Last modified: Saturday, April 27, 2002 7:45 AM



The original review of this figure (below) wasn't well received by some (assuming that an individual's opinion represents a larger body of like-minded individuals), having been called "whiney" (which I don't argue with since that's how I characterize my tone) and the result of having inhaled too many paint fumes (which may be true, even though I mainly use water-based acrylics). That's totally okay with me since everyone is entitled to express their opinion, and I certainly do express mine. Actually, it would be surprising if the things I write didn't get under someone's skin, wouldn't it? But I like criticism because it gives me an excuse to soapbox... and you know how I love to do that.

The reader should recognize my reviews for what they are: This is a personal/public document which joins that huge heap of unfiltered information on the Internet. I don't have any special scholarly qualifications, and anyone can write a review (You know the saying about opinions and assholes?). I write these reviews from my own perspective, period. I'm not paid to do it and it's not influenced by anyone through the loyalty of friendship, or because they've done me favors. I prefer it that way because it allows me to be honest about what I say, and be as brutal as I want to be. My purpose is not to tell you what you want to hear, convince you to buy the product (although that may be my conclusion), or reaffirm your wisdom for having bought it. I don't intend for my reviews to cover everything that could be said about a product either. Generally speaking, unless I need a filler or transitional paragraph and happen to be thinking of it, I'm not going to write about things like how glad I am that the manufacturer is now giving us heads with the teeth painted over, or that they've painted the eyes forward-facing, or that they didn't produce an oddball design that was rumored from seeing prototype pictures. I may write about stuff like that sometimes, but it just isn't very high on my giveashit list. And if I've covered a topic in another review, I don't necessarily restate it.

What I do is make observations about the product, focusing on issues that are of interest to me. This mainly includes things like the construction and the design of a product, but not exclusively. I do try to explain my reasoning for the conclusions. I do try to be fair when speaking of specific issues and try to evaluate the product, independent of how I may feel about the company. I do have opinions about companies and their decisions, and occasionally put a snide or mean spin on a comment-- particularly when I think a decision is a dumb one, and richly deserving of such treatment. The writing style is informal, not technical, so I hope that you're able to tell the difference between colorful comments, flippant jokes, purely subjective topics and solid issues: The nature of language requires filtering and interpretative skills from the reader, especially for the badly written stuff. That's true of everything you read though. Finally, some of the conclusions are clearly based on speculation: If I later learn that an article needs correction, I will humbly do so and apologize profusely.

With regard to this particular review, the tone was influenced by several factors: This was a highly anticipated release. The figure turned out to be a Joanna Dark body with a CG/Cy Girl head and an extra breast plate. In other words, actually, this was something we already had, not something new. It would be a little dishonest for me to feign excitement since I'm not one of those happy people who can watch a movie 100 times and enjoy it like I did the first time.

I remind you that it's possible to be critical of aspects of a product but still appreciate and even like it overall. Customizing itself is based on dissatisfaction-- from "kitbashing" to resculpting a body-- we look for the things we don't like and try to fix or improve them. So as you read through the reviews, recognize it as me thinking aloud-- whether I write reviews or not, some version of this analysis goes into which figure I select for a project, what I'm gonna fix, what properties of a figure I like and don't like, and why.


T H E    O R I G I N A L   R E V I E W

Dammit, I've already broken my rule about frivolous spending... oh well. Fortunately, these gals weren't very expensive, at $12.50 apiece from War Toys. What incredible service: ordered Friday, received on Monday! So I bought three of 'em, which isn't what you're seeing in the top picture. That's three pictures of the same figure, wearing the supplied outfit, then without the outfit showing the two "interchangeable bodices" as BBI calls 'em. ("Bodice" sounds more natural than "upper torso concept" and less vulgar than "replacement tits".) The other two variations have different heads-- the most tanned has long (mid-torso) brown hair and the other one has shoulder-length blond hair. Blondie's skin tone is similar to this figure's-- a very light flesh which makes Joanna Dark's light fleshtone look slightly olive in comparison.

I mention Joanna Dark because these are basically identical in construction, including the height. Many of the photos and comments from the Joanna Dark review are relevant here, so I'm gonna keep this simple. Generally with this design, I feel that BBI has given up some of the aesthetically-pleasing qualities of their CG/CY Girls in favor of more articulation and gimmicks: That tradeoff is a recurring rant at this website. I would have to say that you do get used to this body style's look-- it's not that bad, and the extra articulation is useful. But it should be obvious from the pics that this figure just does not look as good as the standard CG/CY Girl without the clothes. It's not just the sculpting either-- the seams across the legs at hip level preclude the tasteful wearing of bikini briefs and chainmail underwear.

Another unfortunate design change from the original CG/CY is the introduction of click-stops in the leg joints; it's leg articulation done in 3-bit digital for a whopping total of 6 positions, front to back. It sucks compared to the continuously adjustable design of the original figure and seriously limits the posing ability of the figure. In addition, the legs don't have the inner range to close together like they did on the original figure, which means that the figure can't do some of the most alluring poses known to man. Kind of ironic, given the additional articulation, IMO.

I'm less critical of the new Volks-like shoulder design. It doesn't look terrible and might permit some interesting and useful posing possibilities... arrrghhhh...if it worked smoothly! Unfortunately, you have to fight it to get the full range, some positions don't take, all the while feeling like something's gonna break. If you're trying to achieve a particular pose for a photo, you probably should adjust these first because wrestling with them at the end will ensure that everything else you've carefully posed will become unposed. The word "Yugo" comes to mind as I think of how smoothly Volks' execution of this same design works. Maybe you just have to break the figure in?

On the plus side, this new figure design has some of the best-designed non-gloved hands around. While the more recent traditionally styled CG/CY figures (Blaze & Nikki) have lots of extra hands with the additional "Sideshow"-style wrist rotation, it's only present on the gloved hands. All the bare hands are done in the traditional manner with a single wrist hinge. I initially thought they did it like that because the gloved hands had an edge which tended to conceal the abrupt change from hand to wrist joint, but this new style of hands shows that it can be done with a minimal cost to the appearance.

I've saved the breast talk for last because it's the most obvious thing to talk about. The first question upon seeing the boxed figure is "what's up with the silver stripe across the backup breasts?". The silver stripe is for modesty as the figure sits on a shelf... apparently they thought that it was more acceptable to have the breasts covered with a painted vacuformed tray instead of just projecting forth in natural fleshtone. Nevermind that the tray conforms to the exact shape of the boobs, including the slight nipple bump. This could obviously be trimmed and used as a vacuformed bra. FYI, the larger boobs (center pic) are the ones trapped beneath the modesty panel, and outwardly, Joanna Dark's boobs are identical to the smaller set.

Actually, the boobs are the most significant difference between Joanna Dark and these Perfect Body figures (besides the headsculpts). BBI has changed the means of attachment and the material used in the bodice plate. Bummer... I can't rant about "squishy boobs" this time. Joanna Dark's bodice plate was constructed of a hard plastic with a thick rubber skin glued to it; this plugged into the figure's inner chest via two center mounted pins. The Perfect Body's bodice plate is a single piece of molded vinyl(?). It's similar to the plastic used in some old Hasbro weapons and the Marx knight's armor-- slightly waxy and flexible, but with a matte texture. It's not squishy like JD's rubber boobs. Although the inner chest plate design is identical, the bodice plate is attached with a single alignment pin and tabs which hook around the back of the inner chest plate. This change probably saves them a lot of money, and it feels cheaper too. I would have preferred that they used hard plastic bodice plates which consistently fit correctly and securely instead of these which need to be fussed with to make sure they align with the back plate. They probably would have had an easier time with the skin tone match too-- the vinyl boobs are slightly pinker than the rest of the figure.

All in all, I think the bodice plates have potential, but as presented are a missed opportunity which detract from the product's value. With this offering, they had the chance to give two different "styles" of breasts, but they chose to include frontally projecting bubble breasts in two expansions, both fairly large. Why not one with pushed-together cleavage? Why not a pair of "relaxed" natural ones? Why not a smaller pair for the deviants? Between the three headsculpt variations, they had the opportunity to do that. I think the variations in skin tones may also present some problems; diversifying an expandable product line with "soft" variety like that multiplies the problem of maintaining those separate variations. If they do release extra bodice packs, they'll need to produce, identify, and separately track these variations; then deal with the inventory issue as they discover which skintones sell best. I'm skeptical that it will go that far, given the short attention span of modern businesses. I think they're more likely to orphan this concept as they move onto the next design change-- but I'd prefer that didn't happen.

Finally, I mentioned that I felt that this detracted from the product's value. By this I meant, its value to the customizer. If you want to customize this figure with breasts of your own design (y'know, the highly desirable ice cream cone style?), you're going to have a harder time working with this soft vinyl. The Mickey-Mouse attachment tabs almost guarantee that the plates won't stay put after they've been subjected to some wear. A hard plastic bodice plate would be much easier to sculpt over, not flex and separate from the sculpting medium, and provide a much more reliable and durable means of attachment.

Despite all my criticism, what can you expect for $12.50? It's great that BBI is responsive to the unfocused cry from fans, even if the juggling does lead to some weird compromises. Personally, if I ran the company in my unique nazi-like fashion, I'd cut off all connection with those pesky customers-who-were-always-right (snigger) and produce expensive figures that met my exacting and uncompromising standards. All ten of them, before filing for bankruptcy. Damn! It's a good thing I'm not running a company!!


B A S H I N G   T H E   F I G U R E

You can make observations and speculate about construction till the cows come home, but you never really know until you do the deed. This is where curiosity gets satisfied; where you get to see how accurate your blind construction guesses were, and understand why articulation "feels" the way it does. Not every figure needs this treatment since with many figures you can easily guess how they're constructed-- the exact particulars usually aren't necessary unless you've got something really special planned and need to know exactly where the wall supports and alignment pins are.

The JD/PB body has a couple construction mysteries which make this worthwhile: What's with the click-stop legs, and how does the new shoulder joint mechanism work? Initially, I trashed the click-stop leg "improvement", but was more charitable about the shoulder mechanism. From what I see now, I'd add the shoulder mechanism to the list of dubious improvements.

First though, the legs. It's easy to see how this works-- the normally smooth circular leg-hip retaining flange has been cast in a gear shape. This interlocks with the normally smooth between-leg pressure shim in the center of the hip. This special flexible shim has been cast with the imprint of that gear shape so that it interlocks. As the leg deflects forwards or backwards, the gear rotates, the flexible shim's teeth bend and the hard teeth of the gear "click" to the next position in the shim. Even though the "gear" has more than 6 teeth, the housing limits the rotation to a little over 90 degrees (which isn't a complaint). On some level you can appreciate this as a clever design, but it belongs in a washing machine's cycle switch instead of in a figure's hip. If you don't understand why I'm so rabidly opposed to this low-rez digital approach to articulation, try posing the figure's legs at the hips. Compare that to how an original CG/CY poses. If you still don't get it, we obviously live on different planes of Reality. Is there a cure for this? Short of dissassembly, all you can do is move each leg back and forth a couple million times and hope that's enough to wear down those rubber teeth.

The shoulders... sigh... Disassembly revealed a puzzling design-- not what I'd expected to find-- which explained why I'd been so frustrated with the operation of the shoulders. They only look like Volks' design from the outside. Inside, you can see why they're not as smooth-operating or poseable as the Volks design: Bluntly put, it's a kludge. Frankly, I don't know what to make of it since they're so oddly designed for what I think their function is supposed to be (or extremely well-designed for whatever mysterious function they're supposed to serve) . It appears that they're trying to achieve the deep center pin/long lever mechanism by enlarging the shaft hole through the housing. The rubber retaining shim serves to keep the arm's regular rotation frictioned while allowing a little bit of off-axis rotation within the housing. And I emphasize the part about it being only a little bit- it doesn't amplify into a very wide sweep by the time it hits the arm and if you're getting amazing range and think I'm FOS, it's probably because you're bending the shaft. I'll let you decide whether that's a good thing or not. The only thing I can guess is that the Volks design is patented so they tried to come up with another way of approximating the function using differently shaped parts(?) My conclusion: It's a bad tradeoff, so why bother? It doesn't add that much (except frustration) to the figure's poseability since it doesn't work very well, and it detracts from the figure's appearance (though not horribly). I dunno-- it does look like the Volks articulation from the outside, so maybe that's its purpose? I think that toy producers are hip to the fact that most of their consumers are more readily impressed by the quantity of articulation than by the actual quality of it.