Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Marvel Bishojo Black Widowby Rob Bricken, Dec 20th 2009
I've been wanting to pick up one of Kotobukiya's Marvel Bishoujo statues for Astro Toy since the line was announced way back in January 2009. It's not that I'm a Marvel zombie — my many U.S. comics-loving pals can assure you of that — but because I'm always interested when anytime East meets West, especially when it comes to nerd merchandise, just to see what comes of it. And despite popular belief, I don't mind sexy anime figures as long as they're just for looking sexy and not for disrobing, breast squeezing, or covering with “milk.”
Now, a quick history lesson: the reason these Marvel Bishoujo statues exist at all is because of DC's Ame-Comi line (well, that, and Marvel gives out statue licenses like they were after-dinner mints. Seriously, dozens of companies have Marvel statue rights, and they all have to compete with each other all time. Once I cleaned out my closet and found two separate legal agreements in which I could make Marvel statues. Craziness). DC's Ame-Comi line took DC's biggest superheroines and made anime-inspired statues out of them. And when I say anime–inspired, I mean — well, it might be easier to show you. Here's what DC superheroine Hawkgirl looks like nowadays in the comics:
And here's her Ame-Comi figure:
DC went straight for the magical girl parody craziness for most of their Ame-Comi figures, but without a sense of that parody. The ladies had big weapons, big spikes everywhere, short skirts (only notable because many superheroines wear tights and not skirts) and so forth. As you'll note, they're clearly designed by Americans trying to replicate the anime style, which you can especially see in the faces. Frankly, they all looked like they came out an Antarctic Press sketchbook circa 1998 or so. I'm not a fan, but they sold well enough that DC has released over a dozen figures so far.
Now to Kotobukiya's Marvel Bishoujo line, which went the opposite route as DC. First of all, these are perfectly accurate to the American characters’ designs; here's how Black Widow looks in the U.S. comics:
No radical reinterpretation here. In fact, the only thing that makes it a a “bishoujo,” per se, is that the figure was designed by Shun Yamashita, best known for having designed scads of the scantily clad, weapon-toting anime girl statues that DC was trying to mimic. Really, this mostly (or maybe even only) comes through in the face and head; without Black Widow's anime eyes and hair, there'd be no way to know it came from Japan and a Japanese artist.
Honestly, I think the detail on her face and hair sculpting is wonderful in a simple way; I mean, it's not mind-blowingly awesome, but as absolutely as good as one could hope for a statue of this cost. As for the material, I have never opened an Ame-Comi figure, so I have nothing to compare the finished product with, but overall, I think the Marvel Bishoujo figure is exceedingly well made. She's fastened securely to her base, enough that I feel she'd even survive a drop or two if necessary. The figure itself is made of a sturdy plastic that replicates the gloss of the Widow's “leather” catsuit perfectly, but is nicely muted on her face and hair. Oh, and her belt is a separate piece, which is a nice touch.
Her pose works better from the side, as the pic up top displays; she does look a little awkward from this angle. So if you're buying this figure only to gape at its plastic boobies, you might want to consider another statue. The side pose also calls attention to her incredibly tiny hands. They look fine from the front, where they're not the focus, but they look terrifyingly tiny from this angle, in my opinion. The only weird about Yamashita's Black Widow is, well… her ass.
Seriously, look at that thing. It's enormous. I don't know if Yamashita is celebrating or mocking the Caucasian booty, but Widow is like 30% caboose. I'm sure that will be a good thing and a bad thing to an equal number of you, and please rest assured I have no desire to hear about it.
So overall? I'd say the Marvel Bishoujo line is quite nice in general, and Black Widow in specific. It's a very well made, well-designed figure, whether you like Marvel girls or sexy anime girls, or, you know, both. There's even a short-haired blonde variant, since a blonde ran around as the Black Widow for a while in the Marvel U. Unfortunately, after announcing figures of X-Men's Rogue and the Avengers’ Scarlet Widow, Koto's Marvel Bishoujo line seems to be… well, over. No new announcements have made.
I guess I can see the problem. There are countless non-anime Marvel girl statues out there that look like the authentic Marvel characters. Marvel fans buy those. And it's not like there's any drought of sexy anime girl figures for anime fans. How many Marvel fans or anime girl fans want a straightforward anime version of a Marvel character when there are so many other possibilities? Even though I'm not a fan of DC's Ame-Comi line, they might have had the right idea — the wild reinterpretations might just be giving American comics fans a reason to pick them up. And there are probably a few anime fans who are amused by the idea of a female anime Batman to pick them up as well. Maybe the Marvel Bishoujo line is just too… authentic.
I know at least a few other people who'll be sad to see them go.
Looking to pick one up for yourself? Here's some links!
Thanks to Phillip Harrington for designing and creating the Astro Toy banner.
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