Avoiding Bootlegs: Spotting Fake Anime Figure Differences

Avoiding Bootlegs: Spotting Fake Anime Figure Differences

Navigating the anime figure market demands discerning genuine items from bootlegs; this guide provides seller, pricing, and packaging tips.

Last updated: 2023-08-25
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TL;DR
To ensure you're buying genuine anime figures, opt for trusted Japan-based sellers due to their strict counterfeit regulations. Consult online communities for seller feedback and be wary of suspiciously low prices. Genuine figures have unique barcodes, high-quality packaging, custom-fitted blister packs, and meticulous detailing. Bootlegs may have off poses, poor paint jobs, and emit a chemical odor. Comparing product images with official or community photos can help discern authenticity.
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584 min read

Anime figure collecting is a passion shared by many, but the market's growth has also seen a rise in counterfeit or 'bootleg' figures, simply due to more options to counterfeit from. Especially when venturing into unfamiliar territories, like purchasing figures of characters you're not well-acquainted with or buying them as gifts, the risk of acquiring a counterfeit multiplies. The best defense is arming oneself with knowledge. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive tips of how to differentiate genuine figures from their counterfeit counterparts.

-Before Buying-

Information you can check before buying (even online).

Authentic Sellers

Japan-based Shops: Figures licensed in Japan have a higher authenticity rate when purchased directly from Japanese sellers. These sellers often have direct partnerships with manufacturers, ensuring the figures' genuineness. Furthermore, Japan has strict regulations against counterfeit goods, making it a safer bet for genuine products.

Community Feedback: Online platforms like MyFigureCollection or specific Reddit communities are treasure troves of information. Engaging with these communities can provide insights into the most trusted sellers and those to avoid. Veteran collectors often share their experiences, both good and bad, which can be invaluable for newcomers. For example the original item box appearance which even official sellers may not post.

Price Check

Too Good To Be True: A significantly discounted figure might seem like a steal, but it's often the first sign of a bootleg. Counterfeit figures are priced lower to lure unsuspecting buyers.

Anime Kill la Kill no money
© Trigger / Kill la Kill production committee

Market Research: Before making a purchase, it's beneficial to research the average price range for the specific figure you're interested in. This will give you a ballpark figure and help you identify deals that are suspiciously cheap. *Foot in the door* this site does just that if you find your figure here, you'll easily see prices from various sellers and the overall average price. Also have you heard of our sponsor Raid Shadow...

-Before or After Buying-

Further tips depend if the seller posted genuine photos of the product... If not, you'll only be able to do these checks once the product is in your hands.

Box Appearance and Information

Barcodes: Every genuine figure has a unique JAN code, acting as its identity. And these can be found on each box near the barcodes. Counterfeit figures might have incorrect codes or lack them entirely. If you hesitate input the number into our site, MyFigureCollection or other verified shops to check if the expected figure shows up.

Barcode on the bottom of the box with a JAN code

Manufacturer Label: Authentic figures always credit the original creators and manufacturers by placing their labels on the box. Missing or incorrect details are big red flags. If possible try to find a photo of the box to compare if all the logos are there.

License/Authenticity Sticker: Apart from the mentioned label printed on the box, manufacturers can also stick a custom license sticker on the box further adding to it's authenticity. Unfortunately there have been cases where reputable shops ship figures without one, meaning even real figures who should have one - not always will.

Tape: Yes even the tape type can help you. The one used on genuine figures to hold the top lid is specific and very often rounded. Bootlegs might use cheaper generic tapes, like scotch tape which is easily recognizable by it's square shape.

Box Design: Counterfeit figures might come in low-quality boxes with pixelated images, incorrect logos, or even entirely different designs. Comparing with official images or community-shared photos can help spot differences, sometimes they are pretty obvious.

Original Rem figure front box marked with some of the identifying tips

Rem box marked with identifying tips
Statues forum
  1. - Kadokawa authenticity sticker.
  2. - Printed anime series identification.
  3. - Printed manufacturer label.
  4. - Box unique cut-out design.

Original Rem figure side box marked with some of the identifying tips

Original Rem box sideview with marked tips
mercari - はやとです
  1. - Round tape securing the box lid. (may be hard to see, but it is there)
  2. - Printed anime series label.
  3. - Printed manufacturer label.

We can see that the box is nicely designed containing cut-outs and unique art on the boxes side. More often than not, just like in this case the labels (2 and 3) are repeated on multiple sides of the box.

Bootleg box examples

Here are a few bootleg variants from the Chinese marketplace. The bootlegs are of the same Rem figure we used in original examples above:

Example 1 (easy)

The first one is pretty obvious if you know how the original looks. The box design is completely different not to mention hitting all the no-nos.

Obviuos fake rem figure box
aliexpress
  1. - Different cut-out shape.
  2. - Different placement and name of the manufacturer.
  3. - Different title font, language and overall text.

The box is also missing the re:Zero series label and Kadokawa authenticity sticker.

Example 2 (hard)

The second one is much less obvious, using art and design from the original but still is missing a few details to be completely identical.

Not so obvious Rem figure bootleg box
aliexpress
  1. - Missing front manufacturer label.
  2. - Missing side manufacturer label.
  3. - Missing Kadokawa authenticity sticker.
  4. - No tape at all sealing the lid on the side.

Another subtle hint is the front blue text "REM" is lower (almost touching the cut-out bottom) compared to the original. Manufacturing deviations are possible, but this a sus amount of deviation.

Inside Packaging

Blister Packs: The packaging inside is as crucial as the outer box. Genuine figures are encased in custom-made blister packs that fit them perfectly, ensuring their safety during transit. Bootlegs, with their one-size-fits-all approach, often have ill-fitting packs that can damage the figure. Genuine blister packs also often have specific compartments for each accessory, ensuring they don't move during transit.

Original blister packaging

We have talked about everything surrounding the figure now lets move on to the figure itself.

Accessories and Extra parts

Missing Elements: Bootlegged figures, to save on production costs, might skip or poorly replicate intricate accessories, leading to missing or incorrect parts. Genuine figures often come with a variety of accessories, each meticulously detailed. You can see some of the them in the blister packaging example above. Rem has swappable face plate/arms/weapon.

Accessories don't fit: A genuine figure's accessories fit seamlessly, whereas bootlegs might have parts that are too tight, too loose, or entirely incompatible. This is especially noticeable in figures that come with interchangeable parts.

Anime girl connecting puzzle pieces gif
© Is the Order a Rabbit? production committee / Sentai Filmworks

Different Type Or Shape: As always due to cost saving or various other reasons accessories may end up oddly shaped, improperly sized, or colored inaccurately compared to the genuine product. Such deviations not only diminish the aesthetic appeal of the figure but also serve as clear indicators of a counterfeit product for discerning collectors.

Figure pose

Striking A Wrong Pose: The pose is a defining aspect of a figure. Even slight deviations in a bootleg's pose can make it distinguishable from the genuine article. Genuine figures are crafted based on specific character art, ensuring they capture the character's essence perfectly.

Bootleg figure examples
Example 1 (easy)

The figure already gives off a fakeness feeling and there are few big signs that it's a bootleg.

Rem with different and missing parts
aliexpress
  1. The initial packed pose is where she is already in demon mode [should be in her sweet non-murderous state].
  2. [Marked red] Different base shape.
  3. This figure package did not contain extra parts to swap into tea carrying pose.

It did not clearly show in sellers provided pictures but there were signs that likely no parts are removable and it's simply glued together.

Example 2 (medium)

Here we compare the bootleg with a real figure from side view (real on the right). This way we can better see the details where bootleg fails.

  1. - The shoe distance to ground is much closer in bootleg.
  2. - End of cape drooping way more.
  3. - Bit more subtle difference is the ribbon ends are overlapping differently (going under rather than over).

There of course are more differences but these felt most obvious once you start comparing. Well maybe add the base/hair/skin coloring, the teapot positioning...

Trademark Stamp

Missing Branding: Authentic figures often have discreet branding, either on the base or hidden on the figure itself. Bootlegs, in their rush to replicate, often miss out on these details. This branding can be in the form of engraved logos or printed names. Unfortunately we couldn't find a picture showing where Rem`s trademark stamp is, one of the possible places is her shoe sole.

Paint Job Quality

Precision: Genuine figures boast impeccable paint jobs. In contrast, bootlegs might have uneven coatings, color bleeds, or even entirely wrong colors. The precision of shading, especially on intricate parts like facial or hair features, can be a clear indicator. As these parts usually require high detail.

Surface Quality: The texture of a figure can reveal its authenticity. Bootlegs might feel cheaper, shinier, or rougher. Genuine figures often have a matte finish or specific textures that bootlegs fail to replicate. So even if the color and the shape match, try checking if the feel or reflection of the figure are out of touch.

Bootleg figure paint job examples
Example 1 (easy)

This is the poorest Rem bootleg figure we've seen, with a subpar paint job. Notably, the detailing around the skirt's end is missing, and despite the photo's low quality (and our editing :( ), there's evident color bleeding between black and white.

Worst Rem figure bootleg with bad paint job
aliexpress
-After Buying-

Not many, but there are things that you can only check once opened.

Smell

Chemical Odor: Bootlegs, due to the use of cheap and potentially toxic materials, often have a strong chemical smell. Genuine figures, made from high-quality materials, are usually odorless or have a very faint new-product smell. This smell can be a clear giveaway, especially when the figure is fresh out of the box.

Attack on titan meme of stench
Attack on titan

Factors Increasing Bootleg Probability

The popularity of a figure can be a double-edged sword. While it means the figure is in demand, it also makes it a prime target for counterfeiters. New collectors, especially those unaware of the nuances of figure collecting, are the most vulnerable to these bootlegs. Always choosing the trusted shops helps avoid this ordeal.

Bootleggers can be extremely resourceful, often going to great lengths to replicate genuine figures. In some cases, they even acquire and reuse original figure molds to manufacture counterfeits. However, there will always be discrepancies since the primary objective of bootlegs is to undercut the original in terms of cost. For those purchasing online, especially outside of Japan, it's crucial to be vigilant. If you're considering buying from a less reputable source, always request multiple pictures of the figure. Play a game of "spot the differences" by comparing these images with those provided by official manufacturers or trusted communities like MyFigureCollection. This extra step can save you from the disappointment of acquiring a counterfeit.

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