Recently celebrating their 15th anniversary, Good Smile Company’s (GSC) Nendoroid line has become an iconic part of the figure collecting scene. Featuring characters reimagined in chibi/super deformed form, Nendoroids stand at about ten cm (or four inches) tall and come with interchanging face plates and body parts, allowing collectors to pose their favorite characters and recreate iconic scenes. As adorable as the line is, and with nearly 1600 products, it can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers into the figure collecting scene. Thankfully, all you need to know about Nendoroids is in this handy guide!
Quick History & Terms
Nendoroids first came into production in 2006 with number ‘0’: Neko Arc from the game Tsukihime. The Nendoroid was sold exclusively at Wonder Festival 2006 Winter. A few months later, the character received a new version release as a Mysterious Jet Edition that featured a softer color palette and even more interchanging parts. The catalogue continued to expand and in 2017 we saw releases from Death Note and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. But Nendoroids really kicked off in 2008 with the release of number ‘33’, Hatsune Miku. By the end of 2010, this Nendoroid had sold over 100,000 units, with five re-releases.
Takanori Aki, Good Smile CEO, says that with the Hatsune Miku and Haruhi Suzumiya releases, the company really found its iconic Nendoroid style. Rather than taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the creation and designs of these Nendoroids, artists began to make adjustments to truly combine the essence of the character with the chibi style. Many earlier Nendoroids have since been re-released with a much needed ‘glow up’.
With the release of Nendoroid ‘100’, Disney’s Mickey Mouse, GSC began to make connections with global companies. Being the 100th Nendoroid was definitely something to celebrate, and it also started a tradition of GSC releasing special Nendoroids at important milestones. For example, number ‘500’ Sakura Miku – Bloomed in Japan, was the first Nendoroid to be made in the Tottori Factory in Japan.
In another interview, Takanori Aki said that Nendoroids acted as a great link between GSC and other companies. Over the last few years, GSC has collaborated with many companies to create Nendoroids. Besides Japanese film, anime, and games, we’ve seen releases such as Fortnite Nendoroids, Marvel and DC Nendoroids, and characters from Chinese media such as Mo Dao Zu Shi’s Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian released under Good Smile’s Shanghai branch.
While the creation of Nendoroids is attributed to Tsuyoshi Oda (Oda-P), the line is now worked on by a group who are collectively credited under the team name ‘Nendoron’. Additionally, I have been focusing on GSC but Phat! Company, FREEing and Max Factory have also released Nendoroids. Some recent examples include FREEing’s Hypnosis Mic Nendoroids; and the recently announced Gyoza Fairy from Dorohedoro, to be released by Max Factory. But, while Nendoroids are released through other companies, all Nendoroids are distributed solely through GSC.
Other products have also been released under the Nendoroid umbrella. Here are some other terms and products that you might come across:
Nendoroid Co-De: This line was marketed as a way to ‘dress up’ your Nendoroids. Figures came in static poses, but owners could swap out body parts with other Nendoroids or Co-De products. Co-De figures were sold at a cheaper price than regular Nendoroids. Unfortunately, the line has had no releases since 2017.
Nendoroid Doll: The newest addition to Nendoroids, the dolls come with a bigger main body (14cm / 5.5 inches) with elbow and knee joints that allow it to be far more poseable, rather than switching body parts. These dolls also come with fabric clothing.
Nendoroid Dx: The base Nendoroid remains the same, but the Dx version comes with additional accessories.
Nendoroid More: A ‘bits and bobs’ section to Nendoroids. This includes additional accessories, outfits, and face plates. Outfits and face plates can be sold as a set or as individual mystery boxes. There is also an After Parts product, which includes thematic accessories such as an angel/devil set.
Nendoroid Petite: These are much smaller figures in static poses. They can be purchased in mystery boxes or are released as part of a special event such as the Christmas Eren, which came with the limited edition 18th Attack on Titan manga. This line first released in November 2009 with a Vocaloid set. It was a huge hit, selling over one million units.
Nendoroid Playsets: Playsets are dioramas that you pose your Nendoroids in. They often contain lots of different items that your figure can pose with. These playsets are created by Phat! Company and distributed by Good Smile.
Nendoroid Plus: This includes products with the Nendoroid ‘design’ but are not necessarily figures, such as rubber key chains, tote bags and plushies.
The Nendoroid Market
Nendoroids are produced on a pre-order basis, and unless a re-release happens, whatever is released into the world is all there will be. You can pre-order Nendoroids direct from the GoodSmile shop or from websites like AmiAmi, Tokyo Otaku Mode, or Solaris Japan. If you miss pre-ordering your Nendoroid, sometimes sites like AmiAmi will have it available new on release. This is usually because someone has canceled their pre-order, and so AmiAmi (or whatever site) has extra in stock. You should also be able to buy Nendoroids through local pop culture shops, but I would encourage you to check that it’s an official GSC partner, just to make sure you don’t buy a bootleg.
If you do miss out, never fear, the pre-owned market is here! You can purchase pre-owned Nendoroids, again on AmiAmi (it’s my personal favorite), Mandarake, and a few other sites. If you’re a beginner to collecting, I would recommend not using eBay or Amazon as there’s just too many bootlegs around. It can be a bit of a learning curve knowing how to spot bootlegs.
As a general rule of thumb I would say that older Nendoroids do go down in value, especially ones that are under number ‘500’. Some of the older figures become sticky with age, because of the plasticizer used which vaporizes over time and sticks to the surface of the figure. This isn’t the only reason older Nendoroids are cheaper, but it’s good to keep in mind if you’re shopping second hand, so you don’t get a sticky surprise.
Newer Nendoroids resell for about +/- ¥2000, but of course that is only a very general guide. Some figures actually skyrocket in the aftermarket. For example, the 2019 Hatsune Miku Snow Princess ver. originally sold for ¥5556 before tax, but I’ve seen it preowned on AmiAmi and Mandarake for ¥9000- 12000. A lot of it comes down to supply and demand, and my best advice is to do your research and check around before purchasing. If the aftermarket price is too high, you can keep your fingers crossed for a re-release. Good Smile has a product / re-release request form fans can fill out here.
Not All Praise
My biggest frustration with the Nendoroid line is definitely the base. All Nendoroids come with a clear square base with peg holes. Holding the Nendoroid in place is a plastic ‘connector’. The base is bulky, and the connector is such a finicky piece to ‘plug in’! The two combined make getting the Nendoroid set up a frustrating initial process.
GSC must have heard the consumer feedback, as late last year it released a special ‘easel’ stand for Nendoroids, cutting out the base completely but keeping the back plug.
In the recent Wonderful Hobby Life For You 32 expo, GSC also unveiled a ‘sitting’ series where some Nendoroids were re-released with a chair to aid in posing and figure photography. At this time, GSC has not announced if the chair can be bought separately, which means consumers will have to buy a whole figure just to get a chair. But, to give the benefit of the doubt, GSC are aware of the base issue and seem to be making some effort to improve it.
In recent years, I’ve felt Good Smile hasn’t been as inventive with their Nendoroid designs, and instead are focused on pushing them out as quickly as possible. This is particularly felt in their releases of currently airing or announced anime. The Demon Slayer Nezuko and Tanjiro Nendoroids were available for pre-order late August 2019, towards the end of the anime’s run. There’s no denying the quality of these figures, but I felt the face plate designs were lacking. We received the generic ‘happy’, ‘angry’, and ‘neutral’ faces but nothing that really captured the characters.
If you compare these face plates to the ones released much later, like Zenitsu (pre-orders opened in May 2020) and Inosuke (June 2020), there’s no doubt their face plate designs really embody the character’s personality. Ultimately, I’m not going to buy a Nendoroid just because it looks cute. My passion behind figurine collecting is to be able to have a small essence or moment of my favorite character to put on display and enjoy!
Nendoroids Doing Good
In response to the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Good Smile Company joined other figure makers in creating the Cheerful JAPAN! Initiative. Monthly over a year-long period, GSC announced new products to join the charity line up. Many were special ‘cheerful versions’ of characters. Depending on the item, ¥1000 – 2000 from each sale went towards relief efforts. These items included Vocaloid and Steins;Gate Nendoroids, and by 28 December 2012 the initiative had raised ¥250,370,184, which was donated to various charities and programs. In 2016 and 2018, the project was restarted to raise relief funds for disasters that occured during those years.
Outside of Cheerful JAPAN!, GSC has continued charity endeavors. As of 30 October 2020, GSC raised ¥1,101,600 for Ashikita, a town affected by severe rainstorm damage, through sales of the Hina Tsurugi Nendoroid. The character is from a series based in the town.
Most recently, GSC has raised funds for the Korin Kimono Restoration Project through a collaboration Miku Nendoroid. Based on an original illustration by artist En Morikura, the Nendoroid features Miku wearing the three-hundred-year-old kimono. 5% of sales of this figure go towards the restoration project.
Final Thoughts on Nendoroids
Over the last fifteen years, Nendoroids have really become quite the phenomena. With nearly 1600 figures, the line shows no signs of slowing down. While I can certainly see areas for improvement in the line, I’m also excited for what adorable releases we’ll see over the coming years.
I hope that this guide has made it easy for you to get started in the world of Nendoroid collecting. Now all you have to do is decide which one (or two, or five) to get!