Tuesday, June 29, 2010

[Glyos] Phase Wars

Glyos - Phase Crusher

Maybe it's the recent Iron Man movie, but I've been going pretty crazy with phase armor builds recently.

I've tentatively christened this build the "Phase Crusher." Essentially, it is the 'what if' result when Phanost steals/copies a prototype Phase Armor Mk. II and bulks it up with additional weaponry. Of course, the increased weight of the armor necessitates additional boosters to help the user maneuver in combat. The clear orange bits are supposed to represent prototype/overheated booster units. (I cribbed the design of his jet pack from one that Matt posted on the Glyos blog. Shhhh.)

Glyos - Phase Crusher

Rather fortuitously, the Phanost mini-wave came out at around the time that I was considering this build. Not only did it provide more 'Pheyden Blue' parts, but also the design for the modified Morphisar Cannon that comprises Phanost's right arm. In my mind, the story is that Phanost destroyed a Morphisar drone and incorporated its technology into the Phase Crusher. The light blue Callgrim pieces were unexpectedly quite useful in giving added bulk to Phanost's arm and leg joints.

Glyos - Phase Crusher

This is not quite a finished product since the chest should actually be the same dark grey as the rest of the armor. I would then substitute the light blue Phanost head for contrast- and because the 'original' Phanost (and Scar Pheyden) are colored in this fashion.

Let the Phase Wars begin!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

[Battlegrip.com] UMOs

Battlegrip.com - UMO Series 1

I received this resin figure from my Internet buddy, Phil Reed of Battlegrip.com, in a recent toy trade. Being more of a Transformers-at-Target kind of guy, resin toys are pretty far off my general radar. So let's see what a non-fan of resin thinks.


What is this toy? Battlegrip developed these figures over the earlier part of this year. From what I understand, it is a junkpile monster and the master model (fittingly) was a combination of action figure parts and original sculpting. Series 1 of the Unidentified Monstrous Organisms (UMO) (as they came to be called)- consisting of 12 unique toys- was sold in April 2010 through the Battlegrip.com webstore.


Battlegrip.com - UMO Series 1

First off, here is the packaged figure. The ever-popular bag-with-header makes an appearance here. (Phil- my baggie was OPEN. It was not MISB. WTH. -RxM) Artwork is courtesy of BubbaShelby- nice and cartoonish as a contrast to the more gritty, encrusted appearance of the toy. My toy matches the header artwork (there were some variations), which is kind of neat.


Battlegrip.com - UMO Series 1

Battlegrip.com - UMO Series 1

Battlegrip.com - UMO Series 1

And here's the toy.

I'll start off with some criticism.

- The toy is top-heavy. This is of particular concern because resin is not the most durable material. While the weight is fairly well distributed, the small feet and large torso make it easy to topple.

- The front is symmetrical, but shapeless; it needs to be more asymmetrical and wonky. When I think 'junkpile monster,' I think of odd ends and bits of machinery jutting out at random points. Zollmen (Japanese vinyl company) actually sculpted a screw thread on to the body of their mini junkpile monster, Dasumoga, which I thought to be a really nice touch. The front of this toy has an odd symmetry to it; I feel like I am looking for a face when there is none. Adding a point of focus on one side of the torso would improve the look (either that or give it a deliberately symmetrical face).

- Articulation. Chop them arms off and add a peg. Maybe this delves into design intent and cost concerns, but I feel like it would help the physical balance of the toy, as well as make it easier to display (smaller shelf footprint).


Battlegrip.com - UMO Series 1

Battlegrip.com - UMO Series 1

But there are definitely things that I like about the toy:

- The paint work is really well done. The layered colors, black wash and gloss coat make it look very nice in photographs. Use of a black wash gives the sculpt a lot of depth, where I could see this being lost on a simple paint-over job. Battlegrip Phil painted each one by hand, so I'm pretty impressed.

- There is a lot of texture on the sculpt. Despite my criticism above, the sculpted details on UMO are plentiful, with visible effort to balance it all out. It is hard to achieve a 'random' look, since the natural impulse is to work in patterns when doing something like this. Again, I think he could have gone to even greater extremes with the sculpt details- add a protrusion here and there.

- UMO is more or less in scale with Glyos figures. Whether or not this was intentional, UMO fits in rather well with Pheyden, Exellis and their compatriots. There is a decided lack of large alien figures in the Glyos toy universe (maybe we need to build them ourselves) and UMO certainly has a place in that niche.


As seen here, I have no doubt that UMO Series 2 will soon descend upon us (or is that rise up against us?). If you like what you see here, keep watch at Battlegrip.com. Heck, keep watch anyway. I read it every day.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

[RealxHead / リアルヘッド] RHND

RxH - Oni Head

It is more than a little ironic that Mori Katsura's first toy- the Oni Head- is probably the least discussed RxH character. I was recently reminded of this fact by onwi of Skullbrain BBS, who took the time to craft this incredibly polished interview of Mr. Mori at his Aoto shop:

http://www.sqdblstr.com/interview/rxhinterview

By some divine coincidence, the no.1 OH came up for sale on a Japanese website at around the same time. This must have been fate. So I can now say that I own the very first RxH production toy.

The first thing that struck me upon receiving OH was that it looks just like the Hone-Borg. Well, not exactly. But the slimmer body type and Noh-mask facial features are clearly shared. And the two figures definitely have a historical connection being respectively the first RxH toy and first Shinto Gangu release (well, one of them). Could it be.... HENSHIN??

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, Part I

So here's a post about something other than RxH. I realize I've been inundating you, good readers, with quite a bit of 真 頭 trivia and musings, so tonight we take a break. I will let you know now that I am running on fumes and only have an hour to crank this out, so this should get pretty wild.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Servo

Let me take you back... back to 1993 when Transformers turned into animals and when spandex was cool, as long as there were 5 people in different colors and 2 of them were girls. IT'S TIME TO SAMUUUUUURAAAAAAIZE.

Yes, Tsuburaya Productions, the famous studio behind the Ultraman franchise came up with a series that couldn't miss- a slight riff on Ultraman with a little bit of Transformers and sentai thrown in. They even brought in Takara to make the toys! And thus was born Denkou Choujin Gridman [電光超人グリッドマン]. Tsuburaya kaiju for the monster kids, Takara-made transforming mecha for the robot kids. Of course, since Power Rangers was an enormous hit at the time, Gridman was imported here by DIC Entertainment (you know you giggled at the kid that said "DEEEC" at the end of every show) and Playmates under the obnoxious-long title of "Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad."

I don't know about Japan, but Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad (SSSS) tanked over here. It's barely a blip on the cultural radar of most 90s kids. Heck, I bet more of you even remember the Masked Rider abomination that was on TV for a bit... or what about Big Bad Beetleborgs? *twitch* From what I can gather, the plot revolves around the main kid going into his computer and fighting virus monsters as Servo, assisted by the robot and dragon robots and his stoner band friends, Amp, Syd and Tanker. Something like that right? Who cares.

On to the toys. I got most of these in a 3-foot square box that I bought from an Internet friend in a parking lot. I can only imagine what people think when they see grown men exchanging wads of cash for boxes and bags of merchandise brought from the trunk of a car.

So here are the toys that you have probably seen:

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Servo

Servo. This is the 9" DX version of the main hero from SSSS. Servo is a crucial toy because he combines with his companion robots to form larger... robots. I ended up with 4 separate Servos in various stages of packaging. Not crazy.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Servo

The original Japan version of this toy, DX Gridman, was a little more high-end. Servo still retains the battery casing on his back and the translucent plastic panels on his head and chest, although all electronics were removed when the toy was sold here. Servo also comes with a fair number of plastic accessories, which are attached to a plastic sprue in-package.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - DX Zenon

Zenon. The DX version of Zenon, known as God Zenon in Japan. This is an absolutely enormous toy, if you can get a sense of size based on the Glyos toy next to it (assuming you know how large Glyos figures are). Zenon can both disassemble into 3 vehicles, as well as become armor for Servo, forming "Synchro."

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - ST Servo Synchro

Pictured here is the ST (i.e., Standard) version of Synchro. ST Synchro simply consists of armor that can be clipped on to the 6" Servo toy. I believe they were sold separately, but am not certain how the Zenon parts were packaged.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - DX Drago

Drago. DX Drago is gorgeous, gargantuan combination of plastic and metal that puts most toys of the same era to shame. Seen here in a combination of his Jamb and Torb jet components, Drago can also transform into a robotic dragon AND become armor for Servo, forming "Phormo."

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - ST Servo Phormo

And this is the ST Phormo set. Interestingly, Phormo does not use the standard 6" Servo toy that forms the base for ST Synchro, instead packaging the extra parts with a cheaper version of Servo.

More on the DX and ST mecha later.

Now on to the toys that you may have seen.

Amp, Syd and Tanker were the Servo kid's friends in the show. I suppose they were given some sort of pseudo-Servo power-up armor in SSSS, since these 3 are called "Samurizing Battle Uniforms." In reality, this was a clever way for Playmates and DIC to sell the same toy over and over again in different color variations.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Amp

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Syd

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Tanker

The 9" Amp, Syd and Tanker are identical in sculpt to the 9" Servo, except that the head crest has been removed. These characters and toys were only seen in the U.S. TV show and toy line, and have no counterparts in Japan.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Digital Night Servo

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Electro Grid Servo

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Neutron Armor Servo

The American line also introduced 'mission' armors for 9" Servo, much like how Iron Man has armors for very, very specific situations (i.e., fighting Thor). The silver armor is "Digital Night Servo," gold is "Electro Grid Servo," and the half-assed red is "Neutron Armor Servo." I don't know if these were seen in the TV series. The gold and silver armors are quite nice, if not exceedingly flashy.

You probably have not seen these before. In fact, when my friend contacted me regarding these toys and told me that he had "most of the chrome ones," I had no idea what he was talking about. Taking a dog-eared page from the 90s toy playbook, Playmates apparently resorted to coating everything in chrome shortly before the line ended. This sub-line was known as "Metal Samurai."

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Metal Samurai Supercharged Amp

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Metal Samurai Supercharged Syd

Amp, Syd and Tanker were given "Supercharged" versions of their original uniforms. The slightly muted pink and olive chrome colors are really, well, interesting if nothing else. You may notice that they have helmet crests, unlike their non-chrome counterparts. The chrome has also held up extremely well over the years and has not flaked or bubbled (cross my fingers) like so many of Beast Wars toys. Unfortunately, my friend was missing the blue chrome Tanker. So I have something to look forward to.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Metal Samurai Ion Array Servo

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - 9inch Metal Samurai Data Matrix Servo

Similarly, Servo's mission armors were expanded to include a silver chrome Ion Array armor and gold chrome Data Matrix armor. These are the true gems of the 9" line, in my view, as they take the classic hero colors of Servo and add matching chrome colors- these almost feel like they could have been Lucky Draw items in Japan. In any event very, very nice. I want to combine these with Zenon and Drago, but I am afraid of chipping the chrome. The plastic feels a little more brittle than normal on these chrome versions, so I would think twice before moving around stiff joints.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - Metal Samurai accessories

The Metal Samurai series also came with a new accessory, which was a spring-loaded launcher with a couple different missiles.

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - Metal Samurai co-sells

On the back of the box are listed the co-sells for this lineup. A Syber Sounds series was apparently intended to follow Metal Samurai, but the line was dropped before it could be released. Too bad, as these look to have been clear plastic versions of Amp, Tanker and Servo (and Syd?). Click on the photo to see the full-size version on my flickr page.

Aside from the 6" line and the 9" Metal Samurai Tanker (sob), these are essentially all of the larger toys from Playmates' Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad line. I had absolute no idea that about 75% of these existed until recently, and had never see the chrome versions until they came out of the box. So a big, big thanks to my friend that sold these to me. I hope this sheds a little more light on a fairly obscure- but worthwhile- toy line.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

[RealxHead / リアルヘッド] Collaborations

Reflecting the spirit of communication and business relationships that truly defines the formative years of new vinyl, RealxHead [リアルヘッド] ultimately expanded beyond the borders of Mutant Zone. Mori Katsura has lent his talents to a growing number of store owners and toy companies in creating collaborative figures. The list now includes Jyarinco, Ichibanboshi, Pop Soda, Superposition, Kaijuuken, Cord Viper and Onell Design. Each, of course, still possesses the unique RxH touch.


JYARINCO

Jyarinco [じゃりんこ] is a well-regarded vintage toy shop in the Machiya neighborhood of the Arakawa ward in Tokyo.

rxm-jyarinco

This store had one of the most fascinating collaborations with RxH, consisting of a set of two characters named Goro [五郎] and Saburo [三郎]. Given the moniker "Devil Dogs" by western collectors, Goro and Saburo actually represent a mythological creature known as the Jinmenken [仁面犬] (literally, 'human-faced dog'). Modern day sightings of Jinmenken are not unheard of in Japan- one company even made eraser toys of them. Granted, however, the traditional Jinmenken has a more human appearance than the demonic visages given to RxH's creations. Read more about the Jinmenken at Pink Tentacle.

RxH x Jyarinco - Saburo

Appearing contemporaneously with the giant Bigaroid (another collaboration), the Jinmenken were among the largest RxH toys to date. They continue to have the distinction of being the only quadrupedal sculpts from RxH.

RxH x Jyarinco - Saburo (1-09 store release)

Pictured above is Saburo (I don't have a Goro, although a matching version was produced). This was an in-store release at Shinto Gangu in January 2010. While I had previously avoided the Jinmenken since they are often quite pricey, this one really appealed to me because of its more natural, doggy coloration (prior versions ranged from black- ok- to the mescaline-induced coloration of the Pop Soda dogs). This version of Goro and Saburo can still be found fairly easily as of the date of this article.


ICHIBANBOSHI

Ichibanboshi [一番星] is another beloved vintage toy shop in the less off-the-path location of Koenji in Tokyo's Suginami ward. You may better know Koenji as the home of Gargamel's flagship store, Thrash-Out, or the Gojira-ya bar and toy shop. Unless it is open for business, Ichibanboshi is virtually indistinguishable from surrounding buildings.

Beginning at the end of 2006, Ichibanboshi was favored with not one, but three collaborative figures with RxH. In order of release, these are: (1) Ryuusei Ninja Ichibanboshi [流星忍者 一番星], (2) Gekkou Ninja Mikazuki Joe [月光忍者 ミカヅキジョー], and (3) Uchuu Ninjuu Vader Glow [宇宙忍獣 ベイダーグロー]. All characters feature the title "Ichibanboshi Ninja Retsuden" on their headers, which translates to something like 'Ichibanboshi's Ninja Biography Series.' I rather like the fact that the characters follow a thematic sequence in both nomenclature and dress (to an extent). They seem like members of a supernatural hit squad- the foot soldiers or crack assassins of Akrokaiser.


rxm-ichibanboshi-1

Ryuusei Ninja Ichibanboshi was the first RxH collaboration, debuting in late December 2006 at the Sofvi Matsuri sub-event of World Hobby Festival. Sadly, the last WHF was held in May 2008... so no more Sofvi Matsuri for us. Clear grey was followed by a striking full-color version at Winter Wonderfestival in February 2007. Although probably intended more as a 'prototype' release, the clear grey vinyl is fitting as the 'shadow form' of a ninja.

RxH x Ichi - Ichibanboshi (MN-01)

The first part of Ichibanboshi's name means 'shooting star ninja.' 'Ichibanboshi' is both the name of the store and a term referring to the first star of the evening.

RxH x Ichi - Ichibanboshi (MN-02)

Ichibanboshi has probably been produced in the greatest number of variations of the 3 collaborations, and arguably, is the most popular Ichibanboshi (store) character as well. While I think the design and sculpt are well done- particularly the patches, rivets and buckles sculpted on his uniform, something about the toy never sat right with me. Perhaps it is the star emblazoned on Ichibanboshi's forehead or the doll eye that stares out from beneath his eyepatch. I honestly cannot put my finger on it. It's a nice toy, but not an all-time favorite.

So maybe you are now wondering why Ichibanboshi's GOOD eye is covered by the patch. According to an official source, the eye contains his mysterious power. Once exposed, his power is released... but releasing this power also rapidly drains his vitality! He must therefore keep it covered during all but the most crucial moments.


rxm-ichibanboshi-2

RxH x Ichi - Mikazuki Joe (MZ-01)

In August 2007, Ichibanboshi was joined by a second teammate: Gekkou Ninja Mikazuki Joe. There were two figures initially sold at the summer Wonderfestival- a 'gold mist' paint version and an unpainted clear grey version (following the pattern set by Ichibanboshi). The full color version followed the month after at Superfestival 44.

RxH x Ichi - Mikazuki Joe (MZ-03)

Where Ichibanboshi's name referenced stars/meteors, Mikazuki Joe is lunar themed. 'Gekkou Ninja' means 'moonlight ninja.' Mikazuki is also the Japanese term for the crescent moon. Although this was never explicitly stated, I believe it is implied that Mikazuki Joe is a lycanthrope, given the furry animal arms busting out of his sleeves.

I was really excited to see a teammate for Ichibanboshi when this was released, especially in matching color schemes. The paint application quality for both full color versions of Ichibanboshi and Mikazuki Joe is on par with any of the old style RxH releases. Make no mistake: these are classics.


rxm-ichibanboshi-3

The third, and thus far, final, entry in Ichibanboshi's ninja series is Uchuu Ninjyuu Vader Glow. Vader Glow was shown first as a prototype in red vinyl at Hobby Complex in November 2007. This version was never publicly released; the first normal release was instead cast in pearlescent sea green vinyl and sold unpainted. This was sold at Winter Wonderfestival in February 2008. To date, only 4 different versions of Vader Glow have been released, making it one of the most underrepresented characters in the RxH universe.

I initially thought that Vader Glow's descriptor, 'Uchuu Ninjuu' was a thematic divergence from the other Ninja Retsuden characters. 'Uchuu' means 'space,' and 'Ninjuu' is probably a coined term derived from the first character for 'ninja' and the last character from 'kaijuu.' So you have star ninja, moon ninja... and space ninja monster. What's up with that?? But think about it. When you look up at the night sky, what do you see? Moon, stars and black, empty space. So perhaps space ninja monster beast ogre is the last piece in the formation. Or, more likely, I am just making this up.

Another thought I had while writing this is that Vader Glow looks a bit like a fusion of Ichibanboshi and Mikazuki Joe. One eye, giant horn sticking out of head. Tentacle arm is a bit of a mystery, I'll admit. I guess even ninja fusion monster ogre space beasts get lonely...

RxH x Ichi - Vader Glow (WF2008W ltd 2-08)

This is the first, unpainted version of Vader Glow that I mentioned earlier. The toy feels very substantial, owing to its thick limbs, and it is jam-packed with sculpted details, such as rough patches between armor plates and clothing folds and wrinkles. Offhand, I would say that Vader Glow is the most technical of RxH's works.

RxH x Ichi - Vader Glow (4-08 release)

The second release of Vader Glow at Winter Wonderfestival in February 2008 would be the only Vader Glow to be painted without use of a wash/rub technique. Red and metallic gold over black vinyl give it a very traditional feeling.

RxH x Ichi - Vader Glow (SF 50 ltd 9-09)

Skipping the one version that I do not have, this is the most recent release of Vader Glow. It is a particularly difficult version to find because it was sold only in blind-bags at the Superfestival 50 event in September 2009 (or via the Lulubell scavenger hunt, over here). 'Heavy glitter' as it has been called is an iffy material in my view. We were all impressed when the first (RxH) toy was made out of it. But then it was used and used and used. And all of the toys started to look like tinfoil sculptures.

However- this Vader Glow does it right. The black wash over the glitter vinyl is light, but picks out all of the details of this intricate design. I'm not real keen on heavy glitter vinyl at this point, but I wouldn't mind seeing this style transferred to other figures.


MIROCK TOY

See THIS ARTICLE on RxH's collaboration with Mirock Toy.



ONELL DESIGN

See THIS ARTICLE on RxH's collaboration with Onell Design.



RXH X ???

These are the fruits of RxH's collaborative efforts that do not fall into an easy grouping. Many are only 'paint collaborations,' in which RxH created a paint scheme for the toy of another company, or vice versa.

SINBAD TOY

Sinbad Toy [シンバッドトイ] is a company with a confusing history. Previous toys had been branded somewhat erratically as either "Sinbad" or "Sin+Wombat." Wombat Toys may now be directly affiliated with Marmit; we had thought Sinbad to be entirely out of the picture. Now it seems Sinbad Toy is back in business with a revamped Chicken Fever sculpt and a new mini Chicken Fever.

Sinbad's revival began at the Shinto After-School Club event in June 2009, at which special RxH versions of the Chicken Fever and Crazy Thunder (pictured below) made a surprise visit. These seem to have been released in very small numbers. My Crazy Thunder is numbered 003- I would be very surprised if they made it into the double-digits.

Sinbad x RxH - Crazy Thunder (SASG ltd 6-09)

Sinbad x RxH - Crazy Thunder (SASG ltd 6-09)

Crazy Thunder is among the most underappreciated of the new vinyl toys... and maybe its fans prefer it that way. This is the first one that I have owned and I find it fairly impressive. The character, of course, heavily references a famous monster from Mirrorman- with numerous intriguing adaptations, such as the lightning-bolt wings and scorpion sculpted on its back. Crazy Thunder's head is reversible, so you can display it with either the 'normal' face or an eerie, cycloptic face on front.

Sinbad x RxH - Crazy Thunder (SASG ltd 6-09)

I don't know why I took the profile photo with the head reversed, but I did. This is the 'real' head (ha ha) of Crazy Thunder.

The RxH paint scheme is certainly nothing to ignore either, and is one that I wish we would see in more production releases. Being that these were sold in such small numbers, I wonder if they were painted by Goto or by Mori himself.

-----

- With respect to release and show dates, credit and thanks to Datadub's resources (http://fig-lab.com/blog/ and flickr site (http://www.flickr.com/photos/datadub/)), Kadomiumtank's Sofvi Blog (http://pink.ap.teacup.com/kadomiumtank/) and Super 7-The Book, vol. 5, issue 1 (2007), without the help of which I would never have been able to pin down release orders or dates.

- With respect to the background information for Ryuusei Ninja Ichibanboshi, credit and thanks to Skullbrain.org member, BEYOND (http://liljapansworld.blogspot.com/).