I've been nerding on Japanese toys for a long time, but the Astro Toy gig has really forced me to look out at lines beyond my particular interests and all around the business. It's been really interesting! Originally that last post was supposed to just be a listing of what I thought of the respective lines, but it really quickly turned into a "how and why" of the column that was much too long not to run on its own. So here's the post that was originally intended, as a part two instead. This might also function as a buyer's guide.
Figma: Boy, I have a lot to say about Figma. This is now the dominant action figure for the modern otaku, to the point where pretty much everything in otaku-world that doesn't belong to Bandai (Gundam, Tiger and Bunny, many others) becomes a Figma. Because they're the winners, it's easier to be hard on them.
Main points: Figmas are small, cheap (but not kids' toy cheap), and while very playable, their design philosophy values looks more than play. Given market trends, subjects are mostly girls. The line is perfectly average: like Revoltech, you can tell there were times when the people making the toy gave a damn (Golgo remains the best Figma I've looked at for the column by a long distance) and times when they didn't really.
Right now the review of Figma Guts is up and I found it passable by Figma standards. The reader response has been "No way! Look at that face!" There are a lot of elements that are a little cheapo-looking on that figure-- legs, detailing on the stuff strapped to the body, the mechanical arm-- but all of this falls under typical Figma for me. I don't expect amazing detail from a Figma, and as much as people don't like that face I think it's one of the better Figma faces considering how spotty they usually look. I have to wonder if my eyes are just gradually getting used to the line's middling quality.
Nendoroid is really straightforward: it's less an action figure and more a display figure that you put together. Kaiyodo used to do an Eva line like this, but it wasn't super-deformed. Pretty simple, and I can't even imagine how you'd get the idea wrong. These are fun to do columns for, but because they're so limited I try to buy two or find ones with lots of extras. Only drawback is that the stands are complete shit.
If you want to buy Figma or Nendoroid or any other Good Smile product you'd better be happy with what's out right now, because GSC's business plan is to make everything in small numbers and only do one production so that fans are compelled (or, in many cases, forced) to preorder if they want the figure. Online buyers in particular get screwed, as really popular characters like Homura sold out to preorders months in advance and were then never made available again. Figmas aren't good enough to pay insane collector markup (I've seen them go for $200) so seriously, don't even bother looking. I'm just glad I got the Kaiji figure while I could.
Revoltech: Revoltech is kind of the anti-Figma: toy first, everything else second. Heavy on visible joints and action features, something meant for the owner to actually sit and play with rather than set up for display just once. Mostly male characters and robots, given the nature of the toys. However, sculpts on these can get really ugly, especially lately. The "Fraulein" line exists but was, by all indications, a failure.
I admire these toys for the purity of their vision (Kaiyodo also sells a completely original line that's a clear attempt at Microman in an age when there are no kids left to buy that stuff), but that isn't necessarily folks' priority. Note, however, that I haven't bought a Revoltech in months because Figma has all the popular characters. This will change later.
Bandai stuff: Obviously Chogokin is my favorite. The modern Chogokin stuff strikes a balance between obsessively faithful detail, high-quality construction and playability that's just unbeatable. Every one of these I see is top-shelf, even in the scaled-down Super Robot Chogokin line.
Figuarts is a line that wildly varies in quality, to the point where I would only be able to recommend pieces individually. It is hard to believe that Figuarts' terrible figure of Kazuma from Scryed is in the same line as the wonderful Tiger and Bunny figures, for example. I'd be careful with these and take a close look before buying, but they seem to do costumed heroes (sentai and Kamen Rider) better than other stuff. They're fun to buy for the column because I have no idea what I'm going to get. I have Figuarts Fourze on preorder for my own personal enjoyment.
Bandai has a direct ripoff line of Nendoroid that's been coming out in force with Tiger and Bunny characters but I haven't had space to look at it, and it also kind of looks crap.
We have barely even done Gundam in two years. It's like this: most good Gundam stuff is in plastic kit form, and, real talk, they don't pay me enough to put in the hours involved in putting together a kit. I used to do Gunpla, and I know it won't even look good unless it's painted! Maybe if some nice diecast comes out for AGE (nice diecast Unicorn sold out a while back) we'll talk. The SDX figures are awesome though.
Myth Cloth is a pretty cool line but I doubt I'll be able to ever slip Saint Seiya into the column again, just sayin'. The huge Sagittarius figure is completely out of our range, even though it's 40% off at Amiami right now.
Other lines: Medicos' Jojo line does everything possible better than comparable lines for the same price. I was amazed to see how well-served Jojo fans are by the figure business: they must buy a lot. I keep trying to see if Griffon's Figutto line will get better, but they're basically medium-grade 1/8 PVCs with joints. Nowhere more evident than with that Marisa figure.
I am really looking forward to what Sentinel does going forward and I have a few things of theirs on order for the column (one is sitting next to me, actually), including an obvious and popular character I absolutely can't wait to get.
If all goes well with it, I'm buying something from CM's for the column soon. They only do stuff from old robot anime so it was really hard to find something of theirs for Astro Toy!
Evolution Toy's Squid Girl is the only time I've bought something so bad for the column that I'd never trust the company that made it ever again.