Clever production innovation lets designers create amazingly convincing contrast between skin and other textures.

The anime figure business might seem simple. All you have to do is wait for the new season of shows to start, see which series are hits, and then fire up your plastic molds and make figures of their most popular characters, right?

But otaku are sticklers for visual quality, and just as anime artwork itself has gotten more polished in the modern era, so too must figures be a better match for the 3-D vision of the character that fans have in their mind’s eye. To that end, anime merchandiser extraordinaire Bandai has announced a new figure line, called Figure-rise Labo, that’s the result of some very cool innovation.

The primary theme of Figure-rise Labo is “skin,” and not in the sense that the debut figure, Gundam Build Fighters Try’s Fumina Hoshino, is showing a lot of it. Rather than apply coloring directly to the figure’s skin to create rosy cheeks and other natural-looking color variations, Bandai uses two layers of material, with differing thicknesses of the paler, semi-translucent top layer allowing a greater or lesser amount of the brighter lower layer to show through.

Not only does this more closely match the look of actual skin tone, not having to add different colors to the top layer lets designers leave it with a low-gloss matte finish. That, in turn, helps emphasize the shine on materials that should be reflective, such as Fumina’s swimwear, which would be made out of some sort of sleek, shimmering fabric.

The contrasting effect is especially noticeable in the video below, where the figure rotates as the surrounding light sources cycle through various settings and the figures skin and swimwear look uncannily like their real-life counterparts would, as opposed to the pure plastic aesthetics of figures made with less-advanced figures.

Of course, it’s likely no coincidence that Bandai has put so much effort into developing and showcasing how well the Figure-rise Labo line can handle skin and swimwear, considering that figures of bikini-clad anime ladies have always been a sure-fire way to get shoppers to open their wallets.

What’s surprising is that the Fumina figure’s flesh tones are arguably closer to that of a real human’s than the super-shiny skin seen in many anime. Still, Bandai is likely to have plenty of interested buyers when the figure goes on sale in June, priced at 5,940 yen (US$56). Of course, you could always try to save a few bucks by being patient and waiting for one to show up on the used market…but we wouldn’t recommend it.

Source: Bandai Hobby via Jin
Top image: Bandai Hobby
Insert images: Bandai Hobby (1, 2)

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