Astro Toy
Nendoroid Nodoka Haramura

by David Cabrera,

Nendoroid Nodoka Haramura
Good Smile
Series: Saki episode of Side A
Cost: $40

It's kind of been a while since we did anything moe, right? Saber is obviously moe. The Moe Moe Z-Cune and the gdgd Fairies are kind of moe, but that flavor is a little undercut and ironic. (Those were both items I'd originally bought for myself, so I guess that's how I take my moe.)

But I mean full-on, sickly sweet, pastel-colored moe. We also haven't done a Nendoroid in a while. So today I've got a pink box with a pink Nendoroid inside, and that's the way we're going to do things.

This is Nodoka Haramura, the love interest and one of the major players in Saki's cast of a hundred or so moe mahjong competitors. Saki's a shonen tournament manga crossed with moe yuri romance crossed with what happened to Kunio Ohkawara when he ran out of ideas for Gundams during Gundam Seed and eventually just started drawing Zoids. That's why there's a bondage-themed team now.

Anyway! Nice face, average, low-detail sculpt, very middle-of-the-road Nendoroid. By now, aside from the Teddie misstep, we certainly know what we're getting into with this line. This thing came absolutely mummified in plastic bags, by the way, more than usual. One of them actually put a fragile, brittle hair piece-- the one weirdly sticking out on the right side of her face-- in some danger. Pretty sure mine's disfigured. Be careful, dissassemble the whole figure, and carefully remove all that plastic.

Also be careful of paint rubbing off. I have never noticed paint rub off on a Nendoroid prior to this one, but here I've had it happen in several places, the bows and the hair especially.

I have no idea what is wrong with that strand of hair, by the way. Mine doesn't look like the one on the package, and it seems to bend... but again, it's very fragile and brittle and I really don't want to mess with it.

The key accessory here is the swappable hair: in her junior high days Nodoka wore twintails. To reflect this there's a completely separate chunk of big hair to put on the back of Nodoka's head. You have to pull out the forelocks to get it right. Ponytails can be moved and removed, so go nuts. It's all you.

Etopen, Nodoka's beloved stuffed security penguin, comes in several different forms. One is a stand-alone piece, another is meant to be clutched at her side, and the last is meant for her lap when she sits down. We'll get to that.

The interesting thing I noticed about this Nendoroid, and perhaps the reason I bothered, is that it has its own little chair. Just like Polnareff. Serious tournament mahjong demands fancy automatic tables and seriously comfy office chairs, and this is the same one shown in the anime. Note, for your own interest, that the chair used in the manga is much fancier and I presume the anime staff didn't want to draw it. The fancy chair really would have been more impressive, I mean this one's just a couple of slabs of plastic! Anyway, unlike Polnareff's fully functioning wheelchair, this one isn't rolling anywhere. There's a clear plastic peg to secure it to your Nendoroid stand, because it will otherwise fall over with Nodoka and her big head seated.

The lower half of Nodoka's body swaps out to put her in a sitting postion, and of course you can put Etopen there. Etopen is attached to a replacement tie for Nodoka's sailor uniform which is not the same shade of red as on the rest of the uniform.

The long-haired Nodoka and the chair don't go together well: her head is forced forwards and it looks noticeably off. This is a pretty huge flaw that effectively invalidates the gimmick, which was to see the character as she usually appears, in her element at the mahjong table. You can just use the twintails, but it is really strange that they didn't accommodate the other hairdo. In summary, this chair turns out to be an eyesore.

Extra hands are, as expected, mahjong-focused. One holds a point stick between the fingers, and the other is raising the 2-sou tile. You have to yank the forearms out of the shoulders, because they couldn't spare extra little tiny plastic shoulders. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

For this particular figure we got lucky in one respect: there was a mystery surprise inside! Inside of a black bag, there was a second stand. I didn't know what this was about when I opened it: it didn't seem related to the character, and my only clue was the phrase “Nendoroid 300th Anniversary”. Some Googling reveals that this was a Good Smile promotional program: these special bases were randomly packed into certain Nendoroids that GSC sold through their online store. So how I got one from Amiami, I don't know. The pattern, as I had suspected, is intended to be a classroom floor.

Irony: Nendoroid is being celebrated with a stand, and Nendoroid stands are still total crap despite 300 releases in the line. I seriously dread buying and reviewing Nendoroids because I know I'm going to somehow struggle with the stand.

So here's what's wrong with this one. The peg fits into the hole just fine, but when Nodoka is wearing her hair down, the stand is that much harder to fit up underneath the hair and plug into the back. When it's there, the shape of the posing arm specifically obstructs her long hair, forcing her face forward the same way the chair does. The arm is poorly secured, the hole in the back will be damaged somewhat, as usual with Nendoroid.

Zero effort was made to make the regular Nendoroid stand (or the chair accessory!) work well with this character. So it doesn't, and if you don't go with the twintails, I recommend you lean her up against the arm, digging one of her feet into the holes of the stand.

Anyway, I felt bad for Nodoka and her crappy little mahjong tile, so I figured I would give her one of mine for a while. She'd probably hold on to those red fives.

This would be an okay Nendoroid with some cute features, but the actual quality is really crappy, which I really didn't expect from this line. I see now why it was on sale: the long hair-- which is how we see Nodoka 99% of the time-- is unmanageable to display and none of the accessories are designed to deal with that. Good Smile's people didn't really care much when they were putting this one together, and it shows.

We got this figure on sale at Amiami for $40 shipped, and it's on backorder now for more like $60. I can see why it was on sale; it's got problems. This series doesn't seem to get a lot of figures despite its popularity and amount of characters, so I'd only recommend it to the devoted and somewhat desperate.

Related: a while back on Answerman I jumped into the conversation specifically to warn you against buying Nendoroids on Ebay because of the high incidence of bootlegs of that line. Man, I wouldn't want to buy a low-quality copy of a figure that's already of such low quality.

In closing I want to make a quick personal aside, hope you guys don't mind. During the donation drive for the cult fighting game Skullgirls, Lab Zero found my comic and offered the characters a background spot in the game. I went ahead did a little crowdfunding myself. As such, the Kawaiikochans are going to appear as background characters in Skullgirls. I'm really excited about it and I just wanted you all to know. Look forward to it!

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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