Before I get started with this post, I want to make it clear that I know this is a rather controversial topic for some. While I do not condone the selling of others intellectual property without a license, I will admit that I have pushed these beliefs aside in the past. Why? Because the statues and their imagery were just too cool to pass up, or it was something I didn't feel I could get elsewhere.
There's no denying that unlicensed studios are producing some pretty incredible pieces. But, there are some things you need to consider if you are looking into purchasing unlicensed anime statues. The main three are: Fit and statue errors, shipping prices, and customer service.
More importantly, if you are going to buy unlicensed statues, there are some important steps you need take before doing so, which I'll outline also below. Before I get into all of that though, I first want to talk about why unlicensed statues are so appealing.
Benefits of unlicensed anime statues
The variety of statues and studios you have to choose from is vast. You'll see lines that you can't get from licensed studios with statues of characters you may never see from a licensed studio.
If you like a character or anime that statues aren't normally released of, you can usually find it from an unlicensed studio. There is just so much to choose from not only in terms of subject matter, but also in terms of scale. To give you an idea, you can buy everything from resin WCF's to large statement statues.
The wide range of statues you can choose from is really what makes buying unlicensed statues the most enjoyable for me. You can find statues you just wouldn't find elsewhere with some pretty incredible imagery. And there are some studios, like Surge Studio and Clouds Studio that have produced some great pieces.
The other thing is that you don't have to wait to see if a studio is going to get a license for your favorite anime. You'll sometimes be left in the wind wondering if, or when, they'll be coming. And sometimes, that time is never. When this happens, you can pick these statues up from an unlicensed studio.
Things to consider before buying unlicensed statues
While buying unlicensed statues has its positives, there are some things you need to be wary of when purchasing them. Check them out below!
Fit and statue errors, breakages
There is a higher probability that an unlicensed statue will have errors with pieces not fitting where they need to or items not staying in the right position. You'll have to do some modifications to these pieces to get them to work since you won't always get a replacement if something comes wrong.
In addition, the lighting doesn't work in a lot of unlicensed anime statues. Some of you may have had a different experience, but there is more room for error from statue to statue from these unlicensed studios when it comes to not only the pieces, but also the electrical components as well.
All in all, quality control isn't as high. But, there are a handful of studios, who do it extremely well. There are always exceptions to this, but as a whole, the unlicensed statue market is less reliable in terms of their consistency.
Breakages are somewhat common with unlicensed anime statues, especially larger statues with more complicated designs and pieces. So far, four of my anime statues have arrived with small and easily fixable breakages that I was able to fix with some super glue, but one that came with massive breakages (WS Studio Yamamoto). This all just comes down to how well the studio packages their statues, but also how well your statues are handled along the way.
One time, customs opened the box of my statue and threw away the artbox, because batteries were shipped in the package. This resulted in them throwing the foam insert back in the cardboard mailer and, as a result, it arrived with multiple scratched and damaged pieces. Sometimes breakages happen because of customs or shipping companies, but most of the time, it's due to bad packaging (lack of padding, pieces not secure in the package, pieces not wrapped, etc).
Even though it may seem like I've had a lot of statues arrive broken, I've had many unlicensed anime statues arrive unbroken and unscathed. I just wanted to mention this because breakages are something that anime statue collectors usually experience at some point.
Shipping prices are higher
For larger statues, the shipping can reach the price of the statue itself if you are shipping to the United States. For instance, the Surge Studio Kisame cost around $400 dollars to ship, which is almost the same price as the statue itself. So, just know that you will be paying a lofty price to have your unlicensed statues shipped, especially if you are shipping to the United States.
Of course, prices vary depending on how many boxes the statue comes in or its weight, but in comparison to licensed studios, you will always be paying more regardless of the scale.
Customer service needs improvement
When buying unlicensed statues, you usually have to go through a third-party, preorder only site that acts as a liaison between you and the studio that's selling the statue.
With that said, all customer service will be handled through these in-between contacts. And from the sites I've had experience with, the customer service isn't always great. Yeah, there's usually only one or a few people running them, but getting into contact with them is sometimes impossible.
When compared with licensed statues, the customer service is night and day. Figurama, for instance, has the best communication I've ever experienced. But, you'll also get great customer service from studios, like Prime 1 as well. If something goes wrong or a piece is missing, you'll get a much better response from these licensed studios than you would with a site that sells unlicensed statues.
I will say, however, that I've started buying my statues through Favor GK, who sell both licensed and unlicensed statues, and I've loved how quickly I not only get responses but how great the customer service has been through them. I personally haven't had any issues with them and am looking forward to buying more through them in particular.
Customer service is a big part of the buying experience for me; It may not be as important to you, but this is definitely something to consider before buying from a site or studio that sells unlicensed statues. Just make sure you check reviews on Reddit or in Facebook Groups before buying from one of these sites!
Tips for buying unlicensed statues
Here are some tips that will not only help protect you against the risks that can come with buying unlicensed statues, but also help prevent you from buying statues you could end up regretting later on.
- Always pay with PayPal Goods and Services. If something goes wrong, you don't get your statue, or you can't get a response from customer service, you can file a dispute with PayPal. According to PayPal, disputes must be opened within 180 days of your payment date.
- Only pay for the deposit. Some sites will give you the option to pay a down-payment or deposit on the statue, which is a fraction of the price. This holds the preorder for you, and you won't be charged the full balance until the statue is ready to ship. All in all, this just further protects you and your money if something were to happen.
- Join a Facebook Group if you are wondering about a statue, site, or studio. From my experience, groups always have great responses and they are good places to get trustworthy opinions. Some good ones include: Anime Statues.
- Lookup previous statues a studio has released before buying. Sometimes renders (digital mockup of a statue) can be misleading, so it's a good idea to research a studio's previous work if it exists. These renders sometimes don't have color, and color can make a break a statute for me, so that's something to note as well.
- Check reviews and unboxings on YouTube. I personally go to Youtube to see if anyone has done a review or unboxing of a statue from that studio before buying, especially if I haven't purchased from them before. This will give you a good idea of how well they sculpt, paint, ship, etc before committing to buying a statue. Whether final images or renders are listed on a site, I will do this regardless to make sure the studio I'm buying from has a track record of producing good pieces.
I also started a YouTube channel where I unbox and review unlicensed as well as licensed anime statues, so if you'd like to see some of the pieces I've reviewed before definitely check that out below.
Unlicensed anime statue reviews
- MH Studio Naruto Statue Review
- Clouds Studio Hidan Statue Review
- Clouds Studio Deidara Statue Review
- Surge Studio Itachi Uchiha Statue Review
- Surge Studio Kisame Hoshigaki Staue Review
Licensed anime statue reviews
Where to buy unlicensed anime statues
When buying from the following sites, you will at least know that what you are purchasing is actually a legit product from the studio you want to buy from.
If I were to recommend one based off of my personal experiences, it would be Favor GK. I've switched to purchasing through them because they are the most responsive and have had the best customer service so far. I do recommend different sites for purchasing licensed anime statues though. Learn more about the best sites to buy anime statues on and the pros and cons to buying from each!
With all that said, some unlicensed studios still do amazing work and put out some of the best sculpts I've seen. With a variety of characters and series to choose from, unlicensed statues offer more options; Mainly because they don't have to jump through any hoops or receive approval from the licensors.
While there is something to be said about these statues, I do have to say as someone who has bought both, licensed statues offer a much better, more relaxed buying experience. Overall, I personally prefer the customer service and quality control you get from these licensed studios in comparison to the unlicensed ones.
If you are going to purchase unlicensed statues, I totally get why you'd want to do so, just be wary of the things I mentioned above.
If you are looking for more information, check out my favorite places to buy anime statues from! And if you are interested in anime statue unboxings and reviews, we just recently started a YouTube channel. Check out the video below to see some of the unboxings and reviews that will be coming to the channel this year!