The Pros and Cons of $20 Anime Figures

I was asked by my long-time Patreon sponsor Johnny Trovato about my thoughts on “The effect of budget figurines (like Banpresto sells for $20 each [2,000 yen]) on the anime figure scene.” My first reaction to this was simply, “Figures are expensive, man.” That pretty much sets the stage for my opinion on the subject. They fulfill a necessary space in the grand scheme of anime merchandise, but they could always be better–not in terms of quality but rather honesty.

Personally, I prefer to get higher quality figures even if it means I have fewer overall. The Banpresto figures tend not to have the best paint jobs or face sculpts, and pricier figures just have more attention to detail that I appreciate. I don’t typically go for the most costly ones, though, unless I really, really want it.

But the balance between quantity and quality is different from person to person, and figures can end up being an absurdly expensive hobby. I’ve known people like that, and I’ll be upfront when I say that I don’t think I’ll ever make enough in a year to comfortably keep that up. So in that respect, Banpresto figures are a nice compromise. They’re not going to be the best, but they’re not supposed to be. They’re a valid option for people who want figures but simply can’t or won’t pay for more. And unlike trading figures, which is designed to be a bit of a gamble (you never know which one you’re gonna get!), you know what the figure is going to be.

The problems with $20 anime figures  come from two things, both related. First, their true purpose is as prizes for crane games in Japan. While there are apparently ways to master crane games and obtain them for reasonable prices, most people will probably end up spending more, perhaps even without success. Second, one of the big differences between more expensive figures and less expensive ones is whether you can look at the actual figure itself. Higher quality merchandise has clear packaging that lets you see what you’re buying, whereas the Banpresto stuff is hidden in opaque boxes covered in promotional photos that try to hide the flaws as much as possible. This is intentional but also disingenuous, as it potentially tricks people into getting a figure they wouldn’t have otherwise. In a sense, seeing them unboxed and on display at an anime con is a better thing, but in those cases they’re often marked up.

Ultimately, I don’t think Banpresto’s $20 figures are inherently a bad thing, and they definitely serve a part of the anime fandom that should be catered to. I just wish there wasn’t a degree of deception baked into the whole thing.

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The Year of Fujoshi Figures

As someone who likes to keep track of fujoshi characters in anime and manga, I also tend to keep an eye out for merchandise if only to see how much coverage these characters are getting. Aside from the manga and anime they come from, there tends to be not much else, but one thing I’ve noticed is that, over the past months or so, multiple fujoshi character statue figures have been announced or released… which might actually make 2013 the Year of Fujoshi Figures, but we’ll let that slide.

First up is Wave’s “Beach Queens Shiguma Rika” from Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. A member of the “Neighbors’ Club,” Rika is a genius who is not only into homosexuality but also “mechasexuality.” All of the other female characters in her show, as well as from many other series, are in the Beach Queens line.

Next is Ryuusuke’s “Narumi Nakuru” (NSFW) from Mayo Chiki! A glasses-obsessed high school student, she gets her very own episode at the very end of the anime. This figure is not only expensive as all get-out, but it’s gigantic at a whopping 30+ cm in height. An important warning, this figure’s clothing is removable, so it may not be the best display piece.

Then there’s the “Excellent Model Limited Sazanka Bianca” from Aquarion EVOL. I wrote about her recently, and one thing I have to say is that in an interview with the writer of the series, Okada Mari, she mentions that Sazanka was meant to be a much more minor character but that she gained popularity after episode 4, which revealed her status as a fujoshi. Sazanka’s figure is an exclusive.

Coming from the Winter 2012 season is the Nendoroid Koujiro Frau from the popular Robotics;Notes. A programming genius, Frau (real name Furugoori Kona) is something of a recluse, and talks in real life almost entirely in internet slang. Might we expect a full-size figure of her at some point?

Finally, if you want to count it, there’s this “Gray Parka Service’s Homoo.” Homoo is an ascii art-based character from the mesageboard 2ch, and is meant as a parody of fujoshi and their behaviors. It (she?) crawls around on all fours, exclaiming “Homoo!”

So all in all, kind of a crazy year if you happen to be into fujoshi characters and you enjoy buying figures. That said, I have to wonder why there’s this increase, at all. Sure, there was the Ogiue figure from 2007 (which I gladly own), and some Ohno figures before that, but there seems to be an unusually high amount, likely because we’re seeing more fujoshi characters appear in these ensemble cast anime. With more shows out and on the horizon, I would not be surprised at all to see a figure of, say, Akagi Sena from Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii wake ga Nai.