Ichiban Kuji Is Suffering

I always thought one major tenant of anime fandom is the power-consumer aspect. This is particularly special to imported fandom because usually it means navigating foreign shipping, different language websites, different business practices between stores and consumers, and simply a larger array of factors to keep track of when shopping. And given anime is pretty much as commercial as fandom gets, it’s even more so something intrinsic to be a fan, or at least more related to fandom itself.

Of course I don’t think it’s the only way to fly, but it can be fun navigating those shark-infested waters (and there are lots of sharks between here and the far side of the Pacific, I suppose), technically, to get what you want. With internet shopping exploding in Japan (about 5 years too late) it’s something that is now advanced enough to trouble yourself with, should you be up for the challenge.

The biggest hurdle in this kind of consumerism is one that is based on lack of information. I mean, I think Ichiban Kuji figures are largely still purchasable because of this. Banpresto’s new line of merch (it goes beyond figures…like this ramen bowl I have at home) they introduced in 2007 is kind of a lottery set. Retailers can buy a whole set of it, and sell raffle tickets (500 or 800  yen or whatever) where you’re guaranteed to win something. This means a lot of what goes into the set is worth less than 500 or 800 yen. This also means some items in the set is not only worth more than 500 or 800 yen or whatever, but also makes doing a raffle something desirable (even if irrationally so). Bandai makes it back by selling the set. Retailers makes it back by selling tickets, which total (tho assuming at some point not every ticket sells) to be more than the cost of the set. Or at least this is what I think how Ichiban Kuji is suppose to work. Here’s an older write-up for the One Piece readers.

The thing is, there are some pretty serious figure collecting otaku out there who would buy direct the whole set, just because 2-3 figures in the set is worth their while. I mean an entire allotment is well under a couple thousand dollars, if even one. It may be the smart thing to do, especially when you can split the duplicates with someone. Typically one set comes with a few A or B prizes and more C, D, E, and subsequent prizes. Each prize level probably has a few different varieties of things you could get. So it gets you partly like how trade figures could as well.

And just like how some retailers sell open-box trade figures at a markup, some do the same with these Ichiban Kuji sets. I can’t say at what price they break even doing this, since at that point it depends a lot more on how attractive a particular set is, how rare a particular figure in that set can be, and how much it goes for. More importantly, since each Ichiban Kuji set only has a handful of the top tier PVC collectible figures, the supply of it is definitely limited.

Thankfully, because of this non-single-product aspect of Ichiban Kuji sets, it’s not really marketed as such. People who may be hardcore PVC figure collectors may not know about specific figures from a set in which could be similar to one of those 4000-8000 yen single figures. And I think this is how it is at all possible to collect specific figures from Ichiban Kuji sets.

Of course, this is not some kind of secret. Attractive figures from specific sets are sold at a big markup even at Japan’s domestic retailers, let alone export/import operations. That is, if they’re sold individually. So there’s another kind of price ceiling there.

So on top of worrying about the usual traps of mail ordering (which is not a lot these days), there’s the more-than-usual shipping, the exchange rate, the bargain hounding aspect, the availability aspect (since individual figures are kind of like a secondary market thing), and then there’s competition for the limited quantities among buyers who are stuck with proxy or a handful of online sites for all their Ichiban Kuji deals.

Why do I even bother… Oh, right, the 2D waifu demanded it.

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4 responses to “Ichiban Kuji Is Suffering

  • ToastCrust

    I remember at that one figure panel at AX, you guys mentioned some choices for deputy services/mail proxies. Any minimalist ones these days you’d recommend?

    I’m looking to get some stuff off of Konamistyle, haha.

  • omo

    Most reputable full-feature proxy will handle buying from Konamistyle fairly simply. Celga and crescent-shop are two that I’ve personally used to buy things, the former for “stores” and latter for Y!J auctions. It’s trickier when it comes to, say, tickets or lottery-based things (I had to go through that for a New Love Plus 3DS set), because not everyone deals with that. And then there are cases where you have to pay via a Japanese method, which mail forwarding proxies can’t really help you with (sometimes).

    Those proxy are fairly full-featured and have pretty good services. For the bare bones mail forwarding there are a few, like shoppingmalljapan, which charges a flat fee plus shipping, as opposed to charging based on a percentage of transaction.

  • ToastCrust

    Ah, okay! Did you win the raffle for the New Love Plus 3DS? I really wanted one, but I didn’t think it was possible to join the raffle from outside Japan.

  • omo

    The raffle is mostly just to prevent the fiasco that happened with the first Love Plus DSiLL, where tons of people preordered, a lot of them were scalped, people got pissed etc because they couldn’t make enough of them at first, etc.

    So basically if you applied for one you probably would have gotten it. That’s where a proxy like Celga would be helpful. I actually used a friend to help me buy the DS, but I’ve done something equally ludicrous using Celga (True Tears Blu-ray, which is…a long story).

    Also, somewhat related to the topic of figures, a lot of the domestic-only figures are sold directly by proxies. That’s where that Tokyo Hunter guy works his business. You can always manually proxy but usually you can save money if you look around during the preorder period. Or if you don’t mind second-hand, Mandarake is a great source for that sort of stuff.

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