Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2005 9:05 PM

09/20/98- This is probably another "huh?" picture. Sorry. If you've watched the show, you'll recognize this as the beginnings of an Urutora Keibitai uniform. (I think this means "Ultra Garrison" in Japanese, but the TNT series calls them the "Ultra Squad.") Of all the Ultra shows, these guys had the best uniforms. At least they weren't bright orange or some other garish combination of colors. My goal is to make young Moroboshi Dan, with a head of his approximate likeness, along with the cool helmet, and spacey sidearm. From the start, I realized that some things would probably have to be sacrificed in terms of accuracy.

The first part of this project involved making the uniform, and not being a particularly good tailor, this was a major unknown. There was no point in producing the head sculpt first if I couldn't make a satisfactory uniform. This was also a fairly complex uniform. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how I was going to render the different decorative elements (like the stripes and panels), and what materials I was going to use.

So, having gathered a bunch of ideas, I went in search of fabrics. The ideal fabric would have been a thin light blue-gray synthetic knit, with a fine woven texture. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything like this, and I sacrificed almost all of those parameters, finally selecting this too dark & rather thick material, with a large-grained texture. Oh well, at least it was a synthetic knit. I considered the stretchiness of the fabric to be an important property, and synthetic fabrics seem to have the proper "look" for this type of uniform. I also found a black "biker's knit" for the side panels, and some white knit (which I didn't use).

Developing the pattern for this wasn't too hard, since the uniform was supposed to be relatively form-fitting. With dolls, pattern-making is a pretty obvious task, since you've got the eternally patient and abusable "wearer" in front of you, and you can turn it this way and that, upside-down, and even mark lines directly on the body. Try doing that with your spouse! The rest of it is just a matter of extrapolating for construction. And lotsa patience, and trial & error. A challenging part of this project was in separating the rough pattern into parts, so that the the black side panels could be sewn into the gray top sections to appear as a solid piece. Fortunately, with the aid of adhesives, I was able to sew the tough curves, and after everything was sewn together, all the sub-assemblies aligned reasonably well. The parts where misalignment was visible is hidden by the belt.

Dealing with the zipper was difficult. I've found this to be generally true, since scale zippers don't exist (that I know of), you can't make them, and the mechanism is bulky and difficult to make fit into the scale. Fortunately, you can customize the length of the zipper though. The actual uniform is two separate pieces-- pants and a zippered jacket, and the zipper is hidden. I decided to construct this as a one-piece jumpsuit, with a faux trouser fly. Besides the basic problem of not being able to find a "separate-able" zipper in a fine size, this would take care of the extra thickness of the zippered jacket tucked into the pants, as well as increase the travel length of the zipper. I used an "invisible" zipper (of course, not following the directions), but was unable to make the invisible part work; so there's a gap in the front closure of the jacket.

Although I intended to do all the decorative striping with sewn-in fabric, I realized that (besides being a major pain-in-the-ass to do) even if I had the skill, the seams and excess material would increase the thickness of the uniform unacceptably. Whew! So I simply glued ribbon on-- This also took care of the problem of getting a uniform-width stripe. I suppose a true tailor would have sewn these on, but since I'd already installed the zipper, I had no choice... (That's why I like making prototypes) :^)

09/26/98- Not much I can say about this guy... Of course you probably don't recognize him as Moroboshi Dan, so I'll have to say that he looks exactly like him. Take my word for it. (right, Jimbob...)

(Post-mortem: the cheeks are too flat, and the eye sockets need to be more contoured, the eye corners more downturned, the eyebrows lowered, the nose and lip edges fixed... did I leave anything out??? Probably.)

10/03/98- Impatience... I didn't like the way the head casting looked when painted, so I puttied it -- the putty hasn't cured yet, and the finish needs to be fixed. That should take care of the lumpiness & sheen, but there's still something wrong with the likeness. Oh well. The helmet is a half-painted rough casting, created so that I could make the visor while the real helmet mold is curing. I get too impatient and curious about what stuff will look like, so I make quickie versions. The third picture shows the whole figure taking shape, but a number of details still need to be tackled-- the holster & gun, the badges, the belt buckle, the weird boots, the white gloves, plus the unfinished helmet details. I may re-make the uniform too, since the color is so far off, and the zipper sucks. Maybe...?

If you're curious, here's a bit about the helmet construction: The helmet shell was sculpted (in Super Sculpey) over a raw casting of the head-- I couldn't adapt any pre-fab helmets (original was probably a motorcycle helmet, which I don't have), since this one needed to fit pretty snugly to look right. I spent a lot of time working on the basic shape and the finish. It went through several grits of sandpaper, steel wool and plastic polisher. After baking the basic shell, I sculpted on the ridge which goes around the top & sides of the helmet (it's hard to see in the pics). This whole thing was baked again, and the ridge was given the finishing treatment to work out any irregularities. Before molding, the clay was sprayed with shellac to further smooth out the texture. A quick mold was made to cast a rough copy of the helmet so I could work on the visor. The visor shape was sculpted onto the resin copy, finished smooth and baked. The final version of the visor was "heat stretch formed" in clear acetate over the clay form. (I need to make a real vacuform box someday.) At this time, the visor isn't attached to the hinges, and I'm saving that work & detailing for when the real version of the helmet is cast.

MOROBOSHI DAN REVISITED...(07/03/05)  Sometime last year, Takara produced a "Cool Girl" version of Annu Yuri in the TDF uniform. As usual with their offerings, the quality was excellent-- great fidelity to the TV show in the production of the uniform and accessories, including the helmet, the raygun, and the insignia. The only part that's not very "realistic" is the doll's face-- it looks good, but it's done in the stylized Cy-Girl look, rather than attempting to be an accurate likeness of the actress.

At any rate, they got the uniform's color correct, unlike the one I made. A central feature of uniforms is that they look "uniform", and since I wasn't likely to find a good match for their material and color (whew!), I bought another Annu Yuri doll hoping that I'd be able to use it for my Moroboshi Dan figure. The fact is, every feature of their version was done better than mine, from the tailoring all the way down to the tiny lettering on the belt buckle. And much more accurate too, since they undoubtedly had reference access to Tsuburaya's vault of goodies. Sure, it's a shame to scuttle work that had taken a considerable amount of time and effort, but it's much easier when the pain is only a distant memory and you can bypass it by taking advantage of someone else's time and effort.

There was no way that the uniform would fit the stock vintage-style GI Joe figure with its wide chest and shoulders. There also wasn't much hope of making the uniform bigger, either-- it doesn't have much in the way of extra material. Therefore, I reduced the figure's chest and shoulder width. Since the Annu figure has boobs, the uniform could accommodate a chest that was still somewhat wide, but with a thinner side profile. I also had to thin the neck a bit, even though I didn't attempt complete collar closure as with the Annu doll (which is kosher, per the TV show). Initially, I was concerned that the chest reduction would look too small and effeminate for a male doll, but it looks okay for a fitted jacket being worn by a trim young man. The vintage Joe's chest was too barrelish for the actor's actual stature and physique anyway. (I don't think you could do this to make a Furuhashi doll though...) I also extended the figure's legs a bit because the Cool Girls are so tall-- this actually helps the proportions of the vintage Joe with his stubby legs.

While I was at it, I tweaked the headsculpt a bit: The first attempt had some bad errors, due to crummy sculpting. I tried to fix the errors, and at times wondered whether it would have been better to start from scratch since it was an ugly mix of resin, putty & paint-- very hard to see what was going on. But this was faster and I wasn't after perfection (since I'm confident that I'm not capable of that). I lopped off his ears and gave him yarn hair to make the helmet fit easier-- it had been a tight fit, and I didn't want to remove the helmet liner or risk cracking the helmet. I suppose I could make Mr. Potatohead ears so that he could go helmetless, but I don't think that will come up very often.