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Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core
by Artemis

The death of a protagonist is a chancy business - either you make a big deal of setting it up and giving it storyline relevance, in which case everyone complains that it's contrived, or you just pin character names on a dart board and whack 'em at random the way real life does, in which case everyone complains that it's meaningless and the character deserved better. And if you try to appease people by bringing characters back from the dead, they complain that undermines the dramatic tension caused by the threat of death (likewise if no one ever dies in the first place). En fin, the only authors who can make a death meaningful and realistic and make it stick are those who're onto a really strong story - so those characters, who we really want to see again, are the ones who don't come back. "Die young, live forever," is kind of self-fulfilling that way.

Still, there's always the work-around of prequels, though in the case of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, you still feel railroaded a bit by not being able to let Aerith know she really ought to pay more attention to her surroundings. It's a role-playing game after all - out-of-character knowledge is fundamental to RPGs, just like creative interpretation of the rules and bribing the GM with pizza - but sadly there's nothing you can do, so you just have to put up with her having a little digital countdown floating above her head, like a lemming on self-destruct.

Still, no-one ever said you can't have action figure even if you've died - DC Direct would be 9/10ths out of a job otherwise (unless resurrection means you're back in the merchandising race - seriously, how are there enough dead characters left for Blackest Night?) - so here's Midgar's favourite florist-cum-kebab in plastic form. She stands 7" tall - a bit over 7" actually, but only because of her pointy hairdo - and is styled with the anime-realism you get nowadays, with CG and animation having advanced to the point where anime can be realistic, at least in broad strokes. Her figure (physique, that is) is tall and slender, very much so around the torso particularly, in a way that'd be unsettling if she weren't essentially a cartoon, but within her stylization she carries it off well.

Decked out in a loose singlet top and embroidered white skirt, she looks very pretty and gentle, and there's a lot of fine sculpted detail involved. Unfortunately the paintwork doesn't quite match the level of quality in the sculpt - it's fine (impressive even) on detail, but the shading applied to her bare skin mucks up in several areas by not being seamless across the joints between parts. Her biceps, for instance, and noticeably paler than her shoulders right above them, and though they're not generally visible her knees have a similar problem; so to do the elbows, although the shading there is far more subtle and difficult to notice. The rest of the paintwork makes up for it to a large degree, but it's irritating nonetheless.

Anime is anime, so her face is a triangle with giant eyes, but it's not as weird as it could be - with decent-sized cheeks and a moderately straight nose she's on the plausible end of the scale, far more so than her earlier (which is to say later, this being a prequel) Final Fantasy VII figure, which was full-on anime. Her expression is alert and amused, with a slightly raised eyebrow and a wry quirk to the corner of her lips. Her trademark hairstyle is toned down a little from its usual self, but still easily recognizable - besides the McDonalds fringe she's also got twists either side of her face, and a long, thick ponytail in back, all sculpted finely and with enough variation to look natural rather than forced.

These Play Arts figures generally set themselves a high standard for articulation, and prequel Aerith is no exception. She's got a balljoint neck and a concealed torso joint beneath her clothing, which I'm guessing from past experience with these figures, and experimentation with Aerith, is actually a twin balljoint, at both the top and bottom of a connecting rod running from waist to sternum. The sculpt of the top sits very snugly against the skirt at the waist, so it's not a joint that's got a huge motion range, but within its limited range it can be tweaked in all sorts of directions. The shoulders are swivel/pin joints mounted on a forward-backward pin joint, allowing the shoulders to be hunched or stretched; then there are bicep swivels, pin elbows, swivel wrists, and on the legs swivel/pin hips, swivel thighs, pin knees, swivel/pin ankles, and pin joints at mid-foot. The skirt sits close around her legs, and is fairly stiff (though there is some flex in it), but she's very versatile regardless.

Aerith comes with the usual Play Arts base, a wide oval with a waist clamp, but with the comprehensive leg articulation and the fact that, with that skirt, she's not likely to be high-kicking anyone anyway, she does just fine on her own. She also has an alternate pair of hands - the options are open and relaxed, or clenched fists - and a basket of flowers. Her open hands can hold the basket's handle, but very loosely.

She just looks pretty, you know? She's not decked out in a kick-ass stealth bodysuit or superhero combat bikini, she's not equipped to fight Armageddon and win - she's just a kind-looking, pretty girl in a casual skirt, smiling like she hasn't got a care in the world. And she's really well-made - the skin tone problem can be overlooked in light of the rest of the figure's merits. If you're an Aerith fan I'm sure she'd be a great buy, and if not, she's still worth getting - c'mon, can you say no to that face?

-- 08/04/09

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