“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King
One could argue that alchemy and magic are two different things but for me they are two sides of the same coin. And if you look for the holy grail of alchemy, which is turning any object into gold look no further then Gust Co. Ltd., selling us the same base formula year after year, for over two decades now.
About the figure:
This 1/7 scale was released in July of 2018 and is one of an ever-expending raster of Atelier figures. This particular one is the mysterious alchemy book Plachta in her human form and was sculpted by Makio Munetoshi and colorized by Tetsumori Nanami. Since ALTER is the manufacturer and it’s one of the few figures they release within a year, her initial price tag with a whopping 17.800 yen was already fairly high. But when I did my research for this photo I noticed that the aftermarket price skyrocketed over the past twenty months. Seeing this figures having re-seller prices as high as 40-50k Yen makes me happy that I pre-ordered her back when she was announced.
Normally I’m not a huge fan of squatting or kneeling figures but since I liked her design and I’m a fan of alchemy themed figures I thought I give her a try. Even if Plachtas regular outfit isn’t the most lavish one they managed to cram tons of small details into this figure. The paint job of her armor parts and the translucent materials are evidence to an excellent level of craftsmanship and the book she holds in her right hand is one of the most detailed accessories I’ve come across on a figure. I also really like her base design. It’s a translucent blue circle base with holographic crystals printed on top. Of course because of her pose you don’t really need a base and she also has no pegs or holes that will support her on it. The base is just a plate you can display her with.
About the series:
Plachta is a playable character from the game Atelier Sophie. The atelier series is an ongoing J-RPG that started back in 1997 but with the increasing popularity of Anime and Japanese games the series is becoming more and more prominent in the west and is now widely released on many consoles.
The game-play always focuses around a young alchemist (most likely female) and his/her group of friends and includes gathering materials, crafting and fighting monsters in classic turn based J-RPG fashion. To be honest I never played the older “classic” titles like Atelier Iris or Marie but I always liked the character design and visuals of the franchise. In fact Atelier Sophie was the first game in the series where I completed the main story line. The reason I never got into it that much was the time-system those games often held. Every item you craft, every location you want to go to needs time and the game features a day/night circle as well. Since most of the Quests are only available for a short period of time and certain events will only trigger on certain dates or at a specific daytime, I always had the feeling I’m running short on time or will not receive a good ending when I’m not playing alongside a guide of some form.
Thoughts about the picture:
When I looked through my entire portfolio I noticed that in over ten years of figure photography I never really crafted an entire room for a proper scale figure. I did a Nendo dollhouse once but since you build them according to an instruction with prepared materials I don’t count that one. This replica of Sophie’s workshop was in fact my first attempt to build a room-like backdrop for one of my figures.
Since I wasn’t sure if I was willing to pull through all the effort of building a whole atelier I started with the bookshelf that you can see in the pictures. Building a bookshelf is a very satisfying task. They are easy to construct and can be used in many sets. The only thing that was quite a hassle, was to wrap and paint all those miniature books. I did miniature books and magazines in the past but this time I wanted to go a step further. In order to have them look like real leather bindings I covered little slides of carton with baking paper and used tiny pieces of glued string in between to create those ribs you often see on the spine of an old book. Once I knew how to craft them it was not a particular complicated process but very time consuming. It took my 15-20 hours to complete the shelf and all the books.
Once the shelf was completed I started to work on the actual structure for the workshop. Luckily there is enough artwork and even a VR title available, so I didn’t have to use the actual game for references. The walls are made out of those Styrofoam sheets covered with a layer of modeling clay. I used this kind material for the first time and it was surprisingly easy to sculpt the separate stones but of course, when working with clay your workplace and your hands will get all dirty and since I’m working on my desk near the PC I’m not really a fan of those tasks. The window frames are made out of balsa wood and a cooper tube mounted with long nails. In fact the whole structure is not glued to the base plate but rather impaled on long nails. Therefore I can dismantle it and store the walls separately.
One of my personal highlights in this diorama are the red curtains, that I carefully folded and are mounted on separate curtain rails. Because of the backlit situation of the photo you might not see all those details but knowing that they are there makes me feel happy. Most of the interior like the green dresser and the blackboard are hand-made but some of the smaller accessories I bought online.
Since Plachta is a figure that can be placed everywhere without her base there wasn’t much to prepare when shooting the final picture. I simply placed her in the middle of the room and filled all the shelves with stuff. In the foreground I placed even more books and one of those cheap little cauldrons you can buy for Halloween. They look really crappy but since he is widely out of focus it doesn’t matter. The main light source are two lights shining through the windows behind Plachta with the ceiling being a mirror in order to dispel and scatter the light.
Sony Alpha 7R II, 55mm lens / ISO 100 /Exposure time 1/4 sec. /aperture: F/7.1
Time and effort: One of the more time consuming sets I ever build. Like I already mentioned, the book shelf alone took me a whole weekend to complete. Also the wall structure made out of clay was pretty tedious to build. From start to finish it definitely took my 50+ hours, spread over a month to complete this setting.
Costs of the props: The total costs for this set are hard to calculate. Before I started to work on it I bought a whole bunch of crafts and art supplies and of course I only used a portion of those things for this one. The accessories I bought online only cost like ten bucks (Aliexpress) and some of the materials I had already on stock. Altogether this set might have a “part value” of 30-40 EURs.