Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Give Me Vinyl (Anniversary Edition): Ultra Monsters

So I was hoping to do something special to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of The Plastic Eyeball, but I was travelling through Australia at that time, and I didn't have the means to do anything.  Now it's a little late (the Eyeball's anniversary was June 27th), but by gum I still gotta acknowledge it!  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY PLASTIC EYEBALL!

I had also been planning to do more "Give Me Vinyl" posts, spotlighting the various vinyl (mostly Japanese) figures that I like, but I'm late with that too, since the first Give Me Vinyl was done almost a year ago.  So let's remedy both situations and do a special Plastic Eyeball anniversary edition of Give Me Vinyl!


Who better to start off this special edition spotlight than the figure who has been looming in the background of the site since the beginning?  I already went through why I love vinyl figures in general in the first Give Me Vinyl, so I don't need to go into all that again.  I did say that I like kaiju (Japanese monster) figures because they're often quite weird looking, and the weirder, the better.  Well, my favorite kaiju ever is probably going to be this guy: Gan-Q.  This shouldn't surprise anyone who's been following my blog, but a giant monster with an even giant-er eyeball for a head is pretty much designed to be loved by me.  Gan-Q is a being from another dimension who finds everything about humans to be funny, so he's constantly laughing.  That makes him seem nuts, but really he's just endlessly amused, and you can't fault a guy for that.

Your basic Japanese vinyl figures aren't known for their fine details, but Gan-Q's eye is impressively painted with veins, and a giant purple and black pupil.  The smaller eyes around his body are less detailed, but it's the main one that gets all the attention, and is therefore the most important.  He's got a spray of silver paint on his back, and big pink puckering eyelids.

Let me go off topic a little bit to talk about Kiddy Land.  Kiddy Land is a massive Japanese toy store with large sections (if not entire floors) devoted to your favorite Japanese character goods.  I was randomly searching for weird kaiju online leading up to my Japan trip in 2010 and found out about Kiddy Land, and I knew I had to pay it a visit.  I figured if I were going to find vinyl kaiju toys anywhere, that would be an ideal place to start.  So on one of our first days in Japan, we went to the Kiddy Land in the Harajuku area, and needless to say, I was pretty excited.

You see that Gan-Q on the second row of pegs in the above two pics?  That is the exact Gan-Q I ended up buying.  The vinyl figures can be tricky because they don't have packages.  Usually you have to pick through them to find one that hasn't gotten too much paint wear from hanging on the pegs.  Gan-Q was up front and ready to go!  Now he can be seen in the Plastic Eyeball background every day.  These pics are a bit of Plastic Eyeball history from before I was even considering doing a toy blog.

Look who's lurking...

Later on we went back to our hotel room, where my brother and I watched Ultraman Mebius and the Ultra Brothers on his laptop, while Gan-Q can be seen watching us from the sidelines.

Oh, and my wife has her own nickname for Gan-Q.  She calls him "Vagin-eye".  It means exactly what you think it does.

Any way...


The basic Japanese vinyl figures have minimal articulation, but you would assume this freaky monster fish-thing was completely shafted in the articulation department upon looking at him.  He looks like a solid plastic (or hollow vinyl) chunk, and that's pretty much what he is.  But he does have one point of articulation, and it's that one point that made him a must have for me, rather than something I would have otherwise passed over.  Scylla can open his mouth, and what a mouth it is!

I don't even know if it can properly be called a mouth anymore.  That's more of a gaping maw than anything.  The teeth extend half way down his body!  Apparently Scylla was spawned from the chest of King Mons, a big bad beastie that was the main villain in one of the Ultraman movies.  I've never seen it, but monsters popping out of other monsters sounds like my kind of thing, so if I can ever find a subtitled version of that movie, I'll have to check it out.  Scylla was also bought during the same special Kiddy Land trip as Gan-Q.  So was the next figure!


Vakishim was another kaiju that jumped out at me during my initial, pre-Japan kaiju searches.  There's just something about him that instantly appeals to me.  Maybe it's the colors?  I've always liked orange and blue together.  Plus, he looks like a heroic kaiju.  I don't think he's ever been portrayed that way, but he looks like he could be one of the "good" monsters.


Another of the creepier looking kaiju, Jamila was originally a human astronaut that was transformed into a monster.  There's something about his face that makes me think he should sound like Wallace Shawn of The Princess Bride and Toy Story fame.  Maybe it's his lower lip.  I'm sure he doesn't actually sound like Wallace Shawn.  But he should.  He also reminds me of a walking tombstone, which adds to his creepiness.


Like Scylla, Bajiris was spawned by King Mons (Scylla came from his chest, Bajiris came from his wings).  I think I liked Bajiris at the time because the shape of his head reminded me of a hammerhead shark.  I don't really see that anymore, but I still like him.  He's got vicious hooked blades for hands, what appear to be razor sharp wings, and a fat, insectoid tail.  I don't know if anyone else would agree with me, but like Vakishim, he also looks like he could potentially be one of the "good" monsters.  I know he wasn't, but there's just something about that face that says "don't worry bro, I got your back".  I had intended to buy King Mons too, but never got around to it.  I'm still kicking myself for that one.  It's like having Ravage and Laserbeak without Soundwave...


Unlike Vakishim and Bajiris who could (in one universe or another) look like "good" monsters, there is no question as to what Deathrem's alignment is.  I mean, he's covered in bones and has "death" right there in the first half of his name.  This ain't Mothra.  A lot of these vinyl figures would probably very person-to-person as far as "cool-factor" goes, but I think Deathrem is one of those toys that any action figure collector would like.  That "spanking hand of doom" should be enough to do it for you.


Some kaiju are pretty weird looking.  Gatanozoa sets the weirdness bar high.  He is a giant part-crab, part-nautilus beast with an upside-down head (just for fun).  Apparently he's the main antagonist from Ultraman Tiga, where he was usually referred to as the "Master of Darkness".  If I were Ultraman and I had to throw it down with this guy, I'd probably Ultrasoil my Ultrapants.


Some kaiju are pretty weird looking.  Dinosaur Tank sets the weirdness bar low.  That doesn't mean I have anything against him, though.  He's the kind of figure any young boy or like-minded toy collector can get into.  He was the one kaiju figure my brother tried to talk me out of buying.  He said, "he looks ridiculous", and I said, "but come on, he looks ridiculous!".  I had a birthday while we were on our Japan trip, and my brother offered to buy me four vinyl figures as a present.  I can't say 100%, but I'm I'm almost positive I got my brother to buy Dinosaur Tank for me.  Ha!


I don't like to buy Japanese vinyl figures online, since you never know what kind of wear-related issues they're going to have when they show up.  But I couldn't resist when I saw this guy in an online store.  I had to have him.  Plus, he didn't look likely to have as many potential problems, so I went ahead and ordered him.  I'm glad I did, because he's a fun figure.  He's just so... unusual.  With his golden armored body, his colorful shell, and his long armodillo-like tail, there's no denying he looks unique.


Like Gatanozoa, Yapool is another main Ultraman antagonist (this one being Ultraman Ace, I believe). He might not be as "out there" as some kaiju, but I like him simply as a cool-looking toy.  He has a real 1980's feel to him, and I could easily see him in something like Inhumanoids or possibly even Masters of the Universe.  I also like how the green of his eyes really pops in contrast with his other colors.


I am not in any way an Ultraman expert.  I like the figures, but I don't really go out of my way to watch the movies or TV shows and figure out who's who.  But from what I can tell, Zetton is one of Ultraman's most recurring major villains.  I've also read that he's the most powerful monster in the Ultraman universe.  This version is fairly different from the character's classic look, and I saw both of them in Japan, but I preferred this one because he looks like a heavily armored evil wizard.  And let me tell you, finding one without paint wear to the centre of the visor was difficult.  I almost gave up on him completely before I found this one.


The final figure I'll cover in this special edition of Give Me Vinyl is Dada, one of the simplest - and also one of the freakiest - looking Ultraman monsters.  I don't really have a fear of clowns, but if I did, they would be clowns that look like this guy.  He's not really a clown, but he reminds me of one.  Or maybe a mime.  I'll have to go back and read what makes them so dangerous, because they don't look like a Gatanozoa, a Deathream, or even a Dinosaur Tank.  But they do look freaky, so you know there's gotta be something going on there.

I still have some Ultraman vinyl figures to show off, and then I can get into Kamen Rider and some more obscure stuff.  Hopefully I won't wait another year before doing the next Give Me Vinyl.  Either way, it feels good to finally shine the spotlight on Gan-Q (who I'd go so far as to call one of the two official Plastic Eyeball mascots).  And maybe next year's anniversary post will actually come out on the anniversary!


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