[DESIGNER VINYLS] Hot or Not?

Posted by Sanjeev 
Sanjeev (Admin)
That's also by Marmit, right Matt? I dig it...but I don't think yokai toys (or ANYTHING by Marmit!) qualify as designer toys...even if they *are* unlicensed!
MattAlt (Admin)
I try not to get hung up on definitions. They're sofubi.... they ain't made by a major manufacturer.... They ain't based on a pop character... they're "designer" in my book.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Well, I'd normally agree that the definitions are stupid and arbitrary...and almost meaningless when you look at the actual toys! Aren't they all just stupid rubber dinosaurs at the end of the day??? But as soon as you take a look at the communities collecting these things, I think it becomes pretty apparent why the distinction is there! :P

Oh, and Marmit's HUGE. I'd say they qualified as "major", no?
MattAlt (Admin)
How do you define "huge"?? They're nowhere on the scale of Bandai or Takara or even Yamato, from what I can tell.
Anonymous User
Marmit's definitely bigger than most of the other JP vinyl companies; they've also been around longer than most of the other companies except for maybe M1 and Yamanaya. Definitely no Takara or Bandai, though.

They've started to cross over heavily into designer territory with side projects like Skull Head Butt, Karz Works and Wombat Toys. A year ago, I'd have firmly stated that Marmit is not a designer vinyl company; now, I think they're one of the few companies that could be considered both designer and traditional.
I agree that Marmit doesn't warrant the label "big," from what I'm told it's an operation of just a couple of people like M1GO, Marusan, etc. Even when Marmit was doing Star Wars licensed items, they were actually being made by Hasbro Japan.

You could call Medicom "big," they actually have a retail store and do the Kubricks and such, as well as designer vinyls.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Oh, for shizzle: Marmit’s hardly Bandai or Takara! But then again, who is?? Comparing Marmit to Yamato, though? Hmm…

I don’t claim to have any special knowledge of their structure, but it always seemed to me like they’re pretty damn big. On top of their Japanese vinyl releases, they had plenty of "mainstream" (slush-cast?) vinyl toys made in China (FLOSRs, for example) and even a appreciable number of quality diecast releases…from their decadent Daigokin offerings to their Mini-Metal robot series. Sure, these toys aren't nearly as complex as a Yamato Valk, but at least they were executed well with no epic QC issues.

But getting back to vinyl, it was my understanding that Marmit also encompassed a *bunch* of other companies, not just SHB, Karz, and Wombat. Gigabrain…Target Earth(maybe?)…and several other small outfits I can’t seem to recall now. That seems pretty big to me! But yeah, I guess you’d have to call them traditional and designer at this point because of all those side ventures.

I just can’t imagine only a handful of people (like at M1, Marusan, and others) being able to wrangle all the diverse stuff they put out. But as for Medicom, I agree: Medicom definitely seems a lot bigger than Marmit. Beside Kubricks and their other myriad brands, I know Medicom does a ton of collaborations with other designer vinyl toy makers, but do they actually make their own sofubi kaiju toys? Just curious...
You're right, Marmit did make a bunch of diverse stuff, and it's hard to forget those Daigokins. On the other hand, it was easy to forget those VOTOMS figures.

A sampling from HLJ:

[www.hlj.com]

A lot of items listed there are over 10 years old. Do they make anything other than home-grown vinyls nowadays?

Also, these sub-brands like Hukkokudo, Target Earth, etc., I think that each one of these is a co-production with someone else rather than something Marmit owns themselves.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Shit...how could I forget Hukkokudo..? But yeah, if they're just co-productions, I could see how Marmit proper may not need to be that huge.

Well, anyway, it sure seems like the whole industry is suffering pretty bad right now. I doubt Marmit's doing too much non-vinyl stuff these days...but then again, other companies' releases appear to be slowing down as well. :/
Do people still make vinyl toys?

Introducing Prometheus Rising Studio.
[prometheusrising.net]
I make 3D printed mecha action figures.
Quote
Prometheum5
Do people still make vinyl toys?


The Chairman will be so proud! His work is done.
Sanjeev (Admin)
LOL

You motherfuckers...
MattAlt (Admin)
There isn't really any way to determine the actual size of Marmit relative to other companies, but to me it's a designer operation mainly because the guy who runs it appears to call all the shots as regarding what gets made (which is why we see obscure yokai and sci-fi characters alongside the Toho and Dynamic stuff.)

Speaking of which, remember that series of translucent blue versions of Godzilla and Gigan characters they released back in the mid-90s? I'm surprised nobody's thought of stuffing these with guts. Always liked that blue tone.




Sanjeev (Admin)
It's probably terrible that I can't remember...but I coulda sworn I had that translucent blue Mothra...and at one point had filled her up with glow gravel!

Ah....all that seems forever ago...
Time Traveler's hazardous job. 1 million B.C.
Hey, lookit these dorky artsy-fartsy cyclops dinosauruses....."RaaRgh! mange mange!"




Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/03/2013 01:14PM by repairtechjon.




Eastern vinyl lives on past RxH, designer BS and tulips.
Probably too cutesy for this crowd, but their other stuff has been stellar and I appreciate the detail and all IMO.

vs

My thoughts are Western "designers" are downgrading the "scene".
So much garbage and trash among western toys.
Everyone with no skills, thinks they're a designer.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Been a while, man!

Are those vinyls pictured from RxH? Or some other company? Probably too cute for me, like you said, but I've always had a soft spot for more yokai-inspired stuff.

And I have to agree with your assessment of the modern vinyl industry. I guess it's nothing new to say that any fool with a few grand and not an ounce of skill can make a toy nowadays...but it's just more and more and more of it everyday. It's definitely troubling because the ratio of people making toys to those buying them is constantly growing.

I know I'm guilty of this too with the stuff I make, but I really don't know of *anyone* doing 70's super robot toys in the custom/designer/whatever toy world...
Sanjeev, you know I love your work, but I think it's kind of crappy to bemoan people getting into arts and crafts. Yeah, some people ain't that good, but you have to start somewhere, and lowering the bar to entry is a -good- thing. This new tech is democratizing, making it so that way more people have access. Of course some people are going to suck, but I really do not think it is remotely a bad thing that way more people are making custom or low run toys on their own.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
Oh, I actually agree...at least in regard to 3D printing and other modern, democratizing advances in fabrication. Putting the means of production in the common person's hands is a huge shift in so many aspects of our society--from how we view "art" as a culture to how we treat intellectual property.

But that's not at all what we're talking about.

We're talking about almost the exact opposite: an old, dirty, and dangerous method for producing toys...that's not even legal in the US due to the environmental implications. Slush-cast vinyl monster figures goes back to the 60's in Japan, and to my knowledge, there aren't any other countries that still use this tech for making toys. But honoring tradition is a big part of Japanese culture, and I can respect that.

The problem comes in where more and more and more cash-safe Westerners are waving thousands of dollars in the faces of the few artisans in Japan still doing this stuff, begging them to make their toys for them using these old methods. What--are these craftsmen gonna say no??? It's not like they're celebrities over there...so I can't really blame them for not turning down the money.

But the slush-cast vinyl toy market is an extremely small one, and with all niche markets, if you over-saturate it, the demand will plummet and ALL the makers will suffer--venerable companies that have fought tooth and nail to keep these old methods still alive (like Gargamel and Real x Head)...as well as artists in the US who have real respect for the traditions and culture that created these toys in the first place (like Paul Kaiju and Mark Nagata).

But to add insult to injury, a lot of these USers seeking their toys made in Japan aren't even fans of traditional Japanese toys! Many of these guys come from the Chinese "urban" vinyl fandom (think KidRobot). Stuff that has basically NOTHING to do with Godzilla and Ultraman. But because Japanese slush-cast vinyl is less mainstream than Chinese roto-cast vinyl, it MUST be better, right??? The exclusivity has drawn many urban vinyl fans from KidRobot towards making their own urban vinyl rip-offs in Japan. Heh...most of them don't even "make" these toys: they draw pictures of what they want and source the sculpting to the same Japanese factories making the figures!

It's a mess.
I guess my issue with the low barrier to entry in the western toy world is that it seems to attract those who want to profit off it versus making personal intimate sculpts.

For every one, Paul Kaiju (who is great) there's another fifty who just slap shit together like Grody Shogun and present it as worthy as Gargamel and other shops.

Sorry about the rant earlier, just kinda spewed forth after being on SB. Stuff like this for example:





But I guess if that's what people like, that's what people like.
I thought we were talking about 3D printing and other such easily accessible new technologies, not bribing old school master craftsmen to churn out your vanity project.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
That's an interesting point, Peter...but honestly, I just *don't know* if the majority of these Western-but-not-Western vinyls are personal, intimate forms of expression or just a means to make a buck. Like, I can't stand those Grody Shogun figures...but at the very least they're kinda unique...I guess? So I'm in no position to say whether or not those were designs sitting in that dude's head for the last decade, and only now are getting made into toys. I mean, like I said, the design aesthetic comes more from that "urban vinyl" stuff, not traditional Japanese toys. Who the fuck knows...?

What REALLY annoys the shit outta me is how every other "kaiju" (riiiiight) these days has two heads, is a cyclops, a robot, or an ape. Or all at once. With a skull on it. And zero originality or artistic integrity. That crap is SO obviously a means to cash in...

Yeah, Jeremy, it's all sorta dripping with a gross sense of entitlement too. I mean, slush-casting vinyl IS a highly carcinogenic process...and no one seems to want to talk about how paying someone to kill themselves slowly to make a toy might just be an ethical grey area...

Anyway, in the midst of all the negativity, there ARE some American sculptors who, I think, get it. This is by Cop A Squat Toys (yeah, unfortunate name!):

But, again, I think talented folks like this suffer, too, because of that over-saturation. As atease used to say, it's no longer about fans "collecting" things they're passionate about. It's become merely "shopping"...no different from picking up groceries on the way home from work...
The price of vinyl admission is a lot higher than you think. I once spoke to Matt Doughty about making toys many years back when I knew very little (still do) and he described a 'worst case scenario' of sorts. He said if I started with a drawing and decided to send that out to be made I'd be paying for: a 3D artist or sculptor, a mold maker (if the sculptor didn't do it), the initial wax mold, the wax cast, the steel mold, prototypes, mail back and forth, and time spent on the phone. This doesn't include the big initial run. Most factories want a hefty number churned out for their investment. The final number he quoted was 6-7K. And this was working at his scale of a single glyos figure. So you're looking at a massive amount of cash going into the project. You may not make any profit for years if your line or figure doesn't take off immediately. Doughty battled his way to where he is now. Any of you who've met him know this for a fact. He's a work monster.

Now there are makers out there who do EVERYTHING themselves. Tooru Abe of kaijuken fame does this. He sculpts, molds and makes the wax casts himself before shipping the figure off to his personal factory or Medicom. When he was working primarily for himself he told me his figures on average are 40$ a piece to cast. If he doesn't manage to sell entire runs, he won't be able to make more. Hence you see a lot of small runs to gain interest in a sort of manufactured rarity sense. Though lately he's in the employment of Medicom and that's not a big issue. But back to my point. 40$ a piece is quite a bit. Even though he's doing the sculpt and prep, that's a hefty investment if his figure flops. Drop several K for a big run and it doesn't sell? You might be homeless.

Vinyl is a big risk in my opinion.
Sanjeev (Admin)
$6-7k sounds about right for your average sofubi, but $40 is way too much for the final unit cost (unless you're going through Obitsu, who're kind of a rip-off!). The point still stands, though: it's a non-trivial amount of money. But a lot of folks out there have it. And it beats the $10k or so you'd need for an injection-molded action figure like a Glyos guy.

I think it's more about access than money, though. Right now, there's more access for Westerners than ever before to get their figures made in Japan. Again, in and of itself, that's not a bad thing. The net result, however, is that you have a lot of casual fans making these inherently exclusive toys NOT because they've devoted much of their lives to collecting and studying classical Japanese toys and have always had a burning design to pay homage to that aesthetic by making their own toys. Instead, they're making these toys just because they can. :/
How do you know why they're doing it? Have they made statements saying they don't care about collecting Japanese toys?

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
Many come directly from the KidRobot-collecting communities and very publicly (on skullbrain...which has essentially become KidRobot 2.0) display their complete ignorance of where "sofubi" come from. It's a separate discussion, but the irony of skullbrainers' absolute zero tolerance for any reference to KR whatsoever is absolutely asinine.

Anyway, a lot of these guys know only that Japanese vinyl is "better"...though they likely couldn't tell you why it's different from Chinese roto-cast vinyl in the first place. Obviously, it all comes down to not being able to produce figures at nearly the same rate as roto-casting. Oh, I can charge 5x more for my cutesy talking ice cream cone if it's made in Japan??? Sign me up!
It sounds like your problem is hanging out on skullbrain.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
My problem is that M1, Marmit, and Marusan are barely making new toys anymore.

:(

(as for skullbrain, I only lurk on the vintage board really...so it's not too painful of an experience!)
I've rummaged through SB and October toys recently and I'm just not seeing this big boom of vinyl makers you guys are talking about. I see some resin stuff but it's mostly dunny custom guys and He-Man rehashers. The keshi scene is moving forward nicely but that's primarily resin as well. What am I missing?
Sanjeev (Admin)
Quote
servbot30
What am I missing?

Evidently a lot!

Yeah, I'm not sure what the extend of your rummaging is, but I don't even pay much attention to modern vinyl anymore, and I'm still aware of a bunch of these Western-but-not-Western vinyls. Just check the "American Idols" section on skullbrain: you'll basically see a new thread for each toy that's out or in the pipeline.


State of sofubi in 2013?
Sanjeev (Admin)
Heh...I actually like a couple of those toys...but are any of them even Japanese?
I did as you suggested, sanjeev, and dug deeper into the american idols portion of the dreaded skullbrain. Have to admit, though, only a few of those figures struck me as being sincerely bad. The splurt thing popped out at me as a good example of 'eggs in one basket' mentality. He's been milking the same figure for like 3 years? Unfortunately that's the trend I am seeing among new makers. One figure will not make the millions you desire. But I really don't see this apocalyptic break down of the vinyl scene you guys are describing.
Sanjeev (Admin)
Again, I have to ask where you're looking.

Are you tracking modern vinyl prices on the open market (both eBay and Y!J)? Are you talking to vinyl makers? Retailers? Hardcore collectors? I am...and the common thread isn't particularly pretty. I wouldn't characterize it as "apocalyptic"...I'd compare it more to mainstream superhero comic books in the US: the industry is on the down slide. A very steep one. But much like superhero comics, I don't think modern sofubi will ever go away completely. It's just that the hyper-nostalgia market these industries have been enjoying for the past decade or so is finally self-correcting (i.e., deflating rapidly).

If you're a collector, it's kinda great. Modern licensed vinyls from M1, Marmit, or Marusan that were tough to get years ago are now going for pennies on the dollar (where you can find them anyway). But this also means that these companies can barely afford to release new product. In order to accommodate shrinking markets, they've had to incentivize their offerings by making them more and more exclusive. And you can see this even more prominently on the non-character "designer" side. Super7, for instance, has completely nuked their Monster Family line...and even their more recent full-size figures are only available in tiny batches (at high prices). It's not like they have much of a choice. :/
[blog.kidrobot.com]

So..weepy eyes, and stamping feet that KR NYC is closing? or.. just "meh , your time making enough money to support rent in a hot spot has tapered off?"
Sanjeev (Admin)
Heh, yeah, Ben told me about this last week. I'm no fan of KidRobot's, so I couldn't help but chuckle. But at the same time, it IS a sign of the times... :/


[man-e-toys.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
I'm so getting this!

But it IS technically a licensed item, no?
As far as I know, yeah its licensed. It'll be a limited run. No idea on price or how many made yet. It's mega beastly though. I will own.
[zozo.jp]



do want
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