Tomopop Review: Bandai's S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla
4:00 PM on 10.29.2012
Up from the depths. 6.5-inches tall. Breathes plastic. His head a bit above the table. MonsterArts Godzilla! MonsterArts Godzilla! MonsterArts Godzilla!
Kaiyodo's Revoltech line has long seemed to have a virtual monopoly on the articulated kaiju (monster) market. While other options have been available, few have matched the Revoltech line's level of articulation. However, that line's reliance on its so-called "revolver joint" has generated occasional criticisms in regards to both functionality and appearance of the jointing which made the original announcement of Bandai's S.H.MonsterArts line all the more exciting for fans.
Doubling that excitement was the news that Godzilla (whom was prominently absent from the Revoltech line) would be the initial entry. Godzilla is widely hailed as "The King of the Monsters" and, given that he spawned a major franchise, was a natural jumping point for Bandai's MonsterArts line, which thus far seems to be devoted exclusively to the 'Kaiju Shogun', his allies, and enemies. Sufficed to say, there was some monstrous hype behind the line. But does Bandai's S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla live up to fans' gargantuan expectations? The answer will be coming up after this brief commercial break (or the jump, whichever comes first).
Figure Name: S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla
Figure Maker: Bandai
Retail Price: ¥5,500
Available at: HobbyLink Japan
The box art features a red marble pattern background across the front, right, and top of the package. A gold-embossed nameplate displays prominently on the right side (as well as a wrap-around of the front window). The burst-window on the top once again displays the character's name in large letters.
The front is split between a window and a large recreation of what looks to be the figure's face (rather than merely the character's). Curiously, there's an English sticker on the box that explains the line's philosophy. Given that the rest of the packaging (sans "S.H.MonsterArts" and "Godzilla") is in Japanese, I imagine this portion may be specific to Western demographics. Finally there's an image of Godzilla on the left side of the box and the card-back is in keeping with Bandai's other lines.
While I find the packaging to be visually striking, it doesn't seem to flatter the figure. I imagine at least part of the problem is Godzilla's tail which presumably forces at least a few of the packaging conventions. As with the other Bandai figures, Godzilla can be placed back into his packaging for storage or display purposes.
Bandai's S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla stands almost 6.5-inches tall (a little over that when his head is posed straight up) and is about a foot long to the tip of his tail. Godzilla features textured skin and a limited color palette consisting mostly of a very dark green skin-tone that doesn't photograph well. Despite the figure's heavy jointing, however, the actual range of movement is rather limited in most places. This doesn't necessarily detract from his display value although it's still somewhat of a letdown.
The S.H.MonsterArts scale is largely incompatible with the Revoltech line, as Godzilla completely dwarfs characters like Gamera and the Gyaos (although neither has appeared in a Godzilla film, they represent the general size of Revoltech's kaiju). Interestingly, he's around the height of Bandai's Chogokin Megazord which would make for a very fun match-up.
Godzilla's only accessories are a 2-piece stand (consisting of an ornamental base and adjustable stand) and an atomic breath projectile. Both the base and stand are molded from a translucent plastic with a slight paint wash on top. The base features a heavier metallic wash with tinges of blue while the atomic breath projectile features a deep blue at both tips with a blueish silver throughout. One side of the atomic breath is molded with a concave blast which fits well against other objects to simulate an attack. The other side has a bite chomp designed to fit within Godzilla's mouth.
The stand features three separate joints that can adjust the trajectory of Godzilla's atomic breath. The range is hindered by the stand's balance and your ability to pose the edge in Godzilla's mouth. This mostly prevents the character from firing up into the air against opponents like Rodan and King Ghidorah (or larger foes like the upcoming Biollante). Otherwise it's not terribly restrictive.
The other option is not using the stand at all. The atomic breath projectile can be held in place through simple leverage between Godzilla's mouth and another contact point (provided that the angle isn't too extreme). Given that you can achieve a greater range through this method, it seems to be the superior display option.
Godzilla's head features a ball-jointed jaw allowing his mouth to open and close at slightly different angles. While not a terribly practical additional range of motion, it facilitates his atomic breath projectile although it lacks the strength to hold it by itself.
The facial sculpting is respectable although the paint toning (or possibly a molded plastic with a gloss finish?) obscure some of the detail. The eyes, which may may use stickers for detail, clearly aren't set right and give the character a slightly lazy-eyed look. The figure features sculpted nostrils that don't seem to be quite properly aligned with the rest of the face although it presents no real issue since they're largely obscured by the paint.
Godzilla's mouth features layers of teeth, a fact not immediately appreciated from watching the films. While they look good from a top or front view, the teeth really shine from side angles regardless of whether his mouth is open or closed. The tongue is disappointingly colored the same as the rest of the inner mouth, although that may be consistent with the original design. As with many people, I can't say I ever paid a terrific amount of attention to his mouth. I doubt this will be a concern for anybody since natural shadowing obscures the detail from most angles.
Conversely, the upper portion of Godzilla's mouth is excellently detailed. While the detail itself is only really visible close-up, it's nice that Bandai put the effort into this area especially considering that the tongue didn't receive as much attention.
The neck features three separate joints, with the lowest (a hinge featuring a tiny up/down motion) being barely visible. The bulk of the neck movement comes from the mid-segment which features a large amount of vertical movement that allows Godzilla to roar at the sky or atomic blast flying monsters. This joint features very little side motion.
The ball-joint at the top of the neck affects the head's movement providing vertical motion, rotation, and even allows the character to cock his head to the side. The articulation gives the S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla a wide range of expression which really serves to make the figure impressive in spite of his other limitations.
Godzilla's shoulder features a very limited rotation with a very small amount of outward motion. I imagine this results from Bandai trying to sculpt a realistic-looking shoulder but it's incredibly annoying to work with. Instead you'll mostly be relying on his bicep rotation to give the arms an outward motion.
The elbow features two points of articulation with rotation at both points and forward/back at the mid-joint itself. There's a small cut into the bicep to facilitate the inner motion. The wrist features some sort of a ball-joint, but is largely limited to rotation. The hand-sculpting is really cool and has a very knobby look to the fingers/claws.
While the sculpting on Gozilla's dorsal plates is relatively solid, the paintwork gives them an underwhelming look. Something feels missing although the color scheme itself appears to conform to the original design. This isn't much of an issue when viewing the figure from a distance.
Construction-wise, the larger plates appear to have been fitted and glued into the character's back rather than cast from the same mold. Trace amounts of residual glue are visible in places, with a large clump on the top right plate.
The plates greatly inhibit Godzilla's waist movement. You'll see only a small amount of rotation between the plates from the upper torso hit those of the lower torso.
Like the shoulders, Godzilla's hips features virtually no outward motion. Additionally, there's very limited forward/back movement. The knee is a double-joint similar to the elbow, except the rotation at the upper part is incredibly restricted. The lower portion has an impeded, but significantly better, range of movement. There's one joint right beneath that (suggesting that the portion above it is just a ring placed over another joint) with a far greater range of motion (not easily sighted in the photo).
The coolest joint in the leg is at Godzilla's ankle, which features a full rotation, a slight up/down, and a fairly deep foot pivot. The leg is sufficiently jointed even without the ankle's excellent range to keep the character well-balanced, but the limited hip movement will prohibit some of the more extreme poses.
Godzilla's toenails and fingernails/claws feature the same almond color used for the character's teeth although some of the portions seem a bit lighter in color. I suspect that it's a white paint app with either a light wash or possibly a film sticker on top of it.
At a glance, you would expect the tail to be a bendy plastic. However, it's really a series dumbbell-shaped pegs surrounded by interlocking plastic rings (with every other ring serving as a connector). Each ring seems to be contoured so that it will only fit on the other piece in the proper direction although . Despite the individual jointing, the movement is mediocre at best. The tail can't be posed very far in either side direction without popping a joint. The problem seems to stem from the thicker portions directly at the base of the tail which afford relatively little movement. The mobility improves along the length of the tail although it's geared more towards vertical movement. Finally, the very end of the tail is a long, solid piece.
While the S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla's articulation is, rather frankly, more than a little disappointing, the line still seems something of an improvement over Revoltech. The joints feel more stable and, in places, are far more functional. I'm not sure if the limitations seen here are directly a result of the subject matter (ie, the proportions like the overly large hips) and how much comes down to Bandai's design philosophies. Given that Bandai has managed reasonably good articulation in their other lines, there's no reason not to expect that other entries with less extreme body types may have a greater range of movement.
As for the harder question of whether the S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla is worthy of purchase, I'd still say that it's a decent figure despite its limitations. The SHMA Godzilla displays rather nicely, and his atomic breath accessory has a definite fun factor to it.
Beyond that, there really aren't many well-articulated Godzilla figures on the market these days and Bandai's S.H.MonsterArts looks like it'll receive a fair amount of support going forward just from the figures we've seen so far. Even if Godzilla could be considered a weak entry in the SHMA line, he remains essential just for being the central character in what's shaping up to be a pretty cool figure line.
Plus he seems to display well with Bandai's other larger lines which makes for some potentially amusing displays.
[ A kaiju-sized thanks to HobbyLink Japan for providing this sample ]