* Prices may differ from that shown
GÉNÉRIQUE: Figure collecting and how to go about it
(A skippable section if you feel like it)
Among the other so-called nerdy interests that I have apart from film scores and anime, I also have an interest in scale models, whether it be boats, planes or automobiles. But recently I have been taking an interest in a sub-genre of this in the form of scale figurines of some of my favourite anime characters. This is not to say I am a prolific collector of said figurines, but it is an area which I am quite interested in. However, Im also incredibly picky and budgetarily restricted, so this will undoubtedly be a cause of a certain reticence for me in expanding this particular hobby more than any of the others. Now as far as Im concerned there are three important factors I always take into consideration when even considering getting one of these figures and might be a good guide for you as well. 1) Quality. There are a lot of figure manufacturers, but it is always good to be sure to buy quality products rather than spending a lot of money on inferior models. 2) Resemblance. If the figure doesnt look like the character he/she/it is supposed to be representing, Im not interested. And 3) Price. A costly model may look good, but be aware if your wallet can take it.
Now, for me the third of these is probably the biggest stumbling block as figures are often very pricy, particularly in the US of A, and prices are often doubled than what they are in say their country of origin of Japan. Therefore it has come as a bit of a blessing to having discovered a site called HobbyLink Japan (www.hlj.com) which is a specialty store based in Japan, but centering on providing these products affordably for people living abroad thanks to the fact that the base prices are considerably lower than for products imported from other countries. With a healthy cross-section of the newest models etc. it is quite possibly the best place to pop over to if intending to get an affordable figure, with prices centering around the 2050 range, plus shipping costs thrown over that. It is from here that I made my purchase of the lovely Mikuru Asahina pictured above.
THE TIMID SEX BOMB
Mikuru Asahina is one of the main characters in the hit series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, an otaku sci-fi/fantasy/romance/comedy detailing the over-the-top exploits of one high-school student Haruhi Suzumiya and her desire to solve the mysteries of the universe. Setting up a club called the SOS-dan, whose main objective is to search for aliens, time travellers and ESPers, she instantly drafts several people as members to her club, little knowing that those members turn out to be exactly what she is looking for, and also little knowing that she may have actually been the reason for the appearance of these people in the first place. Now Mikuru is by far the main source of fan service in the series (meaning the provider of gratuitous booby shots and the like) and this sweet little time traveller is often the subject of Haruhis endless advances on using her bodily assets (namely cute face and huge breasts; DD minimum!) to get what she wants, namely working as a club mascot, attracting new membership or getting men to do her bidding. Mikuru herself is extremely timid, shy and reluctant to do most of the things Haruhi makes her do, not really feeling secure at all at flaunting her own body around in the skimpy outfits Haruhi often dresses her with.
This particular figure is representative of Mikuru in episode 4 of the anime series where Haruhi entered her club into a baseball match, with Mikuru of course dressed in a highly inappropriate pink nurses outfit. The model has been manufactured by the prestigious Atelier-Sai as a 1/6 scale pre-assembled and painted PVC plastic figure. The figure stands approximately 26 cm high and comes with a black, circular stand, a separate baseball base and a waist-high support handle. Now there have been plenty of quite fine Mikuru figures produced by a couple of makers, most taking as their model either her Playboy bunny costume or her Battle Waitress costume, both of which she wore in Haruhis amateur action movie The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina. However, the nurse outfit on this model I found to be the most appealing, as the bunny costume has never really attracted me that much (shocker!) and the waitress models have featured several little small detractors. Therefore, I settled that the nurse-Mikuru qualifies as the best, standard representation of her, while most importantly truly looking like Mikuru Asahina. First of all, and one of the most important considerations to me, was her pose, which is fairly upright. The problem with PVC plastic is that if there is too much leaning in one direction or another, the model may in the future start drooping to where there is more mass. And particularly for a standing model who has long, shapely legs, this consideration has immediately made me discard the two most detailed waitress versions. The nurse-Mikuru features a slight lean to her left, but it matters fairly little here.
Her dress consists of two separate parts and the postion of her head can also be slightly moved, though it doesnt really serve a lot of purpose. It was a bit of an irritant that these separate joints were covered with a protective plastic bag-type cover that meant I had to take the model apart in order to remove them and I still couldnt get everything out from under her hair, but as it is a non-visible place, I dont mind. The upper dress is non-removable, but her skirt-part can be taken off, revealing her panties for all the lecherous people who get a kick out of this sort of thing. But due to the fact that the upper half is a molded part of her torso, it doesnt look particularly good, not to mention the dress in the anime is a one-piece ensemble. The separation between these two halves did leave quite an annoying crack that took quite a lot from the appearance of the figure, but I corrected this by cementing the two halves tightly together. Therefore the dress will never come off again, so anybody who is already ordering plane tickets to come here in order to stare at her panties, forget about it! The paint sceme is very well done, with the pink of her dress smeared with tints of gray (probably as the end result of trying to dodge baseballs in the dirty field), while her skin tone is nicely peach coloured with a hint of pink (and a very slight blush on her face). Her eyes, though, are especially well done with a lot of detail to make the character really seem more alive due to all the details of texture and reflections of light. Her hair is a bit on the bulky side to not really caress her body as well as it might, but it doesnt look bad at all for a plastic sculpt and the pink nurses cap tops off the look quite nicely.
Now I dont have much to complain about this figure, but I do have to mention that apart from the poor fit of the two halves of the dress, which was easy enough to correct, one aspect has been giving me a bit more of a headache. Namely she has been having some problems with her stature. First of all, she wont stand very well on her own due to the position of her legs and the tabs on the stand are not really enough to keep her vertical. The support that comes along is not really that great for anybody wanting to display her, as the only way I could get the hook of the support to keep her up was to wrap it around her other hand. This inevitably caused her arm to bend a couple of millimeters away from the edge of the dress she is trying to pull down, making the figure look really unrealistic. Therefore I solved the problem by cementing the baseball base into the stand. However, despite this maneuvre solved the falling down part, I still had quite a lot of problems in having her stand upright as she started tilting too much forward, or backward, or to the side, regarding my attempts at fixing her pose (the slight lean and quite obviously the sizeable bust didnt help I wager). In the end, after several re-positionings in order to make her stand as upright as possible, I ended up cementing her to the separate base and display stand as well, while disregarding the tabs and the exact pose she is supposed to have for a compromise that still looks natural. She still has a slightly sharper lean to the left, but as her side profile is pretty straight, Im quite happy the way she is at the moment without feeling the need to do any more re-adjusting.
Other than those problems I mentioned above, I have been quite satisfied with my Mikuru and she certainly looks fantastic when displayed. And considering the leaning problems I had with this one, I can only guess what I might have been up against with one of the waitress versions that look shaky at best. I paid 6 800 yen (43,89) from HobbyLink, which I find quite good value. The model itself is also available in a white uniform and in a black leather one, both looking as fine to me, but due to my desire to stay as close to the original character in the series, I turned to the pink version as my first preference. Im certain that (at least most) female readers probably wont be that interested in her, but shes an ideal gift to any guy wishing to brighten up the place with a little bit of big-breasted fan service cuteness. Certainly she cheers my mornings up quite nicely. Move over Barbie, theres nothing better than a moe loli time traveller!
For further photographic proof, see: http://www.hlj.com/product/ATS82131
*Note: she is for displaying only, not for playing.
© berlioz, 2007
Haruhi Suzumiya is the title character of a 2006 television anime based on the series of novels and leader of the SOS Brigade.