It’s 10:00 PM, and I’m stumbling back to my apartment after a wild night out in New York City. On my way in, I nearly tripped over a massive cardboard box sitting near my mailbox. It’s large enough to hold a PC monitor. I groan. I know exactly what it is: A $300+ anime figurine. [Freeze frame, record scratch] You might be wondering how I got here.
I’ve moved around the country for most of my life, so I’ve previously resisted buying anything that was bulky or impractical. But then the pandemic started, and it suddenly felt impossible to think ahead with my money. Instead of planning trips, I spent more time playing video games and buying junk that made me happy. When Good Smile Company revealed that it was going to produce a ball-joint figurine of Fire Emblem’s Edelgard von Hreslveg, I knew that I had to have a model from my favorite JRPG of all time. She would cost $56.
Here’s the biggest problem with Fire Emblem: Three Houses merch: If you live in the U.S., then there’s rarely any. I own the wall scroll, a handkerchief, and a card holder, because I bought them from Tokyo. So right out of the gate, Edelgard’s mysterious Mona Lisa smile had a certain exclusive allure. In March 2020, I placed my order online and then I waited for an entire year.
You thought that preordering video games was bad? Welcome to the world of figurine buying. Unlike Funko Pops, most figurines are made-to-order. Manufacturing and shipment usually takes around a year. And just like video games, production can be delayed for any number of unknown reasons. So the strategy behind purchasing figurines is to fork over tens or hundreds of dollars, and then completely forget that you ever ordered it. By the time that your purchase finally arrives, you might have entirely lost interest in that series or character. This is not for the faint of heart.
So why put up with all this nonsense? Why not go to the secondary market? Oh, my sweet summer child. The preorder period is when figurines typically go for the lowest amount of money. That’s how I ended up ordering a $301 figure of Shi Huang Di from Fate/Grand Order in December 2020. They’re the nonbinary antagonist of one of the later chapters of a mobile gacha game, so I knew that they didn’t have broad market appeal. I could buy the figure for a few hundred dollars now, or wait for…$400-$800 now. Yikes.
It was the pandemic, OK. I had money to burn, and I was captivated by their frosted mercury smoke (in real history, the first emperor of China died from mercury poisoning, and mercury moats protect his remains from modern archeologists to this day). At that time, I couldn’t get Shi Huang Di in the gacha game no matter how many times I tried the bi-annual packs. The cheaper option was dropping several hundred dollars on a model, so I did. After multiple manufacturing delays and shipping issues, I finally received them this year. Now imagine my absolute heartbreak when a stainless steel water bottle fell and broke one of their mercury pieces.
I bought some glue and “fixed it.” No, I don’t want to talk about it any further.
But it was too late for me. I’d tasted the forbidden fruit of figurine buying, and I could never go back to the days when I scoffed at other weebs’ expensive hobbies. But I’ve matured. I preordered a $351 Ningguang figurine because I adored her, and not because she was unobtainable in Genshin Impact. Just like rolling actual gacha, I realized that it was a better decision than ordering figurines out of FOMO. So I branched out to the Nero Claudius figure ($47) and Caster Artoria Nendoroid ($58). When Good Smile Company released a Lumine and Aether duo set, I told them to shut up and take my money ($65 each). “But wait!,” you might say. “That’s only $943!” And you’d be right, if my outstanding order for the Xiao figurine didn’t run me $147. He’s coming in June next year, and I’m more excited for him than any summer gaming release.
This might seem like a lot of figurines. But really, it’s not. I could have purchased the Silverash Nendoroid or Surtr figurines from Arknights. I didn’t, but one of these days I feel like I’m going to buckle. One of the few things restraining me is the limited square feet I have in my New York apartment. So as long as I live in a shoebox, I’m safe. I think.
Like many millennials, I don’t really have any intention of purchasing the old status symbols of my parents’ generation, like gold watches or fine china. Whoever inherits my belongings upon my death will also obtain a trove of anime figurines. And frankly, that’s more meaningful than being left with some diamond jewelry collection.