Before we get down to business this week, I thought I would point out this video interview with Max Watanabe, legendary modeler and CEO of Max Factory, a company that produces many of the Nendoroid and figma toys that you’ll see on the average comic shop shelf. There’s a lot of footage of Max and company hard at work, and a bit of insight into how and why people get so into plastic. The whole “toco toco” series is excellent, and I’ll leave it at that before I swerve off topic.
Anyway, Lina Inverse is a nostalgic character if you’re of a particular age. “Only real 90s tape-trading anime kids will remember”, as the phrase goes. Slayers was one of my first anime experiences where I knew what anime was—watching someone else’s VHS tape in a darkened junior high classroom on my first week in anime club. It’s a perfectly stereotypical show, the Platonic form of “90s anime”. So it’s easy to have a deep, nostalgic affection for Slayers, and for the wisecracking sorceress heroine Lina Inverse, many years later.
Lina carries a lot of nostalgia for Japanese fans too, because not only are the original novels resuming after 18 years, I have here a brand-new Nendoroid of the character that just came out this past summer. I’m happy to say that it’s been produced with the loving attention of people who remember the character as fondly as I do. Going above and beyond the typical Nendoroid release, the deluxe package comes absolutely packed with accessories and extra body parts.
Yes, extra body parts. For those of you not familiar, Nendoroid is a line of small display figures similar in form factor to the ubiquitous Funko Pops, but boasting significantly higher quality and a price tag to match—compare a $12 Pop to this figure, which cost us $45 before international shipping. With their squatty proportions and big, expressive faces, Nendoroids are less about poses and action—leave that to the sister line figma—and more about expressing character and cuteness. To this effect, the figures usually come with a variety of in-character facial expressions, as well as parts and accessories meant for very specific poses based on scenes from the source material.
As is typical for Nendoroid, Lina has simple arms that move at the shoulder and stubby lil’ legs with ball joints at the hip. Again, the base figure isn’t really meant for posing like an action figure—we’re going to pull this figure apart and swap pieces to get different poses. Nendoroids are kind of like anime Mr. Potato Head. Between her giant head and tiny legs, Lina isn’t going to stand on her own. Due to the design, the enclosed stand is pretty much mandatory for all Nendoroid figures.
Even straight out of the box, this is a great-looking figure. The face and hairdo are spot-on to the series, with the default expression being Lina’s trademark “fang” grin, a marker of her 90s heritage. Despite the tiny size of the figure, there isn’t a character detail the sculptor missed. Lina’s bejeweled fantasy RPG gear, the rune script on her bandanna, even her earrings and the dagger tucked away behind her cape are all rendered in minute detail. This kind of attention to detail is one of the reasons people are willing to spend so much on these figures.
As I mentioned before, in order to get different poses out of this figure we have to pull it apart. Rather than using arms with a conspicuous ball joint, Lina comes with a small assortment of different arm bits in specific poses. You disassemble every part of the arm—shoulder, elbow, forearm and hand—and you have a new pose. There are a lot of pieces to replace here, but the process is smooth, the parts fit comfortably enough, and the end result looks more like a completed statue than a regular action figure.
Most of the extra parts are for the re-enactment of one particular scene, which you’re probably familiar with if you’ve watched a single episode of Slayers. Lina’s ritual performance of her signature spell, the Dragon Slave—with dramatic incantation and that ominous music—is hard to forget. This figure actually allows you to pose Lina through the key parts of the sequence.
To maximize the drama of Lina’s incantation sequence, the figure comes with a second sculpt of her hair, swept straight up into the air by magical energy. There are also some effect parts of clear plastic to simulate the “magic”. Effect parts have become so popular as a display option—particularly with Dragon Ball figures—that makers like Bandai sell things like energy auras, gusts of wind and thunderbolts by themselves.
The second pose is the one at the moment just before Lina lets the Dragon Slave fly. Not only are there specific hands and arms for this pose, the magic ball has an indentation where Lina’s hand should be, so you can get the scene precisely right.
And the final pose is the release. There’s a very small, thin clear plastic attachment that allows you to “float” the blast in front of Lina. This gets a little frustrating—with no instructions included for this part, I needed to figure out myself that I had to set up the display exactly like this, diagonally on the platform. Lina pops off her stand easily and so does the energy blast, so there’s a lot of fiddling to get this looking perfect.
The included sword represents a particular scene from the series that I was surprised to see. In episode 10 of the first season, Lina takes out a big bad guy by borrowing her buddy Gourry’s Sword of Light and channeling her Giga Slave spell through it. Pre-orders directly from Good Smile came with the original Sword of Light and an extra pointing hand to be aimed at villains. Exclusive parts are Good Smile’s way of beating discounters like Amiami, who I typically use. Pay full retail price—roughly $20 more—and you’ll get the true complete package, with some kind of irresistible fan-bait which will never be sold again. Good Smile really knows the game.
It’s been a few years since I’ve opened up a Nendoroid, so I feel very lucky that my first Nendo for this column was both an excellent entry in the line and a figure of a character I just happen to love. I’ll certainly be thinking long and hard about the pose I want my Lina to take on my shelf.
I got this figure for $65 shipped at Amiami, but by the time I got this review done, it was already out of stock at the usual Japanese spots. I did find a preorder for another shipment at Big Bad Toy Store. In any case, these figures move fast, and “out of stock” is the first step towards “scalped on Ebay.” As is often the case with Nendoroids, you’re going to have to move if you want one of these.