Sunday, January 15, 2012

[RealxHead / リアルヘッド] Gatchigon (ガチゴン)

Updated group shot

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.)

MG-01, Dec. 2006 (WHF 15, Sofvi Matsuri)

RxH - Gatchigon (MG-01)

The first version of Gatchigon (MG-01) was cast in a smoky, clear-grey vinyl and filled with glow-in-the-dark shards of vinyl, before being sold at World Hobby Festival 15 in December 2006. I suspect that this Gatchigon used leftover vinyl material from the clear grey Ryuusei Ninja that also debuted at WHF 15 (but which figure provided the GID shards is anyone’s guess).

This figure was packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in unpainted dark green vinyl.

This figure has a nice heft in-hand, due to the weight of the vinyl shards. The clear grey material might seem a little lackluster, but this version really shines (literally) when given ample light and placed in a dark room. The glow produced by the shards accents the edges of the sculpt in a way that is not achieved by any of the other versions.

While there is no doubt in my mind that this Gatchigon was sold in extremely limited numbers at WHF, several have come up for sale in the past couple of years.


MG-02, Feb. 2007 (Phone Order)

RxH - Gatchigon (MG-02)

The second version of Gatchigon was likely intended as the full-color version of the character’s toy. It is the first fully-painted version and is not a tribute to any existing character or toy. MG-02 was sold via phone order sales in March 2007 (although the Mook indicates sales at winter Wonderfestival in February 2007)*. Limited quantities were made available through North American distributors.

This figure was packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching paint scheme.

In my humble opinion, this remains the most attractive of the Gatchigons produced to date. The paint scheme brings to mind the young bamboo shoot (take-no-ko), which is harvested and eaten in Japan and other Asian countries. In any event, the lush emerald green and cream white paints sprayed over a buttery yellow vinyl base are exceedingly pleasing to the eye; accents of metallic purple and black on Gatchigon’s kneecaps and spines provide necessary contrast. I might even count this among the top RxH releases of all time.

*I will note here that the Mook lists MG-03 (the unpainted beige-flesh color vinyl version) as having been sold at the same Wonderfestival. If there actually was an unpainted version sold at that show, it would have been an unpainted version of MG-02, the base vinyl color of which has more of a yellow hue than MG-03. The two are nearly impossible to distinguish without a side-by-side comparison, so the distinction is primarily academic.


MG-04, April 2007 (Spring Patchi-Summit)

RxH - Gatchigon (MG-04)

MG-04? Did I miss one? Never fear, fair reader, MG-03 will be addressed immediately following this one in accurate chronological order.

This fourth version was sold exclusively at the spring Patchimon Summit event held in April 2007. In past years, RxH would regularly attend ‘Patchi-Summits’ which would be the source of some of the most fantastic and unobtainable RxH figures over time. Understandably, his attendance at such events has been sporadic since opening Shinto Gangu and its sister store, Real Heads. Limited quantities of MG-04 were made available through North American distributors.

This figure was packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching paint scheme.

To be honest, I find this Gatchigon to be the weakest version of the entire lot in terms of color arrangement. The colors are intended to pay tribute to the Bullmark Ka__gon toy from which Gatchigon draws certain design cues. Even so, the paint scheme does not do enough to differentiate itself from MG-02. Emerald green and bright white paint are sprayed over a cerulean vinyl base; beyond appearing repetitive, the paint colors blend into the vinyl color and transgress into the realm of the unremarkable. The red accents on Gatchigon’s back spines are, unfortunately, entirely invisible when viewed straight-on.

Patchi-Summit releases are typically more challenging to find than other figures; however, it is not at all difficult to obtain this Gatchigon- even years after the initial release date- at deeply discounted prices.


MG-L01, May 2007 (WHF 16, Sofvi Matsuri)

RxH - Gatchigon (MG-L01 5-07)

RxH - Gatchigon (MG-L01 5-07)

The infamous “L” designation. L is for limited. In this case, VERY limited. MG-L01 is a cautionary tale and the nightmare of RxH collectors.

This Gatchigon was a secret release at the 16th World Hobby Festival. It has the notoriety of being the only normal production version of Gatchigon (i.e., not an intentional micro release sold at Shinto Gangu) that was produced in sufficiently limited numbers to be given the “L” designation in the Mook. Make no mistake: this figure is very, very rare. It is also packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching paint scheme.

I’d like to pretend that there is a deep and involved tale behind my acquisition of this figure, but, like 90% of toy quests, waiting is the true game. I first saw this Gatchigon for sale on an auction site on the night of WHF. The BIN price was fairly high (about 9,900 yen) and I passed; [i]no biggie, I’m sure Super7 will have them for sale soon[/i]. Silly man. It would be years before I found another lead. Amazingly, I eventually found the collector that purchased the figure from the auction, and I had trade items of interest to him, but the MG-L01 was sadly long gone (in the possession of a major collector). I finally bought the above figure in a lot of Gatchigons sold by another longtime collector. If you missed it, the lesson is ‘buy it when you see it.’

Like MG-04, this figure uses a beautiful cerulean base vinyl for the figure. Hand-sprayed applications of dark gold, silver and black offset the bright blue and endow it with the aesthetic of antique metal ornamentation. While I have no doubt the rarity of this version is the primary driving factor behind its desirability, it is nonetheless a very handsome figure. As you may have noticed, the example in my collection features rather heavy paint wear for a modern designer toy (courtesy of the prior owner, no doubt). It pains me to see something of this caliber and rarity suffer damage that could have been easily prevented by an adult collector. Is it really that hard to put your figures in a ziploc bag when you store them?


MG-03, June 2007 (RealxHead Expo @ Ichibanboshi)

RxH - Gatchigon (MG-03)

The actual MG-03 was not released until June 2007 when the RealxHead Expo was held at Ichibanboshi’s shop in Koenji. Perhaps responding to the demand from customizers for production blanks of RxH figures, unpainted, beige-flesh vinyl versions of Ryuusei Ninja, Pop Soda, Shinto-san and Gatchigon were sold at the Expo. Release numbers appear to have been substantial and these are still fairly common to find (although less common than the flesh blanks sold in sets of 3). This release was also available through North American distributors.

This figure was packaged with an unpainted mini-Gatchigon in the same color of vinyl.


MG-05, Aug. 2007 (Summer Wonderfestival)

RxH - Gatchigon (MG-05)

The fifth normal production Gatchigon was painted in the “Gold Mist” colors. The Gold Mist set encompasses nine figures produced by RxH (including the collaborative characters Ryuusei Ninja and Mikazuki Joe) and represents the largest matching set of standard RxH figures. This Gatchigon was sold exclusively at the Summer Wonderfestival held in August 2007. Limited quantities were made available through North American distributors.

This figure was packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching paint scheme.

“Gold Mist” is a simple paint technique that is has largely gone unappreciated. It uses either a black base vinyl or paint coat with a light coat of dark gold paint to create the metallic gunmetal finish. There is some variation among the gold coating used on finished pieces; collectors have also discovered that some of the earlier Gold Mist figures used different base vinyl colors for the same figure (Bigaro in particular). This is a paint technique that is unique to RxH and does a marvelous job of accenting the sculpted details in each figure.

Probably due to relatively high release numbers, a less flashy paint scheme and the successive sale of many ‘similar’ figures, the Gold Mist RxH are not popular among collectors. Ironically, the Gold Mist color has also been referred to as the “RealxHead” version when applied to collaborative releases.


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.


Normal Release, Nov. 2007 (Hobby Complex)

RxH - Gatchigon (Hobby Complex ltd 11-07)

The first post-Mook release of this figure, the 6th normal production Gatchigon was sold exclusively at the Hobby Complex event held in November 2007. Limited quantities were made available through North American distributors.

This figure was packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching paint scheme.

While prior versions had understated paint schemes featuring mostly natural tones, not so for this Gatchigon. From the screaming lemon-yellow vinyl to the bold metallic blue paint, this version immediately grabs your attention on any shelf of toys. The blue paint also blends with the yellow vinyl to create the impression that this figure has a bit of lime green, which is quite nice. Black and gold paint complete the scheme and create real visual impact by offsetting the brighter colors. All in all, a fantastic release that provided a boost for Gatchigon’s appeal after two fairly subdued versions.


Official Custom, Dec. 2007 (Art of the Rising Sons @ Super7)

RxH - Gatchigon (custom 12-07)

Art of the Rising Sons took place at Super7’s store in San Francisco on December 8, 2007 and featured artwork and custom toys from Hiro Hayashi and an assortment of stunning one-offs and test shot RxH figures from Mori and Brian Flynn’s private collections. This Gatchigon was one of seven custom RxH figures that Hayashi produced for the show, each of which included a small 2 x 3 inch painting of the character. Hayashi’s customs were sold at the show and later via Super7’s webstore. These custom figures are significant in that they among the few third party customs that were produced for an official RxH event, and the only such figures outside of Japan.

This figure was sold together with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching paint scheme. As mentioned earlier, these customs also included a mini-canvas featuring Hayashi’s artwork of the character (not pictured).

I fell in love with this Gatchigon immediately upon seeing it previewed on the Skullbrain.org forums. Beyond his striking combination of red and black, Hayashi applied the paint in a checkerboard pattern on Gatchigon’s armor plates in a completely unique take on this figure. The paint scheme works with the sculpt and is just a lot of fun (always reminds me of the Batman villain, Harley Quinn). For the curious, MG-03 was used as the base for this piece. I think it would be amazing to see this figure made into a production item, perhaps on a clear red vinyl base. But that is just wishful thinking at this point.


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, Mar. 2008 (Shinto Gangu)

RxH - Gatchigon (normal 3-08)

It seems like a lifetime ago, but in the early months of 2008, Mori was the proud owner of a new store in the sleepy district of Aoto, Tokyo. This Gatchigon, sold in March 2008, was among the bevy of new releases that seemed to come at a rapid-fire pace from the new location. Limited quantities were made available through North American distributors.

This figure was packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching paint scheme.

Long overdue at this point, this is the first and only Gatchigon fully cast in glow-in-the-dark vinyl. Dark metallic paints are the perfect complement to the beautiful textures on this sculpt, so it is no surprise that we see a return of the one-two punch of black and gold here. I think they work particularly well in this case, as the gold plays off the slight yellow-green tint of the GID vinyl.


Normal Release, Aug. 2008 (Shinto Gangu)

RxH - Gatchigon (normal 8-08)

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.


Normal Store Release, Oct. 2009 (Shinto Gangu)

RxH - Gatchigon (normal store 10-09)

In 2009, release patterns generally continued to follow the two tracks of ‘normal’ and super-limited ‘secret’ release items- just that everything would be sold directly through the doors of Shinto Gangu. Luckily for us, Lulubell’s Luke came to our rescue by making pilgrimages to RxH’s shop several times each week to pick up new figures. This Gatchigon was a normal store release from October 2009. Limited quantities were made available in the U.S. via Lulubell Toys.

This figure was packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching, er, texture.

I gather this was something of an experiment into the world of flocking vinyl. Secret Base did it, so why not? While I don’t think this figure turned out poorly, the whole concept of adding fuzz to a toy always struck me as a little odd. Furry toys kind of gross me out. They also attract dust and errant particles like a static-charged wool sweater (I’ve actually kept my figure in the bag for the entirety of my ownership, taking it out once for this photograph.). But anyhow, this is the one and only flocked RxH figure to have been officially produced, possibly for all time.


Secret Store Release, Nov. 2009 (Shinto Gangu)

RxH - Gatchigon (secret store 11-09)

Sold at around the same time as the flocked Gatchigon, this was a secret store release from November 2009. I would guess that this was the most limited Gatchigon release to date (except, perhaps, for MG-L01) and it was not sold publicly outside Japan.

This Gatchigon did not include a mini-Gatchigon.

Mori wheeled out his brand new super-glitter vinyl for this figure. Glitter vinyl is a double-edged sword; it can make a toy look shiny and fabulous, but if you don’t paint it just right, the glitter completely obscures any textural detail of the sculpt. Thankfully, Mori’s discerning eye and judicious application of paint created a sparkly pearl of a figure. The obliterating effect of the glitter is counteracted by a light wash of black paint over the entire toy, which pulls out the details from the sparkly blur. Sprays of metallic red and gold paint provide color and a visual surface. Paint is minimal, but here, less is more.


Gift Release, Nov. 2009

RxH - Gatchigon (gift 11-09)

Much like this Gatchigon, many of the gift items that Mori would distribute to friends and regular customers during this time period were unpainted versions of painted production items. These are not unpainted test shots, just super-limited production items.

Like the painted version above, this Gatchigon did not include a mini-Gatchigon.

Although this is simply an unpainted version of a regular release, the lack of paint demonstrates that the base vinyl is clear vinyl with an internal suspension of glitter. The clear vinyl appears, at first glance, to have a slight bluish tint. But after examining this toy in-hand, it is now- clear- that the color is just light reflected from the suspended blue-green glitter.


Micro Store Release, Aug. 2010 (Shinto Gangu)

RxH - Gatchigon (micro 8-10)

RxH - Gatchigon (micro 8-10) 2

Beginning in the last few months of 2009, RxH switched gears yet again to a system of micro releases sold exclusively in-store. The production numbers for each micro release are less than ten in most cases; in some, as few as two to three. At the same time, we stopped receiving regular information about new RxH releases until Mori opened his Twitter account in mid-2010. This Gatchigon was among the first releases to be tweeted when it was sold in August 2010.

This Gatchigon was again packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a (semi) matching paint scheme.

Painted over a pristine white base vinyl, this Gatchigon features an adaptation of a multi-color style paint technique recently developed by RxH. This figure, however, uses darker metallics- primarily blues and greens- which keeps it from feeling repetitive when viewed with other similarly-painted RxH figures. The choice to paint the mini-Gatchigon with a simple splash of silver across its front seems a little daring in its minimalism. But, side by side, with the adult, it works.

Each Gatchigon from this release turned out slightly different due to the paint technique. You can actually pick this one out of the lineup in Mori’s photo.


Micro Store Release, Nov. 2010 (Shinto Gangu)

RxH - Gatchigon (micro 11-10)

RxH - Gatchigon (micro 11-10)

The second micro release Gatchigon, this one adopts the paint scheme popularly known among overseas fans as the ‘cupcake’ colors. Mori tweeted this release in November 2010.

This figure was packaged with a mini-Gatchigon in a matching paint scheme.

So why are these the ‘cupcake’ colors? The nomenclature finds its origin in a Mutant Head painted in these colors (although on glow-in-the-dark vinyl) and sold through Skullbrain.org board member, stealthtank, in very limited quantities to commemorate his new cupcake business venture. The name stuck, and I can almost taste buttercream frosting when I see the light pink and yellow combination. Even so, this is not a particular favorite of mine. The pink, yellow and white are all too visually similar to give this paint scheme much impact.


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.


Real x Head Collection

-----

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.

3 comments:

Tim said...

Grear article and photos!
I just recently nabbed the gold + GITD one from 2008 for a real low price. No baby, but that's ok.

It is a great solid figure overall.

RobotXMonster said...

Thanks Tim! The GITD one is a great toy... but then, I like them all. ;P

Anonymous said...

These did grow on me - one of my faves now - great info! The cupcake looks great. J ~