Name: Body-Kun models for artists
Price: Varying depending on doll/set
Brief Description: PVC posable male/female/baby jointed dolls for use as reference by artists and illustrators. Available in various colours.
I was so excited to find these dolls! I’ve recently been working on my illustration style and creating characters (see my previous post for more! link) so decided to dig out my old school wooden artists mannequin. Whilst it was fun trying out some poses, it just wasn’t cutting it. The shoulders were square, the hips too narrow, and the proportions, at least in my opinion, were just so ‘off’! I started searching online for an alternative and discovered the world of Body-Kun. At first I was thrilled when my first doll (Chibi Body-Kun) arrived and after some success using it as a reference I was keen to see the potential of the others. However, my enthusiasm was premature and I’m sorry to say that it was all down hill from there! That’s not to say there aren’t good points about these dolls (which I’ll get to soon!) but one refund and one replacement later and I think it’s fair to say my enthusiasm has waned somewhat.
Because I was impressed with Chibi Body-Kun’s flexibility, I allowed myself to disregard the fact that the spare hands that came with it didn’t fit (the hole was too small to attach them) thinking it was just a one-off. Wanting to see if the other dolls would work as well as this one had, I ordered, from the same ebay store, what I thought was the same line but was actually different. The dolls I will be reviewing are mainly SH Figuarts, often listed alongside, and confused with Figma Archetype. The second doll (female) that I ordered was Figma Archetype and the difference in quality was notable. On opening the package I was disappointed with the strange anatomy of the character (pointy calves, unnaturally long neck, sticking out shoulders) and the flimsier material used on the pelvis area got jammed in the hip joints. There was also something peculiar about the arms, the way in which the joints, particularly on one arm, stuck out. I went back online and realised I’d ordered a doll from a different line, but asked for a refund as I felt the quality was a huge let down.
As I’d ordered from the same company and had to message them anyway, I decided to mention the hands that didn’t fit on the Chibi Body-Kun and they offered to send me a replacement. When this arrived, one arm wouldn’t attach properly at the elbow and was too loose to use, however the hands did fit, although I was given one set of two left hands. I now had two Chibi Body-Kun dolls, both with different problems. My solution? To use elements from each to create one working doll! I found the head was too big for the type of character I wanted to create too, so decided to take it off! (NB to be fair this was listed as ‘Chibi’ which in manga/anime art usually involves a small body with an out of proportion head).
After receiving a refund for the Figma Archetype ‘she’ doll I decided to order an SH Figuarts Body-Chan, the female equivalent of Body-Kun. When it arrived I was much happier with the quality, though it did cost me a bit more. It was worth paying the extra as I feel this doll is usable, whilst I will probably never use the previous one. You can get dolls on their own, or in a set with accessories. I opted to get Body-Chan with accessories, which were great fun to play around with, and gave a good base/starting point for ideas. I feel that quality control is an issue with these dolls though – the arm joint of Body-Chan was sticking out, and she definitely wasn’t as flexible as Chibi Body-Kun. However, I was impressed that even her feet were jointed. This set (unlike Chibi Body-Kun and Body-Kun) came with an instruction leaflet. The leaflet is in Japanese, but the pictures are easy to follow.
Fairly happy with my Body-Chan purchase I next decided to try out Body-Kun. I expected this model to come with a stand, which it didn’t, but as I had a stand for Body-Chan I thought I could use this one. However, the hole at the back was too large and the doll was loose on the stand (though SH Figuarts stands do come with the option of attaching a sort of ‘claw’, which holds any Body-Kun/Chan doll. Again, I felt quality control was an issue. Within minutes I had issues. I tried to change one of the hands but a piece of plastic broke off meaning I couldn’t attach any hands. The dolls, especially because they’re so small, are very delicate, and as it requires some pressure to get the hands on/off it’s a breakage waiting to happen. My only option was to reach for the superglue. By this time I was a bit fed up with messaging about faults, so decided to just accept that my Body-Kun would have the same hands forever (leaving the replacement hands useless). One of the foot joints was also jammed and no matter how much I tried to free it, it just wouldn’t move. Again, quality control seems to be a big issue here.
In terms of using Body-Kun as a reference I really feel like it would be more suited to artists who like to draw action, rather than illustrators looking to create more friendly, ‘picture-book’ characters. It’s very muscular, though compared to Figma Archetype ‘he’, it’s less extreme.
Would I recommend these dolls to fellow illustrators and art enthusiasts? Probably not. Mainly due to quality and questionable anatomy. However, I do see how they could be useful to those who find it difficult to use their imagination when envisioning characters. They can be helpful in reminding you what a certain pose looks like, but only vaguely. I just feel they’re too inaccurate to rely on for precise reference so a bit if imagination is required (which is always exciting in my mind!). I do prefer these dolls to wooden mannequins, though wooden mannequins are much more sturdy.
Next week: Monthly tutorial: using Body-Kun to create characters