ultraman garamon medicomMedicom released King Joe and Garamon at nearly the same time, despite the pre-order info indicating that there would be a month's breather for the wallet. That was a genuine consideration since the price of these two had gone up from the already high standard list price of 12,800 yen to 14,800 yen (King Joe) and 18,800 yen (Garamon). Add the International shipping (1,380 + 3,200) and that's a whopper bill for a couple of toys. Especially if you've already got other versions of the same toys. Of course, it's entirely discretionary spending and no one said that this niche of the hobby was a bargain hunter's paradise. For me, it was a no-brainer... (interpret that however you'd like!)

The Garamon vinyl kit I'd built didn't really look like Garamon/Pigmon to the discerning eye, and once you're tuned to that it will endlessly bother you. Not so with Medicom's version... it looks pretty darn close! They include two emblems that you can attach to make it resemble the Garamon of the Ultra-Q series, or leave them off and it's Pigmon of the Ultraman series.

The second reason why I felt compelled to buy was that this was a totally new design from Medicom, using an armature created especially for this creature: I was curious, and had to see it in person. Indeed, Medicom has finally created a no-compromises armature for a rubber-suited doll, confirming the conclusion I'd arrived at: Rubber suited dolls need special, extra-robust armatures. The armature limbs are made of metal tubes (looks like brass), with metal balls & hinges! It's a shame that it took so long, and I hope they adopt this technique in all their future releases, even those with humanoid shapes. I'm not convinced they will though, since it affects the price, and ultimately the consumer will drive the decision. I wish they'd unveiled this improvement with their King Joe doll since that's likely to be a more popular product, simply based upon the way he looks and the source TV episodes.

The Garamon doll has other cool features, like the articulated jaw & eyelids (eyeballs, actually). It's the first time they've done these kinds of gimmicks, but nothing they've done so far has jaws or human-like eyelids to blink. The jaw is a pretty standard hinged design, so I won't go into that. The eyeballs are operated by a lever disguised as a fin that protrudes from the back of the head. Press it downwards and the eyes/eyelids/eyelashes (one piece) rotates downwards, probably via a simple hinge and ratchet on the other end of the lever. My only gripe of the entire product is that, with the lids down, there's white showing at the sides of the eyeballs. I don't know if this is from a hasty paintjob, or because the fit of the eyeball in the socket scrapes the paint off. From my own experiments with moveable eyeballs I've learned that the fit is extremely critical: It looks best if the eyeball and lid have no gap, which causes friction. If you leave a gap then the fit looks like that of a "Thunderbirds" marionette.

Then there's the Medicom signature rubber suit: It's very impressive. The gazillion rubber fins are extremely sexy, and I'm stumped as to how they could have cast such an intricate, mold-unfriendly part in one piece. It's even more impressive when you consider that they did the entire torso as one piece, with no obvious seam. Clearly, there are some amazing new production techniques out there.

Medicom has chosen materials wisely, based on function. The hands and feet are made of a more rigid plastic. The rigid feet give the doll a more stable pose and the rigid hands give the armature's wrist ball something solid to plug into.

While the paint job is very good, it's perhaps the only area where the end user could make improvements (besides articulating the fingers and tail segments). The feet appear to have been painted in a separate station before final assembly (different shade with no dark wash), so they could be blended better with the legs.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned prices. The usual response to seeing those numbers in dollars brings up issues of "worth", as in, "Dang! Those things ain't worth that much!". Yes, these things cost some stupid money, and if you think to compare them to figures you can buy at Big Lots, you've just wasted a chunk of your time reading this article. If not, you're probably wondering, "Is the price differential between this and Medicom's previous offerings justified?" In my opinion, it is. This is a truly unique doll with upscale hardware that you're not likely to find outside of a stop-motion animator's workshop. This isn't something that you'd appreciate from pictures, and if you're a collector only interested in the visual aspect, a vinyl or resin version would serve just as well, probably for less money. If you're interested in the technology behind dolls, you don't want to miss this milestone.