Thursday, 28 August 2014

Gundam STANDart volume 21

Mission briefing.

1) Stop reading. Immediately.
2) Locate a full STANDart 21 set at your favourite dealer.
3) Purchase said set.
4) You may now continue reading, if you so desire.

The STANDart series has been around since the end of the 2007, slowly building its strength with a couple of sets per year. While the early figures came in large multi-compartment boxes and sometimes with optional gear, the series soon found its characteristic style in the smaller boxes. The many details were scaled down a little bit from the early releases but are now slowly being brought back again. STANDart 21, released in August 2014, is a mighty fine collection and if it does not manage to stir your interest, chances are this series never will.

The previous releases this year, although very nice production-wise, did feel a bit lackluster in the content area. With STANDart 21 though, we get both awesome mobile suits and excellent execution. With this set Bandai also plugs some very important holes in the mobile suit inventory, and the introduction of a damaged Gundam is both novel and superbly done.

Right... opening the boxes we discover that the Exia and the Zaku I come pretty much fully assembled, as per STANDart norm. Plug in the handle bar on the Zaku machine gun and you are good to go. The two Rick Dias suits require some more minor assembly, due to their bulky features and oversized bazookas. I was very surprised to see extra left hands for both of them; a real novelty as far as STANDart is concerned. I'll return to this later as we go through the set figure by figure.

80 : The set-opener is the magnificent GN-001RE Gundam Exia Repair. There are at least two further stages of repair, commonly referred to as Repair II and III respectively. This version is clearly the most interesting, as the beat up Exia is in a terrible mess. The left arm is gone and replaced by a cloak like camouflage sheet. This is a massive plastic piece with some slight colour variations in green and black. I was a bit skeptical about this when the figure was announced but I have to admit that it looks really great. There are many other nice features on this figure, from the cracked face and broken V-fin, to the busted GN Sword. And as you look you'll continue to find many other small pieces in need of repair. This is a really fantastic sculpt.

Celestial Beings, from left to right: GNT-0000 QAN[T] (from STANDart volume 10, July 2011), the Exia Repair and the GN-0000 00 Gundam (from STANDart 7, August 10). The 00 Gundam is decked out with the GN-Sword III additional components from the Dengeki Hobby Magazine "0 Raiser + GN-Sword III" accessory pack, released October 2010.
The Exia Repair is something really unique in the STANDart collection, and it contrasts well with all the other showy Gundams. Recently we've seen beat up Kshatriyas entering the Converge and Assault Kingdom lines, so it seems only natural that we would get a damaged figure in STANDart as well. Articulation-wise, it doesn't do much. You can rotate the head from side to side and the right arm can be rotated at the shoulder. You can also wiggle the cloak a little bit but this is a really static display piece.

81 : From the flashy Exia we dive deeply into the history of Mobile Suit development and land on the truly vintage Zaku I (Black Tri-Star Type) bad boy. The Zaku I is quite a rare bird overall, we've seen a version in the Ultimate Operation line (which I am aching to purchase since a long time by the way) but this is the first time it crops up in STANDart. Converge have been commendable in releasing no less than three types so far.

Zeon dominators: High mobility type Black Tri-Star Zaku II (STANDart volume 10, July 2011), the new Black Tri-Star Zaku I and the Rick Dom from STANDart volume 11, released October 2011. Notice the distinct lack of red-painted monoeyes in all versions.
Now, there is one thing you can do to buff up interest in a mobile suit, paint it black, purple and white in the Tri-Star colours and people will flock to it. I am hoping this will be the case for our STANDart figure too, because it really is a great collection piece. I love the asymmetric look of the Zaku I and the many small touches in the paint job is awesome. The only mystifying aspect of this figure is why Bandai have chosen not to give it a bright red monoeye. This follows the same aesthetic as the other Zakus, Goufs, DOMs and what have you, but I always wondered why. The very first STANDart Zaku II (from volume 1) even featured two heads, one with a lit up monoeye and one without, so clearly this is something that has bothered the designers a great deal.

82 : Halfway through the set, as any STANDart veteran knows, this means we're up for the two colour variations of a single mobile suit. Fortunately, for yours truly, Bandai have picked one of my absolute favourite designs. Because barging in on spot eighty-two is the massive RMS-099 Rick Dias (Red Color). You really have to hold this figure in your hand to feel its commanding presence. This is a bulky and sturdy design with a lot of plastic weight behind it. An imposing suit armed to the teeth with a Clay Bazooka and a pair of Beam Pistols stowed on its backpack rack.

The new STANDart Rick Dias (right) compared to the old Ultimate Operation Rick Dias from FWUO Plus 1, released September 2005. Hopefully we can add an Assault Kingdom figure to this comparison shot soon.
Articulation wise, this figure has multiple joints on its arms, reminiscent of an Ultimate Operation figure. Apart from the regular rotating shoulder socket, there are plugs that can spin underneath the shoulder path, twisting the arm left and right, and the wrists are also rotatable. The large bazooka weapon however, means that you won't get that much movement out of the right arm. The head is fixed in place, being a part of the torso mould. The big novelty here is the interchangeable left hands. Apart from the closed fist there is a gripping hand, which you can leave open or attempt to place a Beam Pistol inside. This is only partially successful, because the hand sculpt really isn't made to fit the Beam Pistol. This is the only clear drawback of the figure.

83 : Continuing on to the last figure, unsurprisingly we discover the RMS-099 Rick Dias (Dark Gray Color) in the last slot of the set. I don't know from where Bandai got the idea of dark gray, the figure clearly has a navy blue tone and in the manga it seemed to be pretty much all black. Interestingly the Converge and HCM Pro figure were both blackish, while the old Ultimate Operation figure was also dark blue. And I can't wait to see what the rumoured Assault Kingdom figure will look like. Although both STANDart figures are the same except for the paint job, you can see the alternate hand with a Beam Pistol dangling from its fingers in some of the shots above. It really does not seem that the hands were designed for this purpose, which makes the optional hand even more mysterious. All things considered though, still an awesome figure and I am so please that Bandai stayed true to form and gave us both the black and red versions of the Rick Dias.

Black, blue, gray, whatever you wish to call them, they are still awesome. From left to right: The blue Rick Dias from FWUO Plus 1 (September 2005), the new STANDart Rick Dias and a mighty black Rick Dias from the HCM Pro line, also released in 2005.
So, in conclusion, if this somehow was not immediately clear from the above, STANDart 21 is an absolute corker and the best set to come out of the series since, hmm.... I'd say 17. If you have ever considered going into the STANDart series, now's the time!

Size comparison: The Exia Repair stands about 8.5 cm tall, the Zaku I comes in at about 8 cm and the Rick Dias' fins reach around 10 centimeters.

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