Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Gundam Converge EX 19 : JDG-00X Devil Gundam

What is it really that defines a Gundam Converge figure as a Gundam Converge figure? I've found myself wrestling with this thought more and more often as of late, as Bandai continues to experiment with the tried and tested formula. And once again, it is the latest EX figure offering that drives me into this territory.

The Devil Gundam marks Converge's second entry into the G Gundam Mobile Fighter setting, hot on the heels of the God Gundam which appeared in October a couple of months before it. The Devil features two different modes and comes in your average size special box with a suggested retail price of ¥3200. I picked mine up from Mandarake at ¥2500 only a few days after the release date.

The box contains three bags of parts, a detailed assembly instruction and ye olde classic blue Shokugan chewing gum making its big return.

Parts-wise this figure isn't too complicated and as we shall see there are only a few minor differences between the two figure modes.

Mobile Suit Mode

In its traditional mobile suit form the figure stands on two large feet and uses a torso with spread legs.

The figure is assembled around the center torso component which features the thighs facing downwards. Legs, upper body and back armor plate are then attached to it using uniquely shaped pegs. The blue part which is used to attach the oversized V-fin is available in two slightly different shapes, picking the right one is essential here.

Notice how the feet of the Devil Gundam have problems lining up properly with the ground.

A couple of issues presented themselves during the assembly process. The main problem is loose fitting components. The upper body will easily fall off the spine and the legs will easily drop away from the torso. The giant V-fin assembly is not as snug a fit either and will easily come apart if you accidentally touch it. More serious is the fact that my figure's legs were slightly warped; it is not possible to stand it down on the ground without half a foot floating in mid-air. The action base comes in here to save the day, taking care of balance issues and giving you something sturdy to hold on to, this certainly shouldn't be the case with a simple Converge figure.



The size of the figure feels just about right, not gargantually oversized and not too tiny. I do have some issues with the head however. While the head does look like a modern era Converge figure, it feels just a little bit smaller than it ought to be, especially now that the rebooted Converge figures tend to be getting larger heads.

The scale and style of the Converge EX figures really is all over the place these days. Consistency and plastic material choices across the line should be much more synchronized I think. At least with the Devil Gundam it feels like a good match for the regular figures, I just wish the head was a little bit beefier.

Mobile Armor Mode

In the MA mode, the figure makes use of an alternate torso where the legs and feet have been retracted. Alternate feet are attached to the bulky leg armor which is also swept backwards. The armor plating on the back is placed at a different angle and the fiddliest part. The giant V-fin makes use of a slightly differently shaped blue connector piece.


Transformation into this mode is quick and efficient (and not complicated enough to entice me to purchase a second figure to display the two modes side by side). The pieces don't fit together any better in this mode however, and the legs and upper body still attach fairly loosely.




While the overall appearance isn't that different the mobile armor mode is a decent variation and it is definitely more elegant looking hovering around while sitting sturdily on its transparent action base. Still, the mobile suit mode is probably the mode of display I will ultimately go for.



Somehow the legs look a bit tiny in this mode; the Devil Gundam doesn't look half as menacing when paired up with your average Converge figure.

Conclusion

Overall, the Devil Gundam is a fine entry into the Converge EX line, not too pricey and looking the part. The lose-fitting joints are a cause for concern however, I wouldn't be surprised to see people gluing up these figures if theirs are as wonky as mine.

The Devil Gundam as seen in Gundam Collection DX3 (released in 2005), Gundam Converge (December 2018) and Mecha Selection 1 (released in 2000).
One thing I would like to mention however is that the Devil Gundam figure could have been so much more. While it comes with a simple leg-transformation gimmick and a pair of alternate hands there are no other accessories in the box.

While I can understand the difficulty of adding the enormous legs present on the Mecha Selection Gashapon figure it certainly could have been spiced up with a pair of optional grabbing arms as present on the Gundam Collection DX 1/400 Gashapon figure. Or why not toss in a Gundam Head and a pair of Death Army grunts in the box and mark it up another thousand yen? It seems unlikely we will ever get to see any of the Death Army in the standard Converge line-up so this would have been a good opportunity to do it.

As it stands I don't think the Converge Devil Gundam will be much of a hot seller. The G Gundam fanbase will probably love it, but the rest of the fandom will most likely pass it up and not really miss out on much.


Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The latest Converge news...

Bandai posted up some more pictures of the White Base and the new CORE versions of its complement of mobile suits on the Converge blog yesterday as the preorder phase is about to close.

The model will leave a very big footprint on your display shelf, 33 x 36 centimeters according to the blog. Some parts will also come on runners requiring some minor assembly. From the look of things the port side mobile suit hanger will only be modeled in transparent clear plastic. If that is the case it is just dumb since it ruins the overall aesthetic of the vessel.



The blog author also confirms that the CORE Core Fighter will only be available as part of this Operation V Strategy set. Still not sure if the CORE Operation V mobile suit team will be made available as a standalone product in the future, we can only hope for it. Such a nifty little figure and it even gets its own little stand (G-Defenser, I'm looking at you...). It looks a wee bit tiny for such a rare Converge figure though, it is not like they are supposed to be to scale anyway. Overall, very mixed feelings about the White Base set.

Also revealed at the end is the continution of the Gundam Wing line-up. Seems the Altron is coming in its Endless Waltz configuration sometime in the near future, which will probably please alot of fans out there.





UPDATE: December 27, 2017

Bandai posted up yet another mystery face on their blog. I don't think anyone will be surprised that it looks like the Psycho Gundam Mk-II will soon join the ranks. It looks like it will avoid the Geymalk treatment as well and become a "full-size" figure like the Mk-I before it, probably with transformation capability as well. Nice, I hope this will also translate into more rank and file mobile suits from ZZ Gundam making an appearance in 2018.


Sunday, 17 December 2017

SD Gashapon Senshi Forte 03

In the third installment of the Senshi Forte Gashapon series Bandai continues to mix and match from all over the place although this time around all the mobile suit choices tie in with figurines released in the previous Senshi Forte sets including the first of the exclusive EX figures.

Gashapon Senshi Forte 03 was released in June 2017 and comes as random Gashapon miniatures either in capsule machines or sold individually in randomized cardboard boxes. For this review I picked up a set from a seller who had already opened and arranged figures into a full set as well as stocking up on individuals from both physical shops as well as off the Internet. In total I needed a whopping 13 figures to create all the variations and armies that I coveted. Luckily the figures are cheap; the official price is still only ¥300, so it doesn't hurt too much to expand your collection.

Anatomy

Senshi Forte is a refinement of an earlier generation of SD miniatures. The figures come with what you could almost call an inner frame of sorts. So far all the figures seen in Volumes 1 to 4 share the very same skeleton and build principles, illustrated below by the Galbaldy Beta.

The average Senshi Forte figure has three major joint sections where a limited inner frame is put to use. The arms are attached to the shoulders through a dual ball joint, allowing for wiggling and turning freely (or until the arm hits some cumbersome detail like wing binders, backpacks etc.), an elbow which can bend like a real arm and beyond (although the compact design of the figures rarely gives the arms much room to maneuver) and the underarm is also free to rotate. The legs and armored skirt attach to a T-shaped frame which allows the stubby legs to dangle around and the torso to twist while allowing the skirt some limited wiggling room. Head and hands then follow on traditional round pegs enabling left and right turns.

One new feature introduced with Senshi Forte volume 3 is the revised action bases. Each figure still comes with a simple tripod-style base that pegs into its butt, but this time around the base is sturdier and features two plugs for unused accessories (which would typically be unused open or closed hands). It is a neat touch and good for storing overflow accessories, but I would never display my figures in this fashion as it detracts from the appearance and still doesn't solve the problem of other leftover bits anyway. I will continue to keep accessories in ziplock bags and if possible I will use the old bases over the new wherever possible.

F013 : RX-105 Xi Gundam

The Xi Gundam was been brought back to life recently in the Universal Unit figure series so it is not a ig surprise to see it appear here as well. It makes sense with the release of Mufti's grunt type Messer mobile suits in volume 02 as well.


It may seem a bit odd that such a grand mobile suit is released as a standard figure only, especially when its predecessor, the RX-1044FF Penelope is released as an extremely pricey EX-figure. The reason can of course be found in this figure basically being a traditional non-transforming design whereas the Penelope is a more complex beast, but it still feels a bit funny to me.

The Senshi Forte version of the Xi is frankly rather unspectacular. It comes off as your basic Unicorn or Nu Gundam figure rather than something special. It is also quite weak in the accessory department, featuring only a beam rifle and a shield.

The RX-105 has some optional parts for attaching the shoulder armor in its beam barrier configuration. I found this assembly very confusing but fortunately Bandai have posted some assembly instructions online which are found here. It is a neat gimmick although I have resorted to leaving one shoulder folded and one spread, because this is something I will not want to fiddle with in the future.

Here the Xi Gundam poses with its Messer fire support team. It is a nice spectacle although the Xi feels even less imposing when paired up like this. A few extra millimeters to its height wouldn't have hurt. I will be posting more comparison shots with the Penelope once I get around to building it.

F014 : RX-178 Gundam Mk-II (A.E.U.G.)

The meat of this volume is arguably the Mk-II Gundams from Zeta together with their G-Defenser support craft. It remains a popular and widely covered mobile suit in most Gashapon and Shokugan figure lines.


The Senshi Forte Mk-II comes in two colour variations; white for the Anti Earth Union Group and dark blue for the Earth Federation Titans elite unit. Both figures have the exact same equipment, a beam rifle, a bazooka and a shield. They are also both compatible with the G-Defenser craft (more on that later).

I am a little bit disappointed that the shields come in only plain blue and white colours, the red trimming of the see-through hole on the shield is still omitted, something that the recent Converge figures had finally got right.

Size comparison between the old Converge RX-178 and the Senshi Forte Mk-II and G-Defenser. The Senshi Forte figures are definitely catching up.

F015 : RX-178 Gundam Mk-II (Titans)

Before we discuss the G-Defenser add-on for the Mk-II let's just get the Titans blue and black version out of the way. As you can see this figure is a simple colour swap of the white figure, all the accessories remain the same.


Here again the missing red paint on the shield is something that bothers me. I will definitely be making an effort to paint these up myself (now that the review is done) and I am also toying with the idea of affixing numbered stickers 01 to 03 on their shoulders. Although no such stickers come with this kit it shouldn't be too hard to source suitable white digits for this purpose. I am currently thinking of using leftover stickers from the Gashapon HG MS line, which were used for an RX-178 that appeared there.

Since there are a total of three RX-178s operated by the Titans you knew I had to get three of them. Thanks to the range of available accessories it was also easy to give them very different equipment (I even got a third G-Defenser figure for this purpose).

Here you already get a sneak peek on the Super Gundam configuration, let's continue to the G-Defenser first before we cover that in more detail.

F016 : FXA-05D G-Defenser

Although the G-Defenser support craft was only present as a single unique vehicle in the Zeta Gundam television series it doesn't stop me from stocking up on a couple. I enjoy the idea of using them as generic support fighters, much like the Gattle or Saberfish.


The Senshi Forte G-Defenser is a very basic figure with only a few components. Since the figure has no hard plastic framework like the regular mobile suit figures, the soft plastic makes the assembly a bit of a chore. This is a problem seen through all the Gashapon ranges and even features in Converge to some extent.

The Senshi Forte G-Defenser is fairly large; both when compared to other Gashapon versions as well as compared to the mobile suit it adds on to.


Sadly no action base is included with the G-Defenser figure and it is not compatible with the standard Senshi Forte tripods either. This feels cheap and a bit lame, but is par for the course. If you have Assault Kingdom figures lying around their action bases can be salvaged to create adequate support for the G-Defenser but it still feels like a lazy cop-out on Bandai's part.

Size comparison between G-Defensers from SD Gashapon NEXT, Gundam Converge (the old one) and Senshi Forte.

The Senshi Forte G-Defenser is fairly large; both when compared to other Gashapon versions as well as compared to the mobile suit it adds on to.


One neat feature of the G-Defenser is that it can act as a transport for a Mk-II Gundam. The mobile suit must first remove weapon and shield and then the G-Defenser is attached to its back after the legs have been repositioned a bit.

RX-178+FXA-05D Super Gundam

The main gimmick of Senshi Forte 03 is how the RX-178 and the G-Defenser combines into the Super Gundam mode. In this form the fighter craft attaches to the mobile suit's back while the suit discards its weapon and shield, instead making use of the Defenser's long beam rifle and missile launchers.

Although no build instructions are included with either figure Bandai have uploaded a helpful guide on the official Senshi Forte page here.


The Super Gundam mode comes together easily and is relatively sturdy. it sits comfortably on the regular tripod without any need for extra support. As with most things Gashapon though, parts deformation is a distinct reality you have to deal with.


Here the Senshi Forte Super Gundam poses with the Converge CORE Super Gundam which uses the slightly smaller old sculpt.

The Senshi Forte Zeta line continues to grow and together with the figures from the FW SD NEO series the selection grows even larger. The line-up will continue to grow in Senshi Forte as well, with the Psycho Gundam, Hyaku-Shiki and Dijeh set for release in the coming months.

F017 : FD-03 Gustav Karl

The lovely Gustav Karl design (with a hopeless name seemingly a wordplay on the current Swedish monarch Carl XVI Gustaf) returns to Gashapon format and this time in the bright blue colours as seen in the SD Gundam G Generation videogames. Although the suit also featured in Unicorn it originates in the Hathaway's Flash side story where it serves as an army builder on the Earth Federation side.


The Gustav Karl is the only true army-builder figure in Senshi Forte 03 although its equipment doesn't allow for much variation, coming only with a single beam rifle and a shield attached to its left shoulder.

I really like the chunky look and light blue colour of this suit, it makes it a really unique looking thing. Of course the asymmetric head with its half V-Fin also means there is no unseeing it.

We already have a less bulky Gustav Karl available in the Senshi Forte NEXT Gashapon series (released in May 2014), painted in the modernized Unicorn gray and dark blue. You can get a good idea of the development of the Gashapon lines by comparing the two.

Overall the Gustav Karl is easily my favourite from this set and although I have stopped at three this far the thought did occur that it might be really cool to have the upgraded figure repainted in the UC livery as well. All these projects... we shall se. Stay tuned also for more updates once I get around to building the Penelope, which is supposed to fight side by side with these suits against Mufti.

F018 : Musha Psycho Gundam Mk-II

Repeating again for the third time the set concludes with an SD reinterpretation of a classic mobile suit. In this case it is the Musha Psycho Gundam, a total conversion of the MRX-010 Psycho Gundam Mk-II, existing only as a super-deformed figure as far as I know.


I don't really know a whole lot about this figure but I would expect it has been featured in some games, trading card sets and perhaps also in anime format. Basically it is an evil-looking cross between a samurai and Jaws of James Bond fame...

As usual with the Musha-style figures in Senshi Forte we are treated to a lot of detailed paint apps including generous use of gold and silver (why we can't get that red blot on the Gundam Mk-II's shield I'll never know).

The figure comes with two built in gimmicks. One is the grinning face mask which can be removed and replaced with a more traditional Gundam-style face (which I think looks way better y the way). The other is the fact that the huge club reveals a sleek sword which seems to be of questionable use in combat. The two pieces fit together very tightly and at first I wondered if I would end up bending the sword while trying to fit it inside the club. I would avoid playing with this feature excessively, for fear of the paint on the sword being rubbed off.

Here is the Musha line-up from Senshi Forte this far; Musha Gundam Mk-II from volume 01, Musha Nu from volume 02 and Musha Psycho Mk-II from volume 03. More figures are coming...

Conclusion

The third volume of Senshi Forte contains several great figures that I can easily recommend to Gashapon lovers. The really great thing about this set is how it builds upon the figures released in previous waves. The Xi Gundam and the Gustav Karl go together with the Messer and the Penelope, the Mk-II's flesh out the Zeta Gundam line and the even the Musha character helps expand its own little line. I ended up buying a total of five Mk-II's and three G-Defensers to be able to display the two Super Gundams as well as the G-Defenser itself. The relatively low prices of these figures make such investments easily possible.

At the time of writing this review I have already received the fourth set which goes deep into UC Sidestory mode with several designs from The Blue Destiny and Side Story: Missing Link. I love how the Senshi Forte series goes out of its way to pick up on more unusual figure choices and will stay with it for as long as I can.