Tuesday, December 25, 2012

KK Reviews: Calliope Jackalope by Circus Posterus x Tomenosuke-syoten

Circus Posterus and Tomenosuke-syoten are on a roll! Calliope Jackalope, designed by Kathie Olivas, is the second figure in the team’s collaborative line of sofubi figures. The first, Brandt PetersStingy Jack, was a very long time in the making, requiring the talents of designers, sculptors, and painters in the US, Europe, and Japan.

Once the process was worked out and the kinks were smoothed over, this United Nations of Sofubi Masters kicked it into high gear. With the wind at their backs, they released Calliope Jackalope within months of Stingy Jack. The new figure slots in perfectly not only with this line, but also with Kathie’s previous customs, resin figures, and production releases.

As it’s the holiday season, I took Calliope out on the town for a series of photo shoots in six locations. So let’s get to it – it’s Christmas in Tokyo, with Calliope Jackalope.

Let’s start by looking at the packaging.

Like other figures in the line, Calliope, which is 7.5” (190 mm) tall, comes packaged traditional sofubi style, in a clear plastic bag with a stapled header card.

The header uses a beautiful minimalist color palette, with the figure’s name in English and Japanese. Interesting to note that in the illustration, Calliope’s antlers are intact, while the sofubi figure has antler stubs.

Once again, the back of the header is signed by the artist. I can’t recall seeing this done outside of the Circus Posterus x Tomenosuke line. It reminds me of the way Blobpus (Kaji-san) signs the foot of every figure he hand paints. These are really nice personal touches.
Our first shoot was with a little Christmas tree in front of a convenience store near my house. The tree reminds me of something from Peanuts. It has a straggly string of lights and plays midi style X-mas tunes on a continuous loop.
On the naming of things, a "calliope" is a steam organ. (Fits in nicely with the Circus Posterus motife!) A "jackalope" is a folklore creature that's part jackrabbit, part antelope (which, combined, gives you "jackalope")  - hence the figure's outfit and broken antlers. All in all a very cool name!
Let’s look at the figure from all sides.

Immediately we can see one of Calliope’s unique features: the articulated legs which spin 360 degrees and allow the figure to sit perfectly balanced on a ledge. I’ve never seen this done with a sofubi figure, and it’s a testament to the master skills of both the sculptor - Yohei Kaneko of Mirock Toys - and Teodoru Badiu, who performed the initial 3D rendering of the figure. The importance of technical skills can’t be overstated when producing sofubi toys (or toys with any material), from the design to the wax, joint, mold, and paint stages.

 The review continues after the jump:

Here Calliope contemplates the little tree.

It’s always fun to have curious onlookers at photo shoots. Incidentally, that type of bike is called a mama-chari. Sometimes there are children’s seats in both the front and back, for the complete urban momma meets Max Max effect.

Just look at that balance! This shot also gives a good look at Calliope’s arms, which are part of the body’s sculpt. This is common with Kathie’s toys from other companies like Kidrobot and Mind Style.

Our next shoot was at a bookstore.

Calliope found a title she liked – A popup Japanese version of Wizard of Oz.

A zoom-in shot, and a chance to look at the figure’s paint work. The painting team used eight paint masks for Calliope. Creating this level of precision is much more difficult than it sounds. Masks are made by expert artisans, and they have to be very carefully lined up with the figure when used. A while ago, I had a chance to shoot a video of a painter using some masks at the Shikaruna studio, and I was surprised at just how tricky they are to use.

I zoomed in close with this pic to show how amazingly clean the paint is.  The ovals of Calliope’s eyes are nearly perfect orbs, and the whites of her eyes were painted with laser precision. These elements blend in perfectly with the cheeks, which have a subtle, light spray. If you zoom in really close, you can see the lips also have a very small amount of paint. This type of super subtle detail is a hallmark of this excellent line of toys.

Here again on Calliope’s clothes, paint masks were used to make the zipper stand out.

Idol dreaming…
At our next stop, near Shinjuku station, Calliope found some presents under a tree. It’s a nice chance to stop and look at the figure’s articulation.

Calliope’s head is one of the main points of articulation.

You can spin the head 360 degrees, with no blocking. Unless you’re an Exorcist fan, you probably won’t be spending a lot of time spinning the head in circles, but I think it’s important for joints to be fully rotatable when possible. This is another area that can be much trickier than it looks, requiring vision, patience, and technical mastery.

The legs also rotate 360 degrees, which is important, since if you don’t have Calliope sitting on a ledge, you’ll need to be able to spin the legs around so she can sit on a flat surface.

The figure will sit upright and maintain its balance across a wide range of head and leg rotations, which is great since you can pose the figure the way you want.

The tail is a separate part that rotates. Here you can also see some of the nice sculpting details on the clothes.

The hat also rotates, but I didn’t find that having this part or the tail articulated added much playability to the figure.

This for me is the biggest disappointment. The ears are separate parts, yet they are firmly lodged in place and don’t rotate. With some tweaking, I don’t see why different joints couldn’t have been used to make the ears rotatable, unless there was some concern over the paint scratching since the ears are flush with the head. Or maybe since they're part of Calliope's outfit, they're meant to be inanimate. Anyway, it’s a small point, but maybe a missed opportunity.
After all this posing, Calliope was ready to paint the town robin egg’s blue! (That’s what this version's base color is called, by the way.)

Calliope ponders the unfathomable nature of Japanese holiday advertising.

She found some friendly furry types at a shop, where the crowd was regaled with some Eine Kleine Sofubimusik!
 Moving on....

Nighttime illuminations are a Christmas staple in Japan.

Calliope surveys the nightscape…

…and finds a nice spot to soak in the sights and sounds!
Back at the house, Calliope reminded me that she was designed with yet another play functionality – optimum head swapping with Stingy Jack! The neck joints were meticulously designed so you can pop out one figure’s head and pop in another’s, as such:
Sofubi heads swapping on an open ledge. Jack frost nipping at your toes...da da da, da da da, da da da, da da da....Merry Christmas to you. (PS: To swap the parts, I used a hair dryer to soften the vinyl.)

As a reminder, in North America sales of the Circus Posterus x Tomenosuke line will be handled by Stranger Factory:
Stranger Factory
109 Carlisle Blvd. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106 USA

While international sales will be handled by Tomenosuke-syoten.

Well, that’s all for this look at Kathie Olivas’s Calliope Jackalope. There’s a LOT more to come in this amazing line. Soon I’ll be looking at the line’s third figure: Stinky Ginger.

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays from Kaiju Korner!

andy b

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