Available from Hobbylink Japan here
The Ghost is the Machine…
Kotobukiya is a strange beast in the Japanese model world.
As you will know if you have read several of my reviews, I’ve been interested in the history of the development of the plastic hobby model as an ‘accident’ of sorts for years.
Originally, a series of US and European companies were churning out scaled models of ships and aircraft (even airships) for the tourist trade, as establishments like the White Star Line, Thomas Cookes, and other such concerns wanted examples of their vehicles in their stores to further entice clients.
Indeed, in the US it was even more profound. Companies like General motors had all their upcoming cars made as accurate scale models each year to help generate sales, starting in about 1930. The genius however, was in allowing potential clients to buy both finished and unbuilt versions of these car kits. Initially, this was seen merely as a way of offsetting the costs involved in making new injection molds each year.
However, it soon became apparent that these models could be something of an effective revenue stream on their own.
It was the post war boom which set all nations into a flurry of model making activity, especially Japan. As war production ceased, factories which had been set up to manufacture arms and equipment sought ways to make it in the days of reconstruction.
Japan, especially, began to focus on cheap export goods – especially with the help of US funding once the Korean War started – and many manufacturers hit on the toy/model market as a way to make money in the baby boom which followed the war.
Kotobukiya was one of these companies, founded in 1947 by Shimizu Jusaburo in 1947, as a small company selling Japanese-made dolls to both the home and export market. Though, at this time they were merely vendors, their service and Jusaburo’s eye for the market allowed the company to expand at a lightning pace and by 1951, both his brothers were on board, and sale remained good throughout the ’60s and ’70s.
However, it was a chance conversation in the early 1980s which turned Kotobukiya from a retailer to a manufacturer, as they began to notice the success of early ‘garage kit’ companies and decided to try their hand at it. The result: an original, resin figure named 「アーマメント」(Armanent).
A number of original models followed, until their first big licensed successes: King Godzilla, in 1985 (if anyone has a link to an image, please will you comment below) and snapping up their first Gundam deal, with a resin version of Zeta Gundam’s ‘The O’ in 1986 – the first time, I am told, that any company other than Bandai had acquired a Gundam license (not certain of the trufacts of this though).
What I am certain of, however, is the fact that the Kotobukiya brand began to take off in a big way in the waning years of the ’80s, as their garage kit lines developed both into injection-molded kits and eventually pre-painted figures. Indeed, Kotobukiya’s ‘Active Styling Figure’ series, which today survives as the ARTFX line, set new standards for collectibles – part doll, part figure and easily retooled to match different market trends and license demands. It must be noted though that, in answer to the market (initially the UFO catcher companies, and then the larger collector market) Kotobukiya dropped the poseable aspect of the Active line in favor of fixed poses for many lines, including the ARTFX.
However, not on all lines…
Designed to be something of a hybrid between figure and kit proper, these models (both mechs and girls) are poseable and rugged – and whilst I hinted in part one that they were something of a challenge of Bandai’s Figure-Rise series, it could be argued that the reverse is actually the case, as Kotobukiya was well ahead of the larger company on Frame Arms before Bandai jumped into that specific pool.
As you can see, the matting on the flesh elements of the figure is well done, and I cannot be certain how it is achieved. I tested to see if it was simply surface ‘roughening’ from the mold, but even clean cutting and chemical treatment (cement) fails to bring the surface up to a proper gloss…
A puzzle, but a nice one, as it helps the builder stay clear of paint, if they want to have their figure ‘playable’…
Very crisp molding on this kit to be sure, and the quality of the styrene is very high indeed – soft, cuts without too many scars (save perhaps the gold-colored parts), and takes cement very well.
This is clearly designed as a snap fit kit, as the joints are fiercely tight – so much so that some parts are near impossible to separate, once joined without damage. If built that way, the mold lines will still be evident, but as the joints are so fine and accurate, as you can see above, can be dealt with easily.
On my build I ran some liquid cement into the seam, left it for an hour or so, and then lightly scraped with the edge of a scalpel.
Already looking good…
Now, note what I said about the golden molded parts being a little more troublesome. This comes about as the particles suspended in the liquid styrene tend to gather at the neck of the mold shot.
However, again it is easy to deal with. I cut back the stub as far as I can, use a fine abrasive to smooth the lot out, then got over with liquid cement, which smoothes the lot out.
The kit comes with six pairs of hands, and all the weapons that KOS-MOS needs…
A number of the parts come pre multi color shot molded, which takes some of the strain out of the build – as well as all the faces (five included) coming pre-printed with all details.
Also, the hair is molded in a superb pearl coating.
All dem guns…
In the Final Analysis.
I was not a collector of these figures before I picked up this little kit (as I wanted a little KOS-MOS to go with my larger Volks version).
I AM a collector now.
Like the Bandai Figure-Rise series, these kits can be taken to any degree – from slapping them together and still having a very nice display figure (more or less as built here), right up to the fully worked up examples one sees in Hobby Japan.
That’s a blow for the wallet in 2017, but I’ll live with it.