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!

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