Art of Figure Making: Overwatch, Max Factory and figma

Art of Figure Making: Overwatch, Max Factory and figma

Max Factory's Planning Division staff member Sakai Nozomu sat down with us to share the challenges he faced while working on figma's recent collaboration with Blizzard Entertainment for the popular Overwatch hero Tracer. He also shared his thoughts on Max Factory's 30th anniversary.

—How long have you been working in the industry and what’s your job?

Sakai: I’m 27 years old, and I’ve been working at Max Factory for about 4 to 5 years now. I joined after graduating university, and I currently work in the planning division overseeing early figure development, dealing with publishers, production direction, and sales preparation.

—What made you want to work in the figure industry?

Sakai: I enjoyed making model figures and assembling garage kits. My first interview was with Good Smile Company, but with some luck, I was asked to join Max Factory.

—What is difficult about the job?

Sakai: Trying to grasp what makes a specific character special to fans is the most difficult part of the job. Sometimes I’m familiar with the character, other times I’m not. In either case, I’m always researching because fans may not like the same aspect as me.

—What are some moments that give you a sense of fulfillment?

Sakai: I think it’s similar moment for many of us working in the industry. It’s definitely the moment when fans first get their hands on the product. It is really interesting to see the different ways people use them or pose them via Twitter and other SNS sites. Some fans’ ideas are honestly amazing and exceed our expectations.

—How did fans react when you announced Tracer?

Sakai: Japanese and foreign Overwatch fans alike were very excited, and I think when they see it up close they’ll ask us to make more Overwatch figmas.

Cheers, love! The cavalry's here!

—Did you encounter any difficulties while making Tracer?

Sakai: I was particular about her hairstyle. I wanted to make sure no matter what angle you looked at Tracer’s hair from it stayed authentic to the how it is in-game. Translating that aspect was the most difficult part making this figma.

We’ve never done a figma at this scale with this style of goggles. If they were normal sunglasses it wouldn’t have been an issue, but they wrap around like ski goggles which add some distortion when you look at her eyes from different angles. It’s similar to looking at someone wearing thick eyeglass lenses. It took some trial and error adjusting the goggle size and her eye positioning. I believe we did a great job on both aspects.

The attention and care to Tracer's goggles and chronal accelerator are a true highlight.

—Were there any other specific areas you focused on with Tracer?

Sakai: Her chronal accelerator and how the metallic and non-metallic portions integrate on her chest were well crafted by the designers at Blizzard. We used clear parts and gave them a hazy blue tint to emulate the light radiating from her chest and back.

The belt straps around her thighs are loose, giving you more range of motion for poses.

—What challenges do you believe the industry needs to address going forward?

Sakai: Up until now, only the core fans would buy figures, but thanks to capsule machines and crane games even people who haven’t bought a figure before might now own a few. However, I still believe some fans don’t know their favorite anime or game characters were turned into figures, much less where to buy them. So we have to think how to reach out to them. 

figmas have a learning curve and skill set required to achieve the pose you’re imagining which can be difficult for beginners, so I’m thinking now how to make it more accessible.

—Is there a certain dream project you have in mind?

Sakai: I’m a huge “Mad Max” fan from way back and I love “Fury Road”, so making a “Mad Max” figma along with other movies and actors, Japanese and foreign, would be a dream. In terms of Overwatch, I’d love to continue with the series.

Sakai is an Overwatch fan himself which made this a dream project for him.

Mr. Kaneko, an 11-year veteran from Max Factory’s Planning Division, joined us to talk about the company’s 30th anniversary.

Max Factory has some great plans for their 30th anniversary.

—What can you tell us about Max Factory’s 30th anniversary?

Kaneko: We recently made the 30th year anniversary website along with posting figure silhouettes which we’ll be unveiling throughout the year. There will be even more reveals and information at Wonder Festival this July!

I think people will be excited with what we reveal. We will unveil some nostalgic properties at Wonder Festival for our older fans and then showcase the future at the beginning of next year with figma’s 10th anniversary. While we aren’t as known abroad like Good Smile Company, we have a rich 30-year history that we hope to share with everyone!

Max Factory's staff hard at work.

Max Factory and Sakai have gone the extra mile to make sure this Tracer is an authentic model of her digital counterpart, down to the T-01 written on her shoulder. This figma is perfect for Tracer fans, and it’s available for order now on Tokyo Otaku Mode’s Shop.

figma Tracer Available Now

Check out the rest of the gallery from our trip to Max Factory below!

Interview by Adrian Morris, Jiro
Photography by Hara and Soh



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