Figure Review: Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

Kotobukiya’s Bishoujo line of figures has been surprisingly controversial. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on whether or not Shunya Yamashita’s style adequately captures the subjects, and on whether or not Kotobukiya did a good job translating his illustrations into sculpture. I liked all the ones I saw last year, but I never liked the characters enough to want to buy them. But a combination of low prices, my love of Yamashita’s work, and my fondness of the concept kept the temptation strong. Finally they announced a bishoujo version of Emma Frost that looked absolutely hawt in the promo pictures, so I went ahead and ordered. Turns out she wasn’t all that I hoped for…

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

This Emma Frost has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while now. For a long time, I wasn’t sure how to photograph it. But on this lazy night, I decided on the simplest, most straightforward shoot and pounded it out in about ten minutes. The post-processing took longer than the actual shoot. That’s one nice thing about simpler PVC figures. There aren’t any extra accessories, cast-off parts, or joints, so I don’t feel compelled to show every permutation of pose and equipment. This figure was designed to look good on its own, so you can get away with photographing it in front of a barebones setup.

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

For this shoot I used my Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens, one of the cheapest of their high-end lenses. It delivers good results, albeit at a relatively slow f/4 max aperture. I was also able to get more accurate white balance info by using a gray card. It’s a convenient thing to have around, in case you’re a budding photographer.

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

Getting to the figure itself, there’s a lot to like. It’s fairly reasonably priced, as Kotobukiya distributes them in the US directly. I got this one for $50, which is the same price you’d find from an overseas retailer (and you don’t have to pay exhorbitant shipping prices). Although advertised as 1/8 scale, I’d say the figure is closer to 1/10 scale. It’s almost the same size as Wave’s latest Asuka figure, which is 1/10. Given that info, I’d prefer this to be around the $30 price point. But you do get a pretty figure, nicely sculpted with a cool pose (which incidentally doesn’t fit the character), and well-painted. It’s just small, and I have a bit of a size complex expect truth in advertising.

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

In the above shot, I’ve emphasized my favorite detail on the entire figure: her butt! Or rather, the slight glimpse of the cheeks and crack, mostly obscured by her low-cut pants and cape. Although the color scheme is simple, Kotobukiya opted for a pearlescent white paint which looks very cool. I also like the design of the base, but it was one place where they obviously cut costs—it’s just a hollow shell without even a bottom plate.

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

Now we get to the one thing that bothers me: her face. It has a very slight prognathism of the lower jaw, which may be an illusion created by the thick lipstick. It also has a longer face with less pronounced cheeks (and no blush). These traits combine to make a face that just falls short of Yamashita’s original illustration. Although I’m not 100% in love with it, I checked Tomopop’s review and the responses are all over the board, so this is a case of my tastes being too peculiar.

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

You can also see some flaws in the construction. As I’ve said before, things like seams and mould lines don’t bother me unless they’re really bad. I don’t feel that they detract from this figure, but there certainly hasn’t been much effort made in hiding them.

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

From the back, you can see the dynamism of the cape. Emma Frost’s powers are telepathy and the ability to turn into diamond… neither of which involve gesturing dramatically. In fact, Yamashita’s first proposed design just had her sitting in a chair. This pose looks good too, but doesn’t really match the character.

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

Yes, there’s plenty of bust. Although Emma wears a cape, she chose one that doesn’t obscure her cleavage. I like the amount of detail that went into the clothing. Even at such a small scale, it looks realistic, and there seem to be many separate pieces. The torso is well detailed too, with good attention paid to the skeleton and musculature (even in areas that aren’t readily visible).

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

From this angle you can see that she has a bit of a Habsburg lip. I don’t hate the face, I just think the source artwork is way better.

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

Shooting with the 17-40mm zoom lens was a great experience that taught me quite a bit. The Rebel T2i that I shoot with has an APS-C sensor with a 1.6x crop factor. This means my 50mm prime lens has the FOV of an 80mm lens, and my 60mm macro lens has the FOV of a 96mm lens. Both those lenses are pushing into the telephoto end, so I needed a shorter focal length lens for a more normal field of view. With the wider FOV, I had much more flexibility in terms of positioning myself, thus affording me more angles to shoot from.

Marvel Bishoujo Emma Frost by Kotobukiya

Kotobukiya’s Bishoujo series has expanded to DC characters, and will soon get designs based on movies. So it looks like Shunya Yamashita will be busy for the foreseeable future. That’s just fine with me. I like that Kotobukiya asked him to reimagine comic book characters. The execution here is much better, I think, than DC Direct’s Ame-Comi line. Those figures take stereotypical characteristics of anime designs and haphazardly shoehorned them into DC characters. They look as if they were designed by someone who didn’t know what anime was, and had to be told about it over the phone. They exist only as a cash grab because HEY GUYZ LOOK IT’S ANIME. It’s just patronizing and lame.

The Marvel Bishoujo approach pays far more respect to both anime art and the original comics. Here they look like plausible interpretations, as if Yamashita was simply hired by Marvel to draw some comics. He puts his own spin on the character, sure, but you feel like he’s trying to draw the character instead of trying to draw “anime”.

To wrap up, this Emma Frost didn’t turn out to be the hot, must-have bishoujo figure that I first thought. I love the concept and the art, but Kotobukiya just didn’t deliver in the sculpt. Still, it’s a decent figure, if slightly overpriced (though I’m sure it’ll get some price cuts soon).