costarring MAI SHIRANUI

Last modified: Tuesday, February 5, 2002 6:36 PM

Joanna DARK???



I have no idea who "Joanna Dark" is supposed to be and I don't feel motivated enough to look it up on the Internet. It's irrelevant anyway, since this is about the figure and not the character. This may be BBI's (Blue Box International) first female figure: Although they brought us the CY Girls, I believe those are actually Takara's creations (under the name "Cool Girls"). The design of this figure is similar to those, but differs in a number of ways. It doesn't "feel" like a Cy Girl. The most obvious differences are easy to see; the ganged-hinge elbows and knees, plus the use of bare naked feet. These are things that many Cy Girl fans have wanted since Day Two.

Once you begin ripping off her clothes, a few other differences become obvious. She's... squishy. In the chest area. To check it out you've got to get through this see-through black mesh thing. Very weird... it's not finished at neckhole, armholes or bottom. It's as if this isn't intended to be an actual article of clothing. The outfit's zipper's on the back, so the mesh isn't for modesty. Besides, the unfinished neckhole would show. What's that about? I suspect it's for protection-- squishy sometimes means trouble... the kind that time reveals.

Well, once you do get it off, you discover that her chest is actually a rubber breast piece. With nipples and areolae. It's glued onto a hard plastic chest with a small cavity of air inbetween to make them squishable. The rubber's too thick for it to be useful for molding the boobs into different styles of bra-wear. It doesn't jiggle or hide articulation seams. It's there so that you can get the tactile thrill of pushing in on them. Woo hoo. Pervs 'R' Us. Despite my having peeled it back to satisfy my curiosity, DON'T DO THIS. It's not meant to be removed-- at least not that way! Instead, the entire sandwich- the soft and hard plastic fit onto an even thinner inner chest with two pins. Lift from the edge at the bottom, dig in at the side seams and pull outward. You should end up with a chestpiece and a torso resembling pictures 3 and 4 (added after-the-fact). Could this be Dragon's fabled "removeable upper torso concepts"? I believe it is. Evidently, they intend to sell breast packs! Hmmmmm... Yep. It's the sort of classy thing you'd find at a novelty shop like Spencer's, in the back, right next to the whoopie cushions and coffee cup with breasts. I guess it follows in BBI's grand tradition of their "custom expression mechanism", and it's probably only a matter of time before they develop a figure with custom penis expressions. This kind of stuff makes it ever so much easier for us to be understood by folks who aren't in the hobby. For all its decadence, it's still an interesting piece of engineering though...

In other areas, BBI's changes aren't quite as innovative or daring. They've borrowed the interesting additional shoulder articulation first seen on the Volks figures. Whether this is a good thing remains to be seen: If they loosen with time, ya gotta fix 'em. This wouldn't be a simple teflon tape repair either, since the ball sockets are located deep within the torso. With Volks figures, the torso halves are secured with screws so the parts can be tightened. JD requires torso cracking. After you remove her upper torso concepts, you face an awfully small inner torso to dissect.

They've also given us some useful enhancements that we've seen before: an added rotation axis on the wrist and the ball/socketed feet. Fortunately, these parts are standardized to fit the Cy Girl figures and vice-versa. The same goes for the head.

Despite this compatibility and other similarities, this doesn't seem quite like a Cy Girl to me. One of the differences is the type of plastic used. It's less glossy and feels less brittle. The joints seem considerably tighter. These are good things. The color could be tweaked a bit, but it's not awful. One element in the difference comes from the fact that JD is a lot taller than a Cy Girl-- her legs are long, thin and gangly. Overall though, I see the difference as a kind of paradox. The Cy Girls have a kind of sensual build-- meaty and "pneumatic" you could say. It's almost artistic. In adding all those joints and fake boobs, the JD figure inexplicably lost some of that aura, and tends to look a little more like a Dragon female figure!

Still, it's a kewl release from BBI and is worth picking up just for the high articulation count and the odd gimmicky stuff. Personally, I think it would be a better figure if they gave up on that soft rubber crap-- that's going to look marvelous when the plastics discolor with age. But we're customizers, so that's not a big deal. With some effort, I think it would be possible to restore some of that lost sensuality too...



ADDENDUM, 01/30/02 I've thought some more about the "squishy boob" thing, trying to identify why I wasn't crazy about it. Considering the character of this website and on the (rubbery) surface, it seems like it should be a neat thing. And it is... but in a shamelessly gimmicky way. It would be great fun to have a figure with breasts which could be inflated too. Or lever-operated pelvic thrust action. It bothers me that the feature turns what could be a "serious figure" into a glorified "party favor" or gag doll.

I think the question to ask is whether this neat-o feature compromises the long-term prospects of the figure, and whether the trade-off is worth it. What if, as the figure ages, the front and back sections of the torso turn different shades? What if the rubber picks up dirt and stains like Dragon's "Real Skin" (or whatever) Noriko figure? What if the rubber chemically interacts with articles of clothing or hard plastic accessories? I'd rather have a "serious" figure which removed these questions instead of one with membrane switch-like boob action. I mean, geeesh! Is that some loser's idea of titillation?

On a moralistic note, I feel that as mainstream companies push the boundaries of civility backwards in the name of the almighty buck, it legitimizes the new level of permissiveness and our culture becomes a little more decadent... I mean, look at Nickelodeon, ferchristssake! Civilization needs those boundaries and taboos. Decadent shit should be recognized for what it is and remain in the radical fringe where it rightfully belongs.

(BTW, this diatribe isn't against the removeable aspect of the upper torso concept. I think that's a cool idea since it allows a wide range of costuming options for differently posed and sized boobs. What I don't like is the lame implementation of the "articulated boob" concept. It doesn't work and amounts to a cheesy trick that compromises the "serious" aspect of the figure.)

ALTERNATE THOUGHTS ON THE FEET, 02/15/02 Bare nekkid feet are something that folks have howled about since first discovering that the CY girls had bootfeet: JD's feet would seem to be the answer to that prayer. I'm not so sure though... There's nothing wrong with them of course, and having the option is a win-win situation. In practical terms though, the bootfeet were never all that bad and probably work better for most figures. I think this is something Takara figured out during the design phase, when you try to be logical about stuff. For one thing, the fit is better. Since the foot doesn't have to fit inside the boot, the boot can be made to closely conform to the shape of the figure's calf, without the big opening at the top. That looks a heckuva lot better for skintight outfits like the one JD's wearing. Another good thing about the bootfeet is that the boot material is much more pliable than most molded plastics, which allows the ball-jointed ankles to actually serve a purpose. For situations where a bloused boot look is called for, the bootfoot can be disassembled and fit into a standard rubber boot. In some ways, JD's bare nekkid feet are like this type of bootfeet-- they're hard to extract from the boot they come with, and they remove from the figure much easier than they remove from the boot. Footwear swaps would be much easier with spare feet stuck in spare boots-- in other words, bootfeet! The main difference is that it's nice to know that there's a real humanish looking part on the inside. As I see it, the only situation where these bare nekkid feet are absolutely needed is if you're doing a figure with bare nekkid feet or wearing sandals.


my, my...shameless... cover yer eyes!


I hadn't planned on reviewing the Mai Shiranui figure... the picture above sez it all. Well, almost. If you like eye candy, the pic shows what you're getting. Beyond that, the big question is probably about articulation. The answer is: head and mid-torso rotation. That's it. So this is only marginally more articulated than the Playboy playmate Victoria figurine ( I neglected to mention that her right hand is slightly poseable). But Mai's 1:6 scale. Still, I can't see how she'd fit in with a regular collection of Joes. She's better suited for hanging out with her bud from the "King of Fighters 2000" collection (a guy named "Kyo"). Her clothes are removeable, with some difficulty but what's the point? (The answer is "no", she's not detailed down there.) It would probably be real difficult to dress her up in a camouflaged SS smock, on account of her fixed pose. Besides, her butt-in-the-air-with-dangling-megaboobs pose creates some balance problems which only get worse due to the vinyl construction. I can think of only one diorama possibility with a backdoor pose like that, but let's not get into that here. Like I said, she's shelfmeat eye candy and in my opinion, is designed to live imprisoned in her display box.

Sigh... it seems to be a fact of this hobby: If you want pure nekkid foxiness, unposeable figurines and garage kits are the way to go... Of course, that doesn't offer any explanation for Joanna Dark's ugly walleyed head!