Thursday, 16 November 2017

Gundam Converge EX 18 : MSA-0011(Ext) Ex-S Gundam

These days the Converge EX-series is all over the place. We've seen gigantic Neo Zeon mobile armors, large transforming mobile suits and even some smaller figures. The EX 18 entry in the Converge line is definitely one of the smaller variety. In fact when I first pulled out the bags from the box and saw the main body of the mobile suit my first reaction was; "wait, that's all?".

After us having been spoiled with many large EX figures lately this package is going back toward the Converge series' roots. The figure is basically an old-era (before the brand relaunch) S Gundam enhanced with some new trinkets and gear. Bandai and FusionWorks didn't decide to bring the S Gundam into the era of redesigns, and rather taking the old figure and tweaking it to suit their needs.

As you can see from these photos the parts count is pretty low, but there are a couple of fiddly features which require some parts swapping to get the mobile suit to perform all the intended poses.

Notice the return of the old clip-style clear support piece and the blue Shokugan chewing gum. Bandai replaced these with white gums some months ago across all Gundam Shokugan series and here the blue one is sneaking back in again, which I find oddly amusing. I should of course point out that this figure is purchased from Japan, otherwise the gum would not be included (and there would be ugly safety stickers on the back cover of the box).

Mode 1

This is the classic Gundam Converge pose. The figure stands on the ground holding a rifle of some sort in its right hand. The Ex-S Gundam can perform this feat also, but requires the clipping support piece since its large booster pack is too heavy for the figure to carry while standing upright unsupported. Not even the long beam smart gun can balance it out.



My figure seems to have some issues with the lining up of the binders dangling from its shoulders. It looks a bit distracting when you move the arms up and down and there is not a whole lot you can do about it.

The closest match for the Ex-S Gundam would be the base version of the Deep Striker figure (Converge EX 03 and CORE 011). You can easily see the kinship between these miniatures even though the Ex-S Gundam is receiving larger weapons and boosters.

Mode 2

Next up is an alternate variation in holding the large smart gun. The weapon has two special slots where it can be attached to the figure's two hands. When not in use, small pieces are inserted into those holes to cover them up which is neat.


I like this mode better than the previous one, the smart gun is just so long it looks a bit weird when it dangles in front of the mobile suit.

In this mode the closest comparison would be to the original S Gundam figure from Converge vol. 13 (December 2013). The two definitely have a lot in common.

Mode 3

The final mode described in the assembly instructions is perhaps also the more interesting one. Here we get to replace the feet and the left arm and get to place the mobile suit on that nice looking clear action base. This eliminates the clumsy look which came from the clipping support piece in use while standing.



The way the beam smart gun is held is sometimes referred to as the keyboard pose but if you don't like it you can just as easily change the pieces around to have the figure holding the rifle in any of the other two configurations we saw earlier:




With so many different poses to choose from you should find something to your tastes quite easily. I definitely prefer the flying poses which also show the mobile suit in its true element.

Conclusion

There isn't really a whole lot to say about this figure, it is a pretty basic Converge figure with some minor posing variations. Is it worth the ¥2500 that Bandai think you should spend on it? Well, when you consider that you can get the transforming Super Gundam (which is a P-Bandai at that) for ¥2000 the price seems a bit high for this figure. When I purchased mine from Mandarake the price was already down to ¥2000. If you like the design it should be a worthy inclusion into your figure line-up but it probably pays to shop around.

Converge S Gundam lineage: MSA-0011 S Gundam from Converge vol. 13 (released December 2013), the basic form of the MSA-0011(Bst) Deep Striker (Converge EX03 released June 2014), the CORE 002 S Gundam with blue livery (August 2015) and the new Ex-S Gundam.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Gundam Converge CORE 012 : RX-178+FXA-05D Gundam Mk-II Full Weapon Set

September saw the retail release of the massive Psyco Gundam which occurred more or less in tandem with a limited Premium Bandai release of the RX-178, a rather familiar face in Gundam Converge. Priced at ¥2000 it comes in a special package together with a redesigned version of its G-Defenser support craft. I must say I am really surprised that these figures were not released as retail, they are true mainstays in most figure series and it seems cheeky to hold them back like this. Perhaps they will find their way into some other more widely available form in the near future though. With these things you just never know.

The "Full Weapon Set" Gundam Mk. II (or Super Gundam as it is also known) comes in the typical P-Bandai oversized cardboard packaging. The inner box follows the typical boring black and white style of most other CORE figures.



Quite a number of parts in this set since it is one of those transforming 80's designs that must cause many gray hairs on the product designers.

This particular box comes from Bandai overseas division in Hong Kong so no chewing gum is included.

As you can see there is a lot going on with this figure set, let's go through the different concepts we get from the box:

RX-178 Gundam Mk. II

This is of course the "standard" RX-178 in the white A.E.U.G. colour scheme. We recently got the navy blue Titans version of this figure in the recent Converge #06 retail set which popped up earlier this year in April.


The basic figure is pretty much a recolouration of the already existing blue version and features the same basic gear. The CORE figures are typically marketed by Bandai as being improved versions of the basic figures, often including more markings or enhanced paintwork but as we can see here the figures are pretty comparable in that regard, the standard retail figure even including unit number decals.

The CORE RX-178 is the third version of this figure. The first A.E.U.G. Gundam Mk-II popped up as a 7-Eleven exclusive back in the early days of Converge (figure 19 from September 2011) and is quite rare these days. A general retail release with bazooka armament followed together with a G-Defenser in Converge volume 7 in May 2012.

The new sculpt from the Converge reboot looks much more aggressive and less like a Gashapon SD figure, a trend we have been seeing in after the reboot as the figure sculpts become more elaborate. The new design is really cool but I don't like that its eyes are obscured from view by that gigantic forehead. Bonus points also for finally painting the frame of the see through-window on the shield red.

Where the retail Titans Gundam Mk-II only comes armed with a beam rifle the CORE version has more armament options. The package also contains a redesigned large hyper bazooka as well as the long beam rifle normally mounted on the G-Defenser. An optional right hand has been designed for the latter two weapons since they use round handles as opposed to the rectangular handle on the beam rifle.


The new hyper bazooka looks really good and is much bigger than its older counterpart. The old Mk-II looks a tad bit jealous.

Now, here is where I have my main issue with this figure. The two new weapons are great (although a spiffy translucent red beam saber is still conspicuously absent...) but the need for a specially designed hand means that the old Titans Mk-II figures cannot wield them. Most of the CORE figures will no doubt be displayed in the Super Gundam configuration so here we have this nice hyper bazooka lying around in the box unable to be used because the only hand that can wield it is already in use with the G-Defenser's long beam rifle

I have already voiced my objections about not including more gear with the retail RX-178:s in that review, but this just reopens that wound. Just look how nice that Titans mobile suit looks with some decent armament. I will be getting a second CORE RX-178 so that I can re-equip one of my Titans RX-178:s with a Bazooka (as well as keeping a G-Defenser in its separate mode).

FXA-05D G-Defenser

The G-Defenser unit has also been given a significant make-over with this re-release. It either combines with the RX-178 figure or displays separately. Unfortunately no action base is included for this G-Defenser, which frankly seems like a dumb (or cheapskate) oversight. My figure here borrows a clear Assault Kingdom action base.

The new G-Defenser is very sleek and features quite a lot of nice colour applications. It is still somewhat fiddly to assemble and is prone to falling apart, much like its other Gashapon cousins I might add.


While we don't get any action base there are two clear support pieces that can be slid in between the fuselage and its... uh, landing gear? This reinforcement is definitely useful and helps keep the figure in shape.

Compared to the first version of the Converge G-Defenser the new figure is sleek and mean, not to mention much larger.

There are clearly two different design schools at work here. The early figure follows the cute aesthetics school found in e.g. Gashapon figures while the new figure clearly wants to look like the real thing.

There aren't two G-Defenser figures out there that look the same. Shape of wings, fuselage and equipment varies with each release. Below you can see the two Converge figures flanked by the SD Gundam Warrior NEXT Vol. 22 G-Defenser and the recent Gashapon Senshi Forte version which is almost as big as the new Converge figure but more clumsy in its style.


Notice how all of these figures list, bend and crumble in one direction or another. They are not only pretty but rather fragile as well.

RX-178+FXA-05D Super Gundam

The last and primary feature of this figure is of course how the two units combine into the Super Gundam. Basically you remove the cockpit section from the G-Defenser and reattach the landing gear so that they swing out 90 degrees acting as shields for the Gundam. The long beam rifle is removed from the fuselage and becomes handheld instead. Technically the shield is discarded during this transformation but I like to attach it to the figure anyway.


The figure's action base has a special support peg to help keep the G-Defenser parts in place but I thought it was quite fiddly to use and the figure can still stand up without the need for its support.


The CORE Super Gundam is really impressive when compared to its older version. Everything is more pronounced and increased in size, the look is definitely more down-to-business than kawaii now. In the above comparison we see the Bandai Asia metallic-colour "Overseas Only" Super Gundam for comparison.

We also just had a Super Gundam released in the Gashapon Senshi Forte line this summer. it is interesting to note how also this figure has more pronounced components, larger wings, shields and beam rifle.

MRX-009 Psyco Gundam

Lastly I'll just bring up the Psyco Gundam connection which is the RX-178's main antagonist in the early pre-Super Gundam era of the MSG Zeta Gundam anime. Since the two figures were released practically at the same time though through different channels it feels prudent to add a quick Psyco came here. : )




Conclusion

The new CORE Super Gundam figure is an excellent realization of this mobile suit and clearly superior to its older counterpart. On the other hand this doesn't mean that the old version has become obsolete, far from it. Like all the other recent Zeta Gundam redesigns it makes a key mobile suit available again which mainly benefits people just starting out their collections. It is a shame that it doesn't help improve the existing Titans mobile suits (a spare right hand would have helped) and it sucks that it is released as a CORE figure only but the price point isn't that bad. Limited availability will be its main problem down the line I suppose.

Several Zeta-era mobile suits have now been redesigned following the Converge 2016 reboot.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Mobile Suit Imagination

One of the oddities in this year's MSG Shokugan line-up is the (presumably one-shot?) Mobile Suit Imagination figure set which was released on August 29 with a Bandai recommended price of ¥500 plus tax per figure. The set consists of five smashed up mobile suits in part or whole, something I believe we have never ever seen in the Shokugan range before.

Trashed up mobile suits as toys or figures are actually quite rare. The Mobile Suit In Action 1/144-scale battle-scarred action figures come to mind, as well as a couple of random entries in certain Gashapon figure sets from the past.

More junk, from left to right: Trashed GM from Gashapon HG MS vol. 26, a Mass Production Guntank owned by Norris, Athrun's disintegrated GAT-X303 Aegis from Sunrise Imagination series 2 and Zaku and GM hulls from the 1/350 Gsight collection.
The name Mobile Suit Imagination rings very close to the old Bandai Sunrise Imagination figure Gashapon series which typically displayed a character in small size or as a bust, with parts of their iconic mobile suits in the background. Perhaps this is not a coincidence.

The new Mobile Suit Imagination line comes in cardboard boxes with common artwork for all five figures. There are no known secret or hidden figures or colour variations.

Thankfully each figure can be easily recognized from a label on the top of the box cover. Bandai finally took this route with the Universal Unit line and possibly also with the up and coming G-Frame line, perhaps people are getting bored of blind box buys in Japan? Especially for more expensive Shokugan candy toys I can imagine.

Each package contains a single bag with one or two figure pieces inside. No assembly is required; everything is ready for display right out of the box.

There isn't really a whole lot to say about these figurines but let's dive in for a closer look anyway.

01 : RX-93 Nu Gundam

Now here's a really shot up Nu Gundam slumping slightly forwards while sitting on its knees. Right from the gate you can see the high amount of weathering, chipped and torn armor and overall dirty wash applied on an otherwise muted palette. I think it is a striking appearance.


I am not entirely convinced by the pose which seems a bit unnatural, but it will probably look better if you bury part of its knees in sand or other material. The manufacturer's stamp on the back of its waist is quite annoying though, you'd think they were past this type of cattle branding modern toys in such an obvious way. I wouldn't have minded a broken up figure with two or three pieces instead, as well as a broken funnel set or maybe a weapon too.

The trashed Nu Gundam is somewhere around the 1/300 scale, on the picture above you can see it posing with a non-scale Gashapon HG MS RX-93 (this line is said to be around 1/285) and one of the 1/220 STANDart Nu:s. I don't have the Strategy of Gundam 1/300 Nu Gundam to compare it to.

02 : MS-06F Zaku II

Next up is the venerable ol' Zaku II, or more specifically, a really busted up head of one. This head is absolutely huge in comparison to the other figures and it weighs a lot more. You can easily tell which box contains the Zaku Head without reading on them.



The detail on this thing is really spectacular. I think the images speak for themselves. Bonus points also for just being the head plain and simple without any other diorama components, so that you are free to place it in whatever environment you prefer.

Due to its large head this miniature will not be that well suited for wargaming dioramas but could perhaps work in a diorama set with maybe a character or smaller vehicle.

03 : RX-78-2 Gundam

The grand-daddy Gundam isn't getting a whole lot of appreciation here. Just a leg and a half and a blasted piece of torso. I think it is great. This leaves a lot of opportunity to create customized dioramas and I suppose you could have the parts stand in as a GM if you really want to.



Bonus points for not doing the last shooting pose or something tired like that. the imagination part of the series name is really well deserved.

The Gundam body parts are roughly in size with the 1/220-line of figures and should be quite useful to serve as diorama components next to your favourite Principality of Zeon figure. Here placed next to the Universal Unit RX-78-2.

04 :  MS-06FZ Zaku II Kai

Next up we have a really tired looking Zaku II Kai. It appears to have been worked on by another mobile suit holding using a melee weapon of sorts, since there are lots of slash marks and beat up panels.



The pose is clearly inspired by the look of Bernard Wiseman's Zaku Kai which crashed during the assault at Libot Colony.

The Zaku Kai premiered in the short series 0080 War in the Pocket where it was placed in an iconic battle with the RX-78NT-1 "Alex". This figure looks like it may have come straight out of such a battle.

Size-wise I'd place the Mobile Suit Imagination Zaku Kai somewhere in the HG MS scale. It seems a bit larger than the 1/300 Strategy of Gundam Zaku II Kai and Alex (see above) but way smaller than the 1/220 Universal Unit Alex (far left in the above picture). I do have a 1/285 HG MS Zaku II Kai figure somewhere but couldn't remember where I put it, I might upload another picture when its location is discovered...

05 : MSM-07 Z'Gok

This set has been pretty great so far but here is the miniature that when I first saw it convinced me on the spot that I needed it for my collection. Just look at this messed up Z'Gok.


This is such an awesome figure that does everything right. It looks fit to go straight into a high-class diorama or as an objective marker in a miniatures wargame. If I weren't so lazy I would have placed it in a little water and sand mock-up shot just to see what the effect would be.

The scale of the Mobile Suit Imagination figures is all over the place. The sunken Z'Gok seems to be too large for the 1/220 Shokugan figures and is probably more around 1/200 (think HCM Pro). In the above picture it poses with two Gashapon HG MS Z'Goks (light blue) and a darker 1/220 scale Z'Gok from FW's Ultimate Operation line.

Conclusion

Overall I am very pleased with the Mobile Suit Imagination figures. They perform their assigned roles really well and although the varying scale means it is difficult to make use of all of them in a common setting they can contribute towards dioramas of many different sizes instead. I bought my set n Japan for ¥2000 and I will probably go on picking up one or two extra figures of my favourites. I can imagine that this is a set where people prefer cherry picking figures for the scale that is suitable in their own collections though.


The Future?

So, is there any hope for a Mobile Suit Imagination volume 2? I would say the chance is very, very slim unless of course the first set was somehow a huge success. I think the fact that nothing more has been written about them on the Bandai Shokugan portal speaks enough. The next set of "desktop toys" will probably be something completely different. However, if Bandai ever decides to do a second set, my vote would be for the severed head of the Aegis, which would look so awesome. What is your favourite mobile suit disaster that you would like to see realized in 3D?