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Just Because!

Friday, December 15, 2017 / No Comments

The slice-of-life genre and a high school setting appear to be inseparable in anime. Off the top of my head, this Fall season alone has at least 7 titles revolving around the hi-jinks of these uniformed teenagers. Think Love Live! Sunshine!!, Ousama Game, Shokugeki no Souma and Anime-Gataris, amongst other titles. But what sets Just Because! apart from the rest would be the time frame which it's set in. It depicts a group of third-year high school students preparing for their next stage of life, be it tertiary education or hunting for a job. It's a period of time which is often skipped or added in as an afterthought via the epilogue in most "high school" anime titles I've watched. Having graduated twice already, I know what the feeling is like and the unique focus alone was enough to convince me to give it a go.

The main cast is easy to relate to, having the same problems that most graduating high school students have, be it professional or personal ones. The way they interact is natural and what impressed me was how easily the protagonist Izumi Eita re-connected with his old group of friends, having moved back into town in the first episode for the final semester. There was little awkwardness between them and the transition was seamless, making up for the slower pace during the first few episodes where the characters were introduced. It was full steam ahead from there, with the rest of the episodes focusing on how the cast attempted to tie up any loose ends and getting rid of any emotional baggage before graduation.

Like any other story involving high-schoolers, there is the usual teenage angst thrown into the mix. However, it manifests subtly in Just Because!. Overblown reactions, in-your-face tsundere behaviour and a whole host of misunderstandings are nowhere to be found, being traded for nuance and tension instead. It makes for an enjoyable watch, considering how little time Eita and friends have left. It's similar to social situations anyone would face in real life, especially when it comes to the various characters finally confessing to their love interests. It doesn't feel like an unnecessarily grand affair, unlike other anime titles.

Unfortunately, the character designs detract from the overall viewing experience. It's the achilles heel of the series and the poorly designed characters seem out of place on more than a few occasions. The voice acting, plot and music can only do so much but considering how character-driven Just Because! is, it's hard to ignore them, to say the least. Pine Jam's previous production last season, Gamers, had the same faults regarding character design and artwork in general. On the other hand, this didn't stop me from watching either series so I'm probably exaggerating how bad the problem is.

All in all, Just Because! was worth the watch, bar the odd character designs and I'm eagerly waiting to see how Pine Jam wraps up the last two episodes. Although there is a novel adaptation that covers the ending already, I'm keen to see how the studio handles it and whether any major changes will take place.

Written by ET

Figure Assembly: Dark Angel Olivia (Kotobukiya)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 / No Comments
This post is about how to assemble Olivia and what you should look out for when assembling her. If you wish to get a review on the figure itself, please click here instead :)
The figure comes with an instruction sheet which gives a detailed explanation on how to put the figure together. The things which we have to put onto Olivia are her wings, weapon and the ring of beads around her waist.
First, here is everything that comes with the figure. As you can see, there are a lot of detachable parts that this figure comes with such as her wings and even her head and chest.

The first step is to push the sword hilt into Olivia's hand. You can refer to the box to tell which sword should go into which hand. You might have to wiggle the hilt a little to get it in but rest assured that it wouldn't cause much damage as the hand is a little flexible and can withstand the force at which you push the hilt in.
After pushing the hilt in (image above), adjust it such that you can insert the sword at the other side of her palm (image below). However, do note that it might be difficult to attach her to her lower body if you put the sword in at this stage, hence it might be better to just leave her with the hilt and join her body before placing in the sword blade part itself.
The image below shows how she should look (albeit headless) with one of her swords in place. However, do note that this image is just to show how the sword is supposed to fit. It is actually quite difficult to put the wings in with the sword in place so we'll take some steps back and do the step-by-step assembly properly.

First, you'll have to put the string of beads around her waist in place first. There is no other way it can fit in otherwise so be sure that you don't forget this step or it would be troublesome later.
The next step is to put the wings on. I chose to do this before placing Olivia's head on as I found that her hair obscured my vision and prevented my fat fingers from reaching the peg to secure it tightly into the peghole. Do note that if you do this the same way as I did, you would need to spend some effort knowing how the wings fit through the hair and you might even need to re-position the wings (especially her left wing) after putting the hair part in.

Also, you might prefer having the hair on first before inserting the wings.

Here's Olivia with her head and wings attached. I'll put a few pictures here to show how the wings should fit in between the hair strands and I hope that that would help you position the wings and her head better.

And last but not the least... It's the time to put her weapons in her hand.

I have already given a brief idea on how to do it, and this is how the final product looks like.

The swords do cross behind her and it is important to note whether the sharper side is facing up or down. Do refer to the box for a clearer depiction on which side the blade should be facing.

As I mentioned before in my review post, each product is actually slightly different so do not be too vexed if your copy doesn't fit in between the exact crystals as they should be positioned in the prototype. You could always just position her swords as you like.
And last but not the least, I placed the whole figure onto the base and done!

Of course, you can put her on the base and start building from there but I really appreciated not having the bulky base when I had to insert the wings in place. But each to his own!

Hope this helped!

Figure Unboxing and Review: Dark Angel Olivia Regular version (Kotobukiya)

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This figure has always been one which I wanted to get since the first time I saw it. I wasn't at all familiar with the source but the dynamics which made up this figure makes it something which I wanted to own. 
Sadly, her first release was in a bad month for me and by the time she was re-released, I had already known about the exorbitant shipping price that came with the figure and thus was too afraid to pre-order. Thankfully, I saw her in Suruga-ya's physical store in Japan when I was there and decided to bite the bullet and grab her. She was a pain to keep in the hotel and bring onto the plane but for scale figures of this caliber, I'll gladly do anything!

Now, let's take a look at her!

Olivia's box is extremely huge as she has her wings that take up a lot of space. Likewise, she comes with some other accessories such as her swords and the crystals on the base which adds up to her weight as well.

She only has an exclusive version which has her hair in twintails and with a more pinkish gradient but I felt that this regular version matches my display more and hence I had always wanted the regular version more than the exclusive. Of course, this opinion might change if I knew the source material well... so I've steered clear of it ever since the exclusive version rose above 25k yen.
The sides of the box are more sturdy than most other Kotobukiya boxes, which is to be expected with the size and weight of this figure. The illustration printed on the side also helps to give a comparison to the source illustration which this figure was inspired from.
The back of the box has both the figure and the illustration side by side so you can compare them. Another purpose is for using the QR code on the box for the mobile game itself.
The other side of the box has the figure's mirrored view. I do find this strange and would personally prefer having the back view of the figure/illustration but I suppose that it might be difficult if this is from a card's art.
The top of the box also comes with a window.  But more importantly than that...
I love the inside of the box. The whole backdrop that they used for this figure really helps to increase the "fantasy" genre effect for this figure! It's very pretty if you ever do decide to display your figure with it too!
The figure is secured in quite a bit of plastic as well as blister packs. The whole thing is quite heavy so the blister might come loose during shipping, especially if your copy has been opened previously and the tape that holds the blister together is not as sticky as before.

The base is both spectacular and yet missing something. I love how the crystals are positioned and help to add more dimensions to the base. However, the starry black base is taking the back seat as a result. If you look at the base from the front, the crystals really add to the figure. However, I feel that if you look at it from top down, like in the image above, you might feel that the base is lacking in some way.

The figure itself comes with a lot of difficult assembly work in the sense that the parts (like the wings) are heavy) and you might have to move the parts a lot to get them into the right grooves.

I'll write a separate post about this and what to take note when assembling the figure.

Now, let's move on to reviewing the figure itself.
Olivia has a ton of intricate parts and I'll like to start from the top down. I'll like to bring attention to her bust armour and the tattoo on her right upper arm first. These parts have very intricate painting and the area which are painted are very small. Despite so, there are no paint spillage on my copy.
Another part which I really like about this figure is the flow of her hair when you see it from the back. It looks so neat and yet all the strands of hair actually have their own flow and movement. Given that this wasn't in the original illustration, Kotobukiya has really managed to get this down pat!

I also like how the shading is quite subtly done which brings out the ginger tones of her hair well. I would probably love it if a little more shading was made but with the sculpting done this way, the natural light actually brings out sufficient light and shadow to the figure.
The weapons which Olivia uses has a sophisticated yet Gothic look to them. The ends of the sword hilts are extremely sharp and it might be better to be wary of them rather than getting injured due to it.

The swords have different shades, shapes and textures especially at the hilt, making them breathtaking to admire on their own.
The sword blades are supposed to cross behind Olivia however there are no grooves for them to fit in. I tried placing them like they looked on the box however, as the swords are slightly flexible, not all copies might be able to match perfectly with the official pose.
Now, let's move on to the entirety of the figure itself, starting from top down. I love her horns but I'll have to admit that they look more like decoration pieces than actual horns. Despite that, I really like the regal look that they bring!

The dark pieces on her hair are really intricate as well and I wonder if they are actually painted on or are simply decals.
As I mentioned before, I do love her attire as well. The way in which the skin tight white piece flares out at the end adds a feminine touch to the figure, which is further enhanced by the lace patterns at the end of the white one piece.

The armour on her chest and around her neck also matches very well with her gauntlets which has a pattern from her elbow down to her wrists, as you can see from the image above.

This figure also has a lot of gold parts, which is contrasted with both black and reds. I especially love how her red belt  and beads around her waist seem to be floating, which makes it look like this figure captured her in mid-movement. 
Another point which I, as well as many others, love are her wings. Due to the wingspan, I will only focus on one wing for these few images. As you can see, it has a three-toned gradient from dark purple to amber. Despite purple and amber being quite different, this mix of colours actually do work very well in 3D.

Needless to say the translucency at the tip of the feathers is brilliant, as well as further enhanced due to the amber colour.
Her boots/stockings reach up to her thighs and have a cute effect at the very top of it. The gold plates around her knees are awesome to look at as well. I'll give a close-up later so we can take a closer look at the pattern on the plates.

Below, we will zoom in on several different views of the figure and I hope you can find something you love about this figure!

Her heels are really simple with a little bit of gold around the front and back. It adds a little detailing around the shoe area but isn't enough to take the attention away from the base and from the beautiful accessories around her torso.

Thank you for reading!