figure store reviews
Last Updated: September 28, 2010
These “reviews” are no more than anecdotes of my (sometimes limited) experience(s) with the store. I urge anyone browsing this section to cross check with other sites to get a more complete picture. Many times I’ve seen someone gushing praise on a shop only to be rebutted by utter scorn and disapproval of the same store. Negative reviews are just as likely to be contrasted with faithful customers commenting on how they haven’t had problems for their last who knows how many orders.
Long story short, here’s how my experience has been, but your mileage may vary.
What I value in a store
I think this is important to clarify so you know why I like/dislike certain aspects of a given store. Read on for details, but to quickly summarize, I want to be confident that my order will ship within a reasonable amount of time from the release date.
- Accurate stock status
- Stores need to know what they have in stock and relay this information to the customer. I want to know whether I’m pre-ordering or not (yes there are some stores where this is ambiguous -_-)
- Stores also need a good idea of their ability to fill preorders. Canceling on me is a good way to go on my black list.
- Accurate release date information
- I understand that release dates are subject to change, but if an item is delayed, I want to know about it and preferably why. At a minimum, I want to be able to check the product listing on the site and have a ballpark figure for release info. Ideally, I’d be notified of any delays for items I’ve ordered.
- Responsive customer service
- When I send a question, I expect an answer within the time indicated on the website. If there’s no such information, I expect some sort of response within 2-3 business days.
- Careful packaging
- I admit this hasn’t been much of an issue for me, but basically the baseline is I better not received damaged goods due to negligence in packaging.
In the end, everything falls out logically from the fact that many figures can be hard to get. Popular figures’ pre-orders will sell out completely so if you don’t get yours in quick enough, it’s gonna be difficult to obtain on the actual release date. As such, I need confidence that orders I place will actually be filled. I don’t want to have to order a figure from 2 different stores to ensure that I’ll get a copy. The worst possible case is that a store finally tells me, months after release, that they won’t be able to fill my order. At that point, what the heck am I supposed to do if it’s out of stock everywhere? That’s right, I’m screwed. Anyhow, with that, let’s get on to the stores.
2010/09/28 Update: I still order almost exclusively from Hobby Search. With the added competition of Amiami, their prices have gotten even better, especially when you consider the addition 5% from points. You can even get SAL shipping on some orders now. Also appreciated is the account management where you can see your open orders and even recombine to save on shipping in some cases. For reliable preorders and shipments close to the Japanese release date, definitely recommended.
CurrentlyStill (Update 12/04/08) my most trusted store. , but kind of irrationally so due to lack of that many orders. At this time I’ve placed several pre-orders with them, my first pre-order is on its way now. I have placed one order for a figure in stock, and that one arrived within a reasonable time period. Have had many orders filled (7 shipments) so far, very reliable. Excellent notification options – rss feeds when items are up for preorder, along with e-mails if you prefer. Adding your e-mail to notification lists also works great – if you’re on a reservation waiting list you’ll get an e-mail when pre-orders are open again so you can secure your order quickly.
I like the fact that many of their items are listed as out of stock – I feel I can actually trust that they know what they have and what they will have. Their preorders for popular figures are pretty much always closed – which makes me want to believe that they know how many orders they will be able to fill.
Filled orders aside, I think the single greatest plus for me is that, they haven’t screwed me (yet).
Many will probably be turned off by the fact that you have to choose EMS shipping which can be quite costly. They do offer a points system which basically gives you 5% off over time, but doesn’t really make up for it.
Hobby Search is based in Japan so figures should ship soon after release from the manufacturers. Their site is a little slow, but they have a good selection, including games, manga, gunpla, dakimakura, and other otaku goods.
Update (10/17/2008): A preorder came in stock recently and it was just as I expected. I got an e-mail notifying me that the item was in stock, and soon after another notification of shipment. Compared to some of my other experiences (below)… soooo much better.
Update (2/22/2009): I place almost all my orders through Hobby Search now. They have items up for preorder very quickly, have filled every one of my orders and are very reliable. EMS is killing me, but on the other hand, I love getting things fast ^^;;
(2010/09/28 Added) Figured it was about time to have a separate entry for Tokyo Hunter. If you want exclusive/limited/hard to get items, Tokyo Hunter is your man. He offers both a proxy buying service and auctions on ebay.
Reliable and very good with communication. I placed an order for Volks’ insane KOS-MOS (retail was 60,000 yen or something) but had the peace of mind to not e-mail him once about the release date (there were delays from Volks). Sure enough, on release I got an e-mail for payment for shipping, and a few days later she was in my hands. You can buy with confidence from Tokyo Hunter.
Payments are handled via paypal so make sure you have an account set up if you’d like to use take advantage of his service.
Resin kits, the recent Japan-exclusive Touhou DD, limited figures like the legendary Azusa (idolmaster) in wedding dress release… he does it all. If not, shoot him an e-mail and see if he can get what you want.
Often referred to as hlj, Hobby Link Japan is another Japan based store which a wide selection of goods. I’ve placed a couple preorders with them but none of those figures have been released save one – Alice (Queen’s Gate) Update (2/22/2009) Have had a very positive experience, both in having preorders filled and ordering in stock items.
My Alice order is an unfortunate blemish in my dealings with hlj. Basically preorders were suddenly open for her (uncharacteristically close to release) and I skeptically put mine in. My doubts were realized weeks after her release when I finally e-mailed asking about my order status. I was told that they hadn’t received as many as they had intended and I should probably look elsewhere to obtain her.
I do appreciate the honesty, and I was already skeptical I’d get her due to the strange opening of preorders late in the game, so I’m not about to blacklist them or anything. I wish they would have e-mailed me with this information rather than waiting for my inquiry, but unfortunately that seems to be par for the course -_-
I also hope my future orders turn out well Update (2/22/2009) Glad orders have been coming in fine, because I love hlj’s stock system. They have color coded stock information which even indicates “low” stock levels when items are selling fast/low on stock. Again, it appears to be detailed and accurate so I can hopefully put some trust in it.
One order I did already receive was for 5 items that were listed in stock. It took a while for them to ship (maybe 3-5 days?), but this was explained on their website so I didn’t worry over the seeming long response time (basically they only ship items a couple times a week). The items all arrived in good condition, so no gripes there.
Hlj offers many shipping options – in addition to the usual SAL and EMS, you can even go with bargain surface rates (though this is not recommended, especially for figures, due to the rough handling during transportation). There is a weird thing about their shipping system though — they actively try to recombine your order as possbile for efficient shipping, but because of that you can only choose one shipping option for *all* open orders. Basically when you place an order, I think it goes into a pool of stuff you’ve bought, with individual “orders” not distinguished. Then when it’s time to ship, they gather up all the items in stock, look at your current shipping selection, and use that to ship everything.
We shall see how my current preorders pan out. Update (2/22/2009) Items go up for preorder a little later than Hobby Search, but a very reliable store and highly recommended!
(added 2010/09/28) When I first started collecting they were only for Japanese customers but now they’re open internationally. Good selection though at one point I thought they pulled Megahouse stuff due to export issues? (not sure if that’s still, or was ever, the case. haven’t checked ^^;;;) Prices are also very good (well, assuming your exchange rate isn’t killing you :P) though you do have to pay by paypal. This does create the extra hassle of getting your paypal bill e-mail which you then have to read, go to paypal, and make a payment… though I’m not sure there are too many people who do this often enough to be a true hassle ^^;
Amiami offers both EMS and SAL shipping, and I always wondered if it was their SAL support which caused Hobby Search to suddenly start offering it as well :P
I don’t believe they have any sort of point system/customer loyalty program like Hobby Search, though their good preorder prices are still competitive, regardless.
I am unaware of any sort of order management system which is actually why I learn towards Hobby Search. I tend to preorder as things come out, so the ability to combine shipments through the online interface comes in handy. With AmiAmi I think you can do combines, but you have to do it either at the time of order (of the additional item) or through e-mail, both of which are less convenient.
Definitely a good alternative to Hobby Search, also highly recommended. Also a good alternative if you can’t find something — if I remember correctly, I ordered the Kotobukiya Marisa release through AmiAmi because Hobby Search wasn’t offering her.
2010/09/28 Update: I don’t order from local stores anymore. The delayed release timing and high cancellation rate (for their customers’ sake I hope they’ve addressed that) were just unacceptable.
Latest woes catalogued in a post. (12/04/09) To date, figures canceled on me: 6
Ah Kid Nemo. I have an insane amount of open orders with them, but I’m currently somewhat distressed over the status. Here’s the rundown of my current worries (10/16/2008):
- Kotobukiya Narika – preordered in May, listed as the Japanese release (hence I shouldn’t have to wait for the later US release), originally listed to ship in July. Haven’t received her,
nor do I have any clue when she will ship. Supposedly shipping at the end of the month.(10/17/08)Update: Canceled her and went with hlj. Got her 9 days later. (12/04/09)
- Kotobukiya Suzu – also preordered in May, was originally listed with an August release, still don’t have her, no new release info. Update: Canceled her and went with hlj. Got her 9 days later. (12/04/09)
- Alter Haruka – preordered at the end of April, listed for a September 30 release. The date listed was actually uncharacteristically close to the Japan release, so I suppose I’m not actually expecting this one for a while (since this is a US based store, more on that later). Be that as it may, the site said, September 30!
Update: Supposedly shipping at the end of the month (10/17/08)Hallelujah, got billed for her today. This will be the first shipment I’ve received from them in two months! Also for the record, Haruka was actually processed like they normally do things — about 1 month after the Japan release. Unfortunately that’s what made the below cancellations even worse. Not only are you left without a figure, it’s a month after the original release! (10/23/08) Shueisha Sairenji – preordered at the end of May, listed for release on 9/30. I think she was recently released too, so same as Haruka, above.Canceled and didn’t tell me until I asked about the status on 10/15. Omega Supreme – preordered in May, listed for August 30 release. This was supposed to be a gift for my brother, and I’m still waiting… no updates, no new release info on the site.Canceled and didn’t tell me until I asked about the status on 10/15/08. Megahouse Airi – was originally going to be released a month ago, but at least after contacting Kid Nemo I was able to find out that they don’t plan on getting her until the end of October.Canceled and didn’t tell me until I asked about the status on 10/15. Megahouse Yuumiru – (same as above)Canceled and didn’t tell me until I asked about the status on 10/15/08.
Basically I’m worried that my orders won’t be filled. Yes, Kid Nemo is a US based store, which means they usually don’t ship until a month or so after the Japan release date. Given the current situation, I’m just finding it harder and harder to trust their ability to gauge their stock, and have zero confidence in their ability to predict actual ship dates. Their site lists expected release dates, but once that date passes, it simply lists the day the item was added to their store. In my experience, it’s not updated (except possibly if you inquire about the figure and they actually give you a new date), and you can’t tell when the item is going to be in stock.
To be fair, they have never told me that they wouldn’t be able to fill an order, I’m just paranoid of the possibility. After many months of inquiries and simply being told “that item is not in stock” or “we’re waiting for our supplier to ship it” my latest inquiry on 7 figures resulted in the following info:
1 figure with an estimated arrival date – Update, woo! Looks like this one will arrive as promised (10/23/08)
2 figures they told me TBA -_-
4 figures CANCELLED
-_- In this case I lucked out and all 4 canceled figures were in stock at hlj. However, according to my records I’ve ordered 28 figures from them, and have received 10 of them. With the 4 canceled, I still have 14 figures in danger in danger of being canceled ;_; I checked out hlj, hobby search, and beNippon and it looks like I may have a backup for 8… but the rest are probably … ;_; Kid Nemo needs to drop their supplier immediately and/or get a better stock tracking system. I mean, were they just going to keep my order open forever and never fill it?
<del>It’s been so long since my last order shipped, they may have revamped the policy, but as of my last order, they don’t e-mail you when your package ships. That’s right, you have to manually check your order status and hope someone added a note with the shipment confirmation number.</del> Update: They seem to indirectly give you a tracking confirmation number now — it’s updated in your order info, which triggers an e-mail notification. Finally. (12/04/09) They claim this number isn’t really useful since it’s just confirmation that the packed was delivered, but every time I’ve tried, I was able to get package tracking info from the number just fine. Perhaps it’s not a guaranteed part of the delivery confirmation service but for me, it has always provided some baseline info on my package.
Another gripe – again, a one-off anecdote, so take with a grain of salt – I had a pre-order for an item that was “released” a couple weeks prior, so I e-mailed them. Instead of getting a response, I was billed and the item shipped shortly after. So yea, it appeared as if they had forgotten about my order and didn’t ship until I asked about it! I know of one other person who has had this experience, so again, though this is hardly conclusive proof, I present you with two data points – draw what conclusions you will. Freak coincidence or the failings of a system lacking automation?
And another complaint – it sucks to order from them when you’re in California because of sales tax. This raises the price considerably. Take Suzu, for instance – after shipping & handling and sales tax, I’m looking to spend close to $80 for her. At Hlj, I can order her with SAL shipping for about $70, or for EMS, a little over $80. Now consider that if I order from Hlj today, she is in stock and will ship within a week, whereas my preorder from Kid Nemo in May has yet to be filled. Yes that’s right! I can get her sooner and cheaper from Hlj! … … … orz
One final gripe… it’s so hard to get information out of the site, which forces you to contact them through e-mail and wait for a response. Release dates for items past their original expected release, how long one should expect to wait for an item to ship after the release date passes, what the cancellation policy is for items that are delayed — I just always feel like I’m in the dark.
I will say that for items in stock, they delivered fine.
2010/09/28 Update: Haven’t ordered from them for a long, long time (1 year+?). As you can see below, I did have a good experience with them last time I did, though.
1.) You get an automatically generated e-mail summarizing your order.
2.) A payment e-mail arrives within the day with instructions for paypal (direct link to an integrated paypal payment page).
3.) A few days later you get a processing e-mail.
4.) A few more days later and your item should ship
Obviously, that’s the order for items that are in stock. I have yet to place a preorder with them so I cannot comment on them in that regard.
Had no problems with the above items and are a nice place to look for items that might be out of stock elsewhere.
Purchasing on eBay
So far I haven’t had any problems, but the number one concern with eBay is bootlegs. It’s hard to be certain about the authenticity of a product unless you have prior experience/external recommendations for certain sellers.
There’s an unfortunate generalization that items residing in Hong Kong/China should be avoided, but that’s not a clear indicator one way or another. I’ve bought one or two items from a Hong Kong seller and (as far as I can tell), the items turned out just fine. Bottom line, it never hurts to be overly cautious about bootlegs when dealing with an unknown seller. Ask for pictures of the box – sometimes there are special stickers that bootlegs don’t have.
One seller I can definitely recommend is Tokyo Hunter. Subscribe to his blog for updates on his auctions (which often include very rare and limited figures! I was able to obtain the NC Japan Dark Elf and Kotobukiya Erika Sendo through him. He’s even had the extremely rare GSC Azusa figure up for sale before.). If items require special ordering/aren’t available online through a store you can use, he also offers a proxy buying service – when he posts about a special release item, simply get in contact with him to get your order placed (payment will be through PayPal).
A nice proxy service to place orders from Japanese stores that won’t ship to your country. You will be charged a service fee and basically you have to pay for shipping twice (once for the original order which will go to the Goody Japan office, and then once to ship it to you). However, for limited items or other goodies you just can’t get your hands on, works very nicely.
I’ve used them for ordering some kapibara-san nuigurumi (stuffed animals) and some Volks figures. So far none of the figures have been released, but the kapibara-san came just fine.
2010/09/28 Update: Have continued to use them on and off, still a good reliable proxy service if you’re comfortable finding the Japanese store and product listing on your own.
2010/09/28 Update: Was really just a one time thing when I was hell-bent on getting Alter’s saber maid ^^; If I was on a desperate search again, couldn’t hurt to try them out again though ^^
I believe they are a singaporean store – I stumbled upon randomly during my search for Alter’s Saber maid. They had her in stock… a little pricey, but I was happy to get my hands on her. No problems, but unfortunately that’s been my only experience with them. Not much selection, but hey, if they happen to have an item you can’t find elsewhere, doesn’t really matter :P
2010/09/28 Got Exelica nendo just fine. I think they continue to be sort of pricey compared to other options but I always welcome more options for consumers ^^
Gamers are probably familiar with Play Asia for obtaining Japanese / other foreign releases. I’ve been using them since 2000 something for importing Japanese games and have no complaints.
Currently have the special Exelica release preordered from them, but that has yet to be released. Seems like many in the figure blogging community have been using them for figures so that combined with my past experience puts them in good standing for figure orders.
To be added.