Friday, February 22, 2013

[RealxHead/リアルヘッド] Regular

RxH - Gatchigon (MG-02) Regular, but superb.

Out of the companies producing toys in Japanese vinyl, it is possible that RealxHead can boast the greatest number of unique, production-level toys. This does not count one-off artist customs (i.e., one-off customs created by the same company responsible for the base figure) as there are companies that now produce entire shows filled with dozens of one-off customs; I don’t think it would be a fair comparison to say that they have released 120 figures in one go, when another company would have to create, say, 3,600 toys to have 120 new releases (for example, if each figure is run at 30 pieces, 120 new toys x 30 pieces each = 3,600 total toys).
Owing to its longevity and ever-changing method of sales, there has been an informal nomenclature developed among collectors to classify the production and release style of the various RxH toys. The genesis of this system can be attributed to the Super7 ‘Mook’ (a.k.a., Super7 - The Book, Volume 5, Issue 1), which delineates releases into three types: regular, limited and prototype. The Mook’s coverage of RxH ends at around August 2007. The opening of Shinto Gangu in February 2008 completely changed the game for RxH releases as 90% of new releases now originated from the store. As such, the post-opening releases came to be known among fans as normal store releases and secret store releases. In the middle of 2010, the third and final shift in RxH sales tactics occurred when Mori began selling small bursts of extremely limited-run figures. These would come to be known as micro releases. By the end of 2010, RxH had completely transitioned to a system of micro releases (with a few limited exceptions), a practice that continues through the present day.

RxH - Mutant Head (MH-04) It may be a regular release, but it took around 4 years to find.

RxH - Mutant Chaos (MC-07) Regular? REGULAR???

But let’s go back to the workhorse of RxH yesteryear, the regular release. Of terminology used to describe RxH sales and quantities, this is the most misleading. Regular releases span the gamut from figures sold by telephone order to those sold from online stores in Hong Kong. Some were even sold by Frank Kozik. Although the current perception is that RxH releases have become much more limited since the inception of micro releases, truth is that many early ‘regular’ releases were probably produced in similarly limited quantities. Certainly, those early releases have proven all but impossible to turn up for even the most ardent collectors. Ironically, I’ve heard that Mori had a hard time selling the legendary first few releases of Mutant Head and Clone Mutant Evil in their time.

RxH - Oni-Head (MO-01) Let's see if I can work this photo into every article.

RxH - Oni-Head (MO-04) Dear Super7, why am I not in the Mook?

As an interesting side note, while (mostly) all Oni-Heads are considered regular releases, they were produced in much higher quantities than the subsequent Mutant Zone figures, at 100 pieces or more per run. If you own an Oni-Head, you might have noticed that the finish of the figure feels a little different from later RxH figures- maybe more like the toys made by Bounty Hunter? Unlike the Mutant Zone figures, Obitsu (vinyl factory) handled the entire production process for the Oni-Head, which purportedly entailed a minimum order quantity of 100 pieces per order. As a result, Mori continued to sell back stock of the Oni-Head well into 2007.

RxH - Mutant Chaos (Toy Karma ltd 09-07) They made a lot of me. And then they made MORE.

Regular releases steadily increased in quantity through 2006 and 2007, peaking near the end of the pre-store period with the Mutant Chaos that was originally exclusive to the Toy Karma event in September 2007 (but later expanded to an open run sold through Rotofugi). As 2007 came to a close, it was estimated that regular releases began to reach production levels of 100 pieces or more per figure.
Outside of Japan, regular releases were an entirely different story. Early on, collectors had to rely on late night Japan auction site runs to pick up any of the releases- regular or otherwise- that were offered by RxH in Japan. Only a handful of pieces made it out of Japan, picked up by early adopters. As RxH was ‘discovered’ by western collectors (around 2006 or so), RxH began producing an additional run of most regular releases exclusively for overseas sales. So the availability of such releases to the average U.S. collector increased greatly around this time, and not due solely to an increase in production quantity.

RxH - Mutant Bigaro (MB-15) None for you Japan... not unless you can use the mail.
RxH - Mutant Bigaro (MB-15) Deserves a second turn.

RxH - Fighter Chaos (MC-15) Did they or did they not short-run me? I'll never tell.

As RxH grew in popularity outside of Japan, there were also an increasing number of cases in which U.S. fans were treated to regular releases that never saw the store shelf in Japan, or where an unusual method of sale in Japan led to an improvised distribution strategy in the U.S. so as to avoid making everyone crazy. The 50 Super7 RxH sets, consisting of Mutant Head, Clone Mutant Evil, Mutant Chaos and Mutant Bigaro, were sold from Super7 by a lottery system in which collectors had to print out and mail in an online form to be entered in a lottery for the chance to purchase the set. Although the figures in the set are considered regular releases, these were the first RxH figures that were available exclusively outside Japan. On the other side of the coin, RxH released a mostly-unpainted slime green vinyl set of the original four at World Character Convention in December 2006 as a blind-bagged release of 100 pieces where purchasers could receive any one of the four figures with each purchase. A separate allocation was made for Super7, who sold complete sets through a pre-order system. But sometimes even the most unorthodox sales method was smoothly translated from Japan to the U.S.- as was the case for the two sets of unpainted beige flesh vinyl figures sold from Junkspot in Japan in September 2007 and Super Festival 44 at the end of the same month. These were sold as blind-bagged ‘Mutant Bag DX’ sets to conceal special releases inserted in some of the bags (a dark blue Mutant Chaos and clear smoke Jinja-R, respectively) and were sold in the same fashion at Super7. While it may appear easy to obtain these two special releases nowadays, particularly in the case of the Jinja-R, you are really quite lucky if you have one!
While the term ‘regular releases’ might mislead a new collector to believe that they have an even chance of obtaining any of the RxH figures designated as such, hopefully this article demonstrates that regular releases are really anything but.

1 comment:

krakit said...

I really appreciate the information you give with the toys.
Excellent blog!