Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sci-fi Revoltech Alien Part 1

Big Chap in small scale

Starting the review on one of my most favorite figures in my collection: Sci-fi Revoltech Alien from Kaiyodo - the pilot release of that series, which came out in April last year.

A great deal of love for the figure is due to its movie that I watched and enjoyed very much when I was a kid, so to be fair, my opinion about the figure is quite biased really. ^^ Despite some major flaws in articulation design that I will talk about in another posting, I still rank it very high on my list of favorite figures. Strictly speaking, it's still an action figure, and on that merit, its flaws would make it a rather poor design. Then again, I'm quite sure that I'm looking at it through rose-colored glasses all this while, ^^; so don't expect a fair evaluation on it as an action figure from me. I'm putting this right in front of everything as a disclaimer so that certain points mentioned later on won't be blown out of proportion and be seen as exaggerating on the figure's goodness. ^^

About the product series itself, I consider Sci-fi Revoltech as a "high profile" release from Kaiyodo. The announcement about the launch of the series was out as early as September 2009, some 7 months before this pilot release. It might have seemed like the company was trying to gather some sort of response from the market to see the viability of this new series, which isn't new at all as a market research strategy for a company before the launch of any new product series, but Kaiyodo showed its "determination" to go ahead with this Sci-fi Revoltech right from the start, with the display of not just Alien, but another 10 or so future entries one month after the initial announcement at Revoltech Expo 2009, and that was still around half a year to go before the actual release (for just two of the many announced).

Sci-fi Revoltech's theme logo. A Revoltech joint made up of a planet and a space shuttle is a great way to bring out the theme of science fiction I believe. ^^

Up till this day, the entire "endeavor" still seems like it's more for the niche market in my opinion. Quite a few of the more recent releases looked as if they are trying to break away and to go for greater market reach. Still, even more releases from the list are characters not many people know of. For taking chances in reintroducing these old characters in modern time and giving them new life with current action figure design technology, I have great respect for the company.

It's definitely not an easy task, even at development level. Since many of the characters are from foreign (outside Japan) movies, licensing would probably be an issue. Any fee imposed for that would have to be a consideration as well. However, the price for all the different releases are 2,850 Yen each (inclusive of tax), except for No. 018 Alien Queen, which is 3,600 Yen (inclusive of tax) due to its massive volume. The price is very reasonable, which is contrary to most other releases based on these old characters, where the price is usually very high as the companies that produce them are expecting sales from niche market segment. "If you really like it, you would spend as much as needed to get it", that sort of deal.

My point is, the pricing of the entire series, regardless of the popularity of the character is more for the general market, even though many of them are so old not many people from the customer base that makes up the biggest portion of hobby market nowadays would recognize and like in my opinion. I still remember posting about the third release in the series - Booska, where the information given said that the character was originally shown in black and white, and the colors given for the actual Sci-fi Revoltech release was based on interpretation of existing data about how the monster would look like in color. So, yeah, it's that old. ^^

It's a leap of faith for Kaiyodo at the start in my opinion. I've no idea what direction the company set for this particular series in the first place, but I'm speculating that it's hoping that the people who grow up watching movies or TV shows featuring these characters would buy the figures out of their love for the show or the characters, and at the same time, hoping that its promotion would attract the attention of younger customers to buy the figures for their design, articulation or Kaiyodo's craftsmanship on the details and painting.

Optimistically, that direction is a viable one, but in truth, a few questions remain. I wonder how many of those who grew up with the show are toy collectors now? or in wider perspective, still care about any news regarding any toy releases even if they are relevant to their interest. Kaiyodo probably realized that as well, since running promotional booth around Japan, which was called "caravan tour" was part of the promotion Kaiyodo organized to introduce the series. But anyway, for the younger batch, who in general prefers shinier new stuff or whatever that is contemporary but is hip, ^^; how many of them would be interested in this series anyway? I often wonder if there's any 16 or 17-year-old teenagers out there who would be interested in No. 013 Moguera or No. 015 Mesa-beam Transmitter, or even know where they came from in the first place. ^^; I'm sure there are people in this area, but the point is, for either one of these two groups of potential customers, it's still very much the niche group of collector that would actually buy many of the releases.

No generalization or elitism meant here by the way, just business talk. ^^;

Again, like I stated earlier on, I'm looking at the entire series from my perspective only. The actual situation in Japan may be a whole bunch of youngster lining up in rain to get No. 012 Mothra when it was released in August last year (heavy exaggeration there XD). The series may be very popular in Japan for all we don't know, but one thing I can be sure of is how expansive the potential that this series has. The characters ranged from classic Japanese shows and movies (No. 002 Daimajin, No. 006 Gamera, No. 007 Gyaosu etc), old and new foreign movies (No. 020 Skeleton Army, No. 022 Predator, No. 025 Captain Jack Sparrow) and animations (No. 005 Jack Skellington, No. 010 Woody, No. 011 Buzz Lightyear, etc), and the characters can be human, monsters and even vehicle units. The potential is limitless I would say. I may not know or like each and every one of the releases in the series, but it's always fun to see the design features Kaiyodo put in to bring out the uniqueness of the characters. Apart from this Alien, No. 012 Mothra's awesome paint details for its wings and the gory details of No. 014 Jason Voorhees are another two examples of great craftsmanship and attention to details Kaiyodo put in for this series.

Images are from this (Mothra) and this previous posting (Jason Voorhees)

No. 001 Alien was reissued in November last year if I remembered correctly, but the one I have is actually the first batch release that came out in April last year. There was never any doubt or second thought on the purchase decision really. ^^ A classic movie icon that I like very much, with great details and very reasonable price. What more to be uncertain of really? ^^ However, looking back to the time when I first watched the movie as a kid, I don't think I would ever want a figure of Alien. I was absolutely terrified of this fictitious creature and movie back then. ^^

After several sequels came out, the original Alien was given the name "Big Chap" to pinpoint it from its brethren. I'm not sure the origin of the name, but the first time I heard about it was when it was used on the 16" large action figure released by Hot Toys in 2009. The name must have been around for quite a while even at that time, since a large bust display item of the creature released one year before that, also from Hot Toys already carried the name "Big Chap". Anyway, the name was never used in the original 1979 movie by Ridley Scott.

The movie really scared the hell out of me when I watched it as a kid. Back then, when the sense of reality wasn't that clear, fictitious horror always seemed so real. ^^ It's the opposite now of course. Interestingly, for many years after watching the movie, I always believed that I was creeped out by the creature and the horrible way of its "birth" and killings. I later realized that I was more scared of the environment and mood presented in the movie rather than the creature itself. Going down memory for a while: the house I grew up in was a shop house as my family was running a grocery store back then. Because of that, we always had boxes of stocks here and there in the house. Inventory weren't always that organized back in the old days, we weren't running a supermarket anyway, so some boxes were higher than the rest, and some were hidden behind them, vice versa. There were of course some spaces between them to allow people to go in to get something.

After watching how the spaceship's crew got picked off one by one in dark, large or tight places with so many stationery structures around them by the Alien, usually right around the corner when they weren't looking, there's no need to guess what my reaction was when I was sent to the storerooms to get something in the evening or at night. No matter how bright the room could be lighted, shadows of boxes, tight walking paths between the stocks terrified me. ^^; It always seemed to me like there was something nasty lurking in the dark, ready to nab me when I wasn't looking. ^^; That was when I was in primary school - my siblings and I had to help out with the family business the moment we could do something since we didn't employ any additional worker for any of the job. Is such fear call claustrophobia? I read that it's about being afraid of small and tight rooms, but I'm OK with small rooms as long as there's nothing in it that can block my view of the entire environment.

Not sure what that fear was, but eventually I got over it, perhaps after I got nagged on too many times for not willing to help out in the storeroom I think. ^^; A few more years passed and eventually when I learned to appreciate the artistic value of all the movies I watched instead of focusing on just certain selling points like action, special effects, humor and all that, the original "Alien" immediately hit me on how well the movie was made. Everything that scared me in that movie is exactly what made it such a good movie. Despite the horror of its designated behavior, the actual action involving the alien creature is actually very little, and as I find out from repeated watching, exactly how did it killed a few of the characters weren't shown at all. On top of that, its movement is very slow actually. As compared to its brothers from the sequels, it's really the "grandfather" of them all. ^^; The major part of the horror associated with the story is still the ridiculously large space inside the ship but very few people on board in contrast, which made all the rooms, tight spaces, shadow and light all the scarier. The slow pace of the movie is just the right factor to magnify the vastness of the space to really scare the audience. The music is quite slow and simple as well, but it always manages to throw in some scares at the right moment. The music really flows with the mood of the movie I would say.

The design of the creature itself is fantastic as a fearsome monster in my opinion. The long tube-like head is very scary-looking, but for me, it's not the invincible "spring-loaded" mandible that frightens me the most, but the lack of a pair of eyes instead. Having the teeth exposed all the time made it seems like an angry beast ready to strike anytime on anything, but there's no way to really tell what it's thinking with the eye missing. As the saying goes, "The eyes are the windows to the soul." There's this great sense of uncomfortableness when you don't see the eyes on the spot where they should be for a creature.

After a while, looking at more images of its design, it's apparent to me that the glossy "tube" is a cover for supposedly the interior of the head inside it. The even scarier part is the head is shaped very much after the skull of a human being, and emphasizing on the missing eye, it has eye sockets but no visible eyeballs in them. This Sci-fi Revoltech release realized that design concept and allows you to remove the cover to show the interior of the head, which is really a cool feature.

I watched the original movie a dozen of times now, but I still find its overall presentation very mesmerizing. Nothing in it scares me anymore, but I still like it very much. It's the kind of movie where everything you see on screen are props, real actors and actual camera skills working together to capture all the acting and action. Nowadays, with movie making relying more and more on computer graphic, the action portion of a movie usually gets the emphasis, and the fear factors usually come from really bloody kills or gory details of those action sequences that try to scare you into disgust. ^^; However, too many of such flicks may result in the movie missing the real point of having those action in the first place.

The way I see it, Michael Bay's "Transformers 2" was made with so many stuff blowing up here and there until I no longer feel the excitement of watching those which are supposedly the selling points of that movie.

For Alien, exactly how many ways can one show its mandible striking into its victim for the kill anyway? Too many of the same action will eventually make the creature seems generic, and even mindless. I always believe that a person's own imagination is the best fear magnifier. Creative story twists or camera work that can let the audience imagine what's coming next and scare themselves for it is far more effective than throwing the effect in their faces directly. In "Alien", the large space of the ship is scary to me, but the crew of the ship was never shown to have any problem about it at all in the movie, the fear that the creature might be hiding in certain places and strike unexpectedly was all in my imagination, but that horror was long-lasting.

Then again, when the focus is always on the action elements in movies nowadays, how much time or opportunities are given for our imagination anyway?

That doesn't mean I despise new movies with lots of CG and action though. I do enjoy that kind of action or slasher movies every now and then. Not every movie needs to be like "Saving Private Ryan", "Antichrist", "Kill Bill", or even "Alien" to be good movies. I like the Resident Evil series (because of Milla Jovovich ^^), all the Friday the 13th titles I watched, however crazy and hocky some of them are. ^^ They are good movies for plan-less nights in my opinion. ^^

And onto the action figure itself: ^^

Shown on the sleeve band at the bottom of the box is Chris Walas, the special effect designer and creature creator of "Enemy Mine" (1985), "The Fly" (1986), "The Fly 2" (1989). He did a little video review on this figure, which was part of Kaiyodo's promotional effort for each release of the series. The lasting impression I had from watching the video the first time back in February last year was Chris Walas's excitement and enthusiasm when talking about the figure. I definitely can relate to him because that's exactly the kind of feeling I had when I received this figure myself (or any other hobby stuff I buy) ^^

Another point about the video, Chris repeated the line of "Really cool!" quite a few times at the beginning part of his commentary, and the subtitle didn't bother to show it in Japanese anymore, as you can see from the screen shot below XD

"Really cool!" ^^
Image is from this previous posting.

The said video if you never watched it before:

Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

More images of the packaging and content of this figure:

Still pretty standard Revoltech design style for the sides, top and bottom of the box.

Introduction of the figure on the back of the box.

Closeups on the sleeve band.

A design feature of the box that makes the series more exclusive as compared to the other sub-series in Revoltech is the hard paper cover that allows you to open the box like a book. On the edges are sticking patches that keep the box and its cover sealed when it's closed.

It's cool to see that Kaiyodo put in the effort to match both ends of the sleeve band with the details inside the box. ^^

Introduction of the movie "Alien" behind the paper cover.

Some scenes shown in the introduction area are so much brighter than the version I watched.

The figure itself and almost all its accessories can be seen clearly through the window.

RevolContainer and RevolChip.

Box open.

Box content. Everything fit on one plastic tray.

Leaflet introducing this Sci-fi Revoltech series, many unconfirmed releases (at that time - April 2010) were shown as well.

Promo booklet featuring upcoming releases from all Revoltech sub-series.

With the clear plastic cover taken off.

No other item on the back of the tray for a Revoltech release is something new for me as well XD

More images of the figure in the next posting. ^^

1 comment:

LEon said...

Bro are you also going to do a video that keep saying "Really cool" for this toy? :P