Friday, February 24, 2012

Ultraman's Satan Beetle from Bandai

Satan Beetle is the monster "pet" of Alien Clean, who was sent to our planet seeking vengeance on Earth for the missile testing that decimated her home world. Satan Beetle's task was to wipe out humanity and all the pollution they had caused to presumably allow Alien Clean to colonize Earth. Upon it's arrival to Earth, Satan Beetle doesn't waste any time and proceeds to destroy everything in it's path. Soon enough, Ultraman Leo decides to battle the gigantic insectoid kaiju in order to save humanity once again. To be honest, it's a fairly quick fight where Ultraman Leo stomps the crap out of Satan Beetle and even tears one of it's wings off with a lazer finger blast. The brutal fight ends with a mighty Leo Kick and Satan Beetle sparks up like a firecracker and explodes in true Japanese TV fashion.

(dig that crazy 70's synth beat)

The figure is fairly basic, it looks like a friggin' bug covered in horns. The paint scheme is dull but so was the character design in the show. Basic sofubi articulation at the shoulders, neck and hips; really nothing exciting here. Overall, Satan Beetle isn't one of my favorite characters from the Ultraman Saga and I've yet to find any hardcore fans of him either. I think it's just the overbearing tones of the character's model, a creation sent to Earth to destroy us for being dirty and inadvertently destroying a planet that 99.999% of us didn't know was even out there. Even the episode, with the exception of Ultraman beating the everloving shit out of the monster, feels like a 30 minute Greenpeace commercial.

(toy porn, because you deserve it)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ultraman Powered's Zetton from Bandai

In this series, Zetton was a mecha created by the Baltans to dispose of Ultraman, once and for all (cue evil Baltan laugh track!). So you have Zetton coming to earth and attacking WINR's base to draw Ultra out for a fight. Soon after, the military comes to save the day but finds themselves out gunned by this technical terror. Even Ultraman finds himself Zetton's bitch in an epic one sided ass kicking contest. It's only after fooling Zetton into turning his back that Ultraman kills Zetton, but at the cost of his own life from using up all of his energy. A real tear jerker, sacrifice yourself to save the world from being under the domain of blue Egyptian-styled crawdaddies.

(I'm well aware that this isn't the right series, but bask in the joy of the best Japan has to offer. And, in espanol!)

This version of Zetton is perhaps the most unique design ever done for this character. I mean, the other characters from Ultraman Powered were drastically overhauled, but this one really stands out. This version is more robotic than any previous design and has some really cool looking wings on his back. With this one having wings possibly suggests that originally Zetton has wings, hence the wing shells on its back that have never really been utilized other than adding to the bug aesthetic of the character overall. I've had the pleasure of owning 2 other Zetton figures but was never aware of this version before I ran into it at a collectibles shop. All other Zetton figure I own are roto-molded vinyl while this one is completely solid and Zetton's wings are unfurled. The paint job captures it's TV counterpart perfectly; black offset by steely silver and yield sign yellow makes the figure stand out from the rest. The only thing someone may complain about is the range of motion is very limited; swivel joints at the shoulders and just below the knee. This figure still impresses me to this day and I highly recommend you find a way to add this piece to your collection.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Super Sized Death Squad Commander from Gentle Giant

I have been on the fence about the new large scale Kenner Star Wars figures from Gentle Giant. Mostly because of the hefty price tag that accompanies them. At near $80 a figure, who can afford to buy the whole set or bleed it out at one figure a month? Granted, they are a nice and showy piece of Star Wars memorabilia but I wouldn't pay more than $50 a figure. Then comes the daunting task of finding prime display space for the figures or storing them to avoid damage. Needless to say, I had avoided even getting into the collection until I found out about the website THWIPSTER.COM

(selling the hype, one crummy cardboard display at a time)

THWIPSTER.COM is a discount website that has a constantly revolving supply of discounted toys, comics and other related merchandise. The prices are incredible and shipping is cheap, if you don't shop them you should really start. I noticed one day I had missed out on getting a great price on the Obi Wan Kenobi from this set, by the time I had moved money around from one account to another it had sold out and never got restocked. But, since they got in one at an amazing price I figured only a matter of time before another one would grace their page. Two days later they'd restocked, but with the Death Squad Commander. While this isn't exactly my idea of how I wanted to test drive this line, it was an inexpensive venture that I knew I'd be able to get more that my money back if I decided it wasn't my thing.

(the fake excitement is just as grating now as it was 30 years ago)

Cheap shipping equals weeks of waiting for your product. While I don't mind, part of me wanted to know if I made the right decision. When it finally got to my door and I opened the box, I was immediately hooked. The figure is on a very well done oversized reproduction card with resealable bubble. The outer bubble is made of a sturdy plastic and the card itself is printed on a semi-gloss heavy card stock. Inside the bubble, the figure is snugly encased in it's own custom tray and secured with twist ties. While in the package, the figure can be either stood up on a shelf or hung on the wall from the already punched pegholes.

Once out of the package, the first thing noticed is the figure is completely hollow. This is why I don't think the figures are worth much more than $50 a piece. Overall, the quality of the figure is top notch. Really well painted, no flaws I noticed on mine at least. Tight joints that will hold their pose while displayed on a shelf or lightly played with. The only complaint I had was the gun; to me it just looked too chunky, like they got the scale wrong but I could be mistaken. While holding it, you forget you've got a 12 inch figure. The size is very pleasing, I mean the commander's helmet is almost the size of an infant's cereal bowl.

(give 'ems a kiss love)

Final opinion on the line, get the characters you like and don't buy the whole set unless you get a good deal. Shop websites for daily deals like THWIPSTER.COM and TOY SALE BOAT on facebook.


Gamera 9 inch figure by Rocketpro of America

  I'm a huge Japanese vinyl collector and I've always been of a mindset that the bigger and more detailed pieces are the ones most worth collecting. Don't get me wrong, I have a vast amount of 6 inch scale sofubi but the ones 9 inches and taller are really eye catching. It's a pretty easy task, over the years I've upgraded my largest Godzilla 3 times and my largest Ultraman twice. But, I came to a stalemate when I started pursuing a larger and nicely detailed Gamera......until one day at the flea market.

I had run into several issues while trying to locate a decent Gamera. Most I have from Bandai are poorly sculpted and just never did the character justice. Over the years Gamera has had some image overhauls and every figure to represent those falls short of impressing me. And it's not limited to scale, I've had 6 inch to 12 inch scale figures and models of Gamera in my hands and each one was insufficient for my collection. I searched for over a year before I lucked into a version of everyone's favorite flying turtle I hadn't seen before.

While visiting my friends at Weekend Warriors Comics at the Oldsmar Flea Market I had stumbled upon this gorgeous piece. Released by X-Plus/Rocketpro in the late 90's, Gamera stands 9 inches tall from top of the head to bottom of the foot and is incredibly well detailed. Rocketpro is the American branch of X-PLUS of Japan, known for making really nice and well detailed heavy gauge vinyl figures. The figure originally belonged to one of the co-owners and had been in his collection since he'd bought it out of a Diamond Distributors ad, unfortunately it had been banished to storage due to lack of display space until he felt like parting with it on this fateful day. After purchasing it for a more than fair price, I happily dusted it off and proudly displayed in a place of honor. This version is the best I've seen and I encourage fans to buy one for their own collection.