Friday, November 20, 2015

The Reality of Fantasy (Short Story)

     I've realized lately that as a writer, I haven't written much in the way of anything creative.  In the past I used to fill journal after journal with short stories and even tried once to collect them and sell them to publishers.  That didn't happen.  I got discouraged and no one ever asked to read what I had to write.  Eventually I just sort of stopped writing all together.  That's not to say that the stories aren't in here somewhere, but they rarely make it to print.  Anyway, today's blog is actually a test of whether I could write a complete story and get it finished in a little over an hour.  I'll give Stephen King his due because after reading some of his newer short stories, I realized how much I just like writing short stories myself.  Here's an attempt at something new for my own sake.  If you like it, I'm glad.  If you don't, don't tell me, I don't want to know about it!  *smirk*  I just think that it's time I write something of my own once in awhile.

The Reality of Fantasy

     It hardly felt worth getting on the computer anymore.  She would sit down and scroll through the endless feed from her Facebook account, or occasionally Reddit, and eventually realized how much time she had wasted looking at all of the fake ads and the numerous silly photos of cats.  Not that she didn't like looking at cats, that wasn't the point, but the original reason she had started into computers all of those years ago was so that she could write.
     Writing had been an early love, since she started out learning cursive in third grade, but unfortunately for her, she realized just how much she copied her favorite books  No one had even suspected when she'd written a brilliant tale about some unicorns and dragons in third grade that it had been almost a direct ripoff of a book she'd read over and over from the school book fair.  Originally she had told lots of stories about unicorns and the such to the point Miss Williams even bought her a specially made book with unicorns on the cover since she figured that's what she'd be writing about.  But when the time came to fill the empty book with stories of these fantastic creatures, her mind drew a blank.  She couldn't write an original story, so she took a story she liked, changed it just a little bit, and passed it off as her own.  Miss Williams didn't even know the difference.
     And so it went from early on; she was always better at writing reports than writing original stories.  But eventually they came to her.  Eventually she could focus her attention on fantasy, and even though years later she would see resemblances to certain novels she no doubt read at the time, they were more or less her own.  But those feelings resided in her for years because the more she read others' work, the more she thought everything that she wrote was also a rip off of something else.
     It got really bad once she started writing fanfiction.  Because fanfiction was something that blatantly took someone's work and made it into your own.  Sure, it could be written very creatively, and she could put her own characters into the world and make it however she wanted.  But at the very base of it, she was taking someone else's work for her own and that discouraged her from writing.
     Once she refused to write fanfiction anymore, the writing stopped completely.  Well, she admitted to herself that as long as she wrote about her own life, in her journals and personal blogs, that possibly it was her.  She wasn't ripping anyone off because it was actually her own story.  And for a short time this made her happy with herself because she could feel free.  But the idea of imagination and the idea of creativity, it felt far away and sad now.  She would start to write something that had been inspired by someone else and she realized that this was just going the same way as how things had been before.  She wouldn't, no, couldn't allow herself to get this way again.

     It was a shame really, what happened next.  At least, that's what she felt when she opened her news feed one day and looked at the local television station's Facebook page.  Fantasy... it had to be an early April Fool's joke...right?  There it was, printed in full color, but the revelation that there really were fantasy creatures.  They'd discovered a unicorn in the ice in Greenland as one of the glaciers started melting.  Here was proof.  Sure, there were plenty of skeptics online and plenty more stupid people who thought it was absolute reality, but this wasn't one of those online ads.  At least it didn't seem to be one of those fake hoaxes because they had sent some of the top researchers out and started testing the DNA already.  Apparently it was an anicient breed they assumed had been the originating species of both horses and deer, even though they did admit this wasn't what scientists had thought originally.  More tests had to be run, but they were even thinking perhaps the DNA could be used to recreate the unicorn using horses to birth them.
     The news was so sensational for the next few weeks she really thought that it would turn out to be a hoax.  But eventually things wore down and as the years went on, they really did bring a unicorn back to life and eventually even started raising them and selling them.  The unicorns weren't magical, of course, but they grew horns just like in fairy tails, and they used them to break ice to get to water, fight for mates and gather food from trees.  After the winter months passed, however, they shed the horns and would regrow them again in time for winter.  The first few years theses horns were scarce and the Chinese tried to sell them as herbal remedies which made them even harder to come by.  Then some naturalists got hold of the unicorns and decided that they should put them in sanctuaries and raise them in wildlife preserves.  After that a unicorn horn could be found in just about every hunting shop alongside the antlers of various other animals.
     Sooner than not, people went on to the next awesome thing, the next gadget, and girls didn't dream about unicorns in the way they used to when she had been growing up.  The unicorns were just another animal.  Albeit now, instead of pony parties, there were unicorn parties.  The beasts were just about as fragile as a deer or small horse, but for the most part they could be tamed and it made for better entertainment than a clown for most girls during those years.

     Was it ten years, or twenty?  She couldn't remember now, but she hadn't written a unicorn story since that time, nor had she picked up her writing tablet for anything.  She went to work at her retail job, she loathed the coming of the holiday season again, and she didn't try to write something creative.  Her husband tried to encourage her from time to time in attempts to help get her writing, but because he didn't spend any time asking to read her old stories, or even attempt to read her journals which she left lying around the house, she didn't feel any real need to write.  Fantasy for her had become reality.  It was depressing.  Although, when they added a unicorn run near the bison park ten miles away from her, some days she would go out and take pictures of them.  But the stories and fantasy of these magical creatures never once came back to her during this time.  It was as if something inside of her had gone away.
      So, it was a complete surprise the morning she got up early one November morning and the sun was still dark, and there in the backyard was a large, white shadow.  At first she thought it was the reflection of herself in the patio glass in the dark she saw, but then she turned out the light and went over to the window.
     Standing in her backyard, helping itself to seed from her bird feeder was a unicorn.  It looked young, a small horn was peaking out of its head, so it was definitely not a deer.  Perhaps one of the young from the pen at the park got out?  Or perhaps someone having a unicorn party didn't get it locked up again?  She wasn't sure, but when it noticed her looking at it from the patio, it turned and walked up toward the porch.
     "Tame then," she murmured to herself as she bent to retrieve the wood bar from the patio door so she could open it.  The unicorn stood, harmless and quiet on the back patio stones and waited as she opened the screen door.  "What are you doing out here?  I'm sure you aren't wild... someone looking for you?"  She slipped on her Crocs and slid out onto the porch.  It was briskly cold that morning and she could see her breath as she closed the patio door behind her.
     The unicorn came up slowly, timidly, snuffling for food, an apple or something.  She couldn't remember what unicorns ate, but probably all of the same foods as horses or deer.  Turning, she looked over at the fence gate and found it open.  "Didn't think you could jump as high as a deer," she murmured, realizing she must have left it open the other day when she was doing yard work to finish up things for the winter.  The unicorn snuffled up closer to her and she held out an empty, flat hand.  It lipped her fingers, searching for food and then snorted and backed away, realizing it wasn't getting a treat.
     "Hold tight, I have apples inside," she said finally, and backed away, hoping not to spook the animal.  Perhaps if she kept it in one place for long enough the owners would drive by looking for it and maybe she could find out the story of why this unicorn had wandered into her backyard.
     Getting inside without spooking the animal, she went into the fridge and pulled out an apple. Thought twice, grabbed a knife and sliced it in four, and then also took her coat off the hook and pulled it on.  With the apple in hand again, she returned outside and the unicorn looked at her expectantly.  "Here you go, sweety, I hope you eat these."  She put a slice of apple in her opened hand and the unicorn huffed it once and the slurped it down with teeth and tongue.
     "Oh good," she said under her breath, "Guess you were hungry, want another?"  The unicorn came over and knelt down before her at that moment.  Her heart started to pound at that moment, because all of those stories from her childhood came rushing back to her.  Were some of those unicorn stories true?  Were they all just made up from real stories in the far distant past and just handed down until all of the unicorns were extinct?  She could feel her heart pounded out of her chest and she hurried to sit down on the porch step to give the creature another apple slice.
     No one had mentioned this in the articles about unicorns on the web.  They were pretty much just like any other wild animal who gets tamed for humans.  They were a bit more like deer than horses, but overall they didn't do anything out of the ordinary.  Except for this one.  Maybe it was trainable.  It was young, after all, the horn was quiet short, she noticed, as it ate down the third slice of apple and licked its lips.  She supposed perhaps they could be trained, but maybe like a cat, they did what they wanted when they wanted and perhaps this was just an effect of giving it an apple slice.
     "Here's the last piece," she said as she mulled this over and the unicorn huffed in the cold air and crunched down the last of the red delicious.  "I wish I knew where you came from though, it would make for an interesting story online.  Might even go viral if I were to video tape you."  She shook her head at that and lifted her hand toward the unicorn.  "Can I pet you at least?"
     The unicorn, at this move of her hand, lowered its head into her lap.  She gasped slightly, and then stroked the forelocks and mused at the small spiral of horn on its head.  It was like all of her childhood dreams come true.  All of those stories and all of those moments where this, this, was what she wanted to have happen when she was young, when she was just a virgin, when nothing else really mattered.  But unicorns weren't real.  These weren't just beasts you could rent for the day... at least, not then.  But now.  Now they were real and here was one with its head in her lap and almost purring as she petted its mane and ran her fingertips over its soft furry ears.
     How could she not write about this moment?  This was it... she was so much older now, in her forties, but this was the moment she had waited for since she was a little girl.  She wanted to share this lovely moment with everyone.  It was a shame her camera wasn't on her.  She wasn't like her husband, carrying around his smart device with him everywhere he went.  That watch of his probably could have taken the photo at a quality almost as good as her five year old smart phone.  She sighed, oh well, this memory was better than any photo, even if no one believed her.  She smiled and stroked that soft mane and realized that it wouldn't be much longer and she really did need to be getting going to work or she'd be late to open the store.
     The twitch of her leg at this thought brought the unicorn's head up.  It stood abruptly and she held out her hand as if to say, don't go, but she couldn't get the words out.  Or maybe she did, she couldn't hear them at any rate because at that moment a shot rang out.  She saw a small red circle form on the unicorn's chest, the blood filled the white chest moments later and the animal dropped to the stone patio.  It twitched, legs convulsing as the hot red blood spilled onto the ground.
     Staring in disbelief, her mouth hanging open, it felt like an eternity, watching this beautiful creature die in front of her.  She couldn't move, couldn't breathe, her hand still stretched out in front of her.
     "Oh hey, thanks for that.  I've been chasing him down for over a mile now."  The voice came from the fence line over her shoulder and the guy in the dark camouflage walked down the fence and into the backyard.  He'd been sitting on the opposing neighbor's porch moments before the shot and had waited for the unicorn to get away from her.  "Rabies, you know...  Can't be too careful around these things, they catch it like wildfire."  He slung the hunting rifle over his shoulder and proceeded to grab the unicorn by it's back legs.
     "Sorry about the blood, didn't mean to scare you, you okay, lady?"  He started to pull it toward the fence.  "My buddies are bringing the truck around, they'll help you clean up the blood.  Thankfully the fresh stuff washes off patios like this in no time."
     "Oh...okay..."  The words came out of her mouth with a whisper and she finally lowered her hand and realized just how cold it was.  The light was getting brighter, the sun was starting to come up.  The unicorn's blood steamed in the cold air off the patio stones.  "You were tracking it down for rabies?"
     The hunter lifted his head from his task and then looked over his shoulder.  Two guys in a big-wheeled truck of some sort pulled up alongside the curb.  One of them waved to him and rolled down the window, "Oh you got him!  Terrific!"  They came out of the car and helped carry the unicorn and lift it into the back of the truck.  The one driving came over to the back fence at the word of the first hunter and excused himself, said he was going to borrow the faucet on the back of the porch to clean up.
     "Sure... there's a bucket..." She sniffled, her nose was running from the cold.  Not quite believing what she had seen, the hunter proceeded to dump buckets of water across the patio until she couldn't see any trace of what had happened.
     "Sorry about all of this, miss.  Hope it didn't hurt you... nasty buggers these.  They get real fiesty during mating season.  Thankfully this one was young so no worries.  We were worried he might have rabies though.  Someone reported him a few miles away busting through a house.  Thank goodness he stumbled into your yard though, they're awfully fond of the ladies."  He waved at her and closed the gate behind him, hopping into the truck his buddies said something about getting a reward and they drove off into the morning sunlight.
     Numb in both mind and body, she walked back into the house.  Her husband was coming down the stairs, rubbing his eyes, holding his robe around him.  "Did you hear that bang a bit ago?  What was that?"
     She shook her head, rubbing her cold, probably red nose.  "Nothing...  Nothing at all."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My Life with Anime Figures - Part 7 (Indian Summer)

It's November now, and yet, for this part of the country, it doesn't really feel much like it.  If you're like me, you probably know that things aren't quite the same as it was when we were younger (unless you're young and you remember winters coming later in November and sometimes not getting hardly any snow at all) and even though I live farther south than I did as a child, it's still weird when on a November afternoon I could go outside in short sleeves and bare feet.  I'm not living in the Southern states, I'm in Ohio.  At this point in time we usually could have gotten a snow, or at least a good hard, killing frost that takes out all of my flowers in the front garden and I'm forced to pull in all of my plants off of the front porch.

This year, however, my tomato plants got the small frost that hit, but not the front porch and so I have flowers in my planters on my porch one wouldn't normally see in November.  Take, for example, the perfectly happy petunias you see in the photo to the right.  I kid you not, even though I did take this photo over a week ago, the same plants are blooming like crazy still in their red planter and actually a second round of flowers sprung up in the planter from seed and started blooming as well.  Remember, I'm in Ohio.  It's November.  Let that sink in a bit.  Normally I keep geraniums all year round and I tend to bring them in after the first frost, but it was so brief this year that they're actually doing better than in past years at this time inside the house.  Now, tell me that global warming is not a thing.  Tell me that climate change does not exist.  Maybe you think it's El Nino (which, I heard today, may make this winter the lightest one since our almost no-winter in 2011 where we got less than 12 inches of snow) but no matter what your take on it is, this isn't normal.  I'm not growing these plants in a greenhouse, I haven't taken them inside once, it's just sitting on my porch being happy.

Nevertheless, I won't dwell on that as my topic today because the real reason I'm blogging this evening is to show off my new Nendroid, Noel.  She's from Sora no Method (or Celestial Method if you're looking on Crunchyroll) and she's quite special.  But before I get into her photos, let me do a little setup for you.  Basically I've been starting to collect fairy garden things for my Nendroids.  Not all of them are quite the right size, so you have to be picky about it.  I know that some doll accessories out there will do the job too, but I've been more concerned with finding items that I personally like in order to post photos with my Nendroids.  Some of the other photographers online have entire setups with rooms and accessories, but I'm more of an outdoor kind of person.  So in the photo you see to the left, there's a few pumpkin accessories I spotted at a fairy garden store in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  At the time I didn't buy any of them, but later did when they went on sale (in fact, I found them today at a local garden center that had them on clearance).  It's past Halloween now, so I didn't want to pull out the Jack'o'Lanterns or anything, but I thought since in one scene of the first episode of Sora No Method, Noel is waiting for her friend Nonoka and Autumn passes.  She happens to play with a fox she makes friends with, and I set up my photos thinking of that first Autumn she waits for her friend to come back.

The Nendroid Noel is a pretty awesomely cute little character.  I had to wait an extremely long time to get my hands on her though as I'd ordered her online through Crunchyroll and we're pretty sure they lost our order.  After waiting over a month past her release in Japan, we still had no sign of her showing up.  After finally sending an email about it, she showed up with two other figures we were wondering about.  But the wait was well worth it since she comes with a load of extras, but if you want to see those, go online elsewhere, there's plenty of photos showing what she looks like with all of her accessories.  As for me, I'd rather have her living her life as she waits for Nonoka.  Today she discovered some pansies still growing in my garden out back.  I love how in the Autumn I can cover up her base using a leaf and you don't even know I'm using her stand because it disappears!

Oh hi!  It didn't rain today, but after watering the flowers I realized that some of the drops had gotten on Noel.  Oops.  But it didn't get her down because she found a leaf big enough to use as an umbrella!  This is her largest accessory (well, that and the space ship) and I'm actually looking forward to posing her later with my Winter 2015 Miku figure because they both are holding leaves and looking like little nature spirits.  But that will come later as I think it needs to get a little bit closer to the winter months to do that.  Noel waits quite a few years for her friend returns, so I wonder just how many winters, springs, summers and autumns she has to wait for Nonoka?

No worries this year though, it appears that Noel discovered a pretty cool thing - pumpkins!  Now you get to see a bit of the accessories that I discovered at the garden center this year (and a few other fairy garden places) and even though it's past the time of year where people normally think of pumpkins (mostly) I thought it would still be a good time since we're still in the month before pumpkin pie season.  Hee hee.  I'm not sure whether Noel would pick up the kobocha in front of her, or the others that are around her.  She seems pretty excited about her find though.  I wonder what she's going to do with them?  I almost tried getting her to sit on one of them for a photo, but that's when I discovered one really odd thing about this particular Nendroid...she wears no panties.  This is the strangest thing I've discovered (and others have noted it online as well) because even for other figures that have no 'panty shots' in their respective anime... at least they painted the tushies white!  But for Noel, maybe it was a rush or maybe on purpose, we're not sure, but she was left skin color below her dress.  We'll probably never know why this was, but it basically has stopped me from putting her in any 'compromising' poses.

More fairy garden accessories came to play in this photo, but I still love how the leaves cover up any sign of her stand.  And what's that in the background on the right?  Is that her fox friend?  I couldn't quite find one that looked as anime-ish as I would have liked, but I did find a fox that was just about the right size for her.  So at least Noel had a friend to hang out with while waiting for Nonoka to return so she could grant her friend a wish.  She looks so happy out in the garden on a nice Indian Summer day.  Maybe she'll even grant me a wish?
There is something to say about these adorable little Nendroids.  I enjoy their compact size, the fact that they really take on the characteristics of the anime using their various expressions and props.  I did leave one face out of these photos, there's a pouty one that I couldn't quite figure out how to work into these shots, so maybe sometime in the future.

One thing that I do enjoy, is that she came with a background cardboard stand that shows the observatory.  Unfortunately it had already gotten dark outside by the time I realized I wanted to do this shot, so the glare made things a bit odd.  But I liked playing around with it in photo shop and you get so see her fox pal a bit better.  As I said, this one is a bit too realistic for the anime character, but it turned out to be a neat addition in the photo shoot.  And completely by accident as I'd forgotten about the fox until I re-watched the first episode of the anime this evening!  This photo also was something of a mistake because I moved the camera at the last second and it gave sort of a blur effect.  BUT, it came out a lot better than I would have imagined and it fit in together really well.

So, as the last few hours of our Indian Summer wind down to a close, do I regret anything?  I know that now will come winter, now will come the hectic shopping and plans for Christmas, and I really will miss Autumn because it's my favorite season.  These few photos represent my hopes to cling to that season for just a few more days.  I was extremely lucky to have two of the three really beautiful days off to walk around in my bare feet and short sleeves.  One last day in November to pretend that it was still the beginning of Autumn or the end of Summer, because I have a feeling that the Winter, no matter how mild it's supposed to be, will be another hard one on me.

Hopefully my next post won't be all doom and gloom and depression.  But at least I can look back on today's post and smile and remember spending my day outside with Noel.

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Life with Anime Figures - Part 6 (Nendroid Picnic)

After seeing so many different figure photos over the last months, and even videos and blogs, I finally decided that it might be fun to do a photo shoot with a few of my Nendroids.  For those of you who aren't anime fans or collectors, a Nendroid is poseable figure made/distributed by the GoodSmile Company in Japan.  There are literally hundreds of these chibi figures from all sorts of anime, manga and even video game/phone app games.  My favorites are from anime that I've seen.

The figures today are from a picnic scene I decided to create today using the miniature food that I've collected over the years (had some of these before I even had small enough figures to pose with them!) Our story begins with Tsukiko Tsutsukakushi, from "The 'Hentai' Prince and the Stony Cat" - waiting for her friends to join her at the picnic.

Look who's arrived carrying goodies! It's Menma! She's from the series "Ano Hana" (it's shortened from a longer title but I won't bore you with details.)

If you haven't seen either series I won't spoil the details, I just liked how both Nendroids have food items that they come with. I have a collection of them actually, and most of the time they sit in the case having something of a picnic anyway, so it worked out to set them outside to continue the picnic there!

Look who's hiding from the camera!  It's Hatsune Miku!  She's a bit embarrassed she's the only one who showed up in a yukata.  She's ready for the matsuri (festival) that evening and the fireworks that are to come afterwards!  Tsukiko and Menma don't really mind though, and Menma is excited to share her treats with her new friend too.

I had a good time taking these photos even though I'm sure my neighbors probably thought I was crazy lying on my belly taking photos of figures in my backyard.  Maybe no one saw...  Heh heh.  The little red cloth came out of my fabric collection and as you can see, some of the drinks I forgot to blur out the logos...oops, they apparently went to Dairy Queen before the picnic!  Don't think they have those in Japan...  oh well.  I was mostly playing with angles to best cover up the pins and various things that I used to hold figures upright!

Playing with coloration and contrast was also a priority in these photos for once.  Normally I don't touch them up so much, but it was fun making them look more like they were having the picnic at sunset and so I turned up the red a tad.

The next picnic is actually from a single series, Wooser's Hand to Mouth Life.  These Nendroids were a purchase by my husband, but with my food stuffs.  Since the series is about the little yellow rabbit-looking thing, the next photo actually focuses on him rather than the Nendroid Rin that he came with.

Feel free to use this one as a desktop if you like.  I like this photo a lot.  The fact that I had a miniature beer just felt right with all of the sushi and Rin and Darth Wooser just hanging out with him as he's partying at sunset.

This photo gives you a bit more of an 'overall' look at the scene that I'd set up.  It's at the base of a smallish tree in my yard that I've mulched around.  The grass is a wee bit long so I tried to zoom in on most of the photos so you didn't see the scale of these figures as much.  I tend to get distracted by things like that when I'm looking at figure photography.  In this case, I just wanted a good overall shot so I could play with color and also see the way the sun was crawling across the ground as it was starting to set.  It's a rather warm and happy picture I think.

The final photo I played a LOT more with contrast and color balance.  Wooser is just hanging out by himself because he just wants to be alone with his food!  The sun coming through the beer makes it almost look real.

I hope you like my little photo album of the Nendroid picnic!  I have one more to share with Menma and Tsukiko, but it was from a different angle so it looked a bit out of place in the 'story'.

As you can see, Menma came in from a different angle in this one but I liked the darker color, they're just a wee bit more subdued.  Tsukiko looks un-impressed by Menma's cooking!  These two are my favorite Nendroids so I liked being able to play around with them today.  Hopefully I can eventually do other photoshoots like this in the future!

Friday, June 12, 2015

My Life With Anime Figures - Part 5 (The Rest)

I'm a little later on writing this blog than I had hoped; especially seeing as though it's been months since I wrote part 4.  I keep saying that life gets in the way, but I think the truth is I just wore myself out and now that it's getting hot for the summer it's harder to sit at my computer for hours in a row working at editing photos and writing paragraphs about them.  I suppose I really could just post photos, but again, I'm tired of editing, so the post today is going to have a handful of quickly snapped photos from a lazy collector!

Today's blog finishes out the five-part series of the anime figurines in my life.  Do you collect figures?  If you do, I'm sure you've seen the full range of ridiculously expensive to cheap and bootleg figures.  I've talked about a bit of all of them in this series, and there's plenty of videos out there about figures just like mine.  I don't do un-boxing vids or write about the ways to point out bootlegs all that much, but if that's your cup of tea, feel free to Google them.  My blog today is just a show-off of the range of figures that come from various series that I've seen and liked over the years.

Our first picture is a collection of miniature figures from Natsume's Book of Friends.  I have a larger scale figure of Neko-Sensei, but I don't have it pictured here as he's in a different room.  I liked the look of these figures in the display as they kind of look like a bunch of little dolls.  I'd started watching Natsume probably eight or more years ago, and then started collecting the manga and later figures.  Strangely enough the anime has been re-made and has various incarnations now and you can find merchandise for the series currently.

 The figures to the left are actually inherited through my husband from Scrapped Princess.  For a time during the 2006-2009 period many DVDs came with special figures when you purchased the anime.  (This covers the Read Or Die figures below as well).  I'm still surprised that they were making so much money on these DVD sets that they were able to give away figures along with them.  Once in awhile you can still find sets like this, but nothing like they were back before the Recession.  Anime DVDs peaked at this time period as there were large sections of them in stores and you could get anime just about anywhere that they sold DVDs and VHS.  Series that had multiple releases would come with these figures that you could collect.  The Scrapped Princess figures actually had two much larger scale figures that I don't have posted here as I didn't want to get them down off the high bookshelf.  We also had figures from Last Exile and Death Note that came like this, but I didn't search them out to take pictures this time around.  There were others at the time but we skipped out on some of them in order to get the entire DVD sets without the figures included.

This pairing to the right is a bit strange because they don't come from the same series - I just have them together because I felt like it.  Ranka Lee is from Macross Frontier which is a series that never came over in DVD form.  In fact, most of the Macross world has never been released in English due to some strange licencing issues, companies that bought it and never released it.  I'm sure you could look it up if you were interested to know more.

The bunny girl next to her belongs to Hentai Prince and Stony Cat - one of the secondary characters which I can't remember at the moment what her name is.  (Again, too lazy to do research.)  She wound up on the same shelf so I snapped a shot.

Both figures are good examples of cheaper figures that you can find that are still of decent quality.  Ranka cost around $30, and the bunny girl cost around $15.  It's not unusual to find figures of series in swimsuits and outfits that aren't the norm in the series, so it's fun to find ones that are decent quality and make you remember parts of the show you like.

Another mix-match of series in this case.  These figures reside at the moment in my husband's cabinets and are from Robotic Notes (the girl in front) and World God Only Knows in the back.  I like this grouping because it gives you a good juxtaposition between more expensive figures and the cheaper figures you can find.  You scan see the level of detail changes a whole lot between our girl in the front and the girls in the back.  We got the World God Only Knows figures for about $35 a piece, and over $100 for the other.  She has a handful of little Pocky box accessories that are pretty cool and you can arrange her in various ways, whereas the girls in the back are stationary and have no extra bits.

More randomness coming out of the display cabinet!  Nendroids and scale figures range in the $30-$50 range here.  The Tengo Tenge figures were sold in blister box, and the He is My Master was just a box figure.  Some sold around the same time of this series had soft parts so you could 'feel' them up (yeah, weird, but we do have one figure with soft parts).  The Nendroids in the front are just side characters with Wooser in his mini-series.  In another photo later you'll see them again but I've been playing with the Nendroids and they have other faces.

More inexpensive figures, this time from Gantz.  My husband likes this series a lot - okay, can you blame him? Most guys do because it's got girls who wear skimpy outfits and fight with huge, futuristic guns.  The series is interesting but super bloody and has a manga, an anime and even a couple live action movies.  The figure in the front cost a bit more than the figures in the background and you can see a distinct quality change with how much more detailed her gun and hair is, the shape of her body and the way her shirt comes off of her shoulder.  She also comes with a bit of the orb that they get their guns from in the series.

Switching display cases now here's some more random stuff that I liked.  Can you name the series?  Madoka is probably the most noticeable.  Then two characters from Penguin Drum, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, and Sasami-San @ Ganbaranai.

As I said, random.  The types of figures range from two in the back are crane-type prize figures, a scale figure, a Nendroid and a Figma.

 Cuteness explosion shelves!  Again, didn't feel like sorting these out for individual photos and am not using a great photo, but you get the idea.  These Nendroids are having a picnic.  You'll see some creative licensing with one of the Woozer girls has the wrong face, but I thought it looked cute with the swimsuit.  There is also a Miku Figma and some Nendroid Minis too.

I picked up some of the miniature food items from a blind box set that a store in my city carried that had various Japanese food sets.  I get a kick out of mini food so I tend to pick up weird sets like these from time to time.

More cute adorable figures! I call these my 'daughters' from time to time as they're just small and cute and have adorable dresses.  Sakura is the most obvious followed by Menma and the figure I've already posted before from Hentai Prince.  My Shiro from No Game No Life actually goes on this shelf too (hence the wide gap) but I've been keeping her by my computer while I do these blogs to remind me to finish them!  I guess after today she could go back in the case!

 The last two photos I'm going to post (as I'm running out of time for the afternoon and I'm getting hot... 90 degrees is hot in a second story room!) are some of the more recent additions to the family.  Kill La Kill is one of the more popular anime right now and my husband has gathered himself a group of scale figures and Nendroids.  There are obviously quite a few more available out there, but these were some of the less risque ones out there.  My apologies if you are a bit off-put by the skimpy outfits.  There is actually one more photo after this set that I'm going to post below as I like the figures but if you don't like looking at figures who have slightly more skimpy outfits, just stop scrolling.  They're my husband's collection and even though I also like to look at them because of the quality, I'm sure not everyone likes to see stuff like that.  (Don't worry, there's no full nudity - or, sorry, there's no nudity!)

The second photo is from the Monogatari figures from various seasons of the series.  These are my girls as I really enjoy the floaty hair and the strong female characters in this series.  There's another couple out there that I would have liked to have gotten but these three look good together with the school chairs and desk and such.

So there you have a very condensed array of 'other' figures that inhabit this house.  I had some more from Sword Art Online that I wanted to post but the photo quality was poor.  Maybe sometime in the future I'll put more of the figures up that I own, but it gives you a good idea why this introverted cat-mom doesn't have money to spend on girly things.  ^_^  The next blog now could be on anything I can think of... who knows what it will be?

And of course, the last photo that I mentioned.

I guess this photo doesn't really show a whole heck of a lot - I was trying to be slightly careful with my angle of course.  But my husband started collecting these figures with the girl on the left, and then branched out to the others with my permission as they ranged over $100.  There are more figures from this series but after awhile if you don't get them early they cost even more, so these three are it.  Not only that, but the pieces are so fragile and intricate that they actually started to get difficult to put together.  The giant things sticking out of the back on the girl in the back were so tricky that we only move her about once a year to dust her, and even then I usually will have to put her pieces back together!  The figure itself didn't come with actual instructions so we kind of just had to find pegs and holes and see what fit and pray that it would stay together!

Friday, March 27, 2015

My Life with Anime Figures - Part 4 (Trigun 2)

While I won't say that anime figures can take the place of an actual person, I will say that sometimes I have imagined that characters from an anime or manga could come to life.  Take Vash the Stampede for example, and the life lessons that he accrued after 150 years of life as a relatively immortal humanoid.  Someone who can see the good in people even after they can shoot, kill and destroy, is a remarkably strong person.  He didn't get bitter after seeing how people act to one another, and continued on with his life in the pursuit of "LOVE and PEACE!"

I've always found Vash a remarkable character since he had so many bad things happen to him over the years of his life.  If you've read the manga you'll see what I mean, and even if you have just watched the anime, you might get a slight feeling from him.  I spent a good deal of my early twenties pondering over the fact that this man could take a beating and keep on believing that there was still good in people.  I'd say he'd never worked in retail...but he did some of that too.  (ahahahaha, retail joke)

I found myself drawn to Vash long before I met my husband and for a time I wrote plenty of fanfiction depicting how I might react to a character such as he.  I put myself into the place of Milly Thompson (and if you know me I still go by that name at least via Avatar) and saw myself looking out for this deep spikey-headed man who just wanted to believe that there could be good in the world and if he kept going long enough he could eventually bring it out of people.  I even did a bit of "Mary Sue" writing, replacing myself with Milly in those cases and sometimes even getting a romantic interest between me and Vash.  Okay, so I think we all have a moment in time where we dream about a character who isn't based in reality.  Maybe not everyone has crushes on 2D characters, but that being said, even crushes on people who are members of bands or TV shows are somewhat fictional in the way they act and behave.  Most of the time people are different on camera than in real life, and I've seen plenty of interviews to prove the point.

Anyway, I decided today that I'd approach today's blog on anime figures a bit differently since I'm feeling rather dejected and tired of being around people.  Being an introvert, I think I was drawn to Vash in the way all introverts are drawn toward extroverted people - to an extent.  We all get exhausted at some point, but there's a moment where if an extrovert pays me attention I'm suddenly excited like maybe I am part of something special.  And Trigun did that for me, I was part of this small club and when I was asked by some rather extroverted fans of the series to help them start a scanlation club, I was all about it, even to the extent of buying the manga magazines from Japan in order to keep things rolling.  The perks of this is knowing some behind-the-scenes information about a series that I otherwise would not have been privy.

Take for example this set of Trigun figures that came out in two versions.  They came out both in disassembled figures in boxes and then later in pre-assembled figures as well.  I bought a mix of them, however, after the first one turned out to be very difficult to keep assembled, Rei-Dei here, as you can see to the right is missing the straw sticking out of his lips, I turned to getting the rest of the figures pre-assembled and nicely glued together.  Rei-Dei gives me pains every time I put him together and most of the time I don't even keep him together since his top knot falls out contantly and I'm already missing pieces.  I put him back together only for the couple of minutes that I took this picture before putting him away again.

But I probably wouldn't have heard about these figures in advance enough to have ordered them if I hadn't been part of this Trigun group at the time.  I enjoyed being able to know just a few people who knew enough Japanese to be able to share the translations and be able to point me in the direction of finding all of this series.  They're pretty hard to find anywhere now, being the only figures from the manga as opposed to the anime series.  I'm sure you can find them on eBay, but unlike some of the other Trigun figures that I haven't even really posted on here (wait for Trigun 3 for the last of my collection) where you can still see them at conventions, you can't find these in person anymore.

I actually enjoyed quite a bit from my real life people relationships when it came to this series.  There was a social aspect that I enjoyed long before Facebook was around (oh, I know it was around but before it got so popular that people stopped emailing and would only chat via FB).  At the time I created my own website and people would email me and then we'd chat on AIM or some other live messenger, and then we'd chat about our favorite show Trigun.  And I found lots of fans of the series, those who liked Vash, some who liked Wolfwood, others who LOVED Legato, and all of the characters in between.  It was a social network of people with like interests and we all loved discussing this series that we could only follow through translated manga scans because at that time there was now official books released by Dark Horse.  We'd talk about whether the translations were correct, we'd have panels at conventions and we'd buy up everything we could find in the dealer's room, from figures to posters to every little thing in between that had Trigun attached to it.

I think though, the problem with liking any anime series, is that eventually it has to come to an end.  I'm not going to take into account money makers like Pokemon and YuGiOh and some of those others that have been going on for decades, but the good ones usually end somewhere and then part of the group will go off on their own way.  Some of my friends headed out to other series, some of them stuck around and waited for the movie, others brushed in and out of my life with our fanfiction and role playing, but eventually most of us drifted apart over the years.  A few of us went on to other series together, but I never did really find a thrill with any series quite like I did with Trigun.  Sure, I have plenty of collections as you've seen through my figure collection series here, but for the most part I never did gain the friends that I did through Trigun.  Maybe that's the reason that I still cling to the series the way I do today.

I don't even have a reason to stick with the series all of these years later because there's been no mention of redoing the anime with the manga characters like they did with Hellsing or Full Metal Alchemist.  I think the days of that are probably coming to an end.  Zazie here didn't show up in this form in the anime and he had a few other forms in the manga that we'll probably never see animated.  Thankfully I think most anime series now taken from a manga will be faithful to the original content, but back when Trigun was produced, there were only a few books out and the animators had to get an idea from Nightow of where he was going with the series.  It would be nearly a decade before the manga would wrap up in a similar place that the anime did back in 1997.  We wouldn't see half the Gung-Ho Guns or the other characters that came or went out of Vash's life animated because they probably didn't even exist in the author's mind yet!  So having figures like this are really the closest I'll ever get to seeing them brought to life.  It's a shame they didn't go ahead and do all of the Gung-ho Guns or the Insurance Girls in this set of characters because I really would have liked to have had more to look at and just wonder about.

They're almost like little moments of time from a series that we can return to, but that we'll never completely relive that experience of seeing it all for the first time.  The feeling I get of reading the manga for the first time and then hurrying to explain it on my website will never return to me.  I'll never get those friendships back the way they were when my site would go down because of too much traffic.  Those were the days!  It was like the thrill of the performance, of being liked and sought after and people actually worried when I didn't write them back right away, they worried if I didn't answer their questions and they wanted to know what I had to say about the topic.  It was like suddenly I was the extrovert and all of these people wanted to know me and to know what I knew.  They wanted details and I wanted to give it to them and it was this great experience when we would share our collections with each other and just show off everything we'd found out about a series that had brought us together.

But as with all good series, as I mentioned before, they end, and they get covered in dust like Midvalley the Hornfreak here.  I even dusted him off, but the camera picks up the little details.  He was always one of my least favorite characters, although I even knew people who loved him as well.

But what do I do now when these people have drifted apart from me?  Facebook holds a little hope, as I've founded a group based on those fans of my website and we discuss the new series here and there that Nightow has come out with (Blood Blockade Battlefront being the main one, and I do hope someday to collect figures from that series as well).  But the feeling that I had when I was sharing these figures for the first time with my website and saying, "look what I got today!" just isn't the same anymore.

So how do I get a feeling of this back?  I blog perhaps, but I have only a couple of readers since people just don't like to read any more.  I post some photos because people at least still like looking at pictures so long as it doesn't take too long for them to load.  But I don't put my thoughts on video, although I have thought briefly about taking these blogs and making a video of myself reading them...nah, I really don't like to hear my own voice and don't like to see myself either.

I guess I'll just share how these little figures make me feel.  Right now, I remember the memories attached to them.  I'll remember the first moment that I picked up one and had to buy the entire set so that I wouldn't miss out on anything.  I run my fingers over the smooth plastic and think about the person who designed this little thing so that it could go into production and be shipped all over the world.  Imagine how that person would feel when they know that people everywhere appreciate the hard work they put into this little tiny sculpture.  Wolfwood was brought to life by someone who took the time to see what he could be not in 2D but in a 3D form.  And here he is, Cross Punisher and all, ready for action and someone imagined it, someone scuplted it and someone bought it to display and look at and remember the series and the friendships and love that revolved around them.

And yet, in my nostalgia I feel depressed and sad.  I know the people that I knew through this series are still out there, but many of them have drifted away and I'll never have contact with them ever again.  I feel sad that my friends are gone where I can no longer reach them.  Perhaps they are doing some miraculous things with their lives.  I knew Trigun fans who became Opera singers, some who were linguistics majors, art majors (a lot of them), parents, retail workers, dog groomers, teachers, you name it... these people are from all corners of the world and I knew them for a brief time because of Vash and his dark version.

I wish I could go back to the days when I so fervently painted Vash's hair black in the back here since his hair had changed color by Trigun Maximum and I was disappointed that they hadn't colored it that way in the figure.  I may have the only character of Vash like this out there.  Perhaps others did the same thing, who knows?  Maybe they've been sold or shoved in a box some where.  Maybe they are still out on display like they are in my house.  Maybe people still look on them and think, "Yeah, those were the days."

But maybe those people also have families, children, and lives outside of the anime figures and maybe they're way more happy than I'll be with these "my plastic children".  I don't treat them as children, but I don't feel like I could throw them away either, that they're simply pieces of plastic that I picked up over the years either.  Maybe that makes me a kind of a hoarder as opposed to a collector.  Maybe all collectors have a streak in them that makes them say, "these are sometimes more important than human relationships."  Do I believe that?  I don't know.  Maybe sometimes I do, as these figures don't leave me, they don't say, "Oh hey, you believe something I don't so lets not be friends anymore."  They don't just die, although they can be broken and destroyed.  They might disappear and you can't find them again, but you don't have the same emotional attachment you might with people either.

Am I trying to reach out for help with this blog?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I know I definitely have a mental disorder of some sort, but writing helps me out with this.  I find some sort of strange comfort putting this out there for people to read, even though in most cases I know that people don't read this.  Maybe that's a comfort too.  I feel like Trigun was my last reason why people actually read what I had to say, and maybe that's why thinking about it makes me so sad today.  I know that no one cares about what I have to write unless it's less than a paragraph long.  I know that people don't want to get to know me and what's inside of me because they don't sit down and read what I have to say.  It's all there out in the open if someone just wanted to take a look, but they don't.  Do I ask this from figures?  Nope.  I don't expect them to respond, but I would hope humans would, but they don't.

Oh...I'm sorry, I get irritated thinking about how all I have wanted to do since I was 10 years old was write and have people read what I had to say.  I wanted people to ask me to write out what was on my mind and when that happened then I was truly happy.  Those years where I wrote about Highlander and Trigun were some of the happiest years of my life because people wanted to read ME.  But they don't any more.  My mother isn't interested, my husband doesn't read it, and none of my Facebook friends do either.  It's okay, if you actually ARE reading this and you're thinking 'wait a second here!' I commend you, and thank you.  But it's okay, I never expected you to, as I decided not even to post this blog on my FB page anyway.  I mostly just feel like I've let myself down because I can't find those reasons to venture out into fiction any more because no one besides me cares to read.  I think when I was younger it didn't matter because I had hopes when they finally did read what I had to write they'd think it was fantastic.  But when I got into writers groups and they didn't even really care about my stuff enough to even help me edit what I had to write, I figured they weren't even really reading it anyway.  Why put effort into what they had to write when they wouldn't even reciprocate?

So Trigun is all of these things.  My life has been about figurines and about these 3D objects that have made me feel better by being there.  Unassuming creatures that never demand anything but an occasional dusting and maybe a bit of super glue now and then.  And they bring my life light even when I feel gloomy.

Thanks for reading...stay tuned for Part 5.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Life with Anime Figures - Part 3 (Gatchapon)

 Welcome to part three of "My Life with Anime Figures"!  Today I will be talking about gatchapon, which are small figures that often come in capsules, sometimes in multiple pieces, or are small enough to be molded from a single piece of plastic.  Often these small figures are chibi versions or busts.  In Japan these figures often come from vending machines, although in the USA, many of them are sold either in the capsule eggs or just in plastic bags.  I still consider some of the blind box figures gatchapon, although I'm sure I'd get an argument over this.  For this blog I'm grouping some of them in this category as typically you don't know what you are going to get until you open the package.

I had briefly considered grouping my Trigun figures into this category as the first ones in that blog were actually gatchapon.  However, since I have such a huge collection of Trigun, I decided they should have their own section.  Many of the CLAMP figures were also this way in part 2.  The keychain figures of Tsubasa Chronicles above were also gatchapon, but I bought them as a set.

Most gatchapon found in the states come as sets from a vendor, although on rare occasions you can find them in vending machines.  Wizzywig, which I mentioned in the previous post had a set of six of these machines, and I've seen pictures of them in Japanese stores in the states, but most of the time you'll have to settle with finding them without the chance of being surprised.

Besides the Final Fantasy figures above, many of my random purchases over the years were by digging through boxes filled with gatchapon.  Many anime vendors in the past (although sometimes you can still find them, usually these figures get thrown into grab bags) would just dump older series gatchapon into a box and label them for $2-$5 and you would have to dig through them for a random find.  My husband came with a dozen such figures he never opened, so I have quite a few figures in the house that won't even go into this blog as we've left them packaged.

However, some, like this set from the short series AIR, I took out and put together.  As you can see, many of them have silly expressions, perhaps the eyes don't line up completely, seams are obvious and they don't always stand on their bases properly.  I've always been amazed how they can figure out how to make these figures fit in a small capsule and then also look like whole (if sometimes quite wobbly) figures once they are put together.

 A special case of this (although I admit these are blind box figures) were a couple I had from the Mai-HiMe video game (although I didn't know they were from a video game at the time).  These two came in a dozen parts each, very tiny and fragile.  They were the first figures I collected which were made with clear and opaque plastics.  Unfortunately they are big dust collectors so I keep them packaged up now except when I bring them out to show them off.  It's still hard to believe they came out of a little 2x1x5 inch box (or at least close).

I have always been drawn to small figures that have lots of little pieces.  It's amazing how much detail can go into a figure that only stands three inches tall.  The better quality pieces have better paint jobs; blind boxes tend to be better than true capule gatchapon.  Also they tend to fit better and the seams are less obvious.

These figures from the ROBOT series (Yoshitoshi ABe) came in multiple pieces, also in blind boxes.  Although, not too many pieces, they have very clean printed eyes, the figures are carefully constructed with lots of little pieces.  I fell in love with these series of figures, although I only own one more (which you'll see below) since the boxes cost around $15-$20 when I managed to find them years later.  There were three or four different series based on the graphic/art books with the same name.  I first fell in love with the almost 'steam punk' feel early on with Lain, and then later with Last Exile.  Strangely enough, I never collected any of the ROBOT series even though it was later released in English and I found at least four of them and went through them at Borders back in the day.  I'm not sure what the stories were behind these random figures, but I still enjoy looking at them and have never packed them up (even though you can see the dust has started to collect even after a good dusting today).

As you can see from the figure on the left here, she's one of my trouble children as she won't stand on her own anymore.  Her little feet fit on tiny little pegs and she's had a habit of leaning back almost from the very beginning of pulling her out of the box.  I like her though, maybe it's because she's got wings (I'm a sucker for wings).  The base is a really awesome opal pearl color with bits of blue, purple, and yellow.  Very few of my small figures come with special paint, but I have special feelings about those that sparkle, or look different in light.

I haven't placed anything in my photos before this to give you a sense of size, so with the Wacom pen next to her you can get an idea of how small.

For a time, some figures came with DVD box sets.  The figure below comes from Last Exile, and she came from DVD set number one that had the box with her.  Al has an alternate body where she wears her coat.  I actually have two of these figures around the house since both my husband an I got one with our DVD sets.  I took mine out of her packaging though and used to switch her between this look and the coat which she'd wear during the winter.  I rarely do this anymore, although as I was taking her apart to clean her today I noticed that her legs are starting to get sticky.  I'm not quite sure on the lifespan of figures.  I have early figures like the Trigun ones that have collected some dust but they clean off easily with a brush.  Others tend to get a layer of sticky dust that won't clean off without running them under water.  Some more mat-finish figures don't seem to collect much dust at all.  The little angel figure above collects dust on her base but she remains fairly dust free for the most part even though I've had her a long time.

So far, I have only one figure that is showing age because of a lack of regular dusting.  The Vash McFarland figure tends to show it's age the most since it's leaning and getting sticky from a degradation of plastic, paint and just collecting dust and other debris.  He's one of my oldest figures however, dating from probably around 1997, he's been out for close to 18 years now.

Smaller gatchapon are handy because they are easily packed away if you're like me and rotate them in and out of storage.  Larger figures take more care in packaging, where capsule figures can be taken apart, wrapped loosely in soft tissue paper or paper towels, and then packed away in a plastic bag.  It's actually a good idea to rotate figures at least every six months, or clean them at the very least with a soft brush.  Handling figures also seems to do the trick of keeping them clean.  My collection of pose-able figures tend to collect less dust when I'm handling them regularly and exchanging parts.

My final photo is a set of Haruhi Suzumiya figures.  The unique thing about anime figures like these is the chance to see the characters in outfits you might normally find them in with larger figures.  Haruhi actually had these costume in the anime, but I have seen small figures with silly poses and cosplay when they don't show up in the exact same outfits in the anime or manga.  Having a smaller figure to work with, they can produce more of them at less expense then a 1/8 scale figure.

I still remember the first time I saw these figures at Wizzywig (yes, another of my early purchases there, although these were closer to the end of the larger shop).  Many of my figures as you can probably tell from the past two parts of this series were mostly modestly dressed figures from shonen or shojo anime/manga.  Occasionally you can find more 'risque' gatchapon or box figures, but these were the first set that I ever picked up on my own.

I'll confess, I'm married happily, I like cute things, but I also like figures that have that cat 'moe'.  I remember feeling a tad bit scandalous when I picked up these figures however.  I think I remember thinking to myself that someone would judge me for buying a bunch of cat girls (you may notice the Haruhi in the back left that is a bunny, she doesn't actually come with this set but I couldn't help but keep her in there with the others).  Over the years I have come to appreciate the art of cat girls and the adorable poses of these little figures.  I may even have a part in this series about cat girls in general as I do have about a handful of different figures now that are dressed as cat girls.  These were the first, however, so I have a special place in my heart for them.

So, hopefully you have a better idea of what gatchapon are and the different kinds you can find out there.  These are rather better made then some of the pack.  As a rule of thumb, if you can see them outside of the package, if they have decent paint jobs, most likely they will fit together reasonably well.  Sometimes a bit of super glue is handy to have if you are careful, that way they won't fall apart on you after a short period of time.  Also, if you're buying blind boxes, if the box is well constructed or has special ink (like metallic font or a combination of matte/gloss) the figures inside will be constructed at an equal level.  Figures that are thrown in a box with dozens of others might be cheap but they will be sketchy too.

Look for a capsule figure between $5-$8 and a boxed figure $10-$20.  Occasionally a nice vendor will offer to trade you a different figure if you get repeats, so buying multiples at a time sometimes help you finish the collection.  Other vendors might have figures out in a case that they are willing to sell you where you can see how the parts fit together.  If they are charging more than $5 for a figure that's put together than what you can find at another vendor in a blind box, most of the time it's better to go the route of the blind box.  Just find a few friends that are willing to share in the fun in case you get a repeat.

Even if you don't have friends who are willing to buy a few small figures you can trade off with, I have found at least these cheaper figures are easily gifted to your friends down the line.  More than one little blind box from my collection has found its way to a friend for Christmas or a birthday.  Feel free to spread the anime love!~

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Life with Anime Figures - Part 2 (CLAMP)

 Part two of my, I don't know how many parts this will be, series, covers my second large collection of anime figures:  CLAMP.

After getting into anime, I turned my attention for awhile away from Trigun to the more "girl friendly" Cardcaptor Sakura.  During the time period when I started collecting figures, it was actually pretty hard to find them unless one was at a convention.  However, I had one small advantage during that time, it was an anime store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, called "Wizzywig" (it stood for "what you see is what you get").  An awesome couple who lived in the area at the time opened the store in the downtown area, right down the street from the Borders (both of which no longer exist now) and the university theater, a couple blocks away from the University of Michigan, and within walking distance of another comic store called "Vault of Midnight" which still exists, only in a new location.  The location at that time was in a creepy dungeon type shop on the lower level of a shopping building.

Wizzywig was the best thing that happened to a twenty-something anime fan at the time, because even though I couldn't rent the DVDs and VHS tapes they had to offer, they had a huge selection of DVDs, CDs, figures, candy, and plushies for sale.  The store was fantasically huge at the time.  We would make a trip monthly to buy whatever we could and take them home to proudly display.  Most of the figures I bought at the time were Gatchapon, or capsule figures that came un-assembled, or occasionally in boxes as well, which the owners displayed on the counter above the DVD box set case where they kept the expensive stuff locked up.  I would spend all the money I had saved up throughout the month on figures such as the ones you see above, because at the time Sakura figures were plentiful (unlike Trigun, which at the time I had pretty much the entire collection at that point).

These little figures, although plentiful, had a great number of pieces that oftentimes would fall apart.  They are extremely hard to keep together.  I've considered in the past to glue them together, but I haven't quite convinced myself to do this, even though if you look at the image to the left, there are flowers missing from the branch behind Sakura's head.  They aren't missing as you'll see in a moment.

The little figures are also extremely hard to keep clean as they collect dust at a staggering rate, and you can't use compressed air to clean them.  Why?  Because you'll blow off the pieces!  (I've tried)  A small soft bristle brush will do the trick but you have to go at it extremely slowly to get all of the dust out of the crevasses.  And doing it this way, you're able to keep track of your pieces that come off so you can put them back on.

As you can see, I haven't cleaned these figures to the left in quite some time.  I'd say these have about two-three year's worth of dust on them.  Why would I let them get so dirty?  Well, these figures usually sit on a very high shelf and I have to get up on a stool to get them down. Plus, if you clean them too often, the pieces fall apart and sometimes I believe the dust actually helps hold them together.

Needless to say, I only clean these every few years so that they don't get too bad, plus it's such a time consuming task that it usually takes a few hours to pull them all down off the shelves, clean the shelves themselves and then dust off the figures individually, then put them all back up there again!  I do keep my best figures in cabinets as I have probably mentioned in the past, and luckily that keeps the dust down quite a bit.

I'd recommend if you were to begin collecting figures that you invest in a couple of small display cases for your favorite figures.  Also, invest in a nice, soft brush (a soft basting brush or makeup brush will do nicely) and compressed air for those figures that come assembled.  Also, make sure they aren't in harsh sunlight that can fade them, and make sure they are displayed so that they aren't pushing against one another (the paint can rub off that way) or that they aren't crammed in a box either because that can bend them over time.  Perhaps as part of this series I'll actually go through the do's and don'ts of figure care and show you more problems that can occur.

As you can see from the new image on the right, I've dusted Sakura and Keroberos as well as our 'peeping tom' Tomoyo on her base.  Kero - how are you in two places at once?!  Anyway, once the flowers are attached, the whole figure looks really adorable.  You can tell, however, Sakura is starting to slant toward the tree, and over time might eventually touch the tree.  This can be corrected in smaller figures with time and effort, but I'll go over that at a later time!

To finish off the photos of my Sakura collection, here's the rest of the outfits and figures that I got as Gatchapon.  The cat outfit in pink and black is actually one of the most troublesome figures in the collection as she doesn't like to stand up very well and also has a tail that pops out of her dress that falls off with the slightest breeze.  These figures, however, were some of my prized possessions at the time since they sat up on a shelf with the Cardcaptor manga that I collected.  It would actually be after I'd moved to Ohio that I'd finally get to watch the series in its entirety (I didn't own it but my husband did).

Next I'm going to skim over the shorter series where I have only a figure or two.

Angelic Layer was the first 'shonen' manga that CLAMP created.  Before this they worked strictly on 'shojo' manga.  If you've had any experience with CLAMP, then I'm sure you've had the whole history lesson behind them.  I won't go into it too much seeing as though there's a perfectly good Wiki article about CLAMP you could read.

I can't remember the actual date when they started releasing these chibi figures for CLAMP, but they did the entire series of characters.  I didn't get the whole set as they typically ran about $13-$20 for a single blind box figure.  I was luckily enough to buy just few enough that I didn't get any repeats.  The CLAMP in 3-D LAND figures came in 8 sets, don't quote me though, I can't find much information on them now.  I do know that Kobato here to the left was actually one from a later series.  Hikaru (above) came in an earlier set.  I also got a few from Chobits, Tsubasa Chronicles (below with others) and also Lawful Drug (or Legal Drug in the TokyoPop release).

I enjoyed collecting these figures as they're pretty well made, didn't come in a bunch of pieces, and had quite a few details.  Unfortunately, I always thought their eyes were a bit weird, but perhaps that was due to trying to replicate the CLAMP eye style in a colored version 3D figure.

Below left is my only figure from Legal Drug.  Back in the 1990's TokyoPop picked up these series (in Japanese called "Lawful Drug") and after three books the series was dropped.  Word in the otaku world said that CLAMP wasn't going to continue the series until they felt like they could continue in the direction that they chose.  For those of us reading the series we assumed they meant they weren't going to continue until they could move into a Yaoi or at least Shonen-ai direction.  I'm still not sure whether that was the plan, or perhaps they were wanting to take it into a darker direction?  I'm still not sure, even know as they've finally started to release "Drug & Drop".  Word is on Wiki that they had to change the name to continue in a new magazine.  I couldn't find out too much information about the series, but at least it's being translated in English now so I'm pleased with that.  Mostly because I really hate it when series never finish.

The Cardcaptor figure of Li Shaoran figure was kind of an accidental purchase since he was in a blind box as I don't think I would have just bought him.  Some of my collection will be like that.  Random gifted figures that I probably would never get for myself.  But I'll save that for a different blog.

Now onto some random figures from the series of Chobits!  The first collection of manga that I started from TokyoPop, (I have earlier versions of Cardcaptors, but they were printed in the flipped format) was Chobits.  They were just starting to bring out these books in the original Japanese format reading right-to-left as opposed to the English left-to-right.  Because of the success of such books at the time, companies in the USA produced these figures to the right and they came in blister packs.  You could find them in Japanese versions too if I remember correctly, but they really weren't made very well.  As you can see, the skin color is really quite yellow now, Chii on the left doesn't sit very straight on her base, and the Chii on the right's back foot likes to pull off the base.

The Freya here to the right (if you haven't read the manga or watched the anime - you should!  It's awesome) is one of my most favorite figures, although I never got any other from this set.  Kaiyodou was actually one of the best Gatchapon makers that I could find early on.  The paint job is a bit sloppy at best, but her hair and dress have an iridescent gleam to them.  Her hair is starting to split a bit in the back now, but of all of my early Gatchapon, she's still one of the better made.  (Kaiyodou also made the Trigun busts in the previous blog).

I'm still surprised to this day just how many figures were released for this series in the United States.  I'm not sure how many of them were actually produced in Japan and maybe replicated for us, but the little Chii here with her chaise was a freebee that came with Chobits #8 manga.  The figure came with the book and a box set that fit all of the manga.  At the time it was rather a risky thing since there weren't any other box sets like this for manga (until Magic Knight Rayearth, but I never did get any figures from that series).  There were plenty of boxes for DVDs at the time, and many of them came with figures, which is also another blog I can go over in the future.  Unfortunately, the coloration on this figure is a bit strange.  Her skin is rather yellowish and there is a blue tinge to her hair and her clothing.  I do like the fact that the chaise is separate, but it can't stand without a figure against it.  I've thought about placing other little figures with her, but haven't found one that could sit on the chaise without falling off.

The last of the Chobits figures I collected was also released in the USA.  She is the only partially articulated Chii that I own.  Her arms and hands are jointed, so you can raise her hand to wave or touch her head.  She can't do too much more than that, although her head turns a small bit as well.  She can be removed from her stool which is handy in case I want to display a different figure on a stool.  But her size is a bit larger than most figures that I collect, so it doesn't work very well with Figma or Revoltech articulated figures.

The quality of this figure is a bit better than many of my CLAMP figures since she is bigger, but her coloration is rather yellow.  My husband bought her one year as it was getting harder to find Chobits figures.  Sometimes I wish I had the money to get into some of the scale figures for these series, but even at the time they were more than a $100 a piece, and well out of my price range.  Even now you can find a lot of Chobits stuff out there and some range even in the thousands!

They were just starting to release Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles and xxxHolic in the last years when I was collecting these figures.  In those years between there was a time where the figures were still available (and there was a set of chess figures I didn't try to collect, although sometimes I wish I had), but they were just coming out with more of the 3-D Land figures and then into the Tsubasa figures.

 Mixed in with them I'd find the occasional figure from Chobits.  The little Chii is the only one I have with one of her little rabbit figures.  I never managed to get any other figure with one.  And Sumomo and Kotoko were my only figures besides a little keychain with Sumomo that I own.  Behind them you can see the boxset of the manga that I collected.  The very first manga still has the slip cover (like they use on Japanese manga, but TokyoPop replicated it to talk about it being a "real manga" since they switched formats starting with this manga).

I didn't take these figures out of their little cube up on the bookshelf as the dust is starting to get to me.  These set of mini figures came out for Tsubasa just a bit before the manga started to come out in the USA.  Tomoyo in the back right is actually from the set you'll see below that were assorted Gatchapon that I had to put together.  Sakura, Shaoran and the others came in boxes.  I remember seeing them for the first time and buying the entire set immediately as Wizzywig had them for the cheapest price I'd ever see.  Later on other stores would boost the price quite a bit.  I also bought the entire set of the rest of the figures below since I was really into Tsubasa when it came out.  (And no, if you're wondering, the name of our convention has nothing to do with the series!

 Starting with Yuko and Mokona on the left, she's my most troublesome figure as her hairpiece falls off all the time as do her arms.  I can't remember whether I finally broke down and glued her together or not as I haven't touched her but to slide her to the left and right to dust around her.  If you look at the big version of this photo you'll notice that she's quite dusty, as is the chibi version to her right.

Sakura and Shaoran are from the same sets, just as the chibi Sakura is from the CLAMP in 3-D set.  The Fai and Chii are from the same set.  Chii is actually another good example of figures that are troublesome over time.  I may end up doing a blog on how to correct these figures as the plastic sometimes bends over time.  I have four or five figures that have been starting to lean over time and Chii rests against Fai here just to keep upright.  I do like how they made this character more of a cat-girl of sorts, giving her ears as opposed to interface ports.  It is unfortunate that in the series they didn't go over how Fai made her or what she was supposed to be besides a companion.  I need to look through the final book again, but I almost seem to think that they never really returned to her at all.  If that was true, it's sort of sad for her to be left behind never to be thought of again.

I like setting up my figures in front of their books, and typically most of my figures are displayed this way.  Upon looking at the entire 28 manga set here though, I think whomever was working on the covers at DelRay certainly liked Shaoran the best of all of the characters.  He has more spine photos than everyone else!  Of course, if you've read the series you'll probably understand why, but I'll try not to spoil it for you if you haven't read it.

Anyway, in conclusion, I do actually have a few other CLAMP figures in my collection.  However, they're a bit newer, like my Sakura Nendroid, and eventually I'll just do a blog on all of the Nendroids in the house, but I got her just in the last month, so she's not part of the 'original' collection.  I'm pretty sure I have more figures up in storage too, at least some of the more troublesome ones.  I know I have a set of keychains of all of the Tsubasa figures that I also bought during the same time period.  They were from the same set as the little white Makona (I also have a black Makona).  I also have a few plushies, but as I was just going over figures today, I hope you enjoy looking at the collection!

For your reference, so you don't get too jealous of the collection which I got over probably a 5-8 year period of time, most of these figures ranged in price from $5-$30 (for the large Chii), and some of them were free with other purchases.  More than a couple were gifts that I received from people who were also collecting some of the blind box sets and we traded off duplicates.  I also had a few duds that I gave away over the years.  These are my favorites though, so I like showing them off and don't mind bringing out the duster once in awhile to keep them on display!