Ultimate Madoka, also known as Madokami, Godoka etc, was perhaps the most anticipated figure of 2012, both for me and the wider figure community. Like most of Good Smile Company's large figures, she's exceptionally detailed but difficult to assemble. Unfortunately, she was also rather expensive. AmiAmi charged me ¥10,960 for Ultimate Madoka, but due to her size and weight I was charged an additional and unexpectedly high ¥5,110 for shipping for a total of ¥16,070 or around £118.16 at the time. Unfortunately, I also got charged £32.96 in customs for a grand total of £151.12, which almost certainly makes Ultimate Madoka my most expensive figure by far! Thankfully the figure itself was a present (I know you read this, so thanks again!) and so thankfully I only had to pay for shipping and customs.
Madoka's box was huge,certainly the largest figure box i've ever had. Of course, this meant that her shipping box was even bigger. Normally AmiAmi packs their stuff well but I was surprised how loosely packed Madoka was. Thankfully though, Madoka and her box were undamaged. Unpacking her was another matter though, the plastic innards were secured by lots of sellotape and parts of Madoka were even secured by twist ties - the annoying hard to remove sort that many toys come. I'm glad that Madoka was well packaged internally but it's going to be difficult to pack her up again.
Assembly was a frightening experience, I was always scared that i'd break something. The main body of the figure, Madoka and her dress, is quite heavy and as a result difficult to attach to the base. Next, the foot wings are attached, this wasn't so difficult but still requires a fair amount of force to get them in. Then, the wings need to be attached, these slot in to holes on Madoka's back. However, Madoka's epic hair makes getting the wings in to their slots securely rather challenging. Since it'll be even more difficult to get them out and i'm moving in a few months, I decided to leave her right wing loose for now.
Finally, the most important bit - Madoka's bow and arrow. Two bows are provided, one small one and one large one complete with flames. The bow comes in two parts and you'll need to put the top part in to her hand and then the bottom part clicks in from the other side. Again, this requires quite a bit of force but at least it's secure. Once this is done just add the arrow, thankfully Madoka's hand rotates so you can add it in without her epic hair getting in the way.
The final result looks fantastic from any angle. The detailing is extremely well done and I couldn't find any defects, as expected from Good Smile Company. However, Madoka does pick up the smallest of vibrations rather well and does shake quite a bit - especially with the large bow. This should be OK, but something to definitely keep an eye on. I wish she was somewhat easier to assemble, but I expect that she would then be very difficult to package as a result. As a small bonus, the box liner is removable and helps to create some rather awesome looking pictures.
For once, this volume actually turned up on release day rather than a week or so afterwards like it normally does in the UK, hurrah!
With their troubles in Ruvinheigen solved, Lawrence and Holo continue their travels to the small farming village of Tereo in the hope of finding out more about Holo's homeland of Yoitsu. However, something seems amiss and as outsiders in a small village they come under suspicion - especially after [spoiler]some of the wheat the town sold was found to be poisoned[/spoiler].
This volume starts adapting Volume 3 of the light novel, which was not animated and sits between seasons 1 and 2 of the anime. The relative lack of action in that volume was likely the reason why it was not animated despite there being a fair amount of content in it. However, the manga adapts this light novel volume at a very rapid pace, skipping a lot of the initial introductions and intrigue and skipping straight in to the more action-y part of the story. Again, I can understand why this was done but for anyone that has not read the light novel they may have some difficulty understanding the flow of the story presented in the manga as it jumps between some pretty important plot points.
As always however, I have to praise the quality of the artwork in this volume. The light novel for this arc had some adorable scenes and illustrations, and Keito Koume, the artist for the manga, has done an excellent job of illustrating them. If only it was also in full colour, it would be fantastic! If you don't mind spoilers, have a look at some of the pictures of the artwork over on Aka's blog (click the spoiler toggle to see them).
Despite my complaints about how the story was adapted in this volume, I still quite enjoyed it. However, I would strongly recommend that anyone reading this volume first read volume 3 of the light novel so that they completely understand the story. I suspect that volume 8 of the manga will complete the Tereo storyline (there's not much left after all). Volume 8 has a tentative "June 2013" release in English, which isn't too surprising since it only came out in Japan a month ago. Don't forget that Volume 7 of the light novel, which contains a few side stories, is also out later this month.
Spice and Wolf Manga Volume 7 is available at Amazon, ISBN 9780316229111.
Volume 5 left us on a bit of a cliffhanger, but thankfully Volume 6 picks up right where we left off and straight back in to the action with the conclusion of the Gold Smuggling plot. Keito Koume has excelled once again and illustrates scenes such as the [spoiler]battle between Holo and the Remelio Company[/spoiler] and [spoiler]Holo's state of undress[/spoiler] rather well. The cover illustration also excels, showing Holo in both her forms rather well.
Volume 6 finishes up Volume 2 of the light novel, and as only a small amount of story was left for Volume 6, there are two spare chapters. Rather than starting Volume 3 of the light novel early, the Melancholy of Wolf and Amber side story is instead adapted, where [spoiler]Holo gets sick[/spoiler]. When this side story was animated (Season 2, Episode 00), it was rather adorable and the manga manages to also achieve this to an extent. It is rather amusing to see Holo looking meek for once rather than her usual proud self.
is due for release was released in November. At the moment, i'm not sure if this will adapt Volume 3 of the light novel (which wasn't animated), or skip to Volume 4 (which was animated in season 2). It would be nice to Volume 3 of the light novel adapted simply because there are some adorable scenes and great dialogue between Holo and Lawrence which I think could be adapted rather well. I shall have to wait and see!
Spice and Wolf Manga Volume 6 is available from Amazon. ISBN 9780316210324.
Yotsuba is so enjoyable that i'm getting through them rather quickly for a change. A sudden increase in spare time may also be a factor...
The humour is definitely in full swing now after a bit of an iffy start in volume 1, although I can forsee some recurring jokes (for example, Jumbo's romance issues) becoming tiring if they go on much longer, but I can't tell if they will yet. My favourite chapter from this volume is a toss up between Yotsuba & Flowers and Yotsuba & Obon. In Yotsuba & Flowers I loved the way Yotsuba suddenly jumped on to the bus after learning it didn't cost her anything, and poor Fuka desperately trying to keep up on her bicycle. In Yotsuba & Obon however, I found the concept of Yotsuba the Flower Cupid hilarious, especially considering her outfit and her usual way of interacting with people.
And with that, on to volume 4!
Yotsuba Volume 3 is available from Amazon. ISBN 9780316073905.
I'm currently re-reading the Yotsuba&! series, which gives me the perfect opportunity for me to write about it. I originally wrote about volume 1 when reading it for the first time, but I never got around to writing about any of the subsequent volumes.
Volume 2 continues in the same fashion as volume 1, but with less character introduction since this has already been acheived. Like volume 1, the artwork isn't stunning but is perfectly sufficent for what it's trying to illustrate. One of my complaints about volume 1 was that while it's humour was good, there was nothing that made me laugh out loud. This was not the case with volume 2 which had several things which caused an outburst of laughter.
My favourite chapter from volume 2 has to be Yotsuba & Vengeance. Seeing her run around with a water pistol imitating action films was far too funny!
Onwards to volume 3!
Yotsuba&! Volume 2 is available from Amazon. ISBN 9780316073899.