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!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My Life with Anime Figures - Part 1 (Trigun)

After spending a ridiculous amount of time watching vlogs about people opening figurines, showing off their collections, reviewing figurines and even pointing out the differences between bootleg figures and the real, I decided to start my own series of blogs on my own collection.  Since I don't own video editing software (although I'm sure my husband would love to get me into it if I asked) I'd much rather write since that's why I went to college.  Plus, with my super camera, it's awfully fun just to take pictures of the figures I've collected over the years.  Plus it's just a fun trip down memory lane.

I hesitate slightly to say that the Trigun figures to the right were my very first anime related figures.  I think they were, unless you count various Pokemon or perhaps a random other series.  These were, however, the first figures I bought at an anime convention.  Rewind the years back to 2004 in January near the beginning of the year when Ohayocon first moved to the Columbus Convention Center.  Well, more accurately the convention space at the Hyatt, as they weren't really big enough to expand into the convention center itself.  They had the dealer room in a banquet room across where then was only a row of windows letting onto a circle drive where people could be dropped off.

For giggles, here you see the back of my head as I was dressed as Milly Thompson from the Trigun series.  Behind us (unbeknownst to me) a rather popular cosplay photographer stood on a chair as my photo was being taken with a Wolfwood cosplayer by a Chii and Witch Hunter Robin.  Those were the days!  Fewer people cosplayed then just attended in normal clothes, and there was less anime you could easily get your hands on, although that would change in the next few years.  At the time, there were very few figures you could get without buying them at a convention or expensively getting them shipped overseas by someone sketchy.  I'd imagine a lot of the figures were either very cheaply produced (like my Trigun figures above) or super expensive.

Back to when I bought these figures.  So when I first walked into the vendor room I was by myself, only a little over a $100 in my pocket for three days of spending and food (I had a debit card but no credit cards at the time...or rather, most people didn't take credit in the dealer room then!)  And the moment I walked in a guy in a booth called me over and said, "I know what you're looking for!"  He pulled out a plastic bag and shoved these figures at me, as well as another bag with the mini-busts to the right.

Well, more accurately, only the Milly, Wolfwood, Meryl, a Knives, and transformed Vash, I'd later get the rest of the series through much searching.  At the time the sets cost me $40, and I willingly shelled out the money before I realized I would be stuck eating one meal a day the rest of the weekend.  Was it worth it?  Totally.  The guy who sold me those figures still runs the circuit and I see him at Ohayocon and even Tsubasacon (he's out of the Columbus area, Anime Palace if you've ever met Wade, you'll know who I'm talking about).  I'm still amazed to realize that there were some hardcore anime fans who really loved what they did and wanted to share what they knew with fans.  I was a fan of like three series at the time: Trigun, InuYasha and Chobits.  Only later did I start collecting more figures and getting into more series as it became easier to pick up at local stores like Best Buy.

Now, the little figures (gatchapon mostly) were fairly easy to come by at conventions.  However, if you wanted a more expensive one, well, you had to plan for it and it was still pretty hard to get them online because many of them would charge as much for shipping as the figurine themselves.  Or maybe you'd have a friend like mine who just happened to have a Vash figure that they didn't want anymore.

This beauty (although I think this particular one might be my husband's...we have a couple in the household now) was bent backwards, missing some parts, but oh gosh I wanted it so badly that I ended up getting ripped off by a couple of friends who wanted to unload it since they were strapped for cash.  I think I paid $60 for it (and for awhile you could find it for $30 until it became a bit more rare but still costs only around $40 on eBay).  It was one of those figures that I both loved, but also hated because I had mixed feelings on how I came to acquire it.

At the time the McFarlane figure was the only one available directly to the United States, and it would be a year or so before the other sets would be released, but the popularity of the other figures didn't last very long since only the busts covered the majority of characters in the series.  Quite a few were produced over the years and the older photo here doesn't have all of my figures, but since I didn't feel like pulling them all down and dusting them off, I thought I'd just put this up here to finish out talking about the first set of figures that I've collected over the years.

Originally most of my money went to buying figures strictly from Trigun.  Mostly Vash, but a few others as the years went on.  This collection is not by any means comprehensive.  I have friends who have quite a few more than this, but I enjoy the range it has as a set of figures.  Mostly because you have good guys and bad guys, anime and manga based, official paints as well as 'repaints' which were mostly Vash's special black and silver coloration.  Sometimes I wish they'd explained why Vash also came with a black coat in those early figures, even though it eventually came to fruition in the manga series years later, I've always wondered if Yasuhiro Nightow came up with the idea or whether it was in the mind of the figure creators.

In the next blog I plan to go to my next set of figures:  CLAMP