Articles and Features

Buyer Be Aware


The Year in Review


Collecting Articles and Features

Buyer Be Aware - Variable Uncanny Embryo Horrible: Bandai DX Larva Bootleg

By Aaron Smith, Bob Schneider, & Club Tokyo (2000)

History & Comments

Uncanny Embryo (top) Bandai DX Larva (bottom)
Notice the embryo is different shade of brown.

The original Bandai DX Larva was released in 1996 as part of a tie-in for the newest Mothra film, MOTHRA. It is 11 inches and consists of a latex rubber body over a mechanized body that simulates the movements of the classic monster from the film. I am unware of the date of issue of the knockoff, but suffice to say it is very easy to note which is which if you find them without their respective boxes. Simply, the knockoff has green LEDs for eyes that light up where as the Bandai version does not.

Other ways (apparent from the comparison photos) are the differences in color, and the box itself is the best way. Horrible Uncanny Embryo is rarely expensive (it is a knockoff afterall) and is a nice (if slightly better) version of the original. Below are collector Bob Schneider`s review and comments.

Uncanny Embryo (bootleg version of Bandai Mothra DX)

You never know where a Godzilla collectible -- or an unlicensed, bootleg copy of one -- may turn up. While on a weekend vacation a few years ago, I was browsing through a souvenir shop near Luray Caverns in Virginia when I happened to spot a garishly decorated oblong box sitting on the shelf next to some rubber coral snakes and plastic tarantula toys. Though the printing identified the contents as an "Uncanny Embryo," like any good Godzilla fan I immediately recognized the caterpillar-like figure pictured on the box. It was Mothra!

When I later became more serious about collecting, I discovered that what I had purchased was in fact an unlicenced knock-off of Bandai`s motorized Mothra DX model. Not surprisingly, the manufacturer neglects to identify itself on the packaging -- we can`t be telling the attorneys where to send the court summons, now can we? The packaging also makes no mention of Mothra, Godzilla, or any other Toho possessions, even though the toy is clearly based on the studio`s larva monster. Instead, curiously, the package sports an illustration of H.R. Giger`s monster from the film Alien, violating the rights of yet another party. Apparently, the anonymous manufacturer feared that Toho would be more likely to take legal action if the name of one of the studio`s monsters appeared on the box. Or maybe the dubious Alien tie-in was simply perceived as a more promising advertising gimmick. Who knows what sinister schemes lurk in the minds of bootleg manufacturers? In any event, it`s interesting to see how much production cost can be spared by illegally bypassing licencing fees and design expenses. I bought my Uncanny Embryo for a mere $7.95, about a quarter of the usual price for the real McCoy.

Bootleg Box

As far as knock-offs go, the "Uncanny Embryo" is an uncannily faithful one. The toy consists of a soft, rubber-like hollow molding of Mothra`s body attached to a hard plastic base, which houses a motor, wheel, slide switch, and the compartment for two "AA" batteries. The body is about 11 inches long and is molded in tan with highlights painted in black and light brown (a flourescent green version is also available). The mold for the body must have been cast from one of Bandai`s original toys, since the sculpt is exactly the same. Judging from pictures, Bandai`s originals may be painted a bit more carefully, but otherwise, the knock-off looks the same.

Once you`ve inserted the batteries and turned on the switch, the toy slowly rolls along the floor. But there`s more to the mechanism than just a motor and wheel. Apparently, the toy`s equipped with an internal cam that cyclically pushes a lever against the head of the figure as the motor runs. As a result, Mothra`s head bobs up and down as it crawls, convincingly creating the illusion that the larva is propelling itself along, just like in the movies. Credit for this ingenious feature goes to Bandai, of course, not the bootleggers who simply copied the design.

Embryo (left) DX Larva (right) Notice the green
LED eyes while the DX has painted eyes, plus
the different shade of brown they are
painted with.

However, the anonymous manufacturer did manage to add one minor feature of its own. The Uncanny Embryo`s eyes consist of tiny, translucent green caps, resembling miniature LEDs (on Bandai`s model, the eyes are simply painted in black on the molding) . When the toy is turned on, a small lightbulb mounted inside the head illuminates the eyes. In a darkened room, the bulb is just bright enough to penetrate the thin body molding, making Mothra`s head glow warmly, a pleasant but probably unintentional effect.

I can`t in good conscience fully endorse the Uncanny Embryo. Bootleg products like these are ultimately bad news for everybody. Obviously Bandai and Toho are being cheated of profits they deserve, but eventually, consumers like you and me are the real victims. Sure, it`s great to save 20 or 30 bucks on a cheap copy, but don`t be surprised when you`re forced to pay an even higher price for the next licenced product you buy. Somebody has to pay for the profits legitimate manufacturers lose to bootleggers, and sooner or later, the consumer gets stuck with the bill.

On the other hand, at least this particular manufacturer, whoever it may be, took the time to slightly improve on Bandai`s original design by adding glowing eyes to the toy. In this one case, then, perhaps something good will come of the bootleg operation: maybe Bandai will be inspired to give its next product a little more thought, which just may help guarantee that consumers get the most value for their hard earned money.