This is a little embarrassing: In earlier reviews I said I didn't want these two releases from Medicom on the grounds that their designs didn't appeal to me. Maybe it's something about critical mass (buy them all!), or it's that Collector's Dementia that I keep talking about (buy them all!), but I felt compelled to buy them. The truth is that I still don't like the unartistic, bug-like design of Zetton, and I still think Metoron Seijin's color scheme is garish and ugly. More than anything else though, it was the recent Ultraman Max episodes starring these two creatures that pushed me over the edge. They motivated me to rewatch the original Ultraman and Ultraseven episodes, which made me realize how iconic these two guys were. I stopped seeing them purely in terms of design: they've got rich backgrounds, and nostalgia weighs in heavily. Given that, I now feel hopelessly doomed to Buy Them All!
I'm reviewing both of these together because they're very similar in construction and properties. They're both nearly full rubber-suited dolls (like Medicom's Jamila) with non-removeable suits, and suffer from the usual poseability restrictions that full rubber suits impose at the 12"/30 cm scale.
Zetton... hey, I like breasts, but not yellow ones on giant bugs, and especially with lights inside. Some folks like the design and I will agree that it's certainly a distinctive design. It just looks "soulless" to me, with black holes where you expect eyes. This happens to match the style of his relentless and machine-like attacks on Ultraman, and maybe deepens the sense of sorrow when Ultraman is defeated. When it's all over, the soulless creature stands there like a machine that's completed its task, with its motor still idling.
In the original episode, the relationship between the giant creature who battles Ultraman and the human-size alien who infiltrates and sabotages the Science Patrol headquarters was a little unclear. They look completely different, but both say "Zet-ton", and the big one was called "Zetton". I don't think we were supposed to analyze it beyond that. The Ultraman Max episode makes it clear that the human-sized one is Zetton Seijin (the alien), who controls the large-sized Zetton Kaiju (the monster). No matter. The Zetton kaiju isn't a lithe and limber street-fighter; he basically stands there, stepping forward and backwards, lifting up his arms, shooting rays, and forming energy shields. This conveys a machine-like aura of invincibility, but it's no wonder-- his costume's a rubber straitjacket! Medicom's version is therefore an accurate rendition of the costume, especially when it comes down to replicating the very limited amount of poseability. Unfortunately, it's even a little less poseable since all the bellows and folds in the casting add up to a fairly thick wall of rubber for the articulation skeleton to fight against: Human muscle-power does a much better job at that in a 1:1 scale rubber suit. You certainly won't be posing this guy lying on his belly sighting down the scope of a Springfield. The doll wears a full rubber suit, glued together so that it's non-removeable (or intended to be), with a rigid plastic shell glued to his backside.
Metoron Seijin-- or "Metron" as it's named by Medicom (despite its 3-syllable pronunciation in the shows), first appeared in a classic & artfully-done 1967 Ultraseven episode. It gave us the memorable image of the alien and hero, seated cross-legged at a table discussing their situation before the final showdown at sunset. Variations on Metoron Seijin appeared in a few other less-than-classic Ultra series episodes, including the made-for-video Ultraseven show of 1995. The Ultraman Max episode is an homage to, and is a continuation of the original Ultraseven episode, set almost 40 years later. It's quite a treat seeing the stitched-back-together alien (who was sliced from head to crotch in the original episode) back at the table, gleefully offering Ultraman Max some delicious Metoron tea.
Medicom's version is a reasonably accurate rendering of the show's costume. Bear in mind that the costuming budget for the shows wasn't huge-- consequently, the costume is relatively simple, and packs as many bells and whistles as the budget and pre-CGI times could afford. It's basically a rubber suit decorated with some textural/detail castings, painted vivid colors, and topped off with an oddly-shaped head, fitted with lighting effects. Medicom's rubber suit has some faintly visible seams which appear to be deliberate, to replicate the construction of the actual costume. As with the actual costume, the head is a large rigid piece with fur stuck along the bottom. It's unfortunate that Medicom doesn't put electronics in their dolls since often in the shows, the creature costumes' lighting is one of their most prominent gimmicks to indicate their alien-ness. The only thing that I noticed which seemed less-that-accurate was the integrated casting of the suit's backside detail. In the actual costume, the backside detail appears to be a separate piece.
The Metoron Seijin doll is marginally more poseable than the Zetton doll: Although the suit doesn't have as many folds and bellows, the suit's wall is fairly thick and significantly restricts the posing of limbs. At least this one has an articulated neck, which permits a limited amount of side-to-side, front-to-back, and rotation posing of the head. The result is that most of the advanced super articulation of the RAH301 figure inside the rubber suit is wasted. There hasn't been a figure made that can hold a pose against the tremendous kinetic energy potential of a giant rubber band (suit).
Once again, I'm compelled to comment on the "bang-for-the-buck" factor, especially after a recent purchase of DID's WWII Luftwaffe Manfred Boelcke doll. To put it bluntly, there's no comparison, or perhaps only an unfair comparison. If I can figure out where to categorize and file a DID review, maybe I'll do one: In the meantime, take my word that DID's doll is a superbly detailed product with realistic sewn leather boots, wearable gloves (that don't look funky when worn), two replacement heads, a cast pewter sword & dagger, tons of medals, a cape, and an exquisitely tailored uniform-- for half the price of a Medicom Ultra creature. Admittedly, it's apples and oranges since I don't know too many people who cast rubber suits, and there are lots of people who can sew and fabricate small accessories. In addition, DID is a young and hungry company which prices their stuff for a wide international audience, whereas Medicom historically hasn't looked for sales beyond their native borders. The fact remains that for Westerners, Ultraman is eclectic stuff and collecting it sometimes comes with a high price tag.
There are less costly alternatives for the 12"/30 cm scale-- many Ultraman heroes and creatures are available as vinyl figures and garage kits. However, they're not the same thing as a rubber-suited doll. Garage kits can look very good, but have fixed poses, and vinyl figures with limited articulation tend to look toy-like and aren't nearly as true-to-the-costume as Medicom's seamless rubber-suited dolls. Medicom's dolls aren't nearly as poseable as dolls that wear cloth outfits, but strike the best balance they can between poseability and seamless authenticity, given the limits of scale and material properties. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.
--12/31/05 Happy New Year!