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Godzilla (1954)

by yo go re

Someone asked, recently, where the SH MonsterArts 1954 Godzilla is. Our answer? It's at Toys Я Us, in the NECA section.

NECA picked up the Godzilla license in 2014, when the new movie came out. But it also included the previous movies - all the previous movies. Anything they can get Toho to approve, they can make. Granted, the "get Toho to approve" part of the equation is really hit-or-miss, but they've so far managed to release 1994 and 1984 versions (plus a few variants), as well as the original G.

The original idea for Gojira (ゴジラ) was to make him a stop-motion puppet, like his inspiration, King Kong. But there weren't enough experienced animators available to get the movie done in time, which is why the filmmakers decided to go with "suitmation" instead - pity poor Nakajima Haruo, the actor who had to wear that 220 lb. monster!

The creature's design was inspired by the rhedosaurus Ray Harryhausen created for The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, done vertically rather than horizontally. He's also got influences of T rex, iguanodon, stegosaurus, and even an alligator. The original face is surprisingly cute, with a rounded snout, poofy cheeks, and tiny little ear-flaps that you just want to tug on!

Godzilla's skin was based on the type of scarring seen on survivors of Hiroshima. The packaging doesn't credit the sculptor, but the work is really good. It's not quite scales, but more like the sort of deep cracks seen on tree bark. Rather than hanging like it would on a real animal, the dermis folds like the rubber it was made of in real life. You can almost imagine where the internal support structures - bamboo and chicken wire, covered in fabric and cushions - are running. This is in an incredibly true-to-life version of what was seen on film, with a heavy lower body and small arms.

NECA, for some reason, insisted on referring to their Godzilla figures in "head-to-tail" measurements, meaning this is one of the 12" figures (so far, only the 2014 version has gotten a 24" release). Measured like a sane person, this figure just breaks the 6½" mark - interestingly, the original "ShodaiGoji" costume stood 6'6", putting this toy in a perfect 6" scale, if you assume it's an actor and not a giant monster.

"Giant," of course, being a relative term - the original film portrayed him as 50 meters tall, which was just enough to see over the tallest buildings in Tokyo at the time. That would make the toy approximately 1:300 scale. However, the clunky American edit didn't think that was big enough, so they said his height was over 400 feet. Now the toy is 1:740 scale. But scale doesn't really mean much when it comes to Godzilla toys. So what size is he? It's up to you!

In comicbooks, movie posters, toys and pretty much everything other than the actual movies, Godzilla is green. You think "Godzilla," you think green. But really, most of the time he's a charcoal grey (apparently the original suit was brown, but since the movie was black and white, you'd never know). This figure copies the look of the film, painting him completely in grayscale - mostly dark, with light gray-blue drybrushing for highlights. The toenails and two-toned, while the fingers are single. The jagged plates on his back have dark cores, but are light near the tips. The eyes are white with black pupils, and the inside of his mouth is a medium tone. It's not a colorful toy, but it looks right.

The SH MonsterArts figures are known for their excellent articulation, but NECA's is no slouch, either. What do we get here? Balljointed ankles, hips, waist, upper and lower neck, shoulders, and wrists, plus four more in the tail; swivel/hinge knees and elbows; and hinged jaw and fingers. That's just a few points fewer than Bandai's figure, and in some cases, NECA included joints Bandai didn't! The waist is a little floppy, if you don't position the upper body carefully, but the knees are very stiff. He'll be plenty sturdy!

SH MonsterArts releases start at about $60 or $70 and go up from there, while NECA's only costs a third of that price. However, it doesn't only provide ⅓ of the toy: the size is the same, the articulation is equivalent, and the sculpt is just as good. Bandai could probably create a better 1954 Godzilla, but there really isn't that much room for improvement. Why would you wait and pay triple for a toy that might be, at most, 5% better? Hold out for MonsterArts if you must, but NECA's already made a definitive version.

-- 02/06/16

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