Nendoroid Collection 101: How to start, store, and take care of your newest obsession
In the great wide sea of anime, manga, video game, and general geeky fandom merch, there’s nothing that scratches my particular collector’s itch quite like Nendoroids. They’re cute, colorful, and poseable, making them a little more involved than something I simply put on a shelf and forget about. Changing the arrangement and poses of all my figures gives me the same feeling as getting a new haircut or cleaning my room from top to bottom — a sense of freshness and change that kicks up my mood a little bit. If you’re like me and are ambivalent about the endless stream of can badges, acrylic stands, and 300$ scales, or you’re someone new to merchandise outside the American sector, then Nendorids might be just what you’re looking for.
What are Nendoroids anyway?
Nendoroids are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) figures made by Good Smile Company. Many people compare them to Funko Pops, but the main and most notable differences between them are that Nendoroids are posable, and Nendoroids allow you to change the expression of the figure with removable face plates. So no permanent beady, dead-eyed stare — unless you want one, that is. In fact, Good Smile Company sometimes releases sets of face swaps in a category called Nendoroid More, and there’s a whole community of people making customized face plates for their own figures.
Their price point comes in somewhere between 40 and 60$ (or approximately 4500–6500 yen). While that’s certainly more expensive than most people who are used to collecting things like Amiibo, the cost usually comes down to their overall quality, and the many, many pieces the figures come with, which can’t be said for other collectible figures in the American-source market. Not to mention, they’re certainly cheaper than scale figures (extremely high-quality and handcrafted figurines at scale, usually 1:16 or 1:18), or figma (larger, poseable, jointed figurines also made by Good Smile).
If you like how these look but are a fan of more western-centric fandoms, like Marvel or video games produced by American, Canadian, or European companies, never fear, there’s a whole array of Nendoroids of those characters. You’ll find the Joker, Black Widow, RWBY characters, and there’s even a series from Cyberpunk 2077 on the way. If you can think of a fictional character that’s been enjoying some massive popularity, there’s a good chance you can find a Nendoroid of them. There’s even a Hello Kitty Major League baseball set.
If you’re really curious to learn more, Crunchyroll has a short 30 minute documentary about how Nendroids are made, with plenty of interesting interviews from the employees of Good Smile about the process and history of the figures.
Where do you buy Nendoroids?
For Nendoroids on the way or newly-released series,
you can obtain them at Good Smile Company’s own online shop, or at proxy storefronts like AmiAmi or White Rabbit Express. Even big-box retailers like Amazon and Target have started selling them, although not in the same number of options or stock as more specialty stores.
For Nendoroids that came out quite a while ago or preorders are already closed,
things get a little trickier. If you’re lucky, you can find older series in specialty local figure shops, so if you know a store like that in your area, it’s best to check there first. If not, Mandarake is a huge online storefront for used anime and manga goods from Japan. And if you really can’t find what you’re looking for, you can always try good old-fashioned social media trawling. Individuals often sell their goods in threads on Twitter or posts on Reddit. Look for communities involved with the fandom the Nendoroid you’re looking for is from, or more generalized sales forums. Ebay is also an option, but as most figure and collectible enthusiasts know, that can be a mixed bag.
For either option, be prepared to pay some international shipping on top of the cost of the figure — unless you’re lucky enough to find your holy grail Nendoroid locally.
What do I do with Nendoroids?
Like most collectibles, they’re mainly meant for display, but because of their ability to be posed, the numerous accessories, and the options for expressions, a lot of people like to take their displays one step further. Do you want to recreate a famous scene from the anime? Put all your idol characters on a stage for the greatest crossover concert? Did I mention that in addition to face plate sets, there are also releases of different body pieces, and therefore different clothing options?
Display options are part of the fun, and people really flex their creative muscles when making them. There are also official playsets made by Good Smile, but a large number of people choose to think outside the box. From elaborate dioramas to personalized miniature rooms to repurposed dollhouses.
Where do I find all these display cases and accessories?
If you’re particularly crafty, you can probably build your display sets from the ground up. But if you’re someone who doesn’t have the skill, time, or budget for that, there are some other options. The easiest one is also the cheapest and most accessible: acrylic display cases. You can find these at most hobby and craft stores, or online. Daiso has also been known to occasionally carry things like this, so check it out if there’s one in your area. The decoration options for these sorts of displays are limited, but some options include colored lighting either underneath or above the case or customized labels for where each character is placed inside. If you can, there are also fancier display cases to be found, like these miniature greenhouses or terrariums.
There’s also the option to buy accessories and set pieces that are used for dollhouses or other toys. A popular and well-made brand of this is Sylvanian Families, a series of toys where cute, velvety animal figurines can be displayed and played with in everyday settings, like going to schools, cafes, boutiques, and the like. A possible setback is they don’t have much outside of typical, ordinary semi-rural life, so if you’re looking for something more modern, industrial, or weird you’ll probably have to look elsewhere. But they have plenty in the range of things you’d need to create a cozy home for your Nendoroid.
You can also search the internet for inspiration. A website called myfigurecollection has a massive community of collectors who all love to show off their goods and displays. You’ll be able to chat with people who share the same hobby and generate plenty of ideas of your own.
How do I take care of my Nendoroid collection?
Cleaning your Nendoroids
Even in closed displays, things can sometimes get a little dusty. So to keep all your figures looking their best, it’s important to occasionally sweep them off. Nendoroids have a lot of small pieces with indents, edges, and creases where dust can settle and be difficult to wipe away. As such, a useful tool a lot of collectors use is makeup brushes. Any brand will work, expensive or cheap, but it’s a good idea to buy a whole set where there are different sizes. You don’t want to be painstakingly sweeping away every speck of dust with a too-small makeup brush because it’s the only one you bought. Do not use cleaning chemicals on your Nendoroids. You could easily strip the paint off or discolor the figure. If you accidentally spill something sticky on it, warm water and a cloth will take care of most messes.
Storing your Nendoroids and their accessories
Collecting a lot of Nendoroids means collecting a lot of poses, face plates, and item accessories. And a lot of boxes. These all take up room on their own, so it’s important to have a good storage system in place so you’re less at risk of losing any piece to your figures. One way to do it is simply to keep all currently unused pieces in the Nendoroid’s original box and then store the boxes somewhere else. However, if you’re tight on room, it may be inevitable you have to break down and fold your boxes to save on space.
Then comes the question of what to do with all the pieces, and how not to get them mixed up. A very common way to do this is to get an acrylic storage box, commonly used for jewelry making or fly fishing lures, but that’s not the ideal option because of something called Plasticizer. Plasticizer is a chemical added to some plastics, including PVC, to make them more flexible. Over time, it can release off of the plastic and into the air. This isn’t a health concern for you, especially with the kinds added to PVC, but it is a concern for your figures. If the chemical can’t escape into the air, it will eventually build up and leave a gross, sticky coating behind. This isn’t a problem for Nendoroid figures on display if you’re taking them out of smaller cases to clean them regularly, but it is a problem for the pieces you store. Therefore, you should take care that your storage cases are breathable, and not fully sealed.
Good examples of this are storage containers that are more like drawers than sealed cases. There are usually small spaces between the plastic tub and the shelf it's set in, allowing breathability. These are commonly found at places like Ikea, The Container Store, or mass retailers like Amazon. Other considerations include the minimum depth of the containers being 2in, the average size of a face plate. The more room and depth, the better, since it means you can store all the pieces of one Nendoroid figure per drawer, which helps with organization. Be sure to remember to label each shelf so you don’t forget what pieces go where.
This article was written originally in a now-defunct and deleted blog of mine, but I’m rewriting it now in an era where all of us are cooped up indoors. As silly as it is, I hope if you decide to get into this, or are already a collector, Nendoroids can work to make your space a little bit brighter in a time where we could all use a drop of that.