Monday, 13 October 2014

Gundam Converge vol. 16

Gundam Converge, released in September 16 -but announced several months earlier- has had me feel like I have been waiting for it forever to arrive. The reason behind this was that I was both curious and suspicious about the fact that suddenly Bandai started reissuing old Mobile Suits. Was this set to be the water breaker from which they'd cheaply start reissuing figures forcing those of us who buy full sets getting loaded with junk we did not care about. Or would the reissues shine in excellence deflating the second hand market of the original versions? And might they perhaps even be so much improved upon that we'd embrace them willingly? As I said, I had my doubts. Anyway, Converge 16 is finally here at HQ, so let's dig into it!

Well, everything looks pretty conventional so far. Upon first inspection I did notice the absence of the classic Bandai chewing gum normally plonked into each box. I know these tend to be absent on export versions going to North America (whose boxes are also often molested with big safety warning stickers more or less ruining them from a collector point of view, it's a dangerous world out there...) but this was the first time I received a Converge set from Hong Kong which also did not feature the Shokugan gums.

Once I had gone through all the figures and assembled them there were a couple of small surprises along the way. Nothing earth-shattering or so, but enough to pique my interest a bit extra and nod approvingly.

Let's break down each figure in the classic GG way:

94 : GX-9900 Gundam X. if you know Converge, you know that opening each set with a high-profile Gundam is the order of the day. Now, with a long running series such as Converge, this means we can offer these slots to not only the usual suspects, but also let figures from lesser known series step up into the spotlight. Starting off volume sixteen is the white and navy blue Gundam X with its peculiar asymmetric solar panels that feed energy to its Satellite Cannon weapon.

The figure looks like it means business, and although it shares many features with the countless other white Gundams before it, is still a nice entry into your ever expanding collection. It features the usual articulation which means that head, arms and right hand wrist all sit on rotating pegs which offer some minor tweaking of the figure's pose. The Gundam is armed with two weapons, the two coloured Buster Shield Rifle which goes into the right hand, and the Satellite Cannon itself which is pegged into the solar array on the backpack. One commendable feature is that you can arm the X with the Satellite Cannon as well, although it sits kind of loose in the hand this is a very nice touch.

95 : The second Gundam in this set is the ARX-014 Silver Bullet (Gael Chan Use). It comes in no less than two plastic bags with a myraid of very tiny parts (the type that you can expect to see missing on many second hand items in the future...), but they are mostly decorational only, and the completed figure somehow seems less complex than the multiple parts bags indicated.

The Silver Bullet in its grey colour scheme reminds me of such Mobile Suits as the Delta and Zeta Plus, with many fine and pointy details. It is a magnificent little piece of engineering that you need to keep safe from bending, so don't store this in a careless way (and if you do, disassemble it first and place the pieces in a ziplock bag). Equipment-wise, there's not a whole lot going on, as this figure only sports a small Jegan-Type Beam Rifle. It also features the traditional head-shoulders-righthand wrist articulation which is par for the course.

96 : AMX-107 Bawoo (Glemy Toto Use). This was for me the anticipated highlight in the set. I love it when Bandai take the time and effort to dig up the more unusual Zeon figures to flesh out the sets. Everybody loves the Zakus, Goufs and the Sazabi, but there is so much more out there. The Bawoo for example, here in the red version of ace pilot Glemy Toto, is just such a figure. It has a distinct and menacing appearance with the iconic monoeye and a strong colour scheme.

There are, as evident in the photos, some minor issues with parts prone to slight bending. This is a property the Bawoo shares with many of the newer figures, as the plastic appears more rubbery and elastic than what was used in older figures. As for articulation, the figure is a bit static, primarily owing to the fact that the head has a tall horn which extends to in between the backpack thrusters, giving it a very discreet wiggle from side to side only. The arms rotate at the shoulder as per usual, and the right hand and shield are also on circular pegs enabling some mild variation in them. Overall an excellent display figure that will add to any Neo Zeon formation.

97 : MA-04X Zakrello. The stand-out oddity of volume 16 has to be the Zakrello. Apparently an early type of Mobile Suit primarily suited for melee action it certainly looks the part, but the first thing that comes to my mind when I see it is that bouncy Gundam mascot Haro...

It is always fun when they shake up the Converge series with unconventional figures like this one, and it poses really well on its clear stand. In terms of articulation, the Zakrello offers arms that rotate at the shoulder, and you can twist the blades around in their wrist sockets. The sculpt is really excellent for this figure, especially the insect-style eyes and the tiny little carved out Zeon logo which sits like a bull's-eye on its forehead. Job well done, Bandai!

98 : RX-78-2 Gundam (Detail Up Ver.). This is the figure that I had my deepest doubts about. Not only because I am a bit tired of RX-78:s but because this figure is also the first of, I suspect more, improved mold reissues of old figures. It seems Bandai has a habit of releasing the same old figures again and again, in new figure series, rather than going the extra mile to flesh out the selection of the existing figure series (come on Bandai, don't waste space on reissues, give us a Messala, a Gabthley, Geara Doga or Palace Athene, anything, something new).

So, here is the much toted "Detail Up" version of the RX-78-2. The figure has a more greyish-white base colour compared to the old RX-78 and has more details than the original. The new RX-78 features a new look to its face, shorter V-Fins, better looking Beam Sabers, small things like that. The torso and the legs are now separate pieces, but the joint is a shaped peg so there will be no new articulation here if you were hoping for that. Another of the more noticeable changes is the improved shield which now also has a see-through viewport, and you can now place it on either arm (which seems kind of pointless as the right hand is still the only weapon hand) or peg it onto the backpack. All things considered, I'd still say these are minor improvements only, not likely to cause much of a ruckus.

An RXetrospective, displaying some of the past RX-78:s released in Converge. From left to right: A classic white RX-78 from Converge volume 4 (released September 2011), the limited edition metallic style RX-78 released in a double pack with Char's Zaku II in March 2014, yet another double pack version of the RX-78 in Ground Type colours from the Art of Gundam twin-pack (July 2014) and lastly the new Detail Up version.

The best thing about this figure is that Bandai have seen it fit to give the figure optional equipment in the form of both a Beam Rifle and a glowing red Beam Saber. You might recall in the recent review of the Blue Destiny unit which had two separate figures, one with a beam rifle and one with a saber, so Bandai are clearly going in the right direction with offering alternate weapons loadouts within the same box. Now imagine if they'd also tossed in an upgraded Bazooka! There is something about the overall touch and feel of the new figure though, which makes it feel more rubbery, softer, more able to deform, than the more rigid material of the earlier figures. I've sort of noticed this recent trend in Converge figures, they seem to be made of a softer plastic compound that is prone to bending. In my opinion this is not an improvement since figures tend to be more and more unsteady on their feet and sometimes they will lean to one side or the other. ll things considered, the new RX-78-2 is a fine figure, but I am not really looking forward to more reissues of this kind.

31R : MS-06S Zaku II (Char's Custom). I'm starting to feel like I've done nothing but assembling Zaku II:s this year. This is the fourth one I have added to the collection in 2014, and the third red one. It is also highly important in that it is the first item to be featured in the Revival Selection of reissues (there will be a Zaku I to follow in Converge volume 17 and I predict several more) of old hard-to-find figures. I would imagine Bandai have paid attention to the results from the old Operation Revive competition where users got to vote on which figures they'd like to see released again (refer to the Operation Revive review for more information). And in spite of all the recent Zaku II:s that have appeared, this is a really good choice, as the original figure is one of the most difficult to find. Up until this point it almost never appeared online (it will be interesting to see if the relaunch will change this as I'm still hunting for a copy just because...).

As you can see in the image, the reissued figure has a small Revival Selection logo on the box which makes it easy to tell the original figure and the reissue apart. Unfortunately as I do not have the old figure I cannot comment too much on how it may have changed, if there is any colour variation in its basic paint job (Bandai sometimes alter the base colours on reissues slightly, although they did not do so on the figures in the Operation Revive set) or so.

Some of the Zaku II:s released in Converge over the years. Fromn left to right: Char's Zaku II released with the Dengeki Hobby magazine in August 2011, Garma's custom Zaku II with Heat Hawk weapon (the secret figure from Converge volume 5, released November 2011), Char's metallic coated Zaku II from a limited twin-pack released in March 2014 and the new Revival Selection version of the Zaku II.
But I will say this: I was very surprised to see that Char gets both the old Bazooka and the Heat Hawk weapon. I have never seen an axe-wielding Converge 31 before, but it was the sole equipment of the secret version of the figure (Garma's Custom). Could it be that Bandai saw fit to give the reissue an extra weapon? If so, this is truly amazing! We will know for sure once volume 17 hits the market, as I have both the original Zaku I and the secret Black Tri-Star version which comes loaded with additional equipment. Now if the reissue of the Zaku I will be upgunned in this fashion this bodes very well for the Revival Selection figures; enough so to make me actually want to collect them.

Char Twins. The original issue, figure number 31, is to the left, and the reissue (figure 31R) is on the right.
EDIT: A while after this review was posted I was able to pick up the original version of this figure in an unopened package, and can confirm the following: One; the original figure comes equipped with the bazooka only, and two; there is a very subtle colour difference between the two, with the original slightly less pink but unless you hold the two figures close to each other you would not notice this. The camera can't distinguish between the two either.

Secret : AMX-107 Bawoo (Mass Production version). The secret figure in this set throws in some nice green Zeon colour into the set. I was very pleased to see that the secret version in this set was not only Zeon, but also a grunt type unit. I wouldn't try to army build in Converge, but if you like to, now is your window of opportunity before the figure turns ultra rare.

The secret version differs to the standard version in colour scheme only, coming with the same shield and beam rifle. A nice touch is that not only is the body now green instead of read, but the areas on the torso and shield which are black on the standard figure are now tweaked into a dark green which looks great. Another twist is that the secret figure has a pink monoeye, where the standard figure featured a green one. As you can see in the pictures, the beam rifle on my figure has a slight bend. This is type of bend that seems to be more common in the newer figures in the series, it should be fixable with a hot water cure though (out the rifle under warm water, this will soften the material allowing you to bend it into shape, then apply cold water to fix in place again).

All in all, Converge volume sixteen came out much better than I had at first suspected. It didn't feel half-baked as I had first feared, and there was not a single disappointing figure in the set. The fact that three of the figures also came with optional weapons is a definite plus and I can only hope we get to see more of this in the future.

1 comment: