for one, Volks’s wares are notoriously difficult to purchase outside of Japan, and for another, Kenshin was sold only as a resin kit. There was no way I could afford the model, and I do not have the requisite equipment or skill to assemble and paint it anyway. My only hope would be to buy a prepainted recast – and E2046 hasn’t stocked this item in a long time – or for a prepainted, preassembled kit to magically present itself. The late, sorely-missed Heisei Democracy mentions that such an item was in fact sold at the winter Wonder Festival in February 2008 – for an astronomical price.

So time passed, and I didn’t think much about this Kenshin figure, since there was little point pining away for something unobtainable, until one day, on a whim, I spent some time browsing through Yahoo Japan’s listings. And I saw this figure. There were a lot of reasons to hesitate – the price was insane, I would have to go through a middleman which means an even more insane price in addition to requiring a considerable amount of faith in someone a hemisphere away, and the possibility of losing the auction, which presents its own unique set of problems. But hesitation never really entered my mind; after all, this figure is it. This is number one, my prize, and who would deny that magic had occurred? All it would take to acquire this figure would be to meet the price. But Gott im Himmel, what a price.
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Lancer from Red Stone


Orchid Seed Lancer from Red Stone Figure Review

MMORPGs seem to be quite popular in Asia. This is particularly true in Korea, from whence a dizzying array of titles have spawned. Some – such as Lineage, Aion, and RF Online – have been published on this side of the ocean. Others – principally free-to-play games – haven’t received a formal release in the United States. Red Stone falls in the latter category, and I hadn’t ever heard of the game before I saw pictures of this figure. While I have minimal experience playing Korean MMOs, I do like their character designs, which are almost always awesome. The lancer girl passed the eyeball test with little difficulty, and now here she is.
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Video Game Loot

I bought some new video games over the last couple of weeks. I’ve already talked a little bit about Magna Carta 2; to add a happy ending to my earlier post, I did eventually get the artbook that I was supposed to receive by preordering the game. Complaining to Gamestop’s customer service department pays off, it seems. I also bought Halo ODST, Prototype, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 from Toys R Us when they were running their buy two, get one free sale. I wasn’t actually planning on getting the Marvel game since they left Psylocke off of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game, but they recently announced that she’d be downloadable later on. For a price, of course. That sucks but oh well. Best Buy is also currently running a buy two, get one free deal so I got Forza 3, Tekken 6, and some WWE game today. I’ll be honest, I don’t much like wrestling. I used to love watching WWF matches when I was a kid, and I still have the Ultimate Warrior’s autograph in a magazine someplace, but I haven’t watched any of it in twenty years. I pretty much only bought the game to make Mai Shiranui in Create-A-Wrestler mode. I don’t intend to play as any of the real-life wrestlers.

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Kyou Fujibayashi from Clannad After Story


Wave Kyou Fujibayashi from Clannad Review

It seems like this has been a quiet month for figure releases. I think Saber Lily was the only newly-released figure I bought; I guess I also got Nana but she’s a couple months old. Black Rock Shooter and transvestite Yoko have been kicked to next month, and I don’t doubt that November’s releases are going to play the slippity slide game as well. Orchid Seed’s Seena has already been pushed back to December, and does anybody really think Alter’s Mio is going to be on time?

So anyway, without much new stuff to cover, let’s look at some older figures. Actually, Kyou isn’t that old; she was released back in August, and I’ve had her for a couple of months now. I’ve just been pretty lazy about taking pictures of her.
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Magna Carta 2 Impressions

Magna Carta 2 Box

Firmly entrenched in its role as the anchor of the Japanese console sales charts, the Xbox 360 is an unlikely platform for JRPG development, but for some reason it’s gotten its share of them. Here’s one of the most recent examples; Magna Carta 2 is the sequel to a poorly-received PlayStation 2 game, which itself is a derivative of an older PC game. It came out early this month in the United States, and being curious as to what it’s about, I went and picked it up.

To be pedantic, Magna Carta II is not actually a JRPG, having been developed by the Korean company Softmax. However, after playing it for a few hours it evokes not Final Fantasy or Star Ocean; rather, it feels most like World of Warcraft. Combat takes place on the area map, and you simply move your character into a monster’s aggro radius and press the combat mode button to initiate hostilities. To discourage button mashing, your character’s attacks and spells fill up a stamina gauge; when the gauge is filled, your character cannot attack until a cooldown period elapses. To activate special attacks, you need to connect with a series of regular attacks or cast spells to build up something called a kan gauge. For melee fighters, this gauge functions similarly to a Warcraft warrior’s rage bar (although it does not deplete over time), and for casters, it means you have to remain stationary to cast your stronger spells.

The game is filled with side quests, and at least early on, they do not often deviate from the “Fetch 5 widgets” or “Kill 8 armadillos” motif seen so witheringly often in MMOs. There’s also a gathering minigame where you can pick up flowers and other assorted foliage, as well as a bombing minigame which is very similar to how grenades are thrown in Warcraft.

The main character is named Juto, and if you have any experience playing JRPGs (or watching anime), you’ve almost certainly seen his archetype before. Brash, self-righteous, and afflicted with a curious disability that disengages his brain when he opens his mouth, he is the very epitome of the generic teenaged JRPG hero. He also suffers from amnesia, so his past is conveniently clouded, and he just as conveniently show hints of great power locked within himself. His running mate is Zephie, a princess and military leader who cares deeply for everyone under her command and wishes to make a better world for everybody. You’ve seen this sort of female character type before, too. I am told there are six playable characters in total, but I’ve only gotten five so far.

Despite its unoriginality, Magna Carta 2 is still a pretty fun game. The combat is fairly fast-paced and the statistical character development – which, like Warcraft, lets you customize your characters using talent trees – is interesting. The story is banal but even so, the rebel group trying to fight off usurpers to restore justice and order is a classic plot type. The character designs are very nice, having been done by well-known Korean artist Hyung Tae Kim, and I’ll fully admit that his artwork factored heavily into this purchase. The voice acting is pretty good, although I would’ve liked to have had the Japanese voices with subtitles.

I placed a preorder for this game at my local Gamestop store since I didn’t think they would get many copies and also because they were giving away a free artbook for doing so. When I went to pick up the game, I inquired about the preorder freebie, and the clerks stared back at me, slack-jawed, as if I were speaking Mongolian. I guess the artbooks didn’t ship with the games to this store. I went home and sent an e-mail to Gamestop’s feedback site, and I actually got a response, so hopefully I get my artbook mailed to me. The artbook itself isn’t a big deal to me but I am very much annoyed when Gamestop advertises some preorder freebie and then they say, “Oh, we don’t have them here, sorry,” when you go to get it.

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