Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Soul Eater Trading Arts Vol. 1by Rob Bricken, Feb 8th 2009
My virulent anti-fansub stance may have secured me a place in anime heaven (a wonderful place, where I can read all of One Piece, even the part Eiichiro Oda hasn't written yet, and there's not a Yaoi paddle to be found) but it can make writing “Astro Toy” a bit of a challenge. For instance, I know Soul Eater is a pretty popular series in Japan and among filthy, evil anime pirates, so I thought I'd grab this trading figure set and check it out. Unfortunately, I know less than nothing about Soul Eater.
Luckily, not knowing something has never stopped me from writing authoritatively about it before (see: every college paper I ever wrote and a terrifying amount of my Anime Insider work), and with help from Wikipedia, I'm willing to give these things a shot. Besides, the knowledge I lack about Soul Eater I more than make up for in knowledge about gashapon, having been an addict for most of the decade.
That said, this 6-figure set is top of the line. There's excellent sculpting all around, and you can see that all six figures have pretty dynamic poses. The paint is solid — there are a few tiny issues, but nothing deal-breaking. Each of the figures come in three parts: the legs, an arm, and the torso with head and remaining arm. Unlike a lot of gashapon, extra care has been taken to make sure these parts attach firmly and cleanly, and there's absolutely no way you can get the placement mixed up. Having bought several billion gashapon over the year where the pieces barely stay on or in, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. All in all, the biggest problem is this:
This is all the plastic wrapping from the six figures. Remember, these each come in individual boxes, so you have those to deal with first. Then each of the three pieces are individually wrapped in plastic. The instructions —which are only about putting the figures on the peg, which is retarded since you can only put the figures on the peg in one way — are wrapped. And then all of these are wrapped in plastic, and put into the box. Repeat by six. I don't want to make any generalizations, but the Japanese are destroying the planet.
But on to the individual figures. Maka here is a shinigami, and one of the two main stars of Soul Eater, which is probably why Square Enix took the trouble to expose her panties. See, her pieces include her legs and keister, a separate skirt piece to fit over her keister, and then her torso. It's pretty standard procedure in Japanese gashapon, but at least you can't really see the panties once the figure is assembled. The skirt only has the plaid pattern printed on the front, which I thought was an error until I assembled her and realized her coat nicely covers her back skirt anyway, and preserves her modesty.
According to Wikipedia, Maka is the title character Soul Eater's meister, which means 1) Soul Eater is a demon who can turn into a weapon (in Soul Eater's case, a scythe) which Maka uses to reap souls. This does not explain why Soul Eater has been posed leaning over at a 50 degree angle. Frankly, he looks good when he's paired with the rest of the figures, but seen by his lonesome, he looks a little idiotic. Still, there's some very nice, clear painting on his hat, and excellent washes on his clothes indicating pockets and such.
Another meister like Maka, Black Star looks pretty good, except for the fact he's barely standing on the base. Look, I understand the cost-cutting measure of having the same bases for each figure, but when you have Black Star nearly doing the splits and less than 15% of each of his feet actually on the base…well, it looks a little silly is all I'm saying. Black Star's sword is a separate piece, so you can position it either the way it's pictured (and intended), but I prefer having it go behind him.
The hilariously named Death Kid is the third main meister of Soul Eater, and, like Soul Eater himself, looks absolutely ridiculous. What is he doing? Dancing? Performing karate? I have no idea. Is this some kind of character trait? I have no idea. Alas, my Death figure came with several smudges on the face, which I have not yet been able to remove, so be warned.
The buxom Liz and Patti are Death's demon weapons; they each turn into guns. They probably have the best-looking faces of all the characters, which might also be because they have the largest boobs (please don't tell me that's not how the Japanese toy industry works, because I know better). Although I find Patti's baggy pants inherently stupid, their silly poses are again made less silly by posing them together.
Incidentally, Soul Eater manga-ka Atsushi Okubo apparently goes to the Tetsuya Nomura school of character design, because all his characters have huge, huge shoes. This works out, because no matter the silly pose or how tiny the rest of the figures are, they can stand up without their bases — a very nice touch.
So overall? Really solid. Still, at nearly $60 for the set of six, they are a bit pricy. Now, I'd say if you're a Soul Eater fan, they're probably worth it — they're large enough to almost be action figures, sans the articulation, and they look darned good. Now, I would guess/hope these things cost 600 or 700 yen in Japan, so really, you're paying an extra $3 or $4 per figure and not having to deal with the blind boxes. Pricy, but reasonably fair.
But really, there's an almost unquantifiable aspect of gashapon that, for me, makes money no object: Can you put them in hilariously inappropriate poses?
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