medicom ultraman jamila

MEDICOM'S JAMILA
CREATURE FROM ULTRAMAN

Hey, look! It's Jamila!

(Or Jamira, or Jamilar) While other adult toy collectors squander their hard earned cash on Darth Vaders, Batmen, etc., I squander mine on obscure stuff like Jamila... That way, I can write long reviews that are of interest to only four or five other English-reading people on the planet. Quality, not quantity.

So... WTF is a Jamila?

Jamila is a monster from an episode of the original '60s Japanese TV show, Ultraman (also dubbed in English and shown in the USA). The Jamila episode has a tragic tone-- it turns out that the monster Jamila was an astronaut who had been abandoned in space, mutated, and returned to Earth to get payback. Of course, Ultraman has to do his duty and dispatches Jamila with a peculiar, hither-to unknown power that resembles taking a wiz from his fingertips. No kidding. In his death throes, Jamila slops around in the mud amidst some sad background music as his eerie monster roar diminishes to something resembling a baby's plaintive cry (or a Siamese cat). Awwwwww... ain't that sad?

This episode clearly had a big impact on me since Jamila was the very first 12" custom doll I ever made, using plasticene & papier mache over one of my GI Joes, waaay back in the sixties. As you can imagine, it wasn't very poseable since papier mache dries hard-- so it was actually a statue.

It's not likely that I, as an adult, could have made him any better. The very nature of nekkid rubber-suited monsters makes them difficult to replicate as 12" dolls. Even if you're adept at casting flexible materials, blending joined surfaces isn't easy since you can't just sand it like you can with rigid materials. The only saving grace with monsters is that their design often has lines, seams, or some area where you can join sections so that it doesn't look like an obvious, funky seam.

I'm grateful that Medicom took on the challenge-- they did an incredible job with Jamila. The rubber suit casting is flawless, without any obvious parting lines or artifacts of casting. In fact, I had a hard time figuring out how they put the articulated skeleton inside! The top casting (above his arms) is so precisely manufactured to blend with the pattern of his flaky skin that the seam where the two parts were glued together is practically invisible. I had to probe under a corner of one of the flake patterns and separate the pieces to confirm that I had found the seam.

The sculpt quality is also impressive, with lots of surface texture detail-- they even sculpted the actor's air holes (which we weren't supposed to notice on TV) and the back's zipper fin. There are minor bits of "offness" in the facial profile, which I only noticed after comparing to the screen cap above. This is a minor quibble, but had this been a human likeness, this degree of error would be obvious. Yeah, they didn't copy the exact random pattern of cracks and flakes either, but you'd have to be pretty anal retentive to notice or gripe about that. (It's kind of funny that the Medicom sculpt is actually more refined than the actual costume's crude sculpt.)

Appearance-wise, there are a few hard-to-overlook failings. They didn't attempt to blend the hands and feet with the rest of the suit, so the seamlines there are painfully obvious. It may be that the seamless casting process required the extremity openings to be cast with a straight edge, or perhaps they felt that joining the pieces would work against the softer articulation there... or maybe they just didn't bother because it made assembly easier: During assembly, the handless skeleton is inserted in the body casting (wearing parts of a cloth bodysuit, I think), the top casting is glued on, the hands are inserted and the feet boots are slipped on. The fact is, it's not done this way for the end user's benefit, since it's unlikely that anyone would want to swap out Jamila's claws for GI Joe's nose-picker hands. The skeleton is clearly not intended to be removed.

medicom ultraman jamilaAnother geekish point is the color: I always thought that Jamila was a yellowish shade, not gray. After watching the video, I believe that Medicom got it right-- the costume was probably a light shade of gray, but the film, lighting, and tumbling around in the dirt may have given it a yellow cast in some scenes. The pic at the right shows the doll with a misting of a lighter gray primer, some dirt dusted on, and shot without color correction for incandescent light. The gray is much more ambiguous.

At any rate, the finish of my sample had a problem unrelated to the color: It reeked of oil-based paint, felt slightly tacky, and I later noticed that some gray had rubbed off on my fingers. I couldn't tell exactly where the paint had rubbed off from, but there were a couple darker areas where I had most likely handled it. After a few days the smell and tackiness subsided: I speculate that the paint had not fully cured in specific areas, and that this must have come very, very recently from the factory. Nevertheless, I did the minor touch-up described above and the doll looks a little more "realistic" (snigger).

It's difficult to comment on Medicom's articulation skeleton since it's sealed inside the body suit. It would be interesting to have a peek though, since it's tailored for this particular product: Beneath the skin, you can feel a solid bar shaped head that matches the shape of the body suit, with full articulation at its neck joint. You can also feel rubber-covered torso and legs (ganged hinges at knees) beneath the body suit, which makes it feel more substantial and prevents the skin suit from caving (similar to fiberfill padding). The arms feel like they're made of a rigid plastic and have a simple elbow hinge with a swivel high up at the shoulder ball.

The hands and feet are soft rubber castings with the hard plastic wrist-flipper/ankle-foot hinge assemblies inserted into them. The feet don't appear to be removeable, but the hands are. The fit of the wrist pegs into the forearms is quite loose (compared to a vintage-style GI Joe) and the rubber sleeve around the hand casting does most of the retaining and determines how deep the wrist peg is going to plug. Not really a problem though. However, it reminded me of their "Big Chap Alien" doll from many years ago. (In this case, the wrists are the only loose parts; the Alien figure had no wrists, but other easily removed parts.)

The soft rubber feet do cause a problem though-- the doll can't stand if the legs are straight and the arms are extended forward. On a standard rigid plastic doll with similar sized feet, this would be easily handled by a decent pair of ankle hinges. The ankle hinges aren't the problem. On this doll, the rigid part of the inner foot extends a little under 2/3 of the length of the flexible casting. To add insult to injury, the foot has that useless toe articulation feature that some manufacturers use to boost the articulation count for those who believe that more-is-better. The result is a very short foot, encased in a very mushy shoe-- it's insufficient to brace against the top heavy weight distribution of the doll with its arms extended, or leaning forward. Fortunately, you can remove the boots and insert a proper rigid sole. It makes a big difference. (They do provide a doll stand, but a manly doll don't need no stinkin' stand...)

Even though the skin is quite thin and soft, it's still feisty enough to fight against poses which cause it to stretch. The hinges throughout are way tighter than most, and they work very well. However, the waist swivel is something of a lost cause since it's not that tight and the entire torso of the rubber suit fights back from all 360 degrees when you twist it. Basically, you can't expect full rubber suited 12" dolls to pose as well as clothed dolls because the flexible skins can't be made thin enough (and be durable) to balance against the relatively weak tensioning of a standard articulation armature (maybe one with reduction gears?).

Despite these drawbacks (and the cost: it's expensive!), I'm very satisfied. In addition to wanting the monster for pure fanboy gratification, one of the reasons I bought this was because I was curious about how the manufacture of skinned figures had progressed in recent years. My conclusion: The castings are amazing, but miracle flexible plastics haven't been invented, and the same laws of physics still apply. (Darn.) Still, it's fantastic that Medicom has picked up this franchise. At this writing, they've already released and are sold out of some other classic Ultraman/Ultraseven creatures (recently, Baltan Seijin-- which I must get before it becomes impossible to find), have some in release (Jamila, Dada & Zetton), and have some slated for future release (Mephiras Seijin, Metoron Seijin). I got Jamila from Hobbylink Japan, and the EMS overseas shipping (though expensive), was incredibly fast (shipped on 8th, received on 11th).

--06/13/05

 

medicom ultraman jamila


UPDATE, 2015: BEWARE OF MEDICOM'S TRADEMARKED BRITTLE PLASTIC

06/24/15- The Medicom Ultra-Kaiju line appears to be on life-support these days (ten years later), so it's unlikely that this would be helpful info for someone considering these as a new purchase. But it might: Although discontinued, they're still available on eBay at Ultra-inflated prices.

My collection of these guys has spent the last five years in exile, boxed, in my storage shed. I recently visited them to spend a little time with them and check out how they've fared.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look good for the rubber-suited Medicom guys. So far, Jamila has been the worst: Out of the box, one of his arms was bouncy/floppy, as if it weren't supported by an interior armature. Sure enough, the elbow joint had broken. As I started investigating what had happened, his other elbow broke. While removing the inner figure from the rubber suit (which was fine, no deterioration), many other pieces broke off: ankles, hands, etc. Bottom line, the RAH body is made of a plastic that becomes extremely brittle over time. I've had an elbow breakage of one other figure (Pegassa Seijin), and at this point, I'm hesitant to press my luck looking for bad news. To be fair, I have witnessed this brittle plastic in only two of my Ultra Kaijus, so maybe they corrected the problem for later releases.

The sort-of good news: Hot Toys' female body (from an old "Ripley" doll) is a near-perfect size for replacement. It holds poses better, and lets the figure stand on its feet without a doll stand, so it's actually an upgrade. It's a quick and easy job, and the only irreversible mod was nipping off the doll's thumbs and fingers to make the hands fit in the monster gloves. The bad news: The new HT female dolls are expensive and not that easy to find; don't know if they've made "deprovements" to it, affecting the suitability for this.

For Pegassa Seijin (which also had a self-destructing armature), I used an older Cool Girl body-- not as good articulation as the Hot Toys doll (elbows lack holding power). The rubber casting on this one is relatively thick-walled, so it doesn't make sense to sacrifice a high-quality armature, IMO. The critical size consideration is the shoulder width because thinner helps when squeezing the body into the rubber outfit; the CG's huge rigid boobs were a challenge. Height-wise, a perfect fit. The rigid "head" required a bit of pinhole stretch-enlarging to mount on the body's retaining pin, but fit securely enough to make optional the task of gluing the soft head casting to the flexible suit casting, as originally assembled. Doll hands were optional since the monster gloves are long enough to slide over the forearms and stay put; the monster gloves castings are too thick-walled for even the best doll hands to make them poseable. A fairly easy fix thanks to the modular/interchangeable nature of the 1:6 dolls.

Medicom's brittle body was a huge surprise because I expected the soft rubber parts to be at greater risk of deterioration. I was expecting that I might outlive them. On the other hand, hard plastic dolly bodies have been around for many decades and have a proven track record. How do you screw that up?

It's disappointing. This Ultraman/Daikaiju subject matter has been of interest to a relatively small niche market that will only shrink as the shows' fans age and eventually go tits up. I can't imagine that any other manufacturer, concerned about their bottom line, would want to pick up the torch. Bandai's 4-inch figures have been around for ages and were probably where most fans got their first fix. For the more discerning collector, X-Plus stepped in with a higher-quality, more detailed and accurate product. But Medicom offered something cool and unique: Larger, 30-cm/12-inch scale, with hidden articulation under a rubber suit-- just like the real thing. However, the actors inside the suits didn't have limbs that snapped off! (Well... come to think about it, maybe it's the time/aging scale that's the real problem? I've never come across any conversion ratios for "doll-years".) Arrrgh. Aging. It sucks. Stay flexible, my friends.

PREV   NEXT
DAIKAIJU INDEX