Imagine being able to transport your favorite anime character from the screen to the palm of your hands! Or even better, getting to bring a band of your favorite characters together to create epic anime scenes in the real world. Well, imagine no more and welcome to the world of anime figure collecting!
While this post is aimed at those who are new to the anime figure collecting scene, we still hope veteran collectors can find some new insights or information in our article. So let’s get to it!
What exactly is a figure?
To put it simply, a figure is any 3D representation made in the likeness of a person (real or fictional) or thing. Figures are usually characters from TV shows, anime, or even their own toy line - these figurines form their own unique category of merchandise and are made by a variety of companies in a variety of styles. Continue reading to better understand what anime collection figures are.
The biggest differences you’d find between ancient figures and our more modern ones are the materials used and the artistic style. Modern figures are generally made with plastic or resin, whereas ancient figures were commonly made with clay, bone, and/or wood.
And just like their primitive counterparts, modern figures run the gamut of styles and categories. You can find figures of popular Western characters, like He-Man Masters of the Universe, military figures used by strategists, voodoo dolls, religious artifacts, plane models, scientific models, and much more. But that’s not what we’re focusing on today, because today’s all about anime figures!
Types of Figures
Some retailers lump anime figures into a single category, but doing so is quite a mistake. With the expansive number of figure categories, ranging from the cute to the risque, it’s important to understand the differences between these categories so you can find your perfect figure!
Get in on this action
Remember action figures from your youth? Maybe you played with G.I. Joes, a group of massively muscled figures once dubbed “America’s movable fighting man.” Or maybe you posed your Barbie dolls in a number of sassy styles, hands-on-hips or with a handbag in the crook of her elbow.
While action figures originally denoted a movable doll geared more towards boys, it’s now become understood to mean a doll that can perform vigorous actions. This is achieved through the articulation of the figure - a set of joints are located throughout its body, allowing you to flex and bend it in numerous ways. You will often hear these two terms (‘action’/’articulated’) used interchangeably.
Anime figures, of course, include articulated figures, although you can break down these categories even further!
Created by Good Smile Company, Nendoroids are small figures that have large heads and smaller bodies. They get their name from the Japanese word nendo, which means clay. These Chibi figures are not just adorable but articulated so you can pose the characters in a variety of ways. With over 1,000 Nendoroids to pick from, these little figures are the perfect place to start when collecting figures!
What do you figma?
figmas are produced by Max Factory and are a top-quality articulated option. With a number of unique joints included in each figure, figmas are well known for their superior posing choices. And just like Nendoroids, each figure comes with a number of accessories. You can recreate so many different scenes from anime with these specific figures.
While articulated figures leave poses up to your imagination, other types of figures do the work for you. These fixed-pose figures cannot be adjusted but are usually carefully designed to recreate some of the most memorable scenes or moments from an anime.
And with fixed-pose figures, you’ll also find…
To scale or not to scale
Anime scale figures are a type of fixed-pose figure that is sized based on the “actual” dimensions of the anime character. These proportional figurines will include a size reference, like 1/6th or 1/2th. This means that the figure’s dimensions have been shrunk down to a sixth or half of the character’s actual size, respectively. For example, if an anime character is supposed to be 2m tall, a 1/10th scale figure would stand in at 20cm.
Beaches, and bunnies, and girls, oh my!
If you’ve ever wondered what your best girl looks like on a beach outing or perhaps dressed up as an equally dapper and sexy bunny, you might be in for a surprise. Because while some anime may neglect these important outfit choices, manufacturers are hard at work to bring these beach and bunny beauties to life!
Of course, these types of figures might be a bit ecchi - think generous cleavage and puppy dog yoga stretches. While not necessarily lewd, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
You’re such a prize
If you haven’t heard or tried Japanese claw games (sometimes called UFO catchers, crane games, etc), you’re really missing out. What really ups the ante with these games, though, are the magnificent prizes that await you if you spend enough coin on these rigged suckers.
Anime figures are aplenty with these arcade machines with new figures releasing weekly. You’ll notice the quality of prize figures is not the same as those from major manufacturers - this is because their designs are much more simple, but likewise more affordable. While beginner collectors might especially love these economical options, veteran collectors can also find unique prize figures of their favorite characters.
Restricted area: 18+ only
Hentai figures are certainly not for everyone. While some styles are quite delicate in their approach, some figures really push the boundaries of obscenity for an average audience. But don’t let this sway your interest if you’ve been wanting to collect hentai figures! Be aware that not everyone will be accepting of these figures, so make sure to display them somewhere you can appreciate them without offending others.
That said, there are really so many different styles of hentai figures. You’ll notice some of these figures have clothing that can be removed; this style is called cast-off. You’ll also find all sorts of original characters, as well as characters from different anime/manga series. Peruse to your heart’s desire!
Plushies are a unique category in the anime figure world, notably because they’re not really figures. Soft and cuddly, you’ll find plushies for so many series, although plushies can be commonly found for characters from certain series, like Love Live! and Touhou Project. Many of these plushies might be nesoberi, which are posed laying flat on their stomach. You can find so many huggable and kawaii characters to decorate your home with.
Because plushies are quite a niche product, they usually aren’t produced in large amounts and don’t get re-releases like normal anime figures. Because of this, plushies quickly become rare collectibles, making them all the more valuable.
Step across the pre-order
While browsing different figure options, you might have come across pre-orders. If you’re not too familiar with the world of figure collecting, this might be a bit of a new territory.
Most goods are first mass-produced, then sold off to different shops and outlets. But figures are handled quite differently - rather than manufacturing a set amount of figures prior to selling, figure manufacturers do just the opposite. They prepare a prototype so customers can see what they’ll be receiving, then they open sales via pre-order. Once the pre-order period ends, manufacturers tally how many figures need to be produced.
Since figures are only produced at quantities required, they can quickly appreciate in value once they hit the market. Manufacturers can offset this by re-releasing figures, but this usually only happens with incredibly popular figures. So, with that said, if you see a figure you like available for pre-order, consider purchasing it now since it might jump dramatically in price once it’s been released.
Why bother buying a figure?
Now we all know what figures are. But the big question now becomes: why? What motivates people to spend a considerable amount of money on this hobby?
Enjoying anime and other relevant media is the main reason people start collecting and that is totally understandable. It seems that buying an anime figure is the next step in general anime fandom. This is how the bulk of collectors start getting into the hobby. One figure turns into two figures and soon you have a mighty collection on your hands.
But there are also other motivations outside of enjoyment of an anime series alone. Other things to consider are:
- Buying figures can help series with getting greenlit. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters was given its own anime after sales of the trading card game started. Yu-Gi-Oh! even had its own line of figures, with the earliest Mattel-manufactured figures dating to 1996, which also helped push the studio production of the anime, leading to a multi-million dollar franchise. In addition, the Fate franchise, too, is constantly getting new games and anime due to its absolutely giant merchandise sales. In fact, the famous Gundam anime was originally launched to propel sales of their eponymous model kits! Buying figures is, therefore, a great way to support your favorite franchise and encourage companies to make more anime.
- Another reason to buy figures is to join the anime figure collecting community, whether it be online, for example on Reddit or on Facebook, or offline. Finding a group offline at a hobby shop, or creating your own group with your friends, is a fantastic way to share in the experience. Belonging to a community is important and having a group of people that share your hobby or interest is a fantastic reason to start collecting.
- Some people buy figures as financial investments as the majority of figures historically increase in value over time. Others buy figures to show off their personality. It’s not just about the anime they like, but also the style of the figures that reflects their personality, be it cutesy, shounen or edgy.
What’s stopping you?
While reasons to start collecting are aplenty, there are also concerns about starting one. We’ve included three of the most common reasons why would-be collectors are hesitant to pursue this hobby:
Firstly, make sure you have the space to keep a figure. A desk, table, or a cabinet would be suitable - just make sure you have somewhere to put figures if you were to buy one. Luckily figures come in a wide range of sizes.
“What are you, a weeb?”
Hobbies that seem a bit niche can draw some negative comments. Add that to the perception that ‘figures are for kids’ and anime being non-western, and this creates a recipe for judgment. A lot of community members feel like they will be harshly judged for their love of all things anime.
But anime is becoming more accepted year after year – from a 2012 U.S presidential candidate quoting lines from a Pokemon movie to a certain billionaire having a Full Metal Alchemist icon as his Twitter profile – and the perception around Japanese pop culture outside of Japan is definitely changing.
But most importantly, you shouldn’t feel like you can’t enjoy your hobbies because some others don’t like it or accept it. The most important thing is that your hobbies bring you joy - so keep calm and collect on!
“Show me the money!”
Perhaps the largest barrier for most is the price. Spending hundreds of dollars on a hobby is quite prohibitive and leaves you wondering: why is it so expensive? There are a number of factors that influence a figure’s cost, like the time and quality of the manufacturing process. In a nutshell, manufacturers put such a stringent focus on quality that prices are unavoidably high.
That said, there are ways of keeping costs down. Buying used figures from trusted vendors can dramatically cut the price down while maintaining good quality. Prioritizing and saving up for one figure or one set at a time is another way to start collecting without being daunted by the cost. Prize figures are also much easier on the wallet since they are usually more simple. On the bright side, figure collections, if kept in nice condition, tend to appreciate as time goes on.
Unfortunately, there’s really not any other viable alternatives, besides making your own figure from scratch. Unlicensed figures do exist, but these should be avoided at all costs. Not only does this impact the perceived support an anime receives (remember how series can get greenlit from great merchandise sales?), but many bootlegs are produced with toxic materials that can be hazardous to your health. Make sure to check out our guide on bootlegs to learn more about avoiding them.
Before you buy a figure!
What are your favorite anime series or characters?
Starting with your personal selection of anime is the best way to start. Start searching through the different offerings for each series or character. Many online shops break down their catalog by series, making this even easier for shoppers. Take a look at all of the different figures and see if there is something you might want to pick up.
If you do not have a clear series or character in mind, maybe start with what category of figures you like the best. Some beginner-friendly figure types are Nendoroids, Pop Up Parade, prize figures, and small plushies. Other than price, these are small enough to be displayed quite easily in most rooms. A Nendoroid, for instance, will only take up a small amount of desk space.
It can be daunting for a complete novice to sort through unfamiliar themes when questing for the right figure, but having a good browse on anime figure websites is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with prices and your own preferences.
Where to get anime figures?
Important: Understand that these items are from Japan and there could be customs issues with certain types of figures (e.g. loli), and importing can incur import duties and increased shipping costs. Check how your country handles these things. Keep in mind that it could also take a while for your figure to arrive. A few days wait is the absolute minimum, but it can sometimes take up to a few weeks or months. If your local shop is out of stock, they, too, will need to order from Japan.
If you have a local hobby shop that stocks anime figures, go check it out! Being able to check out the actual figure before buying can help make your decision easier, but beware as even credible local shops can be easily fooled by bootlegs.
Make sure to check available resources for vendor credibility, both online and offline. A fantastic website to check out is MyFigureCollection, which shows you what a figure looks like and includes a bootleg warning (as well as lots of awesome anime figure news). Anime figure reviews are also great for appraising the quality of an actual figure; but like any product that is of significant cost, go through the usual process of making sure that any vendor is legitimate as that can be just as important as making sure your figure is what you want.
If you’re looking to buy Japanese anime figures online, make sure to research the anime figure shop carefully. Many people wonder what the best website to buy anime figures is. But with so many offerings, it’s hard to say what the best site to buy anime figures really is. Ultimately, the baseline for buying figures online is to check that the retailer/seller is credible:
- Do they offer reliable customer support? Just because they say they do doesn’t mean it’s true - check out customer reviews on sites like MFC or Trustpilot to see what the general ratings are.
- When checking out this information, look to see if there are many reports of them selling bootlegs.
- Can they send pictures of a figure?
Be smart when trying to buy anime figures online! Things like checking that the seller’s pictures of the figure look identical to the manufacturer’s site can go a long way towards protecting yourself and your hard-earned cash. You are looking for vendors that focus on quality assurance and customer support.
You own a figure, now what?
You can recreate scenes, place it on your desk, shelve it, take it to meet-ups, and draw it. With so many different things to do, you can pose and play with it as you like!
We do have some recommendations for maintaining its condition, though:
- Try to keep the original box in mint condition, if possible. This will be a massive help when it comes to valuing the figure in the future.
- As a rule, figures stay in the best condition when kept away from direct sunlight and in relatively dry rooms. Infrequent dusting with feather dusters or a light blowdown with a can of compressed air goes a long way to keeping your figures in the best condition.
- Consider building or buying a display case if you want to store multiple larger figures safely.
- Be aware of any pets or children - could your cat push your brand new anime figure off the shelf? Are there any children who might be able to see your hentai figure? Be aware of your space, especially if it’s a shared one.
- Since figures are not the toughest things in the world, consider bubble wrapping them or placing them in their original box if you’re transporting your collection anywhere.
Where to from here?
Now you know all about the different types of anime figures, and that collecting is a cool part of the world of anime. Maybe you just went out and bought a figure - hopefully you are happy with your collection’s flagship piece! Take good care of it, be mindful of storage, and enjoy your entry into the collector’s community. But what happens now?
Well, now begins the fun part where you just can’t stop! Browse through thousands of figures, start showing off your collection to your friends and, most importantly, enjoy your new hobby. Thank you for reading our guide and welcome to the figure collecting community!