12" ULTRA MONSTERS 2

Here are some more of those 12" ultra-series kaiju garage kits (and more are on the way). Apparently, I've chanced upon a great time to acquire them, considering that it's maybe 13+ years after they were released. These are as-purchased pics: The unknown original modeler did a very respectable job, so I don't feel any need to customize anything. These two models seem to be perfectly in scale with Medicom's 12" RAH Ultra-series dolls, so I'm relieved that I don't feel any need to do any cutting and puttying to make them taller. I'm documenting this stuff mainly because my own Internet searches for English-language info on Billiken Ultra kaiju garage kits have been so unproductive. The Internet is becoming more and more "Walmartized": You can find thousands of sites that have exactly the same information about the same popular things, but info about the offbeat, esoteric stuff can be really hard to find. This is but a drop in the bucket, but I'm just doing my part...

billiken ultra-q pagos

BILLIKEN'S GARAGE KIT
PAGOS FROM ULTRA-Q (1990)

Pagos represents the "wide-bodied" style of kaiju; the kind that ambles around on bent knees, occasionally rearing up on hind legs to crush buildings, or battle giant superheroes. Pagos began life in Ultra-Q as a reworked Toho Studio's Baragon suit. Later, in Ultraman, they gave him another new head with a nose horn and antlers, stuck a ragged fin in his back and called him Neronga. After that, they reused the Neronga head minus the horn and antlers, gave him an armored, opening cowl and called him Gabora. Talk about recycling, and so long before recycling became fashionable! The funny thing is that none of this was apparent to me when I first watched the shows...

The Pagos Ultra-Q episode isn't much of a kaiju-centered show: Much of it involves the subplot of a young girl trying to find a magical "rainbow egg" so that her wish will be granted (according to a legend) and she can cure her wheelchair-confined grandmother. The rainbow egg is actually a spheriod uranium container that was on its way to a nuclear power plant until the uranium-eating, rainbow-generating Pagos squashes the truck transporting it. Pagos gets to lumber around the countryside and wreaks some havoc at the nuclear power plant before science comes to the rescue with a couple of Neo-Neutron missiles. Clearly, Mankind was smarter before Ultraman, because scientists knew how to make weapons that actually killed monsters instead of just pissing them off.

Despite his lackluster performance, Pagos was one of my favorite plastic model monsters from my childhood and evokes many vivid memories; the trip to buy it, its color, the seam between its ears, and the pesky tusks that I kept breaking off. He's long gone, so in the interim I bought a smaller format B&W version produced by X-Plus thinking that I'd use it as a 3-D reference for my own 12" version. When I saw a built-up 12" vinyl kit on eBay, I couldn't resist. It's not the same thing as the model of my childhood, but I'm not slavishly nostalgic-- this one is even better since it fits in perfectly with the other 12" ultra monsters (it's 17" long).

The original modeler didn't construct this as a typical garage kit, with puttied seams. That's fine by me since that makes it easier to remodel, should I choose to do that-- for a modeler, it's nice to have that as a painless option. I don't know who painted this model, but they did a great job airbrushing it as the B&W TV show version. I'm tempted to repaint it brown, since in theory, it would fit in better with the other kits and dolls in its original kaiju colors. I assume that the actual suit was brown: My original model was brown, and the Billiken kit is cast in brown vinyl-- but there aren't a lot of color reference photos floating around. I'm in the peculiar situation of being a little disappointed that the paint job is so good and that the model does look interesting in B&W; otherwise, the decision to repaint would a no-brainer.

If there's a downside to buying pre-built kits, it's that it removes much of the impetus to do-it-yourself. I'd been mentally preparing to create my own built-from-scratch, flexible-skinned monster doll in the Baragon/Pagos/Neronga/Gabora style, but acquiring Pagos dulled most of my motivation. However, it does offer some new options: I can now make molds of some of the areas that I didn't have an easy scratch-built solution for, like the ridged back detail, and incorporate the castings into a flexible suit. Maybe someday...

billiken ultra-q pagos

ultra-q pagos b&w

billiken ultra-q pagos village

 

billiken bemura ultraman

BILLIKEN'S GARAGE KIT
BEMURA FROM ULTRAMAN (1992)

Here's a real milestone kaiju: Bemura (or Bemlar) was the first monster that the first Ultraman encountered back in 1966. The episode had a familiar plot: Monster fights superhero; superhero kills monster. Of course, there's some other series setup and character introduction stuff scattered throughout, which set the pattern for the introductory episodes of later shows.

I think Bemura's a great original design, different from any which had previously appeared in any of the Toho Godzilla flicks. Overall, it's a basic mix of saurian scales and spikes in a tall, bipedal format, and the vestigal arms are reminiscent of some carniverous dinosaurs. The face is truly frightening, with elements that seem plucked from traditional artwork depicting a Japanese dragon. The original monster suit with its floppy arms and actor's ventilation holes (visible in the model pic at right) wouldn't pass muster today, but that's part of its charm and attraction for me-- the primitive, old-school stuff seems to have more "soul" than many of the recent digital creations.

Bemura was later recycled into the iconic monster Gyango, (below, right) with a revised head, arms & feet replacement, tail removal, and colorful frontside decorations. That proves that it's possible to recycle substantial portions of a design and turn it into something with as much pizzazz as the original.

 

billiken bemura pagos red king  ultraman

 

--10/20/05

 

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