A strange alien from a ruined world! Fleeing the destruction of his homeworld, Gatchigon and his tiny offspring have sought refuge on Earth. Are these peaceful travelers or are they merely preparing for . . . THE ROAD TO HELL???
|It is with some trepidation that I begin to pen this article in an attempt to do some justice to a figure that is, without question, my favorite character in the RealxHead stable. I have also been told that Mori himself holds no small amount of affection for the Gatchigon.|
Gatchigon [ガチゴン] debuted in the last few days of 2006 at the subdivision of the World Hobby Festival known as Sofvi Matsuri. At the time, it was one of only a handful of characters developed outside of the main line Mutant Zone Series. The resulting eyeless design that resembled a number of overlapping armor plates in humanoid arrangement was admittedly more abstract than the Mutant Zone characters. Adding to the enigma, each Gatchigon included a tiny, two-part mini figure that sort of looked like the bigger figure. It was legendarily unpopular on this side of the Pacific, showing up several times in a thread on the Skullbrain forums tactfully titled, “toys you hate.” Possibly due to the lukewarm reception, Gatchigon has seen relatively limited production through the years.
Gatchigon is an original character by Mori Katsura and the first of only two characters from a side story in the RxH universe: Lord of the Beast-Men (Lord of the Jyujin) [ロード オブ ザ 獣人]. (The second character is Cyclo-magnon.) The purpose of this grouping has never been made clear, or even whether or how it connects to the Mutant Zone story. Hiro Hayashi (aka, LiLJapan) graciously incurred the phone bill to speak with Mori on Gatchigon’s personal background: he is a bamboo-like alien who fled his ruined homeworld and arrived on Earth. The mini-figure that is sold together with many of the Gatchigon versions is supposed to represent a baby Gatchigon. For this reason, the full name of this character is “Lone Beast and Cub / Gatchigon,” a reference to the famous ‘70s manga epic. (Note that the RxH article in the Super7 Mook (“Mook”) contains an error in that it classifies Gatchigon as the fourth villain in the Mutant Zone II Series.)
|Artist Custom, Sept. 2007 (Ichibanboshi)|
On the release day of the first 3-pack unpainted beige-flesh set at Ichibanboshi in September 2007, Mori also gave one-off items as gifts to friends and regular customers. Mutant Head and Akrokaiser were among the gift items; there was at least one Gatchigon given away as well.
The one-off Gatchigon that has been shown in photographs is painted entirely black, with the exception of the tips of its hands, which are clear red. I suspect that the base vinyl is actually clear; the hands were painted clear red and then the rest of the body was painted black. Clear vinyl was used in another gift item Gatchigon from around the same time period, so it would make sense that there would be extra figures in clear vinyl. This figure included a mini-Gatchigon painted entirely black.
|Super7 Employee Gift, Jan. 2008|
Mori produced a special Gatchigon as a gift for the employees of Super7 in January 2008. It is cast in unpainted clear vinyl and filled with multi-colored BBs, matching the earlier set of the four Mutant Zone I figures in this style. This item also included an unpainted clear mini-Gatchigon that is filled with multi-colored BBs.
|Normal Release, Aug. 2008 (Shinto Gangu)|
After a few months’ respite, Gatchigon returned to Shinto Gangu in August 2008 with a killer new paint job. There would also be a Mutant Head and Evil released in a matching paint scheme around the same time. It is interesting to note that the matching Head was originally previewed as a not-for-sale item in the Shinto Gangu collection case on the opening day (however, the original featured glitter sprayed over the eyes). Limited quantities were made available through North American distributors.
This was figure was packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching paint scheme.
I have to be careful of saying this too often, but this is one of my favorite versions of Gatchigon. The rainbow metallic paints over glossy black vinyl are like the rainbow sheen of an oil slick. (Man, that sounds a lot less poetic when you write it out.) Others have likened it to a jewel beetle. But I think the aspect of this figure that most impresses me is the attention to detail on the mini-Gatchigon. Usually the little guys are sort of an afterthought to the big guy, and sport only a few dabs of paint. Curiously, the mini in this case does not mimic the appearance of the adult Gatchigon, but has a rather artful and detailed rearrangement of the adult’s color scheme.
This marked the last Gatchigon that would be distributed in North America through multiple venues. RxH was on the path to the current system of in-store-only micro releases, and Lulubell Toys became virtually the sole overseas distributor of RxH figures during this transition period.
|Secret Store Release, ?? 2009 (Shinto Gangu)|
From here it became a lot more difficult to pin down release dates and other information. As 2008 wound to a close, Mori appeared to shift his focus to building and sustaining in-store sales. No longer would we have an overseas pipeline for all RxH releases. An increasing number of new releases would be unannounced on the RxH website and simply sold to whoever happened to stop by Shinto Gangu that day. Other items were reserved solely for regular customers and friends.
This Gatchigon was previewed in a store photo in January 2009, but its availability was not confirmed until October of that year. Judging from the limited number of these that I have seen, it may have been a friends-only item; at the very least, it was an unannounced (i.e., secret) release.
As was common to many RxH figures at the time, this Gatchigon features metallic red and gold paint with a black paint wash over the entire figure. Rumor had it that Mori’s normal painter was having vision problems and that these simpler paint schemes were utilized as they could be more easily reproduced from a paint master. Whether or not that was the case, this was our first time seeing the technique applied to Gatchigon, and the results are quite good.
|Micro Store Release, Jul. 2011 (Shinto Gangu)|
The last Gatchigon at present was sold from Shinto Gangu in July 2011. It appears to have been a collaborative release with dye-master Chaiiroi Brown (aka, Shef) given that it features his trademark rainbow dye application. While his results are very clean, I don’t find the prospect of a matching set of RxH figures in rainbow colors particularly exciting.
|Before we break here, allow me to compare collecting Gatchigon to enjoyment of the Japanese food item known as nattou. At first glance, both appear strange and even slightly off-putting. However, as you continue to partake of these unusual dishes, you discover flavors that are deeper and richer than previously imagined. Much like the nutty musk of nattou, Gatchigon is permeated by its combined fight figure, kaiju and Showa-era pop culture heritage. I believe it is the creativity and cultural inspiration that underlie RealxHead figures that will allow them to transcend the limitations of the Japanese soft vinyl toy scene; of these, Gatchigon is certainly no exception to the rule.|
Numbering of RxH toys per standards of RealxHead Supplement, Super 7-The Book, vol. 5, issue 1 (2007).
- Credit and thanks to Super 7-The Book, vol. 5, issue 1 (2007) (for providing numbering standards and release information on RxH toys); and to Skullbrain.org board members BEYOND, stealthtank, lulubell and others for their work in furthering our collective knowledge of these toys.
- My sincerest thanks to the many blogs, image galleries and websites that have photographed and provided information regarding toy release and event dates: Toybot Studios' blog (http://toybotstudios.blogspot.com); Kadomiumtank's sofvi blog (http://pink.ap.teacup.com/kadomiumtank/) and (http://blog.goo.ne.jp/kadomiumtank/); datadub's flickr gallery (http://www.flickr.com/photos/datadub/sets/); and others.