Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Collectible: Chun-Li (Street Fighter)

For every thing right that Pop Culture Shock did with Chun-Li there's one aspect that only stopped bothering me recently. It's the eyes! But before those specifics, we should probably take a look at the rest of the figure, which fits in easily with a couple of other fighting game collectibles I reviewed in the past.

Chun-Li goes toe-to-toe with M. Bison (Street Fighter) and Morrigan (Darkstalkers). The scale and proportions are spot on. Were they not, this would have been a massive oversight by Pop Culture Shock. After all, the characters in question pull from Capcom fighting games (and were sculpted by Jerry Macaluso) so it makes sense that they could be lined up on a shelf -- admittedly, a big shelf -- and not appear out of step. If you're a big collector Capcom and/or Street Fighter items this is a definite bonus, but it's also the reason I pray that they never attempt a Rufus figure.

On a macro level, Chun-Li's all good! The details are important though, especially when Chun-Li costs $314.99US.

Assembly of the figure is as simple as attaching the hands (with the magic of magnets) and inserting the foot peg into the base. I'll put "simple" in quotes because though the hands were a simple matter but I had to use a slim exacto knife to shave off a small piece of something that was lodged in the hole in the base. Without this minor repair, there was no way to insert the square metal peg into hole. Even then, I felt like I was forcing the peg into place. It makes me apprehensive for the day when I have to re-box Chun-Li and I have pull the figure free. Will it just snap off at the knee? I certainly hope not!

The sculpting details on the boots, and the figure as a whole, is great. Coupled with a great paint job, some of the components look pretty darn awesome. What isn't "faked" are the leggings, outfit, and ox horns.

One thing this figure finally gave me was a reason (or an excuse) to delve into Chun-Li's background. It's not something I'll recount here, but the main thing is that there's a name for those things on Chun-Li's head. They're called "ox horns" in China (where Chun-Li hails from) and according to Wikipedia "[it] was a commonly used hairstyle up until the early 20th century, and can still be seen today when traditional attire is used."

(There. Now you can tell people you learned something today.)

Her blue QipaoChun-Li's style is anything but traditional. Her own particular clothing style has been popular since Street Fighter II was released in 1991. It's not just the thighs, though I'm sure that's part of it.

Classified as a mixed media collectible, Chun-Li features real cloth stockings and (original blue) outfit, along with the ox horn covers. Stitching is good where is needs to be, especially the stockings, which are most obviously exposed. The detail work on the shiny satin outfit is great. No loose threads and the colours and designs are perfect translations of the source material. (And the official colours of the The Armchair Empire to boot!)

Is it just me or has someone else thought
that a company specializing in replacement
parts for these high-end collectibles might
be a good idea?
This faithfulness extends horizontally to her spiked wrist guards, which are part of her hands. Because of the sculpting and the fact the hands are attached with magnets, each hand can be put into two different positions. It might not offer a dramatic change in what the figure looks like -- with three different hands and two heads M. Bison easily eclipses Chun-Li in this regard -- but it does at least offer something. My only concern about the hands is that they're relatively small and if you have kids in the house there's a danger of a hand becoming lost. No hands leaves Chun-Li looking slightly like an amputee, which isn't true to the source material.

Now we arrive at the face and the eyes that actually seem fish-like, almost dead, rather than human. I've scoured the depths of the Internet trying to locate the source images for the facial details. Some of the official (and not so official pictures) come pretty close but none of them really match the version of Chun-Li's eyes that Pop Culture Shock puts forward.

Here's a sampling of subject sources I could find, noting that some of what's out there came after the figure was originally released:

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As well, the mouth also seems a little too glossy and presents a sense of "allure" rather than a fierce battle face, which I would expect from the overall pose which implies she's about unleash her Hyakuretsu Kyaku lightning kick.

After a while though, it didn't bother me. It’s easy to accept because Chun-Li’s a cartoon character with no real-world comparison. (Apologies to Kristin Kruek.) This variation is just Pop Culture Shock's take on the character. If there was a real-world comparison -- again, sorry Ms. Kruek -- the figure could have been cited for completely whiffing. But this isn't an Indiana Jones figure where a faithfulness to the likeness of Harrison Ford would be mandatory, so there's some leeway.

A high-end collectible like Chun-Li is squarely aimed at the hardcore crowd, which is the same group of people that won't be disappointed with the purchase. There were some minor details about the figure, like the base hole not being smooth enough to just slide in the supporting peg (likely specific to the review unit) and I still don't know what impact a dead magnet might have -- M. Bison and Morrigan also feature magnets to some degree -- and a face that grew on me after a while but the overall attention to detail, sculpting and painting mean that fans get a great display piece.

And if you want to keep her boxed up, that's an option, too. As typical of the company, the box is bright and full of color and provides ample evidence of the figure inside. Some people like doing that. I used to be one of them but no longer!

M. Bison and Chun-Li comparison shot. Chun-Li (18") is only slightly shorter than Bison (19").
It's also worth noting that the base is numbered and the figure comes with a Certificate of
Authenticity signed by Jerry Macaluso.
- Aaron Simmer