The best part of any New Year's celebration is the hopes and aspirations that we have for the future. We also come together with friends and family to reminisce about the year that was. We have to remember what brought us to this point, so we took a look at what we loved about 2012, what disappointed us, and what we would like to see going forward.
We here at Tomopop hope that you all had a great New Year and we would lke to share with you what we felt about the world of toys in 2012. Whether it was love, hate, or ambivalence, we still enjoyed the past year but we're really glad it is now 2013. Join us after the jump for our review of the year that was and is to come.
I asked each of the writers to answer three questions:
We would also like to hear from you as to how you would answer these questions, so please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!
1. I wish to see a greater percentage of new anime/game series represented in toys. It always feels to me as though companies will play it safe with older ones, like Evangelion or fate/zero, while only letting in a small number of new blood. Both Madoka Magica and Tiger and Bunny, while new-ish, have reached the point of near over-saturation. I think we forgive it because we love the series and the characters (I am guilty of it too) but there are so many other awesome series out there, ones that haven't been represented as toys. So, my New Year's wish is for toy companies to branch out with their licenses.
2. I hope that the awesome toy events continue all across the world. I'm not just talking about Wonder Festa or Comic Con, either. The smaller, more personalized galleries and art shows are amazing. If one comes to your area, do yourself a favor and check it out!
3. There were several instances of manufacturing defects holding up releases (Good Smile, I am looking at you) and I hope this doesn't become more common.
1. I wish to see greater participation between US and Japanese figure companies in the vein of Bluefin and Bandai. After the figma Link debacle last month, it really shows that a lot of companies on both sides of the ocean just don't know how to handle the US market. I mean, it's pretty obvious to me that if you provide quality poseable figures of popular characters, it would sell well. So, why can't these people work together for mutual profit? Well, I have my ideas as to why, but this isn't the place for it. I just want to see other companies emulate Bluefin and make good figures available to collectors in the US.
2. I want to see more Nintendo properties made into figmas and full-sized figures. Two of my favorite figures of last year were the figma and Max Factory Samus. They were well made and looked fantastic. With the release of figma Link and now Pitt, I'd like to see more famous Nintendo characters get made. Mario? Luigi? Peach? Ridley? I'll take 'em all!
3. Square-Enix's quality drops in their Play-Arts line. That needs to stop. I was really looking forward to their Mass Effect releases, but Brian's review was incredibly disappointing. It's almost like they spent all their time on making sure the armor looked good, ran out of time and stuck whatever they found next to them atop the figure. Let's nip that in the bud, S-E!
1. I wish they would just release figma Archer already. There are a lot of male figma already planned for 2013 like Pit, Kirito, and Cobra, can you really say any of them have been more in demand than Archer? I doubt it. You can't tease us with one and then leave us empty handed for years. I don't care if he's a Wonder Festival exclusive, just make him!
2. Hasbro has already told us to expect some 40 new Transformers from the Generations line through 2013. As much as I like that the Fall of Cybertron is getting so much figure love what I really want to see is a return to the G1 days. Hey, the 30th anniversary is in 2014 so why not get a head start? And no more shortchanging us with smaller figures like they did with FoC, give us some bigger, more complex figures again!
3. Please end the price increases! Across the board all over the world we've seen figures become more expensive as quality takes a nose dive. Sure some amount of this can't be avoided, but it was insane how much prices went up in 2012, sometimes multiple times! The US economy certainly has a lot to do with it, but unfortunately big companies are greedy so even if costs drop they aren't likely to drop their prices. The distance between the Japanese yen and US dollar hasn't helped at all, but thankfully in the past few weeks we've seen the gap between the two close so that's helping quite a bit. If things go the way they are now we could see the price of importing become a lot more manageable again.
1. Alter has been doing a fantabulous job bringing characters that I love to figure form in 2012. I wish that in 2013 they will continue to bring more Tales goodness to market so I can buy them all! I am also very pleased at the wide range of new and occasionally old figures that Alter brings to the market. I hope they keep up this good work and keep impressing me!
2. Kotobukiya has all but abandoned it's wonderful Tales of One Coin set! I own all the sets they have made and want more to buy! If your reading this Kotobukiya please make me more one coin Tales mini's!
3. All Soul Calibur figures I have seen have always been connected to the sexy Queens Gate line, or the Todd Mcfarlane line, I know there were a few others, but mostly of the ladies. I would like to see Namco allow high quality figurine making company's to produce characters from the series. Most people who play fighting games really grow to love their characters and I can see some tremendous sales potential for the more popular Soul Calibur characters. Imagine how awesome a Siegfried, Nightmare, Kilik, or Hilde figure could be?
1. I want a general return-to-retail for Mattel's DCU stuff. The current format, which arguably now focuses on their overly expensive online component, doesn't provide fans with the same value as the older lines (you're paying significantly more for less, even before getting into the often absurd shipping charges; between the two a US$16 figure becomes a US$28+ figure). Mattel's practices in general ensure that fans are forced to pay greatly increased fees thanks to the way that they batch things through Digital River (which, by the way, charges GREATER than average taxes presumably because they fulfill out of Canada). I'm also still hoping to see an expansion of Fate-series merch in the figma line, particularly where it comes to finally releasing that damn Archer (although I disagree with my colleague Jeremy's assertion that he's more in-demand than Pit). I'm also hoping that either Hasbro or Diamond Select Toys will tackle a new Omega Red figure. And how cool would a Marvel Select Sentinel be?
The things that I'm most excited for in 2013 are Hasbro's continued efforts with their Marvel Legends line, Bandai's continued expansion into new properties, additional Nintendo cameos in the figma line, new entries in the Marvel Select line, and actually getting my hands on some of Diamond Select Toys' new Battle Beasts figures (my local TRU retailer and the TRU website still don't have them in).
2. Ideally I would have liked to see DC Universe Classics return as well as a conclusion to the Young Justice line-up. Also on the Mattel front I'd like to see reissues of their Masters figures. Things like the Sorceress sold out immediately last year yet Mattel seems to be opposed to the idea of reissues lately. I also want Hasbro to keep up with "extras" like BAFs in every Marvel Legends wave. It's interesting to note how many times I've seen wave 3 figures (the first wave to not feature a BAF) on sale over at Amazon for under US$10 and I can't help but feel that this factors in. I'm also fairly upset that Hasbro has seemingly canceled their Marvel Universe Masterworks stuff although at least we got a new Sentinel from it. I'm also still ticked about the untimely death of the Thundercats line and Bandai's general handling of the classic characters, as well as other companies dropping their Thundercats merch.
3. Like Jeremy, I've been really annoyed by the repeated annual price-hikes of recent years. Sure, I can acknowledge inflation, but Mattel's DCU lines have practically doubled in price over the past six years. I somehow can't imagine that as merely being inflation. Then Mattel launched their 6-inch Young Justice line with a US$20 MRSP and --- surprise! --- it completely flopped. I can't help but think that it might have had some success had they just sold figures instead of a figure with a generally useless display piece. Doubly annoying is that these increases are invariably accompanied by a downgrade in quality (such as size with the Transformers figures, loss of CNC pieces with Mattel's DCU line, etc). It's also downright silly that Mattel will be charging more for their Masters figures -- which heavily recycle -- when Diamond Select Toys has held the line with their somewhat larger Marvel Select figures which features relatively little recycling. Beyond that, Hasbro and Mattel continue to have an unacceptable levels of defects on their products. Oh, and the half-assed 3.75-inch movie tie-ins are really starting to bug me. Hasbro did some fairly good work on their Iron Man 2 and Thor lines, yet the Amazing Spider-Man stuff was almost all garbage (spiritually succeeding their previous Spidey line in some regards) and the Avengers figures lacked in sculting, articulation, etc, despite being priced against their Marvel Universe line.
1. I'm gonna come out and say that I actually want fewer releases this year. I've always been more of a quality of quantity kind of guy and I do think that the releases on some lines in particular are, quite simply, ridiculous. I mean, just look at all the figma and Nendo releases. I know that they're popular because they're small so they're easy to store and relatively cheap but damn, how many do we need a month? At the same time, we had quite a few releases which simply made us go "eh?" and then forget about them.
2. After so many years of hurt, I finally FINALLY got my gundam girls!!! Sure, they're far from perfect but they do improve with each new release, especially the infinite stratos AGP figures. To heck with strike bitches. anyway, Bandai GIMMIE MORE GUNDAM GIRLS!!!
3. I'm not too fussed on price hikes. I know that figures are now hitting the 10k+ price bracket but I've always been paying that amount for my stuff (or way more) so the base price is OK for me. What's not OK is the exchange rate. Even Japan doesn't like how strong the Yen is as it makes exporting more expensive! But this discussion can get way too deep so I'll stop there. Bottom line is the exchange rate needs to become more favourable. then everybody wins!
The companies seriously need to sort out their size scales! Some 1/6 and 1/7 figures definitely are not what they are advertised as!! I'd like to see the trend of colour resin kits to either stop or prove its worth! The original idea was that people could put kits together and make them look good without needing to paint them. That worked for the earlier figures but as they got more complex, they eventually got to the point where they need a paintjob anyway to look anything like what they are meant to, which defeats the point of them being colour resin in the first place. Charagumin Selvaria, I'm looking at you! T-ELOS will probably be the same.
Colour resin is also more expensive than the white stuff so we're basically paying more for an advantage which isn't actually there!
1. I want to see companies actually follow through on their releases. I want things to actually be on time and in the quality advertised. When GSC comes out and says that they would like to release 100 Nendoroids in 2013, I shudder at the thought of that. With the company still plagued by delays, I would rather they focus on improving quality control and making sure that their current lineup is released on time instead of increasing product count. The resources poured into making more and can be used to make the current better.
2. Nintendo, I have to give you credit for finally letting companies make action figures for once! Your fanbase has only clamoring for it for the past 20 years and it's finally arrived! Please continue to allow GSC, Bandai, whoever to make figures. As for what I think we'll see from them, I'm placing bets on a Mario/Luigi Nendoroid, Zero Suit Samus figma, and a figma/D-Arts Star Fox set.
Also, I need to give credit to Bandai/Tamashii Nations/Bluefin for finally listening to the US market. Not only have they begun to go deeper into Gundam mythos (side stories, light novels) for their figures, they're listening to the American fans. Bluefin has done a tremendous job advocating for the U.S. and making the figures more accessible to the market.
3. I want companies to step up their quality control. It is just atrocious what happened to the Play Arts Kai line in 2012. I can't believe how they let those figures go out with those faces. The Mass Effect line, Kratos, and pretty much any figure that wasn't Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts was pretty much ruined by the dustbin to the face. I want the companies to make a true effort to bring the figures as they were presented! On that note, other companies, (GSC, I'm looking at you!) get your stuff out on time. Don't worry about releasing X amount of figures. We'll be much happier if you don't try to over-deliver, though we appreciate the effort. We already like what you make, we just want to see it and have it when you told us it would be there.
1. A return to better quality products. I feel like 2012 featured collectibles from companies of all shapes and sizes that weren't up to par with what I would expect from them. I'm not just talking about the Nendoroid Snow Miku 2012 debacle or things like that; there were a lot of little things spread out through the year which really should have been caught, but slipped through the production process; or designs that just really didn't seem as good as they could have been. Not surprisingly, it soured me a bit on collecting and I haven't bought as much recently as I used to, but I'm hoping to see better stuff for 2013.
Oh, and while we're at it, let's continue to see engagement toward the global audience, not just the shrinking Japanese market, for those who can. Bandai/Tamashii Nations in particular seems to be doing a great job of this so far, as well as Kotobukiya, Square Enix and to an extent Good Smile Company now, too. But the big players have to know they can't keep catering toward one market and expect to survive in this global collecting community. I think the big companies do recognize it, and that's why we're seeing things like the Play Arts Kai Cowboy Bebop figures or the Figuarts U.S. exclusives, so it's something I want to see continue.
2. I kind of answered this, didn't I? Well, in more in-depth terms, I would like to continue to see recognition that the first wave of anime fans (those of us from around 1985-2005) is still out there and is willing to lay money down on some good collectibles based on series from our time. Koto's ArtFX J line is really doing this well between the YuYu Hakusho, Trigun and YuGiOh! lines they've done with it, and Bandai seems to be touching on it as well with their various poseable figure lines. I'm hopeful the ArtFX J line will continue to expand (hint hint: Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura and InuYasha ArtFX figures would be insta-buys for me) and that these companies can strike a balance between the new franchises that bring in tons of money for them, and the old ones that engage folks with money to burn who aren't into collecting yet.
3. Fewer moe blobs in swimsuits and other outfits that you can't really display when you're parents come to town. And I say that knowing this will never happen. I'm quite fine with just an action pose; you don't need to have them in a pose where I can see their butt clear as day, guys.
[Header image via Japology]
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