Figurines based on characters in television cartoons and popular movies are becoming collectibles in Japan — among people of all ages.

Toys for young children have been sluggish due to the low birthrate, so manufacturers are targeting their toys at adults, hoping to see potential growth in this market.

Tomy Direct has marketed sophisticated character reproductions from the third installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series released May 25, and in some shops the first shipments have already sold out.

There are 18 figures, including one of the pirate character portrayed by Johnny Depp, retailing for around 1,029 yen. The figures are only about 10 cm high, but they are finely made and adorned with colorful clothing. There is also a pirate ship priced at 12,600 yen to carry figures.

Industry sources see a boom market for such products targeting young working people.

On the toy floor at the Yodobashi Camera Co. store in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, nearly 1,000 figures and plastic models target adults.

“Conspicuous are the fathers who are buying what they want, while children are looking at toys,” said an official in charge. Salaried men and women buying such figures are increasing in number.

According to an estimate by Yano Research Institute, the market for toy figures targeting adults in 2004 was 18 billion yen but expanded to 24 billion yen in 2006. This compares with toys for young boys, a market that fell from 84.5 billion yen to 80 billion yen, and that of young girls, which eased from 29 billion yen to 26.5 billion yen.

There are many adults who are seeking to buy goods related to their favorite childhood TV shows, including characters from “Ultraman,” “Kamen Rider” and “Gundam.”

The popularity of cartoons varies from one generation to another, “Gundam” being popular with those in their 30s and “Space Battleship Yamato” with the fortysomething set.

Bandai Co. marketed a plastic model of the Yamato at a suggested retail price of 47,500 yen in January and has already shipped 12,000 units. An official in charge said, “There are many inquiries from men in their 40s.”

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