Saturday, 14 September 2013

Gundam STANDart vol. 18

We have arrived at the latest entry in the long running STANDart figure series, now celebrating its eighteenth installment. Released in August 2013, STANDart 18 features a somewhat unusual mix of mostly unglamourous workhorse mobiles suits. Apart from the unique looking ZII the set seems comparatively bland, after all, each of these figures is the basic old Gundam design and then tweaked somewhat. With the multitude of outlandish and original designs present in the various story universes I can't help but feel a little miffed at the selection. Still, the set is made up of four welcome additions to the range, the Full Armor Gundam and the two GM III:s ought to have been released a long time ago, really.

When lined up next to each other, you can't help but feel that the figures have an awful lot of things in common. Let's go ahead and drill deeper into the specs of each figure.

068 : Well, the MSZ-008 is the looker of this crowd no doubt. The ZII (Mega Beam Rifle), or Z-Two, is a prototype transformable mobile suit designed for space combat and as a replacement for the iconic Zeta Gundam. Developed by Anaheim Electronics the prototype was never allowed to complete as the A.E.U.G. had placed priority on the larger ZZ Gundam. It sure is nice of Bandai to allow this concept mobile suit a slot in the collection. The Z-Two is richly detailed and has an attractive blue and grey colour scheme with lots of colourful details. The tall and funky outcroppings on its back are of course assembly components for its fighter mode. As a STANDart figure though it of course does not transform. Instead you have to make do with the basic arm rotation at the shoulder and some minor movement of the head.

069 : Another prototype design, although more iconic and well known than the ZII is the FA-78-1 Gundam Full Armor Type. You've seen it and its blue variant in several figure lines already, including Converge and Ultimate Operation (and it can surely only be a question of time before it pops up in Assault Kingdom, considering how Bandai love plopping RX-78 variants into it..). The STANDart FA-78-1 figure is reasonably successful, it has a very attractive colour scheme and many nice details. However, standing next to another STANDart Gundam of your choice, it doesn't feel very fully armored at all. The Ultimate Operation figure in contrast, had a grim and meaty appearance which suits this concept better in my opinion. On a meta-level, I would have expected the Full Armor Gundam to pop up in one green and one blue variant, like it has in the other figure series. Considering all STANDart releases always feature one figure in two slight variations this would have been an obvious candidate. Perhaps we have not seen the last of the STANDart FA-78-1.

070 : Instead, the mobile suit which gets to fill two slots in the STANDart 18 group is the RGM-86R GM III, here in its typical white colour scheme and armed with a beam rifle. Although quite plain compared to many figures in the STANDart line, both in terms of model complexity and colour scheme (awfully white, isn't it?), its noble heritage makes it a very welcome addition to the series. As you can see from the pictures it doesn't really differ much from a vintage RX-78-2 Gundam, but as a grunt type army unit it fills a very critical slot in the collection. Again, though, the STANDart GM III feels rather plain and uninspired when placed next to the old Ultimate Operation GM III which featured shoulder missile pods and more coloured detail (see a separate review of that figure here). As such, the GM III figure is mostly of interest because of its role in Gundam lore, rather than because it is an inspiring and attractive model.

071 : The second variant of this figure is the RGM-86R GM III (Desert Color version). It differs from the white GM III in having a nice sand-shade to its colour scheme and has replaced the beam rifle with the somewhat odd looking Beam Javelin anti-mobile suit weapon. Again the figure comes out a bit lacking in the colouring department, those legs just feel awfully pale compared to the detail on the older Ultimate Operation GM III figure. It is worth noting that the right hand is moulded directly onto the beam javelin, so you won't be doing any standing to attention pose or the like. Apart from a head that can turn the arms feature unusually good articulation. Both GM III:s have arms that rotate at the shoulder as well as above the elbow.

In conclusion I feel that STANDart 18 is one of the less inspiring volumes as of late. The ZII can only stir things up so much; a second stand-out figure with bright colours would have improved on this set tremendously. Still, there are several well-known figures in this set and I can easily recommend it to serious STANDart collectors. The casual collector though can safely skip on most of these figures.

Size comparison between the three types of mobile suits which feature in STANDart 18, from left to right: GM III (ca 8,5 cm), ZII (about 12 cm) and FA-78-1 (ca 10 cm).

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