Sofubi- the mostly Japanese style of vinyl action figures.
I have been a sofubi collector since the early 1990's when Ultraman and Power Rangers came to American TV. I collected it before I knew it was called sofubi. For my 9th birthday I got all the the Ultraman figures based on the US TV show along with the Super Nintendo game. This was my entry into Kaiju culture, and I wanted more. A year later, my mom found out she had a friend who went to Japan and became a female professional wrestler but came back to the US when her career was put on hold while she raised a family. When she returned to the states, she brought suitcases upon suitcases full of just about anything you can think of from Japan to sell at my Aunt's collectible shop. From what she brought back in her suitcases, I went home with gashapon toys to 15 inch tall figures of Godzilla, Ultraman and so much more. This was a little slice of heaven until the hunger grew again.
Until I got established on eBay in the late 90's, I just didn't feel comfortable buying from Japan. Plus, I didn't have a credit or debit card which was the payment of choice when doing overseas purchases. Every year, I added a couple of pieces to my collection. Whether buying from eBay or going to Mega Con, Dragon Con or Metro Con; I was getting an education in Kaiju and sofubi.
1/ They retire pieces then reissue them in alternate colors. A reissue could be a funky, psycadelic color or just something as simple as trading dark grey highlights for light grey highlights.
2/Bootlegs are plentiful, so be wary of claims to be an “original”. Look for trademarks and maker's marks on the figure. Check the composition of the figure, if it's too stiff it will be (more than likely) a bootleg.
3/Retired pieces go for a small fortune, bring extra cash if you plan on buying something special. While a current character will cost you $10 to $15, a retired piece could go for 3 times the original price or more.
My sofubi collection is very important to me, it's a type of collection that very few people attempt. I think they are very unique and represent a world that most toy collectors don't even know about. Through attaining what I think is a very healthy representation of sofubi, I've made friends with collectors and sellers a whole 7,000+ miles away. One of the more interesting pieces I've bought in the last 3 years was Gan-Q, a monster from the Ultraman TV series. Gan Q is an inter-dimensional joking monster that first premiered in Ultraman Gaia episode 5 in 1998. It later appeared in episode 30 of the same series and in episodes 5 and 6 of Ultra Galaxy Monster Battle (revived by a medieval wizard and no I’m not making this up) . In both shows he can launch replicas of his own eyes and can fire energy balls from them and the eyes on his body.
Gan-Q is your average 5-7 inch vinyl Ultraman figure. Jointed at the shoulder and waist, the figure is more for standing there and looking good than dynamic action poses. The figure looks just like the character from the show; which is a characteristic I like about sofubi toys; they don't get cheap on the sculpted details. The only downside is the figure could benefit from some extra paint applications, a few of Gan-Q's eyes aren't painted in on his backside but this is to be expected. The rear half or quarter of most sofubi figures are void of any decoration other than what was sculpted.