Thursday, February 28, 2008


(It took me two days to come up with that title. Enjoy it I say!)


Whuh? Blah? Why is it still dark?

And so begins my typical day as I roll out of bed at- well, let's just say an early hour- much to the disgust of anyone who might happen to be present (EDIT: for clarity, there would only be one person who might be present). In the darkness of my apartment, I stumble across the length of the room to my computer, refresh the screen and log on to the website of Japanese second-hand store, Mandarake.

At the predetermined time, new stock is revealed in the webstore. Now, 99% of the time, the story ends here as the stock consists of a veritable treasure trove of used hentai manga, girly figures and- shudder- yaoi merchandise. (Look it up.) But on that rare, rare 1%, Mandarake will have patchi-kaiju toys in stock at very reasonable prices. On those days, I don't need my morning pot of coffee.

A couple of weeks ago, Mandarake had one of its 1% mornings. When I refreshed the stock, 90+ new items showed up (which is always a good sign), but as I went down the page, my palms began to perspire. It wasn't just patchi-kaiju for sale, but dozens upon dozens of old or rare Gargamel and RealxHead pieces. Most were unbagged, and as such, priced at sub-$100 levels, even for the larger pieces. As I scrolled down the page, I saw 3 original Mutant Heads in a row- for $30 each!

But you gotta choose, and choose quickly. That's the greatest trick of Mandarake. On good days, there will be 10 things that you want, but you only have time to buy one- forget this, and you'll probably get zero.

So on that day, after wiping the sweat from my palms, I quickly went back up the page and carted off a super-rare Cronic x Sunguts toy (for $45) that had been released at Wonderfestival in early 2007. Once I had checked out, I took my time and poked through the listings a bit more carefully. Of course, all 3 of the amazing Mutant Heads were long gone, but right below them, I saw another tantalizing treat that had been passed over in the initial rush. Take a look:

Looks like one of the blank flesh Mutant Chaoses that had been released in a blind-bag 3-pack not so long ago, right? Well, I guess most people thought so, because it was still there a few minutes later. But look a little closer- the eye is green, where the blind-bag version has a yellow eye.

After a little inner debate, I decided to grab this one as well. It was only $35; even if it turned out not to be anything special, that was a decent price for a flesh blank. Total outlay for the morning: $80.

A few days later, my 'scores' arrived at my apartment (thank you, EMS!). And well, check out the photos for yourself:

Cronic x Sunguts - Camguts

This was a collaboration in which Cronic painted a clear blank of Sunguts' Camguts toy. Allegedly limited to less than 10 pieces, I fell in love with the rainbow warrior when it was released last year, and now one has finally found its way into my hands.

RealxHead - Mutant Chaos (MC-???)

Yeah, thank goodness for terrible photos, I guess. This one turned out not to be the common flesh blank Mutant Chaos, but a very different prototype figure.

And not only is it a prototype, but it is an undocumented prototype. The Super7 Mook recently attempted to compile all known RxH public releases, including a large number of prototypes that were raffled off at a toy show in late 2006. This one was not among those listed, and moreover, I couldn't find any photographic evidence of its origin in display case shots from Junkspot and Katsura-san's new store.

There are other points of interest. First, the figure is cast in a pinky flesh vinyl, which is often used to create test pulls of new figures as it is apparently an inexpensive color of vinyl. Second, the vinyl has a very different feel and weight than other RxH toys- it is heavy and waxy in texture. Third, the details on the Chaos sculpt are extremely pronounced; unlike newer Chaos releases where the bumps and gnarls blend into each other, you can almost see where the sculptor molded pieces on to the torso and arms, and where he pressed his tools into the clay to create texture. It was explained to me that vinyl figures will typically have sharper details earlier in the production process, as bits of leftover vinyl clog the mold over time and smooth out the sculpt. Fourth, the pieces of the sculpt do not fit together well- the head is loose and the arm probe does not match up to the joint. Finally, the eye is the most telling. While most newer Chaos releases have the typical 'small eye' with a textured iris, this Chaos and the OG MC-01 Mutant Chaos share a 'big eye,' which has a simpler design and larger pupil.

Upon consideration of these points and other circumstances (i.e., the older RxH and Gargamel pieces in the mass sale), my speculation is that this is one of the first test-pulls of the Mutant Chaos. Possibly this one was given to the original owner as a gift. Anyway, while it's doubtful that I'll ever know its true origins- short of an e-mail from Katsura-san himself- it's a unique piece and the mystery makes it fun.

So, to all new collectors of patchi-kaiju and fight figures, don't be frustrated by high prices and low run numbers. There are still many, many good deals out there if you keep your eyes open.

Larger versions of photographs available on my flickr set.

Cronic x Sunguts - Camguts

My lame attempt at a 'flying shot' of the flying-pose Camguts. :P

RealxHead - Mutant Chaos (MC-???)

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