Today we'll be looking at what I believe is ALTER's first paired set. They've offered a few more since then which made me want to cover this one even more before I touch on their other offerings. The two heroines in question are Lavie Head and Alvis Hamilton from the Last Exile anime series created by studio Gonzo.
Range Murata was the character designer for the series and he was actually given complete freedom in the design of all the characters. Originally the setting was supposed to take place in space but they decided against it due to the boring space suits everyone would have worn. This is probably why the character designs focused heavily on the elaborate clothing as well as the characters themselves. It's hard to put into word Range Murata's style but I can say the same for another character designer T2 (Tony Taka) as well in that the emphasis seems to be in the eyes. When I look at one of their creations I can usually tell the creator by the eyes among other facial features. If look at at some of his illustrations above you can see a distinct design used in the eyes.
I've viewed the series numerous times and love it. I've only seen part of the follow up, Fam, The Silver Wing which takes place a few years later. One of these days I'll finish viewing it as I do enjoy the world and characters from the series. Range Murata has a unique style that at least for this series combines Art Deco and Steam Punk. Below you can see some of the other female leads from the series note their eyes and elaborate outfits.
The figures were a standard release in September of 2012 and retailed for around 8,800 Yen. At this time they are probably only available on the secondary market unless you get lucky shopping around.
The purpose of this review is to just take a look at the figures to see if these figures live up to the standards you expect from ALTER especially considering the price point. At that price you would expect game prize figure level of quality so can ALTER live up to expectations they have set with their past figures? Please understand a score of 10 will never be given as there is always room for improvement no matter how perfect a figure.
Packaging: 9/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♡
ALTER veered from their typical white color scheme for the figure box and instead went with a metallic color scheme more inline with the colors used in the title of the series. Note the use of port holes on the side to simulate what you would see on the various flying vehicles from the series. The window panel at the front wraps around up top simulating a canopy giving you a generous view of the figures within. I definitely agree with their approach as the figure box looks great and definitely supports the theme of the series and the figures.
Structurally the figure box is consistent with past ALTER boxes. They used a lightweight non-corrugated cardboard for the exterior box with another piece of lightweight non-corrugated cardboard for the inner liner that covers the bottom, back and sides of the interior of the box. The majority of the strength is provided by the blister so the packaging is very light. As you can see it is also very compact but also quite sturdy. They should get to you safely and inexpensively. They achieved a nice balance with the size, weight and protection of the packaging.
Packaging weight and dimensions:
Weight: 545 grams
H: 201 mm
W: 171 mm
D: 161 mm
As mentioned the majority of the strength of the packaging is provided by the blister which is quite stiff. The compact nature of the packaging lends to further increase the overall strength. The two pieces are also taped together adding further to the rigidity and strength of the packaging. The figures are covered in plastic sheets to protect from rubbing and paint transfer. Note the area around their faces was flattened to provide a distortion free view of their faces while still in the packaging.
I loved the design choice ALTER went with for this particular figure box. It supports the theme of the characters and series quite nicely. They should get to you safely and at a reasonable cost. You could definitely leave them in the box for display purposes and they would still look nice in that attractive looking box. Expectations were definitely met in regards to the packaging.
Sculpting: 9/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♡
Sculpting credits go to Iwamoto Kunihito who seems to specialize in male figures and has been working with them for a number of years. You can count on one hand the number of female figures that Iwamoto has worked on. Below you can see some of the other heroines that Iwamoto worked on prior to Lavie and Alvis. Looking at the past work and present it doesn't seem like an issue with the sculptor's preference for male figures as the female figures worked to this point look fine.
Let's get on with the show and take a closer look at these two figures.
I might be wrong but I believe this is the first two figure pack that ALTER has offered. The cost for two figures makes their overall quality suspect because normally you'd be expecting game prize figure quality and not ALTER's normal standards. Fortunately you'd be wrong if you actually expected inferior quality. Hopefully you can see in the pictures that the quality is pretty reasonable considering how much the figures cost versus what you normally see with game prize figures. The attention to detail and overall execution was top notch considering the value you were getting with the set.
Let's first look at their faces. Their likeness to the characters from the anime series is spot on. They got the features down perfectly for both girls from their nose, ears and jawline. Note the details they put into their facial features such as Lavie's tongue or Alvis' lips. They weren't just painted on but sculpted. The transition to their necks and shoulders is seamless and natural. Their side profiles look good as well and again match perfectly with the characters they were based on. ALTER and Iwamoto did a great job recreating their likeness and bringing them to life in figure form.
★★Taking a further look at Alvis note the details in her hair. Considering the scale of the figures they put in an adequate level of detail into her hair and accessories. From all sides her hair looks natural as well as the transition from her face to hair line. Her tails are somewhat flexible and should resist damage but her bunny ears are very rigid and could easily break if care is not taken. Note you can see a shortcut they took in regards to her hair. Besides the tails and her bangs, the rest of her is actually sculpted from her head. Normally all of the hair on a figure is it's on separate piece to allow for better detailing. However it would have cost more so I can see why they did it the way they did to keep costs down. Implementation of it was definitely better than what you would normally see on a game prize figure so there really is no comparison. Note that was really the only shortcut I noticed used on Alvis. You could argue her hair is short not requiring a separate piece but I've seen it as standard practice on plenty of short haired figures.
If you look at her shoulders you can see they actually made her collarbones show subtly. The straps for her dress are their own separate piece to add to overall details instead of sculpting it out of her torso so it looks like the straps are digging into her shoulders. The same for her dress. It is actually separate from her flesh so the transition from flesh to outfit is realistic. Look at the wrinkles and folds in her dress making it look like she's really wearing it. The details on Claus' toy goat that Alvis is holding is more then adequate considering it's nothing but a side note to the two girls. Alvis is nicely detailed from all sides and looks spot on to her anime series counterpart. It looks like they did a nice job bringing her to life in figure form.
★★Moving onto Lavie you can't but help notice the level of detailing they had to put into her hair. This one you could not take a shortcut especially if you wanted to make her flight goggles appear to be worn naturally with the straps digging into her hair transitioning very nicely into it. The details on her flight goggles was top notch and looked very realistic. Also the goggles were their own separate piece attached to her nair and not sculpted out of her head. Her detailed hair is the standard two piece you normally see on most figures the only variance in the count is if the character has very complex and/or long hair. In any case her hairstyle matches up very nicely with her anime counterpart.
Moving on down to her torso, I love the emphasis they put into her shoulders and well defined collarbones. You wouldn't expect this level of detail if they were trying to keep costs down but they went there and it was appreciated. Even the straps of her simple dress are their own separate piece and not sculpted out of her torso to enhance the level of detail and transition from flesh to material. Her simple dress is nicely detailed from the folds and wrinkles to the stitch work and buttons. The dress itself is a separate piece from her body so the transition from flesh to dress is very natural and realistic. I just don't know where they were saving the money to keep the cost down in order to offer us two ladies at the price they did. They definitely didn't use a cheaper mix for the materials because neither girl has turned yellow on me after a few years out on display. You can tell the cheap ones by the fact they've turned yellow over time. Both girls are loaded with details that I've come to expect from ALTER from their more expensive figures so I was pleasantly surprised.
Having said that I guess I spoke too soon? I finally found another shortcut they took to keep costs down, flat butts. You could argue they did it to keep the figures stable on the base but they could have easily modified the base to fit them. I believe they were the stars of the show, NOT A WING. Granted I've seen this done on regular and expensive priced figures including limited, made-to-order figures but I usually don't expect something like this from ALTER and their attention to detail. It's not a deal breaker and considering the price of both girls I guess this was to expected. Also, it's not like you're going to be displaying them with their butts sticking up in the air nor their side profile or backs unobstructed.
Moving on to their legs you can see details in regard to sculpting was at a minimal but the transition of flesh to boots was quite natural. Their legs actually go into their boots giving the appearance that the boots are being worn adding to the realism and details. There was also a decent amount of detailing put into the footwear such as the material wrinkling and folding as well as stitching and buckles. Overall a decent balance in regards to details and implementation.
Speaking of details, considering the bottoms of their feet were not meant to be seen due to the orientation of their feet pointing down while seated it it was surprising the details they put into the bottoms of their boots. Just look at the tread patterns and stitching. It just seems weird on some of their choices? I think I rather trade the flat butts for no details or minimal for the bottoms of their boots, wouldn't you?
So what is the catch on such a nice price for two figures? Looking at sculpting details it wasn't because ALTER gave us game prize quality figures. The quality of the details are on par with more expensive figures even with the shortcuts they took. The attention to the details can't be ignored either. The execution was indeed more then adequate as I'd say they brought both characters to life in figure form quite nicely. From head to toe they are nicely detailed as well as the fit and finish. So if there is a catch for the nice price it isn't from the sculpting of the girls which would lead to the only other area they could take some big shortcuts, the painting of them which we'll see soon enough. In any case expectations were definitely met so if they went the cheap route to make for the nice price I just don't see it. Heck you're seeing sculpting techniques and detailing used on another Range Murata figure also by ALTER shown below. I'm not saying they are on the same level of detailing but they are similar in some respects.
Bottom line is if ALTER went cheap to make up for the nice price for two figures in regards to sculpting, I don't see it.
Painting: 9/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♡
ALTER usually uses all the tools available to them to color their figures and these girls are not the exception. You can see the attention to detail from head to toe on each girl. Just look at their faces you see the characteristic Range Murata eyes which look great on both girls and those lashes on Lavie add so much depth to them that her eyes just pop out at you. Their flesh look great and I love the blush on Lavie. The toy goat was tinted and painted very precisely. Just look at the precision the metal parts of Lavie's goggles were painted. The decals were placed precisely as well.
Look at the precision they painted the boots and the tinting used was not overdone meaning they did a lot of hand panting that could have been avoided to keep cost down. There was a lot of coloring they could have taken shortcuts on which they didn't and you do notice the attention to detail.
I'm still trying to figure where are the shortcuts they took to keep the cost down to be able to offer us two girls for the price of one? The level of detail and work they put into coloring both girls is more than I see one some of the other single figures that cost more from other manufacturers. If you were expecting a game prize level of work in regards to the coloring of these figures you'll have to look elsewhere. Expectations were definitely met considering the inexpensive nature of the figures.
Posing: 9/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♡
I've searched and I searched but I can't find any illustration that these girls were based on? I'm not sure if one exists or if this pose was the sole creation of Iwamoto Kunihito and ALTER. Since I have nothing to compare the pose to I guess we'll just judge on its own merit. Considering the relationship of the two girls I'd say this would definitely be a pose you could see the two girls in. Their body language and demeanor seem in character for both girls and quite natural. The way they are sitting on the chair seems natural as well. The reason that Lavie is the same height as Alvis in this pose is because Lavie is slouching. I guess they did that on purpose for the symmetry? Since it would be distracting to see Lavie towering over Alvis. No matter which profile you view them from they look natural and I'd say in character. For display purposes I'd say at eye level or above it would give you the best result due to their eye line.
Since I have nothing to compare the pose to all I can say is the pose is in keeping with both girls. The implementation was executed quite nicely. I don't see anything artificial about it. I guess my expectations were met.
Base: 9/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♡
My position on base is that a good base can make a great figure even better, while a lousy base can take away from a great figure. I'll have to say ALTER did a great job on their base as it easily supports the theme of the anime series considering where the base came from. As you can see they provided as part of the base a typical square base you see with some figures. The only purpose seems to be so they can put the title of the anime series on it and the black coloring contrasts and makes the chair stand out very nicely. As you can see it's rather compact, barely larger then a CD. So you shouldn't really have any problems finding a spot for the girls.
The real prize is the chair. They did such an amazing job that you can't tell where the plastic ends and the metal begins. The chair is a mix of both plastic and metal. I'd say mostly metal with the wheels and the seat back being the only plastic pieces. Basically the seat is going to be very study and will stand up to abuse due to the heavy construction.
Just look at the level of detail they put into the chair. The simulated riveting and welding is amazing. The wheels do not turn which sort of surprised me due to the level of detail in the chair. I was also surprised I didn't see some holes in the structure due to the origin of the chair.
Holes? This is why, if you look below you can see where the chair came from. It appears to be the wing from Claus' Vanship but heavily modified. In the anime series, Claus punched a bunch of holes at the bottom of his Vanship to save weight to make it lighter and faster. I was really expecting to see those holes but the lack of them isn't going to count against them.
As mentioned the execution of the chair is amazing. It took me a while to figure out which parts were plastic and metal and even then I'm still not sure on some of the parts. Whether by sight or touch it's very difficult. The chair is well put together and at the same time looks great and functions perfectly as the base for the girls which supports their world nicely considering the origin of the actual chair. Expectations were definitely met and exceeded.
Enjoyment: 9/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♡
I don't know about you but I cannot find what the catch was for such a great value. You're getting two nice figures and a nice base for the price of one. If there was a catch I don't see it and I guess it doesn't matter. These girls turned out great and the execution was flawless considering the price tag. I love the series, the world and characters. I truly hope ALTER will offer the other female pair, you know who I'm talking about... I definitely do not regret getting these girls and they definitely met my expectations especially considering the great value due to the price tag.
See you later.