Max Factory seriously impressed me with 2013’s Dark Elf, a figure that captured everything I like about the female form. For the longest time, it looked like their 1/7 Sheryl Nome would be THE figure of 2014 – a suitable follow up to the Dark Elf. I’m really not kidding when I say “longest time”; Sheryl was originally scheduled for a 2013 release, but was delayed again and again until this spring. Well it seems like it was worth the wait.
I’ll start with the package, which was gargantuan. You’ll pay nearly 25% of the figure’s value in shipping if you go with EMS. Instead of a vacuum formed plastic clamshell, the interior packaging is a two-piece styrofoam block. And if you’re about to open yours up, no your figure is not missing its base. It’s cleverly tucked away in a compartment on the exterior of the foam block.
Despite this choice of packaging, my figure still came broken in two places. It’s disappointing, and marks the third time I’ve had an issue with a Max Factory release in the last year (one of my Dark Elf figures was missing her staff, and my figma Mikasa came with damaged maneuver gear). I’m not going to complain too much because the damage is easily fixable with some glue. Besides, what’s GSC support gonna do? Give me a whole new $200 figure?
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this figure is that it required no assembly. It’s debatable whether a piecemeal approach would have spared me some of the minor damage, but I’m still awestruck that Sheryl arrived as one ready-made piece (well you have to put the assembly onto the base, but that’s pretty normal).
Once I unpacked the figure, the first thing I noticed was its weight. Sheryl’s 1/7 scale with a whole lot of craziness surrounding her, so it makes for a heavy chunk of PVC. The base is solid enough, but a little bit of wobble is unavoidable.
In the course of doing the photo shoot, I decided that a strongly backlit setup worked best for the figure. I used some yellow crinkled Cellophane-style wrap for the backdrop, and blew it out with a flash at high power. Then I set up a softbox at a rear 3/4 position to provide some backlighting, and used a reflector in front as a key light. It’s kind of a weird setup so I thought it was worth mentioning.
So, the figure. The more I worked with it, the more my positive feelings got mixed in with two points of criticism. Let’s get the negatives out of the way. First, the gear assembly and base look entirely too plasticky. There’s no shading at all, and the metallic paint isn’t very lustrous. I think a little more depth in the paint job and some weathering would have completed the effect.
Second, the rear of the figure is kind of a mess. I’m not referring to the finish, which is outstanding (well, apart from the damaged parts). Sheryl is designed to look beautiful from the front, and she does. From the back, her clothing and hair devolve into indistinct, chaotic ribbons. There’s no sense of flow, making the figure very difficult to photograph from the back. This is mostly coming from me being a figure photographer. I think in a display case, this won’t be a problem at all.
The positives are easy to see. This is a magnificent figure – one of the most visually impressive and ambitious figures I’ve ever seen. It easily outshines even Alter’s best stuff in their heyday. While I do think Max Factory’s ambition slightly exceeded even their considerable talent, the end product is still pretty amazing. The concept of Sheryl getting tangled up in those gears is cool. Her outfit is completely insane but sexy as well. I mean seriously, take the time to study that outfit. It makes no sense at all.
Then we get to the sculpt. Sheryl’s always been associated with a great body, and this figure proudly continues that tradition. I’m deeply grateful to Max Factory for putting her butt in a position where it can be photographed. It should easily go down as one of the best butts of 2014. Her chest and back aren’t so easy to shoot because of all the flaps and strands of hair in the way – this is why I would have liked more direction in the figure’s design.
Sheryl’s price is considerable, but she was worth it. I’m a little disappointed that it didn’t turn out to be a perfect figure, but I don’t think there’s going to be a better one this year.