Final Fantasy: Vanille (Play Arts Kai) by Square-Enix

Yeah… and now for something different…

A friend of mine from one of my old Video Game forum haunts still keeps in touch regularly via the Facebooks. She’s not really a toy collector, but she is a video game and anime nut, and well, we all know how those things have a habit of intersecting with the wonderful world of action figures. Now, my days of JRPGs, OVA, and what-not have been behind me for a good ten years, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to entice me back with links and recommendations. I have her to blame thank for getting me to branch out into collecting some of Koto’s Bishoujo statues, a few of which I’ve featured here and I’ve got several more on pre-order.

Well, A few weeks ago she showed me a shot of her modest action figure collection and told me how much I would love them and that I should write about some of them. In addition to a lot of statues, I recognized some Figma, S.H. Figuarts and Play Arts Kai, and the only reason I recognized or knew anything about those was from listening to The Fwooshcast. I told her I’ve never owned any of those, I would put them on my list, but that I had a lot of stuff vying for my collecting dollar and I was trying to keep from branching out into new avenues. About a week later, a sizeable package containing what she called “the gateway drug” arrived at my stoop containing three figures. What a bitch! Anyway, one figure was from S.H. Figuarts, one from Play Arts Kai, and one which I think she thought was a Figma, but was actually a Revoltech). Today I’m going to look at the one that impressed me the most… Oebra Dia Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII. Again, I’ve never seen a Play Arts Kai figure in person before today, and I haven’t played a Final Fantasy game since the original PlayStation. This should be awkward fun!

Holy hell, look at the size of this thing! I always thought Play Arts Kai weighed in around the 6-inch scale, but she’s obviously a lot bigger and comes in a really nice window box, which does a splendid job of showing off the figure. The actual deco for the box is pretty understated, but it has some cool splash marks that run over the window. The back panel of the box shows the figure in some different poses and close-ups as well as two other figures available in this series. The copy on the back of the package is multi-lingual with some English and a lot of kanji. All in all, the box lets the figure do most of the talking, and that’s a wise move because the figure looks absolutely stunning in the package.

Open the top flap and the goods slide out pretty easily. There are no garish twisty-ties or clear rubber bands to deal with. The figure is perfectly encased in a clear plastic tray. Lift off the top and you have access to the figure, her extra pair of hands, and her two accessories. Lift out the figure and the next tray and you can take out the figure stand, which comes in two parts. Let’s start with the figure…

Oh my God, this figure is gorgeous… gorgeous and big… and um, gorgeous. I’m just not used to seeing a figure sculpted this beautifully in this satisfyingly large 9-inch scale. The proportions are excellent, the colors are breathtaking. Ok, rather than just gush all over the place, I’ll start with the head and work my way down.

The head sculpt is fantastic. Vanille is certainly an attractive lady and while she’s obviously got anime roots, she straddles the thin line between realism and overly stylized. Even though I haven’t played a Final Fantasy game in forever, it’s easy to recognize this character from the games’ art style. The paintwork on her lips, eyes, and eyebrows is all precisely applied. The hair is all sculpted separately from her head, which allows some strands to flow down into her face and come off the back in haphazard pigtails. The hair is a glossy pink, which I admit I prefer to the translucent coloring Koto uses on some of their statues.

Vanille’s outfit, what little there is of it, is crazy busy and that makes the sculpting and coloring on the figure all the more impressive. She’s got a loose necklace and pink top held on with spaghetti straps and a ton of colored beads crisscrossing her chest and midriff. She’s wearing a very short orange skirt accentuated by a pink scarf, a belt, a pouch, and a little waist cape that hangs off her backside and is sculpted to look like some kind of pelt. The back of her belt has loose straps that can hold one of her weapons. She also has a pair of bangles on her wrists. Getting down to her feet, she’s wearing a pair of low yellow boots with sculpted fur cuffs. Vanille’s outfit definitely got a tribal thing going on and it gave the sculptors a lot to work with and resulted in a great and complex looking figure. The fact that all the strands of beads are colored and sculpted in separate soft strings of plastic is really incredible.

Part of me was expecting more articulation out of this line, but that’s not to say what’s here is in any way bad or limited. Her neck is ball jointed, and the hair is soft enough so as not to inhibit her head movement. Her arms feature ball joints in the shoulders, swivels in the biceps, hinges and swivels in the elbows, and the wrists have plug-in ball joints so they can be swapped out with her other hands. Her legs have ball joints in the hips, double hinged knees, and swivels and hinges in the ankles. Besides the actual points of articulation, I’m really impressed with how sturdy the actual joints are. When I think about Japanese collector figures, I usually imagine either static PCV statues, or frail and delicate super-articulated pieces. Vanille definitely dispels my misconceptions by being a figure that I can have fun playing around with and not be worried about breaking her in the process. The construction of the knee joints is clever as it conceals the hinges a bit, and while the pins in the ankles aren’t painted, the flesh tone matches the yellow boots close enough so as not to be too distracting.

 

Vanille comes with an extra pair of hands, two weapons, and a figure stand. I haven’t seen a big need to swap out the hands, as the ones she comes fitted with can hold her weapons and that’s how I would most likely display her. Her weapons include a wand or staff, and some sort of shorter melee weapon. I have no idea what they are, but they follow the same tribal design as her outfit and appear to be made of bones, antlers and that sort of thing. They are both very elaborate, colorful and cool looking. The figure stand is a fairly complex ratcheting stand that can be closed around her torso to assist her in action poses. It’s a little clunky and despite the fact that it’s almost clear, it can be a little distracting. It’s a nice extra, but Vanille can stand perfectly fine on her own, so it’s not necessary unless you’re looking for some really dynamic poses.

My apologies to everyone who already knew how great these figures are. I realize this is old news to a lot of collectors out there. Obviously, I just got the memo. I don’t usually find myself at a loss for words when describing my thoughts about   an action figure, but I’ll confess, I can’t do this lovely lady justice. True, in this case, I couldn’t fall back on my knowledge of the character, because I’ve never played Final Fantasy XIII. But then having no attachment or familiarity to the character should just go to show you how impressed I am with the figure itself. I am just so beside myself with the sculpt, coloring, and the overall quality of the figure. Gateway drug indeed. I’ve already started eyeing some more of these Final Fantasy figures and… oh my… are those Street Fighter figures? Yep, I’m screwed.

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