Japanese anime figure brands have a knack for encapsulating the essence of your favorite characters into covetable collectibles. With thousands of figures to choose from, however, how is an English-speaking otaku to navigate the vast world of possibilities? While our list is far from conclusive, it represents the most time-honored and best-selling figure series manufactured in Japan. Read on to decide which series to begin your collection with!
Established in 1987, Max Factory first gained fame as a garage kit manufacturer. While it still produces model kits through its PLAMAX line, today Max Factory more often creates scaled, fix-posed and posable figures.
Max Factory’s most popular series Figma is a collection of affordable, articulated “hand-size” figures that don’t compromise on the finer details. Using soft plastic, Figma joints provide a flexible range of motion that allows for a multitude of dynamic action and standard poses. Each figure is packaged with an array of props and face plates, which can be swapped with other Figma characters, further adding to the creative possibilities.
Good Smile Company
In addition to distributing Max Factory’s successful Figma series, Good Smile Company is best known for its patented Nendoroid line and respective accessories series and spin-off miniatures, Nendoroid More and Nendoroid Petite.
Currently featuring over 1,100 famous faces from Japanese anime, manga, and video games, Nendoroid shrinks characters down to 10 centimeters of pure kawaii. Equipped with basic articulation and as many miniature accessories and expressions as their Figma counterparts, Nendoroid figures also feature interchangeable pieces. Whether you want to enlist Hinata into the Survey Corps or have Captain Levi become Karasuno’s ace, the customization and display possibilities are nearly as limitless as your imagination.
Specializing in JRPG, superhero, and shonen series, Square Enix manufactures variations of three primary figure lines: Static Arts (fixed-posed bust or full-scale figures), Trading Arts (blind box figures), and Play Arts (articulated action figures), which are its most popular product.
Play Arts was discontinued in 2012 after a successful nine-year run to be reimagined as the Play Arts Kai series. However, the original line continues to be a goldmine for collectors of Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Star Ocean. Durable, highly detailed, and more affordable than their upscale successor series, Play Arts collectibles conserve shelf space (standing approximately 16–23.5 centimeters tall) while also faithfully capturing the animated looks of its characters.
Play Arts Kai
Inheriting Play Arts’ legacy, Play Arts Kai significantly expands the series’ list of properties while also growing to a towering 1/7th scale and packing in more exchangeable props and parts. Over 26 points of articulation, ratcheted joints, and an edgy pseudo-realistic look make these figures a striking addition to your collection—whether posed on a shelf or sealed within the premium Velcro-clasp display boxes.
Establishing a foothold in the figure market with its meticulous sculpts, Kotobukiya produces an impressive spread of collectibles based on both Japanese and international properties. Anime otaku will take special interest in Kotobukiya’s ARTFX J and ANI*STATUE scaled lines, as well as its articulated, chibi-proportioned Cu-Poche series.
Crafted from PVC and ABS for a polished finish, ARTFX J figures put fan-favorite characters in dynamic poses, often paired with symbolic imagery. The majority of these figures are intended to be purchased as double or triple sets (for example, Vash and Wolfwood from Trigun can be connected at their bases for a back-to-back, gun-slinging showdown). But whether displayed solo or as an ensemble, each flamboyant 1/7th- or 1/8th-scale piece conveys the lifelike details of its inspiration, down to the smallest metallic belt buckle.
ANI*STATUE figures are the ultimate guilty pleasure for fans of Japanese light novels, visual novels, and mobile games. This 1/7th- and 1/8th-scale series not only impeccably replicates the likenesses of less mainstream characters, but also brings their worlds to life with intricate “special effects,” precise painting, and atmospheric bases. As the majority of these high-end collectibles feature female characters, you’re likely to find a faithful rendering of your waifu in all her splendor.
Bandai Namco Group
Bandai Namco Group is a merger of two of the most prominent toy manufacturers in Japan, and is perhaps best known for its MegaHouse scaled figures. Its other prominent series include the articulated S.H. Figuarts figures and world-famous Gashapon blind box trading figures.
Bandai S.H. Figuarts
Fans of shonen, magical girl, and other superpower-themed series need look no further than S.H. Figurarts to get their action-packed fix. This line is a favorite of collectors because of its generous assortment of weaponry and special effect accessories. Whether you pose Goku launching a Kamehameha wave or Naruto whirling up a Rasengan barrage, you can articulate any high-octane scene or mid-air pose with the help of S.H. Figuarts’ sturdy transparent stand.
If you want to appreciate your fictional favs in all their motionless magnificence, MegaHouse’s G.E.M. series offers 1/8th-scale profile sculpts that provide an uncluttered view of the characters’ costumes, weapons, and expressions. An especially alluring line for male figure enthusiasts, MegaHouse manufactures its collectibles from a broad list of properties, often creating sets of heroes, villains, rivals, and teams from the same series.
Since its maiden voyage in 2004, the Portrait.of.Pirates (P.O.P) series has widely been considered the ultimate buried treasure for One Piece figures. P.O.P offers hundreds of (mostly) 1/8th-scale figures in multiple sublines, including the original Excellent Model collection, and the popular Sailing Again series based on the characters’ appearances after the two-year timeskip. The ultimate prize, however, is the coveted Excellent Model LIMITED line, which appropriately consists of highly limited runs.
With humble beginnings as an inconspicuous shop in Japan, Kaiyodo quickly became a worldwide specialist in anime character garage kits and action figures. Kaiyodo’s lead sculptor Katsuhisa Yamaguchi is the namesake for its most popular figure series.
The adrenaline-fueled heart of the Kaiyodo brand, Revoltech is a portmanteau for “Revolver Technology,” in reference to the figures’ unique “Revolver Joint” articulation that allows for dynamic derring-do poses as well as stable stances. Shonen and seinen character collectibles are Revoltech’s specialty, and the 15-centimeter figures come armed to the teeth with special effects, weaponry, and other props, so you can depict them suspended in a blaze of glory. Fans of miniatures will also go ballistic for the Revolmini series, which includes all of Revoltech’s elements in a more compact scale.
Where to Find the Best Japanese Anime Figure Brands
Whether you’re making your first foray into the world of anime figures or expanding your already-massive collection, FROM JAPAN can help you with your hunt! Shop our listings featuring Japan’s best anime figure brands, and we will ship your dream collection straight to your door.
Also, if you’re a beginning anime figure collector, be sure to read our guide to identifying and avoiding bootleg figures.