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Kaiyodo Knockoff Model Kit Figures

By Aaron Smith, Bob Schneider, & Mark Obert (2000)
All Kaiyodo images are © Kaiyodo

History & Comments

Group Image
Group Shot of all five Kaiyodo knockoffs

Early in 2000 a series of 5 non-poseable Godzilla figures appeared on a Japanese toy merchant website which for the purposes of this article will go unamed. These figures consisted of Godzilla 1954, 1962, 1964, Heisei Godzilla `89, and Burning Godzilla from 1995. They turned out to be cheap build-ups of older Kaiyodo model kits. The figures hail from China (as many knockoffs do) and come with the gold Godzilla sticker and are sometimes called "Toho-Toho Eiga" or "Toho Eiga" figures, but it is the general concensus that they are not authentic or licensed Godzilla toys. Often you can see where glue has oozed between the joints as it was assembled, an oversight in my opinion that an officially licensed Toho product would usually not possess.

Overall, though all five make for a nice cheap collection (I own the Burning Godzilla myself), potential buyers need to keep in mind these are knockoffs that could be bought for $10 a figure originally but which are seen on the Internet at inflated prices. But that is your judgement call. Below are reviews and detailed information on all five figures from collector Bob Schneider to help you in your decison.

Kaiyodo Knock Off Burning Godzilla

Toy representations of Godzilla in meltdown mode, as depicted in the 1995 film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, have been among the hottest items on the want lists of many collectors. Sean Linkenback`s An Unauthorized Guide to Godzilla Collectibles lists an estimated value of $18 to $30 for Bandai`s 1995 VT4052 Burning Godzilla, but judging from current dealer sales and eBay auction bids, the price has since ballooned to over a hundred dollars. Limited edition renderings, like the VT4053 or 4073 models, are commanding even higher prices and becoming very difficult to find.

A recently introduced Burning Godzilla figure, produced by an unidentified manufacturer somewhere in Hong Kong, is a lower priced, widely available alternative to Bandai`s sought after models. The figure is one in a set of five that also includes 54,62, and Heisei Godzillas as well as what appears to be a mid 60s version in an unusual, "struggling" pose. I chose the Burning Godzilla since I`ve always wanted one for my collection but could never locate or afford one of the Bandais.

Burning Godzilla Comparison
Comparison of Kaiyodo Burning Godzilla (left)
and knockoff

Standing about 7 and a half inches tall, the figure is scaled about halfway between Bandai`s classic, standard sized figures and the recent Toho Kaiju (formerly Godzilla Island) series releases. The figure`s tail is almost 8 inches long, which seems to me a bit exaggerated compared to the height, though I must admit it makes for an impressive display. The sculpting is beautifully detailed and very much in the tradition of Bandai`s realistic renderings as opposed to, say, the more stylized look of many Marmit or M1 products. Unfortunately, the tail is the only movable part on the toy; the head, arms, and legs are all glued in position.

Unlike most figures produced by Bandai and other manufacturers, this toy appears to have been assembled from many parts, which suggests it may actually be a vinyl kit, not a figure at all, which has been pre-built and painted for resale. In fact, one sharp eyed list member recognized the toy as a copy of one of Kaiyodo`s recent soft vinyl kits. If the toy is a bootleg based on a Kaiyodo original, it`s an extremely accurate reproduction, with each separate dorsal plate molded in fine detail. Unfortunately, the assemblers failed to do justice to the design. On my copy, there are traces of excess glue around all the seams and one of the plates is crookedly positioned. Likewise, the paint job is at best mediocre, with uneven highlighting on the plates and slight paint runs in the open mouth, though the yellowish orange patches on Godzilla`s body look convincing. For some reason, the outermost row of ridges on either side of Godzilla`s back were painted white, which creates an annoying mismatch with the color scheme used on the central plates. There`s also no hint of the burning colors on the figure`s tail (again the ridges are plain white), which makes me suspect the tails may be painted in quantity then used interchangeably for all five of the figures in the series.

Knockoff Godzilla 1954
Knockoff Godzilla 1954
Compare to Kaiyodo G '54

The left foot of the figure is stamped with a Toho trademark. This marking was presumably copied along with the rest of the details from the original piece when the bootleg casting was made. Strangely, there`s also a gold sticker on the figure`s other foot which redundantly identifies the toy as a Toho licenced product. Unlike the stamped trademark on the other foot, this sticker must have been deliberately added. Yet if the product is indeed a bootleg, then the sticker itself must be a forged copy!

Is the Burning Godzilla worth buying? That depends on the price. As most of you know, (name deleted) recently sold all five models from its on-line store for $10 apiece, a price made even more attractive by free shipping and the retailer`s promotional offer to subtract $10 from every order of $20 or more. But the same toys have been sold as "rare items" on recent eBay auctions, where they`ve drawn top bids of a hundred dollars or more. That`s quite a price range for the same product.

Perhaps the best price comparison would be the previously mentioned Toho Kaiju series figures, which are similar in size and style and usually sell for between $9 and $16 each. Compared to the Bandais, the Burning Godzilla is slightly bigger and probably a little more finely detailed (remember, it was apparently copied from a model kit) which would justify a somewhat higher price. On the other hand, the figure loses points -- lots of points -- for a sloppy assembly and inconsistent paint job, problems that rarely appear on Bandai products to any objectionable extent. Of course, there are many other factors besides quality that determine a product`s value, perhaps most significantly, the all important equation of supply vs. demand.

Unlicenced products don`t tend to have a very good track record of increasing in value over time, but the Burning Godzilla seems to be a hot item currently and could eventually prove to be an exception to the rule. Based on quality alone, though, I`d have to rate the figure`s value closer to the bottom end of its price range and suggest that you think twice before spending more than $20 or so on the piece.

Godzilla '54, '62, '64, and '89

Kaiyodo Godzilla 1962
Kaiyodo Godzilla 1962
Compare to Knockoff G '62

A while back, some bootleg figures based on a series of Kaiyodo vinyl model kits were a hot topic on the GodzillaC List. The craze started last spring, when the on-line toy vendor (name deleted) offered the full line of five figures, which consists of representations of the '54, '62, '64, '89 (incorrectly identified as a "Godzilla Junior" by the retailer), and 95 Burning Godzillas.

In spite of the very reasonable price of $9.95 per figure, I purchased only one of the series, the Burning Godzilla, because I was a little skeptical about what quality level could be expected from an unlicenced manufacturer. After inspecting the piece, though, I regretted that I hadn`t ordered the other models, which had unfortunately already sold out by the time my package was delivered. Luckily, (name deleted) obtained another shipment of four of the five models (all but the '62 version) in July and sold them at the even more attractive price of just $7.99 each. Then in early August, the retailer finally managed to get its hands on another small batch of the fifth figure, though this time, the item was priced significantly higher at $19.99. Regardless, I decided the expense was warranted to complete my collection, especially since the other four figures had been priced so low. I already reviewed the Burning Godzilla back in April, so this time, I`ll focus exclusively on the other four models.

Knockoff Godzilla 1989
Knockoff Godzilla 1989
Compare to Kaiyodo G '89

In case you`re not familiar with either the original Kaiyodo or the bootlegs, each figure measures about 7" in height. The detailing is at least a notch or two higher in quality than a typical Bandai sculpt, as you might expect -- after all, these are essentially build ups of kits consisting of 20 or more separately molded pieces. Each of the central plates on Godzilla`s spine, for example, is an individual molding unlike on most Bandais, where all the dorsal plates are usually formed from the same casting. As a result, figure collectors should be pleased by subtleties like the pitted texture on the plates, the wrinkles in the legs, and so forth. Although these are bootleg copies, the pressing successfully captures virtually all of the original`s details.

As I noted in my review of the Burning Godzilla, the only real flaws with the figures are the inconsistent assembly and paint jobs. For what it`s worth, I noticed that the gluing and painting on all four of the figures I ordered during the last two months appear to have been completed with more care than on the Burning Godzilla I purchased earlier. There were still some minor glue over runs and paint smears here and there, but nothing really objectionable. My experience suggests that the anonymous manufacturer just may have tightened up quality control efforts recently, perhaps as a response to the continued popularity of the figures. This observation should be taken with a grain of salt, though, since some variation in quality is inevitable in any production run, particularly involving kits that must be assembled and painted by hand. Of course, if you`re not satisfied with the work on the pieces you happen to receive, you could always touch up the glued seams with a little sanding and repaint the figures yourself.

Those of you fascinated by the subtle differences in Godzilla`s appearance from one film to another will be happy to hear that these various suit representations are well differentiated. Amazingly, even the individual plates on the spines vary in shape from one figure to another. I would have guessed that the 89 sculpt would recycle many of the same pieces from the Burning Godzilla, or possibly even be an identical kit with different paint job, but this isn`t the case.

Comparison of Kaiyodo Godzilla 1964 (left) and knockoff
Comparison of Kaiyodo
Godzilla 1964 (left) and knockoff

The Burning Godzilla is not only posed differently, but it seems to be a bit bulkier in the chest and has open jaws as opposed to the closed mouth on the 89. The 64, by the way, is sculpted in an unusual "struggling" pose with its head gazing upward and its arms spread wide, which seems to have made this model especially popular with collectors. My own favorite is the 62, but then I`ve always been partial to that particular suit.

I`m not going to go into another lecture here about the evils of bootlegging. We all know that knock offs like these deprive licensed manufacturers of hard earned profits and eventually drive up the prices of authentic collectibles. But it`s hard to resist getting a well detailed, fully painted build up of this quality for less than the price of the cheapest vinyl toys on the market. For you thrifty folks out there who collect Godzilla toys because of their potential for future profit, the Kaiyodo knock offs may not be a wise investment, since bootleg merchandise rarely retains its value for long. But I`m betting most of you are in this hobby for the fun of it and don`t especially care at all about the monetary worth of your purchases. Like most things that are illegal, then, the Kaiyodo knock offs are likely to be an irresistible temptation for most of us.