So last month I went to Japan. Not counting a quick stop over around 30 years ago, this was my official first time there…and it was quite the experience. Before going, I was told by friends and family about just how amazing Japan was. I was looking forward to so much…the food, the sites…and of course, the toys.
Admittedly, I wasn’t really looking for anything specific, but I was aware that the “toy scene” in Japan would be quite different than what I was used to. I knew there wouldn’t be much of the stuff I usually collect, like Marvel Legends or Star Wars Black series. But I was looking forward to checking out all the locally released toys that make their way to the Philippines as expensive imports.
To start, I would say that probably 90% of the toys in Japan are mostly stuff that I don’t collect; stuff like super sentai, gundam, anime and a whole lot of vintage robots from the late 70’s early 80’s. If you’re like me and into collecting a lot of the more modern western toys then you’ve got to temper your expectations, there isn’t that much of that stuff…or at least any at a good price since basically in Japan, they are the imports.
So I turned my toy hunting focus on stuff I don’t normally collect back home. Number one on my list was an SH Figuarts “A New Hope” Luke Skywalker. Now I’m not the expert but from what I know, SH Figuarts is a sub company of Bandai that is known for making exceptionally amazing 6” (1/12 scale) action figures. The detail, articulation and accessories of a SH Figuarts Star Wars figures are so numerous and refined that the difference between their product and Hasbro’s Black Series is night and day. They particularly excel in humanoid characters where the facial sculpts are so spot on to their real life counterparts…it’s scary. Of course the higher quality means a higher price tag especially outside of Japan. Here in Manila (and I’m sure in most other places) SH Figuarts figures cost at least double of Black Series figure, which was enough to make me just admire any SH Figuarts figures from a distance.
So as I was saying, I had a new hope (see what I did there?) that SH Figuarts in Japan would have a more reasonable price since they were basically local products. And “Farm boy” Luke from episode IV was one of my must buys. A few months ago, Hasbro did release their own version of Farm boy Luke in their Black Series and it was AWFUL….and I spent a whole lot of time in denial telling myself that it was OK. So now I finally had my chance to find the perfect Luke Skywalker for my shelf. I bit the bullet when I found him selling for a pretty good price. I also ended up getting myself a Mace Windu and a “roger roger” Battle Droid from the prequels, both of which currently don’t have any representation in the Black Series. All three combined cost me about almost half of what I would pay for them back home.
Now when It comes to iconic Star Wars characters, Darth Vader is pretty much at the top of the totem pole, which makes it so mind boggling at how much Hasbro messed up their Black Series version of the Sith Lord. His head is so big, neck almost nonexistent and posture kinda hunched that he looks more sad and clumsy than imposing. Now SH Figuarts also released their own version of Darth Vader…and while better, is kind of under sized in my opinion. Luckily, when it comes to 1/12 scale Star Wars figures, in Japan, SH Figuarts isn’t your only option. Another company, Mafex also does their own Star Wars figures that are known to be of better quality than the Black Series and of course cost a whole lot more.
For some time now I had also been eyeing their version of Vader in Manila but its higher price kept me from actually getting one. In Japan, I found him for practically the price of a regular Black Series figure so I snatched me a Mafex Darth Vader. I also couldn’t resist a decently priced Mafex Boba Fett as well. Now admittedly, Hasbro’s Black Series Boba Fett is pretty good…but the Mafex version, with its more realistic paint job and better articulation is just so much better that I felt an upgrade of one of the galaxy’s most dangerous bounty hunters on my shelf was justified.
One thing that is huge in Japan that I’m not really into are Gundam model kits made by Bandai, mother company of SH Figuarts. Now in order to cater to that model kit collector they produced their separate Star Wars model kit line, which is mostly composed of models of the iconic Star Wars vehicles/spaceships like the X-Wing and Tie Fighter…but they do include a few 1/12 scale model action figures as well. Now model kits is something I never got into…it just felt too meticulous for me. But I had heard so much good stuff about these Bandai Star Wars model kits that I was genuinely curious. I picked myself up a First Order Storm Trooper to try out….and I LOVED it. The model building process was generally easy, everything was snap on, no glue required and the end result was a sturdy and very articulated action figure with the added riot gear equipment that I really wanted. It was definitely worth the purchase.
Now while Star Wars was the number one on my to buy list, it wasn’t the only thing I ended up buying in Japan. In fact I ended up getting a lot more stuff that I never planned out to get in the first place.
to be continued...