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.