Shooting the Shit - Anime Figure Prices
First of all, I would like to welcome anyone who bothers to read this article to our new "Shooting the Shit" category. This category will be comprised of mostly blog style posts featuring me ranting about bullshit. I like to complain a lot, it's somewhat cathartic. With that in mind, expect lots of moaning and me attempting to communicate my thoughts on recent subjects without sounding like a complete retard. So, without further ado, let's grab a couple drams of 12 year single malt whisky and shoot the shit.
So What's the Deal With Figure Prices?
This whole category has come about due to a recent figure release. Amakuni and Hobby Japan just opened orders on a 1/8 scale figure of Raphael (The Angel of Temperance) from the anime series The Seven Heavenly Virtues (Nanatsu no Bitoku, 七つの美徳). I've been running this site a long time so I just thought to myself "Oh, another one of these Seven Deadly Sins style figures? Let's take a look". Now, I am aware of the price increases in the anime figure industry, it's hard to ignore. I suppose I was not aware of the extent of just how bad things have gotten.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
Back in 2013, Amakuni and Hobby Japan opened orders on a 1/8 scale figure called Leviathan. It was the first of an extensive line of figures known as The Seven Deadly Sins. Based on the Seven Deadly Sins (Gluttony, Sloth etc) this franchise would spawn numerous figures, re-colours, merchandise and even a terrible anime series (a terrible anime series that we have covered all the fanservice from - Uncensored Sin: Nanatsu no Taizai Fanservice). It was, by all accounts, a huge success and a massive money maker for Hobby Japan.
Leviathan came packing cast off options and an impressive pedestal base. She was a stand out figure that caught your eye and really made you excited for future releases. Back in 2013, Leviathan launched for the relatively run of the mill list price of 8,400¥. A little more expensive than other 1/8 scale figures, she was worth the extra for the fancy base and the cast off options. Asmodues followed shortly after with a list price of 9,300¥.. Okay, bit strange but Asmodeus is a whole lot of lady so we don't mind paying a little more.
More like ASSmodeus, am I right guys?
Fast forward to 2015 and Beelzebub hits the market with a list price of 11,800¥. Wait, this is starting to get a little strange. Asmodues was thick and definitely took a lot more material to make than Leviathan. Beelzebub is a tiny loli who could probably be made from the offcuts of the average Sonico figure. Why the ridiculous price hike? Same manufacturer as Leviathan; maybe sculptor Hiroshi (Sakurazensen) charges a loli sculpting premium?
Loli boobs need more care!
I just don't know. We were soundly out of recession then, maybe inflation was a little ridiculous? I know Japan annihilated their currency around that time but that was to aid the export economy more than anything.. I am pretty sure Shinzo Abe wasn't thinking "Hey let's teach those filthy gaijin perverts a lesson, no more low priced lolis for you" when he was deciding on the monetary policies that were key to his first few years of power during his second term. I guess material prices were a little higher?
Fuck it, let's skip forward a bit to 2017. Still focusing on the Seven Deadly Sins figure line, we have another chunky lady - Belial. I guess I should reach into my wallet and whip out my Visa ready for that near 12,000¥ ass fucking, shouldn't I? Well, actually, no because apparently Belial is the Demon King of Going in Raw. Brace yourself, if you need her in your life Belial is about to whip a whopping 14,800¥ out from your lower colon. Phew, I hope she comes with Lube!
No Lube... No vulva sculpt either :S
By the way, I know that Belial is manufactured by Orchid Seed but Orchid Seed are usually pretty reasonable. What the fuck has happened??
Oh and remember that Leviathan figure that sold for 8,000¥? It just had a recolour that fits in with the anime version of Leviathan a little better. There are no real differences, well, except for the fact that you will now have to pay 11,300¥. Nice! You can get her with a light up base for a 1,000¥ extra, though.
Something a Little More Recent
Back in the present day, it's The Seven Heavenly Virtues figure line that is coming with some distinctly unheavenly prices. Our most recent example is Raphael (The Angel of Fuck You!) who comes with a slightly lower standard price of 13,800¥. Remember, that's if you want her standard version. But what if I was to say to you that you could have a version with a light up base? How much extra would you pay for the inclusion of a few LED lights that probably cost the manufacturers whatever change they found down the side of their couch to produce? 500¥? 800¥? Fuck you, you peasant! That shitty little light up base will cost you an extra 3,000¥, cough it up.
Better believe Amakuni will shove it in your ass while you bend down to pick up whatever loose change you can find to support yourself after they rob you blind. And am I mistaken or did the same shitty light up base come with their recolour of Leviathan for just 1,000¥ extra? Thank god we can just refuse to pay it, right?
While we are on the subject of Leviathan, her original version came with an actual handkerchief that we could use to wipe away the tears caused by Amakuni's anal violation for a measly 1,000¥ more. It even had a picture of Leviathan with her tits out on it. For 1,000¥ we have a constant supply of fap material, for the easily pleased anyways, and something to hang on the wall. Sure, we get the standard base and the light up base with Raphael but what is the fucking point? We bought the limited version so we could have the light up base, Amakuni can keep the standard base for all I care... We don't need it, we have a limited one that lights up to remind us of our bad decisions.
Why So Hard on The Seven Deadly Sins?
You are right, I am being hard on the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Heavenly Virtues series of figures. Maybe their awful anime adaptations have left me a little bitter towards them. After all, it's not as if a really bland, plain looking 1/8 scale figure of Idolmaster's Kanade Hayami just hit the market for a pre-order price of 15,150¥. I mean, imagine if there was a 16cm tall figure of Kantai Collection's Hoppou Seiki made by ques Q with a list price of over 23,000¥ up for pre-order right now.. That would be awful.
She's angry because she's expensive
I suppose I am just engaging in hyperbole. It's not as if Max Factory are knocking out Hatsune Miku figma for 7,500¥ a pop or anything. It's probably not worth worrying about until companies like Plum start releasing average quality figures for 17,000¥ at a time. I should just chill the fuck out.
But the Quality is so Much Better
Is it? When it comes to standard anime figures, I am not so sure that is true. From my experience, recent standard anime figures bought by my fiancee and me have been relatively in line with the quality of 2014. In our experience, more are arriving with defects (including missing paint on hair, paint bleeding, and broken parts) and more come in ridiculously large boxes that do nothing to protect the figure and just take up space.
On the flip side, I think eroge figures have definitely increased in quality. Poses are more interesting, sculpts are more elaborate, accessories are more interesting, and we tend to have multiple display options. Eroge figures have always come at a premium, however. Skytube's base list price, before pre-order discount, was around 12,800¥ a few years ago and it has only climbed by an average of 2,000¥. The majority of their pre-orders open at 14,800¥ before discount. Native, on the otherhand, are following their parent company's (Max Factory) lead and jacking prices pretty heftily.
Some recent Native examples have featured 17,000¥ list prices purely because of a cheap looking accessory. A great example of the confusing increase in price is Native's Cat Lap Milk. Cat Lap Milk originally retailed in the 8,000¥ range. A few years later, she was released as a limited blue colour edition.
Please take my money, I don't need it
This blue version of Cat Lap Milk had a list price of over 11,000¥. What the fuck happened? Is there some sort of premium on blue paint? You could feed an actual cat for six months for that kind of money. Sure, it's limited, I get it, but do you pay more for a chase version of a Funko Pop? No you don't. Sure, they are rare, that is the whole point of a limited item, but if you go into a shop and see one, it should be the same price as the standard version. Every excuse one could make for these price hikes does not add up and is certainly not sufficient to satisfy the question of what justifies said price hike.
So What is it all About?
In a nutshell, it's entirely down to greed and nothing more. In my opinion, the figure industry saw the potential in the figure aftermarket and became greedy. They saw the amount of money some people were willing to spend on certain figures and they adjusted to make themselves the beneficiaries of these deep pocketed customers rather than the resellers. Of course, we should have expected some degree of price increase. Inflation is a thing, Japan's economy changed and the value of the Yen dropped so materials would cost more. Would this expected rise in cost jack the prices of a whole ton of figures by up to 100%? No, of course not. Would you be happy to pay £1 for a bar of chocolate that 3 years ago cost 50p? Even Brexit, one of the most monumental changes to a major Western power's economy in recent years, hasn't brought about that kind of price hike (yet). Yes, I am talking in extremes but is a ques Q Kantai Collection figure retailing for a list price of 23,000¥ not an extreme? Unfortunately, it's not, it's essentially the new norm.
So It's the Resellers Fault!
No, it's not actually the resellers fault. The secondhand market has always been around and it always will. If a product is in demand and supply is low, resellers will fill that void. Sure, Mandarake and similar shops dictated the aftermarket price based on the demand for the figure in question but the figure manufacturers themselves created the price by not keeping a supply of these figures to hand.
And the Solution is?
There has always been solutions to this problem. Reissues are one of the solutions and many manufacturers actually reissue figures frequently. Re-colours are another solution. Both of these things have proven to keep aftermarket prices down. The real solution would be to have occasional reprints as long as there is demand for the figure.
This was actually done recently by Square Enix with their Odin and Shiva, from FFXIV, statues and was a popular move. The figures are released in new batches every couple of months so you never have to pay aftermarket prices. Sure, collectors don't like this as it drops the value of their collection but it's a small price to pay. Anime figures aren't the best thing to collect with a view to gaining value. Very few anime figures are actually genuinely limited and very few are guaranteed only one production run. There is no Funko style vault that reassures you that the figure will no longer be produced.
Anime Figure Value is Fleeting
We've been collecting figures for years and the truth of the matter is that you either sell the figure when it is at maximum value or you own it long enough for it to be worth less than when you bought it. With only a few exceptions, this is how it goes. Anime figures are not fine collectables with a decent chance to gain value in a manner that is sustainable and could be used as an investment. Their value drops for little to no reason and all it takes is a simple injection of stock into the market for your figure to be worth less than when you bought it. Alter's Strike Witches line up is a perfect example of this. Take this figure of Sanya; at one point, this figure had more than doubled in value and could not be found for less than 13,000¥. You can now pick it up for 3,500¥, that's less than a new Nendoroid. That same thing happened to pretty much the entire Strike Witches lineup.
It's not all doom and gloom. You can get lucky as we did with this figure of Holo from Spice and Wolf.
We bought this figure at face value and, due to the manufacturer going broke, the figure is now worth anywhere in the region of 30,000¥. Pretty nice but all it takes is another company purchasing the rights to the sculpt for it to end up back in the market and the value gone completely. Should we sell the figure now? No because we like the figure and that's the key to avoiding the disappointment. Only buy figures that you really like, don't buy something because you think it will gain value. With the current increases in price, the figure you paid so much for has probably dropped in value the second it has left the store. This is doubly true when you consider shipping costs to the West.
Where Do Bootlegs Fit In?
Although it's not a perfect comparison, DVD and CD prices were often used as an excuse for piracy. People would claim that albums cost too much, movies cost too much, games cost too much - "I can't afford it". This would then somewhat justify downloading an album or streaming a movie or hitting the bay to download a video game. Is it right? No, of course not, but what is right doesn't really factor in when it comes to somebody not wanting to pay £15 for a DVD of a movie that will be on television in six months. Consequently the price of movies and albums dropped and alternate methods of monetizing the products emerged. We are all better off now thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime and the like. The movie makers go to the big streaming companies who put the product out to us for a more than fair amount. These services are enormously popular and everybody is doing things nice and legally.
What is the equivalent in the anime figure world? Bootleg figures. Nobody can deny that bootleg figures are more popular than ever. Ebay is absolutely flooded with them and, in all fairness, the quality is increasing rapidly. A bootleg version of Shimohira Reika can be purchased on Ebay for £15, that's £100 cheaper than the actual figure without factoring the potential customs charges (20% plus a standard handling fee in most places) that you may be stuck with. I own the real figure and have compared it to a bootleg and the differences are pretty insignificant.
Sure, it's not cool, it's potentially unsafe, and the practice of producing bootlegs is very illegal but the average person is not going to give two fucks as long as they get to have that figure they desperately want that is far too expensive to buy legit. I don't dislike people who buy bootleg figures; I sympathize and understand why they do it. The anime figure industry is responsible for the growth of the bootleg market and it will be equally responsible for it's own demise if things don't turn around. There are already less people ordering the latest figures than there were a few years ago. The majority of the collectors I know have sold off their figures and moved on and I totally understand why. My fiancee and I only really buy eroge figures now. The anime figure market has priced the majority of buyers out and it's a real shame.
Thanks for Reading
Thanks for taking the time to read and helping me get this shit off my chest. I have always loved the anime figure industry but to say it has changed would be an understatement. I'm going to skip the Seven Heavenly Virtues figure that inspired this article. I am going to take that £150 and buy 10 Funko Pops and another bottle of whisky to drown my sorrows. Thanks guys! Here's a cute image of Astaroth realising she can't afford to buy food this week because she pre-ordered Raphael; see, I still love you Seven Deadly Sins.