Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: "Portrait of Pirates" "Luffy"

by Rob Bricken, Mar 1st 2009

MONKEY D. LUFFY
Series: One Piece
Toyline: Portrait of Pirates
By: Megahouse
Cost: ~$60

I thought I'd head back to the well yet again and take yet another look at the fabulous One Piece Portrait of Pirates series. It's still mostly so I can write them off my taxes, but also because Megahouse re-released a lot of the early figures with subtle improvements, which I thought you guys might want to know. For instance, I had the original Luffy figure, but the re-release has a much better head-sculpt. A better neck, too. In fact, I'd say—

Wait. Luffy's head just came off.

That's…that's weird. None of my other POP figures can be disassembled, but Luffy didn't break—the head clearly fits on a peg, it's just not glued or anything. And… wait a second, the arms come off too! Same peg deal! Is this normal? Did Megahouse do this for the first series of the re-releases? I guess it wouldn't be impossible, although—

Wait.

Oh, @#$%.

I've been bootlegged.



MONKEY D. LUFFY
Series: One Piece
Toyline: Goddamn Portrait of Pirates Rip-Offs
By: Evil Toy Bootleggers
Cost: Whatever they can get

Yes, I just bought a bootleg Portrait of Pirates Luffy figure off of eBay, and yes, I am exceedingly bitter. You just read my thought process as I opened up Luffy, although you probably still figured it out quicker than I did. In my defense, I was unaware that the Portrait of Pirates line had made it to the Chinese bootleg circuit, but as a very basic figure line which sells for $50-60 a pop, so in retrospect it's kind of obvious.

So I figured I'd try to craft my shame and rage into an instructional column, so that you guys can avoid my mistakes. Obviously, this will be most helpful for folks looking to buy the POP figures, but a lot of it will apply to other pirated toys, or even pirated DVDs. A lot of it is common sense (which I ignored, in my haste to upgrade my Luffy).

1) BE RACIST

Okay, not really. But the truth of the matter is, most toy-making plants—legal and illegal—are in China. So that's where bootlegs are made, and in many cases, sold. If you're looking at an item listed by someone in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or even neighboring countries like Singapore, it might be a bootleg. Now, you shouldn't assume they're all bad people and hawking illegal toys, because that would be genuinely racist. But it should raise a red flag, and hopefully prompt you do a little bit of research.

2) TRUST NOBODY

More specifically, trust nothing. You can't trust the price, because the bootleggers can run it one of two ways — too cheap to be true (which should be its own warning sign) or the same price as authentic listings, because they know that's how much the authentic toy goes for, and they don't want theirs to look suspicious. As I speak, there are at least a dozen POP Luffy's being sold from folks in Asia at the standard $50-60 price. At least some of them are certainly bootlegs.

You also can't trust the picture, because there's no reason the evil sellers won't use the real deal. For instance, I was told I was buying this:


…which is exactly what I wanted, the authentic Megahouse POP Luffy re-release.  But what I got was this:

3) EXAMINE IT CLOSELY

Now, if you've received the figure and opened it, there are still more ways to tell. If you examine the two pictures above, the authentic release and the bootleg, you should notice some key differences. First and foremost, the vest sculpt is totally different. In the bootleg, it covers most of Luffy's stomach, but in the original, it exposes Luffy's (delightfully sexy) abs. Also note the placement of the arms; in the Japanese figure, his fist is nestled firmly in his other hand, while in the bootleg, it's just kind of near. Both of these are due to the sloppy sculpting and factory production, where people do not give a @#$%.



The same is true—especially true—with the paint applications. The whole point of the bootleg is to do as little work as possible to make the figure look as much like the authentic version as possible, and that seldom means the painters stay in the line. (On the other hand, Japan's collector toy market tries extra hard to do the paint right.) As you can see from Luffy's pant cuffs, the painter barely tried. As for the face—and this is something I've never understood—Chinese bootleggers often add terrible, needless paint apps to the face, in this case, a light blue to the tops of Luffy's eyeballs. I've seen hundreds of bootlegs, and almost all of them have this fatal flaw. Check out the authentic Luffy above—he has no blue in his eyes. The blue looks stupid, mostly because it's on his eyeball. It took extra time and extra effort to add this paint app, that wasn't on the original and clearly identifies it as a bootleg. But they added it anyway.

Last but not least, if you compare the two Luffys closely, you can tell the bootleg is shinier. That's because it's also made out of a much cheaper plastic. Basically, you're looking for clear signs of cheapness and short cuts. Like, the fact that this Luffy effectively comes in pieces in an excellent sign he's a bootleg (the regular POP line does not, natch).

4) THERE'S ALWAYS A SIGN

Any time a toyline gets popular enough to get bootlegged, chances are the authentic toymakers find out about the bootlegs pretty quick. I imagine this is especially true in Japan, with its proximately to the overseas markets. Thus these companies try to create one mark that cannot be duplicated in order for people to tell the authentic toys from the bootlegs.


And thus Megahouse has. Each legitimately made Megahouse Portrait of Pirates figure has a small golden (or occasionally silver) Toei Animation sticker located on the upper-right of the package's front. The bootlegs do not. Do not buy any POP figures without first making sure this sticker is on the package.

And don't be afraid to do research. Chances are, you won't be the first person to get duped, and bitter collectors (like myself) are more than happy to bitch and moan on the internet. Hell, the Toei Animation sticker seal of approval is even mentioned on Wikipedia, for goodness’ sake, meaning I could have avoided this calamity had I done an iota of research beforehand.

But I didn't, and now I have negative $25 bucks and Luffy-shaped piece of crap to remind me of my stupidity. I can only hope that I've helped some of you to avoid similar mistakes in the future, whether it be the POP line or others. And of course, I'm happy to help out Krauser.



You can read more of Rob Bricken's bitter, needlessly mean-spirited thoughts on toys and many non-anime subjects over at ToplessRobot.com (safe for work).


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