If you keep up to date with a lot of anime and comic related news, there’s a good chance that you may have noticed a lot of activity this past weekend. San Diego held its annual Comic Convention, Ufotable annnounced its plans to create a movie of the Heaven’s Feel route from the Fate/stay night visual novel while the Fate/stay night TV series airing this fall will adapt the Unlimited Blade Works route, and you may have also seen people talking about something called Wonder Festival, or WonFes for short.
While Comic Con is pretty well known and information about an anime series is pretty straight forward, some of you may have been wondering what exactly this “Wonder Festival” was. While one can easily deduce that Comic Con is a convention revolving around comics, he name Wonder Festival really doesn’t provide any hints as to what the event is about.
Wonder Festival is the world’s biggest figure festival. It is a bi-annual event that takes place in the Winter and Summer and is held at the Makuhari Messe convention centre in Chiba, Japan. It focuses on displaying and selling “garage kits (sculptures of popular characters that have to be assembled and painted)” and showcases future releases by major figure companies.
In short, it’s an event where companies bring the fruits of their labor to display and hopefully drum up excitement amongst fans eager to spend money on merchandise of their favourite characters. Similar to other events such as E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), companies are competing with each other for buyers.
However unlike the video games on display at E3 that have both mechanical and aesthetic values, figures rely almost solely upon how they look to draw in buyers; the character’s pose, the paint job, etc. In my opinion this makes the atmosphere of the event all the more difficult and competitive for companies. For example, if two companies decide to make the same character (same scale, very similar pose) and one of them is exceedingly better than the other, one company will most likely be losing a ton of money on something they invested a large amount of time in.
Like with any anime related merchandise, companies want to produce items from the more popular series. If you look up any really popular character on MyFigureCollection it’s actually quite surprising to see just how many different figures there are by different companies. Yet, as you browse through them all there will probably only be one or two out of the large sum that you may consider buying, and chances are those ones have probably been produced by big name companies.
When you think about it, producing figures seems to be somewhat of a risky business if you’re a smaller company. With a small budget, it’s pretty much impossible to reach the same level of quality as a big name company. So how do these smaller companies attract buyers?
Design and of course a lower cost level are the biggest factors. Cost level is self explanatory, but let me further expand upon what I mean by design as it is the more influential factor in my opinion. I mean, if you don’t like how a figure looks, you’re most likely not going to buy it even if it’s cheap.
Instead of unique gameplay mechanic or an interesting online community/experience like in gaming, the one big fall back a figure has other than cost is it’s initial design/sculpt. For example, if you were to browse all the Senjougahara Hitagi figures on MyFigureCollection you would notice that most of them have her wearing her school uniform. However, one of the figures by Banpresto chose to display her in some of her casual clothes that you see her wear within the Hachikuji arc. While the quality isn’t on the same level as a Good Smile Company figure, this design choice alone is enough to make me want to buy the figure.
So basically, it comes down to balancing quality with good design (the two most important factors) to reach a reasonable price. I’ve seen a few companies that have great designs, but when it comes down to actually executing the products the quality just isn’t there. Furthermore, they decide to price their figures on par with other big name companies even though their products lack the same quality *cough* Griffon *cough*. In the end, although the company still sells a decent amount of product, they also gain a bad reputation and end up deterring a large portion of their market.
Haha, well somehow an article on WonFes ended up with me talking a bit about the figure market. Anyways, feel free to share what some of the biggest factors for you are when buying any kind of merchandise in the comments and if you want to take a look at the plethora of figures that were on display this year, here are a few links. Have a great day everyone!