Saturday, 16 August 2014

Mobile Suits Gundam Ultimate Operation 8

Alright, it is time to set the time machine for December 2004, we are about to take a look on the eighth set of the FW Ultimate Operation series. It took me quite some time to finally locate the missing figure and I'm really glad I did, as this set is one of the more awesome ones, in my humble opinion of course.

With just five figures, like many of the later sets, volume 8 stands a good chance of being completed. Especially so when compared to the early sets which can feature twice as many figures. However, I've noticed a distinct scarcity of pretty much all of the figures in the volume. Perhaps not surprising, given how iconic most of them are. The Kämpfer can prove to be a tough nut to crack, as can the Z'Goks. The Gundam and the Gouf aren't particularly easy finds either. However, once they do pop up, they don't seem to command any exceptionally high prices but tend to follow the average. This usually means somewhere between $10 and $25 depending on seller. Patience can be a virtue when it comes to finding FWUO figures.

Anyhow, as you can see, FWUO 8 is very heavy on the Zeon side, and how! Four out of five figures and each and every figure in the set clearly stands out from the others. All of these figures are a true feast for the eye. Let's take a closer look at each one of them.

RX-78NT-1 Alex : The only non-Zeonic figure in this set is the Gundam Alex. Compared to many other Gundams this figure has a sort of clean and simple design that I find quite attractive. It looks utilitarian in the extreme. With a simple BOWA beam rifle, weathered paint application and many decals really make it look like a proper line unit almost like an air force unit. Beautiful detail overall, and a striking paint scheme, though nitpickers will worry about paint bleed in areas such as the left wrist (made you look) and a few other places. Somewhat surprisingly, the signature Gatling guns are not customizable on this figure; you will get it with the left arm-gun extended and the right arm-gun stowed. Articulation features are the typical rotating head, spinning waist and arms rotating both at the shoulder and underneath it. As usual I do not recommend fiddling with the articulation too much, as the joints on FWUO figures tend to get loose quickly.

MS-18E Kämpfer : It is hard to elect a favourite in this set but the Kämpfer sure comes close. Awesome paintjob and sculpt, and the way all its little thrusters are lit up is just excellent. There is so much going on in this sculpt, the true dynamism that only FWUO stands for. Like all Ultimate Operation figures though, the Kämpfer is a bit lacking in the weapons department, carrying only a single shotgun. The articulation in the arms, head and waist follow the basic FWUO standard and in this case does a reasonable job of allowing the mobile suit to grip its shotgun with both hands. You will probably experience some balancing issues with this figure though, as its feet are very small. It won't take much to topple the Kämpfer and this is something I wish Fusion Works would have addressed before releasing this otherwise awesome mobile suit.

MSM-07S Z'Gok (Char's Customized) : The Z'Gok is one of those figures you just know will be featured whenever they invent a new figure line. A true mainstay it is somewhat surprising that it took FW one and a half years to finally include it in the UO line. Here we have it now, in two versions. The first one is the epitome red commander type Z'Gok used by ace pilot Char Aznable. Next to the white RX-78-2 and a green Zaku II this seems to be the third most likely figure to pop up. The figure comes with a total of three claws, two closed and one open. In this case I chose to leave the two closed claws in place as I don't want to fiddle around with the joints too much. Apart from the paint job it shares all other features with the camouflaged version so keep reading below.

MSM-07 Z'Gok (Camouflage) :This mobile suit is a good example of the novelties about the Ultimate Operation line that I miss in the other figure lines we review here on the blog. This striking paint job just oozes character. Bandai released three aquatic units in this colour scheme (the Hy-Gogg and the Gogg being the other two) and I can't wait to find the third to be able to display them together. Just like Char's Z'Gok you get three claws with this figure. An interesting twist is how they chose to display the figures differently in the packaging, look again at the pictures of the packages below, notice how this figure is displayed with the open claw, a nice if somewhat unnecessary touch. Both Z'Goks come with a rotating waist and the arms spin at the shoulder. The eye is painted in place though, which will limit the amount of poses you can get out of these figures.

MS-07H-8 Gouf Flight Type : The last figure in this set was also the last one for me to find. And it is a really cool mobile suit at that. Just look at that awesome paintjob with the smooth weathering and red standout detail. Excellent! The pose is captured as if in mid-flight, but the Gouf still stands up well without any balance issues. You can display the figure with or without the Gatling shield. You remove the right hand and snap the shield into place on the wrist and in the wrist socket (a hand is molded directly onto it). Without the shield you still have the triple barrel wrist gun in place. Articulation is found in a rotating head and waist, as well as arms rotating at the shoulder as well as underneath.


Although I don't have all the relevant figures for a full set of comparisons, we can still take a quick look at some of them here:

Starting with the Z-Gok, there were a total of three of them released in the Ultimate Operation line. Apart from the two figures in this set this figure reappeared with a new colour scheme in the special set known as Mobile Suits Operation Plus - U.C. 0079, one of the last sets ever in the line. It featured reissues of an RX-78-2 and five iconic Zeon units, in this case the Z'Gok in the traditional blue livery that we are so used to seeing in other sets.

Since we are on the topic of Z'Goks, let's just do a quick comparison between the lines. Above you can see one of the two highly detailed Z'Goks from STANDart (volume 9, released March 2011), the FWUO-style variant and lastly the fully articulated Z'Gok from Assault Kingdom (volume 4, released January 2014). Each figure clearly brings its own pros and cons.

Let's also take a look at the three types of Gouf units that were released in FW Ultimate Operation. From left to right are the Gouf Custom from Ultimate Operation volume 2 (released June 2003) and the sword-wielding Gouf from U.C.0079 (which in turn was a reissue of a figure from volume 5, so the figure first appeared in April 2004). Both two early versions featured some colour variations while the Flight Type only ever was released in set 8.

I would have loved to compare the Kämpfer to the one released in the STANDart series, but I suspect it will be quite some time before I (if ever) manage to lay my hands on that elusive figure.

In conclusion, Mobile Suits Gundam volume 8 is a tremendous set; well worth seeking out for all FWUO aficionados. Also remember that these figures display very well together with STANDart and Assault Kingdom and can spice up any such collection.

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