Are you a big fan of Anime Figures or are you looking for an Anime Event in Tokyo?
If you’re visiting Wonder Festival for the first time, or even second time, this guide has everything you need to know to get the most out of your visit.
What is Wonder Festival?
Twice a year in Winter and Summer, the largest figure expo in Japan 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.
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, 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, thinking you’re playing with the big boys? Well pick up a paint brush and modeling cement cause now you’re playing with the huge boys.
What can I expect from the company showcase area?
You can walk around all day looking for your favorite figure companies’ booths, taking photos, and buying merch.
See prototypes in person before they’re released and see if the prototypes you’re waiting on from the last show have been painted yet.
The cycle continues and the snake eats 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 yen in the name of craftsmanship and buy some cool figures while you’re looking around.
Many people are around the show floor talking with the sculptors themselves at their tables, so if you know your nihongos, 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.
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 see photos of the big new figure releases, but what you don’t get to see as often is the garage kits that make up most of the show.
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 pretty big 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 probably 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.
“Nani sore” says Nonon, having gone out of her way to buy a ticket beforehand.
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 in both summer and winter that you can find in Tokyo, it’s a bit more accessible than events like AnimeJapan.
The event is held from 10 am to 5 pm in Makuhari Messe (Hall 1-8). The closest station is Kaihimmakuhari station (around 30 minutes far from Tokyo Station).
What is the schedule?
There’s no unified event schedule unlike other big events such as AnimeJapan, but there’s the occasional booth and stage event here and there from bigger companies, 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. Doors open at 10 AM and close at 5 PM, 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 things are big, so make sure you can carry them home.
Also, 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.
Not everywhere, particularly the garage kit tables, but the help desk is sure to have English staff to help you out. The map and guide book 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
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) give or take a few thousand yen for size and quality. Certainly seems expensive, but they’re one (few?) of a kind scale figures, and just like at its big brother Comiket, the best items sell out in a flash.
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 the figure showcases.
But, previous years included things like blank nendoroid face scooping where for 300 yen you can get as many nendo 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. ;9
What are the queues like at WF?
Many 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 floozy 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.
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. First time going, 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, why not?