[Excerpted from the October 2007 issue of Otaku USA magazine.]
My main collecting habits center around soft vinyl figures of Japanese characters. Known in Japan as “Sofubi, ” these toys trace their heritage back to the mid-1960s when now-legendary companies such as Marusan and Bullmark were at the top of their games.
Within the last few years there has emerged a new ground swell of soft vinyl toys and toy makers not only in Japan but also around the world.
In this issue we have a nice cross-section of some of these cool toys.
Note that many of these figures are made in very small runs, sometimes less than 25 figures, and that many of the licensed items are for sale only in Japan. Your best bet to find these figures is through the usual online folks or to make a friend in Japan. Or… just go to Japan yourself!
Plaseebo’s “Legend of Plaseebo” Mummy Figure
Bob Conge’s company is called Plaseebo and that’s also the name of his very creepy new figure. The 1st edition “Legend of Plaseebo” figure, designed and sculpted by Bob Conge, is rotocast in glow-in-the-dark vinyl. The figure is 8″ long prone (5″ seated) and comes in a vinyl Sarcophagus. It also comes with a copy of an illustrated ” Legend of Plaseebo” story printed on a 14″ by 21″ sheet of parchment paper and a full-color header card illustrated by Bob Conge. The Legend of Plaseebo begins with the birth of Tsu during the great storm of 2039 bc on the island of Kyushu in the archipelago known today as Japan. It tells the story of how Tsu, an unwanted Japanese dwarf, at the age of 10, sails 5,000 miles and flies another 3,000 to arrive in the Egyptian city of Coptos where he is believed to be their reincarnated Pharaoh, Plaseebo. After his 57-year reign, Plaseebo lies entombed in a great pyramid for 3,000 years while his spirit longs for the soil of his birthplace, Japan. Finally, in ad 1803, two archaeologists break into his burial chamber and awaken the Mummy Plaseebo, who to this day roams the earth in search of his homeland. The 2nd edition Legend of Plaseebo mummy figure in blue glow-in-the- dark vinyl with black and gold Sarcophagus will be available on their website in June/July 2007.
Dokuro Taro is a cool character and toy from new company Elegabu. Designer and artist Naritada Shintani originally came up with Dokuro Taro back in 2004. During that time he produced Dokuro Taro as a drama and music CD with his fellow band mates. He also developed a website that showcased some artwork of Dokura Taro characters. Now with this new venture he has branched out into producing toys based on his art and concepts. This first figure was released as a mini soft vinyl. One version features a removable mask and the other version is done in a very cool transparent green with special gold insert. Upcoming releases will include soft vinyl Kaiju to do battle with Dokuro Taro. Other influences include 1970s Japanese heroes from TV shows (see this issue’s massive coverage on Kikaida for further information!), animations, and other shows from that era. Some of his American influences include Spider-Man and even Z-movies like Son of Blob! I asked Shintani-san if he had any message for American toy fans and he said, “It is a wonderful thing that people live in different countries and mutually understand each other through toys. I hope otaku bring peace to the world!” Well said! Look for more cool stuff from this exciting new company!
Far East Monsters Godzilla
Far East Monsters Ltd. is a newly formed company created by Godzilla enthusiasts Tom Tvrdik and Bill Kerner, whose motto is, “Made for fans by fans.” They have unveiled their new product line, a diorama series called “Godzilla Destroy All Monsters Battlezone,” a never-before-seen kind of collectible.
Godzilla comes first in the limited edition series and stands 7″ tall. Many other monsters will be released afterward to recreate the climactic battle in the classic kaiju 1968 epic Destroy All Monsters. Each piece will have unique features such as sound, lights, and poseable parts. When put together, they will form an interactive diorama, offering something never before seen in a kaiju product. Imagine monster museum-quality reproductions at affordable prices, all with different, unique features! King Ghidorah is next, landing in early 2008.
Shigeki Okuda’s company, Atelier G, produces model kits and also real-type kaiju soft vinyl kits with inner metal armatures. Having this internal armature allows the kits to be posed in numerous ways. In this way, these figures blend the hyper detail of model kits with the posability of an action figure. Some of Okuda-san’s influences include Ryosaku Takayama (1917-1982), the artist who designed and built the Kaiju suits for the original Ultraman TV shows and Tomoo Haraguchi, the artist who does SFX, special make up for many movies in Japan, including the recent Gamera movies. The most recently released items from this kaiju-phile company are Daigoro (light brown) and Goliath (blue) soft vinyl models from the obscure 1971 Toho flick Daigoro Vs. Goliath. Look for upcoming releases of a second generation Angilas movable soft vinyl kit. The attention to realistic detail in all of Atelier G’s figures is evident, right down to the last scale and claw. It’s no wonder their figures are in such high demand in Japan!
Spicy Brown’s Mr. Tofu Robot
Spicy Brown has just released their first toy called Mr. Tofu Robot. This soft vinyl figure is oh so cute and makes me want to stack my tofu blocks into a robot shape, too. Designed by Kazuko Shinoka, the extra firm vinyl robot stands at a massive 4″ tall and comes in a freshly sealed package that looks like a tofu container. If that wasn’t enough, also check out their fashionable line of apparel for women and men!