MEDICOM'S ALIEN ZARAB FROM ULTRAMAN

medicom's zarabu seijin07/05/15- It's been a long time since I've added anything new to this Daikaiju section. Don't know why, but I recently decided to check in on the current state of the 12"/30-cm Daikaiju world... and ended up with this guy.

Although Alien Zarab was released years ago, its higher price as a mail-order exclusive was off-putting when I first saw it; however, it hasn't gotten any cheaper over time, so I finally pressed the button.

The rubber suit is similar to the Jamila doll, so poseability is about the same: Very limited. Although it's a relatively thin rubber skin, the inner plastic RAH figure's articulation isn't robust enough to hold torso twist or sitting poses. The arms, elbows, hips, and knees can be posed, but not at extreme positions.

Unlike the other releases which use "flipper" hands (undetailed paddles) inside rubber gloves, this guy comes with 2 pairs of traditional solid PVC hands on a plug-in peg with a single wrist hinge. The alternate pair of hands let him carry the ultra futuristic translation device (bottom pic).

While the episode wouldn't win any awards, it was one of the better Ultraman episodes. Zarabu Seijin turns out to be a duplicitous alien claiming to be our friendly brother among the stars, while trying to turn sentiment against Ultraman and the Science Patrol by transforming into a city-smashing imitation Ultraman (with evil slanty eyes). The penalty for this kind of bad behavior is to be left as a charbroiled, smoldering carcass amidst the rubble of the buildings you've crushed. One helluva cleanup job for the humans.

Having seen some of the recent Tsuburaya Ultra-series shows (like Ultraman Ginga), I feel a little embarrassed to admit to being an Ultra-series fan, unless it's qualified by the '60s-era tag. Sure, those old shows are cheesy with dodgy effects and abrupt endings, but they have a kind of naïve sincerity that I find endearing. I think it's one of those "you-had-to-be-there" things, like the Beatles' first albums in stereo.

Looking back, I think it shows more than just an evolution of media technology, but also reflects many other changes in the world: The evolution of marketing, audience targeting, and the change in generations and attitudes as well. Today's Ultraman shows are strictly kid's stuff, shamelessly crafted to sell Bandai's toy figures. The technology's much more advanced and the shows reflect current attitudes, perspectives, and fads, but the appeal of the show is narrowly focused on children. It's almost painful for adults to watch (speaking for myself): Tsuburaya understandably draws upon their iconic kaijus of the past... then exploits them as shills. (Speaking as a grumpy baby-boomer.)

The '60s shows had a broader appeal, perhaps because TV was a relatively new medium, targeting the family audience. To its credit, in recent years Tsuburaya did try to appeal to an older audience with the dark Ultraseven X, but I suspect that it learned a lesson from that experiment. This year's Ultraman X doesn't channel that dark Ultraseven X vibe, and continues the blatant shilling of Bandai toys. Granted, it's fun to see some of the old monsters again, done up with glitzy modern special effects, but the episodes have a soulless feel, like empty calories.

The merchandise also tells a story about the evolution of this niche interest. During the '60s when the original shows aired, toys were intended for children, from very young to those of model-building age. Bandai, Marusan, and many other manufacturers stepped in to serve the market spawned by "Kaiju mania". As the baby boomer market revealed itself and adult toy collecting became more mainstream, the higher price-point nostalgia industry sprung up for adult collectors. Some collectors are interested in realistic representations of the heroes and monsters in the shows they watched as kids. This detail and fidelity was found garage kits and resin statues, but most recently in X-Plus' vinyl figure releases. Some collectors are interested in the colorful, stylized Bullmark-style vinyls and tin toys that are reminiscent of toys they owned when they were kids. Both command high prices, beyond what most parents would be willing to pay for children's toys. Bandai's original soft vinyls remain a popular and affordable staple of adult collectors and kids who like the series. Bandai has been exploring the middle ground with their good-looking, highly-articulated 6.25" Ultra-Act figures which, though aimed at adult collectors, are a more affordable and "fun" alternative to X-Plus' offerings.

Medicom's 12" line seems moribund in comparison, with few new releases and very little collector's "buzz" on forums. Medicom's RAH stuff was considered high/over-priced in its heyday but with prices of everything rising, nowadays their prices may seem almost reasonable, or unremarkable in comparison. True, some after-market prices on eBay leapfrog into absurdly high ($300+) and obscenely high ($1000+) territory. Today, there are more "used/opened box" and fewer "new" listings, but prices seem to have stabilized.

For me, the big shocker was seeing the prices of X-Plus' Ultra series stuff on eBay. Many are priced in absurdly high and some in obscenely high territory. Most don't sell at those prices, but occasionally, an obsessed collector will bite. I hadn't paid much attention to X-Plus before because they were usually smaller format (20-cm) figures, with only an occasional 30-cm resin release.

Being an upscale alternative to the Bandai vinyl figures, it's not surprising that X-Plus would command the devotion of adult collectors. They put out a lot of Ultra series variety, with outstanding detail and quality. Their limited release/preorder production seems designed for this. Consequently, their after-market prices reflect this, making some Medicom eBay listings seem like smart-shopper bargains in comparison.

I wish I could say that about my purchase of Zarabu Seijin, but "brain-dead idjit collector" is probably a more apt characterization. Still, to the collector there's no such thing as "overpriced": It's not about the price of a pound of plastic, it's about what a person is willing to pay for something they want. Opportunities to purchase a 12" Medicom Alien Zarab don't pop up every day.

Pathetic Earthling... My Transistor's bigger than yours, and it's got two antennas!

 

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