BASE MODEL

A Look At Volks' Figure

Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM

 

 

To date, there haven't been a lot of well-articulated female figures available. Hasbro's Jane was first out the door in recent history (not counting the numerous Barbie-style dolls), but she left you wanting something more. When I first saw photos of Volks' figures in Hobby Japan (picture at bottom), curiosity kicked into overdrive. It was something new which seemed to offer more articulation. Sure, the head's anime-style, but that's not an unsurmoutable obstacle. But these gals are hard to find, and none ever seemed to cross my path-- Internet searches of Ebay turned up none, and all the usual online vendors were out-of-stock. My order at Hobbylink Japan seemed to be languishing in permanent backorder status. Apparently Volks is a small company which produces in limited numbers for the domestic Japanese market. Everything that makes it over to the USA comes by way of friends, or entrepreneurs with friends.

Through Scott Baker's help I was able to link up with someone with the resin version. I was over/underwhelmed since it was a kit with lots of parts, and she looked awfully small for 1/6th scale. (Heck, the thighs on my custom gals are beefier than this one's waist!) Models are kewl, but you've got to be in the frame of mind to build them. I wasn't, and haven't been (ha ha). So the collection of parts only partially satisfied my curiosity... well, hardly at all.

Resin's kind of a strange material choice for an articulated figure, especially from a company with a recognizable name. But it really didn't surprise me too much since I knew Volks as a Japanese producer of high-end garage kits. In my opinion, resin isn't the ideal material for the stuff of dolls... er... articulated figures. It's really too dense unless it's thin-cast and in that case it's often too fragile and is quite soft. So I'd held out hope for the plastic version (At least I wouldn't have to build it).

Again, Scott Baker came to the rescue and provided the "Excellent-B Type" (large breasted version) figure shown above. He used to have a page showing various versions of the plastic figures; Volks produces the female figure with various degrees of chest inflation, and they offer their figures in different skin tints and with different amounts of articulation. They also produce (kinda androgynous) male figures, and smaller "children" figures.

Again, the figure seems smaller than I'd expected and again I wondered whether it was 1/6th scale. Placing it beside Hasbro's Jane convinced me that although the height is okay, the thinness of the body parts and limbs make the figure seem diminutive. (It's the same size as the resin figure, but the fact that it's assembled makes it look bigger.) Of course, the anime-style head should have given ample indication that it's a highly stylized figure, intended for a specialized segment of the doll market which is outside the realm of the typical Joe enthusiast. Of course, that shouldn't matter to a customizer, right?

Further indication of this comes from the construction. Even though this isn't the "kit" version, it has a very model kit-like feel to it. If you've ever built a model with moving parts, you marvel at the working features but still recognize the fact that it's not as durable as something manufactured as a toy. Even though this figure isn't as fragile as that, a lot of the joints are constructed using very thin plastic rods, and have only minimal pressure tensioning consisting of hard plastic-to-hard plastic contact.

The ball socketed ankles are a good example of that. The foot's ball pin fits through an opening in the bottom of the foot and rests in a formed socket (with the pin end exiting a hole in the top of the foot). A plastic cover piece is pressed in to seal it in position from the bottom. This assembly doesn't provide much pressure to hold the ball's position in the socket, and gluing the cover on really wouldn't help much in the long run. Consequently, the ankles are extremely weak. Normally, I'd be up in arms for this failure, but this is fashion doll territory. From what I've seen, most fashion dolls are displayed in stands, so standing on their own feet isn't a big priority or convention (whereas it is for Joes). If you move the figure out of its intended environment, then it's up to you to make things work the way you want them to. (What immediately comes to mind is placing a thin sheet of plastic foam between the ball and socket and really wedging it in there.)

The hands are another thing which contribute to the model-like feel. Apparently, you're supposed to glue the hands on if you want them to stay on the hinged wrist peg. I guess this gives you the option of which way you want the wrist hinge to go.

This similarity to models isn't very surprising, since it's called a "Base Model". From what I gather, this is intended to be a base figure for people who customize anime dolls, evidently an established hobby in Japan. The company also sells eye decals, wigs and wings. So it all makes sense, and explains why the figure seems slightly alien to a Joe customizer. We're used to taking a completed toy and converting it to what we want. We're not used to a product from a different world trying to meet us halfway.

The articulation is actually quite good. The knees have the ganged hinge so that they can be bent back further than a single hinge. In addition, the rotator for the knee is built into the top of the hinge, so there isn't an extra seam midway up the thigh, as is present on Dragon's and 21st Century's new figures. It looks & works a helluva lot better. The elbows don't have this ganged hinge, but are capable of a decent sweep range. The arms can be brought far across the chest, thanks to some deep cutouts at the shoulders. The split torso articulation is what you'd expect from this design: rotation, front-to-back, & side-to-side. Again, I reiterate my usual mantra about tensioning: Springs and elastic rule. However, if you go with pressure tensioning, give us some screws! This figure's got screws on the backside; ya might say she's got 'em coming out the wazoo (almost).

I can't really recommend this for the casual collector who just wants an articulated female figure to fit in with his Joe collection. It doesn't fit in any better than a Barbie-style doll, and those are a lot easier to find. Even if you're adept at customizing, adapting it would be a lot of work. Especially since there's already Jane, and other options are on the horizon. As of this writing, Dragon should be releasing (any time now) their first female figure, "Winona". I expect that it will be a better choice, having been designed to meet the expectations of the Joe market. Further down the road, we look forward to seeing 21st Century's "Matilda", and eventually (hopefully with some USA distribution), Takara's really cool-looking "Cool Girls". However, if you're interested in figure construction issues and appreciate the odd and offbeat, this one's worth checking out (especially for the whacky bit of extra detailing they threw in down yonder ;^).

 

Jimbob is currently on hiatus from his workshed insulation project, but promises to get back to it once it stops being so damned hot!