Friday, July 25, 2008

MechaGonira by Amapro

MechaGonira (メカゴニラ) by Amapro (アマプロ) is just a little different than the other gorilla toys I have written about so far. What we have here is essentially a mashup of King Kong and a lesser known monster named Garuban.

This toy is actually based on a diecast toy from the 1970s. You can see the toy here to the right. I'm not entirely sure what company produced this toy... or what the toy is even called, but it shares a body with the diecast Garuban figure made by the same company. Since the head is attached only via magnet, I guess it was very easy to somply sculpt a new plastic head for the existing metallic bodies.

Fast forward to today, and you have Amapro creating a vinyl toy paying homage to this obscure little toy here.

Header //2 out of 5//:
I like the fact that this header is bigger than would normally be on this size figure. I also like the artwork found on the front... the style is immediately recognizable.

But the header is a generic header for Amapro apparently, and the name of the figure within seems to be simply stamped in the upper right corner. The back is just plastered with information and a cheesy spacescape.

Sculpt //3 out of 5//:
For me this is the strongest element of this toy. While it is lacking articulation, which is pretty significant (only the arms move... not even the head turns!), it is an interesting sculpt and a great homage to the obscure toy.

The textures all come together well here, with the chunky garbage limbs and torso meeting the smooth metal-like surfaces of the chest and shoulders, to the organic face and nicely molded hair. The sculptor elected to go with a simple star on his chest as opposed to a door like on the diecast. I'm not sure I like the star all that much because it seems out of place to me.

The horn on the forehead as well as the tusks protruding from his mouth are a nice touch I think. And the bejeweled eyes are just great, as they were on the old toy.

The vinyl isn't the best quality, but it is nice and solid. The figure is also well balanced, which is good since you cannot position the legs at all.

Paint //4 out of 5//:
Nice, classic kaiju style giving highlight where needed and not going overboard. There are quite a few colors here surprisingly with the darker blue laid over the lighter blue vinyl, as well as the nice gold and silver metallics as the main highlight, and even some darker, sludgier silver on the knees and elbows.

Value //?? out of 5//:
I cannot remember what I paid for this as it has been quite some time! I don't really see them pop up all that often, which either says it's a nice, solid release, or that no one cares to see them. I'd think if it ever showed up, you could find it for retail or so.

Overall //3.5 out of 5//:
Positives: Nice paint, interesting character, cool homage to an obscure Japanese toy.

Negatives: No articulation except for shoulders, vinyl isn't nice and smooth

I've decided to get rid of the Coolness category because it sounds lame. I can just talk about it here!

This toy isn't the greatest, but it's quirky and cool nonetheless. I like the paint, and gorillas and junk monsters are always OK in my book. You won't regret picking this one up if you like what it looks like here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Giant Gorilla by Marusan

As promised, here I bring you these fugly guys: Giant Gorilla (ジャイアントゴリラ) by Marusan (マルサン). These are virtually the same across all colorways, so I will write about them all at once. Come to think of it, that is probably a better idea than how I have been doing it if i plan to show off the same sculpt in different colors right around the same time.

I had a quote in the Buta No Hana Gorilla article explaining Toho's hesitancy in allowing companies to make toys called King Kong, and instead the vinyl toys manufacturers made giant gorillas to avoid any potential legal problems with Universal.

I found some Marusan history in the Super7 Mook (a great resource for these as well as Secret Base and Real Head toys by the way) that was released late last year.

Marusan was in the midst of a kaiju boom in the mid-1960s thanks to many movies and the Ultra-Q show on television, and Marusan moved from tin and plastic toys to the cheaply and quickly produced vinyl toys. The company produced vinyl toys from 1966 to 1969, but eventually closed and were bought out by three former employees who went on to form Bullmark.

The Giant Gorilla was made in 1967, originally in a dark blue color and perhaps others that I do not know about. All of my Giant Gorillas are reproductions that Marusan produced from the original molds in the 1990s. There is a large brown one out there that I have yet to come across, but I have a spare blue one so maybe I'll just get to painting!

This gorilla rides the border between official Toho monsters that Marusan released and their completely original offerings that came later on. Masusan not only released these, but other of their original sculpts in the 90s.

Header //3 out of 5//:
While the painted header is really cool, Marusan really just offers up what seems to be a generic header with the name of the toy inside printed in the top right corner on the front. On the front you get to see a Thor type character giving a swift flying chop to an evil chicken, then some generic monsters swooping in to fight or fornicate on the back.

The header is larger than most I have seen... similar width but about twice as deep.

If the header had more to do with the toy inside, I would like it a lot better. The imagery is very cool.

Sculpt //3 out of 5//:
Despite my simian bias, I will be the first to admit that this is a pretty crude sculpt.

The mouth is not quite a mad roar and not quite a smile. The facial expression does not say angry as I expect a giant gorilla to be. He just looks kind of bored or possibly like he is singing off key....

...about gorilla stuff...

I like the bulky look of the hands and feet, but the arms in particular feel crooked in a way. The hands come off the forearms less like a menacing fist and more like he is saying YAAAAY while shaking his fists in excitement.

It seems perhaps that the sculptor was going for some semblance of realism with the sculpt as evidenced by the legs. Gorillas have very small hind legs compared to their arms, and walk using not only their feet but their knuckles. The legs here seem so be aiming for that shortness with a giant ass (common theme with gorilla toys?). Since the gorilla is standing on two feet as opposed to two feet and two knuckles, it makes the legs a little crooked and awkward.

All of this said, the sculpt is very endearing to me. This toy was not made for geeky collectors like me, but rather for kids to buy en masse and tear up in their sand boxes and bathtubs. And for this, it is great! It is stylized enough to be fun and original and not just a gorilla statue, and the small details like the tiny teeth, fur, toenails, nipples etc. bring it all together.

It is very solid and well balanced. The arms are positioned perfectly to lay a big punch on an invading Godzilla... the mouth is open for roars and bites. These apes would make great playthings.

Paint //3 out of 5//:
Average all around. These gorillas were originally mass produced, so simple, direct paint jobs were going to work best. Lots of paint would just get chipped off on the playground anyway. These reproductions are made to just reflect the paint jobs of the originals.

The blue gorilla is obviously cast in blue vinyl, and from what I can tell is the closest to the original color (which was a darker blue). There is yellow on the chest for contrast, and red eyes and tongue.

The gold might be my favorite with the silver spray on his chest and red eyes and tongue here too.

And the pink has a very similar color scheme to my pink Buta No Hana gorilla with yellow on the chest as well and gold eyes! The yellow on the chest here is a little oversprayed onto the armpit, which is always a little disappointing.

All of them have the same silver teeth.

Coolness //4 out of 5//:
I like that they are awkward and ugly... and knowing the history of these adds to the coolness for me. I can totally geek out and talk about it with someone who might ask.

Value //5 out of 5//:
These do not seem all that popular or hard to find (except maybe the brown one floating around. You should be able to find these for 10-15 dollars each which is a fantastic price for such a solid piece. I have never seen a vintage one, but be prepared to pay much much more for one of those.

Overall //3.75 out of 5//:
Positives: Bulky, fun to play with, history, can find them on the cheap

Negatives: Awkward gorilla shapes, generic paint jobs, take up a lot of space

These are great to have for the history behind them, or if you want them to punch the shit out of your other monsters. If you like the look and can find it for cheap, it's definitely worth the pick up. But otherwise, you won't miss it much in your collection.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Gorilla by Buta No Hana

I just wrote about Gorilla (ゴリラ) by Buta No Hana (ぶたのはな), and here is his blue brother in arms.

Like the pink gorilla, the blue gorilla is a great, playful sculpt with a wild paint job.

Header //4.5 out of 5//:

Sculpt //5 out of 5//:

Paint //4.5 put of 5//:

Technically I think the paint is on par with the pink gorilla, but I just don't like the color choices as much. Light blue vinyl with dark blue and green spray. I think the green is a little too conrasty with the blues to be as effective. It works on his face fine, but his legs look a little off because of it.

Coolness //5 out of 5//:

Value //2 out of 5//:

Overall //4.5 out of 5//:
Positives: Great paint and color, personality, unique sculpt for a gorilla

Negatives: Pricey for its size, color not as nice as the pink gorilla

Still most definitely a worthwhile purchase if you can find it!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gorilla by Buta No Hana

It seems I have stumbled into Gorilla Month here on my blog. So let's keep the trend alive with this little beauty: Gorilla (ゴリラ) by Buta No Hana (ぶたのはな)

Buta No Hana makes mainly mini sized monsters and dinosaurs. Many of the monsters made are Ultraman villains and even a few Ultramen. The other series released are these quirky little dinosaurs (and some elusive cavemen) that are like those vinyl toys you may have bought in the drug store or the back aisles of Roses or KMart as a kid. Obviously the Buta No Hana dinos are better quality... and they are significantly smaller.

I suppose this figure is Buta No Hana's take on King Kong. Or It may just be a large ape, as it is marketed with their dinosaurs as opposed to their monsters. Whatever it is, it's crude in an endearing way, it's playful... it's fun as Buta No Hana's toys always seem to be.

Turtletooth on skullbrain has this to say about the figure:

"When Toho came out with their Godzilla vs. King Kong movie in '62 they didn't have a liscence to use the King Kong character from Universal.

Because of that there is always an issue with Toho not wanting to license anything associated with their Kong for fear of stirring up the Universal legal department. As a result most toys related to the Toho Kong are sold as "giant ape" toys. The first was the Marusan giant ape, the Bandai kong is also a generic "ape" figure, and more recently the mysterious company called APES released accurate representations of both the '62 and '67 Toho Kongs. Apparently the legal hubub is so great that a fake company was necessary to avoid the license issues.

It's interesting that Buta No Hana actually had a license from Toho to make vinyls of the characters from the '62 film. They made a '62 King Goji and even an Oodako (giant octopus) under that Toho license but opted to give their ape figure a generic name."

That answers the question of where this little guy comes from it seems!

It also answers the question of what toy I will write about next! (ahem Marusan giant ape ahem)

The Buta No Hana toys all have a retro feel to their styling as well as a lot of personality. You can almost see the sculptors personality in the sculpts themselves. They remain toys that have a definite sense of humor despite being based on giant monsters that step on buildings and eat people.

Header //4.5 out of 5//:
These headers rock. Little illustrations and colorful type really compliment the style of these toys well. I'm not entirely sure what it says (the first little bit is Buta No Hana), but I have been told that all the headers for the dinosaur toys are the same. The only thing I would like to see different is having the header change for each toy it is for. I want a Kong specific header!

Sculpt //5 out of 5//:
Normally I would deduct for having little or no articulation, but with minis, usually all you get is a waist joint and the arms in a constant state of updom. I discussed it already, but these and other Buta No Hana toys have great personality and a sense of humor about themselves. Kong's oversized mouth, nipples, and giant bare ass are funny little elements to a normally mean and violent character. The arms being UP is not a problem and actually works well in this case... as it is an APE!

Despite its simplicity, there is some nice detail in the sculpt. The teeth are great, and the lines around the mouth really add to the facial expression. I really like the shape of the hands and feet as they almost have the appearance of being chiseled.

Technically, the quality of the vinyl doesn't feel as nice as say an M1Go sculpt, but it is still nice and heavy. The figure is well balanced... no shelf divers here.

Paint //5 put of 5//:
No problems here. The colors work well on a pretty over the top colored gorilla. The vinyl is hot pink and there is actually a pretty complex color application here with a lot of orange, some yellow, and even silver teeth and golden eyes.

I wouldn't have thought that orange would work well over pink, but obviously it does. To be as bright as it is, the figure isn't garish. It's quite impressive.

The bright colors on a gorilla greatly add to the playfulness of the sculpt I think.

Coolness //5 out of 5//:
Funny little gorilla with a big ass.

Value //2 out of 5//:
If you can actually find this one, it's probably going to cost you about 3 times retail. If you can ever find one at retail, or near there, however, jump on it if you like it because these things are worth holding on to.

Overall //4.5 out of 5//:
Positives: Great paint and color, personality, unique sculpt for a gorilla

Negatives: Pricey for its size

Said it already, but pick this guy up if you are a fan and can find one. They are standout pieces in an ape collection and will make all your gorilla collecting friends drool!