What are figures?
Figures based on anime, manga, or other original content, are usually made from “PVC”, a common thermoplastic resin, used in a wide variety of manufactured products, including rainwear, garden hoses, phonograph records, and floor (according to answers.com). There are also other types of material that are used to make figures, but I’m not exactly sure what they are. Eventually, you’ll learn to recognize and differentiate them.
They’re quite resistant to pressure and heat, which is why PVC is the common material used for producing figures. Additionally, they’re cheap xD
Sometimes, you’ll see figures made out of polystone but are generally uncommon. They are generally more expensive and extra frail. They often break during transit.
There are many different types of figures out there… but from what I know, they are commonly scaled figures (PVC), action figures (Nendoroid, Figma, etc) and trading figures (or prized figures).
These figures are prepainted unless they are garake kits or any other do-it-yourself kind of projects.
Scaled figures are just your good ol’ statuettes. Some of them are more special as some of their clothing can be removed (cast off figure). They generally come in 1/8 scaled size, but I’ve seen 1/4, 1/6, 1/7, 1/10, and chibi sized. I’m sure there are other sizes as well, probably just not popular. And some figures come with no exact ratio size (usually garage kits or prize figures).
Action figures are really what you generally see in the toy aisles. Their positions can be changed because they have movable joints (by screws or plastic) and they usually come with accessories and interchangeable parts. Very dynamic, compared to scaled figures which are static. However, in terms of quality and details, action figures are usually a bit sloppier.
Action figures can be also referred as Figma. It’s a line produced by Max Factory and distributed by Good Smile Company.
There are also some chibi (or deformed) figures that are also categorized as an action figure. However, not all chibi figures are action figures as they are some static non-posable ones.
(Who doesn’t like chibi sized figures of your favorite character? ^^)
For example, Nendoroid is a pretty popular action figure with characters in chibi form. They usually come with accessories and interchangeable parts just like action figures. The difference, really, is just their size. As for quality, they are generally nice but lack in terms of quality (mostly paint jobs).
The nice thing about these teeny figures is that you can share and swap parts (especially faces) among them, as long as they are made from the same line, such as Nendoroids.
Nendoroid is a line by Good Smile Company and they’re quite famous for chibis. Also made by the same people, Nendoroid Petit are even smaller than Nendoroids, but they have no (or very little) extra interchangeable parts. At least you are still able to take off the head, arms, etc.
Other than our very popular Nendoroids, we also have Cupoches (from Kotobukiya), Parfoms (by Phat Company), and probably some other ones that I’m not aware of at the moment.
Garage kits? Bootlegs?
Garage kits are pretty much figures made by regular people or by a specific circle of people dedicating their lives to sculpting figures. They are not sponsored by any major companies and generally sell their figures at shows. Of course, they are expensive (and sold only during gathering events like expos). Quality can vary as it depends on the individual’s effort put into their figures.
When you purchase GKs, they can be either pre-painted and assembled for you or come in unpainted separate parts for your to fiddle on your own. Of course, if you assemble it yourself, the price is going to be a lot cheaper. But usually, “authentic” GKs are not sold by parts, and generally come pre-painted since they sell ‘em at shows. Imitations can come in parts or pre-painted.
Bootlegs are figures made by other companies in attempted to imitate an existing figure produced by major companies. They are generally worse in quality (in fact, some are horrendous), but I’ve seen some that are quite detailed and amazing.
Unless you have pride in owning authentic figures, buying bootlegs can be an affordable option for your figure collecting hobby.
I recommend E2046‘s Gathering bootlegs. That group generally produces good bootlegs from existing figures (whether it be from major companies or famous garage kits) from what I hear. They sell pre-painted GKs and regular GKs where you gotta assemble and paint everything yourself.
Buy at your own risk! Their quality is not necessarily always consistent.
Garage Kit of the moment!
Wait — What about dolls?
Dolls are more than just figures with joints. They tend to have synthetic hair (some don’t — the hair is plastic like figures) with movable joints, sometimes, ball jointed. Owning a doll means more than just having an action figure. They are more flexible, posable, generally bigger in size, and customizable.
I started collecting dolls around Winter 2013 so my knowledge of dolls is still somewhat limited.
There are plenty of companies that make ball jointed dolls (BJD). The most popular company would be Volks’ Dollfie Dream (1/3 scale). These dolls have the flexibility to move in almost any position you would like them to be. They are versatile — but they come at a price. BJDs are generally very expensive, costing owners couple hundreds of dollars. If you are looking for DDs that are original anime characters, then look forward to pay an outrageous price tag because their releases tend to be limited in quantity (plus sold as a lottery system), so they are expensive in the after market. You can order your own parts on their website to make your own doll too and that route would be cheaper.
Other than BJDs, you have other type of dolls that are not ball jointed.
Again, there are a lot of companies that produce these dolls, such as Real Action Heroes (plastic hair and fabric clothes), Pure Neemo, Pullip (Groove), Blythe, Licca, etc.
Where can I find a database of figures and dolls?
My figure Collection is my new home xD I’m totally obsessed with that place and I visit it daily. They pretty much have every figure you need to look for and it has information and pictures. It’s a community website, so you can post around, blog, and stuff.
Here is my page on MFC.
You can also trade, sell, or buy figures there between members and I’ve done it a couple times. So far, so good ^^ I advise you to pay with Paypal, it’s the safest way.
Where can I buy figures / dolls?
I’ve compiled a list of places where you can buy figures. Mind you, shipping from Japan is quite pricey, so sometimes buying from an American based shop is kind of cheaper if you factor in the shipping cost. However, they are behind when it comes to pre-ordering new figures.
Just make sure you did your research to find the cheapest place ^^
Oh, stay away from Ebay. Lots of bootlegs (fakes) there. I heard Amazon could be a good place if the source is reliable.
- Japanese websites in English aimed at selling their left-over products overseas (and also great for snatching rare or hard to find figures):
- Japanese /Asian websites in English:
http://www.e2046.com/ (Mostly famous for higher-end bootlegs and Garage Kits)
- Mostly US-based websites:
http://archonia.com (European website)
- Groove dolls (Pullip, etc): http://www.pullipstyle.com/pullipstyle/index.php
I can’t find certain figures because they’re rare.
Some other places offer services, such as helping you bid on Yahoo! Japan or helping you snatch a figure in Japan since they probably know a lot more figure sources than we do xD
I’ve only tried Yokatta for now (I just recently put a pre-order on Saber Maid version from Alter. As for the rest, they were recommended to me by members of MFC (My Figure Collection), so they should be safe ^^;;
Just started collecting figures, but I don’t know how to care for them!
Aha, I know that feeling! Here are some sites you should read on how to maintain your figures ^^b
I have more questions…
Feel free to leave a message here.