I’m sure we’ve all been there before. It’s the last day of your vacation in some foreign land and you’re wondering if you got all that you wanted to get on your international shopping adventures. You’re going through all the stores one last time and come upon something that you initially had no intention of getting…but since you’re there, and the price is pretty good, that you figure what the hell? Carpe diem….seize the day….or in my case…Carpe crepundia*, seize the toy ☺
Prior to my trip to Japan, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to get. I was looking forward to getting myself some local Star Wars and Transformers toys that sell for higher imported prices back home. And after seven full days in Japan, I felt that I had got everything that I wanted or set out to get and I was good to go….but I had one more day so I figured what the hell…. so off I went to Tokyo “toy central”, Nakano Broadway one more time to see what else I could find.
So the first item on my list was a Bandai Tamashii Nations Movie Realization Samurai Spider-Man. So this is another offshoot product from Bandai. The premise here is that they take popular western characters and re-imagine them as Japanese Samurai. They initially started with a Star Wars Samurai line, which was …amazing. Seeing iconic Star Wars characters like Darth Vader, Storm Troopers and Boba Fett re-imagined as Samurai and done so well was awe-inspiring. Unfortunately (or is that fortunately?), their pricey nature kept me away from purchasing any of them…. But I was sorely tempted.
Then Bandai upped the ante and moved on to Marvel superheroes and their first product was a Samurai Spider Man. I guess he was just released the time I was in Japan because he was EVERYWHERE! Everywhere I went he was there. And his price varied from place to place but it was always higher then I cared to spend for it. Finally though on my second to the last day, I spotted one hidden in a small corner shop in Nakano Broadway at a rather acceptable price…so I thought about it…and I thought about it some more and I figured what the hell….so the next day I returned and made Samurai Spider Man mine. Ironically, after I purchased it, I found an even cheaper one in another store…but oh well, I still got it at a good price.
The beauty of this line is that they take pains to translate the details of the Spider Man character into a Samurai. They don’t just give Spider Man some armor and a sword and call it a day, you can tell they really put a lot of thought into their interpretation of what a “Spider Man” would actually look like in Feudal Japan. Given that, the spider web design from the modern day costume is intricately detailed on his armor and for weaponry he’s got extended chains attached to his wrists with hooks at the end to mimic the modern day web shooters. One little touch I especially like is the little spider design on the hilt of his sword that is visible over his shoulder when his sword is sheathed. All this creative detailing has got me really excited for this line and I’m definitely looking forward to future additions of Iron Man and Captain America sometime next year.
The second Item I ended up getting was a little bit more of a stretch for me; a Figma The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Link. Now Figma is yet another Japanese toy company specializing on mostly anime based action figures, but they also do some characters from popular Nintendo games like Metroid and Legend of Zelda.
Now I don’t really consider myself a gamer, the ONLY game console I ever bought for myself was a Nintendo Wii and that was solely to play one game; The Legend of Zelda. The Legend of Zelda is one of the game I have been a fan of since I first saw that golden cartridge for the original Nintendo Family Entertainment system all those years ago. I knew that this game was special and have made it a point to play almost all main iterations of this game since then.
Since being a intermittent gamer at best, I was never tempted to buy any toys based on any of the games that I play. That is until I was in Japan, and I saw my chance to get myself a plastic rendition of my favorite video game character. Prior to going on a hunt, I did my research and I came upon this Figma version of Link. The reviews of the figure were absolutely glowing so I decided…if I did find one, again at a good price, I would snag it. And wouldn’t you know it, on the very last day, there he was staring back at me from his toy box on a shelf sporting a very attractive price tag….and so just like that, he was mine.
To close, I just want to say that all these purchases I made in Japan from the SH Figuarts, to the Bandai model kits and Figma were a real eye opener for me. It made me realize just how much I was missing focusing on mostly US product. And it has given me a better appreciation for my own hobby.
Now to be clear, comparing a standard Hasbro Marvel Legend or Black Series figure to an SH Figuarts or Figma figure isn’t fair. I mean they are clearly meant for a different market. Like I said before, most of these US toys are meant for a younger audience. Even if they can be attractive to older collectors, in the end they are more ACTION figures that are made to be played with, banged around and so on. They also have to pass stricter safety standards for kids, so a lot of intricate details and accessories are lost in the process.
In Japan, the focus is more on the FIGURE than the action, they are really made for the older collector who more often than not prefer to display their toys rather than play with them. As a result, the detail and articulation is better, and they come with more accessories like extra faces, hands, weapons and sometimes even display stands so you can achieve the PERFECT pose for your action figure on the shelf.
Even if they are considerably more expensive than their stateside counterparts, they are worth EVERY SINGLE CENT they are sold for. Even the way they are packaged is well thought out. They feel more like a labor of love rather than a mass-produced product. And that is something I can definitely appreciate.
*Apologies to my high school Latin teachers in case totally messed up my translation :P