Many of you have really taken up to my video game action figure reviews, and I'm very glad because I enjoy making them. I've noticed that since I started that, a couple of people have been asking me questions so I'm just going to write this to answer any questions that anyone may have. We're going to take a look at some of the different brand names and lines, and what you should look for before making a purchase.
What makes a good action figure?
As kids, most of us boys ( and maybe some girls) probably had action figures. You can probably recount some ridiculous adventure you came up with using characters that had absolutely nothing to do with each other as you read this. As an adult collector, the things I look for in a figure are a lot different from when I was a kid and would just be playing with them and using my imagination. Now they are display pieces, and while I will occasionally pose them for some awesome or comedic photo, they mostly just sit on my shelf and look pretty. A well made action figure is a work of art. It's something that a sculptor or team of sculptors have put hours into making both look great as well as maintain functional articulation. Articulation means that a certain part can be moved or posed, but all articulation is not good because it can leave things looking unnatural, or weaken a figure's balance. Beyond these things, you should always ask yourself "How much does this character mean to me?" because in the end, if you don't connect with that character then their figure isn't going to resonate with you much either. Another thing to consider is the figure's scale. Will the figure fit in with the rest of your collection? For example, I mostly collect figures in the 1/12 scales, which means the standard is 5 to 6 inches in height. Examples include Figma, Revoltech, and on to some I'm not really into, Marvel Legends and DC Universe Classics. This means that if I were to purchase something like Play Arts Kai or Marvel Select, it would be way too big in comparison to my other figures...not that anyone should ever want a Play Arts Kai (more on that later).
Domestic figures vs Japanese Imports
There is by far a large difference in quality when comparing figures that can just be found at the local shopping center and Japanese imports such as Figma. This is simply because in the western world, almost all action figures are marketed to children. That doesn't mean that there aren't some decent domestic figures available or that adults simply don't collect western figures, but it is certainly harder to find a legitimately great Marvel hero than it is to find your favorite Anime character. The first thing that sets Japanese figures apart is that they are marketed as collectors items and not as toys. The artists that sculpt and design these figures design them with adults in mind. They know not to ignore small details, and to make them look as believable and natural as possible. Western figures tend to have more visible joints, and in general just look more toy-like...because...well, they're toys in the end. Another big difference is that Japanese figures tend to include multiple face plates that allow you to change their expressions while western figures tend to only include 1. This means that no matter which way you have them posed, they simply must look happy, or angry, or however it is that their face was original sculpted. Marvel Select includes multiple heads, but I can't think of another western line that does this. Japanese figures also tend to have much better articulation in terms of practicality.
Marvel Select Wolverine (top) looks a lot less natural than Figma Guts (bottom)
Quality Import Brands and Lines
-Known for natural looking joints
-Mostly produce Bishoujo characters
-Very doll-like, and ball jointed
-Prices range from $35-$60 retail
-Known for mecha and monsters
-Use a unique "revolver technology" joint system
-Prices range from $20-$60 retail*
*Revoltech's in the $20 range at this point are usually part of the Revoltech Fraulein series and should be avoided unless you like things that break.
-Known for armored females
-Produced by Konami
-Prices vary wildly
-Known for chibi style characters
-From the same company as Figma
-prices in the $30-$50 range
-Known for Shonen characters
-Has a subline called D-Arts that focuses on game characters
-Can sometimes be found domestically
Quality Western Lines
-Obviously known for Marvel characters
-large, detailed figures
-great articulation, but joints sometimes look unnatural
-again, obviously Marvel characters
-Quality ranges from "How is this $20?" to "lolwut?"
-Comparable to Marvel Legends but with DC characters
-Comparable to Marvel Select but with DC characters
Lines to Avoid
A domestic company most know for Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat merchandise. These are some of the most low quality piles of plastic crap you can buy. Their quality control center is also apparently on cocaine. Some (key word, some) or their figures look nice at first, but in actuality they have horrible paint jobs and loose articulation. They also have no problem advertising their joints clear as day.
Play Arts Kai
PAK is actually a really well known company for some reason. If you look up their promotional shots for their figures they look downright amazing, but then you get it and you realize it's an extremely fragile waste with shoddy paint applications. Only get a PAK if there is absolutely no other option. There are a select handful of PAK figures that actually turned out decent,b ut they are few and far between.
Like Play Arts Kai with better paintjobs. They do have good Alien and Predator figures, though. Also, their Street Fighter lie has some of the worst joints I have ever seen.
I hope this has answered some of your questions or helped you in some way. If you have any questions that didn't get answered, feel free to ask. Remember that in the end, if you REALLY like a figure, you should buy it - even if it's a piece of shit.