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Counterfeit & Bootleg Anime Figures: How to Tell Fakes From the Genuine Licensed Products PDF Print E-mail
Written by Antony Chow   
Monday, 27 November 2006

Along with the rising popularity of Japanese anime in North America over the last decade or two, toy manufacturers are producing and importing more anime related merchandise, including anime figures, for the domestic market.  But this trend has not escaped notice from bootleggers, who are cashing in by creating both unlicensed products and counterfeit copies of licensed products.  As a result, many products sold online, particularly on ebay, are not authentic, licensed products.  Many anime figure collectors have been duped into buying bootleg copies of hard to find anime figures, and we at NAF want to put a stop to this by educating the consumer on what to look for in determining whether an anime figure is an official, licensed product, or a counterfeit.

In order to separate the counterfeits from the real McCoy, the consumer needs to consider 4 factors: the quality, the price, the companies involved, and the stickers.  Let's tackle the sticker first.  For domestic products, the 2 main distributors for anime figures are and Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc.  Both distributors have stickers (and occasionally printed on for on the back of the box of the anime figures they distribute. Sticker Diamond Comic Sticker

You are not always going to see either sticker on an anime figure product.  And not having one DOESN'T mean it's not genuine.  BUT, if you do see the sticker, chances are excellent that the product in question is legitimate (unless, of course, the bootleggers start creating their own counterfeit stickers for these distributors; but this hasn't happened yet to my knowledge).

A related but trickier factor is the companies involved.  It's related to the sticker factor precisely because SOME manufacturers, studios (as in the studio that produced the anime show), and publishers (as in the Japanese manga publisher) slap on their own stickers to declare a product's authenticity.  And you the consumer have to be educated (by reading this article) to know WHICH companies engage in this practice.  The granddaddy of all companies that engage in this practice is Gainax, the folks who brought you  Evangelion and gives its blessing to the flood of Eva related products in the markets every year.  By now, you're probably familiar with Gainax' sticker---a tiny silver sticker or hologram with "GAINAX" written across, and "OFFICIAL LICENSED" right below.  The related/affiliated anime figure manufacturers Alter Co., Ltd., Good Smile Company, and Max Factory emphasize the spirit of hobby Japan on their sticker with a huge "H" with swirl around this letter in the hologram sticker, and a smaller "JAPAN" inserted over the H.  The hottest company in the Japanese gaming scene, TYPE-MOON also engages in this practice by using a hologram sticker with an italicized "Tm" in the center, "TYPEMOON" in the background, and some Japanese characters below the Tm.  Japanese animation studio Studio Pierrot uses a square sticker with the face of a clown in a circle, with "PIERROT" below the face and inside circle.  Japanese manga publisher Kodansha uses a rectangular sticker with "KODANSHA" in bold and repeated vertically within the sticker.  Please study the sample stickers below carefully.  [Please note that the NAF watermarks in these images were inserted ubiquitously to prevent bootleggers from taking these images and passing them off as images from their counterfeit products.]

Gainax StickerH Japan StickerType-Moon Sticker

Kodansha StickerStudio Pierrot Sticker

These stickers are EXTREMELY helpful in determining whether a product is licensed, and whether the anime figure in question is a counterfeit.  However, please note that there are many, many more stickers than what we've shown here.  And manufacturers will continue to create new stickers and to utilize other methods to authenticate their licensed goods, and to deter bootleggers.

The final two factors (quality and price) are also considerations.  But they're not very helpful if the consumer is making an online purchase through an auction site like ebay, where many counterfeit and bootleg anime figure products are sold.  One reason is that when you buy an item online, you simply don't have an opportunity to examine the product physically to evaluate its quality.  And if the seller sets a low starting price for the auction, the winning bid may end up low if there are few bidders for that auction.  Nonetheless, the rest of this article will be devoted to these topics.

Let's tackle price first.  Let's think this rationally.  If a Naruto Collective File DX figure from Megahouse was released at 2,480 yen, what are the odds that a brand new figure from this series, on sale for 9 bucks, is legit?  Applying what we've discussed regarding stickers, note that the bootleg version lacks the Studio Pierrot sticker.

Bootleg Naruto Pic 1Bootleg Naruto Pic 2Bootleg Naruto Pic 3

Another thing to look for in particular for this Naruto figure is the position of the left thumb.  For the legit version, the thumb is right above the eyebrow.  But for the counterfeit, that thumb is tabbing Nauruto's temple.

Bootleg Naruto Pic 4Bootleg Naruto Pic 5

To discuss quality in depth, let's examine the MegaHouse Excellent Model Series Bleach Kurosaki Ichigo PVC Figure with a side-by-side comparison of the legit version and the counterfeit version.  Just looking at the box, you can see that the legit product has the Studio Pierrot sticker.  Please also note that the coloring on the box is more vibrant than that on the counterfeit.

Bootleg Bleach Pic 1 Bootleg Bleach Pic 2

Looking at figures inside the box, the paint job is clearly better for the legit product.  Notice how the eyes aren't colored in completely for the counterfeit.  And the overbleed of black paint onto the chest.

Bootleg Bleach Pic 3 Bootleg Bleach Pic 4

Taking the figures out of the box, note the high quality of the legit figure.  The face clearly shows Ichigo's trademark frown on his face.  In the counterfeit figure, there are obvious overbleeds of paint.  There are also scratches on the right arm.

Bootleg Bleach Pic 5 Bootleg Bleach Pic 6

Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that you'll have the opportunity to do this kind of side-by-side comparison.  But clearly the legit MegaHouse product is a high quality product, and the counterfeit version is noticeably inferior in craftsmanship.

When making an online purchase, especially at online auction sites, the consumer should be vigilant and guard against the possibility of counterfeit and bootleg anime figure products.  When in doubt regarding the item's authenticity, you should ask questions of the seller.  You can also solicit opinions from fellow collectors through online forums such as NAF's, and find out what the authentic product should look like.  Take advantage of all the resources available to you to avoid buying fakes.  When in doubt, and the price is too good to be true, you should take a pass on the purchase and look some place else.

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