Saturday, 18 January 2014

2013: Year in Review

Hey-yo, all you gorgeous homo sapiens. Happy New Years to all! So another year has gone and what have we to show for it? Slightly fuller Detolfs and a basement full of cardboard boxes, that's what. If I sound bitter, I assure you, I'm not. After the insane year-long shopping spree I went on in 2012, I kicked my own butt and budgeted for 2013. If 2012 was the year of loose wallets, 2013 is the year of prude wallets. I set myself a stringent list of rules to reign my spending habits this year.

The Rules

In 2012, I went a bit nuts. For 2013, I was determined to control myself, partially because I desperately needed it, and partially to challenge myself. Despite my flighty nature (or perhaps because of it), I operate best under strict self-governance. Sure, I shed a few tears while writing out these rules, but I knew I would be better off in the long run.
  1. No nendoroids, figmas plushies, paper products, keychains, or other attractive knickknacks, only scaled figures.
  2. No more than 12 pre-orders for the year, ideally, one per month.
  3. No more than one used item per month
  4. Used items must be under 6000 yen.
  5. No auctions. I get stupid with auctions.
For the first few months, it was hard. I broke out in cold sweat at inconvenient moments. I salivated uncontrollably every time a manufacturer released a tantalizing prototype. I had the shakes. It was bad. Be strong, I reminded myself. Be brave. Then, around the third month or so, it got easier. My cravings receded. My finances were in much better shape, and I was feeling chipper again. I performed an impromptu, solo flash mob in a tea shop. All was well.

Now, standing firmly in 2014, it is to my great pleasure that I stand here today and announce I dutifully obeyed every single rule. Am I proud? Look for yourself. My nose could snag low-flying birds.

The Statistics

My figure intake in 2013 was a lowly, 20 items, which is lower than my projected 24. In the habit of taking things too far, I actually fell short of my self-imposed limit of 24 items. Good. Sort of. With the cost of figure rising slightly faster than the yen-to-dollar ratio, a little over-control can't hurt. With figures nowadays easily surpassing the 10 000 yen mark, it's all too easy to accidentally KO my savings, even with limits. Boy, do I miss the good ol' days, where figures retailed at half that price (I remember a time I thought paying 5000 yen for a new figure was steep, ha!)

"Gifts" are considered figures that I received in the year that I did not pay for in the same year (e.g. pre-orders from last year that I paid upon purchase, or you know, actual gifts). The one figure I cancelled was iBRS, who was unfortunately delayed into September. Silly GSC. Don't you know? Between tuition and plastic leisure, tuition wins every time.

AmiAmi still wins when it comes to my new purchases. No big surprise there. I might be a little bit loyal when it comes to them. Just a little. They were my first import site, after all. They got the ball rolling. They started it all. They were the ones that created this monster. Ahem.

That being said, other companies are clawing their way to a larger slice of pie. AmiAmi monopolized about 70% of my purchases in 2012, but only to 50% in 2013. Big in Japan and Nippon-Yasan have both earned my attention this year with their discounts and item availability.  Watch out, AmiAmi, old friend. My loyalty isn't unconditional.

This pie looks oddly familiar. I wonder why. Oh, right, because AmiAmi monopolizes 50% once again! Take that, Mandarake, former emperor, now fallen to the waste side like some noble thrown into a lowly pauper's grave. Naw, I kid. I still love Mandarake. I've just been avoiding them to thwart temptation. You know, evoking the "no see, no buy" clause. Plus, AmiAmi's used section has some absolutely amazing deals. Their point system also helps.

Looks like I managed a relatively even spread between major figure companies!

I have to admit, it was a disappointing year for both Alter and GSC. Terrible delays, increased prices, and dips in quality had me thinking twice about ordering their products. I mean, 6 month delays, guys. That's half a year. That just ain't cool. If I turned in a project 6 months late, you can be as sure as hell I ain't graduating. Let's hope they get back on their game in 2014.

Thankfully, other companies rose to fill the gaps, with Yamato releasing their gorgeous Velvet figure, Orchid Seed and Amakuni releasing their Seven Deadly Sins line, and Native and Max Factory being their usual, awesome selves.

Best of 2013

Cutting down really forced me to really think about my pre-orders. Unlike 2012, I couldn't go gallivanting into the sunset and throw money at every pretty face I saw. I had to pick and choose my purchases, which ensured I at least wanted every single figure, and that each one was of relatively decent quality. After all, I couldn't afford wasting one of my slots on something subpar.

That being said, who stood out from the crowd?

Favourite Releases of 2013

Man, this was hard. Of the 12 new figures I acquired this year, there are so few I dislike that I can almost throw them all up and say "Fuck Fudge it, they're all amazing." But indecision is unacceptable, so I grit my teeth and made a list.

Yamato's Velvet

To me, Velvet is the perfect combination of surface beauty and personal investment. Odin Sphere was one of my favourite PS2 games, and Velvet was one of my favourite characters to play. Then Yamato took her likeness and made it magical. Her face, her pose, her outfit, all radiate elegant sensuality. Even her base is delicious! Nevermind one of my favourite figures of 2013, Velvet easily makes it into my list of favourite figures ever, and believe me, that's a darn exclusive list. It's too bad Alter never released a Velvet figure to accompany their Gwendolyn and Mercedes, but if the alternative is Yamato's Velvet, I find I don't quite care.

Native's 1/7 Cat Lap Milk

Of course she was going to make this list. How could she not? I knew she was going to make the list as soon as her prototype was painted. Native would have to really fuck screw mess her up (there's really no way of saying that without making it sound sexual) for her to drop out of my top 3. I talked about Velvet's elegant sensuality. Now I can talk about Cat Lap Milk's blatant sex appeal. If anything, I like my girls to evoke a wide variety of reactions. Every time I feel the need to write some smut, I take a good gander at her and feel my blood rush to a very important organ (don't be crude, I'm obviously talking about my heart). Her pose is so wonderfully dirty that I can't help but grin each time I pass by. Take that, conservative sensibilities!

Of course, Native's quality only helps. She doesn't have a single mistake on her gorgeous, busty body, and I like it that way.

Orchid Seed's 1/5 Sonico

Words cannot express how much I adore this Sonico, not only because she's busty and well sculpted, but because she has one of the best expressions I've seen in a long time. Till now, Sonico's face has been limited to two primary expressions: Flustered, or happy. Thank you, Orchid Seed, for making her look calm and curious and thoughtful. It's an expression that needs to be used more often. Companies seem to struggle when it comes to Sonico, whether it be with facial expression, or proportion, but Orchid Seed's Sonico strikes just the right balance. To sweeten the deal, she has one of the most delicate cast-offs I've ever seen. Trust me when I say her bra operates much like a real bra. Just unclasp, and enjoy. Oh, and she's HUGE (and SALable).

Favourite Hunts of 2013

Ok, so maybe it's not fair picking and choosing my top three favourites. After all, I only had 8 hunts in 2013, none of them for anything too spectacular. Still, I feel compelled to make a list. Here goes.

Native's 1/7 Trunk Girl

Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold your horses! There's no way you got a Native figure for under 6k! Are you lying to us, Jenn? Are you a big fat lyre?

Ah, you caught me! I thought I could maybe get away with it! But wait, before you start throwing stones, let me explain a thing!

See, I got Trunk Girl at Anime North. I wasn't hunting for her, per se, she just sort of showed up and slotted herself into my budget. No, that's not my excuse. This is my excuse: Every year, I write include the cost of Anime North in my budget. Every year, I allow myself $200 of merchandise money. Buying Trunk Girl in no way exceeded my $200 (it actually left me with enough to purchase a bunch of cute buttons alongside). Having already deducted the cost of Anime North from my monthly budget, whatever I picked up at the convention is technically exempt from The Rules, since the $200 were already forfeit. Does that make sense? No? Yes? Kind of?

Anyway, big fat lyre or not, I'll sing my praises about Trunk Girl. I've had my eye on Trunk Girl since she was announced. Her concept was intriguing, yet, for whatever nonsensical reason, I never pre-ordered her. She haunted me for years. I can't count the number of times I sat at my laptop, staring at her photo like some creepy, pining ex. Yet, I never picked her up. When I finally, finally purchased her up, it was like a being touched by light. All the shadows lifted. I felt...right. The world felt...right. I couldn't be happier. She has a special spot in my heart for looking simultaneously elegant and really uncomfortable. I mean, look at her pose! If that doesn't make you ache, then you're way more flexible than I am.

Yes, she has her issues. Her weird ceramic guns are gross looking and she has some seam problems, but that doesn't stop her from looking amazing on the shelf. She's one of the few Native girls who don't look submissive and debauched. Instead, she looks playfully elegant, and I find that mighty attractive.

GSC's 1/8 Henrietta

Gunslinger Girl was an amazing show. It was slow, it was moody, it was sad, and I loved it. Since I acquired GSC's Triela, I've been on the edge about purchasing Henrietta. I badly wanted a partner for Triela, but they were released in very different years, and their scales don't really match (Henrietta looks like she's sculpted to a slightly larger scale). I was doubtful Henrietta could live up to the wonder that is Triela, but after months of flip-flopping, I finally grabbed her.

And she's awesome. I think this is a case where my character bias beats out my objectivity. She's by no means a top tier figure, but she's tiny, adorable, and very nice for something release back in 2006. Plus she's a small girl with a firearm. That's always a win.

GSC's 1/8 Mayoi Hachikuji

I wasn't initially going to buy Mayoi. Her pose doesn't reflect her energetic nature, and I'm not too fond of her mildly suggestive pose, nevermind how precocious the show makes her out to be. Mayoi strike me as more playful than provocative, and I would have preferred to see her skipping along, being her usual upbeat self. Of all the Bakemonogatari girls, she's perhaps the least enchanting to me, figure-wise.

As such, I was originally going to put Alter's bikini Kos-Mos in this spot, but then I watched a certain episode in Monogatari Second Season and screamed a lot (episode 20). So instead of a sexy robot, you get a ghost loli instead. Nostalgia strikes again. My favourite part of her? Her giant backpack. It's adorable. Also, she's super adorable with glasses.

Almost There But Not Quite of 2013

Once again, I salute the figures that almost blew me out of the water, but didn't quite get there. If we were a crasser blog, this section would be titled "All Hail the Losers". But as we are Poke the Merch, the absolute epitome of class, we'll indite no such moniker.

Amakuni's 1/8 Leviathan: I like Leviathan a lot. She doesn't have the cleanest sculpt or paint job I've ever seen, but there's something attractive about her design. Her punk rock outfit and baby fat set her apart from other figures. I love her grumpy expression, and her audacious pose. So what stops her from making my favourites list? Easy. Her terrible cast-off. Had her cast-off even been remotely competent, who knows how high she could have soared.

GSC's 1/8 Princess of the Crystal: I surprised myself by not putting Princess of the Crystal on my favourite's list. I like her a lot, I really do, both as a figure and a character. She has an attractive face, an attractive body, and clean sculpt all around. So what happened? Did her 6 month delay put me off? Or her huge green base? Or her lack of penguins-oh, yes, that one. Princess of the Crystal is nice, but she could have been so much nicer. And that gets to me. She was so, so close. If only GSC pushed a mite harder.... But they didn't, and that disappoints me. The same thing happened with Alter's Panty last year. Just one extra accessory, one small tweak, and she would have been perfect.

Max Factory's 1/7 Aoba: Shout out to Aoba for being one of the most dynamic male figures out there. It's too bad the XY crowd doesn't get much love in the figure world. Personally, I'd like to feel the ovary-exploding gush of seeing an excelsior male figure more often (that's the good stuff). By all means, Aoba is an achievement of technical excellence. At close to $180, he's also one of the most expensive figures I've ever bought. There's really nothing objective blocking him from my favourites list except sheer, personal bias. I played DMMD for its 2D canoodling, not its engaging storyline or well-rounded characters. Aoba is, how do I put this nicely, not that memorable. He's sweet, but I feel no real attachment to him. But hey, he's a great figure otherwise, and looks amazing on the shelf.

The Munnies and Otherwise
If you're spending less, did you get to eat more amazing foods in return?

This year has been an amazing exercise in restraint for me, and yes, I'm quite satisfied with the result. Overall, I spent a total of about 152 408 yen, which is only about 50% of last year's total. Good. Budgeting works. 2014 will probably follow along the same lines. Discipline is healthy. Savings, even healthier. My bank is still emancipated, but at least it's lost that harrowed look it carried through 2012.

Nonetheless, I'm still not eating amazing foods. If anything, I've been eating less. Thanks to higher education, it's still impossible for me to eat confit de canard every night. I would dearly love to eat be fed confit de canard between sips of superior Bordeaux, while a half dozen magnificent paragons of human pulchritude fan me with money that smells of nectar and narcissus. But no. I decided to claw my way up the ivory tower with nothing but my raw, bleeding hands. Not that I regret it or anything, but every time I choke down half a PB&J sandwich (the other half I save for dinner), a little bit of my soul flies away.

Outlook for 2014?

There are so many amazing figures already announced for 2014! Yes, I'll still abide by the same rules. Yes, I'm still going to be strict. With four pre-orders awaiting payment and one pre-order already paid for (Kotobukiya's Olivia), I'm right on track. I'm aiming to pre-order no more than 12 figures next year, but again, it has everything to do with my financial situation. Nothing's set in stone.

January February March April May June


Thus, I conclude my summary of 2013. It's been a tough but satisfying journey. My set of rules has strangled my used item intake, but it was ultimately for the best. I leave 2013 feeling proud but sad, like I had sacrificed a limb to save a friend. Yes, it was worth it, but it still hurt a helluva lot. Bittersweet, might be the word. Do I miss my artbooks? Yes, of course. Do I miss indulging in spontaneous buys? Naturally. Will I ever loosen by rules? Sure, maybe when I become a doctor-professor, or something.

So what was your year like? Who were your favourite purchases? Are you eating all the amazing foods I'm not? Anyhow, here's to a prosperous 2014 and abundant PVC pleasures.

Peace, birdies,


  1. setting up rules is probably not that bad, without delays the year 2013 had ended with 33 figures for me,
    And it weren't all so satisfying purchases when I look back at it. This year I already have 14 figures on order,
    I'll try to stay under 20 orders, but it already seems to be impossible since it's just January 2014.
    1 figure for the months which are still open would be cool. Im positive that 2014 will have more satisfying purchases.

    This Sonico figure was my favorite in 2013 such a sweet and different facial expression.
    Of course her body looks hot and I love her standing pose. I was also really happy that I got GSC's Kanbaru, Back then I've been waiting until she was sold out.

    Leviathan is still cute, grumpy punk rock, but my excitement about her dropped a little.
    Thats partially a problem when ordering too much.

    Im still working on a fair figure ranking of 2013 it's so tough X<

    1. You had a much busier year than me, it seems. The rules were hard to swallow at first, but they got easier as time went on. And they stopped me from making a lot of bad purchase decisions. Total freedom is way too dangerous for my wallet.

      Ranking figures is always tough. Even with my measly gains this year, it was hard placing one figure over another. There are just too many beautiful girls out there (and boys too). Velvet was the only no-brainer on my list.

      Kanbaru's the only one I'm missing! I'll get her one day, but not now. I want her stack of books. I could do a lot with a stack of tiny books like hers.