MARMIT'S ULTRASEVEN - VERSION 1

Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2005 9:31 PM

Just when you think you're safe making weird & obscure stuff, something comes around and proves how wrong you are! When I made my version of Ultraseven, I had absolutely no idea that a licensed one was available. I had assumed since Medicom didn't make one, that Tsuburaya Pro just was being extra protective about their properties (although Bandai produces vinyl toys of their stuff). Wrong again!

This came to my attention when Calvin Lim e-mailed me a photo of his kickass collection which showed a 12" Ultraseven (and Ultraman!), and gave me some URLs. He mentioned that his was made by Marmit, a name which I recognized from a URL someone else had sent me, which showed an incredible Star Wars Stormtrooper, to be released sometime later this year... Well, coincidence of coincidences-- that URL was Calvin's web site ( http://www.bigfoot.com/~calvinlim/marmit.html )! He gave me a lead, and so of course I had to order this thing from Kimono My House.

As you can see from the photo, it's not an "out-of-the-box-and-play" experience-- sort of a weird cross between a GI-Joe and a Garage Kit. Like a garage kit, the vinyl hands & boots need to be trimmed. Note that they give you three pairs of hands so you can pose him doing a number of typical cool Ultraseven moves. The suit, his neck and chest/shoulder armor are made of rubber, and likewise need to be trimmed. The mask is made of a clear soft vinyl, and comes in two pieces. Finally, his head slicer thingee ("Eyeslugger head boomerang") is made of a hard plastic.

I'm a little uncertain whether they left something out... There aren't any pictorial instructions with the thing-- just a single half-sheet flyer written in Japanese. Of course you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to put it together. But it does make you nervous when you're making irreversible cuts in the materials-- what if there's a step that they caution you about in the instructions? Also, you miss out on any gluing instructions, as well as recommended adhesives and paints to use. Yes, it's very much like a garage kit-- you do have to glue-assemble it and paint his mask, the armor, and the stripes on his rubber costume. I assume that you use superglue for this, since it works well for garage kits and for rubber. Similarly, I assume you use acrylics paints too-- vinyl doesn't react well to oil-based paints, and vinyl doesn't really need to be primed. The only piece that probably does is the head boomerang. I'm curious about whether they recommend a particular brand of paint for the rubber though. Because the mask is clear, you could do a number of cool things though, including lighting the eyes.

The raw figure itself is really sweet. It's made of a hard plastic, and screwed together so that the moveable pieces are tensioned by that pressure. All the joints are silky-smooth and tight. The knee joints have a double hinge so that they could be extended back much further than a standard single hinge (although they really didn't take advantage of this by cutting back far enough into them). And the shoulders have a ball & socket joint that connects to the arm's shoulder hinge-- this permits the arm to do all the normal things, plus move backwards or forwards within the socket. The waist articulation is excellent (but unfortunately is somewhat wasted because of the tautness of the rubber suit). All in all, the figure is a very high-quality piece and reminds me of my smaller Dragonball Z figure that's got zillions of points of articulation.

Unfortunately, it's not perfect. For one thing (and you can see this in the picture), it doesn't have hands or feet. They terminate in balls. With the vinyl hands and boots placed over them, the best they can do is rotate. Another thing is that there is no real neck articulation. The mask assembly rides on top of the ball, but there's no way to pose the head so that it's looking up, down or to the side. To me that's a major bummer, since it's an essential part of most poses. I think a little bit of creative engineering could probably fix that though.

Like I said, this is a weird hybrid of a GI Joe and a garage kit. The design choices that they made seem to be guided by a desire to make the figure look good, at the expense of poseability-- despite having a very good figure basis underneath the outfit. I say this with the insight of having just made my own version in isolation, and being faced with similar design decisions.

The biggest design difference between our versions was the choice of a material for the suit. Although the character in the TV show wears a rubber suit, I selected that wretched Spandex simply because it enabled a wider range of movement. At this scale, it's virtually impossible to cast whole suits of rubber thin enough and still be durable, so that a reasonably tensioned figure can fight the rubber's tautness and maintain a pose. Another way this affects authenticity: while the Marmit figure's stripes could be painted on rubber (like the TV show's hero), I had to resort to ribbon striping, and settled for white instead of a metallic silver (which looked too shiny and out of place). The rubber is colored more faithfully than the particular shade of red Spandex that I managed to find. On the downside though, there's the issue of the longevity of rubber: Armor-All might look weird, but will probably help it last longer-- but indefinitely? I don't know, and it's a minor concern now-- but I know someone who bought an original Combat Joe Godzilla, and he's not too happy now...

The other design decisions were similar-- like them, I used a rubbery material for the shoulder and chest armor. To me it seemed acceptable here, since they would be attached to the Spandex, which would be riding over a single joint. I haven't finished mine yet (did I mention that I rarely finish anything?), but I'd planned to make a rubber casting for the neck, to hide the seam there-- just like theirs. Our choice of material for the head was different-- mine's a hard resin replacement head, while theirs is a soft clear vinyl casting. I'm not sure why they did theirs this way (except to show off! ;^) since there's no advantage in it being soft, and it's certainly harder to hide the seam between the front and back pieces. Hard plastic is also available in clear. Finally, the neck boomerang was an easy choice-- we both used hard plastic for that.

Another area in which the appearance of theirs is more authentic: the head is slightly larger than my version's. This jives with the TV version, since it's really just a human wearing a mask. I chose to ignore that because I thought it looked dorky and slightly out of scale. :^)

I thought it was funny and interesting to note that neither of us did a particularly top-notch job on the sculpting of the shoulder and chest armor. It's passable, but slightly rough-edged. It's as if we were bored with it, and really didn't care to try that hard. I know that was the case for me...but at least they didn't leave a fingerprint on the clay before molding!

Yep, this was certainly an interesting opportunity for me! I don't regret buying their figure one bit, since it's very cool. It doesn't render mine obsolete since one of the episodes of the TV show had Ultraseven fighting a fake Ultraseven built by those evil aliens. One final thought... having sampled one of Marmit's products, it does make me wonder whether they'll approach the Stormtrooper figure similarly. Currently, it is possible to create a fairly accurate Stormtrooper using Horizon's(?) garage kit for the armor. If Marmit approaches the hand and feet articulation like Ultraseven's, you might actually have an equally accurate, but more posable figure by taking the "make-it-yourself" route. In either case, it would probably involve some work-- more in the case of doing it entirely yourself. The one thing you won't be able to beat though, is their figure's quality... Let's hope that they provide the full figure with that one!

Gee... I wonder if anyone's made an Ultra Garrison figure???

-09/21/98

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