14 Inch Scale
Many years ago, in the early 1990s, I would get an awesome catalog in the mail every so often. It was filled with page after page of the coolest toys and collectibles that were being made at that time. Far beyond the stuff you could get at Toys R Us or KB, there were Japanese and European imports and specialty products. Everything from rare collectibles to model kits, stuff from older-skewing science fiction and horror… It blew my mind as a child.
I loved Godzilla and the other monsters I would discover during TV monster weeks, probably on Monstervision. Suff like Godzilla vs Mothra and War of the Gargantuas. The only toys of Toho-type monsters I owned were knockoffs and imitations, up until Trendmasters started making them in the US. So every time the catalog arrived, several times a year, I would pour over each page and save the issue for months. I wish I had managed to save just one over the years, or at least could remember the name of the store that put it out. Even if they have gone out of business, I would love to look through the pages again.
One of the coolest items in there consistently was a large scale vinyl Ultraman figure, about 12” tall. I had only seen a limited amount of Ultraman on TV, probably one of the later sequel series. But I knew who he was, and loved the idea of a giant superhero who fought Godzilla-like monsters. Unfortunately for me, my parents did not think it necessary to order something out of a catalog when there were perfectly good toys available in stores. I never owned one, or even saw one in person. Eventually we moved and I no longer received that catalog in the mail.
About twenty years later, I dug into a Walmart $5 DVD bin whilst killing time and came across Ultraman: The Complete Series. I bought it, watched it, and my childhood desire to own that Ultraman figure was reborn. Not knowing where to start looking for an obscure old toy, I took to eBay and started sifting through Ultramen, eventually settling on the subject of this review.
Despite all of that… This is not the figure from that catalog. This figure is stamped under its foot with the year 1999, long after I had admired the one on those pages of paper. However, it is very close to what I remember, whether those memories are real or muddled by time I cannot say for sure. The pose or size might be a bit different, but the idea is the same. It might even be from the same company, which in the case of at least this figure is Japanese toymaker Banpresto. Standing at 14”, this is actually the tallest figure I own. So after all this time, is this really the figure of a lifetime? Let’s take a look.
This figure came wrapped in a plain clear plastic bag to protect it, and like most Japanese vinyl monsters, had just a tag. I no longer have it in the package (obviously) so you’ll have you use your powers of imagination.
Ultraman is captured here in a classic battle pose. Hunched forward, hands at the ready. Clearly he is about to lunge forward and wrestle the monster of the week to the ground. The sculpt is clean and simple, with most of the detail work found on the mask. Other than that mask, the basic Ultraman costume is just a skintight suit, and the figure accurately captures the folds and wrinkles in a very accurate sculpt. It really looks like the character on screen, like a human wearing a costume, rather than an idealized interpretation.
Most toys tend to give characters inhuman perfection and impossibly well fitting costumes. It is cool to see the cheese and imperfection of the original Ultraman series captured in this toy. The only issue I have with the sculpt are some ugly mold lines and gaps in a few places. I would be more forgiving if they were due to points of articulation, but the figure is mostly pre-posed.
Ultraman has very simple and clean paintwork for the most part. The figure is molded from bright red plastic with plenty of silver applications to replicate his iconic costume. The cool yellow eyes are actually not painted but are a semi-translucent plastic with a sort of marbled effect. When the light catches them just right, they almost appear to be glowing. Finally, there is some metallic blue to replicate the color timer on Ultraman’s chest.
Ultraman only has two points of articulation, his swivel ankles. They don’t really allow for variations in posing, but they are essential for getting the figure to stand up. His hunched posture can cause him to topple forward if the feet are not in the right position.
None. A pair of swappable arms to put him in the Spacium Ray pose would have been amazing, but accessories are not usually included with vinyl figures.
It can be a bit hard to describe the value of a rare-ish imported item purchased on the secondary market. A toy this big, fourteen inches tall, more like sixteen if he were standing straight up is even rarer. I picked this guy up on eBay for $20 two years ago. It was in new condition despite already being ten years old. A quick eBay search reveals several on sale now for $50-$80. Walking through Toys R Us, a 12” Bandai America vinyl Godzilla figure is $25-$30. This figure is bigger and harder to find, so I feel I got a great deal. If you can get one for under $20-$50, you are doing well.
This figure represents the longest toy hunt in my career as a collector. Sure, it is largely unarticulated, but it is still a lot of fun. If I had managed to get one as a child, it would have been bashed against my other monsters and dinosaurs for hours on end. Now it is the centerpiece of my kaiju figures, towering over even my 12” Godzilla. It is an impressive figure, and I am glad to finally have it in my collection. It reminds me of a fun time in my childhood, discovering strange new creatures and worlds through obscure monster movies and dusty rented videotapes.