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A Busou Shinki Primer

Boys’ toys (and even toys aimed at older collectors) have always been flavoured with machismo, aggression and implied violence. Muscle-bound he-men with snarls and grimaces wielding swords and guns are the traditional action figure standards.

But Japan also has a long-standing love affair with all things cute. Kawaisa has flavoured everything from commercial goods to military mascots.

So, putting a cute face on a fearsome heavily armed, battle-ready warrior would seem to be a quirky but entirely understandable natural step in the evolution of Japanese action figures.

Akitaka Mika’s MS shoujo in the 80s seems a likely conception point for this design style. In an interview with EX, the designer explained simply:

Well, I like drawing girls a lot. And, being a mechanical designer too, I thought it would be a lot of fun if I put Gundam armor on them.

That style has gained popularity in recent years with the rise of the moe movement. Shimada Fumikane’s designs have been at the forefront and as of writing there have been two anime OVA, Strike Witches and Sky Girls, featuring Shimada’s designs. It is perhaps unsurprising Konami tapped Shimada to be character designer for the first wave of its action figure line featuring cute girls in fearsome war accoutrements and accessories.

As a franchise, Busou Shinki (“armed princess” is the best translation I can come up with) is Konami’s calculated attempt to separate the otaku from their money. Otaku like moe female figures so Busou Shinki features moe character designs. Otaku like mecha and action figures so Busou Shinki features weapons and add-on armour pieces. Otaku like videogames so Busou Shinki features an online game component.


Action Figures

The entire Busou Shinki franchise revolves around a core action figure design by veteran modeller Asai Masaki. Dubbed the Multi Movable System by Konami, it’s a svelte 15cm-tall female action figure that’s highly posable.

One of the best things about the Busou Shinki action figures is that Konami has used different character designers for each wave. Thus, despite having the common denominators of the same base figure design and same overall theme (i.e. “chicks ready to kick ass”), Busou Shinki figures differ from wave to wave. They may not have the incredible variety of, say, Xevoz, but there’s bound to be something in the line that appeals to an action figure fan. Medieval knight, future-tech SWAT operator, mermaid, Gundam warrior … the line goes from the past to the future, from the seas to the stars.

It must be said that despite standardised pegs, ports and joints Busou Shinki doesn’t really fare well in the interchangeability department. The problem is by playing up variety, Konami has diminished the interchangeability somewhat. Flower-inspired parts don’t really mix well with mecha parts.

The action figures are sold in two different types of sets.

Full sets
These range in price from 3500 yen to 4500 yen. Each full set includes a core MMS figure as well as many accessories and weapons. The full sets also include a figure stand.

EX Weapon sets
These range in price from 1500 yen to 2500 yen. Each EX weapon set includes a head, weapons, armour and other accessories but crucially, does not include a core MMS figure. The idea here is to get a new character design without paying the price of a full set. This may seem odd but Japanese toy companies have used this method to sell action figures as far back as the Henshin Cyborg line in the Seventies.

Both types of sets include access codes which can be added to Busou Shinki software to gain access to CG versions of characters.

Software

The free software components of the line, Diorama Studio and Battle Rondo, are interesting in their own right.

Diorama Studio is a remarkable piece of software that essentially lets you play with a virtual action figure on your PC. It even includes with a free CG model, Ninja Shina (which lacks an action figure counterpart) so you can try it out without spending a cent. Once you add access codes found in Busou Shinki packages to Diorama Studio, you get to play with CG counterparts of the figures.

Battle Rondo, the game aspect of the line, involves equipping and training a CG Shinki and pitting her against another player’s Shinki in battle.

Both programs are in Japanese but don’t let that intimidate you. I’ve put together some guides to help you get up and running with Diorama Studio and there’s a guide on GameFAQs for Battle Rondo. For further reading, check out my regularly updated page of related links.

Posted in Busou Shinki, Toys.


8 Responses

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  1. microbry says

    Have you checked out the Sky Girls TV series? I’ve watched a couple and it’s surprisingly good so far as a mech series. I know that they are going to make Shinki figures of the three heroines, but strangely without their mech suits. I hope this means they’ll sell the suits seperately later to make the combined price seem lower (the suits will be big at that scale, but not outrageously so).

  2. Gobi says

    I saw the first episode and wished I hadn’t. Let’s leave it at that.

  3. microbry says

    Ouch. Well, true that first episode was definitely awkward at best. It does get better once they get to the mechs proper, from what I’ve watched, but I concede it’s not for everyone. Did you like the OVA version at all? If so, then I’d say it might be worth giving one more shot, but if not, then yeah, it’s pretty much more of the same.

    Anyway, putting my possible bad taste in shows aside, I’ll stick with my comment that Konami better release the mech suits themselves, they really look like they were designed with MMS in mind from day one. :)

  4. Gobi says

    I actually saw the one-shot OVA rather than the first episode of the TV series. It may be I’m guilty of being hypercritical but everything about it seemed to be anime-by-the-numbers. On top of that, I’m not a fan of Shimada’s designs (mecha or moe). So, all told, the Sky Girls OVA was not a pleasant experience for me. Episodes of the TV series are on YouTube so I may give them a shot.

    I think it’s only a matter of time before Konami does MMS versions of Shimada’s other work as well. Mecha Musume, for instance, would translate very easily.

  5. microbry says

    Ah, I see. Yeah the OVA I liked as pretty much pure fluff, much like, say, Plastic Little. I wouldn’t hold either up as a great example of anime or anything, but I enjoyed the battles and pretty pictures, and took the lack of story for granted. I guess “b-movie” comes to mind…that said, I tend to avoid this in most anime, though. I think I tend to be more forgiving for moe-fluff with cybernetics or mecha, heh. But yeah, if you didn’t like the OVA, then the TV show’s not much an improvement…they toned down the “service” such as it is a good deal, and it takes a slower pace, spending more time on character development and such, but otherwise it’s the same set up and feels like the OVA is just a later episode set in the same continuity.

    True…I’m not into the Mecha Musume stuff, but it definitely seems surprising that they haven’t done so already…

  6. Gobi says

    Anyway, the first seven episodes of the Sky Girls series are on YouTube if anyone wants to view them.

    I’ll make it a point to check out your other blog for that entry for anime recommendations. I remember there was one on that list that I really wanted to see.

  7. hitori says

    Hi Gobi,
    You seem to have the most informative articles on Busou Shinki written in English!
    Thanks for writing and maintaining them.
    I got a lot of information from your Links collection.

    I was wondering if you saw these.
    Seems like the 8th editions are going on presale already.
    http://d.hatena.ne.jp/Nachbar/20071003

    Cool thing is that Asai is the designer again.
    I love his military inspired mechas.
    If you find any other info about them, please let us know, too. =D

  8. Gobi says

    Thank you for your kind words, Hitori.

    Thanks for the link, too. I had not seen Wave 8 before. This one is my favourite of the three.



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