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Otaku 1.0 body

Triad Toys
by Artemis

Okay, pop quiz: do you own a 12" action figure, 1:6 scale figure, deluxe collector figure, or any other euphemised figure with removable clothes? Question two: do you have a penis? If you answered yes to both of those, look at your Deluxe 1/6 Scale Replica or whatever, and say "That is a doll." Now do a pants check. Penis still there? Apparently someone at Hasbro in 1964 was worried that it wouldn't be. Makes you wonder.

Quality 1:6 scale dolls are a tough market to work in, but one that can be rewarding - you're in the general realm of historical modellers and Napoleonic tabletop recreationists and other bats#!t-crazy hardcore hobbyists, and that's not a large number of people compared to, say, children. On the plus side, if you make a good impression with the crazies they'll follow you to hell and back, and fill their dimly-lit basement loony-dens with your products until there's not enough room for furniture. Or first-floor loony-dens, if you happen to live in a 19th Century terrace that doesn't have a basement. *Cough*

Right from the start you can tell that Triad Toys is aiming at the obsessed freaks, not the casual shopper - as soon as you open up the shipping parcel you're face to face with a plastic clamshell that looks more like the kind of packaging you get on model railway accessories down at Hobbyco, rather than anything from the attention-deficit aisle at Toys Я Us. It does its job, though, which is safekeeping an Otaku 1.0 female action figure (that's what they call it) through the vagaries of air freight and the tender care of the caffeinated gorillas at the sorting office, so that the grateful recipient can open it up and have a really good-looking doll to play with.

And damned if she doesn't look good. Otaku - Japanese slang for "fanboy/girl," to cut a long story short - stands just under 11" tall, and unlike most 1:6 bodies, hers is designed to be shown off. Strip down your average "action doll" and you'll find all manner of bizarre-looking joints, and even varying grades and finishes of plastics never intended to be seen by the naked eye - generally the only function of a 1:6 scale body is to provide enough of a frame for the clothes to look good on top of, and only the head and hands (and in the case of women, the upper chest) is ever left uncovered. Otaku ships in a thin cloth bikini, and even that's superfluous.

From head to toe she's cast in a soft-looking, semi-translucent plastic, which aims to recreate the look of human skin - a difficult task, as anyone who's worked on a CGI movie will tell you, since it's not just a colour but a series of fine layers, opaque only as a mass. Action figures - the all-plastic kind - usually get away with paint, and even 1:6 dolls generally just pick a shade of pink they like, and maybe do a bit of subtle paint shading here and there for muscle definition. Otaku is much more lifelike, with the gentle shading you can see in the photos purely the effect of light falling on the translucent skin surface. Despite how it looks, it's not a soft plastic - the sculpt is gentle but precise, and the final product is dense and surprisingly heavy.

Three variations of the body are available: Caucasian, Tan (black), and Pale (Asian). Aside from the obvious change in skin tone each has its own head and bikini colour (pink, blue, and black respectively), but otherwise the dolls are identical. The style is anime-influenced, though not outright anime - it winds up looking rather like mainstream American comicbook physiques (or possibly Gemma Atkinson), notably the rather large breasts. If you strip off the bikini you'll find that Otaku has all the necessary details in place - her nipples aren't exactly prominent, in real-world terms, but given that they're solid rather than soft they show up easily beneath the average 1:6 scale clothing, and in case you want to put her in something see-through - or just have her go topless - there's a pale paint app darkening the nipples and areolae slightly. She has a slightly prominent mons, with a sculpted slit representing the vagina - no detail of the labia, but it's enough to give a genuine camel-toe if that's what you want from your dolls.

Honestly, the things I end up reviewing.

Otaku's articulation is less than you'd expect from a 1:6 scale doll, since her body is designed to be seen. Most notably all of the usual torso articulation you'd find in such a doll is absent: from the neck to the crotch she's one unbroken form, which looks great - besides the naughty bits she's got a subtle but convincing representation of all the necessary contours, abdomen and shoulderblades and the like - but meant she can't twist and turn her body, which is a severe hindrance to dramatic poses. She has a balljoint neck, of course, and her arms are quite capable, with swivel/pin/swivel shoulders - the joint housings on each side sculpted for minimum visibility - double pin elbows, and shallow balljoint wrists. Her legs are more limited, with swivel/pin hips and knees, and balljoint ankles. The hips joints are restricted by the housing, which extends down behind the joint to provide a great-looking arse, and the ankle is only really a balljoint when you have a boot plugged into it - the edge of the bare foot fits so tightly around the ankle that it's basically just a swivel joint. Putting the swivel in with the knee has its points - the hip joint is already noticeable, and can well do without having another seam in it - but the joint doesn't have the bending range that a full double pin would.

If you wanted more proof that Otaku is a collector's doll, not a toy, here it is: she comes with a page of instructions, and they recommend you use a heat gun on the joints to loosen them up for posing. I'm not kidding. I didn't have any trouble with the articulation as such - maybe a hot Australian summer's day is good enough - but to swap the head and hands and especially feet, you need to give it a good five second paint-stripping blast to expand the plastic. That makes the balljoint housing larger, allowing the ball - which is a less reactive plastic than the housing - to come loose much more easily.

Heat (or cold) isn't a new trick for dolls and figures, but this one's actually designed that way, and it's staggering how quickly it reacts; I could actually see the joint opening up. By way of experimentation - and because I knew I wouldn't be displaying it bare-footed anyway - I tried getting one of the feet off cold, and the ball sheared right off before it even looked like letting go, so there. Once you give it the heat treatment, though, it's very easy to swap the parts, and when the joint cools down it's very tight, which is just as well in the case of the ankles, since they have to support the body's considerable weight.

Each doll comes with two extra pairs of hands as accessories - they ship with open hands fitted, and the others are the usual grasping and clenched fists pairs. There's no base, but it's not difficult to get the figures to stand on their own, given a reasonable pose - and if you fancy an unreasonable pose, get a metal plate to stand them on, since the feet are magnetic. Nifty!

I must admit, being used to the usual super-articulated 12" bodies, I found myself a little perturbed at the restricted mobility when I got to posing them - they can strike a pose well enough, but the limited legs, and especially the immobile torso, mean that they can't achieve those minute physical adjustments that are the key to really capturing the mood of a character. And let's face it, you need a heat gun to change her outfit, and if it's a chilly day, just to pose her without worrying about breaking something. But Otaku isn't supposed to be a gymnastic superstar, or a rugged toy - Triad has another body in the works (Eva) who'll have all the usual articulation, and as for durability, wrong product category altogether; you might as well accuse fine china of being brittle. Otaku's meant for patient, careful collectors, and her job is to look great regardless of how little she's wearing, which is something a regular 1:6 doll, with its heavily jointed limbs and torso, can't do. This one can - she looks great.

-- 03/27/09

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