Made in Hong Kong
Today, we all recognize that 90% of anything we buy in the West will have been made, at least in part, in China – for reasons political and economic that are both depressing and all too obvious. Yet, China is just the latest in a long line of exploitive manufacturing zones to which other markets have looked for the cheap production of goods.
In my own lifetime, ‘Made in Japan’, ‘Made in Singapore’, ‘Made in Taiwan’, and ‘Made in Korea’ have been alternatively lambasted, then lauded as both supporting the (specifically UK) economy and, at the same time, dragging down those who exploit such sweatshop labour zones.
However, as we have all seen, such things are not as simple as they might seem, and are not always (often, but not always) as exploitative in the long term. Japan, for example, rebuilt itself on the back of a massive, cheap export market after WWII, and China now stands as a powerhouse like never before because of its (still iffy) industrial might.
However, this is not meant to be a socio-economic analysis of labor practices ’round the world, but simple a crude link to the way in which Hong Kong came to command such a large part of the model and toy market in the 1970s, and today brings us some of the most recognizable adult collector lines.
When Britain was granted a 99-year lease on the port of Hong Kong following the vicious Opium Wars, the UK used the port as a gateway into Asia, not only for the obvious military forces which extended the Empire’s power into East Asia, but also both a dumping ground for export goods and a source of inexpensive imports of various sorts.
By the 1970s, this had settled down to the point that a good many small British companies were having components manufactured in the colony, which had long had a reputation for a degree of quality that one would not expect of an inexpensive, supposed sweatshop. In this era, as the countdown to handover slowly ticked by, local companies began to take greater and greater control of their own markets, independent of their soon-to-be former masters and look to how they could manage when the UK was no longer going to be their primary marketplace.
This was especially true for toy and model makers, oddly enough, many of whom had begun to develop lines of re-pro injection kits, specialised action figures, and all manner of esoteric models.
Perhaps the relatively free (legally and artistically) atmosphere of the colony bred a free sort of mind: a mind like ThreeZero himself, Kim Fung Wong.
He began his productive life in the 1990s with a shop like many in Hong Kong at the time, selling GI Joe and Dragon 1/6 scale collectors toys, to both domestic and overseas markets. Indeed, it transpires that he supplied the shop in Kobe at which I temped in 2001. However, and certainly by the time he was exporting to Japan, it seems that the decision to which Mr. Kim had come with regard to making his own shop stand out was to have exclusive items of his own, hence the jump into (then-small scale) manufacturing.
This predated Hot Toys by a number of years to boot.
Initially working with Ashley Wood on the 3A line, as well as his own ThreeZero creations, for years the output tended to be unique, industrial toys – everything from 3A’s WWRobots to Isobelle Pascha. However, at the heart of the creator was something of a desire to try his own unique interpretive skills on more recognizable properties, and he began branching out in 2013 with attractive proposals which brought them a deal with AMC for Walking Dead figures. In the years since, properties have followed upon properties and ThreeZero now finds itself working with companies like Bandai, Nagai Pro, and designers like the legendary Kunio Okawara.
From making doll clothes, to producing Walking Dead and Titanfall toys in under a decade.
This has been a meteoric rise indeed.
Not without trouble, though…
Troubles plagued early ThreeZero (as well as 3A) toys to no end, especially the larger ones, primarily it seems down to the choice of materials in the early days and inconsistent QC issues (for example, my own Mazinger Z and Aphrodite A suffered from broken joints right out of the box). However, though these things have been unfortunate, ThreeZero has always been willing to take customer feedback, make good on damage, and/or offer repairs wherever possible.
Moreover, it cannot be denied that with each release quality control and manufacturing techniques have improved in leaps and bounds.
I’ll admit to having some reservations in buying the Getter Twins after what happened to my Maxinger Duo, but after a quick play about with them, my concerns were laid to rest…
Getter in Here, Now!
Though it is clear that this is Getter 1, right off the bat, one can also admire the intricacy of ThreeZero’s own aesthetics. This is a truly industrial design, which takes Getter 1 and makes it feel like a real War Machine!
Note how the cloak, which is wired throughout to allow for more dynamic posing, is attached to the mech using push through pins. Simple enough, but care needs to be taken, as the holes for the plugs are not edged and I suspect will be prone to wear. I embroidered the edges of mine to make sure this will not be an issue.
The Mazinger Bugbear… With Mazinger and Aphrodite, the seized joints I suffered seem to have been caused by the general weakness of the styrene joint pegs and the fact that the models were assembled when the paint was not fully dry, resulting in disaster. As I said above, all issues were made good very quickly (or they were easy to fix myself), but as you can see on Getter 1, this is not an issue.
All the main load-bearing joints have polyp Prop/Eth-based positive stop ratchets (possibly a result of collabing with Bandai, which uses the same jointing on the big Chogokin toys) which are as tough as old boots and very firm.
Indeed, so firm that I was (still am) wary of posing the toys too outrageously, in case of another disaster, which I do not want at all…
This is a great step forward, though.
The aesthetics of the original have been kept perfectly, with Ishikawa’s ideals respected with all diligence. However, it is also obvious this is a ThreeZero toy – with all its grim, and very industrial feel.
Just as I said with the Aphrodite A, one either ‘gets’ ThreeZero, or one does not. There is no middle ground on designs like this.
Though the light cannot be seen well on mine (I wish I had taken some night shots, or had better batteries) the Getter is lit, as are many ThreeZero toys.
The axe retention system which has been adopted here is worthy of comment. Without it, there would have been no way that the jointed hands could manage such massive weapons.
I lift this directly from my old Aphrodite A review, as the same applies here:
“All in all, even taking the issue with the joints into account (which I am sure ThreeZero will set right) I am very content with this purchase. Yes… I know, but despite the ranting I really am happy with it, partly as I love the ThreeZero aesthetic, and partly as it is the largest Aphrodite A available on the market. I’d like it if ThreeZero did an enemy mech, or even soppy old Boss Borot…
The price, the design flaws, and the finish do not recommend it to casual shoppers, but then again, big super robots are not things one buys on a whim.”
This is a large investment, and is certainly not for the purists, who might balk at the more mechanical feel of ThreeZero’s style. However, I cannot get enough, and am hoping that Grendizer will follow in good time, or, better yet Great Mazinger…
My only real gripe is that the other Getter weapons (Gatling guns for example) were not included with the toy, but I suppose that would have pushed the already high price up to the point of being silly…
Still… A very worthy toy, and a real step forward for ThreeZero…
BONUS: BACK IN BLACK
The Black Getter is an upgraded version of the Getter-1 machine which premiered in the OAV series Getter Robo Armageddon, which takes up the story 13 years after Ryoma has been cast into the Warp by the Getter Storm at the climax of the main story arc. Awaking in the powered down Getter 1 on Mars, he is able to fly the machine back to earth, and has it re-painted black as part of its upgrading.
Equipped with claws, longer arm blades, and massive cannons, the Black Getter became a fan favorite in light of both the OAV and its showings in various Super Robot Wars games.
Primarily, all ThreeZero did here was add the longer arm blades, face mask, and cowl for the cloak, but the effect is very profound. Being a ThreeZero exclusive, this might not be easy to track down, but if you have a love for Getter Robo, you really should give it a look.
Though… I still say ThreeZero could easily have added the famous Wolverine Claws to this 😀