Tuesday, October 6, 2009

[RealxHead / リアルヘッド] Hone Borg (ホネボーグ)

I'm a Mohawk Skeleton Robot.

Having begun the arduous task of photographing and cataloging my collection, I thought it might be interesting to put together a mini-rundown on some of the vinyl toys.

This guy is an original hero character from RealxHead (リアルヘッド), commonly referred to as the "Hone Borg." His full name is Mohican Hone-Borg No. 1 (モヒカン ホネボーグ 1号). Hone Borg is a powerful hero created by Mori Katsura, whose sole opponent thus far is King Warubone 1st Gen. (キング ワルボーン 1世). There are several hidden meanings in the name and design of both toys. First, both contain skeletal references in their names: "hone" refers to bone, and King Warubone has the English word embedded in its name. Also, both characters also pay homage to the famous Henshin Cyborg toys from the '70s, with the "Borg No. 1" in Hone Borg referencing the name of the original HC toy, and "Waru-- 1st Gen." referencing the name of the villainous King Walder; both toys also possess removable arm extensions- a distinctive feature of the vintage toys. Even the header design for the two toys may remind HC collectors of the sci-fi rainbows and dark mutant hues used in the packaging of Henshin Cyborg toys (I guess a photo of the header would have been useful here). It is not known whether Hone Borg and King Warubone inhabit the same Mutant Zone world as the other RxH characters, or some other universe entirely.

RealxHead - Hone Borg (2-08 release)

This is the very first version of Hone Borg, one of several toys sold at the grand opening of Shinto Gangu in February 2008 in Aoto, Tokyo. The vinyl is a pearlescent gray with metallic blue and gold spray. As a sidenote, this version had both hands attached, whereas most subsequent versions would be sold with the bone sword extension attached and the extra hand bagged. I consider this the definitive version of the Hone Borg and love its simple arrangement and subtle colors.

RealxHead - Hone Borg (2-08 release 2)

RealxHead - Hone Borg (3-08 release)

The second and third Hone Borg releases occurred very soon after the first, in February again and March 2008, respectively. While I've always thought the 3 paint schemes to be nearly identical, each one is actually quite distinct. Both second and third releases use silver + another color (whereas the first only had gold spray); the two versions also differ in the chest spray style. Note that the third Hone Borg was also packaged with both hands attached.

RealxHead - Hone Borg (4-08 release)

The second run of Hone Borg consisted of 3 figure types cast in a pearlescent black vinyl. This was the first of said black vinyl Hone Borgs to be released, and was sold in April 2008. Being also the first Hone Borg not to feature metallic colors, the contrast between the pristine white spray and glossy black vinyl is very striking. It reminds me a little of ink block prints.

RealxHead - Hone Borg (4-08 release 2)

This is the second black vinyl Hone Borg, also sold in April 2008. There was some confusion surrounding this one because its colors resemble Rider 1's costume (causing many to dub it the "Rider Borg"), AND it was released at around the same time as a Chaosman with an obvious color homage to Rider 1. So is it or is it not a homage paint scheme? I think the resemblance is intentional, but for whatever reason, the colors were chosen to not entirely mimic the costume of Rider 1. So why does he look different from the Chaosman? Well, Rider 1 had a number of different costumes throughout the series, and moreover, a revamped costume in KR: The First movie. Chaosman resembles the costume used in the new movie (which had red eyes and a much darker color scheme than the original TV costumes), while this Borg soooort of resembles the original costume of Rider 1 in the TV series (which had pink eyes). Nonetheless, certain liberties were taken with the color arrangement on this version, so it is not a direct homage.

RealxHead - Hone Borg (secret release 1)

RealxHead - Hone Borg (secret release 2)

Somewhere around the same time, a small number of unpainted versions were sold or given as gifts. Reportedly, this was limited to a white and black unpainted Hone Borg, with about 10 pieces of each made available.

RealxHead - Hone Borg (9-08 release)

Following pearlescent black vinyl, a pair of Hone Borgs was cast in white semi-translucent vinyl. This particular version was extremely well-received by collectors after being shown at Shinto Gangu in May 2008. Unfortunately for our mental health, its release would not be forthcoming until September of that year. Needless to say, there was a lot of anxious waiting and refreshing on announced sale days.

After the milky white vinyl Hone Borgs, the release pattern became a lot less predictable. A series of green unpainted Hone Borgs would be released, with some being painted and sold as customs by New York based artist, L'Amour Supreme. Some colors would be used to produce more than one version of the toy; others would see only one usage (to date).

RealxHead - Hone Borg (3-09 store release)

Mr. Katsura would also revisit the popular slime green vinyl that he introduced early in 2007. Hone Borg became the 5th character to be officially slimed in March 2009 (6th, if you count the Superposition toy). This was an in-store only release, but I was fortunate enough to be in Japan at the time and actually purchased this one from Shinto Gangu. Although the slime green releases are very simple in execution, the soft semi-translucent green material does not seem wanting in terms of visual impact. I've heard that Mr. Katsura actually used a sample of the popular ooze/slime/gak sold in toy stores during the '90s to perfect the color of this vinyl.

RealxHead - Hone Borg (6-09 release)

The most recent Hone Borg released is this white vinyl version termed the 'Kabuki' Borg. The 'Kabuki' Borg was sold at the multi-artist event known as the Shinto After-School Club, which took place in June 2009. The Kabuki term comes, of course, from its resemblance to the makeup of actors in classical Japanese kabuki theatre. Notably, this version also uses new paint masks to create the face 'makeup' and painted crest; I suspect we will see a number of future releases with a similar composition. While I appreciate the combination of historical influences on this toy (kabuki makeup on the Hone Borg's head, which itself resembles Noh masks), the bright white vinyl, black scarf and contrasting paint colors causes it to stand out a bit on my shelf. Perhaps it will blend in more once a few additional 'Kabuki' Borgs are thrown into the lineup.

RealxHead - Hone Borg (test shot)

And finally, this is a clear test shot of the Hone Borg toy. To my knowledge, these were not sold publicly. There were 2 similar toys on display at the grand opening of Shinto Gangu, and only one is currently in the 'prototype' case at the store. In theory, this could be the other example (although it would surprise me if only 2 were produced in total). Unlike the above versions, this one did not come with an extra hand to replace the bone sword extension- presumably, it was a display piece in the store and never had one to begin with.

I think we are far from seeing the end of production of the Hone Borg, and there are certainly numerous versions that are not featured here (I have 3 more on the way). This is one of my favorite RxH toys, so expect this article to be updated as the missing pieces are bagged and tagged in the name of historical preservation.

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