Kaijyu Toys Labo

In mid-spring, 2004, I caught the first cryptic whisperings* of a Garamon sculpt that was unprecedented in its physical enormity and painstaking attention to detail. Apparently, a tiny work-in-progress shot had been published in Hyper Hobby, with little info attached. No one seemed to know which company was behind it, but the rumblings held that it would soon see production.

Needless to say, I was a tad excited…

Months passed without a scrap of news...a year came and went, then another. I had begun to think that this supposed mind-blower would never see production, that the project must’ve dead-ended…or was perhaps a cruel hoax all along, a red herring dragged across the trail, to the great frustration of Gara-toy hunters everywhere…

A muggy June afternoon in ’06 found me conducting one of my regular Garamon Google-siftings; it was during that session, to my astonished delight, that I came across this pic:

…on a blog maintained by one Temma Sakamoto. I dove right in, and found that Sakamoto san had been keeping up-to-the-minute tabs on the development of this toy. The blog had shot after eye-popping shot of the sculpt in various stages- even a couple jaw-droppers of a fully-painted proto!
At long last!

Such was my very memorable intro to the great Kaijyu Toys Labo, a site I have checked on a weekly basis since. Sakamoto seems to share a terrific enthusiasm for all things Garamon and Pygmon, and can always be counted on to highlight upcoming releases as well as share pics of his latest collection scores. He’s also a wonderful artist- check out this page, chock full of cool and comical kaiju portraits, including these three of ol’ Gary:

*By cryptic whisperings I mean, of course, an email from the estimable Mike Johnson.


Spotlight: Volks 30cm Garamon

As near as I can tell, Volks produced three different Garamon resin kits: a towering (and fairly sculpturally faithful) 40cm, as seen in an earlier post; a 30cm version; and a version produced under the banner of their Orient Heroes Junior line (not sure of the size...anyone?)

The 30cm is a pretty interesting take on the monster...

This one has taken some time to grow on me, since I first spotted pics of it. I dig it now; kinda looks like an elder Garamon (do these creatures, being biomechanical entities, age in a way that's physically noticeable? Paging Semi-Ningen...). The face on it is especially gaunt and hard-edged, and the eyes are smaller, proportionally, than is typical. It's also very densely packed with scales (I would guess 15%-20% more than usual). The fullness and arrangement of the scales around the jaw lend him a quasi-bearded appearance, and there are even little scale nubs creeping out onto the arms.
The time commitment that would be involved in building one frightens me, and keeps me from pursuing an unbuilt kit...


Baikin and The Kaiju Factory

The honorable Dennis Hamann (aka Baikin) visits the M1-GO production facility in this pair of eye-opening vids (note the mob of GiD Garamon figures, lined up and ready for a bit of pigmentation, at 3:45 in the first vid):

Very cool stuff...love the turnarounds in the second clip!
Yuji Nishimura, the company prez and the man doing most of the painting in these, is a master of kaiju coloration. A bit alarming to see that he paints with no gloves or respirator, though (at least he's using a hood). For readers who may not know, the paint he's using is a solvent-based stuff (usually V-Color) that actually eats into the vinyl a bit, making the color more permanent.

The always informative Mr. Roger Harkavy (Garden State ambassador to the M1-GO crew at many a Chiller Theater (and, word has it, many a Rutt's Hutt lunch)) tells us: "(The facility) is actually an old hotel, and it's starting to look like a pharaoh's tomb with all of the treasures that are accumulating there."


The Nerdstrom Collection, Pt. 2

Each year, Vermont exports several thousand tons of cut granite all around the world. We also like to keep some of it here, too, in huge jagged piles.

Only when I loaded these shots onto my machine and had a look did I realize that I hadn't bothered to change his pose in any of these pics (he's got jaw, neck and arm articulation). I snapped 'em in kind of a hurry...oh well. When I take shots of the green one, they'll be really dynamic, I promise. He'll be kayaking, dancing, rock-climbing....

PKxBandai mini

PaulKaiju (he being the esteemed customs man mentioned in the earlier Gara-project post) sent me this pic today- he forgot that he actually has one of these, too, and had painted it a while back!

Gotta love it when PK shoots toys atop his display case- makes for a terrific background effect!

He also solved the manufacturer mystery, too- he says it's by Bandai.

Round-up: interesting Gara-auction pics

Interesting build-up of the Kaiyodo Garamon, in a scratch-built garadama that looks like it was constructed of painted styrofoam. Hhhmm. I hope they handbrushed the paint onto the styro; once, while working on a sculpture project in college, I learned the hard way that styrofoam and solvent-based spray paints are not a healthy combo! Yikes!

Whoa! Look at the ambience goin’ on here...

Rock on with your bad fog machine self, seller!

Oh, this one…it’s killing me...beautiful build-up of the full-size (40cm) Volks resin kit…super-nice!

If anyone's in a gift-giving mood, my b-day's coming up........in October.....


Gara-project: Eye Scream, you scream, we all scream for customizing…

Last year, Eye Scream released 12” counterparts to the stunning 23” Garamon duo they released in 2006 and early 2007. Once again, Ken Yokota handled the sculpt, and did an impeccable job. However, in my humble opinion, the faces on these guys presented a textbook example of how factory paint ops can kill the look of an otherwise completely great toy. Something had to be done!



I called on the talents of the great GK builder/painter John Allred to help with this. I gently heated the neck joint and popped off the head. I then mailed the whole figure to John, along with a pair of 12mm Glastic doll eyes I had picked up. John dremeled out the existing eyes, and plugged in the Glastics. Then he completely reworked the face paint-up, resulting in a hella-realistic new look, blended perfectly with the surrounding factory ops.



Now that’s a Gara-face!

I’ll get the green 12” out to John some time before 2008’s out…though, actually, I may send the Noda-Ya exclusive first. That version is cast in translucent pink GiD vinyl, and I’ve got big, crazy plans for it, including internal LED lighting…but that’s a post unto itself!

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Nerdstrom Collection post, where this reworked ES Gary will be shown off in all his glory...

Gara-project: The coloring of mystery mini-Garys

There are very few plastic incarnations of Garamon and Pygmon that I haven't seen...so when these cool brown minis popped up on eBay a few weeks back, I was very pleasantly surprised. A Hong Kong seller had two of them, and I grabbed both. They are just a whisker taller than a quarter turned on its edge...these guys are tiny, but wonderfully detailed.
They come uncut, fresh outta the mold (well, 1985 fresh...unless, perhaps, these were recently repopped by someone in HK who got a hold of the mold...entirely possible), with hands attached to a sprue that juts off the leg:

My plan for these guys is to clean 'em up (cut and trim the arms, and deal with the fair amount of seam flash through trimming and sanding), ship 'em off to a certain (most excellent) painter of customs who has kindly agreed to give them a nice, even "primer" coat of V-Color white, then paint 'em up. Actually, I'll probably use little paint- most of their coloring will come from finely ground chalk pastels, applied with a soft drybrush. Then they'll be sealed, and I'll add some washes of acrylic to deepen the recessed areas.
Here's another pic, with the already-X-acto'd-and-sanded twin bro:

If anyone has historical info on this piece, I'd love to hear it!
Stay tuned!


The Nerdstrom Collection, Pt. 1

There he is, standing tall as the trumpets of spring sound behind him- the Bandai Garamon.

This is the one that started it all for me, ten years ago. I was down south in my homeland, New Jersey, for a family visit. One afternoon, sister Sara and I decided to take a drive to The Outer Limits, a boss comics/toy shop that, at the time, was on Piaget Ave in Clifton.

There was so much to see in that place that it was a good forty minutes before I noticed the huge number of Bandai Ultra-kaiju hanging from some pegs, low down on a wall in the back of the shop. I was no stranger to Ultraman; like many a Jersey monster kid, I had watched the dubbed version of the show on WWOR in the 70's, and had even owned some of the Bandai vinyls in their early 80’s editions (Micras stands out as a fave in my memory). By no means, though, did I have thorough knowledge of the Ultra-universe; many of these sculpts were quite novel to me. I decided that one or two of these weird creatures would be my score du jour from Outer Limits- they were cheap and funny and wonderful, how could I go wrong?

I took the time to look at every single one on the pegs, eventually settling on just one- a wall-eyed, black, lizard-like creature with large ears and a brightly colored design (somewhere between a Pacific NW totem pole and the painted decorations of Pennsylvania Dutch furniture) painted on his torso. As I stood up and was about to walk away, another figure caught my eye- somehow, I had missed it in my first pass. I took it off the peg and held it for a close look. Of all the bizarre kaiju biodiversity I had taken in during the half hour prior, for whatever reason, this one really hit home. I just loved it, from the first. Autumnal colors sprayed onto dark grey vinyl, accentuating weird, leaf-like scales all over its body? Wow. Gaunt, heavy-browed face with a wide, fish-mouthed frown…it seemed to radiate quiet monster-belligerence. Then there were its…appendages…stubby, elbowless arms that grew straight out of the chest, ending in elongated, thumbless “hands”. All of these elements really drew me in, but there was also something much more, something I still can't fully articulate. I knew I had found a new fave monster. My intrigue level was through the roof, too- who was this guy, and what was his story?

My sister drove us back home, and I barely spoke on the ride, mostly just stared at the Garamon, entranced. Occasionally, I muttered some incomplete thought about his awesomeness, much to the amusement of my sis.

That night, I got on the web at my aunt’s house, and through some heavy-duty kaiju-sleuthing, found my way to Mark Nagata’s old website. There I found the name “Pygmon”...and that helpful tidbit unlocked the gate to a ten-year collecting odyssey...

I really dig the Bandai; it's an underrated Gara-piece, for sure...


The Gara-blog begun, at last...

Keep a chunk of tilsonite close at hand and stay tuned...