by David Cabrera,
Between the weird stuff (coming next week!), old stuff (coming two weeks from now!) and robots (I'll, uh, get back to you on that), I like to make sure that Astro Toy eventually hits major bases of anime fandom. While you might not know this character yourself, this week we're covering something from a indie shooting game franchise which been running for fifteen years. But only in recent years has it exploded and become Japan's Biggest Nerd Thing Going. I'm talking about Touhou. That's right, Touhou is 15 years old.
It's actually a tremendous pain to get Touhou merch relative to other popular otaku franchises (or I would have bought something much, much sooner). The series is the work of one man, the lovable drunk ZUN, and he likes to keep his franchise at as low a profile as the most popular thing in the Japanese otaku universe can possibly be.
The major companies don't make Touhou stuff, or it has to be sold at Japanese fan events only. The foreigner is left to either get on a plane and wait in line, or pay ridiculous sums to resellers: for example, the Figma of the main heroine Reimu now regularly goes for about $150 or more. Perhaps as a result, whatever Touhou stuff you can get your hands on is ludicrously expensive: don't ever ask my buddy what he paid for his Touhou mahjong set! In this case, the piece is an online exclusive from Amiami (at least I assume so: their name is on the box!).
Anyway, all this talk is to get you ready for how tiny and how expensive this week's toy is. Holy crap, Cirno the ice fairy (known far and wide as Touhou's strongest and most intelligent character) is small. Ten centimeters. That's under four inches. The box she comes in is perhaps half a Figma box big. Including shipping, it cost us 80 dollars. We are well out of the land of value, and well into the land of the Touhou Tax. Just keep that in mind as we go on (if you haven't yet run off screaming). When this figure first arrived in the mail I very loudly asked myself “wait, this is it?” and, peering into the box, wrote it off as an overpriced cash-in on the very lucrative Touhou fanbase. Thankfully, once you take it out, this is a much better figure than that.
This is the first time I've heard of Liquidstone (they look like a tiny fan-run outfit to me), and this “Mameshiki” line of super-deformed Touhou characters appears to be their flagship line. Putting aside my horror at the perceived value of the thing, this is actually a pretty solid figure. The sculpt is cute-- a little less exaggerated than the extreme Nendoroid proportions, but no less lovable-- the included faces are fully in the goofball spirit of the character, and the paint job is again impressively clean.
There is only one weird thing about the sculpt: Cirno has a little attachment hidden under the dress that's intended to seat her on the included stand. This bit of plastic unbalances the figure and makes standing it on its own feel a little strange. On the other hand, the stand Liquidstone included is really excellent: eschewing the traditional peg setup, Cirno swivels around on a stand that uses ball pieces, seamlessly delivering the illusion of flight (Touhou girls spend a lot of time flying) without a peg in the back or any such accessory marring the aesthetics of the figure.
Posability is bare, only a notch up from early Nendoroids, with replaceable, bent arms and legs and these eerily familiar joints-- wait, wait, these are Revoltech joints! I don't mean they're like Revoltech joints, I mean there are actual Revoltech joints at the shoulders, neck and ankles! Kaiyodo might be displeased...
A bundle of replacement hands are included, along with some ice crystals for Cirno to play with. Sadly, I presume it would have cost too much to include a hailstorm of tiny plastic ice bullets for a true re-creation of the games' action. Note the little gaps between the wrist and the hands in most of these photos. Those bits are fidgety, as is the waist: my Cirno likes to fall apart at the half all the time. Not Nendoroid-level fidgety, mind, but these parts take a lot of fiddling to get together (common on a figure this small, but still annoying). Shoulda had magnets.
Here's one of the more unusual features I've seen in a figure: rather than supplying a range of additional faces for more expressions, there's a single blank face with an included sheet of stickers. You're supposed to actually get creative and make your own Cirno face! This is either really brilliant or horribly cheap, I just can't decide. Note that there are two of any given mouth/eyes set, so you could go back and forth between them, but only twice. You're going to have to seriously think this over, but I'm personally going to have some custom art done. Of Kenshiro.
I don't even need to talk about “is it worth the money?” here. This figure is clearly not worth the money. If you're buying this, you just don't care about value for money. It's like buying a Japanese Blu-Ray, or anything Cospa sells. You're past money. You just like Touhou that much. That said, it's a cute little display piece with no particular flaws. It's just Touhou Taxed, so pay up, buddy.
If you're willing to pay the tax, we paid about $80 for Cirno at Amiami after shipping.
If you were wondering about my traditional sign-off, it would be weird to take a Neco-Arc picture with Cirno. To paraphrase the wise Masaru Hananakajima: “It is impossible to teach the Sexy Commando technique to a person who's already sexy. It's like putting milk in a coffee au lait.” I don't want to make any promises, but I think Cirno might just have a future at this column. She will strike when you least expect her.
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.
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