Garage Kit Circles
Garage kit circles are responsible for a good number of PVC figures. Few fans on this side of the Pacific Ocean are familiar with what these organizations really are, however.
A resin kit is an assembly scale model that's been cast out of polyurethane resin or a similar compound.
As the name suggests many figure artists got their start in the world of garage kits. Over the years many professional companies have started to make similar kits. That's lead to some fans making a distinction between what they term true garage kits made by skilled fans and resin kits made by engineers at professional factories.
Despite the name kit, some of the commercial figures are sold fully completed. Others do have to be assembled using epoxy or cyanoacrylate. Both materials should be available from most hobby supply places.
Amateur kits may have some legal questions surrounding them. They're usually not properly licensed, so they aren't going to support the anime and manga artists who created the characters. Sometimes recast copies are sold without even permission from the amateur artists that made them.
The doujinshi market is quite vibrant, and some Japanese companies are reluctant to actually send out cease and desist orders. American collectors who buy garage kits from a reputable source don't have to worry about any of this, however. They're usually only going to come into contact with appropriately licensed commercial ones anyway.
Garage kit circles, though, are still exciting collectors all over the world. Just like doujinshi manga circles, these groups are relatively anonymous. Many of them use assumed names and don't let many details out about their own personal lives. This level of secrecy has actually increased the attention that fans give them, and it has made many circles even more alluring.
Some of the more popular circles will attract more than fans, however. A few artists have moved up to the world of corporate resin kit design. That's how countless commercially manufactured garage kits got started.
Nevertheless that's not the only way that amateur fan work can eventually become at least somewhat official.
Circles sometimes create fairly interesting names for themselves. Fans of Shirow Masamune's work are probably familiar with the fictional company called Seburo. The existence of the fictional organization encouraged the Dai-Nihon Giken Poseidon garage kit circle to produce a number of inspired kits. Some of these are even now available to non-Japanese buyers.
This might sound a little strange to those who only think of figures as being of Japanese animated characters. While kaiju monsters and Japanese superheroes might not seem to strange to western fans, some things that these circles put out can be really exotic.
Interested fans may be surprised to hear that weapons and motor vehicles are actually featured in designs by many circles as well. Fictional weapons, like those used in Masamune's work, have become extremely popular.
Some circles actually make realistic replicas of actual blades and firearms, however. These have to be made a certain way to avoid actually crossing any legal barriers.
Speaking of legal barriers, some groups have found an interesting way to deal with their license trouble. A license holder might occasionally issue a single day license to a particularly popular garage kit circle. These licensing agreements legitimize Japanese amateur garage kit production for a very short period of time.
They're generally negotiated from the owners of specific TV show and movie intellectual property. Event organizers will sometimes buy these licenses and then solicit applications from people who wish to sell materials at a specific event.
Wonder Festival, or Wonfes as fans call it, is a major garage kit conventional that's held bi-annually at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba. Many of the models showcased there are extremely detailed. The use of single day licenses at these sorts of shows helps fans to financially support creators.
Some artisans are declared to be particularly exception. They're promoted during the "Wonder Showcase" events at Wonfes. Their works are given special attention, and limited quantities are sold off to collectors.
Many people give the same treatment to these designs that they might give to the particularly stunning works of fine art that are displayed in a gallery.