Monday, January 27, 2014

Gamera 1995: Guardian of the Universe

This version of Gamera is based on his look in the 1995 film "Guardian of the Universe". It was released by Trendmasters in 1998, and it was designed as a toy, not as a collector's item. Keeping in mind that this was a $10 toy for children, it's surprisingly good. Of course, it pales in comparison to Bandai vinyl and Revoltech versions, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better version at this price.

Gamera stands about 4 and 1/4 inches tall. He has an acceptable sculpt, in that he's a recognizable representation of the film's look. There's a pretty decent level of detail, with varied textures: wrinkly, saggy skin on the arms and legs, symmetrical engravings on the shell belly and bumps scattered across the outer shell. The head and face are well-represented, as well. The claws and toes are a bit more gloppy, but that seems to be more a result of sloppy paint than the sculpt. There are a couple of eyesores, however. You'll find five screws and their corresponding holes on the underside of the shell, four more on the arms, a battery cover (to no purpose on this version) on the shell back, and a series of microphone holes (to no purpose on this version, either) on the chest. I think there was a larger version made that utilized the electronics that this smaller, scaled-down version is missing. The left foot is sculpted with the toes pointing up- not sure why since the leg doesn't move back far enough to allow the toes to lie flat.
The paint is poor. There's lots of slop, especially on the claws, toes, fangs and chest. I think the claws/teeth was intended to look like weathering, but it just comes across as dirty. The eyes and inner teeth are thankfully pretty good, but there's an odd yellow line painted down the front of his chest. Gamera's mouth is sculpted mid-roar, and there's a giant hole in the center of his mouth for the included launching fireball accessory (which shoots fairly well, even after 16 years).

The articulation is surprising- I wasn't expecting what I got. The head can tilt very far forward and backwards, though I would have liked a swivel or something there, too. Mostly, that's because his head is glued on with a slight tilt. There are swivels at the shoulders, hips, and tail, and the elbows can bend. That doesn't sound like much, and it's not, but the joints generally have a pretty good range of motion. You won't get anything dynamic, but Gamera's not a dynamic poser- he's a turtle, though it's enough to get him into a pretty good "flying pose" without retracting any limbs.

Trendmasters Gamera is a really good toy. It's sturdier and much more playable than vinyls are, and it's much easier to handle than the Revoltechs. He's still on the smaller side (if you can find the larger, electronic boxed version, go for it (but I'm guessing the cost will be higher)), but he's pretty fun. And at the price I paid (about $12 shipped), he's a steal...
Trendmasters Gamera 1995 & Revoltech Gamera 1995

Monday, January 20, 2014

GAMERA - Bandai Vinyl

This version of Gamera comes from the 1999 film, "Revenge of Iris", and is stamped with a 2005 under his right foot. It's a Bandai vinyl figure (not a Bandai America release) that was originally released in the Japanese market with one of those tags attached to its shell.

Gamera 1999 stands about 5 1/4"inches tall, and is a pretty great looking figure. The sculpt features some awesome detail. There's a subtle scale mohawk atop the head that feathers away down the back of the neck. Unlike Godzilla, who (in his various incarnations) sports rough bark-like skin, Gamera has deep folds to replicate drooping skin. The arms, legs, tail and throat all the way down to where the top of the inner shell becomes his "chest" are full of layers and folds.

The face looks great from any angle, somehow coming across as "wise". The eye coloring is especially striking- a bright green. Despite the strengths of the face, my only complaint about the figure comes in here, and it has to do with the paint of the teeth. It's the tusks, actually. They are only half-painted, which looks terrible from some angles. I'll do some touching-up eventually to take care of that. Otherwise, paint on the figure is minimal, but strong. Besides the teeth and eyes, the fingernails, toenails and chest get the paint apps. The chest is especially nice- a shimmering gold has been dry-brushed over the beautiful sculpted detail to really make the shell pop. There's a little brown highlighting on some of the bone protrusions to add some realism.

The outer shell is beautiful- very symmetrical with smooth plating overlapping, with some sharper outer edges. There are a few places where the matte has some glossy marks, but the overall look is great. Gamera has cuts at the shoulders, hips and near the base of the tail. They allow for some slight adjustments of his standard pose, but this isn't really an articulated figure- it's more of an adjustable statue.

For what he is, Gamera is a terrific figure. He looks great, faithfully captures the look from the film, and is well-engineered. Until I get an X-plus figure, he'll probably remain the best vinyl kaiju I own. On top of all that, he was a great deal at under $20 from Clawmark Toys. Highly recommended!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

GYAOS - SciFi Revoltech Series No. 007 Figure Review

This figure is based on the "villain kaiju" from 1995's "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe", the first film in the modern Gamera trilogy. It was released by Kaiyodo as part of their SciFi Revoltech line, which introduced collectors to a range of highly articulated monster figures. The figures come in attractive, collector-friendly book-style window boxes with loads of photographs and Japanese text, and feature some neat accessories, detailed sculpts, excellent paint apps with some weathered highlights and a maddening level of articulation, via the special Revoltech "revolver joints". I personally have a very difficult time with these, but I'm pose-impaired anyway, so your level of success may easily eclipse mine.

Gyaos comes sandwiched in a plastic tray, complete with a few twisty ties and plastic slips for protection. I kind of like that (even though it's mostly unnecessary)- it makes me feel like I'm getting a collector's piece, and not some cheap toy. Included are: a storage box and Japanese toy coin, a name plate in Japanese, a mini flying Gyaos and its clear stand, and a large black stand and attachment piece for the figure. Gyaos comes with his right wing/arm detached, but it pops on very easily. That's actually one of the "perks" I had to get used to with these revolver joints: they are designed to have their attachments pulled apart and replaced. In some instances, one needs to use some needle-nosed pliers to rotate the joint before snapping the limb back into place.
Gyaos is an awkward-looking creature when standing, and the figure is no different. He looks much more imposing and natural in an in-flight pose.

The figure's articulation works well with the design to allow a range of poses. In short, he's fun. The revolver joints accomplish their mission: for instance, there's a joint at the shoulder, and one on either side of both hands. The rubbery material used for the wings combines with these to allow them to fold inwards and outwards really naturally for some neat options. The hips and knees work well together to allow him to stand or "fly". My only difficulties came at the knees and ankles, which are hinge joints, but are a shade loose, which means he tends to topple fairly easily unless you distribute his weight just right.

The sculpt and paint are great, with some neat textures and cool highlighting to capture the Gyaos look. I don't find him to be quite as detailed as an SH MonsterArts figure, but he's still reasonable in the "collector" realm.

The engineering of the figure is very thoughtful and practical. There's a small rubbery "wattle" below the throat that covers the joint when he tilts his head back. I already mentioned the material used for the wings. The tail can spread slightly for "flight mode". It's all good. There's only 2 exceptions for me. One is the stand- it's really black and thick, and it's supposed to attach at the base of the tail (which seems a little awkward to me). I'm going to opt for a Tamashii Stage Act stand instead. The other nitpick I have is with the absence of a beam attachment. I haven't seen the film for a while, but I thought he had a beam (I know the 1967 Gyaos did, and his figure comes with one)?

Gyaos looks amazing in-flight! With this figure, I'm looking for an accurate representation of the film with enough articulation to get a couple of cool poses on the shelf and enough detail to keep me coming back to check him out. He accomplishes all of that! In fact, once I got messing with him in-flight, I loved that look so much that that's how he's going to stay on the shelf for now.

Gyaos 1995 is a terrific figure. If you are a Gamera fan, he's a must-have, and he's worth the investment. He looks great, is fairly easy to pose, and menaces Revoltech Gamera quite well. Highly recommended!
Revoltech Gamera 1996, Gyaos 1995 & Gamera 1995

Saturday, January 11, 2014

SH MonsterArts Kiryu Mechagodzilla 3

This is my second-favorite figure of 2013. Kiryu hits on all cylinders: beautiful packaging, terrific sculpt, flawless paint, brilliantly engineered articulation, some great accessories and neat "little extras" in the form of opening panels and articulated thrusters. It's an absolute joy to behold, and (despite a hefty price-tag) does everything it can to make itself a worthwhile purchase.

Kiryu, aka Mechagodzilla 3, aka MSF-3 comes in a beautiful window box. Everything is held tight in a clear sandwich tray as shown. You get: 3 interchangeable sets of eyes, a removable cannon backpack, and a removable dual laser for each arm, complete with an additional knife attachment for each. Everything attaches securely and relatively painlessly, and works as it should. It's enough to get a great variety of looks and poses, combined with his opening chest panels for the Absolute Zero Cannon, opening thigh panels for thrusters, super-articulated tail and a couple of small adjustable thrusters just behind his shoulders.

Kiryu is my favorite Mechagodzilla design, and this figure captures all the great angles and nuances of the suit perfectly. The proportions are awesome, and the sculpt is engineered to work in tandem with the articulation. The figure can most certainly achieve poses that the actual suit could not. There are a couple of spots where tube attachments restrict movement a bit, so be careful around the head and thighs areas where you'll find them.

Otherwise, there are loads of articulation points, and most provide a decent enough range of motion to make posing a joy rather than a chore. There's a piece just above the hips that's unattached (it's where those 2 tubes wrap around at the waist) and floats to allow the waist to have a better range of motion. The shoulders allow movement forward, backwards, out to the sides, etc. I can't explain it all, and wouldn't want to: suffice it to say that he poses as well as you'd possibly want him to.

Kiryu stands about 7" tall and feels solid (there's some metal in his construction". At the MSRP of around $95, he's expensive. But you're getting a quality representation of an awesome character. I managed to catch a VERY fleeting sale on Amazon just before Christmas (it was one of those 10-minute deals) and picked him up for $62 shipped, for which I'm ecstatic. I love, love, love Kiryu and am so thrilled to have him as part of my SH MonsterArts collection...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

S.H. MonsterArts Godzilla (1964)

I really like the look of the 1964 Godzilla suit. I prefer the face and thinner body-type to the 1994 Godzilla, so I was really looking forward to this MonsterArts release. Despite some serious shortcomings (no pun intended), little 1964 Godzilla has managed to become my favorite MonsterArts figure  released so far.

Yes, pretty much all of the criticisms you've probably heard about are accurate. He's too small. Yes, he is, especially for the cost. He has no accessories. True, which is terrible, especially for the cost. The box is windowless and boring. Yes, it is. His feet don't sit flat at the heels. Mostly true. The new side "hip panels" are hideous and unnecessary. True. The shoulders don't have much of a range of motion. Also, true. The eyes are not painted like previous releases. Correct. There's a weird gap between the two largest spines on his back. Absolutely. So now that all of that is out of the way, let's get to why this guy is at the top of my MonsterArts Godzilla list.

I think the biggest reason is that I love the way he looks. I really like this suit, and I think the figure replicates it very well. The sculpt and paint work perfectly together to replicate the 1964 suit. The face and head are terrific, especially from the front right-side angle. The look manages to be great whether the mouth is open or closed.

Speaking of which, the mouth and skin detailing are both brilliant. I love the nooks and crannies on each of the dorsal spines from the head all the way down to the end of his tail. His skin texture is awesome, and I love the thick brow ridges above the eyes. The hip articulation cuts are a definite eye-sore, and I agree that his ability to "do the splits" is probably not worth having them.

The tail is great- looks and works really well. The rest of the articulation is mostly good. The torso is a little restricted side-to-side and he tends to pop apart when tilted forward deeply. It also doesn't eliminate the "gap", even when tilted as far back as it will go. The extra pieces used for the neck articulation add to the movement, though Godzilla looks like he's wearing a turtle-neck from some angles. The claws, hands poses and highlighting are all great. Oh, and I love the eyes. They look a little googly, but I really like the effect.

Godzilla (1964) really has only two major detractions, as far as I am concerned, and they both relate to the price. At $65, he's about $25 too expensive. Why? Well, 1) he is notably smaller than previous Godzilla releases. Whatever the reasoning in terms of Showa and Hesei and new scales and whatever are fine, jus charge me a reasonable price for what I'm getting. Godzilla Jr. and Rodan didn't cost $65, and they came with loads of stuff. Which brings me to 2) he has no accessories whatsoever. Really? We can't even re-package or repaint a beam effect from a previous release? At $40, '64 would be a solid bet. At the $60 I paid ToyFreakz for him, I couldn't help but feel a tad disappointed. That said, I really like the figure itself. I've been reflecting lately (that's what the New Year is for, right?), and I've learned a little about myself. As a kid, and for a good amount of time as an adult (before kids), I was a model-builder. Plastic kits of ships, tanks, starships, etc. I learned to appreciate the realism and detail of weathering and sculpt. I think I look mostly for those things with my figures. For me, sculpt and paint are #1, with articulation coming in behind. As long as I can get one or two cool poses out of my figures, I'm happy. It's nice to know I could get more, but the fact is once it's on the shelf, rarely will I mess with it. And if I get a pose  I really like, I cringe at changing it for fear of not finding that one awesome look again. As a model, Godzilla (1964) is great, and he does pose really well. An additional inch, a couple of accessories or a lower price would have gone a long way towards endearing him further. As it stands, I'm predicting that Millennium Godzilla 2000 is going to knock off my #1 Godzilla spot. The verdict is out for a couple more weeks, and then we'll know for sure...