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Astro Toy
K-On! Prop Plus Petit Trading Figures

by David Cabrera,

Series: K-ON!
By: Bandai
Cost: $59.99

After coming straight out of the gate brandishing the intense manliness of our last piece, I have chosen the next piece out of the review pile by favorite color. This is by far the pinkest available object. It will bring balance.

It's a box of trading figures from K-On, Kyoto Animation's recent moe sensation about a high school pop band. You might need to know what a trading figure is. In short, a trading figure is just another way for a cruel toy company to fleece a fan, but I'll explain more specifically. Notice that while there are a number of different figures in the set, the boxes only have one image: the beaming face of protagonist Yui. That doesn't mean that Yui is inside. As with trading cards, when you buy a trading figure you don't know what you're going to get. Say you buy one of these, and you like it so much you want another, so you go back to this attractive store display and get one. You could end up with the same one again! And so begins the sad story of the trading figure collector: you end up with figures you don't need, your friend ends up with figures they don't need, and Bandai's making you trade amongst yourselves or buy from some opportunistic aftermarket vendor. The idea is simply to sell everybody more than they want to have. Nobody wins-- but Bandai!

How is a toy collector to avoid all this hassle? You can always put down $60 online (!!) and buy the box, as we've done here. The box should at least have ten different, individual figures in it, right? (Ha!) Well, take a look at the lower right part of that box. This friendly notice tells us that while there are 11 figures in the set, there are ten figures in the box. That's right, my dear fanboy or girl. You're screwed before you've even opened the box. Even if the stars were to align perfectly, you're still going to be missing one figure. You just can't beat Bandai: they've been playing this game for longer than we've been alive.

The alignment of my stars was, let's say, mediocre. Of the 11 pieces in the set, I got 7: three of the figures were repeats. Perhaps the distribution is more or less favorable in other boxes, and perhaps it is the same. Given my turnout, I rather doubt that Bandai packs these boxes with ten unique figures. In any case, you've theoretically spent $60 on trading figures and you've got $18 worth of ones you didn't even need. See what I'm saying here? If you buy this box, I hope you have some buyers on hand.

But let's put aside what a ripoff this whole business is and actually take a look inside a few of these tiny boxes. Here's the band: guitarist Yui, bassist Mio, drummer Ritsu and keyboardist Tsumugi. All the adorable, doe-eyed SD-styled figures (that's the "petit") come with character-related knick-knack (that's the "prop") and a base to display both on: printed onto the bases are lines which I presume come from the TV series. The main four band members in their stage costumes, as pictured here, come with each band member's particular instrument. Contrary to what you'd think, the characters in their regular school outfits sans instruments seem to be the rare figures, and unfortunately I don't have any of those to show you.

Right out of the gate I'm not too big on the concert-version figures: it's cool that they come with their instruments, but wouldn't it be cooler if they were actually interacting with them instead of just standing idly next to them? Even Ritsu could be banging away on her single included drum for a gag, right? The girls are all dressed for a show, but rather than rock, they opt to stand around in poses vaguely and blandly evocative of their personalities. For variants, they don't feel very special, and I like my fixed-pose figures to be fixed into interesting poses, thanks.

Here is the supporting cast: Yui's sister Ui, junior member (and cat, apparently) Azusa, and Yamanaka the teacher, whose accessory-- a hairy, masked thing that I don't know what it is-- I deem cool enough for a person to actually use as a keychain. I actually like these figures a little better than the main characters in their fancy concert outfits. You see, a problem throughout this line is that the fine details-- bows on school uniforms, shoes, Mio's goth lolita headdress-- don't look so great upon close inspection, on account of the spotty paint application at these delicate bits. From a distance, this isn't much of a thing, but when you look up close (and that's my job, gang) you start to notice things.

I took a closeup of Mio and Tsumugi here because I think the figures encapsulate what is right and wrong with the line: Mio's bass looks great but her headdress looks sloppy, and Tsumugi herself looks great, but they didn't even bother sculpting her keyboard. It's just a solid grey block with keys sticking out of it. Hey, these are just trading figures. They're not exactly going to pull out all the stops: you're just going to pay up like they did. Think of these as $5 figures and don't pay any more than that for one unless, for whatever reason, you absolutely must own them. I won't judge you.

Ultimately, I'd say that buying just one of these figures might be worth the price: were I a fan of K-On with cash to burn passing this display at an anime convention, I would probably make the impulse purchase, leave the figure on a shelf, and forget a week or two afterwards that the toy ever existed. If you're trying to collect them all, on the other hand, these figures certainly aren't worth the trouble you'd go to buying a complete set. K-On diehards who are going to spend a lot of money anyway might be better spending a little less than what they'd pay for this box on a single K-On Nendoroid figure, which has all of the squatty proportions and way more of the charm than this set does put together. Plus they can hold their instruments.

Anyway, the girls may not be playing (nor are they able), but everybody do the Monkey!

Want these figures? ToysLogic has the box for $59.99. Boxed singles appear unavailable online: try a local store or convention. Specific characters are available from $10 to $15 at Anime Sekai.

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