Hobby Hovel: Three Years Later

Seasons change, clocks turn, and before we knew it, Hobby Hovel is three years old! This past year has born witness to a dizzying amount of changes for me, both within and without the blog. Of course, these changes need to be chewed up, digested and expelled into the cauldron I prepare only once a year. That’s right my lovelies — it’s time for another anniversary post!

(Artist:  にわ子)

Returning from the Dead

When I wrote the second anniversary post, the future of Hobby Hovel seemed uncertain, and for a while it really seemed that way. After the Revoltech T-Rex review, it took us no less than nine months to post another review.

Ashlotte bemoaned of how well-recieved this “no-effort” shot was. It was hilarious.

Thankfully, we got back into reviewing with renewed vigour with a long series of weekly posts. Ashlotte ended up shooting photos for a bunch of reviews he’s written prior, and no matter how much he insists his photos were mediocre, I still think they look great.

I’ve started to use a black glass setup that produces some really nice reflections, and I’ve been trying a number of new things to avoid the same old routine I’ve repeated for so long. Gone are the days when an image being good enough simply by being clear — my current goal is to impress and stand out in a growing figure community full of talented individuals. You can tell by the considerably more aggressive post-processing methods I’ve been using. Whether or not I am successful in impressing people is another story, but I feel the need, which is both encouraging and intimidating at the same time.

I’m currently playing around with out out-of-focus objects as backdrops. In this photo, I used crinkled tin foil.

Asides from the black glass, I’ve had some favourable results with coloured lights. Currently I’m playing with the idea of using out of focus objects in the backdrop for interesting results. Most importantly, I feel like I’m making progress, and that’s what excites me the most going forward.


I’ve dabbled twice in the world of figure news in the past year — the Double H podcast and writing as an associate editor for Tomopop. For Double H, Ash and I pulled out certain pre-orders that went up over the past week and bounced our opinions against them in audio format, and for Tomopop, my job was post figure news (mostly new pre-orders), which also consists of me giving opinion of figures to varying degrees. Neither of these two ventures took off after the initial novelty wore off, and there are several reasons for this.

The first reason is simply that opinion and news don’t mix. Traditional news writing is not supposed to be loaded with opinion, and when it comes to figure news, I really don’t think it’s even necessary — anyone with a working pair of eyeballs can make up their own opinions about a figure, so why would I (or anyone else) care about what some random bloke thinks of a figure when I am perfectly capable of making up my own mind?

Figure news is not like  figure reviews — in the latter, the reviewer has hands-on access to the subject and is able to provide information and content  that others might not have. But in case of figure news, everyone has access to the same half dozen promo photos, and this inherent problem bugged me more and more as time went on.

Secondly, figures have always been a fun hobby to me, yet when forced to spout off opinions about pre-orders, there is often a lot of negativity. This was natural, given how picky I am with my purchases, and it certainly got amplified when discussing figures with Ashlotte, who is very vocal about what’s wrong with a given figure/figure maker/figure industry. I wasn’t a fan of this; putting a such a negative tone over the hobby just made it seem so needlessly serious. Regardless of how valid the negativity is, at the end of the day we were just complaining about a bunch of plastic tits, and when I put it that way, doesn’t that sound kind of sad?

Of course, the alternative was to fake positivity. I tried to play a bit of good cop to offset Ash’s bad cop in Double H, but I mostly struggled with this in the Tomopop posts. I don’t always get to write about the figures that I want to, and trying to muster up positivity (or even just enthusiasm) for some mediocre Griffon figure or the umpteenth Nanoha figure is hard. When I read the old reviews I’ve written, I usually do so with a smile on my face, but some of these news posts make me cringe.

Ultimately, I think the best way to go to present figure news outside of the barebones approach would be to use a humorous and light-hearted tone. This is also something I’ve attempted to do. The problem was that it made the task substantially more difficult and time consuming because humour doesn’t come naturally for me, and when you’re spending two hours to churn out a pre-order post for Tomopop, you know something’s not right.

By now, you probably think Tomopop and Double H have been horrible experience for me, but that’s not true. Of anything in the past three years, Double H probably got the most excitement out me of. Driven partly by illusions of grandeur, trying to become internet personalities with Ashlotte was not only new and refreshing, but also really fun in the early stages. The same could be said for Tomopop — I enjoyed being a part of something that was much bigger than myself. I was proud to say that I work for Tomopop, even though most of my close friends are not fans of the site. And let’s not forget that my Tony Luka figure is a review sample provided by HobbyLink Japan through Tomopop, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed shooting and reviewing that figure.

Does this mean the end of the road between me and Tomopop? Not necessarily — though I doubt I’ll be doing much in the way of figure news in the future, there might potentially be something new I’ll be working on. I don’t want to spoil it since the idea is still in its infancy, should it ever see the light of day, I’ll be sure to let you know here.

Life Outside


2012 has been the year of MMOs for Ash and I. Starting off with Star Wars: the Old Republic back in December, we’ve rolled through TERA Online and Guild Wars 2. In retrospect, the most fun I’ve had with was in TERA when we teamed up with the Otagamers and Plastic Parfait crews and cleared quests and dungeons together — at least until most of us go bored of the game. Overall, I feel that SWTOR was the most enjoyable out of the three, if only because how much personality and immersion the extensive voice-acting gave to the game.

As I mentioned in the room post, I’ve also moved out of my parents’ place. Life has been good as the flat continues to take shape, now with a 46” TV on the way. Between work, chores and other interests, I don’t have as much time for figure or even weeaboo hobbies in general — hell, I’m not even up to date with what’s being released sometimes. However, now that I’m more interested in photographing  figures, it kinda balances out. I still might not post as often as before since I’ve becoming more demanding of myself, but that also translates to less plain black backdrop sets in the future and more experimentation.

The Status Quo

Traffic to the blog has risen over the past year. Unique visitors per month averaged at 4,530 per month, peaking at 6,497 in August, up from 2,539 in the second year. Page views have also risen from 9,275 to 12,754 per month, also peaking in August at 17,519. This came as a great surprise to me, since participation on the blog has fallen noticeably. There are less comments on reviews and there also hasn’t been a lot of new faces on Twitter.

Unsurprisingly, the most-viewed pages have been the gunpla reviews. This is because Gundam models are rarely discontinued, thus reviews for these products remain relevant. I do find the fact that the top coat tutorial has overtaken the home page in terms of views hilarious.

As for the dip in active readership, I can speculate about the cause all day. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been venturing outside my small circle of blogging friends (with whom I chat with every day on Skype), thus limiting my participation in an already small community. Maybe it’s a result of MFC’s growth and the shift of the figure community from self-run blogs to a hub-site like MFC. Maybe it’s because we stopped posting reviews for nine bloody months. Hell, maybe people left after being repeatedly subjected to the sound of my voice in the Double H podcasts — who knows?

Though I occasionally dwell on this subject, my game plan remains unchanged. I’ll continue to make contents that I enjoy making and I think my readers would enjoy, be it the usual reviews, or new things like videos and whatever else that comes to my mind. The most satisfying way to elicit a response is through the merit of the post itself, and to that end I want to improve further, especially as a photographer.

Ashlotte has had some tough luck over the past year. He’s been out of a job for a while, and he’s been selling a lot of his figures, partly to give himself more financial breathing room and partly to prune his large collection. Given the circumstances, it’s natural that he hasn’t been as active on the review front as before, but I was glad to see him finding new interest in his visual novel recommendation posts, which have been very well-received. Being thousands of miles away, there’s not much I can do for Ash, but I hope his luck turns for the better in the coming year.


As always, I’d like to thank the readers for continuing to follow our misadventures, even when we lapse into periods of inactivity.

I’d like to thank Luth, Zai, Miette-chan, Exilehero, and Aka for being great pals and a goldmine of advice, figure-related or otherwise.

I’d like to thank Hamstercorp for being a great guest and a great host. It might have only been two long weekends, but your visit to Toronto and our trip to Otakon have made this summer truly memorable.

I’d like to thank Ashlotte for being a good friend and my harshest critic. Without your blunt but fair criticisms, I bet I would still be shooting everything in front of plain backdrops. Having you as my partner-in-crime has driven me to try harder at photography, if only to avoid being completely outdone by Hobby Hovel’s grumpier half.

I’d also like to extend a special thanks to Wara Zashi on Google+, who has repeatedly recommended our posts to the figure community he’s been fostering on Google+. His #figurefriday events have been great fun and a great alternative to the photoshop comic-loving crowd of MFC. At first I joined Google+ solely as another way to whore out the blog, but lately I’ve been enjoying sharing for sharing’s sake, not bothering with linking back to the blog, and I think that’s very important. If you use Google+ or is thinking of joining, be sure to add him give #figurefriday a whirl.

Annnd that’s it for this annual excessively long reflection. +1 internet cookie to you if you actually sat through all that. If you cheated and skimped…well, a cookie to you anyway for being here!

20 replies on “Hobby Hovel: Three Years Later”

<3 you too, Hamstercakes.

Hey, if it really was the cool kid's table, they you'd be the kid who's too cool for cool -- you're the one who left that Skype room all those months ago. :P

Congrats on the 3rd anniversary! I just started my own figure blog and I hope one day it has the same kind of fanbase that this page does.

Thanks Jena! You have a very pretty site and you shoot great photos, and I’ll be sure to follow you in the future. One word of advice for you, though: you might want to consider adding an alternative commenting service like Disqus. The built-in commenting system in blogger is pretty bad =/

Yay, glad to see some new content! :DDD

I am pretty sad that Double H never took off, because that’s what brought me here to the site, but oh well. Your reviews, and life-related posts, keep me here because they are really good and it’s nice to see the “behind-the-scenes” of fellow otaku like myself.

Also, getting so many hits with almost a year between posts is really impressive! very commendable indeed.

And, I know I don’t post much in the comments, but I do want to let you know I always read your news posts and read your figure reviews time to time. Keep it up, Chag 🙂

Aw, thanks dude! I’m glad to know that some people enjoyed Double H, and it encouraged us greatly while we were doing it. But now it just makes me feel bad for not being capable doing more. I wish I could just tell me self not not over-think it, but alas, it’s a questions that I’ve asked myself a year ago at this time, and I don’t think I have an answer to that.

Numbers are just numbers — after a while, they no longer matter all that much to me, especially when I know most of them are just random Google hits. Things that ARE important to me are the fact that readers like you have stuck around. Thank you. =)

Congrats on your third anniversary! It’s been great talking to you guys this past year and I’ll have to admit I’ve been a bit slack in the comments because it’s so much easier to just type it in Skype. Sorry! I think it’s great that you’re expanding your photographic horizons and I hope to see you continue. It sounds like that #figurefriday is an awesome place and I’m hoping once I get some time (hopefully soon!), I’d like to give it a try as well.
I think it’s not bad to have an opinion on news as long as it’s a unique opinion. I like to keep up on tech news and while I sometimes look at mainstream sites like Engadget, I often enjoy reading the news from Mac bloggers because I like to see what they think from the perspective of an ‘Apple fanboi’. If you’re say, a Figma enthusiast, people might turn to you for your opinions about poseability, accessories, etc. Tier is the go-to guy to find out about ecchi figures and really fantastic photos. Ash could be the Simon Cowell of figures, lol

Lol nah, I don’t really expect the Skype crew to comment for exactly the reason you mentioned. Also, I usually end up asking for photo advice before the review is up, so when it’s posted, it’s kinda old news already.

I get what you mean about opinion, but when talking about figures, the number of approaches is so limited. The depth of information is shallow, and almost everything revolves around appearances alone. I DO like the idea of Ash being the Simon of figures. If only figures could cry…

Anyways, thanks for being an A++++ pal. WOULD BEFRIEND AGAIN

Hey nobody thanked me, what a cruel world XD

Hehe anyway, congrats on your third year, even though this year was a bit silent, like with a lot of other familiar blogs. Double H was pretty awesome in my opinion, but I guess it takes a large amount of time and motivation to make these videos and voice recording. Yeah and sometimes you want to use your private life and more limited freetime for something else.

see you

Hehe, this year must’ve seemed so silent, but it has actually been more eventful for me than the preceding 2 years. Even though I wasn’t doing reviews, Double H and Tomopop did keep me pretty occupied in the figure world. As far as time goes, I actually get a decent amount of free time these days. Maybe I’m just waiting for the next crazy idea to grab me — who knows? :p

OMG, three years?! Now that’s a long time in the internets! Congratz to your three years and you got my best wishes for the next year and beyond. Makes me happy that you have found renewed vigor and will go out and try new stuff.

I have fallen in a similar situation, I think I gotten bored of using the same variously colored and patterned backgrounds for photo shoots. While the idea of building a set like I did with Aigis is appealing it doesn’t mean I have an idea for every figure. Sigh, why couldn’t I be blessed with creativity!

I wanna play another MMO with people it was surprisingly fun, although I have yet to find another that picks my interest like Tera did. The only one I have my sights on is PSO2 next year but I don’t remember you guys been too hot on playing it.

This year has been very worrisome since a good deal of the people I care about in this community slowed down or has taken long breaks. While initially scared after your long multi month break I’m happy to see you guys are back to some degree.

Ah! Come to think of it, I never did go and do an anniversary post for my blog last month. Good thing this served as a reminder.


I got cheated out of some answers for some questions here, so get cracking.

I know exactly what you mean — wanting to do new thing is great and all, but actually coming up with ideas is far easier said than done. I think a good idea is to look at other people’s work and draw inspiration from that — hell, I’d even just try to imitate it, because you never know what you’ll come across during the process.

Well, Ashlotte and Hamstercorp are pretty crazy about PSO2, and I’m succumb to peer pressure all too easily, so I’m sure we can make something happen. I don’t know too much about it, but if a game has robot maids, I’m sure there’s something in it for me :p

As for the Q&A stuff…yeah, I kinda ran out of time, since I didn’t expect to spend an entire day writing this post. The fact that there were only 2 comments also made me a little sad. I’d love to answer the questions in private, but I have a feeling your goal was to hear me squirm in public, just like what you do with figure and dolls in public. Anyways, gogo make your anniversary post already!

It’s definitely hard to figure out how to keep going when you start to hit that wall and looking for new inspirations, in hobby or in work.

Glad to see some more great posts coming through as I’ve enjoyed seeing them both in google+ and here, where I’ve lurked longer than it would indicate in g+ 🙂

Looking forward to seeing what else comes out in the next year and of course what comes of the secret project!

One of the greatest things about Google+ is that it puts a face to the audience, and seeing the +1’s from people who wouldn’t show up on my radar is really great. I’m really glad to explore this previously unknown factor, and I have to thank you for that. =)

Congratulations on making it three years. An acerbic connoisseur of snark might remark that making it three years is not a difficult achievement when one is posting every other month on average. I, of course, would not say that – indeed, I am the very image of affability and would never level such a charge.

My MMO experience tells me that taking on obligations that I don’t enjoy is a quick way to kill a hobby that I otherwise love. In your position, I’d just cut out the stuff I don’t enjoy and focus on what I like to do. It is, of course, easy for me to say this because I am somewhat older than most people who run or write for figure websites and thus I can take the stance that they are people I need not collaborate with, particularly because they probably listen to absolutely terrible music, as is most of the music the kiddies listen to these days.

Honestly, I always kinda figured the figure news posts on Tomopop were just an easy way for them to get affiliate sales from HLJ.

Wait, I’m forgetting my affability – ignore all of this.


I can’t agree with you more on the warning against obligations. Though the rate in which I make new posts has hardly been exemplary, the casual attitude I’ve taken with the blog is why it didn’t go the way of Figure Highlights and Double H. Some weeks I just would be rather doing something else other than figure crap (especially now that I got a 9-5 job), and pushing a hobby to meet a deadline becomes a jarring contradiction.

While on that topic, you’re quite something — you manage to keep the spirit of the hobby AND be productive at the same time! I suppose instead of not posting anything like me, you put up a Dakimakura review on your off-weeks. Hmmm, I should try to think of something to do during off-weeks as well…

The affiliate links on the bottom of Tomopop posts are definitely important for the site — but they’re just not a huge deal for me. I didn’t go into every new post thinking “GEE WHIZ, CAN’T WAIT TO PLEASE OUR AFFILIATES TONIGHT”, so I guess that’s one more reason why news posting didn’t work out for me, hah!.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *