I can recall to the day, September 19, 1978 when I first became aware of that interesting arm of the collecting fandom – collectible action figures. Star Wars, of course, and, I had lost Han Solo’s pistol before the end of the day…
It was a sea-change, not only in my life but also in collecting as a whole, though I did not know it for years — and many series — to come.
Indeed, it amazes me to think that when this sort of PVC action (or display) figure was being churned out for kids back in the ’70s and ’80s that they would not only become so valuable (I recently saw a $2 unpunched Boba Fett figure on the Palitoy label go for over $20,000), but also so ubiquitous, in all scales as part of so many fan scenes.
At the time PVC toys and models were being made they were considered cheap and disposable toys, as they were not very tough. Paint routinely refused to adhere to them and the molding process lacked detail.
They were the poor relations of the toy world.
Not that it mattered to the average child or collector, however, who played their games or hoarded their treasures indifferent to the ‘core market’ for whom volume styrene kits and more elite resin cast models were the ultimate expression of fandom.
That is until the late 1980s in Japan…
A Soft Target in a World of Hard Knocks
In the late ’70s, the garage kit market was beginning to come into its own. With a wide range of media (both live action and animation) in the local market, it was impossible for model and toy companies to put out toys or models of everything and make money.
Commercial models and toys required intensive design, machining of parts/molds, and all manner of packaging. This meant that only items which promised large sales were even in the running for manufacturers.
In stepped the garage kit makers, working in two part resins, running small numbers (often on the grey side of legal), and trading in that middle market between bespoke and mass production.
You Old Softy…
The one issue with resin models was the slow rate of production, in that molds would be occupied for up to 20 mins to allow the mixture to cure. Combine that with the relative fragility of the actual molds and you had a small output, which tended to be costly.
This was fair enough when the demand was low, but there came an interesting point around the time of the turn of the ’80s/90s when companies like Tsukuba recognized that some properties needed a third option – not popular enough to warrant fully commercial manufacture, but too popular to rely solely on resin.
This is where soft vinyl/PVC figures came into their own.
At first, they were little more than the kit pictured above. These models were cheaper and quicker to make than resin models, though often cruder and prone to deformation over time.
However, companies like Banpresto soon twigged on to the idea of making not just kits but cheap, finished figures which could be mass produced for their UFO Catcher business.
Reaching back to the tech of another age, companies began rolling out finished and semi-finished figures and toys in PVC as a way of sating an ever growing part of the fan market which did not possess the skills needed to put together and paint a kit.
Like I said, it Figures…
The rest, as they say, is history…
The anime figure market is more complex and elaborate than ever, and production standards are developing faster and faster as Good Smile, Alter, Bandai, and others race to outdo each other at every turn with their designs.
Which is why Medicom’s release of the UDF series caught us all on the hop.
Called Ultra Detailed Figures, they really are like a step back in time in some ways to the early days of both soft vinyl figure manufacture and the heyday of the UFO Catcher.
Carded as if they were toys of the 1970s, and costed in a like fashion, they are a callback to a golden age.
Initially I was skeptical, even when I discovered that Giant Robo would be one of their properties. However… Well. You’ll see what I mean.
The Magnificent Four
Taisoh, adopted brother of Tetsagyu and one of the brawlers of the Big Nine, who lead the International Police Experts of Justice.
Aaaaaaaaaand it is not surprising that they release Taisoh alongside his best of enemies, the suavest of the Magnificent Ten, (Lord) Impact/Shocking Alberto (depending on which dub you watch…..).
Yes, yes, yes… They did have to release that ‘tacky little brat,’ as Tetsagyu would have it.
Mind you, I’d be ashamed if I was beaten to death by a robot under the command of a junior school kid.
And finally… The one everyone wanted (don’t lie). In the correct dress and with the correct gun.
There is not really much to say about these, really.
No articulation, no build required.
I have a feeling the review is going to be short and sweet.
However, this is Giant Robo. What could go wrong?
Dr. (Giant)Robodaz out.