Thursday, January 2, 2014

Review: S.H. Monsterarts Godzilla 2000 Millennium (Yuji Sakai Concept)

Introduction:  While Bandai/Tamashii Nation's S.H. Monsterarts line is certainly no stranger to controversy among fans, certain entries are more controversial than others.  An example of this would be King Ghidorah, with its much maligned wing issues.  Another is Godzilla 1964 with it unconventional joint design.  Still another would be the very subject of this review:  The S.H. Monsterarts Godzilla 2000 Millennium.  Why is this figure controversial?  Well, instead of sculpting a straight up film accurate version, sculptor Yuji Sakai decided to base the Monsterarts G2K on his own unused concept.  Naturally, this caused confusion and turmoil among the fans (though honestly...  what doesn't?).  Why were they releasing the concept version?  Where was the film accurate Godzilla 2000 fans have been waiting for?  Aside from speculation, no one is sure.
However, as clear pictures of the prototype began to surface, one thing seemed certain:  Yuji Sakai wasn't pulling any punches.  It looked incredible.  So how did Sakai's prototype translate in the transition to mass market form?  Read on and find out!

Package (5/5):  Wow.  The package design for S.H. Monsterarts Godzilla 2000 is just beautiful!  Excellent quality promotional shots decorate the back, while Godzilla's ugly mug adorns the front.  There are claw marks all over, as if the Surly Saurian himself tried to rip his way out.  One wider slash serves as the display window, revealing Godzilla's hunched form within.  The dark black background of the box serves as an excellent contrast to the bright white red letters, and the green of Godzilla himself.  Overall this package is perfect, easily the best yet.  I would love to see more in this style.


Sculpt (5/5):  Did you like the prototype sculpt?  Well I have some good news then...   The mass production piece is every bit as good in that category.  It's clear that a lot of love was put into this sculpt.  It's insanely detailed..  even for a Monsterarts figure.  Every little feature from the tiny spines on Godzilla's head, to the curved talons on his feet, are rendered with the expertise of a master.  The multiple rows of dorsal spines are jagged and threatening.  The height of the largest ones give the monster a sense of majesty, almost like a misplaced crown.  The maw is chock full of large fangs, and the overall structure of the mouth and head are somewhat reminiscent of a powerfully built dog (like a pit bull).  The body is covered in the distinct grooves which have been a Godzilla trademark since the beginning. 
There are many features of this Godzilla design that are distinctly reptilian. The multiple rows of plates running down his back are arranged somewhat like a crocodile's armored scutes.  His tail is long, tapering and lizard-like, with a uniquely ribbed appearance.  His powerful legs and curved talons evoke the image of a carnivorous dinosaur. 
In overall form, the Sakai concept Godzilla 2000 (and by extension, the figure) seems to resemble several Godzillas from the past.  His hunch seems to be a drastic exaggeration of the posture Godzilla had in 1962's King Kong vs. Godzilla.  The head and expression seem like a Millennium update to the look of the original 1954 Godzilla.  And the incredible length of the tail somewhat evokes the Heisei series Godzilla.
Overall, the S.H. Monsterarts Godzilla 2000 Millennium is an excellent rendition of Sakai's concept.  It is easily among his best work, and the prototype to production piece transition was very kind to the sculpt.

Paint (5/5): The paint work on this figure is stellar.  While not quite as brightly colored overall as the prototype, S.H. Monsterarts Godzilla 2000 is still a distinct shade of green.  This sets it uniquely apart from the standard charcoal grey or black of other Godzilla incarnations.  The dorsal spines are tipped with a kind of purple frost.  The jaws are impressive, with tiny details like teeth colored without an ounce of slop.  Against the primarily green body color, there are also brownish highlights...  most notably in the center of the figure's chest.  The eyes are straight and lack the so-called "derpy" quality that plagued the Godzilla 1994 figure.




 Articulation (5/5):  The articulation engineering on the S.H. Monsterarts Godzilla 2000 Millenium is nothing short of amazing.  Each segment of the tail is ball jointed...  From the base to the tip.  This (combined with the odd, ribbed shape of the tail sections) makes it far more flexible than the tails of either Heisei Godzilla.  The tail can curl all the way around to the feet on either side.  The one drawback here is that the ball joint engineering makes the tail rather loose and floppy after excessive posing.

The head, jaws, and neck are comprised of several ball joints, allowing for an unheard of range of movement.  This is partly due to a hollow sheath that makes up the section of neck directly behind the head.  Running through the sheath is a long post with a ball joint on each end.  This assures maximum motion without leaving a massive gap in the neck.  Godzilla 2000's jaw is on a ball joint, and the figure has an articulated tongue that hinges up and down.  The base of the neck has excellent range, and is able to swing far enough to the right or left that his head look to either side.  The entire neck is also able to swing downward drastically...  almost at a ninety degree angle.  Upward motion, however, is impeded by the large dorsal spines.
Godzilla 2000's shoulders are comprised of two different types of joint.  First there is a rather unconventional internal hinge that allows the entire arm to swing upward at the shoulder.  Directly connected to the hinge piece there is a ball joint.  Working in tandem, these two joints lend the shoulders an excellent range of motion.  The elbows function like a double hinge but are actually another double ball jointed post/hollow sheath combination.  The wrists are an odd combination of swivel hinge and ball joint.  Again, the unusual articulation allows for an excellent amount of articulated movement.
From what I can tell the torso and pelvis are both connected to the midsection by double ball jointed posts.  As a result the body is easily the most poseable of any S.H. Monsterarts release to date.  Godzilla can nearly touch his toes!  Like Tamashii's previous release, Godzilla 1995, Godzilla 2000's thighs are connected by ball jointed posts.  Unlike Godzilla 1995 however, Godzilla 2000 has internal sheaths that fill the space in the thigh/pelvis gaps.  This is a nice touch;  It makes the gaps less obvious, and doesn't break the sculpt as much.  The knees are double hinges, with clicking internal joints that lock them into a set position.  The feet and ankles are engineered so that the lower legs are a sheath containing the double ball jointed posts. This allows the feet an amazing range of movement, and assures that the feet can always be positioned touching the ground....  no matter how the legs are posed.
Overall, the articulation on this figure is excellent.  I honestly wouldn't mind if this became the new standard for the line.    
Accessories (n/a):  Like a few of the recent S.H. Monsterarts figures, Godzilla 2000 Millennium comes completely devoid of accessories.  It's a shame, as Millennium Godzilla's signature Red Atomic Ray would've been a welcome addition and added some value to the figure.

This figure is just covered in sharp, jagged, eyeball-gouging spines and is not suitable for young children.  The possibility also exists that a piece could fall off and be swallowed by a child. Supervision is required.

Overall (4.5/5):
 S.H. Monsterarts Godzilla 2000 Millennium (Yuji Sakai Concept) is a stunningly rendered representation of an unused Godzilla design.  The sculpt is among the best in the line, the articulation is truly amazing, and it's an interesting glimpse at what could have been.  So why no perfect score?  Frankly, I was rather disappointed with the complete lack of accessories for this release.  That being said,  I highly recommend this figure to any Godzilla fan.  In the future,
a film accurate Shinichi Wakasa sculpted Godzilla 2000 would be a welcome addition to the S.H. Monsterarts line.  It would be interesting to be able to display the concept and the final version together.