Otaku USA Magazine
Moe! Kita!

They said it couldn’t be done, but because YOU DEMANDED IT, we’ve gone off our rockers and succumbed to the siren’s call of “moe for this issue’s installment of Hobby Lobby. For the uninitiated, “moe is a hard-to-translate (and arguably hard to understand) word that literally means “sprouting or “blossoming. It refers to the feeling that wells up in a true male otaku’s heart as he beholds the female object of his adoration as depicted in manga, video games, maid cafes, and most definitely anime. More figures in Japan are a huge business and take up massive amounts of shelf space in Akihabara toy shops. Now, they are beginning to leak to America as well. And like distant tribal drums on a lost island full of headhunters, you can faintly hear the cries in the horizon – “Moe! More! MOE! Will you join their ranks?

The Second Child Cometh
Last issue, we crowed about the arrival of FRAULEIN REVOLTECH figures from Kaiyodo, the gods of Japanese action figures. Now, here’s a look at the newest and third in the series: a palm-sized version of everyone’s favorite tsundere (Japanese otaku slang for a combative but still-lovable girl) Asuka Langley Soryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Sure, the market has been weighted down with figures of our spunky redheaded heroine for nigh on more than a decade, but the REVOLTECH indeed brings something new to the table. The killer app is the ingeniously engineered joint and body system known as “E.L.F. that allows for a variety of super-realistic poses like never before. The ball- and-socket joints have largely been concealed, which gives a feeling of realism. The shoulders and arms rotate on all axes, allowing for poses that other Asuka figures simply cannot hope to accomplish. And, perhaps most importantly, as the press release helpfully points out, “The curved lower pelvis flows smoothly into the leg and creates a natural bikini line. If that doesn’t demonstrate the power and majesty of Japanese toys and figures right there, nothing will. Now here’s some more hard facts for you: the figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and boasts 18 points of articulation and 10 joint parts. Accessories include a big old gun, three pairs of hands, display base, and a stuffed toy. See, in spite of her harsh exterior, she’s really just an innocent little girl at heart. You may now shout “Moe! all the same. This figure is being distributed to anime retailers in the USA by Organic Hobby.

You’re So Lucky
A while back it was The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that destroyed the hearts and minds of the otaku around the world. But in 2007, a show called Lucky Star became the new breakout anime hit in Japan. Based on a mere four- panel gag manga by Kagami Yoshimizu, Lucky Star follows the humor-filled lives and adventures of three aggressively moe high school students with saucer-sized eyes and pink sailor uniforms. The main character, Izumi, is an otaku herself and nuts about anime and games, so that probably makes it easy for the nerds to identify. There’s been a mad ton of Lucky Star product for fans to keep up with, and the flood shows no signs of abating. Now from the FREEing company comes the Lucky Star Figure Collection—six characters from the series cast in PVC standing around 2 inches tall each. That may not sound like a much to hold onto until you hear the price: around US$4.00. Look for these to pop up in the US soon and prepare yourself now for the inevitable Lucky Star craze on our own star-spangled shores!

Princess With a Chainsaw
Yasunori Mitsunaga’s manga Princess Resurrection (which recently made the jump to anime as well) occupies a very special place in our hearts, mostly because it was the very first manga excerpt we ever ran back in the very first issue of Otaku USA. But also, what’s not to love about a story concerning a young boy basically enslaved by a chainsaw-swinging blonde vampire in a maid café-style black costume? Now Organic Hobby, in conjunction with Happinet, is amping up the series moe factor to “double trouble with the impending release of no less than two figures from Princess Resurrection. First up is the titular Hime herself, the fetching daughter of the king of all monsters. This “special edition 7-inch tall PVC figure also comes with a bonus figure of Flandre, Hime’s super strong, but deceptively cute looking android servant. The other addition to the line is Reiri Kamura, a beautiful vampire cum high school student clad in a torn and frayed sailor uniform. Perched at her feet is a bonus figure of Riza Wildman, who is half human, half werewolf, and the worst of both! The entire set stands about 8 1/2 inches tall and features a big cross that makes for a great display piece while at the same time proving not very good for keeping vampires like Reiri at bay. Both Hime and Reiri figures will be available from major anime retailers like Diamond and AAA Anime beginning in March in the $105.00 price range.

It’s not actually lonely Out In Space
Elton John (and later William Shatner) famously performed the song “Rocket Man to memorable effect. But the collected otaku of Japan are now singing the praises of Rocket Girls, a series of light novels written by Hosuke Nojiri. The story follows the trials and tribulations of high school chick Yukari Morita as she becomes an unlikely astronaut when the Solomon Space Agency proves incapable of making a rocket ship that can handle the weight of an adult male (so much for simply having The Right Stuff). Since its prose debut, Rocket Girls has made the leap into anime with a series actually produced with the assistance of boffins at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. While no one has made a figure of an American astronaut worthy of shouts of “moe from the rafters, Happinet now delivers the goods Japanese-style with a 7-inch PVC figure of Yukari clad in her space suit. She comes fully strapped with a display base depicting a (ahem) rocket blasting off between her legs. If this doesn’t help Japan build a massive space colony by the end of the week, nothing will. The figure is being distributed in the US by Organic Hobby and will be available at the usual anime merchants beginning in March at a $100 price range (still cheaper than a tourist ticket to the moon).

Clannad is another moe juggernaut that simply cannot be stopped by conventional means. Originally begun as a series of “visual novels (aka galge, or “gal games) before moving on to conquer manga and anime, Clannad offers otaku interactions with five different female characters. The Kotobukiya company now continues its dedication to the Clannad franchise with a new 1/5th scale PVC figure of Fuko Ibuki, who is known for her near-fetish for carving starfish out of wood. This Ibuki figure, priced around US$50.00, shows the big-eyed one clutching such a creation as well. However, the main “charm points of this figure are the two bonus heads that snap into place. One is closed-eye happy; the other looks like closed-eye unhappy (or maybe the wood shavings are making her sneeze?). On sale now, wherever folks gather to collect Clannad goods.

Queens of Pain
So far, most of the female figures presented herein come from the familiar worlds of anime, video games, and manga. But here’s a new one on us, so otaku it hurts: characters from the “Visual Game Book known as the “Queen’s Blade Lost Worlds Books. Apparently, two books are needed to play a game of skill and chance in which a book itself is a character/ fighter with its own advantages and weaknesses. Two different otaku bump into each other and then trade each other’s books to assess their opponent’s moves on the battlefield. It all sounds a bit abstract to us, but then again so was Pokemon before it invaded America. Either way, the charms of these Queen’s Blade Collection Figures are not particularly hard to understand. There are eight figures in all, including fan favorites like Leina the nomad warrior, Listy Zoc of the wilderness, and Nowa the guardian of the forest. Look for these 5-inch little ladies when they drop in the US courtesy of Happinet and Organic beginning in March at an extremely agreeable $20.00 price.

[Excerpted from the April 2008 issue of Otaku USA magazine.]