GMK 2001 Bandai Standard Retrospective Review

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The year 2001 ushered in a new Godzilla movie from Toho Studios, entitlted Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah:  All Out Monsters Attack.  Known as GMK amongst Godzilla fans, the film proved to be Godzilla’s most controversial return to the silverscreen in decades.  Director Shusuke Kaneko, infamous for his work on the Gamera films (Guardian of the Universe, Advent of Legion, and Revenge of Iris) collectively known as the Heisei Gamera Trilogy (1995-1999), envisioned a film that starred a Godzilla returning from the grave imbued with the supernatural powers of the countless souls lost in the Asia-Pacific region during WWII.  As such the monster’s look would be decidedly “evil”, almost demonic looking with prominent white eyes and pupils.  Instead of doing battle with Mothra and King Ghidorah, the film was originally planned to have Godzilla face-off against monster adversaries Anguirus, Varan, and Baragon.  Toho Studios believed that these monsters wouldn’t sell as well with audiences as they were all quadruped reptiles that looked rather uninspiring.  The studio reasoned as well that aside from Anguirus very little of the film-going public would recognize Varan and Baragon.  A compromise was eventually made and King Ghidorah and Mothra, both extremely popular monsters, would replace Varan and Anguirus.  Of the original 3 adversarial monsters only Baragon would remain.  

At the time, Bandai was busy prepping for the obligatory release of new Godzilla figures to tie in with the new film.  For years Bandai had produced vinyl figures in the 6 inch scale.  6 long years had passed since Bandai had last released 8 inch scale standard figures.  As a result, collectors were very surprised to see the release of new GMK Bandai Standard 8 inch figures a few weeks before the theatrical release of GMK.  Bandai’s 8 inch scale GMK figures were a spectacular return to form as the brand new sculpts perfectly replicated the monster suits and stage props used in the film.  This article is a retrospective review looking back at the GMK 8 inch scale vinyl figures that saw release by Bandai in late 2001.  

 Note:  
All ratings listed in each section will be an average score representing all four figures covered in this review.

 

Packaging: 2/5

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Traditionally vinyl figures released by Bandai have had very sparse packaging.  Bandai’s 8 inch scale GMK vinyl figures are no exception.  The figures were sent to retailers with nothing more than a plastic hook punched into each figure with an attached cardboard swing tag.  Each figure has a unique swing tag that features a prominent picture of Godzilla on one side and the figure’s monstersuit counterpart on the other.  Inside each swing tag are safety disclaimers, a “for sale in Japan only” disclaimer and some limited information on each monster.  It’s minimalist packaging but it comes with the territory where vinyl figure releases are concerned. So while traditional the packaging score remains low for these figures.

 

Sculpt and Paint: 4.5/5

Bandai has done an incredible job with the sculpts for all four figures in it’s GMK 8 inch line-up.  Whatever their grievances with each monster’s reimagined designs, almost all collectors and fans was impressed with these new sculpts.  These figures replicate the look and feel of the monster suits extremely well.  From the wrinkles, bumps, scales, spikey claws, horns, and teeth, the figures just ooze detail like no tomorrow.  The paint applications are done masterfully for each figure, complimenting the sculpt details and leave little to be desired.  As all 4 of these figures have been sculpted and produced in the 8 inch scale they are all fairly sizable. 

In order to give one a better idea of each figure’s size the following pictures below have placed each figure beside your standard aluminum coke can.

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We’ll begin a quick rundown of each figure beginning first with Godzilla.  Godzilla just like its on-screen counterpart towers over the other monster figures.  Director Shusuke Kaneko deliberately chose to have a Godzilla that stood taller than all the other monsters in the film.  Even King Ghidorah is noticeably shorter in height when standing next to Godzilla.  True to form, Bandai has ensured that all the figures in their GMK 8 inch vinyl figure line-up are to scale with one another.  GMK Godzilla is an impressive figure, standing a little over 8 inches tall, he features a dinosaurian head, muscular chest, and huge thighs, legs and feet.  The spines and tail are also reproduced faithfully. 

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The figure really shines when it comes to the details.  Wrinkly skin is present all over the figure but varies in depth and detail depending on the body part.  For example, Godzilla’s head features deep wrinkles on its snout and deep rippled scaly grooves on the back of his head. 

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Moving farther down its body the wrinkled skin becomes more shallow but again changes shape and form when you reach the knees and feet.  The claws on both the hands and feet show superb detail in the form of grooves and claw lines.  With the yellow-white paint it looks almost like ivory. 

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The paint on the figure while basic in form works extremely well and only serves to compliment the amazing sculpted details.  Godzilla is molded in black vinyl and sprayed with a combination on both yellow-white for the claws and teeth.  His spines are sprayed with grey highlights and the eyes and tongue painted with grey and red paint.  Baragon is the next figure that we’ll take a look at.  Standing at only 6 inches tall GMK Baragon is the smallest of the four figures.  While smaller than the rest of his monstrous co-stars don't let his size fool you as he's still packed full of sculpted details! 

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For example the head alone features at least 3-4 different textures.  From the smooth and rounded snout to the fine goosebump like details on top of its head and the wrinkles and folds of skin around its mouth and ears, this figure is a winner.  The horns and spikes are all extremely well detailed with grooves showing off the bony structures.  The claws on both the hands and feet are no different and even feature a detail under the hands and feet, sonething of a first amongst 8 inch scale Bandai figures. 

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The main attraction for me is definitely the long and deep ridges that extend down from Baragon’s backside all the way down to the tip of its tail.  The ridges are pitted and grooved near their base and alongside them smaller wart-like bumps can be seen.  The belly is also sculpted with incredible detail perfectly recreating the pebbly look of the skin on the actual monster suit. 

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The paint applications on this figure are also exceptional and like Godzilla only serve to highlight the amazing sculpt details present on the figure.  Red sprays are seen prominently on Baragon’s backside.  Nice brown-yellow sprays are used on the claws.  A nice yellow-white spray is used for Baragon’s belly and teeth.  The horns are painted in orange and sprayed with a bit of white. To top it off the eyes are painted accurately with minimal slop in both red and black.  Very nicely done overall.

Of all the monsters in this toyline, GMK Mothra definitely takes the cake for being the most eye-catching of the four figures.  Once again the sculpt rings true and gives the figure an amazing degree of authenticity with details that bring out every insect-like detail on the original prop used in the film.  The wingspan on this figure is by far the most eye-catching feature as it stretches out 14 inches wide. 

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Insect-like grooves appear on the surface of each wing.  The edge of each wing looks appropriately scaly and recreates that insect-like exoskeleton look.  Finer details abound on the sculpted base of each wing in the form of furry patches.  Mothra’s main body attracts attention as well with its bug-like compound eyes full of detail with little bumps on the surface.  The antennae are appropriately sculpted to look furry along with the main body and the thorax/abdominal area where furry ringed sections are visible. 

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Sculpted with sturdiness and durability in mind, the legs are certainly thicker and larger than those depicted in the film.  Its clear that compromises had to be made by Bandai to change the leg sculpt taking durability over on-screen accuracy or risk breakage before reaching retailers.  That sore point aside paint application on Mothra is simply amazing and sets a new standard for Bandai’s standard 8 inch vinyl figures.  Molded in white, Mothra has a lot of areas on her sculpt that needed to be coloured.  The head, main torso and thorax/abdominal area needed to coloured in purple, yellow, orange, and black.  Above all else the wings are the most striking thing about Mothra.  Normally most vinyl figure releases that feature large winged monsters occur with the wings molded in one colour.  If your lucky, you may see the wings painted in 1 or 2 colours, often times the paint application is only done on the topside of the wings.  Rarely is this ever done on the bottomside.  Bandai’s 2001 GMK Mothra is a welcome deviation from this old trend. 

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This figure’s wings are painted not with 1 or 2 colours but 5 different colours on each wing.  What’s more the two wings are painted on both top and bottom sides.  Black, yellow, red, purple, and orange are accurately painted in discrete locations on each wing in a non-uniform pattern. Its truly a beautiful figure and I’m happy to have it in my collection.

King Ghidorah is the last figure in this collection that we’ll take a quick look at.  While GMK King Ghidorah is physically shorter than Godzilla, standing only 7 inches tall, thanks to its huge 16.5 inch bat-like wings and its impressive length of 18 inches, the figure still manages to make a large impression on the average Godzilla fan and collector like myself. 

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Bandai’s unwavering need to accurately replicate the monster suit used in the film shows right from the beginning as the figure’s basic hunched over stance and the outstretched necks and tail definitely remind me of the feeble yet iconic monster from the film.  One of the coolest aspects of the figure in my opinion was Bandai’s decision to sculpt three different heads for the monster.  Its common practice for most companies to re-use identical head sculpts for monsters or creatures with multiple heads to save on development costs.  King Ghidorah vinyl figures are no exception and all of them from what I can recall have used the same head sculpt for each head.  At best perhaps the central head may be different from the other two heads.  Even the recent SH MonsterArts King Ghidorah from Bandai/Tamashi Nations has resorted to re-using the same head sculpt for each of the three necks. 

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Not so here with GMK King Ghidorah as we get unique head sculpts for each neck.  The figure features heads with a closed mouth, a wide open mouth and a partially open mouth.  It really adds a lot of personality to this already amazing figure.  The scales are the next thing that need to be mentioned as they cover the whole entire monster.  Unlike other King Ghidorah figures produced by Bandai which have settled with a body thats covered in shallow groove-like patterns that pass for scales, GMK King Ghidorah has a scaly body that is extremely well defined, bumpy, and sharp to the touch.  Each scale on the golden dragon has been meticulously sculpted by the artist that worked on the figure’s prototype. 

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From the necks down to the chest, legs, wings and tail, the scales on King Ghidorah are easily the best thing about the figure. Molded in gold coloured vinyl the figure has modest paint job to compliment its amazing sculpt.  Orange-brown paint is used to paint over the eyes along with black for the pupils.  Silver is used to highlight the fangs, horns and claws on the figure.  Finally a subtle black spray is used to highlight the chest and wings to give them more realism.  A very nice figure overall and certainly the other major eyecatcher alongside Mothra.

 

Articulation: 2/5

While they excel in the sculpt and paint department its clear that vinyl figures were never meant to be super articulated.  This rings true for Bandai’s 2001 GMK vinyl figure releases.  Each figure possesses your basic cut joints on the neck, arms and legs where possible.  I do my best to put GMK Godzilla in some goofy poses with its limited articulation.

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Interestingly enough aside from its neck joint, Mothra in particular possesses two rear legs that can swivel in and out.  Collectors have discovered that this comes rather handy for posing Mothra with Godzilla.  In the film Mothra perches ontop of Godzilla in a last ditch attempt to cling to his body.  This scene can be recreated by carefully positioning the rear legs on Mothra to clamp down on Godzilla’s neck and neck spines.  

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Another unique and intriguing articulation feature appears on Baragon.  In the film Baragon is by far the most expressive monster in the entire film due to its large eyes and tendency to move its ears a lot.  It would seem that Bandai has not missed this small detail either as the ears on their GMK Baragon figure can be moved.  As a result this makes GMK Baragon the most expressive figure in Bandai’s 8 inch GMK vinyl figure line-up.  

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Baragon has no neck joint and hence only has basic articulation in the arms and legs.  Theres nothing to write home about when it comes to articulation and thus the four figures in this set get a below average score from me.

 

Accessories: 0/5

There are no accessories that come with each of these figures.

 

Quality Control and Design Issues:

As far as I can tell there are no major issues with these figures from both a quality control and design perspective.  All four of these vinyl figures are extremely sturdy and durable.  They won’t fall apart easily and all the joints work well.  Paint scuffs can occur on the vinyl figures more easily than your standard plastic figures.  A case in point can be seen in the example of the paint scuffs on Baragon’s horn or King Ghidorah’s wings as well as its silver horns and claws.  Again its just the nature of the medium, as vinyl is generally more delicate than pvc plastic.   Another minor complaint is the occasional floppy wings present on both Mothra and King Ghidorah, but many other vinyl figures have the same issue if not worse.  Again its really a non-issue and just a small quirk that happens to be present with most japanese monster vinyl figures who happen to have a separate wing assembly.

 

Fun with GMK Figures


Godzilla vs Baragon

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Godzilla Mothra and King Ghidorah duke it out!

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Conclusion:

12 years have passed since Bandai’s 8 inch scale GMK vinyl figures saw release across Japanese retailers in 2001.  It feels like a distant memory as advancements in technology have made vinyl figures somewhat dated and retro by today’s standards.  The new action figure lines created by Bandai’s action figure arm Tamashi Nations has supplanted the release of new Godzilla and Tokusatsu vinyl figures.  The one exception to that rule being the Ultra Monsters from the Ultraman series.  In any case, have these figures aged well after all these years?  Pushing aside nostalgia and my love for the film GMK (despite its flaws) I would have to say yes.  While action figure collectors may be used to extreme articulation and sharper details on their figures, theres something very timeless about vinyl figures that I find hard to describe?  Is it their relatively light weight despite their large size?  Is it stylized sculpts, a limitation of working with the vinyl medium?  Or is it something else entirely?  Whatever it is I like it and in my own opinion Bandai’s Standard 8 inch GMK figures are the best Godzilla vinyl figures churned out by the company since 2001.  In my opinion, none of the 8 inch scale Godzilla vinyl figures released by Bandai since 2001 can match the superb sculpt, paint details and general durability of these GMK figures.  I highly recommend that collectors try and hunt these down if your a fan of Shusuke Kaneko’s GMK or just appreciate the monster designs used in the movie.  You won’t be disappointed if you do.

 

Overall Score: 4.5/5 (Not an Average)

 

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