Tyler’s work has always had a very distinct and fun style. His figures show a respect to the original Kinnikuman source material without alienating M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors that may be unfamiliar with Kinnikuman. Most importantly the figures have always been fun – which might be one of the most important qualities for any custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figure.
One of the other exciting things happening with custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figures is an attempt to more closely match the original M.U.S.C.L.E. texture. Many M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors, and many small figure collectors overall, have a tactile relationship with mini-figures. A sometimes surprising amount of the allure comes from the figure having the “right feel.”
Eric Nilla, Ericnilla on LittleRubberGuys.com, has been the catalyst that took Tyler’s figures from nice-looking to must-own. Eric has found a rubber combination that feels incredibly M.U.S.C.L.E.-like without creating a legitimate “counterfeiting” problem. While Eric can cast the figures in many different colors with different characteristic (i.e., glow-in-the-dark, glitter, etc.) he has done a wonderful job capturing the attractiveness of original the original Flesh M.U.S.C.L.E color.
Four different packages of figures from Tyler and Eric will be examined:
1. Super Rare M.U.S.C.L.E. Can
2. Nama Keshi – Chibi Meatgrinder
3. Nama Keshi Vs. – The Ventriloquist vs. Gyu-Dome
4. Nama Keshi Vs. – Meatgrinder vs. Half Baked Ham
Before examining the “figure,” some attention should be given to the header card’s design. Of the four header cards this one is the most different and this one specifically will appeal to collectors that enjoy simple, clean, and clever design work. Eric’s stylized 10-pack illustration looks fantastic. It could easily be a t-shirt design. The illustration looks even better because it is not competing for attention. It is the star.
It is balanced by some rather plain text, but the key is the steak marker. Its beautiful simplicity is the perfect balance with the picture. Given Niku literally means “meat” in Japanese it is the perfect synergy between the figure and the Namu-Niku.com website.The most difficult thing to appreciate about the figure is its size. It is huge for a “mini-figure.” In fact, Tyler and Eric found the perfect size. Had it been any bigger it would have lost its intrinsic M.U.S.C.L.E. qualities. If it had been any smaller it would have actually lost some of its intrinsic 10-pack qualities.
When compared to a standard M.U.S.C.L.E. figure and a 10-pack can it is much easier to get a sense of its height. The weight and density of the figure can only be felt when it is held. The weight and density may be odd qualities to highlight in a custom mini-figure, but they can’t be ignored. They truly add to the charm of this figure.
While all of the aforementioned qualities are important, they don’t meaning anything without a good figure. The Super Rare M.U.S.C.L.E. Can is a fantastic figure. The trash can looks great. It was a wise choice not copying the 10-pack can exactly. Objectively, there really is not a lot about the original 10-pack can that could be described as particularly attractive.
Collectors may instantly be attracted to the Non-Poster figures peering out of the can, but without a sound can design the entire premise would not work. Eric and Tyler certainly achieved a sound can design. Had they attempted to add more to the can (more dings, rats, etc.) it may have been overkill and ultimately detracted from the piece.
Eric and Tyler’s figure presents collectors with a wonderful problem, “What is the best way to display it?”
The figure really has four distinct views, but only three would likely be chosen. It seems quite improbable that anyone would choose Angle 4 (the back of the can) as the display angle. Angle 2 will likely be chosen most often because the figures really appear to be bursting out from that angle. Hopefully some collectors choose Angle 1 or Angle 3 too. Both of those angles have a wonderful subtly to them.The subtly has a nostalgic feeling mixed into it. Those angles evoke the childhood feeling of peering into the 10-pack and trying to decipher the figures inside. The fun part about Angle 3 is that those eyes recessed into the can appear to be looking out too – trying to decipher what is outside of the can.
The final piece of any figure review is the price tag. This figure was purchased for $25. This may initially seem high compared to the average price of $15 for custom figures. It’s not. This figure is a steal at $25. Some M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors may already own this figure. The M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors that don’t own it should feel a twinge of embarrassment and then immediately order the figure.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This figure also bounces pretty well. I accidentally dropped it on my dinner table and it nearly hit me in the face as it sprang back up. This anecdote needed to be mentioned, but did not seem part of a “proper” review.]The second figure to be reviewed from Eric and Tyler is the Chibi Meatgrinder. This is the “chibi,” or little, version of their full-size Meatgrinder figure (reviewed below). What makes this chibi a little bit different is that it does not have the distorted proportions often associated with chibi figures.
This is likely to polarize reactions to this figure based on an individual’s chibi preferences. In the case of the Chibi Meatgrinder it may be better that there isn’t a proportionately exaggerated figure. Avoiding the creative decision allowed the figure to be built on the #60 M.U.S.C.L.E. figure.
But first, some notes about the packaging. Like the figure itself the baggie and header card are “chibi” versions of the packaging used for another Namu-Niku figure set. Because the header card is identical (minus the “Vs.”) to the Nama Keshi Vs. – The Ventriloquist vs. Gyu-Dome set it will be reviewed with that set. The back of the card is more applicable with that set.The figure appears to have been built on the #60 figure, with significant arm repositioning. In fact, it appears that the right arm from #189 has replaced the original right arm. The left arm has been shifted significantly downward. These somewhat minor changes create a significantly different looking base to the figure. The addition of the large M belt buckle not only creates a different looking figure, but mirrors the large M on the original Meatgrinder figure.
Because the Chibi Meatgrinder figure is the second Meatgrinder figure collectors may assume that the original meatgrinder head sculpt has simply been resized are reused. It has not. In fact, it may be the better of the two meatgrinder designs. When viewed from above the hand sticking out of the meatgrinder is a little bit easier to see.The Meatgrinder figures manage to walk a fine line. Creating a figure that is grinding up other M.U.S.C.L.E. figures could easily shift from having a M.U.S.C.L.E.-feel to having a Horror-figure-feel because of the gruesomeness. Had an entire arm, hand, etc. been visible from the front of the figure it probably would have lost its M.U.S.C.L.E. feel. The choice to mitigate the violence by having to look into the meatgrinder is brilliant.
The Chibi Meatgrinder figure was purchased for $7. This price is significantly lower than many custom figures. This price seems completely fair. The figure is about half the size of a normal M.U.S.C.L.E. figure but the quality is top notch.
The next item to be reviewed was purchased as a two-pack it is one of the Nama Keshi Vs. sets – The Ventriloquist vs. Gyu-Dome. It should be noted that these figures can also be purchased individually.
The Ventriloquist vs. Gyu-Dome set is an interesting set for a variety of reasons. The first is that it shares its header card with the Chibi Meatgrinder figure. However, it is obvious that the card was originally designed for this set when the back of the card is inspected.
Like the Super Rare M.U.S.C.L.E. Can the Namu-Niku theme of meat has once again been factored into the front of the card. This front of the card is ok. It does not evoke a strong reaction. However, the back of the card is charming. It is so charming that it’s too bad the back of the card isn’t the front of the header card.The back of the header card is modeled after the labels often found on grocery store meat products. The back of this card also sports an interesting note. The sculpt was done by Tyler from Namu-Niku.com and the casting was done by Eric Nilla, the figures were molded by Marty Hansen (The Godbeast).
The “Vs.” is thematically a nice choice to package these two figures together. Unlike the Meatgrinder vs. Half Baked Ham set the potential adversarial relationship between the Ventriloquist vs. Gyu-Dome is not immediately obvious. This small issue does not detract in any way from the two figures.Arguably the most amazing thing about the Ventriloquist figure is that it actually stands up by itself. Just looking at the design of the figure it seems as if the figure shouldn’t be able to stand. It looks as if the figure should be pulled over by the weight of the “dummy.” But it isn’t.
Moving past the balance of the figure the overall look of the figure is very unique. The choice to use the head from one of the Caol Uno keshi figures gives the figure a very distinct look – even with a dummy draped of the figure’s hand.
The dummy in comparison to the main figure does seem a little bit oversized. Given how effective Tyler was in sculpting new pieces of figures the question needs to be asked, “Should a 100% new dummy have been sculpted?”
There is not a right or wrong answer to that question. Ultimately the Ventriloquist is an extraordinarily inventive figure. It also seems like a fertile character for future development – different puppets, trunks, etc.The Gyu-Dome figure is based on the popular Japanese dish Gyu-don. Once again the ability to marry meat to the figures is done masterfully. It really creates a distinct branding for many of Tyler’s figures and his Namu-Niku website.
The head (or dome) of the figure is a bowl Gyu-don. Looking at the figure directly forward facing it may appear as if a bowl and logo have been slapped onto an existing M.U.S.C.L.E. figure. The real mastery is seen looking into the bowl.
The dish is largely recognizable, but perhaps more importantly, it can serve a secondary purpose – exposed brains. Even a collector unfamiliar with the Gyu-don dish could look at this odd head and think, “Wow, that’s a weird head with its brains showing.”
This brilliant figure could far too easily be overlooked by collectors. It suddenly becomes an integral piece of a collection when the inside of the head can be more clearly seen.
This set of two figures was purchased for $23, which is a mere $11.50 per figure. The quality, inventiveness, and fun of these figures can’t be missed at that price point.The last item to be reviewed was also purchased as a two-pack it is one of the Nama Keshi Vs. sets – Meatgrinder vs. Half Baked Ham. Again, it should be noted that these figures can also be purchased individually.
This “Vs.” set has the most unique header card when compared to the previous figures. The meat-theme is completely abandoned with this set’s header card. This header card has more of an early 1990’s video game feel. The wrestling ring certainly helps to play-up the overall “Vs.” theme. The only potential downside is that the font feels a bit cluttered on the back of the card.Also interesting about abandoning the meat-theme on this “Vs.” set is that the figures have a very natural adversarial relationship – a meat grinder against a piece of meat. The natural combative nature of these two things makes this two-pack a wonderful set.
Much of the praise that was given to the Chibi Meatgrinder can be applied to the regular sized Meatgrinder figure. This figure idea fits so wonderfully into the M.U.S.C.L.E. universe. And when you look at the regular sized Meatgrinder it seems as if it should have existed in the original line. Having the qualities to have a custom figure naturally slip into the original M.U.S.C.L.E. line feels like the greatest compliment to give to a figure. The Meatgrinder deserves that compliment.
The second figure of the two-pack is the Half Baked Ham. Similar to the Gyo-Dome collectors may accidentally overlook this figure. From the front it is clear to see the head is a ham, with the done as an eye, and “HAM” sprawled across its chest. It is impossible to argue with Tyler’s branding ability and overall execution.However, this figure may actually look better from the rear view. From this perspective the knife is much easier to see. It also allows the two pineapple slices to be seen. Prior to tangibly holding this figure the pineapples were an unknown attribute of the figure. This little detail shows such a full thought process about the figure.
This set of two figures was also purchased for $23, which is still a mere $11.50 per figure. M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors are passing up two great figures that can’t be missed at that price point.
Tyler and Eric have becoming a stunning team together and an invaluable part of the M.U.S.C.L.E. community of collectors. Given this impressive grouping of figures it seems safe to assume that they will continue to collaborate on even more custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.
The M.U.S.C.L.E. community will be anxiously waiting!
To contact Tyler and Eric and order figures try some of these resources: