If you collect toys or are even slightly involved with the Kid Robot or Urban Vinyl scene, then you may have heard of the soft-vinyl toys called Kaiju. These small creatures are the underbelly of the whole urban vinyl toy scene. Kaiju (Japanese for â€œStrange Beastâ€ or â€œMonsterâ€) are basically the giant villains in old Japanese Horror movies. Godzilla, Mothra, and even King Kong are considered Kaiju. Kaiju toys are collected by a small group of hardcore collectors and designers who consider themselves â€œtoy punksâ€ and who have created a small culture centered around classic Japan Monsters.
While these Kaiju figures are traditional Japanese childrenâ€™s toys that have been manufactured since the 50â€™s, Japanese companies like Secret Base, The Cure, Gargamel, RealxHead, Skulltoys, Blobpus, and Exohead are leading the movement of New Kaiju. American companies like Super 7, Max Toy, Toy Tokyo, and Toy Bot Studios are also at the forefront in creating new versions of these classic toys.
The following 10 Kaiju of 2008 represent a small sampling of what we at Mishka liked this year, and in no way represent all of the amazing Kaiju that are currently out on the market! This list is in no particular order:
10. Super 7 Gorilla Biscuits Vinyl Figure
â€œIn the late 80’s, the New York Hardcore scene was at its apex. This generation of Hardcore had more than its share of idolized bands, but only one band seemed to cross over all scene and political lines and appeal to everyone. That band was Gorilla Biscuits. Sculpted to match the illustration on their debut self-titled 7″, the Gorilla Biscuits vinyl figure from Super7 was one of this year’s most anticipated releases. Made to coincide with a Japanese and Australian reunion tour, the Gorilla Biscuits figure was sold just at shows during the tour, and a select few were held back for the toy regulars at Super7. What set this figure apart from so many others is that it fit so easily in both worlds. It was clearly a great punk rock effigy, while it completely worked as a great monster toy in the classic “Fight” format. So many other collaborations and crossovers seem forced and uninteresting, yet, just as their records did before, Gorilla Biscuits managed to bridge the gap with ease, and make a great product that everyone could love.â€ – Brian Flynn (Super 7) on the Gorilla Biscuits Vinyl Figure
9. The Cure – Toxic Phantom Boogieman
This figure originally comes from Secret Base’s 12-inch outfit series “Toxic Phantom”, but Tossy from The CURE toy company re-arranged it as his â€œBoogie Manâ€ character for The CUREâ€™s 8 year anniversary. This included creating a new head, arm attachments, and feet attachments. This is an homage to “Henshin-Cyborg,” but with a totally different approach
8. RealxHead for Kaiju Taro 2nd Anniversary – Black Dharma Fortune Cat
Mori, the creator and owner of RealxHead Toy Company, started making the Fortune cat as sort of a joke. He thought it would be cool to make a traditional Lucky Cat with a cyclops eye. Initially, he thought no one would really like it, so he only made a few, but the response to it has been overwhelming. Everybody wanted an RxH Fortune Cat, perhaps because it was a new take on something so traditional. RealxHead and Kaiju Taro (a Japanese Kaiju Magazine) collaborated on this particular colorway for their two year anniversary.
7. Gargamel – Rokuron
â€œThe Rokuron character is based on an obscure bootleg soft vinyl figure from the 70â€™s. The original figure was made by a mysterious company who released several figures inspired by original Kaiju characters. This character was most likely inspired by Goro, a gorilla-looking Ultra Kaiju character. These bootlegs have been unappreciated up until recently, when Gargamel began to release their own stylized versions of the characters in their â€˜Zokki Kaijuâ€™ line.â€ – Koji of Gargamel
6. Toygraph – Space Troopers
â€œLast year, Toygraph released a diver figure along with Godzilla. These were sold as a set at one of the toy events in Japan. While they were selling these figure sets, several customers stopped by and asked them about the diver figure. They all wanted to purchase a diver figure alone. The owner of Toygraph did not understand why they just wanted to buy a diver figure, so he asked each one of them. All of these customers were from the U.S. and they said it was so cool because it looks like an astronaut. After the show, the owner of Toygraph came up with an idea for making the Space Trooper figure, not only for Japanese fans, but also for fans overseas. The owner said that the Japanese do not have such contemplation for astronauts, but Americans do. Itâ€™s just because the U.S. has achieved the great Apollo project in the past.â€ – Yo of Toygraph Studios
5. Secret Base â€“ Monster Mantis
The Monster Mantis is one our favorite pieces of the year! Itâ€™s a Frankenstein sort of creation, with a ton of different colors, types of vinyl, and techniques. According to Hiddy from Secret Base, they called this the MONSTER Mantis because they made it knowing that they wouldnâ€™t make a profit off of it due to all the complex colors and details. Fortunately for fans, they wanted to make a limited MONSTER for Halloween!
4. RealxHead x DataDub – Mini Set
The RealxHead mini sets were crazy in 2008. We were especially huge fans of Data Dubâ€™s Kiss Army version. I think ToyCyte magazine summed it up perfectly: â€œWho doesnâ€™t love Kiss? The make-up, the fire, Gene Simmonsâ€™ freakishly long tongue, the tunesâ€¦ thereâ€™s so much about them to adore. Inspired by these rock legends, Datadub of the International Figure Research Center designed this amazingly cool RealxHead logo inspired by the Kiss masterpiece Rock and Roll Over that featured such hits as â€œCalling Dr. Love,â€ â€œLadies Roomâ€ and â€œHard Luck Woman,â€ and, of course, awesome cover art. Well lucky for us, this was not just a one-off tribute by Datadub, itâ€™s a full-blown RealxHead explosion. ”
3. Martin Ontiveros – Ojo Rojo
â€œThe creation of the character itself is just sort of a fluke of doodling in my sketchbook, no real back story there. About three or four years back, I sort of re-embraced my love for rock n’ roll and metal, and when that happened, I started painting demons. Ojo was one of these in a series I did for my show “Fire Down Below” back in 2006. It was probably because his hair was fun to draw, or maybe the way he sorta looked glam rock, but he stuck around for a while after that– long enough to make it onto a small set of silkscreen prints I made for Comic-Con 2006 in San Diego, where we shared our hotel room with Gargamel, visiting and selling their toys in the States for the first time. We hit it off with them very well, and by the end of the convention, they were saying they wanted to make a toy with me. How Ojo became their choice, I don’t recall. What I do remember is that Kiyoka had requested I draw a simple back and front image for him, and me not getting to it in a time frame I thought would make it for SDCC 2007. About a month before the show, however, he surprised me with images of the sculpt for the first mini-Ojo. It’s been a great ride ever since.â€ – Martin Ontivero
Picture including Paul Kaiju’s awesome Grodnoid
2. Exohead x Skull Toys x Toybot Studios – Skull Rex Jimi Set
â€œI have been a fan of both Exohead and Skull Toys for years, so I reached out to Skull Toys to ask if we could do a three-way collaboration: Exohead x Skull Toys x Toybot Studios! I would paint a limited run of Skull Rex to offer to U.S. collectors. I was very honored when they accepted my offer. I asked a few collectors about the colorway and almost everyone I asked wanted an unpainted version, too. So I decided on a set that would include one custom painted Skull Rex plus one unpainted version. The first two EXOHEAD Skull Rex versions were named “Marc” and “Bolan” after the lead singer of T.REX. I named this figure “Jimi” and the unpainted version “Ghost of Jimi” because, in the final T.REX song â€œElemental Childâ€ in their final album, A Beard of Stars, a long electric guitar break was influenced by the late Jimi Hendrix.â€ – Kirklad Jue of Toybot Studios
1. Bemon – 2-Headed Bemon
Not too much is known about Bemon. He is sort of an enigma. His toys are limited to super low quantities, editions of 10, stuff like that. They sell out almost immediately, and then the resale value is 8-10x the retail price, only in one day! The two-headed Bemon is based off of the cover art from a vintage Famous Monsters of Filmland. Not sure if the monster ever appeared in any movies, but it was definitely something in the vein of Ray Haryhausen and the monsters from the Voyage of Sinbad. This sculpt is very rough and edgy–very much the way Bemon works, very DIY. This thing comes in multiple colorways, and each one is sicker than the first!
Based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mishka is a street wear brand that references any and all things that its creators have been inspired by: the underground punk/hardcore/post-hardcore and skate scenes of the 80’s, heavy metal 7â€ indie rock, horror, comics, B-movies and pop culture in general. In the end, just as it was in the beginning, anything goes with Mishka.
With the success of Mishka’s graphic T-shirts, the brand was able to expand its line to a full collection ranging from denim, outerwear, knits, sweatshirts and accessories that are available worldwide at only the finest of shops.