Every collector has species and figures that they consider holy grails. Species or figures that they know exist (or should exist) that they honestly don’t know if they’ll actually find. Sometimes we never do, because the figure is that rare (WwD Ornithocheirus anyone?) or the species is not actually made commercially (sigh. Bowfin.). This figure is one of mine. Sort of. But it was very much a find I was never sure I’d get my hands on. A Kaiyodo Aqualand SILVER Arowana!
I had always been a fan of the more primitive fishes (all the ‘not-euteleosts’) including bichirs (obviously), sturgeon, paddlefish, gars, bowfin, bonytongues, lungfish, coelcanths…and eels and their kin. But other than the latter (well, specifically, eels), I was unable to find any merchandising of pretty much any kind for any of them. And then I discovered the wonders of the Japanese collectable market! For the first time, I was finally able to get my hands on at least a few–coelacanths, Australian lungfish, sturgeon, and most notably Asian arowana. It stood out that the only arowana I could find was always the Asian arowana Scleropages formosus (ignoring the recent proposed splitting); one exception was a S. leichardtii from Yowies, and I found it troubling that the genus I was most familiar with, Osteoglossum, the South American arowana, were not available at all. No one else was aware of any either…until one day, about 10 years ago, someone came across an eBay auction from Japan (of course) of a silver arowana and showed it off on a forum.
So now the hunt was sort of on (sort of, because I knew the odds could be slim). It was the first I had heard of ‘Aqualand’ figures from Kaiyodo. They were released in the mid-to-late 90’s as resin collectable figures in fancy acrylic boxes. At the same time, there was also a series of prehistoric figures called Dinolad, with a similar style and marketing; some of those were released as models to assemble, others were single piece and prepainted. The lines were clearly meant to be a higher end; they are definitely not toys as the material is more of a resin or composite. The bases on the Aqualand were also indicative of this–instead of plastic rods, the figures have thin metal rods, and the bases were either diorama-like, or a small shell. The fit is loose, and many of the figures do not display or even stand well without them.
I did try to find the silver arowana, but had no luck. Eventually I learned that there were several other interesting ones (notably a few alligator gars) but even if I ever saw them, most were sold for far more than I was willing to spend. Even the one silver arowana I knew about was later sold–and he never even offered it to me! Outrageous! So it just turned into the sort of thing that I just accepted I might never find. And then…because of an associate that has contacts that buy for him in Japan, my luck turned. He knew that I was always interested in odd fish figures, and I had specifically mentioned the Aqualand silver arowana if it was ever noticed, and sent me a direct link (I had missed one once, again, it went WAY higher in price than I could accept).
But eventually…I got the email! With a link! To an auction link for a Kaiyodo Silver Arowana! Of course I jumped at it, and it didn’t cost…quite as much as I’d feared. Admittedly, I kind of justified the splurge to myself as a birthday gift to myself (it was my 40th so treat myself!) First thing that I noticed–it is a different Osteoglossum than the one I knew about–and I’m pretty sure it’s an older one. Unlike Aqualand figures that I had seen (never held–I have a few dinos, but no other Aqualand figures), the base is a black plastic pin holder, instead of the usual shell or diorama. And despite having eventually found some catalog images, I have never seen this one in a catalog photo. It also stands out by being a little more plainly coloured, with a more greenish tinge and a little less shiny.
The figure is still a really cool one, and (at the time) was still representing a species that was otherwise not made, and is definitely among my favorite models (ironically, Favorite Co recently added a silver arowana to its Ancient Fishes line; and Oeneux out of China has also made some copies in different colour variants). This model is definitely older than the ones I’d seen before, based on the rougher design. It has a nice natural curve to the body that gives a natural swimming shape. The greenish tinge is a little odd; since I’m not aware of any Osteoglossum (black or silver) that has that type of colour so who knows where that came from (there are green Asian arowana variants…but not South American). No matter what, the figure is an awesome addition to my collection, and for those who are interested is the ‘primitive fishes’ it’s definitely something to track down, but I’m going to to be honest, it’s probably not going to be easy. Or cheap. And I still want that other one (but I’m not going to stress about it)! At least Favorite Co has made a (slightly) more accessible one for species collectors.