Friday 4 January 2013

2012: Year in Review!

Happy New Year, all you beautiful, crazy people out there.

So, another year gone by and what have we got? More merch, more cheer, and slightly emptier wallets. 2012 was the year of indulgences. Used figures and spontaneous buys galore! Restraint? Never heard of it! And what do I have to show it? Dozens of beautiful ladies and thin magazines filled with magic.  It hurt like repeated lashes to the rear, but it was worth it. After all, collecting is masochism sublimated.

The end of the year is always an interesting time. It's a time for reflection, forward planning, and clutching the shattered pieces of your financial stability. It's almost as bad as tax time, where you look out your window at the salt eaten roads of yester-year and believe very hard your funds are going into something beneficial to society. It's the time of year you realize just how much you're spending on what. Then you cry. Just a little.

So how did Jenn divvy her purchases? It's one of the first questions people ask when I tell them I collect tiny plastic women as a hobby, and the answer always raises a few eyebrows. Yes, yes, importing is expensive. (It's also a lot of fun, but no one seems as interested in that part). But just where is the money being spent? I ran a few charts to illustrate my buying trends. They depressed me. Mostly because I don't remember buying so much. Fortunately, I'm a bit of a statistics nerd, so the process of making charts cheered me up greatly. 

General Statistics

What is Jenn buying?

Let me reiterate, 2012 was a big year. I don't think any year really matches 2012 when it comes to sheer number of purchases. Let me say now: Never again. Never again will I plunge into a year without careful foreward planning. Financially able or not, feel-good or not, it's just not a good idea.

Most of my purchases are scaled figures. No big surprise there. 

I had a buying spree near the beginning of the year when it came to Nendoroids. About June, I realized I was building a Nendoroid army. But I have one great fault: I'm lazy. I get Nendoroids, pose them once or twice, then leave them. They're cute, but they don't have the same pull as scaled figures. As the year went by, I grew bored with them. By mid-year, their price was outshining their worth, so I quit. I quit cold turkey. My last two Nendoroids were Flandre and Sakuya from Touhou. I haven't touched another one since. I'd say I nipped this one in the bud.

What surprised me was my modest investment in art books and doujinshi. Unlike 2011, where a solid 50% of my purchases went to art, 2012 seems to be a down year, with only 22% of my finances going towards 2D indulgence. 

I'm a big fan of purchasing second-hand goods and it shows. I seem to swing one way or another when purchasing. Either I pre-order and stick with it, or wait for a used product to wash up on Mandarake.

I find I only purchase upon release if I'm iffy about a product's quality and want to surf some good reviews before I make a decision. This doesn't happen very often. I think I enjoy the thrill of pre-ordering. A good final product is always a rush, and a bad one, well, they make for colourful reviews.

Where is Jenn buying?

If I look at "Pre-Orders" and "Purchased upon Release" as one group, you'll see most of my purchases are made through AmiAmi. Is this surprising? Not really. Only Big in Japan comes anywhere close in discounts. Sure, I complain of AmiAmi's huge boxes and sometimes over-the-top shipping rates, but nothing has ever gone wrong between AmiAmi and I (no lost boxes, damaged goods, mix-ups or anything) so I guess you could say we're in a long-term relationship.

It's interesting to see how much AmiAmi monopolizes my purchases. I remember a time where Hobby Search got about half my orders, but they've really taken a backseat in 2012.

Looks like Mandarake wins when it comes to used purchases. This also isn't a big surprise. Their selection is simply unbeatable. Their stats are inflated by the fact that they stick a 500 yen "handling fee" on all orders under 5000 yen, so I often ordered a doujinshi or two to help boost my price over the limit. Even with some idiosyncrasies, Mandarake is still my go-to site for second hand goods. Second place goes to the proxy site FromJapan, which allows me to access Yahoo Auctions at a reasonable price.

Scaled Figure Stats
Scaled figures are my merchandise of choice, so it's only natural they get their own section. There are numerous manufacturers out there, and I enjoy trying new companies, just to examine where they stand against the giants. However, giants are giants for a reason, and it's obvious I prefer some companies to others.

Oh, whew. I was afraid it would be 50% Alter, but they rest at a respectable 37%. It's not as good of a mix as I wanted, but it's decent nevertheless. The "Other" category encompasses companies such as Alpha Max, Gift, Toys Works, Megahouse, and Phat Company. I, for one, am keen for more Gift figures in the future, considering their 1/5 Yoko is one of my favourite figures ever.

Looks like I didn't bother with a single Kotobukiya purchases this year. Ever since I lost interest in their Shining line, they've really dropped off the radar. An interesting development. Or not. I find their figures rather ho-hum when it comes to quality anyhow.

Best of 2012

This was a diffcult list to compile. The first thing I did was fight myself over how to properly categorize "Best of 2012". Should it be figures that just released in 2012? Should it include rereleases? Should it be everything I purchased from January to December? Sure, why not? All in a year's work, right? Whether that be pre-ordering, hunting, or sobbing over the dead, empty shell of my wallet.

So, without further ado, in no particular order:

Favourite Releases of 2012

1/7 Samurai by Max Factory

Samurai is beautifully stylized. She's a character from 7th Dragon 2020, and based off a piece by Miwa Shirow, whose dark-lined, stark-contrast style always resonates with a certain level of badassery. 

Confession: I've never played the game myself. I just know the character designs are snazzy. It's rare an unknown character makes it to my favourites list, but Samurai is so wonderfully sculpted and painted she's hard to ignore. Max Factory earns mad respect for this figure. She looks plan at first. After all, she's just standing there, touseled by invisible wind, but her magnificent hair give her a solid sense of motion. On closer inspection, her details are also impressive. Plus she exudes confidence and professionalism, two qualities I find highly attractive in females. Standing at 25.5 cm, she's tall for her scale, and towers over my other 1/7 figures. It's hard to imagine I didn't like her design at first when it's my favourite aspect of her now. Strange how that works.

1/8 Shinobu Oshino by GSC

I love Shinobu. The end. 

But seriously, look at how cute she is! Nevermind that her character is awesome. Her figure has merits of its own. First of all, her base is delicious. It's a clever nod at the entire Bakemonogatari cast. Second, she's adorable, and being adorable goes a long way. Third, besides a few small paint slips, she's top quality. Figure alone, it's debatable whether she would have made my favourites list, but she's backed up by her kick-ass personality. Who doesn't love an arrogant, quick-tongued, donut-loving, loli-vampire? Also, she has the most intriguing conversations...while bathing.

1/8 Alvis E. Hamilton and Lavie Head by Alter

I feel like this figure is vastly underrated. Again, I might be biased because I loved Last Exile during my teenage years. Even today, anything remotely steampunk still tickles my interest. Alter comes through magnificently with these two characters. Not only do they clearly capture Range Murata's unique style, the details on both characters are stunning. I cannot, repeat, cannot find a single flaw in them. And I tried. I tried real hard. Character-wise, I loved Lavie's spunky, tomboyish personality (and that she blows hearts to chickens, so cute). Alvis made less of an impact on me, although she sure is cute. Also, it's hard to resist a two-for-one deal. 

Both characters return in Fam: The Silver Wing, which I've yet to watch.

Favourite Hunts of 2012

1/5 Yoko Littner by Gift

I waited a long time to get my hands on this beauty. I spent a lot of time surfing Mandarake but always missed her. In the end, I employed the help of FromJapan. The extra proxy fees were nothing compared to my burning desire to possess this figure. Yoko ranks high as one of my favourite female characters out there, and Gift has captured her semblance near perfectly. She's strong without being bitchy, cute without being useless, and badass without being cold. Oh, and she can single-handedly shoot down a gundam. Gift's Yoko might not be the most detailed, at least not when compared to her Alter counterpart, but she makes it up for it by being adorable. Look at her inquisitive eyes! So cute. There's something wonderfully pure about catching a girl putting up her hair. I'm not even disappointed she doesn't have her rifle.

She's sticking a toothpick in her hair since I lost her hair pin. Excuse me while I cry robustly in a corner.

1/8 Yoko Littner by Alter

Oh, speak of the devil. I couldn't leave Alter's Yoko off this list after all. She was released before I started collecting, and has a resell price so high just looking at it makes me hurt in the wallet. I was lucky to grab her with the help of FromJapan at around 10k near the beginning of the year (that site is the bomb, guys). She doesn't have the same cutesy charm as Gift's version, but she's magnificent nevertheless. If I remember right, she never wears this outfit in the show, but it works so damn well I don't mind the slightest. Her hair, her coat, her base, are all sculpted meticulously. Her expression is a hot mix of confidence and pluck. And she has her rifle. Hot damn.

1/7 Sonico by Orchid Seed

I have the candy version of this Sonico, but prefer the original version over the variation. Black is immortal, after all. There's something simple and clean about it. It's hard not to like this Sonico. Her sculpt is top-notch, and she's super cute. Sure, her forehead's a bit large and her shins are somewhat stumpy, but Orchid Seed compensates by giving her an adorable belly and ambitious curves. She has a slight punk feel and comes with a tiny guitar, both of which I like. Her multiple display options are also a plus, although I seem to like her best fully dressed with headlights peeking.

For all those who missed her the first time around, she's getting a rerelease in 2013! I hunted her off Mandarake for 8k earlier this year, which was a bit lower than the 10k she was going for around that time. My Sonico has a slightly loose neck joint, which could explain the reduced price, but as long as I don't try to pick her up by the head, she stays intact.

Almost There but not Quite of 2012

I feel like I should give a nod to the figures that almost make my favourites list, but miss out by a small margin due to one small slip or another. Sort of as a pat on the back.

1/8 Panty Anarchy by Alter

She's almost there, almost. Her base is her real let down. I wish they did something with it other than tuck a white circle under her heels and slap it with a logo. Other than the disappointing base, Panty has superb sculpt and paint. The subtleties of her outfit are wonderful, from her discreet tints, to her semi-transluscent skirt, to the tiny rings on her hand. She's also favourite character from the show. It's amazing how few fucks damns this girl gives. Despite widespread preference for Stocking, I feel like Panty's character is more fully flushed than her sister's (not an intentional toilet joke, guys. Give me some credit). She makes me laugh. I just wish they pushed a little harder with this figure.

1/6 Asuka Langley Shikinami by Max Factory

Asuka, Asuka, Asuka. She's loud. She's arrogant. She's one cray away from a glorious meltdown. And she's totally interesting to watch. Love her or hate her, she steals every scene she's in. With all the Asuka figures out there, you'd think they'd have one that nails her caustic personality. But no, most choose to omit her terrible temperament and give her a peaceful expression. No grin. No rawr. No spice. Not even a smirk. Just a happy, vapid, my-life-isn't-shit smile. That's not Asuka, folks, that's some bastardized impersonation, and I do not approve.

Which is why Max Factory's makes my almost list. Finally, a representation that feels like Asuka. That alone deserves plaudits. Wave's apron Asuka also does a good job, but it's quality and size are subpar compared to Max Factory's. If not for Max Factory's boring base, leaning issue, and limited viewing angles (her face is slightly awkward straight on), she would have made my favourites list.

1/8 Moka Akashiya by GSC and Gift

Long story time:

I accidentally bought a bootlegged version of Moka once and it haunted me like hard balls. The paint was dismal, she was glossy all over. Chunks were missing from her hair. I notified the proxy and sent over 20 photos cataloguing the extensive differences between my product and the actual product. The proxy contacted the original seller. You think it would have been easy with all the evidence, but it wasn't. This was no Phoenix Wright case. The seller pulled all sorts of excuses. At one point, they tried to chalk up the discrepencies to "manufacturing differences", to which I politely asked the proxy to call them a stupendous idiot (not sure if they followed through). I checked with the proxy every week, but the seller was taking weeks to answer to the proxy's emails, possibly hoping I'd forget if they took long enough. Which I didn't. In the end I finally got my refund, but the entire process took almost 3 months. No word on whether the money came from the seller, as it rightfully should have, or from the proxy out of sheer impatience. Was it worth the time? Of course.

But even after all was well, I knew I couldn't stop until I tracked down the real version. I was possessed. I don't think I ever hunted a figure as obsessively as I did this one. Something about the whole thing unsettled me. Maybe I felt stupid. I was on a quest to restore...something. Call it pride. I haunted Mandarake as though I had suffocated under a pile of hentai doujinshi and couldn't leave till I rediscovered dignity. Like with Alter's Yoko, I kept missing her. So when I finally found her on AmiAmi at a reasonable price, I was more relieved than glad. I felt like I had closure somehow. Odd, I know.

That being said, I love the figure. Moka as a character never struck me as anything deeper than eyecandy, but she's splendid nevertheless. She has almost everything I love in a figure, including but not limited to: Abundant usage of the colour red, white hair, gothic theme, red eyes, really bitchin' hair. I'm especially pleased by the chains they used for her collar and arm. And by her face. Some fans claim the figure's face doesn't look like her, but I have no bone with it. Maybe it's best I know so little about her character. Her sneaky little smirk gets me. So why doesn't she make my favourite hunted list? No real attachment to her character seems to be the primary reason. It could also have something to do with her aforementioned hunt.

Apparently this figure has such a serious problem with bootlegs that GSC has a page dedicated to save hapless collectors from straying into the darkness.

The Munnies and Otherwise

How much did you spend on merch in 2012, Jenn? Was it a ball-bustingly high amount? Did you remember to save some money for food and other necessities?

Answer: Yes, it was a high amount, but not ball-bustingly high. Not comparable to getting a new car or anything (I'm not that crazy yet), but still a decent amount to spend on plastic and paper leisure. I'm looking at a total of around 270 000 yen. Terrible. It's like watching merchandise beat the crap out of my bank account and enjoy it all the way. Absolutely terrible. I compensate by leading a frugal life outside of collecting.

To the second question, you'd be surprised how many catered events I can sneak into, and how many muffins I can cram into my puny purse. That alone takes some of the pressure off food. Other necessities? What other necessities? You mean like furniture? Naw, that's too posh. I like to sleep in my closet, wrapped up like a spring roll in a bunch of sleeping bags. That's the good stuff. It builds character.

Outlook for 2013?

Beautiful. Another year, another load of loot. But more importantly, I've planned 2013 better than I planned 2012, which isn't saying much, since I winged the entire year. Now that I have most of the older figures I want, I can concentrate my money on new releases and (hopefully) more art. I'm looking to limit myself to about fifteen figures next year, although that's subject to change depending on financial tides and whatnot. With six figures on pre-order up to June it looks like I'm right on track. Wonder Festival Winter will probably punch the kidneys right out of my plans, but hey, at least I can pretend I'm a good, responsible person for now.

Here's what I have pre-ordered so far in order of their release:

And the items available for pre-order, and of which I will most likely get in the future, but have not yet secured for one reason or another (mostly waiting on whether these are SAL-able, or whether anything spectacular comes out during WonFest):

With that, we come to the end of my 2012 review. In the spirit of giving everything a numerical value, I would give the past year a 10/10. Merch-wise, it was stupendous. No mess-ups whatsoever. No big disasters. Didn't get banned from AmiAmi for cancelling a few items. Nice. What was your 2012 like? Has your wallet forgiven you yet, or are you not on speaking terms?

Stay amazing,


  1. Happy New Year!

    You also decided to explore the ugly truth behind collecting stuff from Japan.
    I've written about more comfortable things than expenses.

    I didn't run into an2 financial crisis this year and it probably won't happen next year.

    "Restraint? Never heard of it!" Well, Icanceled a few things in the middle of that year,
    I should have gotten that bathing Hinako, izt still bugs me that I canceled her.

    Near the end of this year I giot a bit crazy and got 6 (-1) older figures,
    which was around the same amount I canceled earlier this year XD

    I also decided to give up on Nendoroids, the last thing I got was this Sonico Nendoroid.
    But I do nothing with them , unlike other creative people ;D Im too scared of breaking them as well.

    So you also got the most from ALTER? I liked their line up, they will have even better stuff this year, like
    Akari, Aozaki Touko, Kazuno and so on.

    Samurai by Max Factory is so nice, after I mentioned her in my last Wonfes post, nobody seemed interested in her style
    and now it seems that everybody bought her, but me :(

    Shinobu was a great figure of this year, a cute summer dress loli with cool accesoires.
    Oh you got this 1/8 Yoko Littner from Alter?! awesome, but expensive :p.

    I got this Sonico in 2011 and she's a super nice and sexy figure. In the start of 2012 I even bought the pink alternative,I like the blush a lot ^^

    1. Yes, the ugly, beautiful truth behind figure collecting. XD

      The end of the year was worst for me. I think I clocked about 16 figures in 3 months. Definitely not something I want to do again.

      Alter has a great line-up for next year already. Kazuno looks amazing, and Touko is just so chic. Their Shining line is plumping up nicely, and the skirt on their Princess of the Crystal is deliciously huge. I shudder to think what'll happen to my wallet after WonFest.

      That's a shame about Samurai. She was a sleeper hit, I think. I wasn't even that interested in her in the beginning, but she snuck up on me. Now she's one of my favourites. Go figure (excuse the pun). I really love Sonico as well. I also have the pink version. I love how the pastel colours give her a totally different feel. She's one of the only characters I have a double of.


  2. Argh, people seriously stop doing this! I could have lived in blissful ignorance! Alas, after reading posts like this I went and saw how much I bought this year and then I cried in a corner for a while.

    I'm surprised though, with how much you spent on second hand stuff, in retrospect it might be a better choice. With very few exceptions most scaled figures I bought ended up at a discounted price or close to retail price on Mandrake. Another thing I find surprising is how much AmiAmi monopolises purchases. I used to buy exclusively from Hobby Search with the occasional other stores. Now it's all AmiAmi for me unless it is a Japan only exclusive.

    In terms of the figures I bought, pretty much in line with previous years, bunch of Alter with the occasional GSC, Max Factory, etc. followed by an army of figmas.

    Max Factory's Samurai girl is such a good choice, I fell instantly in love with the art style of the game so when the figure was shown I instantly decided to buy it. All while laughing at the people deriding the style and to see them all now either having bought it or wishing they did.

    1. This was the first year I did a comprehensive analysis of my spending habits. Surprisingly, I spent less than I anticipated given the number of goods I bagged. I was afraid I'd break the 300 000 yen mark. Buying used really saved me there. Still rocked and cried a little though. Tried not to. Couldn't help it.

      I usually buy art second-hand, since the prices almost always drop after release. All my doujins are second-hand as well. I really went after older figures this year, which explains many of my used purchases. Hunting!Jenn saw more than her fair share of daylight this year.

      How can people laugh at Samurai's style? It's so unique and bold. Ah well, all the more gloating-power for us when they realize they're missing out. =P


  3. I wouldn't call it 'masochism sublimated' because that's being way too generous to figure collecting XD. It's more like 'auto-erotic masochism' XD.

    1. Hey man, I can be generous too! Or so I like to believe. In the spirit of moderation, I've decided to shoot myself in the foot with a lower calibre bullet this time. Therefore, "sublimated". I need to retain SOME denial to keep myself sane. ;D