Max Factory 1:6 Female Guyver Kit

MONDO GUYVER 2

01/20/2010- Here it is, nine years after my original 2001 "Mondo Guyver" filler article and I'm revisiting the series with another filler offering. (It's kind of appropriate, as you'll see.) Years ago, I'd boxed up my dust-caked Max Factory Guyver kits to make room for other stuff. Recently, I was burned-out on all the Alien stuff so I needed a break, and was in one of those "what ever happened to?" moods. Thanks to Google, I was able to do the catch-up thing and was surprised to find out that the series is still plodding along. I'd thought it had quietly expired in the waning days of the last century, but learned that Manga releases are ongoing, that a 26-episode animated television series had been produced in 2005, and that Max Factory had revisited their line with articulated figure offerings. Bear in mind that this is old news, and that the series is kind of a slow burner-- Although Max Factory's articulated figure offerings have been out and discontinued for a number of years, for some reason, two years after their last Guyver figure release, they've decided to produce another: Zoalord Imakarum Mirabilis, due out in a couple of months. As far as I know, there's no tie-in to any highly-anticipated media event, so this appears to be a company just going along and doing their own thing at their own pace.

Naturally, after seeing all the cool stuff I'd missed, I sought to rectify the situation with a new grail quest. I unboxed and dusted off all of my original Guyver stuff (like the 1:6 Female Guyver to the left) and delved into the "Guyver scene", as it is today. After a brief but intense bit of research, my impression is that the devoted English-speaking Guyver fanbase is rather small, and that there isn't sufficient official activity to sustain the interest of a very large fanbase. Yes, the designs and toys are still cool (for the most part), and the story does progress as each manga is periodically released-- but it's like a fragment of a soap opera episode released once a month. There really isn't that much to talk about over an extended period of time, and the toys don't have any philosophical depth that would inspire fresh, continued discussion. That seems to be true of most toy-collector forums, where there's a perpetual cycle of wants, product announcements, speculation, flaw-finding, grousing and ego-clashing, and finally, the gleeful product delivery. The difference with the Guyver series is that the products are few and far between, so many would-be diehard fans drift away.

Since this isn't a forum and it's all after-the-fact, I'll just gab a bit and show some pictures (with the super cheesy backdrop... hey, this is filler!).

Max Factory Guyvers

Max Factory Guyvers

Max Factory Guyver headshots My verdict on the articulated Guyver stuff: They're poseable, which gives them a huge advantage in the "looks cool" department over the vinyl kits. Although it's the critters' designs that contribute most to the coolness factor, the ability to change the pose goes a long way towards improving a display of the figures. The vinyl figures are frozen in a static generic "cryotube" pose, but articulation lets their poses suggest dynamism and interaction between figures; they seem more alive and interesting. Even if you use a cryotube pose, you can vary it slightly so that it seems more relaxed and natural.

Unfortunately, execution could have been better. The figures are made of rigid ABS plastic and a dense, slightly flexible PVC plastic that's relatively temperature sensitive, and has special friction characteristics that affect articulation: Parts tend to stick if left immobile for a while. When subjected to sufficient force, the parts suddenly break free and move relatively easily. Many toy figures use this material because it's cheap, tough, and an easier way to produce articulation than a rigid design that relies on springs, elastic or screws to apply tensioning pressure. However, it does make for "jerky" articulation and joints that are sometimes too loose. In my opinion, the joints lack a quality feel. The figures come with doll stands as a tacit admission (IMO) of the figures' questionable standing pose stability.

Another point that's worth mentioning is that some people report easily broken parts, the implication being that these are extremely fragile figures and easily broken. Since the figures' construction uses stiffer ABS plastic pins inserted into the "grabby" PVC, the thin pins can snap if the stuck part is forced. Therefore, don't force a stuck part. If the figure has been domant for a while, the parts may need to be worked free by short back and forth motions until the stuck part breaks free. If that doesn't work, use heat.

Although the sculpts of the vinyl kits and articulated figures appear similar, there are obvious differences to show that they didn't simply reuse the vinyl kits' sculptures for the surface detailing. For whatever reasons, the articulated figures are slightly bigger than their vinyl versions. It's all within the reasonable boundaries of height variations within a scale size, and vinyl Guyot could be articulated Guyot's younger and shorter brother. However, I think it's unfortunate that the articulated figures aren't the same size as the vinyl versions so that we'd know that they were in-scale with the vinyl Zoanoid figures... assuming that Max Factory made the vinyl figures in a uniform scale. (I'm not so sure about that.) I think that the vinyl Guyvers seem borderline big compared to some vinyl Zoanoids (like Gregole, Vamore and the Enzymes); the articulated Guyvers are even bigger, which doesn't help. From the perspective of drama, in my opinion, antagonists should appear formidable; dispatching shrimpy monsters doesn't seem particularly heroic.

Still, the articulated figures have a number of neat features (which vary by figure) that the vinyl ones don't have. For Guyvers, there's the opening Megasmashers with a transparent gel gizmo beneath, very attractively colored. The hands can be swapped out for different poses, and they make a big difference in the figure's overall posed look. The forearm blades can be replaced with longer ones to customize the figure to a particular action scene. There's a minor downside: The parts can fall off (sometimes easily), get lost, and you'll need to store the unused parts somewhere.

Max Factory Guyver Kit Murakami

The original Proto Zoalord Murakami kit (left) has a purple-ish hue (versus the articulated one's pastel greenish hue) and is slightly shorter and noticeably lighter (it's hollow vinyl). Both are outstanding sculptures though. Vinyl Murakami was also much cheaper than articulated Murakami, in part due to the insane price inflation that the articulated line has seen since they were discontinued and availability dried up.

The original kits can still be found and generally aren't marked up nearly as much (since they're not as desirable). However, they were never cheap (unless they're unpainted recasts from Thailand), and at the original MSRP, the articulated figures were probably a better buy. Of all the articulated line, Murakami's probably the poorest value: He's priced at the high end due to scarcity, but has less and limited articulation compared to others (I have $5 figures that are more poseable). He comes with few accessories-- 3 spare hands. But it's the character design that does the selling, and in my opinion, this is a pretty cool character design. (Don't know why I needed two of 'em though...)

Even though I'll probably get Max Factory's soon-to-be-released Imakarum Mirabilis figure (Imakarum is Murakami spelled backwards... duh!), I'm not as fond of its design, nor of some other later designs, in particular, the Gigantic Guyver. I think creator/artist Yoshiki Takaya went overboard with all the detail and the absurdly huge shoulder pad things, resulting in an overall trainwreck of a design. This mirrors what's happened in the series as the newer and tougher opponents are met with an evolving Guyver, culminating in the Ultraman-sized "Gigantic Exceed". Personally, I think it's a shame that the greater challenges couldn't have been met by an unadulterated Guyver using clever strategies instead of resorting to what resembles an arms race... particularly since it renders the original form of the Guyver - an attractive and simple design - obsolete. Why fight in the original form when you can just go gigantic and squash an opponent? What's done is done though, and the Gigantic Guyver is firmly entrenched in the storyline. Fortunately for me, my brain allows me to ignore the stuff I don't like. For me, they're a gigantic PASS.

Max Factory Guyver Kit Neo ZX-Tole The articulated Neo ZX-Tole (on the right) figure is a much cooler toy than Murakami, with lots of articulation, gadgets and extra parts. Besides the replaceable hands, you can switch out his shoulder pauldrons with castings of exposed "bio missiles", replace the wrist blades with really long ones, and display him without his wings. He also has a part on the back that when pressed, opens of the 3-flap covering on his belly to expose a jeweled beam weapon... but wait, there's more! (But you get the idea.) I never really liked the design of the ZX-Tole character: IMO, his design borrows too heavily from a Stag beetle. I bought the original "Full Blast" ZX-Tole kit because he was the mainstay of the Hyper Zoanoid Team Five, and was a major character in the animations. Since I didn't buy the original Neo ZX-Tole kit (whose design I preferred), this gave me a rationale for getting the articulated one. (Not that I needed one... but I'll pass on the articulated plain ZX-Tole.)

Max Factory Guyver Kit Derzerb Aptom 3 Derzerb and Aptom 3 Vinyl Kits: I originally bought the Aptom 3 kit (right) instead of Derzerb because he had more "stuff" for the same bucks and was a close enough stand-in. Indeed, it is a more intersting kit, and since at the time, I only had a limited perspective from the OVA show, I had little idea of the Aptom character's larger role in the series. I recently found an unbuilt Max Factory "Derzerb" kit for a relatively uninflated price, so I could complete the Hyper Zoanoid Team Five.

Bio Fighter Wars (BFW) Figures: Max Factory did release two-packs of prebuilt & painted versions of their vinyl kits in their "Bio Fighter Wars" line. This line included most of the original line of kits, minus a few (like Aptom 1, 2 & 3), but included some Zoanoid models that were never released as kits (Zencrebe, Test Type, Gergoile, Panadyne & Evil Aptom). These guys were packaged paired with figures that had previously been available as a kit, so if you have the kits, you end up with duplicates.

Max Factory Guyver Vamore Panadyne Judging from Vamore, these are nearly identical to the vinyl kit versions, from the veins and skin folds, right down to the joint lines that demark the separate glued parts of the assembly. However, the BFW version has additional rotation articulation at the waist. Beyond that, the main differences are that they're cast in solid PVC instead of hollow vinyl, they're pre-assembled, and the paint jobs are different, and in some cases, more elaborate. In Vamore's case, I wouldn't consider the BFW's paint job (left) to be better (although it's closer to the OVA coloration), but different, in a vaguely obscene kinda way (like a discolored sex toy). I never made that association when watching the video!

If you can find the vinyl kit and don't mind building it (they're really easy), it's probably a better choice because it's hollow and lighter, so you can fill the legs with resin, putty, or lead to make the feller less top-heavy.

The BFW line includes figures like the goofy-looking Panadyne that were never made into vinyl kits: The construction style is nearly identical. This is pure speculation, but it's almost as if the vinyl kit line was discontinued before these made it into production. It's unknown whether Max Factory will continue with releases in this line, but they haven't released the entire original line of vinyl kits.

Both the vinyl kits and the Bio Fighter Wars figures are long since out of production, so they're pretty hard to find. The oldest BFW two-packs are especially scarce, and command especially hyper-inflated prices... if you can find 'em. Even though the vinyl kits are older, prices are generally softer; it may have to do with the fact that they've been a target of recasters for quite a while. The BFW figures aren't parted out on sprues so they're not as readily made back into mold masters for kits (It would require extra work.).

Max Factory Guyver Kit Guyver 1 Female Guyver Some characters in the series are naturals for articulated figures, and some aren't. I doubt that Max Factory will ever create fully articulated versions of the organic critters like Ramotith, Gregole, or the Enzymes because to do a convincing job would require producing a flexible skin over a skeletal armature, like Medicom has done for their Ultra kaiju series. That's a much more involved (and expensive) production process, and not something you'd likely do for background characters, particularly given the size of the Guyver fan base. It's also less do-able for smaller format figures because of the scale properties of flexible casting materials. Maybe as wire-armature "bendies"?

The armored Guyver characters are practically a no-brainer though, which I explored with my small format articulated figures many moons ago. I've recently been reworking one of them to fit better with the Max Factory scale, using the female Guyver as a guide. This pic shows the primered rough sculpt with the original Guyver III head casting; the primer coat is to show where the flaws are (since I can't see with the raw sculpted putty). Basically, it's a small format (4") figure with additional articulation added, and limbs stretched to anime length (well, as much as I could stomach). A fabric suit is constructed over it and surface detail is glued/sculpted on. This lets the hard parts ride over the articulation armature so you can twist and pose parts without visible articulation seams.

Even though my artistic license has been revoked, I couldn't resist giving her double-D Megasmashers. I didn't attempt to make them articulated though... I always thought that the Megasmasher concept was pretty lame and comical (heck, why not have a circumsized Yottasmasher installed beneath the codpiece armour?). As some folks write in forums, "Bare with me!" Uhhhh... after you.

 

Max Factory Guyver Kit Thancrus Of all the kits, this guy's given me the most trouble. Originally, he was a pale blue, which looked wrong, so I repainted him white. Then his unpainted blade hands yellowed to the point where they were orange. When I hauled him out of dust-caked storage, he looked horrible. The acrylic gloss medium I'd used as a topcoat had an uneven yellowed tint. So out came the Easy Off oven cleaner and the retired toothbrush for a complete strip & repaint. This time, I used Krylon matte white spray as the base coat (the first time, I painted the panels individually with acrylic brush paint)-- Krylon's white seems to do a good job of staying white over time. As you can imagine, painting all the recessed line detail (dark reddish brown) wasn't much fun. The gloss topcoat is Krylon's Crystal Clear, which I hope stays crystal clear for a long time. I shudder to think of how many other things I've used Liquitex Gloss Medium on... For what it's worth, the blue shading comes from the lighting, as it should.

 

CONCLUSIONS: For a die-hard Guyver fan, the articulated figures will probably be irresistible despite the hyper-inflated prices that discontinued/reserved for eBay items sometimes command. (Although... their upcoming Imakarum figure is MSRP'd to about the same obscene price tag, and it isn't discontinued. Hmmmmm...) The reason is simple: There's not very much Guyver stuff out there. If you're a collector who craves being a completist, the Guyver route is more achievable than the Alien or Predator route.

If you're a collector of cool toys, the articulated figures may be a mixed bag, depending on your interests. They look cool, as I've said. There are scads of photos on the Internet showing them in all kinds of cool poses, so they can make for an interesting shelf display. However, if you appreciate the construction aspect of toy figures, these may be a bit of a let down. There's nothing revolutionary about the articulation, and it's hampered by a poor choice of materials. They're harder to get into a balanced standing pose than they should be. That's not to say that they're low quality-- on the contrary, they have many of the high-end neato features that imported Japanese toys are well-known for. However, when you consider the inflated price, it's hard to ignore the fact that you can get a Hot Toys 1:6 scale hyper-articulated marvel-of-toy-technology for less (and there always seems to be one in current production).

-01/23/10

Max Factory Guyver Bio Fighter Collection