Review: Yamato 1/6 Iris Hallett ~Creators’ Labo 032~

The first scale PVC figure I ever purchased was Yamato’s 1/8 Aoyama Motoko, of Love Hina fame, back in 2005. It was cheap, poorly detailed, required a ridiculously ugly support arm, and was generally terrible all-around by today’s standards. Despite her failings, Yamato’s Motoko acted as my gateway drug to the figure scene and I appreciated her for what she was, at least until I knew better. As an unfortunate side effect of that experience, I’ve tended to associate Yamato with cheap, ugly figures ever since and generally wouldn’t give them the time of day.

Enter Iris Hallett as the 32nd entry in Yamato’s Creators Labo series, based on the iconic artwork of Masamune Shirow. It’s rare that Yamato figures manage to really get my attention, but Iris did the trick well enough to overcome my reservations with buying Yamato and committing to what was a pretty pricey offering for a non-exclusive, non-limited PVC figure.

Gallery

Review

My personal path to anime discovery started with collecting fan-made wallpapers back in the early 2000s. At the time, Shirow’s artwork showed up frequently and I regarded him as a prominent mangaka much as I do with Tony Taka or Range Murata today. I suspect that Shirow still commands a fair amount of respect within certain niches, but I feel as though he has faded into relative obscurity. Upon consideration of the significance of this Iris figure, I realized that figures based on Shirow’s work are surprisingly rare, especially compared to similar artists like the aforementioned Tony Taka or Shunya Yamashita. I rarely see him mentioned within the anime community anymore and it seems as though he’s mostly just pushing out a new artbook every year or so.

Shirow is best known for being the progenitor of the Ghost in the Shell franchise and most of the figures that we have seen have featured the Major, but Iris here is actually sourced from Shirow’s more recent Pieces series of artbooks. Even so, the two settings share a similar sci-fi design aesthetic that makes Iris look as though she’d be right at home alongside the Major.

Iris sports a pink leotard underneath a black tech suit featuring a conspicuous cutout that presumably affords Iris a tad more mobility while conveniently providing nearby onlookers with a generous view of her butt. The overt lasciviousness of the character design is a Shirow hallmark and one which should be appreciated by what is likely a predominantly male audience for this figure. In addition to her obvious sex appeal, Iris also carries an impressive array of weaponry and ammunition which covers a significant portion of the available surface area on her tech suit.

As I alluded to earlier, I was concerned as to what kind of quality I could expect from Yamato considering that I had not seen one of their figures first-hand since that aforementioned, disappointing Motoko figure. Admittedly, the Motoko figure is quite old (2005) and quality across the industry has tangibly improved in the time since her release. Having received Iris, I am pleased to reported that my fears were unfounded. Yamato did an excellent job with the paint and sculpt work on Iris.

I definitely appreciate that Yamato chose to render Iris at 1/6 scale, as I feel that going beyond the standard 1/8 scale tends to give sculptors more room to bring out good detail that holds up under close scrutiny. In Iris’s case, they did a great job creating texture and contrast with the intricate stitching covering the surface of the tech suit. It’s difficult to see in photos, but the crevices that make up the stitching snaking across the surface of the suit are filled with a darker, glossy black paint which contrasts with the slightly lighter, satin finish making up the body of the leather-like surface. It’s a nice, subtle touch that accentuates the craftsmanship that Yamato put into this figure.

The display base is never the focal point on a figure, but much like the frame around a painting, it plays an important support role and helps set the tone of the piece. In Iris’s case, her display base is functional, but uninspired, with nothing more than a silver metallic coat of paint for adornment. It holds Iris securely enough, but it’s easy to imagine that a little extra effort here could have made this a more complete work of art.

The obvious mark against Yamato’s Iris is that she’s expensive. The realm of ¥10,000+ figures is usually reserved for releases that are unusually large (1/5+ scale), made of more exotic materials (resin, polystone, etc.), or feature unusually complex sculpts (moto-Saber, Godoka, etc.). I don’t see Iris falling into any of these categories, which makes her ¥12,800 price tag objectionable. Now, I don’t mind paying a premium for a top-quality figure and I feel like Yamato delivered that with Iris, but they probably scared off at least a few potential buyers by positioning Iris where they did.

All in all, Iris is pretty much exactly what I had hoped she would be: a well-executed release that shows that Yamato can put out a quality figure with the best of them. Despite the price tag, I’m definitely glad I picked this figure up and I’ll be scanning the horizon for more figures like her in the future.

Highs

  • Large scale (1/6)
  • Impressive craftsmanship
  • Faithful to Shirow’s artwork
  • Sex appeal

Lows

  • Expensive for a standard-run PVC (¥12,800 before vendor discounts)
  • Boring display base

Miscellany

Credits

Credits to Tier over at Tentacle Armada for the idea I used for the backdrop in this set, which is basically a pair of gelled flashes pointed at some foam packaging materials very similar to the setup described in his Lacia shot breakdown. Prior to going this route, I shot a bunch of pictures of Iris with various setups only to come away dissatisfied with the results, which is a big part of why this review is only coming out now. I worked on and off for the past couple months trying to get a decent set of photos that I wouldn’t be totally embarrassed to publish. 😕

Financial Data

  • Purchased from: Big in Japan
  • Order date: 13-Mar-2012
  • Ship date: 13-Jul-2012
  • Receive date: 28-Jul-2012
  • Base price (JPY): ¥10,368
  • Shipping cost (JPY): ¥1,590 (SAL Small Packet, Registered)
  • Total cost (JPY): ¥11,958
  • Total cost (USD): $151.16

Technical Data

  • Package dimensions (width): 200 mm
  • Package dimensions (height): 310 mm
  • Package dimensions (depth): 160 mm
  • Shipping weight (figure + display box): 585 g
  • Shipping weight (total): 1035 g

10 thoughts on “Review: Yamato 1/6 Iris Hallett ~Creators’ Labo 032~

  1. Woah nice setup there, really fitting for this figure

    Mhhh I never heard of Shirow before how ignorant ;(

    The figure looks cool, The black parts of her outfit are especially nice, I really like the texture. Im not that convinced by the pink part of the leotard dress at her upper body, more black leather there would have been nice imo. From her back it doesn’t bother me it’s the opposite actually, it’s nice how her butt is revealed ^^

    Aside from that I can’t really complain about anything else, the pose is bad ass as well as all the weapons she has. Can the figure randomly equipped with these parts or are they all fixed?

    The price might be a bit high for people who don’t know Iris or Shirow in general, but for fans that might be worth it, since there isn’t much else to choose from.

    I really think that Yamato got better since 2005, I have one from 2007 and 2011. The one from 2007 (Arisa) is quite nice aside from the fact that on peg broke off the base and I can’t display her anymore *sob* The one from 2011 (Sonico) is a lot better in terms of stability =)

    • I’m not surprised to hear that Shirow’s work is going unnoticed these days. Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed are really the only works of his that I’ve seen gain any mainstream visibility and even those are relatively niche titles. It’s a shame Shirow doesn’t get more attention, because he’s got one of the more distinctive art styles I’ve seen in the anime and manga space.

      I agree that the back of the leotard is probably the least visually interesting area on the figure. It seems like she should be wearing a harness or something there to hold more guns.

      The various ammo clips, small arms, and knives cannot be removed. The big rifle technically can be, but then you’re left with a pretty ugly piece of plastic sticking out of her hand that’s supposed to connect to the gun. Iris is pretty much intended to be displayed one way, which is fine with me.

      I definitely get the impression that Yamato has upped their game a lot in recent years. In some quick research prior to ordering Iris, I found their Heat Blade (2011) and Compact Hog (2010) figures, which feature a similar design aesthetic and seemed to turn out rather well.

  2. I’m happy to say I haven’t had such an experience that would make me avoid a manufacturer or think of them negatively. Probably the closest would be Griffon but I changed my opinion of them.

    I seen this figure before and I always wonder who the character was and from where, I always got this sense of familiarity and now I know why. I never really payed attention to Shirow and his works but I did use to see them pop up more in years past not so much nowadays like you mentioned.

    I think the effort with the pictures was worth it, really nice backdrop to use.

    • While I do genuinely feel that Yamato’s Motoko was the worst figure I’ve ever purchased, she was also positioned as a budget figure–very different from Iris here or most of the figures I tend to go for. I don’t think I paid much more than about $30 for her, so it’s probably a little unfair to compare her to higher-end figures that today go for $100+.

      Much of my early collecting experience involved repeated disappointment because the final PVC figures never looked as good as the painted prototypes, so I think I’ve tended to be untrusting of newcomers until they prove themselves, so to speak. I’m probably guilty of fixating too much on who makes a given figure and assigning merit based on past performance rather than objectively evaluating each individual release on its own merit.

      I think the Pieces artbook series from which Iris hails is pretty obscure unless you’ve been actively following Shirow’s work. I had to look up the details myself for the review and I suspect that a lot of people who just happen upon this figure wouldn’t make the connection without an explicit reference.

  3. Ha, one of my earliest figures was Yamato’s 1/8 Minawa Andou PVC. I was unimpressed with her quality back then and am horrified by it now. From the shoddy painting to the cheap quality of the plastic, I still have a hard time believing she’s not a bootleg. Like you, I avoided Yamato for YEARS because of Minawa’s godawful quality.

    I eventually caved and picked up one of Creator’s Labo Honey and Clover figures. Wasn’t bad, but was super small for the price. (1/12 scale for 4800 yen. HIGHWAY ROBBERY) What changed my opinion was their recent Violet from Dendrobrium/Nishieda figure. Her quality is easily on par with Max Factory and Good Smile. It’s shocking.

    Iris looks fantastic. It’s clear that Yamato’s REALLY stepped up their game. If they keep this up they might end up as one of the top tier figure companies in the future.

    I’ve known about Masamune Shirow for years but have yet to get into any of his works. He really does have a distinct style. It’s kind of mind-blowing that he doesn’t get more recognition outside of Japan, especially considering how highly regarded Ghost in the Shell is…

    • Yeah, I flipped through the Minawa pics on MFC and the finish looks pretty rough. I actually don’t recall Motoko’s paint being especially egregious, but the plastic felt very flimsy and the hair sculpt was pretty horrific (her bangs looked like they were glued on to her head).

      I actually thought the Dendrobium figures looked a little off when they were first announced, but after looking at them again now, they’re better than I had thought. The MFC user rating is pretty good, too, which is usually a good since. Probably not something I would pick up, but nice all the same.

      Iris is pretty awesome. She’s not as flashy as some of the high profile releases like moto-Saber or Godoka, so she’s gotten less attention than she probably deserves, but I definitely feel she’s one of my favorite figures for the year.

      The success of the Ghost in the Shell movies and TV anime never really seemed to kick back to the original manga for whatever reason. I think I even recall reading somewhere that Shirow wasn’t even involved in the creation of the first movie. I know Dark Horse localized the manga for the US, but it never seemed to gain much traction from what I could tell; unlike, say, Berserk.

  4. My first scale-size figure also was a Yamato figure, one of their Kanu Uncho figures. It looks rather shabby now, and the character scarcely resembles Kanu, but I still like it, though not quite as much as I used to. However, I’d purchased some of their earlier stuff, including some of their non-scale figures of the Major from Ghost in the Shell, and I also had a few of their transforming Macross Valkyrie toys. Back in the day, it was a bit difficult to get an accurately-modeled transforming Valkyrie; Bandai’s version was called the “chunky monkey” – mostly with affection, but it was also an admission that it wasn’t a very aesthetically-pleasing rendition. Yamato’s 1/48 scale VF-1s, though, are amazing, so my early opinion of Yamato was very positive, which seems to put me in a minority.

    Iris looks very nice; she seems to be a lot more in line with Heat Blade and Compact Hog, both in terms of size and quality, which is very nice. I’ve always been a bit surprised that more of Shirow’s stuff hasn’t been made into figures, though reading up a bit, I guess there are a lot of people who don’t even know who he is (which I must admit astonishes me; I thought he was one of the most famous artists in the entire anime industry, but I guess not, or at least not anymore).

    I’m hoping the girl from the Hellhound books gets a figure from Yamato, though being that she comes from the later Pieces books – which are way, way …. way more explicit than Pieces 2 – maybe that might not happen. Still, I’ve got my fingers crossed.

    • I think I know the Kanu figure you’re talking about. If it’s the one I’m thinking of (MFC link), then it was definitely on my wish list back in the day. I had kind of forgotten about it, which is probably a good thing since looking at it now I can see that it has aged rather badly and it doesn’t look much like Kanu, as you pointed out.

      I was similarly surprised to learn of Shirow’s relative obscurity. He was quite possibly the first Japanese artist I ever learned by name and whose work I could recognize automatically. I have similar trouble understanding why Oh! great’s Tenjho Tenge was quickly forgotten while Ikki Tousen is an ongoing marketing bonanza created by someone I’ve never heard of. The two series seem remarkably similar, content-wise, to me.

      Yamato already did the Dendrobium girls and that’s a fairly explicit work, so I don’t see why Yamato wouldn’t take a stab at the Hellhound books on the basis of content. It would be nice to see someone pull from Shirow’s newer works rather than falling back on Ghost in the Shell, its merits notwithstanding.

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