Who makes it? A figure from the Epoch ‘Life Account of the Trip’ lines, specifically the Shark & Ray Series. No item number that I’m aware of.
When did it come out? I don’t have any idea. I’ve had it since about 2003. So sometime before then.
Still available? Not easily. They show up in Japanese auction sites bit rarely outside of that. Like most gashapon, they’re only available in Japan to start with. So it takes crazy people from outside to find ways to get them…! If they are to be found, it’s probably in a full set as opposed to an individual figure.
Where can it be found in my displays? On a shelf that features a number of small Japanese sea life figures from various brands. It’s in the 5Besta cabinet.
How does it fit in the collection? I’ve made no secret of my love of sharks and rays, and the opportunity to get a high quality small figure was a big deal–when I got it such things were far less common than they kind of are now.
Any story behind it? Not specifically, but I have told the story before of my ebay source called UDF (I recently remembered that this stood for Ultra Detailed Figures. No hyperbole there…). This was another one from him, along with another wonderful little batoid (my first largetooth sawfish, if you’re curious). And probably a bunch of other things!
Notable remarks about this figure (a review that isn’t really a review): When this figure, and many others, were produced there was only one ‘giant manta ray’ species, Manta birostris. Studies published in 2009 have now split the giant manta into two species–M.birostris, the Giant Oceanic Ray and M. alfredi, the Reef Manta. There are a number of differences between them and size is one. Of course for a miniature scaled figure that would be meaningless; the base identifies this figure as M. birostris and as best as I can tell from patterns that is probably correct. Of course, when they were designing and painting it they wouldn’t have differentiated between reference photos. Assuming it is an Oceanic manta, it is roughly 1:90 scale.
So how is the figure itself? Like many Epoch models, it is very well made. The plastic is durable and could potentially be a toy as well. Unlike some Epoch ‘Life Account’ figure this one is a single piece, so it won’t come apart and lose pieces. The peg and base are much more brittle plastic. If this were for kids, I would say remove the peg. And then leave it like that. I have at least one Epoch with a broken peg because it snapped.
The figure itself hits the usual manta marks, with the dark black dorsal and white shoulder patches. On the belly they went above the normal effort for such a small figure, really painting in the distinct markings. This includes the broad white and black patches across the surface and the dark colour around the mouth, although some of the small spots often seen on live mantas aren’t there. One really unique feature is the mouth–unlike any other figure I have, the mouth is sculpted as closed instead of open. It’s just kind of an interesting thing. On the other hand, like many Epoch figures, there’s a particular…smoothness…to it. It’s hard to define but it helps to have a few to understand what I mean. There is a distinct style to their figures that doesn’t quite match that of, say, Colorata or the best of Kaiyodo.
Would I recommend it? Yes, certainly. I would recommend the whole set if you can find it; it is quite the assortment of sharks and rays. And, as they often have in these sets, there is a rarer chase figure–a beluga sturgeon! So, again, since more shark figures is a good thing, and sturgeon figures are a particularly rare thing, I say get the whole set. I don’t even have the whole set but it’s worth tracking down for fans of sharks or sea life in general.