Tuesday, January 16, 2007

[Gargamel] Taste the Rainbow, Lick the Vinyl

There is a custom in Japan known as fukubukuro, or lucky bags, in which merchants fill bags with a blind assortment of merchandise and sell them to customers at an overall discount on the first day of the new year. If you are at all familiar with Japan's obsession with the blind assortment phenomenon, this should not surprise you. Gargamel, supplier of all things expensive and vinyl (well, maybe not all...) has picked up on this and offers each year an assortment of lucky bags (at various price points) stuffed with exclusive colorways of its most popular figures. Reportedly, they sell out from its Thrash-Out store in minutes on New Year's Day.

Fortunately for those us on this side of the Pacific rim, stores such as Super 7 and Max Toy Co. have gone to the trouble to acquire a limited number of lucky bags, which are then sold to the scrabbling junkies online and in-store.

This year, Gargamel took us back to the early 90s with a crazy neon assortment that would be at home with slap bracelets and t-shirt ties. Aye carumba, man! Although I didn't have the scratch to pick up the holy $1,500 fuku-bag, I did manage to scavenge a couple of choice pieces.

Zombie-Guts Bako (Lucky Bag 2007)

Not an official name anyway. I just call it that because of its greenish hue and visible- and realistically colored- innards.

The Bakobaso is one of Gargamel's newer entries in its Zokki Kaiju series of figures. It unfortunately has not garnered the popularity of Gargamel's original Zokki release, the Zagoran, which is based on an obscure kaiju known as Zagora (who looks suspiciously like a cycloptic Godzilla...). I'm not sure if the Bako has similarly distinguished lineage, but I have also passed over it in the past, mostly because the painted eyes and open mouth give it sort of a simpleton look.

I definitely like this Bako better as an unpainted figure. The blank eyes give it an edgier, monstrous look, and the lack of paint allows you to appreciate the fine detail in the sculpt more fully. Lack of paint also improves the "guts" feature of this figure, as the torso is sculpted completely from translucent vinyl and there is no paintwork to obscure the view of the innards- or their glow-in-the-dark qualities. Yes, it has GID guts. The effect of this figure is much like a Visible Man scientific model, and I quite like it.

Another plus for the Bako is that Gargamel uses a high quality sort of vinyl that is very heavy and glossy. It's hard to explain without actually handling the figures, but no other company's product that I've handled feels quite the same. Unfortunately, my figure did have a few bubbles in the vinyl that migrated toward the back of the clear torso.

As for availability and pricing, this Bako was just released at the turn of the year in both a painted and unpainted version. I paid roughly $90 at retail for this figure; expect to pay anywhere from $90 to $120 if buying one in the near future. The Guts Bako is still fairly easy to find at various auctions and retail webstores at the time of this article.

Guts-Bako rocks! He's like a big (9 inches tall!) Garga-zombie who roams the land in search of brains. Skullbrains!

Unpainted Mini-Tetran (Lucky Bag 2007)

As a bonus, Gargamel included in some of its bags a preview of the things to come this year. Unpainted versions of the new minis- the Tetran and Belagon- were released along with the other Lucky Bag offerings.

As always, being relatively ignorant of kaiju lore, I don't know where the 'original' Tetran hails from.

I can't say the sculpt for the Tetran immediately appeals to me, but it does grow on you over time. Again, I think the lack of paint was a point in its favor, as I don't care much for the first painted colorway that is planned for this figure.

The unpainted Tetran should run you about as much as the other new mini releases from Gargamel. One question that has not been answered, however, is which of the Lucky Bags contained the unpainted, unreleased minis. Although presumably all items could be conceivably found in either Lucky Bag A, B or Special (the big one), I've only seen the Tetran and Belagon turn up in the $1,500 bag as of this date.

Tetran's cool, but he definitely needs to be buddied up with the unpainted Belagon. They remind me of the comedic henchlings of some Japanese cartoon villain.

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