|Mark Nagata recently unveiled his latest soft vinyl toy at the Kaiju Comrades show in The Ghetto (a gallery, not THE ghetto), which took place at the end of March 2009. Drazoran [ドラゾラン] is the fourth foe of Captain Maxx, following on the heels of Eyezon and Tripus (the second was Alien Xam). Captain Maxx, and the various creatures that inhabit his universe, are all original creations of Nagata.|
|But Drazoran is not only the latest installment to the Captain Maxx tale- he is also the first Max Toy soft vinyl figure to be produced entirely in Japan! Both Eyezon and Tripus, although appearing similar to other neo-kaiju toys, were manufactured in Chinese factories. Vintage kaiju toys by companies such as Bullmark and Marusan were mostly manually produced and hand-painted in Japanese factories. It was a fairly personal manufacturing process in contrast to modern standards; while the term "factories" is used, these were basically guys with tools, molds, airbrushes and giant vats of liquid vinyl in small, poorly-ventilated rooms. The same is generally true of new vinyl toys, although they are no longer the cheap toys children once left out in the garden or took with them into the o-furo. Drazoran returns to this simpler era of craftsmanship, which I feel makes it a true kaiju toy.|
|Beginning life as an illustration in the sketchbook of Mark Nagata, Drazoran was picked up by Mr. Yajima of Dream Rocket [ドリームロケット] for production as a toy. Mark Nagata and Dream Rocket actually have a long history together, with numerous exclusive Dream Rocket toys released during both Nagata's time at Super7 and his operation of Max Toy Co. So it seemed to be a natural fit. Interestingly, Nagata shows us early sketches of Drazoran on his blog and it looks much more like a western dragon; Yajima actually tweaked the drawing to transform it into "Kaiju Drazoran." |
Over the course of half a year or so, the base sculpt for Drazoran was previewed (in various stages of refinement) at toy events. Translating the artwork into a three-dimensional sculpt was also handled by Dream Rocket. Finally, at the Art Shocker show in March 2009, photographs of a flesh vinyl test shot of Drazoran surfaced in Kabushiki-Gaisha Link's flickr gallery. My heart skipped a beat when I saw these pictures. Wow! When? When???
|Well, 'pretty soon' was the answer. The first version of Drazoran arrived at the end of the month, debuting at Kaiju Comrades in the timeless "Godzilla Blue" color scheme. As additional icing on the cake, it turns out that it was painted by master artist, Goto Hiroshi [EDIT: I didn't know this guy's first name for a long time.]. Mr. Goto (or Goto-sensei, I should say) has been hand-painting toys for around 50 years, so he was around to see the original Marusan Godzilla and Ultra Q toys come out of the factory (and maybe paint them too). He is probably one of only a handful of remaining artisans from the "Made in Japan" era. Anyhow, seeing his hand in this toy completes the circle- east to west and past to present.|
|The colors and paint style used on Drazoran is called "Godzilla Blue." What is Godzilla Blue and why does it look like the dark blue and silver paint scheme used by Gargamel (called "55Blue")? Well, the two are similar, but I have been told by a knowledgeable collector that 55Blue is supposed to reference the original Ultra Q toys by Marusan. Godzilla Blue, on the other hand, resembles a paint variation on the original Godzilla vinyl by Marusan, which had a similar color arrangement but with metallic blue spines.|
|The only fault that I can find with Drazoran is that mine suffers from a manufacturing defect that causes the head to cock to one side. It can probably be corrected with heat, but I kind of like the slight imperfection. A lot of the old patchi-kaiju toys had shortcomings like this because they were not particularly expensive. Plus it gives him an attitude when you turn his head a different ways. See?|
Can you believe that it has been a year and a half since I wrote the post above?
The development of Drazoran, Eyezon and Tripus has been relatively quiet since then in terms of production releases. Max Toy has focused heavily on custom paints of its toys (by Mark, Dead Presidents, etc.) and production versions have been limited to mini-runs, often exclusive to events in Japan. They have also been busy with the new set of Max Toy minis- super-deformed versions of the big 5 (Maxx, Xam, Eyezon, Tripus and Drazoran).
|In June 2010, Mark unveiled via Twitter (http://twitter.com/maxtoyco) [Oh God I have just linked to Twitter on this blog. I have to wash my hands.] not one, but TWO new head sculpts secretly developed by Dream Rocket for use with the Drazoran body. |
By interchanging the heads, you can have either Dragigus or Drazoran. The concept behind the design is that the three kaiju are brothers (apparently that family has a lot of recessive genes). On a historical level, the new-head/same-body technique was developed as a cost-savings measure for both live-action monster suits and the associated Bullmark and Marusan toys. [I buy my hyphens in bulk.] As I have commented above, Mark does a masterful job at tying these new toys into the traditions of Japanese vinyl monsters.
|Dragigus [ドラギグス] was the first of the two to be revealed, so I consider him to be the middle brother (Drazoran is the oldest). It's like Full House, but with claws and fangs... that you can see. His head sculpt reminds me of a marine iguana with its various nodules and spines.|
I don't have a Dragigus yet. :( There has been a fantastic Hawaii version with green paint that was released in Japan and limited to 8 pieces (none made it here) and a green version that matches Mark's artwork (sold out here). 'Stephanie' continues to elude me. That came out sounding unintentionally creepy. Like... Full House... y'know. Please don't call NBC.
|Drazorus [ドラゾラス] was the third head to be revealed. He has the most sinister appearance of the three designs. I particularly like how the main horn spirals and twists a bit, rather than protruding out straight. Good design choice by Mr. Dream Rocket. He also reminds me of a Jackson's chameleon given his slim, helmet-like head shape. On a complete tangent, I've always TOTALLY wanted a Jackson's chameleon and there was a rumor that you could catch them in Hawaii near where I lived. It involved driving to this desolate highway in the middle of a volcanic forest (which I made my parents drive me to on more than one occasion), but I sadly never saw one. Much to my parents' relief, I expect.|
|And I made up for my lack of Dragigus by buying two Drazorus. That's some math that I can get behind. |
This first version is part of a Hawaii set recently released in August 2010. Unlike the earlier Hawaii Dragigus, these were painted in the iconic colors of the Bullmark domestic Hawaii Hedorah. In Japan, these were sold in both red chest and silver chest variants (U.S. domestic sales were red chest only). Each includes an extra matching Drazoran head. Cleverly, I bought the Drazorus in anticipation of one day tracking down the super-limited earlier Hawaii Dragigus. ONE DAY.
[Header artwork is cropped from a larger piece done by Mark Nagata.]
Goto-san (btw, I hate calling him that because it sounds like Mr. Miyagi) did a stellar job on painting these as well. Sometimes I feel that his touch is a little rough, but he fades the blue and red here very nicely into the flesh base vinyl. You can really do no wrong with flesh vinyl + bright colors on top.
And my appreciation for the head sculpt on Drazorus as well. Lots of fine touches that give it its character. Drazorus has a bit of a snakey hunch due to a slightly extended neck. A severe overbite and snaggle-toothed lower jaw also create an 'ancient wyrm' aesthetic. And as I've mentioned earlier, the slight off-angle main horn completes the head.