Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Hey guys, let's talk about something unrelated really quick. Did you see JAM Project last weekend? Because I'm just gonna say it; you missed out big if you didn't. One of the best otaku events I've had the pleasure to attend, bar none. Ask Mike, he'll say the same! The producer from Lantis said they'd be back at the VIP session (Lantis, not necessarily JAM), so you've still got a chance to make it up to yourself.
Alright, back on message. I'm not gonna hide this sentiment either: I have not been excited about this figure. I've sort of dreaded reviewing it from the moment I saw the first pictures and the exorbitant preorder price. Even when it came in, I shrugged to myself. There's no way we're going to miss a Cowboy Bebop figure... but I've been consistently disappointed by Square Enix's Play Arts line and this didn't look very different. The Ichigo figure was enough for two years, thanks. But here we are again! Maybe this time it'll go well.
Actually, I was kind of disappointed by the box. Now as you can see, the box is actually quite nice, very much in the spirit of the show. It's specifically in the style of Real Action Heroes and other high-end (as in $200-300) 12” action dolls, with a fancy window box held shut by Velcro... and then you open it up and you get a very normal Play Arts figure. As a toy nerd it kind of bugs me in a fundamental bait-and-switch way: aren't we pretending we're something we're not, here? It's like packing a gashapon in an action figure box! But I digress. Let's actually take this thing out.
This looks a lot better in front of me than it did in photos. As ever, the main selling point of the Play-Arts line is the size and level of detail of the figure. This definitely delivers in that regard, standing at about 7 inches in height (towering over Figmas and the like). Spike's suit looks worn-in as befits the penniless bounty hunter, with lots of wrinkles and a subtly weathered coat of paint. Much of the jacket is flexible, so it both looks good and feels good to handle.
As for the face, this was my primary concern when I first started to see pictures, and it definitely doesn't benefit from a close-up examination. This does not really look like the guy from the show to me. The figure's got this young-looking, soft, round face that really threw me off when I first saw it. There's something alien about it that I can't place. Doesn't he sort of look like Host Club Spike? I sympathize a little more on Spike's shaggy hair, which doesn't translate to 3D very directly.
Articulation is excellent, which I didn't really expect from Play-Arts after the last two releases I played around with. Shoulders, hips, and the knees are double-jointed, and the joints themselves are highly visible all around. Due to the big double-joint used, however, the knees look bizarre and flat when bent.
Of course, Spike is not very restrained by his choice of clothing (unlike, say, hakama), and as mentioned before the jacket boasts a lot of flexible plastic to make all the Bruce Lee high kicking going on in your imagination possible. In particular, as with many figures like this, he doesn't actually have a lower torso: it's just an empty expanse underneath his jacket to give his hips more wiggle room.
I'm using the same Tamashii Stand I used last time, but it's not really very effective for a figure this size. If you end up doing the same, you will use it more as a leaning post than anything. You will need something to prop him up: the figure can stand on its own but it isn't particularly designed to stay that way. Square sells a Play-Arts branded stand separately: however, this figure doesn't stand well on its own, and it's pretty damn expensive already. This is a lousy situation.
Spike comes with the barest minimum of accessories: two fists, two open hands, his gun, and a hand to hold it. To put it gently, this is half-assed. It's not like Spike is one of those characters where you can say “well, that's about all there is...” There aren't even extra facial expressions! What about his cigarettes? What about the bloodied face from the “Bang” scene? How about including a little Ein? There were a lot of possibilities for cool extras for this figure, and they didn't even try. That's unfortunate.
Despite some disappointments, this is still the best Play-Arts we've looked at by a mile. I'm not crazy about the line, but it's come a long way since we last looked at it. It's a strong core figure, it looks good on display, and the big caveat is that there's nothing else of interest in the box. I thought I would like this figure a lot less than I did. I wouldn't pay what it costs (because I vastly prefer other lines in this price range), but I suspect quite a few of you like Spike that much.
We paid $100 for this figure from Amiami, which turned out to be a rare case where preordering from Amiami was not the cheapest option. Play-Arts usually show up for much lower prices in the US a little while after initial release, and this one will now run you $70 on Amazon. At $100 this figure is a bad buy, but in a world where a Figma costs $50, $70 isn't too bad for a higher-end figure like this. Vicious is also available in the same line.
When he isn't killing time on fighting games and mahjong, David Cabrera gets hype about anime, manga and gaming at Subatomic Brainfreeze. You can follow him on Twitter @sasuraiger.
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history