Thursday 30 May 2013

1/8 Alvis E. Hamilton & Lavie Head (Alter)

Has it really been almost a decade since Last Exile aired? Where did all that time go? I'm not sure I remember much from the show except that I marathoned it one weekend and enjoyed it.

When Alter announced their new Alvis and Lavie figures, my frugal senses went wild. Sure, they're tiny, and sure, they're not that fancy, but they're still two figures in one box, and that was enough to warrent a pre-order. Plus it's Range Murata and Alter. Team of champions. READ ON.

If there's one thing I love about Alter, it's their ability to surprise. Rather than rely on old faithfuls, Alter sometimes whips a figure straight out of the left field. Like Buddy. Where did she come from? Why did she get a re-release? Methinks there be a private fan within the Altersphere, but that's either here nor there. Naturally, there's risk involved when engaging older lines, but I respect a company that's willing to test the waters. Toss a bone and see who jumps. Do it out of curiosity, if nothing else. After all, it's not like Alter's reputation could go down for humouring a few oldies like me. If they ever release a Deedlit figure, I'd buy the hell out of it.

Alvis and Lavie get neat new designs in Fam: The Silver Wing, but as someone who grew attached to their child incarnations, I'm glad Alter decided to stick to their younger forms. It's nostalgic.

The two girls are tiny, and come in an appropriately tiny box. The cardboard is slightly metallic, with a bright orange backdrop that contrasts nicely with the grey. The sides are stippled, and free of redundant figure shots.

(**Click to enlarge photos**)

Late last year, I surprised myself by buying several seated/reclined figures in quick succession. (Alter's Menma, Orchid Seed's Blanc Neige, GSC's Mayoi Hachikuji, and these two). Earlier, I had a distinct dislike for seated figures. Their positions leveled out their butts, they were boring, they took up too much horizontal space, my complaints went on and on.

But predilections have an odd way of working, and 'lo and behold, seated figures won me over with their deployability. Their ability to sit in any environment is, for the lack of better words, totes bitchin'. As an added plus, they also tend to come with miniature furniture, and miniature anything is automatically adorable.

Alvis and Lavie come with a wonderfully detailed, metal bench. Alter also provides a polished, black slab with the Last Exile logo, but it attracts fingerprints and doesn't do much for me, so I tend to go without. The bench looks cold and inhospitable on its own...

...but it's nothing two adorable girls can't solve!

Alvis and Lavie are based off the cover illustration for Prismtone: Range Murata Anime Works 1998-2006 Art Book. Both characters are displayed in adorable, casual outfits. I hesitate to call them pajamas, but that's what first comes to mind. Lavie's appears to be a babydoll version of her tomboyish tang-and-shorts, while Alvis shows off her legs in a short summer dress.

Since Alvis and Lavie are essentially two separate figures, I'll look at them each on their own.

Lavie comes first. Perched on a tiny, cylindrical, superglue case, she kind of looks like she's squatting on the can levitating. Of the two characters, Lavie was the more memorable character. Her spunky, genki-girl attitude, mechanical aptitude, and cute 1920s bob cut ingrained her in my hippocampus. Alter did a great job capturing her amiable personality.

I sort of wish she had a wrench dangling from her left hand though. That would have elevated her to a whole new level of perfect.

For the longest time, I promised I would pick up one of Range Murata's art books. Alas, that promise has yet to be realized. Range Murata's art is so prolific you probably recognize his pieces, if not his name. His baby-faced, almond-eyed characters are easily recognizable. As usual, Alter translates his style into 3D with ease.

Many attempts at sculpting tongues end up looking like pokey piece of pink PVC protruding from a facial hole, but Lavie's tongue actually works well with her carefree pose. She's not forcing a funny face, or photobombing, or posing. It's like the camera just happened to capture her in a moment of natural goofiness. Awesome.

By the way, look at her cute little fingers. Fantastic.

I'm not really one for short haired girls. Sure, a cutthroat bob works well on the professional businesswoman types, or a Roaring Twenties flapper, but I've never been a huge fan of the style. I, for one, was forced to have an adorable bob cut as a child, which made me look like a rotund mushroom stuck gracelesssly onto a pair of human shoulders. Not exactly flattering. On an aesthetic level, shorter hair just doesn't have the whoosh factor of longer hair. Lavie is actually the only "true" short-haired girl I have in my collection.

Thankfully, Alter did such a spot-on job on Lavie's 'do that I think of her as a trailblazer for future short-haired girls rather than an amusing oddity in my collection. Unlike GSC's Misaka Mikoto, Lavie's hair is full to her nape. She does have an unfortunate seam line that I think could have been better hidden under her goggles, but so many figures have this seam I've almost become blind to it.

I love illusions. I love octopi that look like coral, leafy seadragons that look like weeds, and fuzzy ptarmigans that look like snowballs. I love fooling my occipital lobes, thereby sticking it to millions of years of evolution (take that, nature!). Along the same tangent, I love when PVC imitates fabric. Over the years, companies have improved tenfold with their representation of clothes. Take any 2008 Alter figure and stand it next to a 2012 one. You'll be lucky to get one or two folds in the 2008 figure. As for 2012...

Folds abound! Look at that intense, rectitude to physical law. Delicious-max. As though that's not impressive enough, Lavie's dress is also well shaded. It's difficult to see on camera, but each fold is adorned by a pale, purple hue. 

Of course, I never talk Alter without talking about detail. Lavie may seem plain, but her sculpt and paint are top notch. Her goggles have a lovely metallic sheen. And her boots have equally lovely treads. I do wish her goggle lenses had more transparency though. More like Shinobu's.

Moving onto Alvis: The cute one. Ok, they're both cute, but she's certified cute. By certified cute, I mean "cute" is her defining characteristic. She was the closest thing to a mascot Last Exile had—a mascot that powers up while answering riddles, the capacity of which saved her from being a total moeblob.

Alvis is a shy character, at least compared to Lavie, and her pose reflects thusly (oh la la, "thusly", pinkies up, folks). Her arms are drawn around her plush, and she doesn't have Lavie's slouch. Her expression is more reserved. Without Lavie to lean on, she looks a bit stiff, like a loud noise might scare her away.

Alvis' face isn't quite as spot on as Lavie's. She's a little thinner in the face than her promo pictures show. Nevertheless, she's still awesome cute. I'm glad they went with twin tails rather than buns. A girl's gotta let her hair sort of down sometimes, y'know?

Like with Lavie, Alter put work into Alvis' hair. I especially like pompons in her headband. The texture is delish. They look like charred meatballs. And I mean that in the most complimentary fashion possible.

Unfortunately, her hair's not perfect. There is some roughness towards the tips that brings down its overall quality. It doesn't bring down the quality by a lot, no sir, but it does put a bump in an otherwise smooth ride.

Once again, like with Lavie, Alter paid close attention to Alvis' dress. The flower print is clear, all the folds are in the right places. I also love the way her bloomers peek from underneath her dress. Details, my friends.

Speaking of details. The paint job on Alvis' flower pattern is rutally kosher. The flowers are tiny and perfect. Tiny. And. Perfect. Thanks to their puniness, they don't even look like flowers from the get-go, which makes the feat even more delightful.

Clearly, a stencil of some sort was used to achieve this bright and massive outcome, which only leads me to my next question: How did they stencil so finely on a wrinkled surface? Surely the pattern isn't painted on before the PVC is wrinkled, and stencils aren't known for being excellent at rounding corners. Maybe they're using some sort of soft stencil that adheres to crinkled surfaces, but even then, Alvis is so tiny, I can't imagine them getting the stencil to seal tightly enough for such clean lines. Maybe they use tiny stamps instead. Or magic.

Of course, there's still the chance that each flower is hand-painted (their yellow middles are done by hand, since some of them are off-center), but I can't imagine the patience it would take.

But enough fixation! No need to clog this blog with my personal obsessions. ONWARD, to the next section!

Goat are cute, yeah? When they're not headbutting you to death in Eternal Sonata, yeah? Alvis' plush almost makes hearty baas upon physical punishment. Not in the figure, though that would be awesome. In the show.

Hey, hey, did you notice something?

Alvis and Lavie are wearing boots that match each another. Alvis has orange soles to match Lavie's  hair, and Lavie has green soles to match Alvis' dress. Oh snap! Cute factor just jumped through the roof!

As I mentioned, sitting figures usually have flattened out butts, which looks hilarious when they're not seated properly. It's still one gripe I have with seated figures, but I guess the alternative would be equally hilarious butt-prints in their base.

Here in Canada, we finally got two weeks of decent-like weather. I stuffed Alvis and Lavie in my pockets and rushed into the largest lightbox known to man, a.k.a. outside. If anything, the great outdoors was too effective of a lightbox, and many of my photos ended up overexposed. Thanks, great outdoors! On the bright side (no pun intended), I managed to land a few decent shots before the hail swept in and killed both my flowers and my spring-specific sense of renewal. Canada: Where you can experiene sunburn and frostbite in the same day, eh? EH?

As with all sitting figures, I had a ball mixing and matching. Sometimes, I'm tempted to buy a figure just for the base. It's not financially intelligent, but it sure is fun. Here they are comadeering Menma's and Totori's bases respectively.

And Tsubasa Hanekawa's.

And doing what they do best, sitting on more stuff.

And watching the sunset over the mist of an industrialized fantasy world.

You'll remember Alvis and Lavie made it to my top releases of 2012 in my yearly review. Knowing my general preference for dynamic, windswept girls, it was a surprise to find them lodged so firmly in my heart. I searched long and deep for answers, and came up with this: They're just the right combination of atmosphere, technical achievement, and nostalgia. They give off a relaxed, summertime feel, they're high quality, and I just so happen to have some attachment to their characters. GSC's Triela wriggled her way into a high score for the exact same reasons.

Which is why it hurts so much to see them lounging in AmiAmi's bargain bin (granted, they're not on sale by a lot, which soothes my outraged heart). Seriously, folks, they're a beautiful, adorable pair. What's up? Maybe Last Exile really is too old to re-engage. Or maybe, despite what I see in them, they're just not that interesting. Or maybe they lack proper panty shots. Or maybe they're just plumb tiny. Whatever it is, they're a real grab for fans of the show, old or new.

(Did I mention you're getting two figures in one? If that's not a good deal I don't know what is.)

Their cuteness compels you.
The Run-Down
Box: 7/10 (Small, with nice stipple)
Base: 9/10 (Detailed bench , but the black square fingerprints too easily)
Pose: 10/10 (Two girls chillin' like girls ought to do)
Paint: 9.5/10 (The smallest of slips here and there)
Sculpt: 8/10 (Funny, flat butts, some roughness, otherwise really cute)
Overall: 9/10 (Outstanding)

Manufacturer: Alter
Price: 8800 yen
Purchased From: AmiAmi

Hoot, birdies,


  1. I couldn't manage to comment earlier, but let me say I loved your picture on mfc with the adorable chalk board and these glasses, Im quite the glasses maniac :D

    At some point I also thought about getting these two, but in the end I had dropped the idea for whatever reason. Actually I have never seen them so lovely like today, this is a fantastic set of cute girl figures and furniture. I love them, I want them.

    Sitting characters are a lot of fun, since like you said, they can be posed nearly everywhere.

    so many nice and creative pictures "Alvis flower" is so nice ^^

    1. Thank you for your kind words, darling! I'm a glasses maniac too. I can't get enough of 'em.

      These two are massively underrated in my opinion. Two figs in one! How can you resist? Get them if you have the chance! I bet you could make them look even cuter. XD


  2. I love Last Exile, don't really like how it ends though since Gonzo likes to bring characters back from the dead. It has the most amazing music and animation quality back in the days, and the story line its just fantastic.

    After watching the anime, I did some researches about the character designer - Range Murata, since he really gave an unique touch to all of the characters for Last Exile. Apparently, he has a line of figures for his own design too, all of them looked very nice, which made me spent a fortune... lol.

    Although I didn't purchase 1/8 Alter set, but I did bought a set of Character Collection for Last Exile like 5 years ago, will take some pictures over the weekends and share it with you! I love your pictures for them though, those sceneries are amazing ^^

    1. I find a lot of shows start strong and land a little...short. Though I tend to forgive them as long as the journey itself was enjoyable.

      I don't happen to have any of Range Murata's original characters, though I always have my eyes peeled. Especially for original Chris. That girl is adorable.

      Thanks for your kind words! I would love to see pictures of your Character Collection.