Yeah, it's not really Halloween related. I had to drag this guy out of his comfy giant tupperware container for a few photos recently, and I figured I would post the good ones up here.
This big fella is Star Saber, better known in Japan as the guy who came to take over after God Ginrai (aka Powermaster Optimus Prime). Although he's in pretty good shape, truth is, I bought him some 15 years ago on a trip to Japan with my parents. We went in around 1989 or '90, which would have put the trip squarely in the middle of Transformer Victory's run of episodes. I still remember buying Star Saber in a small row of shops on the way from the train stop in Ueno and watching the shopkeeper pull it off of a high, dusty shelf.
When I think back about that trip, it amazes me as to the prices that Japanese Transformers command today. By 1989-90, the American market for Transformers was slowing down, but in Japan, it still had a couple of good years left with Transformers Masterforce, Victory, Zone and Operation Combination. Similarly, the toy line also diverged in Japan; Takara began recoloring American releases, and at the same time, started shifting the line toward more of a super robot style, with more outlandish colors and less realistic vehicle modes (although some might argue that believable alternate modes were dead after 1985). As a consequence, the Japanese toy shelves were chock full of toys that would never be seen in America- Galaxy Shuttle, Minerva, Deszaras, Dinoking and more that I probably can't remember. And although my parents were more than generous in what they allowed me to buy and take home, I can't help but think sometimes of the things that I passed up.
I'm hitting a point where I have more toys coming in than I have time to write comprehensive pictorial reviews of each one. So rather than let these little gems languish unseen in my old display cabinet, I'm starting the first of (I hope) many quick posts called "One-shots."
1. Secret Base Carnival Victory paint Skull Bee (Cocobat Joe homage).
I think I have maybe 6 Secret Base toys, but there is only one that I would never trade away. The first Carnival Victory paint Skull Bee was among the earliest SB toys released, and painted in a fairly complex scheme to match the Medicom Cocobat Joe figure. Incidentally- or maybe intentionally- this scheme also looks somewhat like the original Kamen Rider uniforms. The Cocobat Bee is a beautiful piece with rich, dark sprays. If only all SB toys could be like this, eh?
2. Cool Zone Kid Octopus.
Kid Octopus is the second character in the "Cool Zone" series of toys produced by Ichibanboshi, released at the 2007 Summer Wonderfestival. The vinyl is a bit harder than I'd typically prefer, but the sculpt has a great simplistic retro feel, and the tentacles even have sucker detail.
3. Bwana Spoons x Gargamel Killers.
"Sleeping Killer" is the first collaborative figure conceived by artist Bwana Spoons and sculpted and produced by Gargamel. It's a bit bigger than the typical Japanese mini-figure, and has been released in several colorways- including an extremely limited set of 7 Killers cast in colored GID vinyl that was sold at 2007 SDCC. In this photo, we have the original Pacific Northwest Tiger Salamander Killer, Milk Chocolate Killer (handpainted by Bwana!), and the unpainted clear Pink Killer from the "Killer Dragons from the West" show at Gargamel's Thrash-Out store. To be honest, the first Killer (Tiger Salamander) is still my favorite of all of the releases.
4. M1Go Chibull Seijin (GID).
I fell in love with Chibull Seijin after seeing it featured in David Horvath's Super7 artwork. And it glows in the dark. No more words. Look at the picture.
5. Charactics King Walder Mini-Figure set.
Charactics released a full-color set of the King Walder characters at a Wonderfestival over a year ago, and it has been nearly impossible to find (along with those elusive clear glittery Invader minis). However, they did us all a favor (well, all except those owners of the original sets) by releasing another full color set of the King Walder minis at the 2007 Summer Wonderfestival. But this time, they cast them in clear vinyl and stuffed them with little organ inserts. Joy! Thank goodness Charactics waited to do this until I was finally around to buy them.
Well, October has snuck up on us (maybe just me) faster than you can say "Beetlejuice" (three times), and I need to transition this site over to Super Spooky mode. But it would be irresponsible of me to move on without bringing my 3-part feature on Max Toy Co.- and friends- to a close.
The first part of "Cronic Rumblings" took a look at the original RJB Custom 2nd Pharaos from Rumble Monsters in a comparison with the hand-painted Max Toy Club Pharaos that was released earlier this year. Next, we reviewed both the painted "tie-dye" and unpainted clear Maverasi, which were designed by Mark Nagata and executed by Koiwa Naoki (Cronic). Now finally, I think the feature will be brought full circle by our look at three Nougaki, another Cronic piece, one of which was released in 2006 at the Summer Wonderfestival, another of which was released at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con and sold at the Max Toy Co. booth, and the third of which was recently sold at Cronic's booth at the 2007 Summer Wonderfestival.
Although it definitely has a growing fanbase, the Nougaki seems to be the least favored of the Cronic sculpts. The Dorogami and Dorome attract the gloppy, disgusting Hedorah lovers; the Maverasu, Zyuraiasu and Bakurasu are classic Cronic, and perhaps appeal to fight figure fans. In contrast, the Nougaki really does not resemble any other JP vinyl sculpt stylistically, and sort of exists in an odd middle ground between the bite-sized Dorogami and the 5-6" 'Asu types. To give an example of how difficult a sell it can be, I've seen Nougaki from recent Japan toy shows sit around on auctions for days- to the point where the seller has to drop its price considerably to move it. In another case, an older blank GID Nougaki sat around unsold, where a similar Dorogami went for over $100. In a day and age where anything Cronic seems to be snapped up instantly by ravenous Japanese and American fans alike, the disparity in demand for the Nougaki has always struck me as peculiar.
And I really think that it is an overlooked gem. The texture and expressiveness of the Nougaki sculpt are its strong points, in my view. Much like the Chaos-type sculpt from RealxHead, the Nougaki explores the contrast between heavily detailed texture and clean smooth surfaces. The Nougaki's head is a fantastic transition of whorls and ridges from the two-eyed front to the freaky, "Ju-On"-style rear eye. Below the brainy head, the body is a simple design, sort of resembling a dollop of pudding or jellybean. By "expressiveness," I mean that the Nougaki has a very distinct personality from other neo-kaiju vinyls. Most of the newer figures seem to focus on looking cool or mean- RealxHead, Secret Base, Gargamel fight figures- or, I suppose, inscrutable- Blobpus, Mutant Chaos. The Nougaki instead has a completely different expression: innocence. I think it is the wide-eyed look, combined with the slightly opened mouth- sort of like a chirping baby bird- that creates this impression. I guess some overlook the Nougaki for its 'cuteness' factor, but I find this different and appealing against the more mainstream designs.
This clear pink unpainted Nougaki was released at the Summer 2006 Wonderfestival in Japan, as a DIY version of the toy. The typical forehead and rear-eye jewels are included in an attached baggie. One or more painted versions were also released at the same show.
The unpainted clear vinyl accentuates the various surface details of the figure, as you can also see the internal thickness of the of the vinyl at the same time. I picked this up originally when I went on a clear pink vinyl bender, but it is a piece beautiful in its simplicity as well.
The clear rainbow Nougaki is a release from this year's San Diego Comic Convention, and sold at Max Toy Co.'s booth with a painted and unpainted Dorogami and Dorome. This piece seems to be a companion to the "tie-dye" Maverasu and "Last Summer" Dorogami.
Unlike previous or current Nougaki, this one seems to be prevalent on many collectors' want lists. Perhaps it is the rainbow colors that draw people in, in the way that bees, birds or other small animals are drawn to bright colors. But I must admit, the colors are simply stunning on this version. The turquoise and blues present on the Maverasu are here as well, and smoothly blended with the sunny oranges in the foot region.
Finally, this Nougaki was an unexpected find at the 2007 Summer Wonderfestival, and has been dubbed the "Maziora" version by one seller in likely reference to its metallic foil appearance. Cronic seems to release figures in sets over time, such that if you match up sucessive releases you'll find that the various colorways of different sculpts actually form a pattern of sorts. Or perhaps I am a Cronic conspiracy theorist. Yes. Anyway, this Nougaki is a one-of-a-kind thus far, although I would not be opposed to seeing a nice Maverasu in this style...
Nobody- aside from Kaiju Korner- has said much about this one, but it is quite nice. The metallic paint used produces a variety of colors when viewed from different angles- chocolate brown, purple, burgundy, silver and everything in between. I really appreciate Cronic's willingness to innovate with each new colorway released, rather than stick to the tried-and-true colorways and paint styles. And I think this figure is fair evidence of his ability to do this successfully.
All names, images, depictions and other references to works that are not the property of the author of Robot Loves Monster! are used solely herein for educational and commentary purposes. It is intended that all rights to such items remain with their respective current owners. All rights to the content of Robot Loves Monster! are otherwise reserved to the author.