Troubled Rant #3: Disempowering Figurations

As you may or may not know, I purchase figures from time to time. I limit myself to anime/manga figures, and then I focus almost exclusively on Gundam and Saint Seiya. Why, you ask?
Because I’m sick and tired of not getting the figures I want, that’s why. Allow me to elaborate.
Most Gundam merchandise revolves around robots, which makes sense (too bad I would codify most of these robots as men, eh?). However, because of its popularity, there are now tons of character figures as well, which is a plus. Many great, strong female characters like Haman Karn have got figures, and I’m sure popular ones like Sayla Mass are in the works.
Elsewhere? Not so much. There are a lot of strong female characters in anime. And I’m not talking about niche stuff like Utena (much as I wish there were good statuettes of Utena characters). I’m talking about the mainstream: Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Goodness, Eva figures… they go from the tasteful-but-boring to the simply outrageous. I love Misato as a character, I find her to be a complex woman (despite certain mysogynist aspects to her portrayal). Misato figures and statuettes are around, though not as much as Rei and Asuka (probably because Misato is ‘old’, ie she’s in her late twenties, but I digress). Now, try and find a statuette that depicts Misato as a strong person, and you will fail utterly. I can think of many scenes in Evangelion where Misato displays her strength of character. But look at the 3D versions of her and it’s always the same, either playful-sexy or weak and sorrowful. That’s not the Misato I spent 26 episodes and 2 films with. Are other people simply seeing a different character? And where, in this deluge of endless scantily-clad, anorexic Reis, is Ritsuko?
It gets worse. As I pointed out, there are no decent-quality figures of almost any Sailor Moon characters (there’s the barbie-like dolls that look little like their animated counterparts, as much fun as they can be). How about The Rose of Versailles, the shoujo manga that was such a furore in the 70s that there is STILL merchandise being produced, and the manga is still being edited again and again in Japan? Nope, no figures of it either, unless you count the terrifying dolls made back in the day. And may I remind you, Versailles was one of these huge cultural phenomenons in Japan, much like Dragon Ball or Rurouni Kenshin would be decades later. Utena figures? Don’t make me laugh, probably way too queer.
How about Saint Seiya? Well, as a story it’s not exactly a paragon of female empowerment (quite the opposite), but it does feature some strong women: Mermaid Thetis, Ophiucus Shaina and Eagle Marin. The celebrated Myth Cloth line has featured, so far, Pandora and Athena, both important characters… yet who are traditionally within what I would call ‘mystified females’. Thetis, Shaina and Marin are strong warriors, do they get any figures? Nope. I’m sure they’ll be released eventually (the Myth Cloth line is quite complete), but nobody seems to care for now. Maybe I’m the only one whose favourite character was Shaina, a character utterly ruined, by the way, by the necessities of a male-centric plotline…
And you know what gets absolutely on my tits? We all know there isn’t any lack of female anime figurines. But I dare you to look for a figurine of a strong female character who isn’t: a) from a Gundam series or b) distorted to be as hentai-like as possible. Seriously. Before the great current line of RAHDX figures, the last statue of Sayla Mass I saw had changed her quite normal body proportions to that of a hentai female character. To put it simply, strong female characters, it doesn’t matter how popular they are, simply don’t get statuettes or figurations that show their strength. Even the Gundam ones have caveats: Haman Karn, for all her strength, is still ‘evil’; Ayna Sahalin’s statuette is all about the sexy. And I haven’t seen many figures of Emma Sheen or Reccoa Londe, two strong females from Zeta Gundam who, because of their personalities, would be very difficult to realistically show them in porn-like poses.
There is something else to say here too, because what you get for female characters, 9 out of 10 times, is that: a statuette. A fixed piece. The Myth Cloths are amazing figures, one of their main selling points being that you can replicate almost any pose the character ever made. There is a similarly accurate line of Dragon Ball figures, and the same goes for Bleach. But this doesn’t seem to happen with female characters, or female-centric stories: women are fixed statues. They cannot move, indeed they are objects.
I know I sound cranky. I know. I’m just sick of seeing great characters, anime after anime, and realising there’s little recognition for them out there. Someone please prove me wrong!