Kotobukiya - An In Depth Look

Humble Beginnings

In 1947 Jusaburo Shimizu opened a single toy shop, primarily selling dolls. World War II had recently ended and the entire political and social structure in Japan was going through a huge reform. Known historically as The Recovery Stage (1946 to 1954), Japan's economy was on the way to massive growth (eventually becoming second only to the U.S. by the end of the 80's). Jusaburo soon re-formed his single store into a limited company 1951, joining forces with his two brothers. The company remains in the care of the Shimizu family to this day.

It was nearly 40 years after founding Kotobukiya that its first original product was created, a model kit called Armament (1983), and it was two years later that the company got its first official license, producing a King Godzilla kit.

Opportunity Knocks

What really put Kotobukiya on the map in the toy world was a license to produce a THE-O model kit from the Mobile Suit Gundam series. This was the first time anyone except for toy-giant Bandai had been able to create products from the extremely popular franchise. This opened up doors for Kotobukiya that had previously been closed, increasing the popularity of their kits as well as their credibility with other property holders looking for a company to make quality representations of their creations.

Kotobukiya Stormtrooper Statue

In 1989 Koto took their first ever dip into the world of pre-assembled toys, which they called Active Styling Figures. These are the predecessors to what we now call ARTFX Statues and were more like what we imagine a traditional action figure to be like today. Featuring poseable limbs and designs that were quite ahead of their time, the dolls often included accessories and came with tailored clothing. With their Active Styling Figures, Kotobukiya had found a new market outside of the then-popular model kit scene.

The Modern Era

Fast forward to today and Kotobukiya is most well known for its static resin models within the ARTFX and ARTFX+ lines. The primary difference between the two being the scale: ARTFX statues are typically made in 1:6 and 1:7 scale, while ARTFX+ are (confusingly) slightly smaller at 1:10 scale. Both lines feature very high levels of paint and sculpt that are difficult to find consistently in other manufacturers.

The range of licenses and characters being produced today is very impressive. Current and cult characters from the world of horror, like Jason and Freddy, are well catered for, along with new and classic heroes and villains from the Marvel and DC universes. Many characters are offered in several guises, representive of the styles of the popular comic book artists that have portrayed them.

Kotobukiya have a huge range of Star Wars statues. Showcasing everyones favourite heroes, heroines, bounty hunters and menaces from the beginning of the saga up to the current films and spin offs. The line is a hit with fans of the movies and the variety of painstakingly detailed characters continues to improve, year on year.

A more recent edition to the collection of statues is Kotobukiya's ARTFX-J series of figures in 1:8 scale. Catering for the influx of worldwide fans to anime shows like Trigun Badlands, Tokyo Ghoul, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, these figures are often highly stylised, featuring dynamic character specific poses that are guaranteed to look fantastic on display as a one off or part of a larger collection.

Of course, you can't talk about Kotobukiya and not give a mention to the popular line of all-girl 1:7 scale Bishoujo statues. Bishoujo translates from Japanese as Beautiful Girl and the statues usually follow the theme. Bishoujo statues feature artist impressions of characters from across pop culture, from super heroes to cult classics and the world of computer games, all presented in female form regardless of their original on screen or on page appearance.

The cream of the crop for Koto fans is the Fine Art series. Featuring super star sculpts from some of the best in the business and incredibly high attention to detail and paint, these cold cast resin statues compete with the best in the industry. Kotobukiya Fine Art statues are typically made in 1:6 scale, putting most characters around 12 inches or 30cm tall.

Koto Kit

Knowing Your Roots

True to their origins in model-kits, Kotobukiya still produce a wealth of buildable kits, many having a firm focus on mech-suits and futuristic robotics. Although hard to find in the UK or EU, the detail regularly displayed in their kits is pretty incredible even more so when you consider that most of them are at least as highly articulated and poseable as the very best action figures.

Kits like this incredible Rex from Metal Gear Solid are giving modellers something entirely out of the ordinary to set their teeth into. Featuring over 600 individual pieces, screen-correct decals and movement capabilities that closely match those of the digital model from the game, Koto's kits set the bar pretty high for anyones building skills. Far from the run of the mill planes, tanks and cars, Kotobukiya has been allowing fans of plastic model kits the opportunity to broaden their horizons with futuristic robotics, vehicles and even popular game and television characters. We hope to see more of their kits landing on Western shores soon.

There is a more mischievous (and somewhat culinary) side to Kotobukiya as well. Alongside their highly impressive model kits, detailed and desirable Fine Art Statues and the tongue in cheek Bishoujo line, they also produce a popular range of kitchen accessories in the form of such kitchen indispensables as light sabre and legendary katana chop-sticks and Star Wars themed cake and ice cube moulds. If you have ever wanted to bake a chocolate carbonite Han Solo cake, add a Death Star to you mojito or jiggle yourself up a BB-8 jelly, then Kotobukiya wants to help!

As always, we hope you have enjoyed this brief look into another of our favourite brands. If you have any favourite Kotobukiya figures, statues or kits be sure to let us know.