Monday, 7 July 2014

Assault Kingdom vol. 5

If Assault Kingdom volume four had a blue thing going about it, volume five is instead boldly exploring the green side of the spectrum, although it manages to toss in a pair of white Gundams just for consistency's sake. I've noticed a recent trend in the packaging where the box colours are being a bit more vivid than before, maybe as a means to mask the fact that they are basically pumping out more of the same. Now now, let's not get ahead of the program. Instead, I'll just begin by noting that Assault Kingdom volume five, released in May 2014, follows the traditional set-up of four new figures, each featuring supreme articulation and sporting an action base that can be combined with those of the other in the set to create a gimmicky stand of sorts for the entire lot.

The Assault Kingdom collection has been expanding rapidly over the past few months as it continues to pick mobile suits from various eras on the long Gundam history. AK5 is no exception in this regard, mixing high and low. Let's inspect each figure a bit closer.

17 : The intended eye-catcher of AK5 is the GN-001REII Gundam Exia Repair II. The Exia is normally a popular figure with many striking details, but the representation it gets in AK5 is not exactly too thrilling. Although a decent model the appearance feels half finished at best. I'm normally not one to fuss over details but here even I feel driven towards grabbing a paintbrush. The biggest eyesores are the overall white legs and the blue GN Drive, even the smaller Converge figures managed to get this right. The appearance of the front torso is much better so I guess this was a purely cost-driven thing.

The Exia comes with three weapons, two toothpicks... eh, beam sabers, and the iconic GN Sword Kai. The blade of the Kai rotates 180 degrees between fully extended or stowed. The beam sabers are, well, not too thrilling. I know Bandai are eager to keep costs down on these figures but surely something more exciting than white could have been on offer? Of course, you can always steal a saber of another colour from another AK figure and use that one instead.

18 : Even whiter than the Exia is its predecessor, the GN-000 0 Gundam (Type A.C.D.). The ACD acronym we learn (courtesy of the Gundam Wiki) refers to its Actual Combat Deployment form, which differs from the all-white colour scheme of the prototype. Of course, the Assault Kingdom figure still gives a pretty white impression, but this is in line with the actual mobile suit so I won't moan about it too much. The part in most need of a tune-up is the all-white shield which screams for some red and gray touches.

The actual figure is highly reminiscent of every other white Gundam already released in Assault Kingdom, and as such is fairly uninteresting except if you are planning on doing some sort of dedicated 00 Gundam display only. Actually, in my opinion, the most refreshing piece of this set is its small pistol-style beam rifle which adds some nice diversity to the AK armory. Again, the beam saber is the same dreary base white as the figure itself, although the shape is more convincing than the ones carried by the Exia. I again recommend saber swapping, for example with the very next figure in this set.

19 : Halfway through AK5 things are starting to get real interesting. The tail-end is comprised of two army-building grunt suits, the first of these being the RGM-89D Jegan (D Type). The sculpt is a truly excellent representation of the mobile suit and although it may be a bit green in places (the thrusters at the back especially) it still received small nice touches like the two tone green feet for example. The shield also escaped the one-colour fate of the 0 Gundam, here it receives a distinct and attractive green-gray pattern, enhancing the overall look of the mobile suit immensely.

In comparison to the shield, the two weapons included feel more spartan, a green figure toting an equally green beam saber is not too exciting. This is nitpicking though, the Jegan is a very successful figure and I would guess that it could be getting quite scarce if people decide to army-build with it.

20 : Although it may be trailing the other figures in this set, it is the MS-06F Zaku II that is the true star of AK5. Considering that Char's Commander Type Zaku II was out early in the Assault Kingdom series it is somewhat remarkable that we have had to wait for almost a year until the legendary green guy finally appeared. Fortunately though, it has been worth the wait. The new Zaku II figure is all that I could have hoped for it to be. The mold is still identical to the original red figure from volume 2, with the very minor alteration of having two small holes drilled into its skirt, one on each hip. Just like was done on the High Mobility Zakus of the Black Tri-Stars this allows for the stowing of unused weapons such as the Zaku Machine Gun and the Heat Hawk.

The second great thing about the green Zaku II is that it comes with a surprising amount of accessories. Not many AK figures come with three weapons (especially when you do not count toothpick-like saber weapons). This Zaku features two very iconic weapons; the Zaku Machine Gun and the Heat Hawk as well as a large recoilless rifle of the same type mounted in the Zeon Magella Attack Tank. Additional optionals include two choices of head, with or without the commander-style antenna, as well as a total of five different hands. These features make the Zaku II especially well suited to army building, and it is generous of Bandai to include all the weapons with each figure rather than making a weapon set accessory or even a figure multipack where each figure has a dedicated weapon. The spare weapons are also welcome if you have Char's red Zaku II which only comes with a bazooka, the equipment of the two figures complement each other very well. I foresee that this guy will quickly turn rare.

As usual, each figure in this set has a few parts making up a bare-bones action base, and which by tradition, can be combined together to form a new object all on their own. The image above shows these action base parts grouped by figure. By following the assembly instructions hidden on the inside walls of each box these are quickly assembled into a massive lowboy trailer (presumably intended for the transportation of Gundams and or other heavy combat vehicles).

Of course, as a vehicle model it is not too convincing, it is a more a celebration of the ingenuity of the action base designers than anything else. The trailer even comes with a fully working fifth wheel connector that swivels and can be used to decouple the tractor unit.

I have no idea if the general look of the vehicle corresponds to anything actually seen in the Gundam universe but if so, with a bit of tweaking and painting it might be possible to enhance its appearance and turn it into an actual display piece onto which other models could be displayed. The pictures above show size comparisons with one of the Ultimate Operation G-Fighters and the Converge RB-79 Ball set. Although the trailer surface has no pegs, you can use some of the leftover joints to attach Assault Kingdom figures atop the trailer for some dynamic poses as well.

One of the highlights of the Assault Kingdom series is the way the figures can easily exchange weapons and gear with each other. Above are two simple suggestions. The first is an army building tweak where we give the Zaku II the Bazooka belonging to Char Aznable's red Zaku II, and secondly, notice what happens when you let the 0 Gundam and the Jegan trade sabers with each other. A clear improvement in my opinion, and there are several sabers from other figures to spice up the colour choices even further.

Before we wrap this review up, let's do some quick comparisons. The first thing I wish to point out is that Assault Kingdom is getting really bogged down with samey-looking Gundams by now, and the picture below even omits a couple of them. As you can imagine, I'm not exactly doing the wave thinking about volume six which will again be nothing but Gundams, though thankfully not all white.

Some of the many shiny, white Assault Kingdom Gundams from left to right: #01 RX-78-2 from AK1 (released March 2013), #06 RX-178 Gundam Mk II (AK2, June 2013), #12 RX-78GP03S Dendrobium Stamen (AK3, November 2011), #07 RX-79(G) Ground Type Gundam (AK2, June 2013) and #18 GN-000 0 Gundam from AK5.
I am much more forgiving and fanboyish about the way the Zaku II has begun invading the AK line, and with the recent Gouf figure we're really getting a nice variety by now.

Assault Kingdom Zaku II:s, from left to right: Black Tri-Star MS-06R-1A (set EX 02, released July 2013), the MS-06F from AK5 and Char Aznable's MS-06S (borrowing a machine gun from the Black Tri-Star set), released in volume 2 in June 2013. Also pictured for comparison is the MS-07B-3 Gouf Custom from AK4, released in January 2014.
It is also interesting to compare the Assault Kingdom Zaku II to the ones released in STANDart and Ultimate Operation. Although I don't have the closest matching FWUO Zaku II in my collection yet, the desert version I have will still give an idea. I am really impressed by the likeness between the STANDart and the Assault Kingdom figures.

From left to right: STANDart Zaku II (vol. 13, released May 2012), Assault Kingdom Zaku II and one of the MS-06J Zaku II:s from Ultimate Operation  volume 1, released back in June 2003.

In conclusion, Assault Kingdom volume 5 is a little bit of a mixed bag. I'm very pleased with the two army builder figures but the two Gundams look a bit spartan. I'm also rather fed up with white Gundams at this point. I understand they are easy conversions as opposed to developing brand new bulky figures but I hope that we've had our fill of RX-78 look-alikes for a while now. Of course volume six will not be the remedy I am looking for, as it will contain *only* Gundams. Meanwhile I'll keep waiting for a DOM to appear in set seven...

All in all though, if you can only find these figures as a combined four-piece set, I would still recommend you get them for the Jegan and the Zaku II alone.


  1. I'm super into that Jegan.
    I get why you're upset about all of the Gundams we've been having, but vol. 7 is only going to have one. And Guncannon, GM, and the Rick Dias. I'm super excited for that one, especially the Guncannon.

  2. Sounds very promising. I have a very soft spot for the Rick Dias, especially the black one. By the way, both colour versions are coming in the next STANDart installment together with the Zaku I, that will be a glorious release as well!

  3. The truck is the Samson Trailer Truck that hauls Zeon suits such as the Zaku II. I'm not sure why you are very upset about Bandai's lack of paint operations on these things but they've been doing it for a long time already. The Converge and StandArt have good paint since the're meant to look good just being bricks or part-bricks in articulation. The selling point in these guys isn't the detail in paint but rather in articulation, sculpts and collection.

    1. When reviewing a low cost shokugan figure, it is of course unfair to expect it to live up to standards set by more expensive product ranges, such as Robot Damashi or HCM Pro for example. However, when you look at what Bandai have accomplished historically in their Assault Kingdom range, it becomes easier to appreciate a new figure's merits and flaws. Over time it becomes more evident were corners have been cut and this will usually detract from the overall appearance and feel of a figure. For example; why can we get transparent beam weapons for the Sazabi, but not for the Unicorn, or why on Earth does the GM not come with a beam saber accessory at all, and so on. It is no coincidence that we keep seeing many similar figures on the product line; adapting an existing figure compared to developing something from the ground up (like the Rick Dias) means the figures will be cheaper to manufacture. This also means that your collection will end up looking more generic. Whether this is good or bad for the series as a whole, is of course up to each collector to decide.

  4. The Zaku II molds have one other difference actually--Char's Zaku has pretty poor ankle range due to his single-post balljoints and the shaped ankle guards, but the grunt Zaku in wave 5 added an additional hinge joint inside the ankle, so it can extend outward for those wide stances.