Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Rob's Angelsby Rob Bricken,
We — well, I guess I — have a very special Astro Toy for you today. Not only is it an AT Classic, it's about my favorite three anime figures I own — or at least the most rare and expensive. Behold:
Meet 12-inch figures of Lum from Urusei Yatsura, LiSA Hayes from the Macross Saga of Robotech, and a 14-inch figure of Yukino Miyazawa from His & Her Circumstances. Please rest assured that I don't call them “Rob's Angels” in real life, but I just needed a pithy title for the trio of three female anime figures for this Astro Toy. No, seriously.
“What gives, Bricken?” you ask. “I thought you were all opposed to sexy anime figures,” you say. “You are a liar!” you yell. Not true, say I. I'm an anime-loving dude, and I'm as susceptible to getting entranced by a female character design as anybody — I have a tattoo of Lum for goodness sake — and that extends to toys as well. But I don't feel that toys need to be nude. Once a figure or a statue crosses the line from merchandise to actual masturbatory material — well, that's where I draw the line, and it's a pretty thick line.
I own these three figures because I love their series and their characters. Having them around reminds me of the enjoyment I got watching these series, and they're cute female anime characters — they're easy on the eyes. I don't take off their clothes and do naughty things with them (actually, I don't take them out of the package, either). I do hope that clears everything up.
So let's start with my own personal queen of anime, Lum. This figure was part of Marmit's fantastic Super Excellent Series which basically took characters from popular series and made 12-inch vinyl figures with real fabric clothes. I know they did some Sakura Wars figures, and a few other UY girls, including Benten, maybe Oyuki, and a Lum in a Chinese dress. Now, Lum here is basically a Barbie doll with less articulation — her shoulders are simple swivel-joints, and her tiny-handed arms are clearly supposed to be Barbie-esque (if they weren't outright used). Unlike Barbie, she has no leg or neck joints whatsoever.
Still, I love this thing for more than just being of Lum. It's a fantastic head sculpt with great paint applications in the eyes. The hair sculpt is simple but perfect as well. But the big draw is her tiger-striped bikini; yes, it's obviously fabric and removable (thankfully, she's not anatomically correct under there, because that would make me very sad), but through some kind of magic, it fits perfectly. Despite this figure being more than a few years old, even the boots still stay up! The only problem I had is that her bikini bottoms are a little too big, so I tucked the top in around her waist — I wasn't trying to expose more skin, it's just it looked more like a diaper than a bikini. Really.
Now, the last time I saw any of Marmit's SES figures was in the ‘00s, Lum or otherwise, and only at cons. Most sellers had them from anywhere between $80 and $100, but I managed to find one guy who had Lum here for $40, trying not to scream in exultation at my deal while I purchased it.
Oh, I want to say one thing about Urusei Yatsura while I have you here — mainly is that I find the anime superior to Rumiko Takahashi's manga. I guess that's partially because I was never exposed to much of the Viz Manga, but even what I have read, the best episodes of the anime just blows the manga version out of the water. Also, if your only experience with noted auteur/grumpy old man Mamoru Oshii is his recent, melancholy, action-less work like The Sky Crawlers, you owe it to yourself to see his UY episodes. The man is a comedy genius — I wish he'd get back to it.
I've probably said my schtick about the Macross portion of Robotech being the greatest love story of the 20th century a half dozen times in Astro Toy alone, so I'll spare you. But my favorite corner of the gin-soaked love quadrangle is LiSA Hayes, the first officer of the SDF and thus effective commander, since Captain Gloval is bombed out of mind for the entirety of the cartoon. She's the most powerful/sober person in the most powerful spaceship in the universe, and she's so in love she washes Rick Hunter's underwear while he's off chasing after an underage Chinese pop star. That's love for you — totally insane, tremendously stupid, and absolutely overpowering.
This 12-inch figure was part of Matchbox's original 1980s Robotech toyline; while they made action figures and mecha vehicles for the boys, they realized that Robotech had enough of a love story that young girls might be watching it as well, and made a few dolls of LiSA, Minmei and Rick Hunter. It might sound a little sexist now, but even imagining girls were watching a boys’ action cartoon in 1985 was a major step in nerd gender equality.
So LiSA here is over 25-years-old, but she's holding up pretty darn well. She's 100% a Barbie copy in that she has swivel arms, legs and neck, impossibly tiny hands and feet, and rooted hair. Obviously, the hair is a bit of a mess, but the fact you can even kind of see LiSA's very unique anime hairstyle in it is, in my opinion, a triumph of ‘80s toymaking. I don't know if any real women could get their hair to do what LiSA's does, and the fact that someone at Matchbox got plastic hair to even kind of do it in an a whole line of 12-inch dolls is a miracle. Sir or madam, whoever you are, I salute you.
Like most Barbies of the time (and later, for all I know), LiSA comes with a few girly accessories like a brush and comb, because all girls love to brush their dolls’ hair, of course. But it's not all gender discrimination; LiSA also comes with a headset for, again, being in charge of the most powerful spaceship in the universe, and a memo from Captain Gloval stating “Urgent: We discuss New Defense Strategy. See me!” Gloval, of course, being far too inebriated to plan New Defense Strategy on his own.
I saw LiSA at another con, along with the matching Rick Hunter and Minmei dolls, for $40 a piece. I might have bought Rick to complete the couple, but the doll looked nothing like his cartoon counterpart, and Rick was kind of a dickweed anyway (the toy commercials are on YouTube and the actual Robotech DVDs, if you're interested). I wouldn't have picked up that little harlot Minmei if my life depended on it. If Matchbox had made a Captain Gloval one, I'd have been all over it, natch.
The third lady in my trio is Miyazawa from His & Her Circumstances, a.k.a. Kare Kano. If you're wondering if I'm speaking of the shojo manga about first love between two high school students, animated partially by Evangelion's Hideaki Anno before he quit and if I'm some kind of 12-year-old girl… well, maybe. Maybe it's because I'm older, but every time I watch Kare Kano, I remember exactly how it felt to have my first real girlfriend back in high school, to be young and in love — the happiness, the terror, the passion, the stupidity, the raw emotion — and for that, I love this series.
Tsukuda Hobby made three His & Hers figures: two Miyazawas — one in her red tracksuit, which I have, and one in her high school uniform, which I would have killed for — and one of her boyfriend Soichiro Arima in his high school uniform. I may have pop culture interests of a 12-year-old girl, but at $75 a pop, if it comes down to it, I'm picking the chick. Plus, Miyazawa is far more emotional than the reserved Arima, and I can appreciate that (if my penchant for anime love stories hasn't tipped you off). Admittedly, she's a bit too lanky to be a high school freshman, but when you keep her in the package it's not as noticeable.
Miyazawa comes with a bunch of accessories: there's her track suit, of course (and for all I know, she may be anatomically correct under there, because I've never taken it off), a sweatband for her head, and an alternate outfit, her peach pajamas. Interestingly, she has two flesh-colored plastic tubes — it took me a while to figure out what these were for, but they're to place over her arms in case you have her sleeves up and her arms exposed. The plastic covers up the joints — it's not really flexible, so its better to keep them off unless you need them. The last accessory is a tiny plastic version of Miyazawa's perpetually sleeping dog Pero Pero. I've never removed these accessories from their blister packs in the packaging, and refuse to for this article. So sorry.
So. There you have it. My three favorite individual anime toys in my collection. Now, if there was a fire, I'd probably grab my One Piece Straw Hat Pirates POP figure collection first, because those as a group might be worth more to me than these ladies individually. But one on one, I love them as much as any creepy anime fan loves his top-heavy PVC statue, probably more so because I don't spend time staring at their plastic breasts — I look at them and remember how much I love Urusei Yatsura, Robotech, and His and Her Circumstances, and how entertaining they all were.
So why the extra-long Astro Toy, you ask? Is it a special occasion? It is — after a year and a half, I'm stepping down as ANN's toy reviewer. Partially it's because Topless Robot has continued to take off and is taking up more time, but also because I have run out of things to say about Revotech and Figmas. You guys deserve better than that (hell, you probably deserved better than me in the first place). I'd like to take a moment to thank Tien Su at AAA Anime, Phillip Harrington for the swell logo, my poor editor Zac Bertschy (since I'm a horrible typist at the best of times, and wrote 80% of all Astro Toys drunk as Captain Gloval), and you all. Don't panic, I'm assured that Astro Toy will continue beyond my tenure.
After all, some things are eternal. Thanks for reading, everyone!
Looking to pick one up for yourself? Well, you can't!
Thanks to Phillip Harrington for designing and creating the Astro Toy banner.
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