Are you a big fan of anime figures? Or are you looking for a big anime event in Tokyo?
Well, keep on reading!
If you’re visiting Wonder Festival for the first time, or even a second time, this guide has everything you need to know to get the most out of your visit.
Let’s dive in!
What is the Wonder Festival?
Twice a year in the winter and fall, the largest figure expo in Japan, the Wonder Festival, is held at Makuhari Messe. One of the biggest anime events in Tokyo, upcoming figure prototypes are revealed by the big figure manufacturers for the first time at this event.
Also, indie and amateur sculptors sell their limited run garage kits in a sprawling convention center.
You can even find some nice deals around the show floor on rare or already released items as well.
Wonder Festival is basically separated into two areas: big figure manufactures & indie sculptors.
We’ll go further into each of them, so stick around!
What’s a garage kit?
A garage kit is an amateur-produced figure generally made in small quantities of both original and pre-existing characters.
They usually require assembly and painting, but you can get figures of characters who normally don’t get any official figures, and cool sculpts that look even better than official mass-produced figures.
Buying scales makes you think you’re playing with the big boys, huh? Well, pick up a paintbrush and modelling cement, because now you’re playing with the HUGE boys!
What can I expect from the company showcase area?
In the showcase area, you can walk around all day looking for your favorite figure companies’ booths, taking photos, and buying merch.
As usual, you can see prototypes in person before they’re released, and even see if the prototypes you have been waiting on from the last show have been painted yet.
And the cycle continues, like a snake eating its own tail!
New figures themselves aren’t usually for sale as one might expect, though smaller goods are.
You can pre-order what’s up on display later on, via sites like AmiAmi (That said, there is the rare exception of some early releases), Aside from that, there are the Wonder Festival exclusive figures that many companies do have for sale, like the ones that Goodsmile Company does every year.
What can I expect from the garage kit area?
Similar to the big-league part of the show floor, you’ll be taking plenty of photos here as well, made much more interesting by the fact that you can buy these ones on the spot!
These are amateur kits made in limited quantity for the event, so shell out some money in the name of craftsmanship and buy some cool figures while you’re looking around.
Also, many people are around the show floor talking with the sculptors themselves at their tables, so if you know your Nihongo (Japanese learning site), that can be pretty fun as well.
It’s also here that you can find rare and pre-owned figures for sale, so do some digging at these small vendors, and you might find some deals you can’t get at Akihabara or Nakano.
What is the best part of Wonder Festival?
Definitely one of the highlights of the show is the garage kit floor since this part of Wonder Festival really is as event-exclusive as it gets.
If you follow newly released figures online and keep up with Wonder Festival from people covering the event on blogs or Twitter, you’ll see photos of the new big figure releases, but what you don’t get to see as often is the garage kits that make up most of the show.
So, if you’re in town, this is for sure the part that’ll make the trip out to Wonder Festival something special.
Where can I buy tickets?
The event guidebook (2,500 yen) will function as your ticket into the convention center.
It’s a pretty big center, so I’d recommend bringing a bag.
You can buy the ticket on-site (they’re not known to sell out of tickets/books the day of, so likely no worries if you arrive late) or ahead of time in various anime stores like Animate or even at ticket machines in convenience stores.
That said, note that buying from convenience stores will just get you a voucher for a guidebook that you pick up at the event.
Doing it this way, you’ll still have to wait in the same line as everyone who’s buying them on-site.
When and where is Wonder Festival held?
As mentioned above, it takes place in the winter and fall of each year, in February and November.
- Wonder Festival Fall 2020: November 01
- Wonder Festival Winter 2021: February 07
As an anime event held twice a year in Tokyo, it’s a bit more accessible than events like AnimeJapan.
The event is held from 10am to 5pm in Makuhari Messe (Hall 1-8). The closest station is Kaihimmakuhari station (around 30 minutes from Tokyo Station).
What is the schedule?
There’s no unified event schedule unlike other big events such as AnimeJapan, but there are occasional booth and stage events from bigger companies, so check the official website or read the guidebook that you’ll get the day of the event.
If you’re into collecting figures, expect a tight schedule if you want to see everything- the place is huge. Keep in mind doors open at 10am and close at 5pm, so get there early, especially if you want to buy the convention exclusives and limited garage kits.
What should I bring?
Bring a collapsible bag or something to hold your stuff. These figures and kits are big, so make sure you can carry them home.
Also, you may as well buy a drink and some food from a convenience store on your way to the event. Food can be a long wait and a little expensive, so have something to hold you over. There’s some food and vending machines in the hall, but they can be a hassle.
Is the event English-Friendly?
Not everywhere, particularly the garage kit tables, but the help desk is sure to have English-speaking staff to help you out. The map and guidebook are in Japanese, so definitely plan ahead and do some translating beforehand if you need to.
If you want to buy something, just point and say this:
“kore wo kudasai”
“Please give me this one”
How much money do I need?
Garage kits usually average out at about 7,000 yen, (like 65 USD), or give or take a few thousand yen for size and quality. Certainly, it seems expensive, but they’re one-of-a-kind scale figures, and just like at its big brother Comiket, the best items sell out in a flash.
In addition to garage kits, the big companies like Goodsmile Company also have their event-exclusive figures that you can check for on their website.
The event itself produces a figure of their mascot character, Wonda-chan, every show, sold at about 9,000 yen.
Do companies give away free stuff at Wonder Festival?
Not often, they mostly promote via figure showcases.
But previous years included things like a blank Nendoroid face scooping that go for 300 yen. You can get as many Nendoroid faces as you can fit into a single scoop. Not quite a free giveaway but it’s the same in spirit.
Are items cheaper in Wonder Festival than in a regular store?
The exclusives certainly will be, so you know what to do!
What are the queues like at Wonder Festival?
Many guests get there early, but a casual visitor in no rush should be able to go closer to noon, buy a ticket/guidebook and be through the door in under 20 minutes depending on when you arrive.
Is it worth it?
Definitely! If you’re in Tokyo, Wonder Festival is a one-of-a-kind experience.
A Comiket for plastic over paper- stick it to the environment and buy a 2D waifu in PVC.
There’s plenty of original creations to look at, not to mention seeing what’s on the horizon for official anime figures yet to be released.
Finally, admission is pretty cheap and it’s just on the outskirts of Tokyo, so there’s really no excuse not to pay this big old jamboree a visit, especially since pretty much anyone can appreciate Wonder Festival for the sheer scale and variety of what’s on display.
If you get tired of figures, there’s lots of cosplay between halls and outside, so there’s plenty to see.
- Though not a huge part of Wonder Festival, there are a decent number of booths selling pre-owned figures. This can be fun in its own right, so pay this area a visit, located in the garage kit area. You can find older out-of-production figures from FMA, Death Note, etc.
- Look at the map and get a sense of how many halls there are in the convention center. For first-time goers, you can pretty easily not realize the size of the event and spend a giant chunk of time in just one or two of many halls.
- Keep up with the live coverage happening on whatever platforms you visit and have fun trash-talking bad prototypes. Or snap some photos and contribute to the coverage yourself, because why not?
*Note: At this point, Wonder Festival, a.k.a. Wonderfest, has been cancelled because of, you guessed it, Covid-19 for 2020. They are hopeful to proceed for 2021 but are currently offering no promises.
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