Sunday, 20 October 2013

STANDart: GNR-010 0 Raiser (Dengeki Hobby Magazine special)

This time we're going to take a closer look at a curiosity in the STANDart figure line. Appearing bundled with the October 2010 issue of the Dengeki Hobby magazine is this 0 Raiser accessory pack. It is a peculiar way to release a kit, it won't be of any use to you unless you also happen to already own the GN-0000 double oh Gundam figure. The parent figure itself appeared in the regular STANDart volume 7 (as number 025), and was released in August of the same year. Technically you could also apply this kit to the companion figure 026 of the same line, which features the same GN-0000 Gundam in its glowing purple mode, but the colours of the accessories would be way off.

Alright, so we've established that the 0 Raiser pack is only an accessory kit. What then, does it contain? Well, as the picture above illustrates, you get some parts which can be used to re-equip the GN-0000 Gundam with the mighty GN Sword III weapon, and the companion 0 Raiser support fighter. The primary idea behind this fighter is for it to be mounted to the Gundam figure's back, and a small support is included for the fighter to rest upon when being suspended from the figure's back.

Let's begin by examining the GN Sword III, since this is the most obvious feature. As you can see from the sequence of photographs above the blade of the sword can be stowed or extended. The accessory has the same right hand as the original beam weapon and is freely interchangeable. An interesting detail is that if you compare it to the Gundam Converge figure set, the GN Sword (in its folded position) was used as an accessory of the 0 Raiser fighter jet. For the STANDart release there is however no method to combine the sword with the fighter (which would indeed have been odd considering there is a hand molded onto the part) which is disappointing.

Once you've put the sword in place you can also choose to stow the 0 Raiser. This is done by (cumbersomely) figuring out how to dismantle the Gundam's existing shoulder pads and replacing these with the wings of the fighter craft. There are no instructions whatsoever included with the kit (perhaps some were printed in the magazine itself) and it took me some head scratching to figure out how to go about this. The fact that the only clue is the vague silhouette on the box cover also did not help.

Above you can see the two GN-0000 Gundams of STANDart 7. The blue version has been pimped with the GN Sword III and the stowed pieces of the 0 Raiser fighter, i.e. the wings replace the standard shoulder pads, and the fighter's fuselage is mounted to its back.

Turning the attention to the 0 Raiser fighter jet, it consists of a couple of pieces which can either be assembled to display the fighter, or they can be placed onto the Gundam's body as we saw earlier. While it is easy to snap together the three pieces that make up the fighter, I struggled with all the leftover pieces. I couldn't figure out how to place it on the stand, or how to attach the sword to it. And most mysterious of all, how to attach its fuselage to the Gundam figure. The answers to those questions were all disappointing. Consider the following:

a) There is no stand. Really, what were they thinking? Who in their right mind will display the fighter jet belly down on the ground? There are no holes or pegs for you to attach it to a custom stand or action base, but if you have something useful that you can balance it on, you can try. On the right hand photo I borrowed the stand for the Gundam Converge 0 Raiser craft. Although it looks silly it still beats not having any stand at all.

The picture above shows the Dengeki STANDart 0 Raiser together with its little cousin from the Gundam Converge line (figure no. 52, released December 2012). As you can see, its little brother features both a nice clear stand and a GN Sword III which attaches to its belly. Which brings us to...

b) You can't attach the GN Sword III to the 0 Raiser. This is another serious blow to the fighter. Sadly you're clearly not supposed to display it as a stand alone model. Look at the two images above. The one to the left is again a make-shift act of balancing the sleek fighter on a stand which was not designed for it, in its sword-less condition. The second photo displays what I feel the 0 Raiser should have been allowed to look like. Obviously you can see I have fiddled to great extent to create this appearance, and the only thing I do is mimicking the Gundam Converge 0 Raiser which can do all this out of the box. And, for the final nail in the coffin...

c) yes, you can attach the fighter to the Gundam figure but it looks absolutely ridiculous. Once you figure out how to do it (by removing the engine section from the fuselage and replacing it with a pegged counterpart you can snap it into a hole in the Gundam's back) you will end up with the 0 Raiser sticking out from the back like in the image above. Since you can't see it from the front, the only good it does is occupying more of your precious shelf space...

I think you can begin to see my disappointment here. The STANDart 0 Raiser should have been a beautiful display item, but instead has been relegated to being a stupid backpack. The GN Sword III is a nice touch, and I suppose you can upgrade to the bigger shoulder pads if you want your blue GN-0000 Gundam stand out a bit more from the purple version, but overall this kit is such a tremendous disappointment that I stuffed the 0 Raiser back into its box and equipped the blue GN-0000 Gundam with the sword only.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Gundam Converge 13 + 14 : RX-93 Nu Gundam

This time we take a closer look at the iconic Nu Gundam as it appears in the Gundam Converge line. The two figures were the first two in the third wave which appeared back in July 2011. The two figures complement each other in that they combine to create a "fully equipped version". This questionable quirk was also present in the STANDart line, where the two figures again occupied to slots in the series, so that us poor collectors ended up having to buy two chassis only to combine the extras into one. It does smell a bit like a petty marketing ploy, but is not entirely without merit, as we shall see.

First of all, the two chassis aren't actually perfectly identical across the two models. They *do* have different logos on their respective left shoulder armour, so if you get kicks out of this you'll be pleased to see the two different versions made.

Apart from that, the two versions are actually very good looking in their own right, they are two very balanced figures and make it possible to display different loadouts side by side, so it is not an entirely bad idea by Bandai. There's not a whole lot to say about the two figure's articulation. You can rotate the arms at the shoulder, and the right hand swivels as usual. The figure's head sits on a shaped peg which sadly prohibits turning the head which is something I wish to see permanently banned on all further Converge figures.

Above you can see the various unique components available in both sets. As is evident, there are a couple of subtle differences on some of the bodyparts. Now the fun part begins though. You can mix and match pieces to create a loadout of your choosing. This is the really fun thing about the few Converge figures that actually allow for some equipment tweaks.

Now we're getting somewhere. One of the figures has equipped itself with the beam rifle and the shield, slung the bazooka on its back and spread a nice funnel fin. With the leftover pieces the second figure goes for an unarmed and sleek appearance, though the right-hand triggerfinger does seem a bit itchy...

Now, let's add one more variable to the mix. Remember how I moaned about Bandai ought to have released a "complete" figure with all the parts in just one box? Well they did... but not in the standard line. In fact, just one month after the appearance of the Nu Gundam, in August 2011 it again hit the shelves. This time it was known as the "Fully Equipped version" packed together with the MSN-04 Sazabi in the first of the double figure sets in the SP-range, SP01.

If the idea of doing the Nu Gundam as the two figures 13 and 14 was bad, the re-release just once month later together with one of the most iconic figures in the Gundam universe was just downright evil. Especially since there was no other way to get the Sazabi, it has never been featured as a stand alone Converge figure. As a collector arriving late to the party I don't mind, but I can imagine there were a couple of buyers that ended up having to purchase more RX-93 than they had originally intended.

The story doesn't end there either. Stay tuned now for the coming "Operation Revive" reissue which will take place in the beginning of 2014. The Nu Gundam was voted as one of the top "bring 'em back"-figures so apparently the thirst for this now hard to find figure isn't yet filled. Unlike the two releases from 2011 (which vary only in colour), the 2014 version will feature a beam rifle only, but will come with two fully deployed fin funnels which will be a welcome edition to the collection. As for the older figures, I recommend you seek out the SP01 pack and only bother with the loose figures if you are a set completor.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mobile Suits Gundam Ultimate Operation Plus 1

Yep, I have completed another Ultimate Operation set, so it is time to take a look at the first of the five expansion "Plus" sets. I don't really know the story behind why Bandai after having released ten Ultimate Operation sets decided to call this one "Plus" instead of eleven. Only three months are between this and set number ten which would seem to be the usual time between sets, so it doesn't seem to be an indication of the series having been cancelled and brought back from the dead that quickly.

Any which way, the Ultimate Operation Plus set (which I shamelessly refer to as Ultimate Operation Plus 1) appeared in September 2005 and features six figures from the Zeta Gundam storyline. And I am madly in love with it. Contained here in are simply some really excellent looking army builders and kindly enough Bandai has seen it fit two make alternate colour versions of them. Flanking these are two badass hero units, the colourful Z Gundam and the towering and wonderfully odd looking Messala. Lets get down to business and inspect the six figures that make up this set!

MSZ-006 Z Gundam : The set opens with the mighty Z. Zeta always comes out looking good and the Ultimate Operation variant is no exception. Lots of lovely colour detail on this figure and a very striking colour scheme. Standing with legs wide apart the figure balances well even though it comes loaded with bulky gear.You have the usual articulation at the head, waist, shoulders and over the elbow. The figure is equipped with the massive (BOWA) XBR-M87A2 Beam Rifle and the iconic shield. Interestingly, the Zeta also ships with an optional righthand which holds the hilt of a beam sabre. No blade is included for this weapon though. Out of all the figures in this set, the Z Gundam (unsurprisingly really) appears to be the one most difficult to find.

RMS-099 Rick Dias (red version) : Fielded by the A.E.U.G., the Rock Dias workhorse mobile suit has been given a really chunky look in the Ultimate Operation set. Armed with a Clay Bazooka the figure's arms can be manipulated so as to allow both hands to hold the weapon, but with the large chest of the figure it is a bit difficult to do so successfully. An alternate closed fist version of the right hand is also included. The legs stay in their wide spread while the waist rotates freely, as does the shoulders arms and wrists. The head can wiggle a bit from side to side. The figure also carries two beam gun weapons stowed in a rack on the back, these are not intended for active use which otherwise would have been a nice touch. Much like many FWUO figures these guns are made from soft plastic and it is likely that the figure you find will not have completely straight barrels.

RMS-099 Rick Dias (black version) : This is the alternate colour version of the Rick Dias. It has a nice black and dark blue colour scheme but otherwise shares all the characteristics of the red version. According to Zeta Gundam lore the Rick Dias was first seen in black and later red units began to pop up. The Rick Dias figures are among those you see online most often, so you should have no problem finding a good deal on these two and they really look great in the collection.

RMS-108 Marasai (red version) : Opposing the Rick Dias figures are the also great looking Marasai mobile suits. This is one of the most outrageously posed figures in the entire Ultimate Operation line, forget about a standing pose for this one. Even though the mobile suit is bending forward it still rises to almost the same height as the Z Gundam figure but if you pose it next to the recently released Marasai of the STANDart collection it looks a bit dwarfed (it doesn't help that the STANDart figure is glowing orange-red either). Articulation is fine and up to the usual FWUO standard, rotating head, waist, shoulders and arms. The left shoulder pauldron can also rotate a bit but the shield which is carried on the shoulder can not be rotated and slavishly follows the rotation of the arm. Overall I find the Marasai figure is a small and compact figure with a great look.

RMS-108 Marasai (Titans) : The alternate colour version comes in the classic two-tone blue livery of the Titans. However, the red version is sporting the Titans logo as well, so I don't really know what Bandai were thinking when they named the two versions. Apart from the colours the two versions share attributes and characteristics. I guess the only thing to point out is that the beam rifle of the blue version has a nice two-colour scheme whereas the red version has an all grey beam rifle. I should also mention that my blue figure has considerable problems standing up as soon as the surface is not 100% flat. This seems to be caused by the plastic having been slightly bent (during the years it spent packaged in its blister I presume), but my red figure handles tilting surfaces slightly better. Overall though, the Marasai is not the most stable of figures.

PMX-000 Messala : Rounding off the set is the gigantic transformable experimental Messala suit, a Titan powerhouse which stands several meters taller than the Zeta. The figure has been given a very dynamic pose which requires you to fiddle a bit with some minor assembly when you take it out of its packaging. This is one of those figures which definitely should not be allowed to remain carded, as when you take it out of the packaging and put it together it changes appearance completely. Due to its striking pose the articulation is very limited and not of much use. You can fiddle a bit with the arms but the entire body (including head) is molded as one piece. The figure comes armed with a large beam sabre which shares the characteristic of many of the FWUO soft plastic weapons,  it is probably not going to be completely straight. I normally do not pose the figure with the sabre but instead with the optional right hand fist.