Saturday, 22 August 2015

1/7 Cerberus (Max Factory)

Continuing our reviews of figures that have appeared in my Year End Review trend...

Cerberus was one of my superficial buys. When I ordered her, I knew nothing of her character except that she looked cute, had an attractive outfit, and was manufactured by Max Factory, both of which were apparently enough to warrant a buy.

A wise old mentor figure once told me, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a card game in possession of sexy assets, must be in want of expansion." And indeed, it seems card games of Japanese origin embody this adage most vigorously. Look forth upon my fields where I lay my cards, and see that an entire franchise hath grown. Such is the beauty and glory of good art.

No, seriously, Shingeki no Bahamut has some seriously good art (and some not so good, but let's ignore those for now). I remember the good ol' days where I used to collect pokemon cards just to stare at the cute little 2D critters. With art like this, it's little wonder Shingeki no Bahamut has spawned a following.

Before long, Shingeki no Bahamut expanded into the world of figures and shows. And it was surprisingly enjoyable all the way. I even ventured a peek at Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis with a healthy dose of skepticism, and was pleasantly surprised when the anime made an effort to have an original plot and characters. Cerberus's role, unfortunately, is reduced to fan-service side-girl, but hey, if that's really the best role for her, then so be it. But enough about her character. More about her figure.

(**Click to enlarge photos**)

Cerberus's box is a box. It does as a box should. It has art of the figure inside should you forget how the figure is supposed to look despite being able to see it past the plastic window. And also some other art. Moving on.

Cerberus's base is simple and stable. It doesn't gain points for creativity, nor does it lose any for loss of function. It is what it is, perfectly neutral.

Now we get into the good stuff.

Cerberus's pose exudes energy and youth, with a hint of mischievousness. Her hands are ruthlessly shoved up the posteriors of her magical puppy companions. With her knees tucked and head slightly tilted, she appears to be in the middle of a mocking jig (or has to go to the bathroom, but let's stick with the jig idea).

If I were to list the top factors that influence my decision to buy a figure, "her face" would probably be close to the top. Luckily, I allow some transgressions if various other factors, e.g. quality, detail, overall aesthetics, are appealing enough. That being said, I both like and dislike Cerberus' face. I like that it's round. I like her smile. It accentuates her youthful, playful pose. I like the shading of her eyes, but I'm not a huge fan of their shape.

Finally, like many-an-anime girl, Cerberus seems to have lost her nose, a gimmick I've never found pleasing. Sure, it makes her face smoother and softer, but it also makes it a lot flatter. It also opens up an uncomfortable blank space between her eyes and mouth. Like someone took an eraser and accidentally smudged out the one feature that would have rendered the picture complete. Why the lack of proboscis, Max Factory? She's got a small nose in the original pics, don't she?

An up-close of her face, as well as an up-close of her mouth. Like I said, I like her grin, but I would like it better if it had slightly more definition.

But Jenn, you protest, wouldn't she look weird with fully sculpted teeth and all? To which I reply, Rightly so, I don't buy figures for the sake of their dental verisimilitude, after all. But it's not merely her tiny, flat teeth that bother me, but her general lack of dimension in the mouth area (for an excellent mouth, check out Max Factory's 7th Dragon Miku). No lips, for one, is a bit of a downer. Even her official art shows a wider, more prominent grin.

Nevertheless, despite her lack of nose and reduced mouth, Cerberus's eyes are the rightful stars of her face. They're just different enough to set her apart from other, stereotypical anime eyes, with just a hint of crazy.

Moving to hair, a girl's real best friend. Cerberus's hair is detailed, with all the right pull lines in all the right places. As we get down into her twin-tails, you'll find that the PVC becomes semi-translucent. The tinge of purple on her tips are an added plus.

The real stand-out feature of Cerberus, however, is not her pose or face or hair, but her outfit. Clasped in what appears to be medieval bikini armour, Cerberus's blatant purple-gold mass of fanciful design demanded immediate attention. Even as an unpainted prototype, I could see all the droolworthy detail rising from her delightful bosom body.

If anime and manga isn't the world of costumely vestiges, I don't know what is. Besides being gaudily shiny and excessively intricate, Cerberus's costume is also full of layers and geegaw that serve no functional use in either the warmth or defense department. Two flaps of well-shaded cloth extend from her back in a pleasing wing-like imitation. I like that it mirrors the movement of her hair.

What's a Cerberus without three heads? After all, the guard dog of the underworld needs to live up to her name, right?

Cerberus's puppy hands seem to be a matter of contention in the figure collecting community, with the vote split against hating and loving them. I'm firmly on the side of loving them. In fact, you could say that without the puppy hands, Cerberus would just be another generic, fantasy dog-girl in skimpy bikini armour, a la every single JRPG out there. Could Max Factory have made the puppies switchable with regular hands for those who prefer it? Sure, but that they didn't doesn't bite into the figure's appeal (speaking personally, of course).

Also, one is sad. How cute.

Moving lower.

Cerberus bears a generous set of hips with an equally generous butt. Give it to Max Factory to present such a wonderfully plump body sculpt. Just look at those thighs. Those are some thighs I can swear by. And don't get me started on those wonderful cheeks. In a world where thin dominates, it's nice to see a girl who looks like she eats regularly.

Finally, Cerberus wears a spanking pair of boots. Purple and shiny, it complements the tips of her hair. Seriously, where are all these characters getting their boots from? I'd pay premium for boots so slick.

Here's one of my favourite features of Cerberus. Her layering. Cerberus's outfit, albeit skimpy, has ample layering. Her boots don't look plastered to her tights, and her tights don't look plastered to her skin. It has dimension. There's no stressing how gratifying it is to see Max Factory uphold their high standards by crafting every piece of her outfit to not look like it's painted to her skin. Points all around.

Max Factory's name is almost synonymous with high quality, so it comes as little surprise that they've put it all into giving Cerberus a mighty body. A realistic (albeit ample) body, might I add. See, I always sound like a creeper when I goggle a figure's bod, but let's admit it, it's part of the business. Sexy sells, and Max Factory is top-notch when it comes to sexy sculpts.

Take a look at her collarbone. The lines on her back. The hint of ribcage beneath her armour. The protruding shoulder blades. All defined. All anatomically correct. Even the bulge of her breasts indicates she's getting support from her gaudy purple bra-armour. Someone did their homework, and we're reaping the rewards.

As though wonderful body sculpts weren't enough, Max Factory also went ahead and plastered her full of minutiae, all of which are clean and crisp. I couldn't find a single, notable flaw in either her sculpt or her paint job. I especially appreciated that Max Factory didn't fill in her ribbon loops (on her thighs).

Cerberus has a lot of good going for her, but she does have one imperfection: Hair seams.

Now, it seems inevitable that figures will always have an unsightly gash across their head to accommodate for their bangs (the exception being Alter's Stocking), so I have come to accept it as a standard rather than a flaw. The bang seams no longer bother me as much as they used to, although it's always somewhat disappointing when they can't be hidden.

The real problem with Cerberus's hair is that there are small strands of hair that are not fully integrated. They're just...stuck on. Firstly, it makes her hair fragile. I brushed against her hair one day (not with any strength, mind you), and one of her strands popped out. Secondly, Cerberus's hair gains semi-translucence as it goes down, which means the seam become very obvious when she's back-lit.

Oh, there is one more beef I have with Cerberus: The seam on her neck. Now I know manufacturers need a way to attach her head to her body, but many figures new and old don't have the seam (Koromo, Miku, Menma, Lavie and Alvis), it seems like an oversight not to hide it. Her up-do hairstyle doesn't help either. It exposes her neck and makes the seam extra obvious.

Other than that, there isn't much to complain about. She's solid all around, a good figure overall, and a nice addition to the collection.

When I first began reviewing figures, I did so for the sole purpose of informing people. Letting people get a closer look before a buy. As my figure journey continued, I realized that a strict regiment of up-close shots weren't doing it anymore. Nowadays, I try to run double-duty with my reviews. Yes, the informing aspect is still there, but I also try to learn something. Experiment. Live.

This review? Playing with a black-box. Initial results are decent, but more experimentation is required. I like that the black gives her a very neutral background to stand on. And, as usual, it works well with contrast.

The one thing I love about Cerberus is that she looks cute whether I use contrast or not. Bolder lighting? She rocks it. Flatter lighting? Also cute. She's a girl of many assets, that's for sure.

Funnily enough, there's always something about a figure that I don't notice until after the photos come out. For Cerberus, it's that her neck and shoulders look incredible scrunched up when shot from a straight angle. Like she's shrugging. Not a huge deal. Not really aesthetically damaging. But interesting nonetheless. Halfway through the photoshoot, I began avoiding certain angles, simply because it made her should I put it? Inelegant.

Unlike some of my spontaneous buys, I put a lot of thought into Cerberus before making her purchase, and I have to say, I am largely pleased. She's just the right amount of style and sexy to really rock it. She looks good on my shelf, and her detail-rich outfit really catches the eye.

What qualifies a figure for my "Best of" selection at the end of the year? It's difficult to pinpoint any real factor that propels a figure into my favourites list. Many years, I am surprised by which figures make it. For Cerberus, it was predominately her quality that landed her a top spot. It's hard not to look at her and admire her sheer technical accomplishment. From the astounding sculpt of her wee details, to the clean and shiny paint on her armour, Cerberus is an example of just how polished Max Factory is as a manufacturer.

So, without further delay:

The Run-Down
Box 5/10 Is a box.
Base 5/10 stands on it.
Pose 7.5/10 Not hugely dynamic, but brimming with energy nonetheless.
Sculpt 9/10 Very detailed. Loses a point for hair and neck seams.
Paint 10/10 Perfect. No smudges or imperfections anywhere.
Overall  8/10 There's a lot to like and very little to dislike. A great figure overall.

Manufacturer: Max Factory
Price: ¥12 778
Purchased at: AmiAmi

Box Dimensions: Approx 31 x 25 x 19.5 cm
Weight: Approx 700g
Shipping method: Small Packet SAL (or fancier)

Fare thee well,

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