The quarterly magazine Sculptors is back with its third issue featuring more monsters, robot girls, and 3D printed kits. One of the highlights of the issue was Akinori Takaki’s rendition of the Cicada Man from Ultra Q. In the original series the Cicada Man was a sort of spy sent to earth, clad in a see-through vinyl rain slick that you’d probably see Gary Numan wear. But Takaki ditches the rain slick in favor of rendering the Cicada Man au natural. In one curled sitting pose reminiscent of Rodin, but rendered in an amber translucent resin that makes the figure look like an abandoned cicada shell. His other piece displays a family of Cicada people, laid bare across a white field in an image similar to medical anatomy charts. The term “Lovecraftian” is bandied about a little heavily these days and slapped onto anything with tentacles or involving rural Massachusetts, but these figures embody an eerie uncanny valley where humanity as we know it lays besides the grotesque and otherworldly.
Junosuke Abe tackles the UltraSeven creature Metron, creating a figure based on a design from the late Yasushi Nirasawa. This was one of Nirasawa’s final design works, which was done as part of the Kaiju Remix series which gives assorted artists free reign over creatures from the Ultra series. Created by the artist K, Android EL01 looks like it walked out of Ex Machina or Battle Angel Alita, as flesh and mechanical armatures intertwine.
Most artists in Sculptors tend to eschew subtlety in favor of making their creations as bombastic as possible, Masato Ohata’s Girl with Key embodies a nuanced approach to horror. Evoking the same eeriness of the twin Grady girls from The Shining, the figure looks straight at the viewer with a look that may be condemnation, and entreaty, or a fate worse than death. The folds and pleats on her dress are delicately crafted while an ominous sack sits by her feet and a hand creeps out from under a manhole cover. The piece invites you to think about what’s not shown.
One of the extended features in this issue goes over the creation of a bust of Zaruba, from Keita Amemiya’s long running tokusatsu show Garo. Zaruba typically appears as a small ring that talks to the hero, but in this bust his size has been increased and we see the lengthy process as Zaruba goes from a lump of clay into his grinning skeletal visage.
One of my favorite pieces is a figure called Orco, which is modeled after the avian styled heroes of Gatchaman, but eschewing the helmet and spandex for a bio-organic creature reminiscent of Screaming Mad George’s work on the movie Guyver. The sculpture Pleats depicts an ancient looking mound of flesh that is evocative of the human form, but transformed into something strange and cruel as a veritable curtain of skin drapes over an ancient stone chair. And for those of you that want some less horrific and grotesque content, there’s a feature on studying a tiger cub for studious sculptors.
Paru Itagaki’s manga Beastars gets some extensive coverage with a look at busts sculpted by Takashi Tsukada of the cast that perfectly captures Itakgagki’s elastic and expressive art style. The next section looks at the expertly crafted creation of the stop motion animated opening to the Beastars anime (coming to Netflix in March 2020, despite being out in Japan since October 2019). This opening sequence was some of the first footage shown of Beastars and I was actually a little disappointed that the whole show wasn’t done in stop motion. What’s Beastars? Imagine if you put Fame, Riverdale, and Zootopia in a blender and you’d be about half way there.
It’s always important to remember the past, and Sculptors pays tribute to the magazines SMH (Sensational Model & Hobby) and DDD (Dengeki Dabster Department Store… yes, really), two publications which were forerunners to Sculptors. SMH was a side publication by Hobby Japan which featured works from Yasushi Nirasawa when he was in his prime, along with ball jointed dolls, Takeyuki Takeya models, short comics, movie reviews, and trips to various modeling conventions. If you can track down back issues of SMH I highly recommend giving it a look. SMH was in many ways the foundation for Sculptors in its approach to strange creatures, complex mechs, and provocative (read: horny) designs. Many things have changed since the time of SMH, but Sculptors embodies the spirit of creation and new frontier of digital modeling and 3D printing in the hobby and garage kit world.
Article and photos by David Namba
The DNA of Tokusatsu Ultraman Genealogy exhibition on Ultraman, the reigning king of Japan heroes and the history of Tsuburaya Productions safely lands with COVID-19 prevention measures at Gallery AaMo in Tokyo Dome City. From the first program in 1966 to today, no Tsuburaya hero or program is left out at this game multimedia exhibition that additionally highlights Reiwa era hitters like Ultraman Z, now running Saturday mornings on TV Tokyo and the Ultraman Tsuburaya YouTube channel.