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Sheva Alomar

Resident Evil 5
by Artemis

For those of you who don't know the ending of Resident Evil: Extinction (I assume nobody will mind me spoiling it - it's not quite in the same league as It Was His Sled and so on), Milla finds a whole cloning facility full of naked Millas and wakes them up, presumably so the next movie will consist entirely of hundreds of naked Millas slaughtering zombies. If it's not, I will be severely disappointed. Sadly there still aren't any zombie-slayer Milla figures, but there are now three different versions of the videogame incarnation's current male gamer bait, Sheva. Coincidence? Definitely, don't be silly. But having already reviewed the character, it's tough to come up with new opening remarks.

Since that last paragraph, by the time it makes it online, will probably contain a link to that review, there's no real need to rehash the life and times of Sheva Alomar - Play Arts didn't bother with a bio anyway, although how they knew their customers would have that link handy we'll never know. The important thing is that this is one of their fancy-pants new Kai figures, constructed entirely from balljoints and solid gold (judging by the price tag), and, I believe, the first time the Kai range has ventured beyond its Japanese-roleplaying-game home turf. Sure, another videogame isn't a lot of venturing, but it's a start.

For those who haven't yet succumbed and severely damaged their wallets with them, Kai figures stand about 9" tall, and calling them high-detail is like saying da Vinci sometimes had an idea or two. Kai Sheva puts her NECA little sister to shame in terms of physique and sculpted costume detail - indeed, the only real issue with her is that Play Arts may have gotten just a little too carried away, resulting in something of a hi-def stylized version of a fundamentally down-to-earth character.

It's deliberate, to an extent - the face especially - but on the trousers, to pick an example, the sheer weight of sculpted texture makes it look more like reptile skin than cloth. On the up side, there's a lot of positive detail as well - every strap, buckle, crease and texture from head to toe is fully rendered, so the overall result is a figure that looks pretty impressive no matter how closely you examine her.

The paintwork is much the same - highly commendable, but just a bit over the top here and there. The "here and there" is mainly the skin shading, but has very deep shades applied around the joints, between the shoulder blades, and especially beneath the collarbone. It's high quality shading in the technical sense, but while it roughly echoes the kind of visuals the game produces, when the figure is displayed under neutral lighting conditions it looks more like weird skin discolouration. Shame, that. Everywhere else the technical quality is supported by sensible art design - pretty much everything that should have its own paint app does have its own paint app, from the texture on the boots to the smallest belt strap. Worth noting is that - unlike both NECA's smaller effort (which didn't bother) and the Hot Toys version of Sheva (which did, but got it wrong) - her top has the exact shades and pattern it's supposed to.

On to her face, and oh no, here's that shading issue again. Aside from a touch of stylization that may irk fans looking for a direct screen-to-figure translation (although it does tend to make her fit in with the other Kai figures, conveniently enough) it's a good face: pretty without being ornamental, neutral enough not to look odd in specific poses (you don't want a yelling face on a figure aiming a sniper rifle, after all) but with enough character not to seem vacant. But she's got this big dark stripe over the middle of her face, which... well, it's a big dark stripe over the middle of her face, what more explanation do you need? Under the right lighting conditions it can look alright - especially if her head is tilted down, so her eyes are naturally in shadow, in which case the extra darkness makes her look really badass - but with light falling normally on her face, it seems like she accidentally tried to apply eye shadow with a spray can.

Speaking of sniper rifles, though, Kai Sheva is one of the lucky few who can accomplish that difficult feat of actually getting into something approximating a kneeling rifle pose, although the torso balljoint isn't quite free enough to bring her aim properly down to level. Still, it's pretty impressive given how low-visibility the hip joints are. The total tally is: balljoint neck, "hunch" inner shoulder swivels, swivel/pin shoulders, swivel biceps, wide-range pin elbows, swivel forearms, swivel wrists (*takes a breath*), balljoint sternum, shallow balljoint waist, balljoint hips, double pin knees, swivel/pin ankles. Like all the Kai figures, any pose she can't do would've needed pose-specific joints on a figure this size. As with the hips, care has been taken to conceal the joints as much as possible. Those on the bare arms can't be hidden that much - although the elbows look pretty smooth given how far they can bend - but the knee joints hide pretty well in the creases of the pants, and on Sheva's back the harness is used to obscure the edge of the sternum joint (in front, of course, it's hiding under her boobs).

In the accessory count, Kai Sheva gets one more gun than NECA gave her - then again, Hot Toys sprung for seven, so it's all relative. Here she's got three of the four basic shooter game guns: the shotgun (for crowd control), the sniper rifle (for when you manage to see them before they see you), and the pistol (for when you've run out of ammo in the others); the fourth is the machine gun type, but my (admittedly limited) experience of shooters has told me they're not much good against zombies.

All three weapons are highly detailed, and well painted, though not with any huge palette - they look good enough nonetheless. The pistol goes snugly in her thigh holster - although the straps don't quite fit around the handle in the most elegant way - while on her other hip, the kukri knife in its sheath is removable.

All weapons, knife included, have holes drilled through their handles, matching the pegs in the palms of Sheva's hands. For one-handed gun grips it's useful, since the grip is firm without requiring the weapons to be wedged into the fingers, but in other situations, it's less wonderful: being painted brown, the pegs aren't high visibility unless you pose her with her palms facing out, but they get in the way in two-handed grips, and without a gripping hand for the knife, it seems to float next to her palm when she's "holding" it. Also kinda-sorta in the accessory camp are the unremovable but separate necklace around her neck, and the comms earpiece with its wire leading down to her belt radio.

She also gets a base, but it's the same one previous Kai figures have had - although painted black - and my feelings haven't changed: either there's a trick to it that I don't see, or it's a useless piece of junk. The joints in the articulated support arm are weak and the clamp is a poor fit for anything you close it around, so any pose where Sheva can't support her own weight probably won't work with the base either. The only thing it's really good for is leaning Sheva against it a bit, but it's big and ugly, so it'd be better to use pretty much anything else.

Ignoring the base, Sheva has one real weakness: the raccoon makeup. Perhaps the slight stylization, but that depends on the individual - the stripe is just something you have to look at (preferably in person) and decide whether you can live with. If you can, I'd argue this is the best Sheva figure - she's big and impressive, highly mobile, well-armed, and a great addition to a collection, whether that collection is based on Resident Evil or just Badass Woman With Guns. I actually like her more than the Hot Toys version, since all the sculpted texture on her makes her look more interesting, and in some ways more lifelike, than the plain fabric surfaces on the Hot Toys Sheva's clothing. If it weren't for the stripe I'd recommend her without hesitation - as it is, Kai asks a lot from your wallet, so take a good look at her face first.

-- 08/29/10

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