Sunday, 17 June 2018

SD Gashapon Special Edition Figures

In this post we are going to examine closer a couple of special edition SD Gashapon figures that collectors may have missed out on. These figures were special promotional items associated with various hobby shows and as such were typically obtained by visiting those occasions and participating in some activity. As such, they are typically only going to be found on the second hand market.


SD Gundam Warrior NEXT - RX-0 Unicorn Gundam (Destroy Mode) (Clear Red Ver.)

This pinkish red Destroy Mode Unicorn is a special for the yearly All Japan Model and Hobby Show which opened up in October 2013 in Tokyo. The figure was apparently given out to visitors who answered a questionnaire. 3000 figures were supposedly made, 1500 of which was handed out per day for two days. Of course how many were really produced one cannot be sure of. I paid a massive ¥3000 for mine from Mandarake in late 2017.


The clear red Unicorn is a tweak on the existing Unicorn Destroy Mode Unicorn figure which was released in the very first Gashapon NEXT set in December 2010. It does not alter the mold or introduce any new accessories.


The material is a slightly softer plastic than what is normally used in the standard NEXT figures. Even the joints (made of harder plastic) have been given a transparent makeover. Transparent figures often have real issues with loose joints and while this figure seems to hold up alright I would avoid excessive messing with it.

Here the clear red Unicorn poses with its evolutions from SD Warrior DASH 08 (September 2016) and FW SD Gundam NEO volume 1 (February 2017). I cannot yet make the comparison with the actual NEXT figure it modifies since I have yet to pick one up.


SD Gundam Warrior DASH - RX-93 Nu Gundam (Clear Green Ver.)

Another figure exclusive to the All Japan Model and Hobby Show is this green transparent Nu Gundam which was made available during that show in September 2015. While I don't know the exact circumstances or edition it would probably be something along the lines of the NEXT Unicorn from two years before. The Gundamguy blog has a page about this figure as well where it is claimed that this figure was sold as a limited edition at ¥1500. The promotional picture seems to suggest a price of ¥0 though, so not really sure what went on. I found my figure at Mandarake in 2017 where it ironically also cost me ¥1500.



This figure comes in a matching clear green Gashapon ball complete with a little paper insert which promotes the next DASH set to be released; volume 03 which appeared in October 2015 after the Hobby and Model Show had been held.


The clear green Nu Gundam comes armed with a curved beam saber, a shield and one set of funnels. Notice also how all the joint parts have been molded in transparent green. The Nu Gundam is again a transparent colour swap of a basic DASH figure; the Nu in this configuration was released in August 2015 just prior to the Hobby Show. Pictures comparing the two will come up when I eventually get around to putting my DASH volume 02 set together.


SD Gundam Warrior DASH - GN-0000 00 Gundam + GNR-010 0 Raiser (Red Clear Color Ver.)

The next figure (or actually figures) also comes from the Gashapon Warrior DASH line; they are the 00 Gundam and 0 Raiser which can combine into the 00 Raiser. This set appears to have been made available exclusively at the C3 Hobby Hong Kong show in February 2017. According to information I have seen online this figure was supposedly redeemable with other purchases. I purchased mine from a seller in Hong Kong; a pair cost me $20.00.

The 0 Raiser in this picture is sitting on a makeshift stand made by Assault Kingdom components.
The original white and blue 00 Raiser set appeared in DASH Volume 07 in June 2016. This red colour variation is a basic colour swap (I guess some would label this Trans-Am mode but there is actually a full-colour version of that mode available as well). The figures come in your typical DASH figure plastic bags with promotional sheets for DASH volume 08 which were released already half a year before in September 2016 (but DASH 08 was also the last regular figure set).



The parts of the mobile suit are made of softer bendy plastic while the joint pieces are made of harder and slightly more brittle plastic.


The GN-0000 00 Gundam is equipped with its signature GN Sword as its single armament option.


Notice that the GNR-010 0 Raiser has been provided with a little triangular stand which pegs into the underside. This is a nice touch although it makes the figure a bit clumsy as it becomes hard to tell apart figure from stand.


And here we see the bulky 00 Raiser combo. The 0 Raiser's wings attach to the mobile suit's shoulders and the forward part of the fuselage is stored on the back. I found it necessary to rest the 0 Raiser's nose against the little stand to avoid the figure toppling over backwards. This makes the figure look rather clumsy. I would do something using transparent action base parts if I really wanted to display it like this.

Using two sets of C3 figures here to show the 00 Gundam and the 0 Raiser separated, as well as combined as the 00 Raiser.


Gashapon Senshi Forte - RX-93-v2 Hi-Nu Gundam (Clear Blue Ver.)

The All Japan Model and Hobby Show pops up with a figure again, now we are in September 2017 and Gashapon NEXT and DASH have been replaced with Gashapon Senshi Forte. So naturally the exclusive figure this time around will be a modification of an existing Senshi Forte design.

Released as the eye catcher for the very first Senshi Forte volume, the RX-93-v2 Hi-Nu Gundam first appeared as a full color figure in January 2017. The Hobby Show version replaces the mobile suit components with transparent blue versions but all the joints and the action base retain their original dark gray colour. The figure was sold at the hobby show at a price of ¥300. I purchased my figure from Mandarake shortly after the hobby show and paid ¥600 for mine.



The figure comes in a transparent Gashapon ball and contains a promo sheet for the Senshi Forte Queen Mansa EX figure, which was due for release in February 2018 about half a year after this figure was released.


This figure retains all the components of the standard volume 01 figure, which means it comes equipped with a beam saber and a beam rifle as well as its shields and fin funnels. The action base has some sort of item number printed on it (2418440), regular Senshi Forte figures do not have numbers stamped on their bases. Notice also that the transparent blue version figure has the revised Senshi Forte action base which was introduced with Senshi Forte volume 03.

Here the transparent version figure poses with its full colour counterpart from Gashapon Senshi Forte volume 01. Notice the different designs on the standard Senshi Forte action bases which changed in between these two releases.

Overall, there isn't really a whole lot to say about these figures. I know that transparent figures can be popular with some collectors while I am not really a big fan myself. I think of them as completist items mainly. You can of course also mix and match pieces from these figures with the standard figures for some interesting customizations. I would say it is a good idea to go for the original full-colour figures before these.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Gundam Converge #10

Converge volume 11 is already getting ready for its end of June release so it seems like a good idea to take a look at volume 10, the most current regular Converge figure set, before it passes completely into oblivion. It is a rather mixed crowd featuring several rarely seen mobile suits and also placing a G Gundam design in the front slot.

Converge volume 10 was released in the end of March 2018 at a price of ¥500 per figure. I picked up a full set of six from Mandarake paying ¥3000 which seems to be the going price at the moment. Since these figures are from the Japanese market they all contain the classic blue Shokugan chewing gum.


176 : GF13-017NJ Shining Gundam (Super Mode)

The first figure of a Converge set is always a well known Gundam type. For volume 10 this honour goes to the Shining Gundam from the G Gundam series; a mobile suit often outshined by its successor, the God Gundam. In fact the God Gundam has already been featured in Converge, although that time it was at the end of a set fronted by the RX-78.


The Shining Gundam is basically a fairly typical Gundam design in the usual white red and blue colours but it also features a Super Mode in which the armor expands and slots pop up all over the body, kind of like the Unicorn Gundam in Destroy Mode. Even the V-Fin takes on a different look. Putting the figure in Super Mode was a great design decision since it is very pleasing to look at with a lot of colourful detail going on.

Less impressive is of course the lack of any accessories. All the G Gundam figures in Converge have practically zero equipment and basically just stand around doing nothing. Although these are martial arts fighting style designs they do have room for interesting accessories such as glowing red and green hands for example. This is the only complaint I have regarding the Shining Gundam figure, it has no gear and its closed fists also cannot borrow anything from other figures.

The Shining Gundam seen with its successor the God Gundam in normal mode as well as with its Hyper Mode engaged.

The Converge G Gundam line-up now consists of two versions of the Master Gundam, the large Devil Gundam, two versions of the God Gundam and now also a Shining Gundam.
I'd be surprised if we get to see any further mobile suits from the G Gundam show in Converge for quite some time now. Although I am not a fan of the series it would still be nice to have a couple more out of the ordinary figures from the line-up; the Nobel Gundam and Spiegel Gundam come to mind for example as well as the various grunt type suits from the Death Army.


177 : OZ-13MS Gundam Epyon

Perhaps the biggest star of this volume is actually the Gundam Epyon. Sure, the Shining Gundam is looking pretty good but it is no match for the extravagance that is the Epyon. A flamboyant colour scheme, large fancy wings and a really nice looking translucent beam sword. A lot of money was sunk into this beast.


The Epyon is very rarely seen as a figure which is a bit surprising considering its unique look. Its predecessor the Tallgeese does get some love but of course most attention is going to the five Gundams and their different variations, with the Wing Gundam getting most of the effort.

The Epyon comes with its wings and beam sword and shield as its accessories. Pretty solid, the only thing really missing here is the heat rod which attaches to the shield and acts like a kind of whip.

The Epyon hanging out with one of the many Converge Wing Gundams and the Tallgeese.
The Wing Gundam After Colony timeline has been featured in several of the most recent Gundam Converge sets, and with volume eleven we will receive four more mobile suits; yet another Wing Gundam variation (sigh), the Altron/Nataku Gundam as well as the two experimental machines Vayeate and Mercurius. Volume 12 will finish off the Gundam team with the Sandrock Kai, whether we will get anything more from the series though is anyone's guess. All the Oz army builder suits are still missing and I'm really hoping the will not be tossed aside by Bandai and FW.


178 : RX-77-2 Guncannon

The rebooted Gundam Converge series has been very busy reintroducing old mobile suits in new and revised sculpts. The Guncannon is the only mobile suit in volume 10 that is a rehash of older figures which is a welcome change from the many reissues that we've seen as of late. And the new figure also features a new gimmick which is a first for the mobile suit here in Converge.


Basically the redesigned Guncannon figure has a less compact body composition and the head has also been scaled down a bit. The figure still retains the ugly fusing of hand and beam rifle which just looks ay out of touch for a Converge figure released in 2018. And don't think I missed that you skipped on painting the sight in yellow, something we've had in place ever since the first Converge figures saw the light of day.

The big new feature for the Guncannon is of course that the shoulder mounted long range cannons can now be replaced by missile pods. The missile pods have been seen on many Gashapon Guncannons before but this is I believe the first time that both cannons and launchers are freely customizable. You can even ignore placing any shoulder mounted weapons on the mobile suit if you wish.

The shoulder mounted weapons are held in place by the figure's backpack thrusters.


This is a small engineering change for the figure but what a big impact it has. Finally we can have the Guncannon with optional gear. You know, I wouldn't have been disappointed if Converge 10 had featured two different figures for this mobile suit, with unit numbers 108 and 109 respectively. I'm sure I am not the only person who plans on getting two of them anyway.

A bit of Guncannon history: RX-77-2 versions from Converge Vol. 02 (far left), Operation Jaburo (center left), Selection V (center), CORE 003 (center right) and the new Converge vol. 10 (far right).
Looking at the development of the Converge Guncannon figure (the line-up above lacks the new CORE Guncannon which ships with the White Base) clearly shows the sculpt changes compared to the old figure. I had gotten used to the figure sporting the unit number now so it is a bit of a letdown that the unit markings are gone, then again I'm sure there are some suitable 108/109 stickers out there somewhere.


179 : AMX-015 Geymalk

When the Converge Geymalk was first hinted at some of us began speculating if it might be a special release of some kind. Standing tall at 22 meters this would have been well suited for an impressive EX figure, or perhaps featured in an SP duel pack. Alas, what we got was a bog standard Converge figure which left me a little bit disappointed.


The rather compact looking Converge Geymalk looks a bit like the Mario siblings had each jumped over its head, the mobile suit is even shorter than the Guncannon and this feels just wrong. Surely a couple of extra millimeters could have been added to its height, rather than the opposite around. Converge really misses the mark here, it is like the Asshimar all over again.

The lack of any interesting accessories -or in fact, any accessories at all - makes the figure even more diminutive. Even the box art looks more intimidating than the real thing.

The only gimmick available for the Geymalk is that we can pose it with its two odd escorts, the Gazu-R and the Gazu-L, which are even shorter than the already tiny Geymalk. But we'll get to those in just a second...


180 : AMX-117R Gaz-R

Trailing at the end of volume 10 come two of the oddest mobile suit designs around, designed all around the idea that they are to flank the Geymalk. Why you would construct a mobile suit designed to take on threats from only one side I don't really know and it just screams "toy factory" about the design but this is something we must credit Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam for, and not FusionWorks. : )


As I hinted at above both the Gazu-R (I have difficulty spelling it "Gaz" and not "Gazu" so bear with me...) and the Gazu-L felt really underwhelming when I pulled them out of the box. They are just too tiny. Look at the ensemble shot at the bottom of this review and you will see exactly what I mean. Rather than making the Geymalk extra tall FW and Bandai decided to make the Gazu-R and the Gazu-L extra short, way to go there...

The Gazu-R is equipped with a novel weapon design, a heat lance, which is a superheated metal stick which it can use to poke and stab at things. I guess it comes in handy in space jousts but I'd take a beam saber over it any day myself. The lance is made of soft rubbery plastic which makes it durable and also makes it susceptible to bends like the one you can see here. The figure also comes with a Zeon style antenna which looks like it is going to come off quite easily and i think a drip of super glue will do wonders there.


181 : AMX-117L Gaz-L

Let's just continue straight on to the leftie version of the Gazu-R with the red and silver Gazu-L. It is a mirror image version of the other figure although this time the heat lance came out a little bit straighter.


Overall the Gazu figures are really neat and the silver paint looks really good, just a shame that they were not allowed a little bit more height like the normal Converge figures.

The accessories for this figure are of course identical although they are intended for mirror image display. If you want you can merge the parts into a dual wielding and a non-wielding version of the figures which is a fun diversion and I think it might be a good start to develop your own custom Galbaldy Beta in case we never get one.

Speaking about the Galbaldy Beta, it bugs me that the Gazu design stems from the Zeta Gundam-era Galbaldy Beta mobile suit (AMX-117 neatly references RMS-117), which happens to be one of my favourites from that show. So if Bandai and FW ever decide to bring the Beta to Converge you can be sure it will be a version of this diminutive sculpt all over again. The curse of underwhelming Zeta Gundam figures continues.


Conclusion

So, there was a bit of the usual nitpicking and moaning in this review but of course overall Converge Volume 10 features a great line-up. It shines the light on no less than five unusual mobile suits which help to flesh out the collection really well. The new Guncannon figure is ok too of course, especially with its new weapons loadout. However, I have a feeling most of these figures will be easily available on the secondhand market save for perhaps the Epyon.