Volks’ Horo is probably personally my most anticipated figure to date and will likely retain that title for a considerable period of time. As soon as I’d seen her I knew that I had to have her and continually searched for any and all information I could find, I was obsessed. Over the months the hype grew in my mind to impossible expectations, expectations the figure could never possibly live up to. The fear of my eventual disappointment grew and I started second guessing my decisions, would I really like this figure?
For those of you living deep, deep within the depths of the darkest mines of Moria and don’t know who Horo is, here’s a little background information. Horo is a 600 year old wolf harvest deity from the light novel series Spice and Wolf by Isuna Hasekura. The first novel was published in February of 2006, however prior to publication was entered in the ASCII Media Works’ twelfth Dengeki Novel Prize in 2005, winning the Silver Prize. The series has since expanded greatly with 13 volumes of the light novel series, a manga, an anime with two seasons, and a visual novel released on the Nintendo DS. The series has even been licensed in North America via Yen Press for the Light Novels and Manga, and FUNimation for the anime.
The series takes place in the past with many European influences and revolves around two main characters, Lawrence Craft a travelling merchant, and of course Horo. Over the course of the series we follow them as they travel towards Horo‘s home and all their troubles in between. However the key aspects of the series are economics as well the growing relationship between Horo and Lawrence. You heard me right there, economics, there’s a heavy focus throughout the series on understanding trade and the economics of a travelling merchant. It may sound like dry subject matter to base a series on but actually works out thanks to the interactions between Horo and Lawrence.
Oh yeah, and Horo‘s mai waifu .
Volks, usually known for their unpainted garage kits, mecha and Dollfies, has produced a series of pre-painted PVC figures called A-Brand of which this was one. This figure was sculpted by Milchstraße which I can only imagine is a pseudonym. The figure is 1/6th scale with a height of 21 cm, retailed exclusively at Volks’ Online store for ¥7,140 / $86 CAD and was released in November of 2009. Since the figure was exclusive to Volks’ Online store a proxy/forwarding service was required to receive her. I opted to use Tokyo Hunter as I also ordered Aisaka Taiga through him and worked out a deal on the costs for the two exclusive figures. Joseph is a pretty reasonable guy to work with and moves quick, the turn-around times were pretty impressive. Additionally, he also offered a break on EMS shipping on top of the deal we’d worked out originally. Overall quite happy with the experience, though one does pay for it as he’s definitely not the cheapest service available.
Before she even arrived my opinions were starting to skew and get mixed. The Japanese sites were starting to post their pictures and she didn’t seem to look as good as I was hoping, buyers remorse was setting in before I’d even received mine. I can only say that this was the best thing that could have happened to me as it brought all the hype that had built up in my head back down to reasonable levels. When Horo finally did arrive on my doorstep, 5 business days after Japan had received theirs, I was ecstatic with what I saw. Simply the best Horo figure yet, meeting my expectations. That’s not to say she’s perfect of course, just that she’s exceeded previous iterations.
One of the most obvious differences of this figure over previous is her base and pose. 3 of the now 5 Horo‘s I own had similar poses, standing, arms out, hair extending outwards, almost as if dancing. This Horo however has a casual posture and looks as if she’s engaging you in conversation, it’s a much more natural pose than the others, and in my opinion, most figures. It’s a very refreshing pose.
The base consists of a wagon wheel, bench and clear plastic along with some molding to hold Horo in place. There are no pegs so Horo‘s only held on by gravity and molding, which to my surprise works well. She’s well balanced and doesn’t wobble at all. It’s a nice base and while it feels incomplete due to it’s cutout nature it’s definitely many steps up over most bases with their plastic frisbees.
Horo’s sculpting has me a bit torn on my opinion. While I feel she’s the most accurate representation of Horo yet, she doesn’t appear to have the most sculpting detail necessarily. For example, I think both Kotobukiya’s and Good Smile Company’s Horos have more sculpting and design in their representations of her tail. Volks’ give’s a slightly flat or perhaps smooth feel that I don’t think melds with the rest of the figure which has lots of detail in the clothes and hair. I certainly don’t expect to see each individual strand of hair, but perhaps more work could have been done in her tail to give it a bit more texture. That said it’s not an unattractive tail, I quite like it’s positioning and thickness, I just feel they could have done more with it. Other examples might be Good Smile Company and Kotobukiya’s Horos hair both have more detail in some respects.
The rest of the figure has quite nice detail, though I think perhaps Horo might need an iron in the future. There are many realistic folds in her clothes all where they should be, maybe even an excessive amount in her right sleeve. Her pants also give off a different feel than her shirt, her pants seem to be a thicker material, perhaps leather and fold differently and thicker. Horo‘s face also seems to be the most accurate recreation so far though from some angles gives off a bit of a Who feel from Dr Seuss’ books. Her eyes are an attractive size and a wonderful red, her Who-like nose is cute, but her mouth gives off a slightly strange look. It’s not unattractive but I can’t put a finger on it. A friend said her lips stood out too much, but I think it’s perhaps the shape of it in relation to the rest of her facial features such as cheeks and chin.
Volks’ paintwork is acceptable but doesn’t stand out as anything overly exceptional, it’s just enough to get the job done. Horo‘s skin is a pleasant colour but lacks depth, her hair is the right colour and has shading, her clothes have some nice shading as well. But overall it feels there’s a lack of depth to the paintwork, most obvious places being her skin and tail. I imagine finding the right balance of depth for an animated character is difficult, where do you add depth that’s not seen in the anime? Strangely it almost seems like the base has a better paintjob in places than Horo herself.
Volks has also included a second face for Horo along with an alternative piece of hair for the front. I’m confused though with this extra hair piece as other than some mildly differing paintwork, it has exactly the same molding from what can see. The expression Horo is making in this alternate face doesn’t really appeal to me and I’m not really sure what it’s supposed to be either. It’s likely to be an accessory I store away in a drawer and rarely if ever use. I think that Volks should have included different accessory bits for Horo, such as a mug of fire wine to replace the apple, and a drunken Horo face. I think that would have been a great improvement over the face included, maybe by some miracle someone will produce such an accessory, we can have dreams right?
Lastly we have my favourite and most painful section of the review, defects, and there are some defects. The one that annoys me most is in her left pant leg right at the bottom, it looks like an injection point and seems to remove some detail from the cuff of her pant. It’s visible when on display as well as it’s near the front and at an angle you’d look at her, a rather poor choice of placement. The other defect is less apparent as it’s on her less visible side, the rear of her head. Unless you’re in just the right lighting conditions or looking for it you may not notice it, but in her hair it looks as though during the molding process someone left a short hairlike object on the mold and was pressed into her hair. The object is no longer there of course, but the mark it made is, another little disappointing oversight on Volks’ part.
There are some real upsides to Volks’ Horo and some somewhat mediocre results as well. I wished the figure would be perfect but of course that can never happen, there’s always going to be something unless I hired someone to sculpt her for me and directed them specifically, and that’s not gonna happen, at least not yet. But despite the apparently mediocreness of some aspects I think overall the figure Volks has produced represents Horo‘s character the best and most accurately as I’ve repeated throughout the review. I feel as though there’s personality in this Horo and that easily outweighs the minor shortcomings found in the figures design. So there we have it, the best Horo figure, and she’s not even naked!
But her feetsies are! Mmm barefooted Horo…