HD dishes the dirt on Japan’s premiere amateur hobby convention, reporting on the Triad, Hirano Aya, and more exquisitely painted pieces of polyresin than you could possibly shake a stick at. We’ll be cataloguing the event’s lineup of new industry releases in forthcoming days, but our coverage starts now with the gateway to garage kit paradise.

catgirls at wonder festival

I’m a model
if you know
what I mean

Wanfesu 2006 summer marked HD’s fourth appearance at the event that brings a whole new meaning to the term “supermodel”, but it was a first in many ways: my first participation as a member of the “press”… well, that’s one way. Otherwise it was pretty similar to past, past events.

My focus this time was primarily on the garage kit side of things, figuring that other sites would be picking up the slack on the industry side and providing meticulously detailed reports I could later mooch off of. Expect such mooching in the coming days. For now a brief summary of the day’s happenings, followed by HD’s exclusive garage kit tour de force. Read on should you so desire!

What is Wonder Festival?

Wonder Festival mascots Wonda (right) and Reset (left)

Wonder Festival
mascots Wonda
(right) and Reset
(left)

Wonder Festival is a hobby sales show and exhibition sponsored by Japanese collectibles manufacturer Kaiyodo. It takes place twice each year in February and August and features three major components:

  • An industry area where figure production companies debut, sell, and showcase their upcoming products,
  • A cosplay area outside the venue (where props are allowed, unlike at Comiket, resulting in many more mecha cosplay outfits and gun-toting characters),
  • A dealer’s area where individual creators, circles, and retailers can showcase their wares.

These usually come in the form of limited-run polyresin statuettes, dubbed “garage kits” due to the common practice of amateur creators casting the resin from self-produced molds in the privacy of their own garages. This is a very time- and labor-intensive endeavor, one compounded by the restrictions placed on the sale of kits based on copywritten characters: unlike doujinshi, derivative garage kits can only be sold at special events such as Wonder Festival on a “one day limited license” system. The labor involved in their production and the limited scope of their sale makes them much sought after as collector’s items, and the most highly prized sell out within minutes of the event’s opening.

Luckily, Wonder Festival can be enjoyed without spending a single yen even after all of the prime kits have gone the way of the dodo (or the Triad‘s illegal reproduction facilities), and it’s this experience we’ll to strive to recreate in the first part of our coverage of the summer ’06 event.

DATELINE: August 20th, 10:00 AM

what's that in the upper right corner...

you never know
when they’re
going to strike…

press loots

guidebook, press
badge, wonder
showcase info

The sun is beating punishingly down as I step out of the Kokusai Tenjijou train station in front of the Big Sight, but this is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen those old grey pyramids look. Almost too beautiful… The plan is to meet up with Ayaka Hahn of Akiba Angels, who has arranged for our press passes to gain entry to the event before the ravenous horde of figure fans queueing up around the back of the halls.

10:30 AM
I meet Ayaka and her assistant at the staff reception desk and get the press business squared away. The kind people of Kaiyodo insist on giving me stuff that I don’t really need.

11:00 AM
The event begins and us press folks are whisked into the main halls through a side entrance. I make a beeline for Xiarobo‘s table in the back corner of the A hall. A hard day of photography begins with shots of his Dizzy kit, produced brand new for this event – only three minutes in and he has already sold out.

Wonder Festival ill-gotten gains

Ill-gotten gains
from the trenches

I spend the better part of four hours canvassing halls A through C (corresponding to East halls 4, 5, and 6 of the Big Sight), shooting as many new kits as possible. I wasn’t planning to buy anything at the event but I somehow find myself at this point laden with three kits (this, this, and this), the event only limited edition of Daiki Kougyou’s Akuma-san PVC, and a brace of the ’06 summer edition Wanfesu mascot team.

Doh.

Kawaiiyo Aya-chan!

Aya and Haruhi care
not for my pain…

2:55 PM
I head for the industry section in the D hall (East hall 3, for those keeping track). My first stop is the Vance Project / Pinky St. booth; Katayama, a friend of mine from manga club in college, scored a job with them earlier this spring. In the course of our conversation he informs me that I’ve just missed Hirano Aya‘s performance on the Goodsmile stage, where she belted out a few Haruhi vocal tracks; I am dismayed.

finish what you start, Japan

the post-bubble
desolation of half-
finished buildings
surrounding the
Big Sight

4:30 PM
I wrap up a somewhat piecemeal attempt at shooting the industry booths and return to Xiarobo’s table in the A hall, where he’s packing up to stage an early exit. I join him, Eima, one of Eima’s friends, and Saccharin in a low-key sally through a service door and a hike of a couple kilometers back to where Saccharin left his car. He has offered to give us a lift to Akihabara, and who are we to turn down that kind of deal?

7:00 PM
We leave Akiba after doing a bunch of typical Akiba things that I don’t want to think about as my wallet is sulking in a corner right now with a decidedly mean look. Something like a cornered snake … Anyway, we began the homeward journey, stopping at the usual Bikkuri, dropping off people left and right, until I found myself back home at around midnight, poor but elated.

What you are about to see is the sum of much of yesterday’s toil. Before that however, a caveat as to what you won’t be seeing on the following page:

T's System: man or machine?

the line leading
to T’s System’s
table is barely
restrained

  • Stuff from a few of the bigger circles that were either prohibiting photography before noon or had queues for taking pictures of their sale items. T’s System and Cerberus Project fall into this category.
  • Shots of circles with counterfeit goods. I’m referring here mostly to the cheap knockoff of Cerberus’ Girl with Rickenbacker that was sitting alone on a table with a large, menacing man in a three-piece suit, tie, and sunglasses sitting behind it, looking vaguely menacing, vaguely Chinese, and not at all like a sculptor. Live and let live, I say.
  • Shots of the new offerings from Q-six and Vispo. No reason for these; I just… missed them. Somehow.

Aside from these omissions, I think the selection here is fairly representative of the new hotness that was on display at this summer’s Wonder Festival – and it’s hotness enough to kill a man at fifty paces, so gird your loins before continuing…

On to the Gallery!