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Godzilla First Version - Monochrome

Kiguru Microman
by yo go re

In late 1972, Japanese toy company Takara released a clear version of Hasbro's 12" GI Joe doll and called it "Henshin Cyborg." Two years later, they made a miniature version with the name Microman, which eventually birthed the transforming household appliances of Microchange, and that line got mixed in with another Microman spin-off, Diaclone, to become Hasbro's Transformers, and that's how America's Movable Fighting Man led (in)directly to the Robots in Disguise. History!

Like GI Joe, the Henshin Cyborg line was originally all about different costumes for the generic body - it was just that that body was a cyborg with a nuclear reactor in his chest rather than a plain human. In 2004, Takara announced plans to introduce a new Microman series harking back to that idea, Kiguru Microman. Kiguru translates as "costumed," and each figure in the series came with a specialized outfit to wear. But we're not talking just any random outfits, here: this is that most quintessential of Japanese costumes, Godzilla.

The most famous kaiju in the world, Godzilla (nee Gojira) has been stomping around since 1954. And most of the time, he's just been a guy in a rubber suit wandering through a model. It's that facet of the character this figure pays homage to: this is, in no way, shape or form a toy of Godzilla; it is, instead, a toy of an actor playing Godzilla. That, my friends, is an original and amusingly awesome idea.

The first two Kiguru Microman figures were released in honor of Godzilla - Final Wars, the 50th anniversary film. KM-01 was the Godzilla from the original movie, and KM-02 was the Final Wars version. The next year they released this figure, KM-03, the "First Version - Monochrome." In other words, the original Godzilla design, just done in tones of grey, as a nod to the black and white film.

Of the choices available, the Monochrome set is a good one. The Micromen included with the first two releases are, to put it mildly, excruciating. The colors are hideously garish, a real pain to look at. Maybe it was to encourage buyers to put the suits on, like packaging the Binaltech Asterisk toys in robot form? Whatever the case, the b/w version is much more understated. This figure (whose name is Ken, apparently) has the standard modern Microman body, made of translucent gray plastic, with solid black legs, chest and joints. The head is chromed, but that's an unfortunate feature of most Micromen, not just a shortcoming with this one.

Ken has wonderful articulation. Swivel head, balljointed neck, double-balljointed shoulders (that's one in the body and one in the arm), swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel wrists, hinged hands, swivel/ hinge torso, balljointed waist, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel ankles and balljointed feet. That's a better assortment than most 6" figures, and the plastic is of high enough quality that you don't have to worry at all about breaks. Well, mostly. I accidentally snapped one of the ankles by pulling it the wrong direction; at least that's user error, not bad construction. Like all Micromen, Ken has an assortment of 10 bonus hands in different poses, if you don't like the ones on his arms in the packaging.

The Godzilla costume is molded from rubber (naturally), but still has quite a bit of detail. Godzilla has a distinctive texture, and the suit maintains it despite being made from such soft materials. The sculpt is very accurate, even bulging and folding like the real foam costume did. It's hollow, of course, and has no articulation, but that's true to the real suit, as well.

The suit opens in the rear, so Ken can get inside and create movie magic. Well, sort of - getting the Kiguru into his isho is more of a monster than Godzilla himself. The skin is thick and unyielding, so while the instructions only tell you you'll need to remove the figure's hands and feet, it'll actually be easier to pop off all the limbs, fit them into the suit, then wiggle the torso in and re-connect everything by feel. Not a simple process by any means. In fact, it's pretty damn frustrating, so good luck.

Once you do manage to wrestle him into the suit and fit the spines in place to seal him up, though, the illusion is good. "Godzilla" stands 4½" tall, and technically he only moves at the wrists (swivels) and the ankles (swivels and balljoints), but the rubber is thin enough that you can move Ken's joints inside the costume and achieve minor changes in the pose. Raise an arm, bend a knee, that sort of thing. Of course, the suit wants to return to its neutral pose, so it'll push the limbs back a bit, but he's definitely not immobile.

The "Monochrome" paint works nicely on Big G, just as it does on the figure inside him. Dark green isn't all that different from dark grey, so there's nothing at a glance to make this immediately jump out as being different or wrong. His teeth and claws are lighter, and the tips of his fins are light gray as well (a paint app, by the way, that gets rather sloppy - of course, that's not a major focus of attention, so it's no disappointment).

Since the Kiguru Microman figures are being shoved in and out of tight rubber suits all the time, they don't have any painted details. Best way to avoid the squeegee effect, you know? Paint would wear off, so instead the set includes decals. Really, they don't add much to the figure's looks or the set overall, so my Microman remains bare. He's fine without them, so don't worry if you're no good at putting on stickers. It's a skill those of us who grew up in the '80s cultivated by necessity, but advancements in tampography have made it obsolete. You kids these days have it so darn easy! And stay off my lawn!

The idea behind Microman was that they were actually very small aliens, making the toys 1:1 scale. Obviously that doesn't work for Gojira, who was 50 meters (167') tall - that would make this 1:500 scale, give or take. Of course, if you've read Marvel's Godzilla book, you'll almost certainly be unable to forget the storyarc where Godzilla was shrunken down to pocket size, so this figure could easily represent that, either in 1:1 scale, or in the 6" scale of Marvel Legends (after one of his self-correcting growth spurts).

Kiguru Microman is a neat idea, and one that's been executed (mostly) well. Getting the little guys inside the suits is beyond tough, but that's the price you pay for realism. The series started with Godzilla, but it's also included some of his frienemies, such as King Ghidorah the three-headed dragon, and Gamera, friend to children. Those kind of sets would probably only appeal to a bigtime G-Fan like our own Poe Ghostal, but Godzilla himself? He's good for even casual fans, or those enjoy a clever concept in their toys. Happy 55th birthday, big guy!

-- 10/10/09

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