I had the opportunity to watch the anime adaptation of the Hobby Japan original franchise Hyakka Ryouran earlier this year and found the experience rather trite. I went in expecting an ecchi harem anime and that’s pretty much what I got, which would be fine if the series just wasn’t so damn generic about it. Where something like Sora no Otoshimono managed to feel fresh and hilariously over-the-top, Hyakka Ryouran felt formulaic and, ultimately, forgettable. I had expected much the same going into the Queen’s Blade anime only to come away pleasantly surprised to find a serviceable fantasy/action anime underneath all the overt sexualization, so I had hopes that Hyakka Ryouran would also exceed expectations, but alas, no.
Whatever Hyakka Ryouran‘s failings as an anime, the franchise has at least produced a small bounty of quality figures, which I think owes to the skillful character stylings of Nitroplus artist Niθ and the fact that Hobby Japan partnered with Alter for the majority of those figures. I have rarely been so tempted to pick up every single figure from one particular series as I have with Alter’s line of Hyakka Ryouran figures. They’ve been exceptionally good.
Naoe is my third Alter Hyakka Ryouran figure after normal and swimsuit Jubei, which I’ve previously reviewed. Naoe is introduced fairly late in the series as a comically inept henchman and she is painted as a bit of a self-important dunce. I found her to be one of the more likable characters in the anime, so when Alter unveiled an attractive Naoe in full combat regalia as their latest non-exclusive figure it wasn’t hard to commit to a preorder.
Where the Jubei figure presented a cool confidence that oddly juxtaposed her naive airhead personality, Naoe’s affable expression and casual body language is pretty much spot-on. Though relatively static, I like how the pose sets a playful, casual tone that mirrors Naoe’s usual demeanor. It emphasizes Naoe’s trademark gargantuan hammer and makes for a figure that has virtually no bad angles. Up front you’ve got Naoe’s happy-go-lucky mug framed by flowing twintails. On either side you can admire the ornamentation of the hammer and notice smaller details like Naoe’s water jug. Peek around back you’ll find Naoe’s shapely legs and deliciously round rump on provocative display.
What Naoe may lack for brains, she makes up with brutish strength as she wields a ridiculously large and ornate hammer without the powers of a Master Samurai enjoyed by some of the show’s other heroines. The hammer is one of the most striking features of this figure and also the source of its greatest weakness. It is beautifully detailed and goes a long way toward giving Naoe significant shelf presence, but it is also heavy enough that Alter felt the need to supply a support stand. I am not a fan of support stands as I feel they are eyesores, but I can appreciate that they are necessary at times.
Unfortunately, Alter’s idea of a support stand for Naoe is a free-standing, featherweight twig of plastic that slips loose if you so much as look at it the wrong way. It is a source of constant irritation when doing anything with this figure. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve gotten the hammer balanced, after much fiddling, only to come back later and find my delicate equilibrium disrupted by forces unseen. Considering that PLUM, a manufacturer with far less design experience than Alter, was able to put together a perfectly functional support arm for Alisa‘s monster sword, there’s simply no good excuse for why Alter’s solution should be this bad.
Now, one might question whether this support arm is really necessary at all. Alter frequently reinforces load-bearing PVC, such as Naoe’s right arm, with metal rods for strength and I’m fairly sure they’ve done so in Naoe’s case. I wasn’t able to detect any deformation of the plastic after numerous instances of finding the support arm lying down on the job. That said, if Alter deemed it necessary to include the extra support, then I’m not going to feel comfortable displaying Naoe without it for long periods of time for fear of permanently damaging the figure.
From a craftsmanship perspective, Naoe is consistent with the two previously released Jubei figures, which puts her in good standing. Paint and sculpt detail is universally excellent. Naoe’s hair, due to its length, presents a much larger canvas than Jubei’s and the artisans at Alter did a really nice job of bringing out a lot of detail in this department. There’s also the aforementioned hammer, which features an intricately detailed pattern printed on its surface. Most of the paint finish on Naoe is the matte variety with the hammer body and her thigh-highs getting a little glossier treatment.
As with Jubei and all the other normal clothes variants of the show’s heroines, Naoe features a glossy white plastic display base with sakura blossoms and the series logo emblazoned in gold print. It’s a functional design–other than the aforementioned support arm, which is technically a separate piece–and moderately attractive, but also strictly average in that GSC and others have been putting out more impressive textured terrain bases somewhat regularly for a few years now.
In the end, I feel that Alter’s Kanetsugu Naoe is an excellent figure whose only real flaw comes as a result of some shoddy mechanical engineering. The creative design and manufacturing excellence are there, but a critical piece of hardware whose sole purpose is functional is essentially thrown in as an afterthought. I don’t feel it’s a showstopper, though, and I don’t regret picking up Naoe despite the unreliable nature of the hammer support stand.
The Hyakka Ryouran franchise is fairly well-tread at this point, as most of the characters have received the figure treatment in some form. I’ve been enjoying the ride up to this point, though, so I’m inclined to say I’m eager to see more. I hear there’s a second season in the works. Hopefully, it will be better than the first. If nothing else, it should give Alter reason to push out some new figure designs and maybe a few re-releases (Matabei, please?).
- High-grade craftsmanship
- Playful pose
- Flashy weaponry
- One very short skirt
- Worthless support arm design
Alter’s Naoe proved to be a popular figure, so there are plenty of quality reviews to check out if you’re looking for an alternate take.
- Purchased from: HobbyLink Japan
- Order date: 1-Dec-2011
- Ship date: 29-Feb-2012
- Receive date: 19-Mar-2012
- Base price (JPY): ¥7,920
- Shipping cost (JPY): ¥1,380 (SAL Small Packet, Unregistered)
- Total cost (JPY): ¥9,300
- Total cost (USD): $115.92
- Package dimensions (width): 300 mm
- Package dimensions (height): 270 mm
- Package dimensions (depth): 170 mm
- Shipping weight (figure + display box): 757 g
- Shipping weight (total): 1167 g