Friday, September 24, 2010

[Nitto / 日東] Pretty Neat-O

Nitto - Tyrannosaurus Rex

Last time we dug into Daikyou, and before that, moseyed through Marushin.

Today we have a couple of obscure oddballs from an otherwise very well-known soft vinyl company: Nitto [日東]. Nitto is short for Nitto Kagakukyouzai [日東科学教材], or Japan Science Educational Materials. Reputedly an education company that also produced plastic models, Nitto acquired the rights to certain Daiei properties (e.g., Gamera and Yokai Wars) and produced them in soft vinyl form in the late 60s and early 70s.* Around the late 70s, Nitto developed the Kawada series of vinyls as a competing line for Popy's popy-lar Kingzaurus toys.

Nitto - Tyrannosaurus Rex

Nitto - Tyrannosaurus Rex

And it appears that Nitto dabbled a bit in dinos as well. I was aware of the Tyrannosaurus (identified as a Nitto toy from the personal knowledge of another collector), but not the Brontosaurus. The Brontosaurus was brought to my attention via a Japanese collector's website, but the site's author mistakenly believed the production company's name was "Kawada" (because of Nitto's later-era toy line). So it was entirely by accident that I turned up an auction for the Brontosaurus on a recent auction scouring. I placed my bid request with my agent and waited for a few days. On the morning that the auction ended, I checked my bid... but the agent forgot to bid! Worse yet- the auction went for well below my maximum bid. >:(

But that dark cloud had a silver lining that would not emerge for a few months. Two lots of dinosaur vinyls turned up at auction with rather low-key titles, each including one of the Nitto dinosaur vinyls (the other items in each lot were fairly low-value JP and CN dino toys). I was able to win both of them for barely anything. Disregarding the fact that I had to accept about 3 lbs. of random toys to get them, I was able to grab both Nitto dinos in one swoop!

Nitto - Brontosaurus

Nitto - Brontosaurus

So how do we know that both dino vinyls were made by Nitto? Well, the original Japanese website that identified them as made by 'Kawada' happened to have a photograph of a bagged example of the Brontosaurus. It was very blurry, but the header clearly displayed the Nitto logo: a half blue, half red circle. Upon further comparison of the Tyrannosaurus and Brontosaurus, the sculpting and printing style of the foot stamps show great similarity. Therefore, I feel comfortable in concluding that Nitto did indeed make both the Tyrannosaurus and Brontosaurus. Whether there are others in the line, who can say...?

Nitto - Tyrannosaurus Rex

Nitto - Brontosaurus

The most distinctive characteristic of the Nitto dinosaurs is their incredibly textured sculpting. Typical vintage dinosaur or kaiju vinyls may vaguely gesture at natural texturing with lumpy limbs, rough fur or rocky horns and shells; however, the Nitto dinos are sculpted to reflect flaps in their hide and the underlying musculature. The detail is really quite amazing. The sculpted vein that runs down the belly of the Tyrannosaurus and the neck of the Brontosaurus is, in fact, the feature shared by the two toys that indicates a common maker.

While their product offerings were limited in the dinosaur realm, these two examples are some of the most realistic dinosaur vinyls that you will find. Yes, those are three fingers on that Tyrannosaurus hand.

*Thanks to Mark K of the Skullbrain forum for the history lesson on Nitto.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Night Updates

Onell Design - Glyos CC3 Metalluma LR Recon Chaos (2-10)

Since I am such a fun and swinging kind of guy, I did a major update to my Glyos Custom Corps. article last night and tonight. Saving a spot for FORCE DELPHI!

[Onell Design] Glyos Custom Corps.

Check it out!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

[Daikyou / 大協] Diggin' Daikyou Dinos

Daikyou - Scolosaurus

Jumping right back where we left off, this entry is a decided Part II of a small set of articles digging into the ranks of vintage Japanese dinosaur vinyls. Part I would have been this article on the Marushin company.

Dinosaur vinyls are an obscure aisle of Japanese vinyl toy history. Most of them were made as low-end toys by small companies- the rationale was probably that dinosaurs are like kaiju... but without the licensing fees. The only dinosaur vinyls that could be considered 'mainstream' were produced by Marusan in connection with the 1 Million Years B.C. movie that debuted in the 1960s. (Incidentally, these are some of the most accessible of Marusan's older toys- with the exception of the Archelon from that line.) These vinylsaurs remain largely undocumented and collected only by those crusty old folks who have had their fill of Bullmarks and Marusans.

Daikyou [大協] is one such obscure little monster factory. They are best known for producing the original Zagora monster and Mighty toys (from Nakaoka's now-world-famous Sekai no Kaiju book). Unknown to many, Daikyou also produced quite a diversity of dinosaur toys in sizes ranging from around 15 to 50 centimeters long.

While I must admit that I don't care for all of Daikyou's designs, this Scolosaurus is an absolute hit on every level. I had a case of genuine, long-lived dino-envy after seeing a photograph of this toy in someone's collection. The pebbled ankylosaurian armor; the sheer size of the toy; the rough, old-style design of the sculpt; vibrant, yet natural paint colors- everything you could possibly want in a vintage vinyl and dinosaur toy.

The problem was finding one. Only about 3-4 of these will show up on auction sites each year and the prices can vary wildly. I wasn't kidding about the 'crusty, old collectors' part- not many people bid on these, but the people that want them, really want them (I don't always bid on vinyls, but when I do, I choose Daikyou.). Rarity also means that some dealers will price them to the sky (esteemed hole-in-the-wall vintage store, Cosmo Knight Alpha, had one in his case for about 40,000 yen on my last visit). Suffice to say, there was no way in hell that I was about to pay that much.

There had been a few Daikyou Scolos making their runs on Yahoo Japan Auctions earlier this year and ending at very modest prices, so I decided it was time for me to strike. Problem was that most of them were broken, covered in magic marker, or at the least, very, very dirty.

Daikyou - Scolosaurus

And then, as I spent a crisp spring morning hunched in front of my monitor in the gloom of our library, this beauty cropped up. The normal Daikyou Scolo features predominately dark green and light lavender paint over a duller yellow vinyl. This was, therefore, either an extremely rare paint variant or a custom job. Paint variants are not unheard of on Daikyou dinosaurs. But a custom would be essentially worthless to me. After closely inspecting the photographs, I decided to throw in my hat on the auction. What swayed my decision? If you look at the crown of the Scolo's head, the green paint parts in the middle when the red paint begins, whereas the original is completely painted green in this area. Granted there are some people with amazing skills when it comes to refurbishing old toys, but the paint looked otherwise original and it would have been extremely difficult to alter the original paint in that manner without removing ALL of the paint from the body of the toy (which would then create a problem with matching colors on the legs). The seller also did not say that it was a custom work. (Japanese sellers are notoriously honest about toy condition.) On consideration of these two points, the chances were good that this was a genuine article.

So I placed my bid with my favorite buying agent and waited patiently for the auction to end. And end it did... WITH NO BIDS. A polite e-mail went back to my agent to inquire as to what in the H-E-double hockey sticks happened. And astoundingly, I won the item on the second go-round, again with no opposing bids. I found the lack of opposition in no way suspicious.

Daikyou - Scolosaurus

Anyhow, I'm not sure what else there is to say about the toy that is not revealed by the photographs. The bright yellow vinyl painted with a deep grass green and a swath of floral red on belly and back is a classic color scheme. Many Bullmarks and other Japanese vinyls feature these colors.

Daikyou - Scolosaurus & Co.

The Scolo is itself in excellent condition, with no significant damage or deformation to the vinyl. Like other non-licensed vinyls, the vinyl is lightweight and cheap feeling, which explains why so many of them end up with broken spines or limbs or warped vinyl. Paint is still vibrant and glossy with only minor wear on edge parts; strangely, the red paint is slightly more matte than the green paint. The condition of the toy still raises personal suspicions. Ultimately, though, I can't see someone spending the immense amount of time it would take to restore and repaint this (obscure) toy into this condition, only to have it sold for virtually the same amount as the beat-up originals. Implausible, although not impossible. And I doubt we'll ever really know the truth. Such is the joy and heartache of buying obscure and weird toys.

There's your dip into Daikyou. Next up- Nitto!