MEDICOM'S
MEPHIRAS SEIJIN FROM ULTRAMAN

Mephiras Seijin (or "Alien Mefilas") is Medicom's latest release in their current string of 12" Real Action Hero/Ultraman series, which includes three I've reviewed (Jamila, Baltan Seijin & Dada) plus Zetton and Metoron Seijin. Mephiras Seijin is a welcome addition to Medicom's lineup since he's another "classic" creature from the original '60s Ultraman show. He was the only alien who battled Ultraman to a draw, and who parted ways as an equal (A cheesy, fonky-ugly version later returned in Ultraman Taro and didn't fare so well, but the series had degraded to ultra-cheesiness by that time, IMO). For a villain, he had more depth than usual, demonstrating a conscience by not wanting to destroy Earth, only possess it, and relenting when he saw that he couldn't win. For Ultra-geeks, this was a kewl episode because it featured brief appearances by Baltan Seijin #2, Kemuru-jin (from Ultra-Q) and Zarabu Seijin. We also got to see Fuji turned kaiju-sized, smashing a few buildings.

medicom ultraman mephiras seijinSo who buys these things? One would have to be an Ultra-serious fan, or a big fan of the TV shows and rabid collector of 12" dolls to appreciate these things enough to spend the Ultra bucks. For the typical Ultraman collector, the smaller vinyl Bandai figures are probably preferred, since virtually every Ultra hero and monster has been produced in that scale, they take up less space, and they don't make your pocketbook hemorrhage as badly. For the typical USA collector of 12" dolls who has no nostalgic linkage to the Ultraman show, interest would probably be close to nil. Sure, I think the creature designs are neat and classic, but I have a biased eye since the shows have deep nostalgic roots. It takes an extraordinary, unusual, or innovative design to capture interest based solely on eye appeal (or despite the backstory). For me, that happens infrequently, such as the SF3D/Maschinen Krieger hardsuits, DaJoint's ZMDC, and the Panzer Cop Jin Roh armour, for example. Mephiras Seijin is a design from the '60s which probably looks funky and dated to the uninitiated. It doesn't have the hyperdetailed sinew and musculature that's become popular in many modern monster designs.

Mephiras Seijin looks something like a fat-assed alien ape, with the usual Ultra creature lighted eyes and head parts. The body is a hodgepodge of different texture patterns-- there are large areas of creased leathery pattern, bellows on his chest, a large pebble pattern on his thighs, and pointed stud pattern on his legs. These elements point to an obvious costuming solution: The sculpted, full rubber suit.

To recreate this in doll form, Medicom took the logical approach of duplicating the construction methods and materials of the original costume. They did this with their other releases: Dada was done as a fabric suit and mask, and Baltan Seijin was done as a rubberized fabric suit overlaid with dimensional rubber castings. The Mephiras Seijin doll is similar to their Jamila doll-- it's their RAH-301 armature with padding, sealed inside the full rubber suit castings. The Mephiras creature design has natural edges to hide joined areas, and Medicom copied the costume's seams so faithfully that it was difficult to discern how many suit section castings there are-- and I was fooled. At first I thought the head was a separate casting, but it turns out that the head and chest are a single casting, glued to the lower torso. The arms and feet are also separate castings; at first I thought the hands were because hand-gloves are usually separate pieces, and because of the simulated seam-- they even sculpted a slightly mismatched join. Instead, the entire arm is like a glove, and they're glued at the shoulders.

medicom ultraman mephiras seijinThe "rubber" (it's probably a flexible urethane) is very flexible and feels like it varies in flexibility depending upon the area. I'm not sure if this is simply a random byproduct of the thickness and texture pattern of the casting in the areas, but the chest and head are relatively firm, the abdomen is very soft and the legs are soft, but feel like fairly thick-walled castings. [The idea of controlling rigidity through wall thickness is interesting, since that could be used to control where flexible materials deform and crease when bent or twisted. I don't think that would be easy to do with slush casting techniques though.] For the most part, the rubber crease/flex/deformation behaviors are appropriate; However, the suit was sculpted with the legs spread apart, so when they're brought together, the abdomen and hips castings "pooch out" since the wall thickness is relatively thin. The actual suit's hip and abdomen castings appear to be more rigid, and the thigh castings accept the deformation. If the suit were sculpted with the legs closed, then the doll would be hard to pose with the legs spread apart since the material would need to stretch radically.

One difference between this and the Jamila doll is you can't access to the figure's feet and hand-paddles very easily because the castings are glued to the rest of the suit. This makes it more difficult to fix the hands, which seem excessively floppy because the figure's hand paddles don't fill the castings and the casting skin is very thin. A removeable casting would be easier to fill with padding and to add a wire skeleton to the fingers. Similarly, feet can usually use a bit of tweaking to tighten ankles, and to override useless toe articulation.

In the Dada review I examined the RAH-301 figure/armature and concluded that there wasn't anything in the construction that made the articulation inherently tighter than other figures, but I swear that this one feels that way, particularly at the arms and legs. That's always a good thing for rubber-suited figures, since they require stiffer articulation to hold a pose. The wrist and ankle articulation could be tighter, the torso twist articulation seems to be a perpetually lost cause in all rubber-suited figures, and the neck articulation is kind of pointless since the creature doesn't really have a neck.

medicom ultraman mephiras seijin Another reason why Mephiras Seijin was such a great choice for Medicom is that there are minimal paint/finishing operations required in the production-- that means no tacky paint to complain about and a low risk of sloppy paint jobs. Kudos to the original suit designers for being so far-sighted.

Once again, I must foolishly whine about the lighting effects which are absent in Medicom's Ultra series dolls. Rationally, it's not a big deal since this would add complexity/cost and would rarely be used. However, these are expensive dolls and the lighting does look kewl in photos. At least this one would be easier to retrofit than Baltan Seijin, if I were willing to cut open his head. Of course, then you'd have to come up with a custom programmed timing circuit for two pulse unidirectional sweep across his mouth area-- the stock Cylon/Knight Rider circuit would look so wrong there.

Unlike Medicom's Dada doll, this one gets my "thumbs up", and that only means that the manufacturer didn't screw up in a major way. It isn't indicative of the product's relative value, since that's totally subjective. Anyone who's interested in buying these things probably isn't looking at them solely in terms of raw material and labor costs, but as a kewl token of a show that evokes fond memories. That's what you weigh when you ante up.

I'm satisfied-- It's a fine sculpture, and I think Medicom did a great job, without any serious issues. This would have been a tough one to scratch build for the same reasons I gave for Jamila-- it's a full rubber suit, and that means lots of mold-making and casting. With flexible materials, thin skins are difficult to do well, especially with multiple contours. One interesting feature of these rubber suits is that the size isn't as limited by the size of the armature as figures wearing traditional cloth outfits. For example, the Mephiras Seijin doll is considerably taller than the shrimpy Dada doll, so this adds variety. I'd really like to see Medicom do a full rubber-suited monster with a tail, like Gomora, Red King, or Gabora. Those are beefy creatures, and a rubber suit would be huge!

--09/14/05

medicom ultraman mephiras seijin

 

Fuji looks much cuter when she's not zombified and smashing buildings.

 

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