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Fans are making custom Nendoroids of their faves

Good Smile doesn’t make your favorite character? No problem 

Three photos of custom figurines on a bright background Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

Howl Pendragon, the dashing young wizard from Howl’s Moving Castle, might steal the hearts of fans, but the dreamy eyed heartthrob doesn’t have his own official Nendoroid yet. That’s where fans come in: building their own by buying Nendoroids and mixing and matching the parts to create their own custom figurines.

These palm-sized chibi figurines made by Good Smile are a popular choice among collectors and fans. Since the first Nendoroid came out in 2006, Good Smile has listed 1,800 different versions of its big-headed figurines, featuring characters from anime favorites like My Hero Academia, video games like Overwatch, Disney franchises, and more. There are still plenty of characters that don’t have an official Nendoroid, so fans use the parts from characters that Good Smile sells, as well as individual parts from unofficial retailers, to bring their favorite characters to life.

Kate, who goes by Rose.Arrow online, is a 21-year-old student from Texas who started making custom Nendoroids as a hobby in the beginning of 2021. She runs a TikTok account and an Instagram page where she posts her figurines. Since starting, she’s shared custom Nendoroids for characters who don’t have them yet, like Howl Pendragon, as well as characters from games like Genshin Impact.

“The process starts with studying the character you want to make. It helps to really know what their outfit, hair, and face look like before going to buy parts,” she told Polygon via Discord. Nendoroids have swappable parts, so you can switch features like faces, clothing, and hair between different figures.

Although there are tons of places to buy Nendoroid parts, this first step can be difficult, according to Kate. “The trickiest part of the process really is finding the right parts to use,” Kate said. “Sometimes, I’ve had to buy a whole Nendoroid for a single part. Though I try to avoid this as much as possible.” After mixing and matching Nendoroid parts to get as close to a replica as possible, Kate modifies the figurines with air-dry clay that she paints on later.

The length of time it takes Kate to make each one depends on the level of detail. “Howl’s jacket took me quite a while with all the small lines!” she said. “However, I’ve also made custom Nendoroids with much simpler recolors that took me substantially less time, such as Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss.” Kate told Polygon she typically pays anywhere from $90 to $120 for parts and materials, but the number can go way up if she has to buy an entire Nendoroid for just one part.

Kate got the idea to make them after seeing another TikTok user, Apeachbun, post a video showing a custom Tartaglia Nendoroid. Kate felt inspired to take on the hobby herself: “During this time, I was completing a college semester completely online, so I wanted something fun to do from home!” From there, she was able to get support from custom Nendoroid groups and Discord servers, and she has since gone on to make characters from series like Ouran High School Host Club, Kamisama Kiss, and more.

As for her favorite, she said it’s hard to pick. Characters like Xiao, Razor, and Haruhi will “always hold a special place in her heart,” but “some of my absolute favorite custom Nendoroids are characters from books! There really aren’t any official Nendoroids from books outside of Harry Potter, so I really love having them!”

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