What comes to mind when you hear the words “garage kit”? For those unfamiliar with the hobby, they might immediately imagine it literally as something that is used in a garage or renovate it. However, for those familiar with figure collecting, these are entirely different albeit interesting pieces they’ll want to include in their collection. In this short article, I’ll be discussing the overview of garage kits and their impact in the world of figure collecting.
So first, let us see the “technical” definition of garage kits courtesy of Wikipedia. “A garage kit or resin kit is an assembly scale model kit most commonly cast in polyurethane resin. They are often figures portraying humans or other living creatures. In Japan, kits often depict anime characters, and in the United States depictions of movie monsters are common. Originally garage kits were amateur-produced and the term originated with dedicated hobbyists using their garages as workshops. Unable to find model kits of subjects they wanted on the market, they began producing kits of their own. As the market expanded professional companies began making similar kits. Sometimes a distinction is made between true garage kits, made by amateurs, and resin kits, manufactured professionally by companies.”
Example of US-based or Western Garage Kits
Example of Japan-based, anime-inspired garage kit
Alright, there you have it. However, I’ll be discussing Japanese kits here – in short, anime related kits. It is a fact that most kits you can find within this line are composed of mecha (primarily Gundam) and female anime characters. I personally collect and build kits of the latter.
Garage kits are expensive. Most collectors tend to shy away from the hobby because these are DIY (do-it-yourself) kits. They are shipped unpainted, and may require assembly and most of them don’t come with their own display bases. GKs may range from a whole, single model or a kit that’s composed of several pieces. Aside from the base price of the kit itself, the cost of the equipment and materials needed to paint and assemble the kits are another story – not to mention the time, effort and skills needed for their completion. Oh, did I mention that they’ll require some sort of workspace as well? (I’ll be posting about workspace, equipment and materials in my next blog)
You can get original kits from sites like Y! Japan, Hobby Link or even during events (Wonder Festival, Character Hobby, Figure Mania, etc.) Cheaper but lower quality “recasts” (bootlegs of the originals) are also available from other sites as well. The question when buying originals and recasts all comes down to personal choice and moral standing of course.
Garage Kits Vs PVC figures
For convenience, practicality and quality, pre-painted PVC figures usually come on top. So why do collectors still covet much cumbersome and expensive garage kits? The only thing that comes in mind is exclusivity. While it is true that some successful garage kits designs were adopted for PVC production, there are still a majority of excellently sculptured and designed kits that are only available as garage kits. Also, some of these kits are sold in limited numbers only; there’s a chance that most collectors won’t be able to get their hands on them forever. The only way they can have access to those kits are buying “recasts” – reproduced copies of the original kits (usually without the original sculptor’s permission or the copyright holder of the character[s]).
That said, some avid collectors who don’t have time, skills or extra dough paint the kits themselves either buy pre-painted kits at ridiculously high prices or commission modellers who can do the job. The commission prices usually covers the materials (paints, masking tapes, thinners) and the “talent fee”. There are many professional and skilled modelers internationally whose works can even be compared to pre-painted figures out in the market today.
Personally, I don’t favor one over the other. I collect both PVC and build garage kits at the same time. I love my PVC figures for their impressive quality and the fact that you can just display them out of the box without too much fuss. In the other hand, I enjoy building garage kits since they bring out the artist in me and they give this wonderful sense of achievement after completing them. It also gives me access to the often elusive kits only available in the garage kit world.
GKs are not certainly for everybody. It takes time, tremendous amount of patience, some creativity and considerable amount of resources. However, once you get the hang of it, it’s one enjoyable hobby – something you can be proud of.
An example of one of the author’s completed garage kits
Next time, I will discuss about the equipment and workspace usually used when working on garage kits. Thanks for reading!
Images presented in this blog are not hotlinked. The author does not take ownership of the images as these are copyrighted to their original owners.