1/4 Scale Alucard by First 4 Figures (Twilight Edition)
1/5 Scale Alucard by Gantaku
Disclaimers and Image References
View spoilerHide spoilerI did a simple photo shoot of each figure, just as I would do for my others in my collection. I didn't really intend on doing a direct comparison or detailing every little thing. Instead, I typed the review up afterwards and pulled images that best suited each section; I don't always have the appropriate image though. I also didn't put every single photo in this review, so check out my gallery if you want to see more.
My intentions are not to point out a clear winner. I genuinely like both figures and recommend them both to Alucard fans.
When it comes to comparisons to the "real thing", I refer to Kojima Ayami's artwork and in-game sprites and mechanics. The following images in particular are what I consider the blueprints of Alucard's design. All were originally published in March of 1997, which is when Symphony of the Night (AKA "Nocturne in the Moonlight") was released for the PS1. In addition to the box art and promotional items, all of these images were included in the artbook and/or manual included with the game.
- With shield
- Using Hellfire
- Using a potion
- With sword and cross necklace
- With the gang
My observations lead me to believe that the First4Figures figure is based on the first image, and the Gantaku figure is based on the last two images.
I think it's pretty clear why most people seem to prefer Gantaku when it comes to the face. F4F just feels unfinished. I noticed that his face is missing the key details from this 2017 prototype, especially the black line on his mouth. Coupled with a remarkably flat and faint coloring on his lips, this causes his mouth to practically vanish in bright light. Who doesn't attempt to keep their figures well-lit? [Note: This bothered me so much that I actually made a slight modification to his face after the photo shoot - check it out at the end of this entry!]
Gantaku on the other hand, has the opposite of a subtle face with defined and bold features. In my opinion, this face truly invokes Kojima's signature style. F4F is a handsome guy, no doubt; but Gantaku has successfully achieved that achingly beautiful face reminiscent of high-end BJDs. Alucard, being half vampire, is described as having "inhuman beauty". Gazing upon this face just makes me want to cry. It's part nostalgia, and part some other emotion that I don't even know how to describe.
When it comes to skin tone, F4F looks a touch too healthy peach. Pale skin is important, but in every Kojima depiction of Alucard, his skin is a grayish color. Not the Mondo monstrosity, but a milky, less "human" hue. His delicate pink lips don't help. Everything about his face and skin reinforce my suspicion that his design is largely inspired by the animated series version of the character. I do like that version of Alucard, but it's just not SoTN. Gantaku gets closer to the stony color, but it does tend to appear too dark when not in bright light. Both figures have a remarkably well-executed speckled painting technique for their skin.
F4F's hair color really falls flat. Not only is it a dark and muted color, but the little specks and streaks of seemingly random colors don't do it any favors. There's no depth, no contrast. Key artwork of Alucard depicts a distinct shifting pale gold color. This is captured fairly successfully by Gantaku, whom also uses a more appropriate tint of blond. I'd say it's a touch too light though.
The style and sculpt vary quite a bit between the two. F4F has long wavy locks in front, which is very faithful to the source image and frames his face well. I do think they overdid the dramatic bangs rise though. Oh, what does that remind me of again? You guessed it. I applaud the fact that F4F had the foresight to implement these convenient windows on either side of his hair. This greatly increases his optimal viewing angles, as you can clearly see his eye from a full side view.
Unfortunately, that admiration disappears when you turn him around to see his back hair. It's just a lifeless pile. Even this Konami prize figure released in 2009 has some gorgeous dynamic back hair. As this F4F figure is basically a beefed up version of this one, you'd think they could have sculpted something comparable. The only benefit is that it's safer to ship like this.
Gantaku went full-force with elegant twists and curls. The drawback to this is that the pieces are in big clumps; the exquisite texturing more than makes up for this in my opinion. Although his face is framed nicely, regrettably his bangs obscure his eyes more than I'd like. Short of removing his head and leering up at him from below, it's pretty much impossible to view both of his eyes in their entirety at the same time. The hair at the temple level juts out so far that it compromises what could have been a stunning side vew. Things like this might look fine as a 3D model, but should have been addressed once a physical prototype was made.
This meticulous detail doesn't stop at the front. His hair weightlessly twirls behind him and off to the side in thick locks. It goes to show he is meant to be seen from all angles and not just the front. This model did in fact begin as simple fan art with no intention to have it manufactured as an official statue, and it shows.
This is definitely going to F4F. For one thing, it is draped around his shoulders and not resistantly being pulled like Gantaku's version. The collar for the latter is also exaggerated to the point of looking a little silly. Most of the Alucard artwork depicts a single chain connecting it in front, though I don't particularly have a preference. The dual chains are indeed accurate in two of the key illustrations though. Also, I noticed that the initial 3D model of the Gantaku cloak has an added ornament hanging from its right side of the chains. This is accurate to only a single illustration. It was removed in the prototype.
The Twilight Edition is red inside, so I can't really compare the inside of the two cloaks. But looking at the back, F4F has a truly dazzling liquid quality to it. It's just fun to look at. It makes it even more depressing that his back hair is so lackluster.
The Gantaku cloak isn't quite as fascinating, but it's silky and appealing. The stiffer material is consistent with the sprite animations in the game. Also I'll admit that though the collar is extreme, it is charming in its own way.
The texturing on his jacket and overcoat differ between the two versions, but are both added creativity as none can be seen in any of the original artwork. Gantaku has more of a leather look, which I didn't know I needed in my life. I prefer the pointy studs on his jacket too, and that extra spike design around the neckline (which is only accurate to one image). His cravat - while the shading is a little heavy-handed - has a perfect and natural-looking sculpt on F4F. Gantaku's is pretty lame in comparison.
There's a pretty big discrepency on Gantaku, and that's the placement of the scabbard. First of all, in what world would your sword scabbard be in front of you? This one annoys me a lot. Not to mention the chain that is supposed to attach the scabbard to the belt is just there for no reason, visibly distant from it. It doesn't help that it's not even a real metal chain to match the one for the cloak. Seriously, the scabbard is just floating there! And I'll bitch more about the length of the sword later - the scabbard of which would be dragging on the floor. F4F got this one right on all accounts. It's off to the side, attached to the (real) chain, and is convincingly functional.
I'm kind of torn between the gold detailing on each overcoat. It's a convincing gold color on Gantaku, but the coppery look is more accurate to the artwork. Plus it makes it a bit more colorful. Oh, and I'm totally going to point out that F4F has a bulge in his pants and Gantaku does not. Just saying.
The inside of the overcoat has an attractive etched pattern that is depicted in both figures. Personally I like Gantaku's a lot more, but it's harder to see. Also, this view brings attention to the fact that F4F's jacket is too short.
Let's talk about their gloves and boots. F4F's are bulky and shiny, which is decidedly more accurate but just not as pleasant to look at for me. The boots are shockingly accurate to its source image, other than the cuffs which are way too big, round and loose. I'm also baffled at the decision to add pink shading to them which just looks out of place. Gantaku's gloves and boots are sleek, textured and just sexier to me. I absolutely love the gold stitching on the welts! If his feet were just a tad bit bigger, it would be perfect.
Sword and Shield:
Both shields are gorgeous and instantly recognizable. When you scrutinize every little detail, however, F4F comes out slightly on top when it comes to matching the original vision. We are lucky to have a drawing from Kojima herself for direct comparison. For one thing, the rounded front and overall shape of the shield is ripped straight from the artwork. Even the rivets are in the exact correct places. The cross is black as it should be, and its placement is identical. The beast's face ears, claws and tail all appear correct. The tips of the wings overlap the edge of the shield, but they do have some added etching that I don't think was necessary. An effort was made to make the shield appear worn too.
Gantaku's shield has a few mismatches. While I do actually prefer the shape of this one, it's noticeably sleeker and pointier than the source material. It doesn't curve from top-to-bottom, and has a soft edge running down vertically. The cross is the same color as the beast making it more difficult to distinguish, and the placement of its ends don't match up with the illustration at all. Because of this, the tail sprouts from underneath it and not just the sides; the tail also differs quite a bit in style. I do give Gantaku credit for making it look more like a proper shield though. The relief isn't quite as three-dimensional as F4F's, and while there's room for interpretation I don't think it was really intended to be quite that dramatic. The red color is more striking and not as desaturated too.
All in all, I prefer Gantaku's shield. Accuracy is one thing, but there's something to be said about using some artistic licensing. To me it just looks more like a functional shield. I really appreciate the attention given to the back of it too - it's not just plain metal like F4F. And I'll admit I prefer a shiny new shield to a weathered one.
We have a bit of a gray area when it comes to accuracy of how it is to be held. On one hand, there is an illustration depicting Alucard holding both his sword and shield (sword right hand, shield left hand). However, in the game you never have both at the same time. The shield would just be pulled out of nowhere and the weapon disappears. The shield can also be held in either the left or right hand depending on which direction you're facing - though you can probably chalk this up to the animator finding it easier to just mirror the sprite. Putting all that aside, I can't help but feel the shield just looks incorrect when held by F4F. It just comes off as him using it as a prop. Perhaps it's because he is not looking in the direction he is aiming it. It's too insincere.
As for the swords, accuracy is completely up to debate. That is, with the exception of one thing and that's the ridiculous length of Gantaku's sword. It is completely unreasonable, not to mention a wobbly eyesore on display. My husband immediately made the observation that the sword is longer than his arm - which means it would be impossible to remove from its scabbard. Talk about an oversight. The sword is quite a bit longer than F4F's version, which is alarming considering F4F is 1/4 scale and Gantaku is 1/5!
That said, I do like the shape of the blade better on Gantaku. This is a slashing weapon, not a piercing one. F4F's has a taper that makes it too thin and appear as a rapier. I prefer the grip of this one too. The guard though, I prefer F4F. I would have liked Gantaku's better if they had kept it all gold like in the prototype. It's worth mentioning that the blade looks better on F4F's swords because they are made of metal (diecast). The plastic blade on Gantaku admittedly looks kind of cheap. They also don't wobble because of that.
It's a moot point for me personally to compare them though, since I display my F4F figure with the Crissaegrim sword. Now that sword is a work of art. Although, I did realize that his scabbard is designed to fit the Alucard sword, so it's too narrow for this one. Since the scabbard is so tucked away on this figure it isn't really noticeable.
If we're talking about visual appeal, Gantaku is obviously the victor. It's a nod to the ornate architecture in the game. It's also very much intended to create an atmosphere. He's inside Dracula's castle, complete with blood stains on the floor. It's worth noting that the heads centered on each side are different, which is a nice detail. On that note, F4F does seem a bit odd as if he is standing outdoors on red brick. Even odder is if you consider that his hair doesn't flow to the side as it does in the artwork, which would have fit that theme better.
That said, if we are talking about practicability, F4F wins a shiny metal. I have a bias against huge bases as they are not designed for the collector whom has multiple figures. All an oversized base does is a) make finding suitable placement more difficult, and b) create a barrier in which you cannot place figures close to each other. F4F is the perfect size; just large enough to ensure stability. It's thick and heavy enough to do its job. And at the end of the day, it's the figure itself that should do the captivating, not what it's standing on. I do also very much prefer a base that doesn't set the display direction in stone. By that I mean...a round base you can turn however you'd like. A square base is obviously intended to be displayed perfectly head-on, and looks awkward otherwise.
Please note that the bright yellow specks in the Gantaku base only appear on camera and cannot be seen by the naked eye. For that matter, there is something similar inside the bangs on the F4F figure.
View spoilerHide spoilerThis one is a no-brainer. In regard to assembly, F4F wins with no contest. There are very few pieces involved. All versions consist of the base, the handsome man, his arm, and his hand with sword. Everything is magnetic; you pop the arm into the shoulder and the hand into the arm. Since I have the Twilight Edition, Alucard has an additional sword that you can use by swapping out the hands. He also has his shield, in which you remove the whole arm and replace it with that one.
Gantaku on the other hand...is a nightmare. His parts consist of: base, two sets of wings for the base, body, shirt piece, head, cloak, hand with sword, then depending on which option you'd prefer: arm holding cross or arm, hand with shield. The first problem is that his cloak has to be fitted around the body, and is held by tension. I had to apply a little too much pressure than I'm comfortable with for the initial fitting. The paint inside the cloak chips off in areas regardless of how gentle you are. This doesn't really bother me since the damage can't be seen while assembled. What I worry about is the cloak cracking, as it is a thin shell of resin.
It's worth mentioning that I didn't have nearly as much of an issue with fitting the head over the cloak. Once you get the hair over the cloak it fits right into the slot. I've dealt with my fair share of annoying resin parts though, and I can see how this can be a real turn off especially considering that you are required to remove the head and cloak to switch parts.
Another issue is the shield arm that doesn't fit tightly into its slot, despite the magnets. Once you attach the shield, it weighs down the arm too much and hangs out of the socket. The solution for this is the putty the figure comes with. I used its entirety for the arm and it worked like a charm. Of course, this means finding another solution for the base wings. As a former BJD owner, I always have putty on hand. (I highly recommend this for figure owners, too!) The cross necklace arm does not have the weight problem by the way - so if that's the one you prefer, you're in luck. It was a huge relief trying that arm second.
By far the biggest headache was fitting the hand (that is affixed to the shield) in to the wrist socket. The hand has a metal pin protruding from its peg, that is supposed to fit into a small hole inside the socket of the arm. The hand is molded around the shield handle. This would be fine if it weren't for the shield strap, which is not removable and makes is impossible to see what you're doing. After wriggling that arm around for what must have been 20 minutes, I said fuck it and removed the pin from the hand. This is risky of course, but if you gently keep twisting the pin it loosens eventually. I then spent about another 20 minutes pulling the damned thing out. Fitting the parts together now - a breeze, no problem. So I glued them together. That entire process was utter bullshit and should not have been required for me to assemble my figure.
Gantaku has an extra arm that holds a cross chain. I like the look, but it is marred by two flaws. The chain isn't real and just looks strange. At least the fake scabbard chain is painted convincingly enough that you may do a double take. But the chain on the hand is too fine to be painted with any accuracy. The other problem is that the cross is curved inward, likely due to the packing process. So it ends up looking glued to his cuff. I might actually be able to ease it into a better position, but since I don't use this arm anyway I won't bother. I kind of wish a real chain was included for you to place on the hand yourself.
Perhaps an unintended feature of Gantaku is that you can have him without his cloak. This is impossible for F4F since the cloak cannot be removed. It's a crying shame that all this sculpting detail on the back of his overcoat can't normally be seen.
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Here is the result of my tampering with F4F's face. I couldn't let it go that there was no darkening between his lips. Especially standing next to Gantaku, it's like he had no mouth. I considered giving him the bold eyeshadow the 2017 promo has too, but realized I like him just fine like this. Of course, whether or not I improved him or ruined a $500 figure is your own opinion. But hey, he's mine so I can do what I want.
I haven't done one of these full-blown reviews before but I wanted to avoid making it too pic-heavy. I also hate subjective ratings/scores with a passion so I refuse to utilize that. Hopefully you found it interesting :)