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Godzilla (1964)

SH MonsterArts
by Poe Ghostal

I've behaved somewhat oddly in regard to my SH MonsterArts collection. I have always, always been an opener - an immediate opener (although sometimes I'll hold off if I need to take pics for a review). But despite owning every single SH MonsterArts toy in existence, up to and including the subject of this review, I have only opened three (again, including this one) so far.

I'm really not sure why I waited so long to open them. Am I becoming a (horrors!) mint-on-card collector? No, I didn't even have them on display, so that wasn't it. Part of me wondered, am I getting tired of toys? It's possible, but I don't think that's it either. I have other toys I open right away.

Part of the truth, I think, is that I just wasn't really into the monster designs. With the exception of Godzilla 1985, I'm not really a fan of the Heisei era of Godzilla films. They were made in the 1990s and with few exceptions, they weren't imported over here until the late 1990s when the American abomination of a film came out. By the time I watched the Heisei movies, I'd already grown nostalgic about the "Showa" era of Godzilla films (the 1950s through the 1970s). Also, I just didn't enjoy the Heisei films - I found them rather dull affairs, with little of the fantasy and skill that went into the early Showa era.

So while I was very excited by the prospect of "super-articulated Godzilla figures," I think I held off opening them because I was waiting for Tamashii Nations (the collector arm of Bandai that produces these figures) to get to the Showa era, at which point I would decide to either integrate my Heisei collection with the new Showa monsters, or just sell them off and focus on the Showa era.

Well, the Showa SH MonsterArts figure is finally here. Unfortunately, I found it very disappointing.

To say I was anticipating this figure is an understatement. I thought this figure would replace G1 Grimlock as my favorite toy of all time. That was probably always unlikely to happen - nothing can match a childhood memory of a beloved toy - but I had reason to believe it would become one of my prized possessions. Instead, it has me rethinking my interest in SH MonsterArts entirely.

This figure is based on Godzilla as he appeared in 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla. It's known among fans as the "MosuGoji" suit ("Mosura" being the Japanese spelling of Mothra, and "Goji" being a shortened version of "Gojira," the Japanese spelling of Godzilla). It's my third-favorite suit after the one from King Kong vs. Godzilla and the one from Terror of Mechagodzilla.

The problem is not the sculpting. The sculpt, by veteran monster sculptor Yuji Sakai, is nothing short of amazing. It's highly accurate to the film. The head seemed a little small to me at first, but after looking at a bunch of photos from different angles, I think Sakai did his research. There are tiny details on this figure that surpass anything seen on the 6" or even the 8" Godzilla vinyls. It is, quite simply, a beautiful sculpt.

The problem is the size. Up to now, most of the SH MonsterArts figures have been scaled to a 6"-Godzilla. The Godzilla from the first release, "MogeGoji," who appeared in 1994's Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla, was supposed to represent a creature that was 100 meters tall. The Showa-era Godzilla (in the films) was supposed to be half that size. So a MosuGoji that was properly scaled to the existing MogeGoji would have been about 3" tall. That's ridiculously small, of course, but also there was no reason to do that. Since the Heisei and Showa eras are different continuities, there is no need to scale them to one another (Bandai never did that with their vinyls, for example).

But while G'64 isn't 3" tall, he's still small. Disappointingly small. With his head raised as high as it will go, he's 5½" tall. That might not seem like much, but trust me when I say that when you hold MosuGoji in one hand and MogeGoji in the other, MosuGoji feels like a Marvel Universe figure while MogeGoji feels like a Marvel Legends figure.

Why did they make the toy this small? I don't know. But it is a big disappointment to me. I should have known it was coming; plenty of comparison photos came out ahead of time, and the height was listed on all the sales pages. But I just didn't understand how small it really was until I held it in my hand.

One last thing: I was never an Ultraman fan, but when I started collecting SH MonsterArts, I got excited about the prospect of putting a Showa-era Godzilla next to a Showa-era Ultraman. And so I got totally into Ultraman, watching the original show, collecting some of the Ultra-Act figures in anticipation of mixing them up with my SH MonsterArts. Well, as you can see, Ultraman, who's supposed to be 40 meters tall, absolutely towers over the supposedly 50-meter Godzilla. Fortunately, I also hadn't opened many of my Ultra-Acts either, and many of them have increased in value enough that I should be able to make my money back at least.

The figure is molded in a flat charcoal black paint, and it both looks great and has a fantastic, rough texture to the touch. The paint work is excellent - subtle and well-applied, with all the right color choices (to my eye, anyway). On a side note, the eyes are interesting. They actually have a translucent covering. I'm not sure why this was done, but it's neat.

Like all SH MonsterArts figures, Godzilla is heavily articulated. There's a lot of movement in the neck and head. He can look up, down, and from side to side, and both the head and the base of the neck are balljoints with plenty of motion. The arms a bit more restricted at the shoulder, but they move well on balljoints at the elbows, and the hands are ball-and-socket joints. The back of the figure has a very noticeable gap between the spines on the back where the waist articulation is; some collectors are so annoyed by that they find it a dealbreaker, although it doesn't bother me nearly that much. The torso itself is a balljoint with a surprising range of motion; between the torso and the neck, Godzilla can bend over surprisingly far.

The most controversial joints are the odd triangular ones on the flanks. These appear to be designed to allow Godzilla to swing his legs out - to do the splits, basically. While a cool idea, it's a bit puzzling, for two reasons: 1) Godzilla doesn't do the splits, especially this particular incarnation, and 2) the feet are very limited in articulation, so a wide-legged stance doesn't really work. Speaking of the feet, they're the most disappointing part of the articulation. There's a balljoint for the ankle and a balljoint in the middle of the foot itself. The real problem is the ankle articulation; it's extremely restricted, and both feet have a hard time moving back and forth. The left foot in particular is stuck in a permanent "foot forward" pose, meaning you can't get the back of the left foot to lay flush against the ground without pushing the leg forward. The right foot has a lot more give, for whatever reason.

Finally, G'64 has an extremely well-articulated tail, with 15 separate balljointed segments. It's a very well-articulated figure, but while already reeling from the disappointment of the size, I found myself distracted by the limitations of the left foot. The figure does tend to pop apart a bit - the tail might come off, or one of the hands - but they pop right back on the balljoint easily. This is a common aspect of Japanese action figures.

You might be thinking, "Poe, if you had all that information about the size and so forth ahead of time, you really should have seen this coming," and you're absolutely right. But somehow it just didn't register with me. Maybe it was willful ignorance.

This figure costs in the range of $65. I rarely take price into account in reviews because the money spent on something usually doesn't affect my opinion of that item. It's not because I'm rich - far from it - it's just not something I think about. Once I have the figure, it's paid for and the money is gone, so why dwell on it?

My point is, this figure could have cost $100 or $5; either way, it would still be disappointing. Many readers find this an odd mindset. Of course, the value question is definitely something on which your mileage may vary. You might not want to spend $65+ on a figure this small. You might not want to spend $65 if it had been 6" tall, or even 8" or 12" tall.

In any event, I find myself thoroughly bummed. One intriguing thing that happens when an "obsession bubble" like this gets popped is the sudden clarity about what I've been doing. Why did I buy a figure of the Peter Jackson Kong? I kind of hate that movie, and I certainly don't find its giant-regular-gorilla Kong very interesting. Why did I get Godzilla Junior? Or Little Godzilla? I have zero interest in those characters.

For someone who fully understands what they're getting, this is a good, even a great figure. The sculpt is excellent and the figure is very well articulated (even if some of that articulation isn't very useful). But for me, it's severely disappointing. The idea that any future Showa monsters will be scaled to this figure is another bummer. I just don't like toys this small (unless the character is supposed to be small, which Godzilla is obviously not). How tall will the Godzilla 2000 figure be?

A few lessons from this: it was clearly a mistake to start buying SH MonsterArts characters I wasn't really interested in (and it was definitely a mistake to buy the Ultra-Act stuff) in anticipation of a toy that might not even have been made; and then, when it was made, it proved disappointing. Moving forward, try to take a wiser approach, avoiding the all-in mentality. (Note to self: go light on the prequel characters with Star Wars Black 6". You will regret those later.)

-- 11/03/13

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