Astro Toy with Rob Bricken - D.Gray-Man Deformed Figure Seriesby Rob Bricken,
Between Bleach, Naruto and One Piece, it's easy to forget that Shonen Jump has other series in it as well. As least, you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise by the merchandise from the series in the manga anthology; with the exception of those three mega-series, there's not a lot of plastic love for the other manga and anime that share pages with Naruto, Ichigo and Luffy, other than a few sparse gashapon sets. So it makes sense to me that the fairly popular D.Gray-man had the first reasonably priced goodies I found for sale.
So, uh… D.Gray-man is about… uh… Dave Gray-Man, who is a pet store owner, who meets a samurai and a Japanese girl and a dude with an eye patch, and they fight demons and stuff together and – okay, maybe I'm not up on my D.Gray-man. But I still know a good gashapon set when I see one, and brother, if you like SD, this is it.
We'll start with D.Gray-man’s protagonist Allen Walker, who really should've been named Dave Gray-Man. The young exorcist has his trademark scar over his left eye, and the version I got obviously has the imp Timcanpy on his head (more on the variations in a bit). You also might notice that he's super-deformed as hell — his head is nearly as tall as the rest of his body, and certainly makes up the majority of his mass. However, unlike those horrible Bleach thumbnailook figures that were so terrible they still make me mad, Allen hasn't lost anything in his thorough cuteifying. His hair is still very detailed, incredibly important in getting the essence of the character's design through; more impressively (and I hope my photos aren't so terrible you can't tell) his body is just as well-sculpted as his head. You can clearly make out his bowtie, his collar, the buttons both on his shirt and his vest, and even a few folds in his sleeves. It's not quite the detail one would expect from a 6-inch-figure, but Allen here is 3-inches (plus an imp) — it's more than most gashapon of this size have, and it's awesome. I approve mightily.
Even though Allen's the star of the series and the gashapon, the other characters have the same attention to detail. While Japanese exorcist Yu Kanda is wearing simpler garb, he still has his left shoulder tattoo, crisply printed, and his katana (the blade is a separate piece, so it doesn't get damaged in the package. I'd tell you that Yu's excellently sculpted ponytail makes him too lopsided to stand on his own, but all these guys are far too thin to stand by themselves — Yu is no exception. But more on the stands in a sec.
The hilariously named Lenalee Lee has a cute Chinese dress and short hair, so no commentary is necessary there. But in my opinion, her face — mostly because of her preposterously large eyes, even by SD anime standards — is the best example of the sterling, crisp art on the faces. Take a close look at the picture, and you might just be able to tell that only her eyebrows and eyelashes are actually painted onto her face — her eyes are stickers! You can tell because they're slightly glossier than the rest of her. I have absolutely no problem with this. It looks great, far sharper than paint does, is more exact, and, unless you physically scratch it off on purpose or have a habit of chewing on your toys, it's not going to come off.
Last but not least is Lavi, the cheerful exorcist/Bookman who I'm going to pretend is an adorable Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid the minute I've turned this column in. Note the excellent yet subtle sculpting on his raised hand, as well as the excellent details on his shirt collar and silver belt buckle. Folks, these things are just nicely done. They may be better than those Gurren Lagann gashapon I reviewed a while back…
..and that's without the ability to stand. Seriously, while the heads have a diameter of almost an inch and a half, the bodies are maybe a quarter-inch thick; they will not stand without their accompanying bases. Happily, these bases — although very simple — have a nice, strong peg that slips easily but firmly into a hole in their backs, allowing you them to stand without fear of you knocking them over. I do wish the bases themselves were more interesting, but I'll take a stand that's sturdy over fancy design every time.
So here's what I find most fascinating about these little guys — they're gashapon — like honest-to-Rei's-giant-head-in-the-ocean toys from a capsule. These are nicer than most blindboxed toys; I have to imagine these things go for 300-500 yen each. Like too many gashapon these days, they do have variants, but unlike some of D.Gray-man’s bigger Shonen Jump brothers, they don't suck on toast. The alternate versions are the same characters with different poses and faces — no clear nonsense, no gold crap. You get a variant, and you're still getting a great toy — heck, you might even be excited. Yu has a flat expression and a bowl of ramen; Lenalee has a wonderfully confused expression; Lavi has a loving look in his (one) eye and his hands clasped in adoration; and Allen — well, actually, I got the Allen variant, with Timcanpy on his head. The regular figure has a regular face.
Knowing that you guys aren't going to get burned with some kind of useless “variant” makes it easy for me to recommend these wholeheartedly. Yeah, $25 is a lot to pay for four gashapon, but they're good. Maybe not $25, but I'm old and crotchety and pretty much always going to complain about anime toys costing too much. All I can say is that when you have these wonderful D.Gray-Men in your hands, you won't have any regrets. You'll just wished that I had learned more about D.Gray-man.
You can read more of Rob Bricken's bitter, needlessly mean-spirited thoughts on toys and many non-anime subjects over at ToplessRobot.com (which is safe for work).
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