PART 5: GIGAN 1973
Gigan fans are living the good life these days. Teruyoshi Nakano's alien cyborg masterpiece has enjoyed a huge explosion of popularity in recent years. Although his popularity can't possibly touch the ever-popular Hedora, just about every company has done a Gigan. Marmit's Monster Heaven version (2002) set the standard against which all other stylized Gigans are judged, just as their Iron Joe figure (2007, as a built up version of their vinyl kit) did the same for realistic versions. Everyone else - from Bandai Museum to Bare Model to X-Plus to Pilot Ace and to multiple releases from Marusan - have done Gigan toys.
There is one thing almost all of the more screen-accurate representations have in common. All of them show Gigan as he appeared in Godzilla vs Gigan
(1972), with the well crafted, suitably evil-looking version in that film being a favorite among fans. When Godzilla vs Megalon
(1973) went into production however, a new suit had to be built to better withstand the more physical battling that would take place amongst the monsters. So Gigan was redesigned to be a little less bottom heavy, with a buzzsaw that was a permanent chest attachment and not a separately moving piece, a slightly different scale and horn pattern on the neck and a much less nasty-looking face. This suit not only appeared in Megalon, but also went up against Godzilla again in the TV series "Zone Fighter", made the same year.
I've always had a fondness for this second Gigan suit. It matched the overall goofy look of the rest of the monster cast in Godzilla vs Megalon
but wasn't a drastic enough redesign that it was possible to be faithfully recreated in toy form unless real dedication was made in translating the subtle design changes. And that really didn't start happening with toy companies until the past decade.
I had just gotten into the Gigabrain figures when this
photo was released in the Spring 2007, indicating that Gigan was the next figure in their Toho line...
...and it wasn't even necessary to look twice to realize that not only was Gigabrain specifically doing a 1973 Gigan figure, but it had the potential of being one of the coolest Gigan figures made in any era by any company. Did this figure live up to expectations? Would I have gone on and on as much as I have here if it didn't?
The standard green (I'm assuming the mail order) Gigan did not end up being the first version of the figure to see release. Instead, this show version beat it out by several months:
And I already knew we had a masterpiece on our hands. Just in terms of raw sculpt this figure gets everything
right. The barrel-chested look of the second Gigan suit is perfectly captured and the texturing of the legs and tail mimic the actual suit. Even the design of the overlapping body scales is meticulously rendered. The back sails are also designed to have a slightly saggy fabric look to them and no detail is missed on the head. There's no mistaking what Gigan this is supposed to be. Even the kneecaps are textured in such a way so that they don't look like simple, smooth vinyl.
The nicest touch about the toy is that the claws were designed to be articulated at the elbow, allowing you to turn them into different poses that go a long way towards giving the toy a hell of a lot of character. I'm thankful enough for this addition that I'll forgive the fact that the joints here make the arms a little thicker than they should be.
Just as much as the amazing sculpt left me in awe, the incredible and creative paint job also blew me away. Contrary to how the photos make it look, the vinyl is not
a deep plum color. The entire figure
is painted that color and in the right light the lighter vinyl shade underneath gives the figure a great two tone look that's really hard to appreciate in photos. But that's nothing compared to the amazing metallic blue vinyl on the scales, accented by the red/brown tips of the buzzsaw and sails. I remember stating that this was probably one of the very best Godzilla figures of 2007 and I said that just based on this one exclusive. It was just that
good. That of course meant that the standard release had big shoes to fill.
The standard figure was finally released in late Summer/early Fall of that year. While I think the simple green vinyl color is a little bland it was still worth the wait. One thing I appreciate is how this figure (and all later variants) took the care to paint this toy accurately with what I'm assuming was a masking process. They could have taken the easy way out and gone with traditional paint sprays like the Pilot Ace figure or Marmit's Para Baby but that would not have done justice to the amazing sculpt. My only gripe (and it's a small one) is that the gold on the sails doesn't go all the way to the back of the figure, leaving a large section of the back of the toy an unpainted chunk of green vinyl. But that's just nitpicking. If you want a Gigabrain Gigan with a subtle, movie accurate paint scheme, this is the one to pick up, although I think the later metallic release blows it away (see below).
In October of 2007, Gigabrain released a pair of Gigan variants as show (Superfest?) exclusives. The two figures were painted the exact same way as their standard-release counterpart, but were cast in translucent blue and green vinyl respectively. And again, they hit another home run. Both figures look fantastic and I especially like how the gold paint on the sails fades into the vinyl. It's a shame that Gigabrain's productivity decreased drastically after this figure was released, as I think a lot of us saw this Gigan as the first of several amazing Showa-era toys. It's a shame that didn't end up happening.
By 2009 a lot of people were wondering what happened to Gigabrain. After a couple more releases that failed to set the collecting world on fire, Gigabrain just petered out, coasting instead on variants, mostly of the '62 and '64 Godzillas. Metallic-painted vinyl figures were currently in vogue and that is where Gigabrain's most recent Gigan release comes in.
Released in May of that year, this Gigan is yet another masterpiece. With the exception of slightly stronger gold paint (that covers the entire back this time) the figure is painted similar to the standard issue. The one big (HUGE) difference is that instead of a flat green vinyl, the figure is painted an amazing metallic teal, which makes the figure pop far more that it's standard release. I don't throw words like "breathtaking" around when describing vinyl toys, but this is as close as they come.
Someone at Gigabrain must have really cared about this toy since - while figures like the Jet Jaguar, '65 Godzilla and others were painted all sorts of insane colors - most of their Gigans always had some semblance of screen accuracy. As I said before, this is their masterpiece and I don't see anyone ever topping it. For completists sake, here's the one Gigan variant I've never been able to find - a glow in the dark version, which I'll admit doesn't do a whole lot for me.
So what was next for Gigabrain? Megalon? Angilas? Varan? Baragon? Another Godzilla? Even another Hedora? Well...their next figure was one no one was expecting and - not to ruin the surprise - Final Wars
haters will be excused if they skip the next chapter.
Check back soon for part 6!!!!