Amongst my favourite things are military vehicles (especially tanks) and anime. So how could I not love the concept of Mecha Musume*? These curious amalgams are anthropomorphic personifications of military hardware that include everything from guns and tanks, to ships and aircraft. The Mecha Musume range was designed for Konami by Fumikane Shimada, who you may know from his work on “Sky Girls” (2006), “Strike Witches” (2007), and more recently the massively popular “Kantai Collection” (2013).
*musume means girl in Japanese
There were three series produced by Konami of these small (11cm tall) figures. The subject of this review comes from series 2 and was inspired by the early World War 2 German short-barrel SturmGeschütz III (or StuG III). Additional parts allow the figure to be converted into the massive Tiger 1, easily the most well known tank of the Second World War.
All three series were released blind-boxed, so you had to buy a random selection and hope you got the ones you wanted. They were only available in South Africa in limited quantities, so I was only able to get a few. I managed to snag the StuG III, the two Sherman variants and two of the planes. The box shows the basic Sherman musume on the front (the variant is the Sherman Calliope fitted with rocket launchers). Images of the other figures are displayed on the sides and back, along with the final form of the extra Tiger tank figure you can assemble if you are able to acquire all the pieces. The box is glued closed, but can be re-used if opened carefully. A small amount of assembly is required for each figure.
The StuG III musume depicts a cute blonde fräulein with little nekomimi (cat ears) and a tail. The sculpt is a little soft in places, but features details including rivets, webbing and even a hair ribbon. The various bits that make up the tank parts have a number of nice touches, such as tracks on the legs which match the real vehicle and the short barrel low-velocity 75mm gun carried as a hand weapon. The uniform is vaguely German in design, but doesn’t depict a specific uniform type or style. Another nice touch is the backpack, which represents the radio carried in the vehicle and has the aerial mount on the top left.
The figure is predominantly grey with a few black, red and silver details, as well as yellow for the hair. The paint apps are decent enough, but could be a bit sharper in places. Tampos are used for the eyes and the balkenkreuz crosses on the legs. A fine black wash helps bring out the details on the mecha parts. The red and white of the tie matches the ribbon of the so-called “cold meat” medal awarded to troops fighting on the Eastern front. If you want to be picky, the uniform should be the field grey/green of self-propelled gun crews, but I like the grey well enough for what is after all a fantasy figure.
None in the basic figure, although the Tiger’s barrel can swivel up and down, and a small amount of movement in the feet of the large leg parts allows them to be posed for stability.
The basic StuG III musume doesn’t have any accessories aside from a black plastic base. However, her body is used to complete the much larger Tiger 1 musume. Each series 2 figure was packed with a couple of parts needed to assemble the bonus figure. I got most of the bits with the figures I bought, and got the last missing pieces from a friend who got one of the figures I didn’t get.
The Tiger 1 assembles from a U-shaped hull section, two large legs, a pair of turret halves mounted on raised frames and the 88mm gun barrel with mantlet. All the parts clip together easily and the result is fairly sturdy.
To complete the tank, you pop the arms and legs off the Stug III musume and replace them with the alternative legs and arms. She then clips into place in the assembled section producing the final Tiger tank musume. I only wish I had a second figure so I could display both at the same time.
I adore both the Mecha Musume concept and the figures. I’m only sad I wasn’t able to get more of them, as they are now few and far between. This is a terrific, and relatively unusual, addition to any anime/historical figure collection.