Monday, 22 December 2014

Gundam Converge : Selection V

Converge veterans might remember the Converge 7-11 Selection set which was an exclusive set distributed through 7-11 stores in Japan. The set released in September 2011 and contained a total of six figures, out of which two were exclusive colour variations. Three years later comes the follow up, a new set of five figures aptly referred to as "Selection V". These figures were released in October 2014 -probably as a short run- because they have quickly become scarce and they certainly were not to be found in any of the 7-11 stores I passed through on a recent trip to Osaka this December.

The five figures in Selection V are all reissues of old figures, with a few subtle retouches. I had originally convinced myself that I was not going to pick these up (especially given the nonsense prices online) but my heart melted when I found the full set in a Japanese figure store (and perhaps it was something to cover my frustration on being unable to pick up a Marasai...) where they already commanded a nasty price of almost 7000 yen.

So, in the usual fashion, let's take a look at each individual figure:

The RX-78-2 Gundam is kind of the signature figure for the entire Converge line. Going all the way back to the start of the series, this figure was released as number 01 back in November 2010. The original figure is now very scarce although not too difficult to find if you are prepared to pay the price of admission.

There are a couple of interesting new aspects of this version of the figure. First, we have some new small touches like the model designation on the right shoulder pad and the E.F.S.F. logo on the shield. The shield itself can be pegged onto the figure's left wrist, but unlike pretty much all earlier Converge released, the peg sits on the figure's wrist and not as before, on the shield. I don't know what prompted Bandai to make this switch, if you don't want to equip the shield the figure will end up looking rather silly with a random peg on its arm. Also, some earlier versions of the RX-78-2 had a hole on its backpack where the shield could be stored when not in use, this is also not possible with the Selection V version.

The most interesting feature though, is that the figure comes loaded with a choice of weapon, a beam rifle or a bazooka. Both items are still molded directly onto the right hand, so you'll have to run with either of them. This is a great improvement, as the original figure was only equipped with a beam saber. There was also a "secret" version of the figure which was equipped with the bazooka. Bandai corrects this nonsense by placing both items in the same box, huge bonus point!

Articulation follows the Converge norm, the head can turn, the arms rotate at the shoulder and the right wrist can be rotated in its socket. Although a great version of the RX-78-2, it could have benefitted from the old shield mounts (compare to the RX-78 in the SP03 pack), and why not throw in a beam saber from the most recent version of the figure from Converge 16?

The second figure in the set is also an oldtimer. The RX-77-2 Guncannon was released as figure number 02 also in the very first Converge Volume 1 from November 2010. The figure was since reissued only once, in the Operation Jaburo multipack (released December 2012), which is also not that easy to obtain, so this a fairly different item to get hold off as well.

Again, there have been some minor revisions to the figure itself, we now have a model designation written on its chest, and the Gatling cannons in its helmet have been given a metallic colour instead of the original yellow. Equipment-wise, nothing has changed; the figure retains the same beam rifle as the previous versions. The beam rifle of the Guncannon is plugged into the right hand fist, which allows you to decide if you wish to equip it or not, I wish more Converge items featured this approach. As for articulation, the head sits between the two cannons, but the arms rotate at the shoulder, as does the right hand.

And with the risk of repeating myself, much of what I said about the Guncannon figure can be restated for the RX-75 Guntank. The figure first appeared in Converge Volume 1, as figure number 03, and it has since only been reissued once, in the previously mentioned Operation Jaburo multipack. While the Jaburo version received metallic style arms, this version goes back to the plastic looking grey arms from the original version. The model designation on the figure's chest is new for this version as well.

Due to its shape and form the Guntank features little articulation. Both the torso and the head sit on shaped pegs which prevent any side movement, but the arms rotate at the shoulder.

The last two figures in the set are each components for the modular G-P.A.R.T.S. Gundam support system. The first is a ground vehicle known as the G-Bull, which is a curious mix of tank and mobile suit. You can clearly see the arms and beam rifle of the RX-78-2 Gundam in combination with tank treads and a new body, with a tank front on one side and what resembles an aircraft cockpit in the opposite end.

The G-Bull figure was originally released in Converge Volume 11 in June 2013, and although this reissue is a simple reproduction it features some touching up on the paintwork, the standout recognition feature being the cockpit glass of the aircraft module painted a vibrant blue, where the original release figure was just the same ol' yellow as the rest of the plastic component. It is such a simple touch up but the effect cannot be understated, as this gives the figure an clean face. Articulation is limited to a pair of rotating spine-mounted cannons, but the figure also has another feature up its sleeve, which is described in the entry for the G-Sky below.

The last model featured in Selection V is the G-Sky, also a G-P.A.R.T.S. modular vehicle. Intended as a support fighter for the RX-78-2 Gundam, it is also intended to combine with parts of the mobile suit, although this is not possible in Converge figure line. The G-Sky was originally released in Converge Volume 12 in October 2013. This reissue is mostly identical to the original; its main revision is that the engine exhausts are now painted a nice metallic colour, where the original figure was blue all over. It is a simple yet effective correction that makes the miniature all the more realistic looking, and a very welcome change.

Although the G-Sky has no articulation as such, some parts of it can swap or rotate to alter the appearance, and this is used to construct a third G-P.A.R.T.S. module called the G-Fighter. The G-Fighter is not released as a separate figure, instead you can reuse parts of the G-Bull and the G-Sky to construct it. This is described in more detail in this dedicated blog entry. This reissue is an excellent opportunity for collectors to grab a second pair G-P.A.R.T.S. figures so that the G-Fighter can be displayed together with the G-Bull and the G-Sky.


Since all the figures in Selection V are reissues, a couple of comparisons are in order. The good news are that each figure is easy to tell apart from the earlier edition(s).

Some of the RX-78-2 Gundam figures released so far, from left to right: RX-78-2 from SP03 double-pack with Zeong, released February 2013. Silver-coated RX-78-2 from "Converge Limited" twin-pack with Char's Zaku II, released March 2014. The "Detail Up" RX-78-2 from Converge 16 released September 2014, and the latest RX-78-2 from Selection V.
The RX-77-2 Guncannon from Selection V( right) compared to the earlier figure released in the Operation Jaburo multipack from December 2012 (left). There is also a figure released back in November 2010 in Converge Volume 1 that I do not have available for comparison.
RX-75 Guntank as released in Converge Volume 1, November 2010 (left), with metallic finish on its arms from the Operation Jaburo multipack (December 2012) and the recent Selection V figure (right).
The G-Bull and the G-Sky figures compared with their less detailed earlier counterparts. The first G-Bull appeared in Converge Volume 11 in June 2013, and the first G-Sky appeared in Converge Volume 12 in October 2013.


So is Selection V a good set to pick up? I think it depends on where you are coming from. Although I hadn't expected much from this set I was positively surprised at the small tweaks to the figures which add a couple nice touches and improve a great deal on the original figures. And while Selection V is somewhat of a costly set (which will most likely climb in price as the months go by), this is actually very good value if you want to jumpstart a new collection, as it gives you a very good distribution of E.F.S.F. figures in one go. Remember also that some of the original figures have asking prices much higher than this total set.

For those who already have the figures in their collection, it will be a question of how complete you wish your collection to be. Although there is perhaps not any great incentive to go ahead and grab this lot, I think that if you do you will find them to be reasonable upgrades. If nothing else, grabbing individual figures (if you can find them) would be a good way to fill some of the holes in collections, and for those who mainly purchase figures as complete sets, this is a good opportunity to get a couple of extra G-P.A.R.T.S. figures to build a G-Fighter for display.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Gundam Converge : G-P.A.R.T.S. G-Fighter

I have been meaning to write up this entry for quite some time, and with the recent reissue of these two miniatures in the Selection V set I figured I'd get this out of the way before posting up that review. This will be a closer look into two of the oddities of the Converge line, the two modular combat vehicles known as the G-Bull and the G-Sky. In the Gundam lore these craft are support units for the original RX-78-2 Gundam and can also combine with it.

The two figures were originally covered in the reviews for Converge 11 and Converge 12 respectively.

Converge 68: G-Bull (Converge 11, released in June 2013).

Converge 74: G-Sky (Converge 12, released in October 2013).
These two figures share a little feature which might be easy to overlook if you are not a Japanese speaker. The clue sits on the back of the box and I am sure it is most helpful anyone who can read it. For the rest of us, there are always flashes of enlightenment or stumbling on clues elsewhere. For me, the most obvious clue was the fact that Bandai shipped an extra mid-section piece in the G-Sky box, which indicated something was afoot. However, it was not until I found one of the two G-Fighter models from the FW Ultimate Operation figure line that I decided to give it a try. The FWUO figure will be making several appearances in these photos below for some comparisons.

The idea here is, to take the parts of which the G-Bull and the G-Sky are comprised, and rebuild them into the G-Fighter module. As I had no manual to follow while doing this, this took some fiddling about and random trial and error. Here we have the various parts with which to do the work:

Below you can see my first attempt to put together the G-Fighter. To the left is the FWUO G-Fighter which served as my prototype. It turned out a really simple and clean layout, very faithful to the larger model. However, it wasn't until a while later that I actually came across an official image of what the Converge G-Fighter was supposed to look like.

The first version of the G-Fighter that I put together, using the FWUO model as prototype.
The Bandai design is a lot chunkier, dropping the sleek fighter look for some resembling more of a battleship.

Whichever version of the G-Fighter you prefer to build, it does its part well and can be displayed without coming across as a mere gimmick. So much so, that I would consider using a second pair of figures to be able to display the G-Fighter together with the G-Bull and G-Sky simultaneously.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Gundam Converge SP05 : GP01 Fullburnern vs. GP02 Physalis

Still hot on the shelves, the most recent Converge SP package was released in early December 2014. In this series, we're used to seeing mainly E.F.S.F. Gundams going up against imposing and iconic Zeon machines. In this regard SP05 may cause an eyebrow to raise here and there, because this time around we get two RX-78 variants duking it out with each other.

Gundams GP01 and GP02 are prototypes from the Gundam Development Project, and share many similar features although their appearances are quite different. They come in the typical SP-size box with the various parts separated into four plastic bags. The Shokugan heritage of course honoured by the token chewing gum also inserted into the box. The suggested retail price for this package is 1700 yen.

The two figures are made from the soft and flexible PVC/ABS mix that we've come to meet in later installments of the Gundam Converge product line. This means that assembly is aided by the ability to bend items into place here and there, but it also increases the possibility of parts of the figure being slightly warped. I've seen things like slightly bent torsos, tilting heads, curving beam sabers and feet to name a few examples. Overall though, it is nowhere as bad as the smaller capsule style figures released through the last ten years or so.

The first figure in the pack is the slender RX-78GP01-Fb Fullburnern. Flying the E.F.S.F. colours this machine is also known under the Zephyrantes name, or as Full Vernian, as it comes with large maneuvering thrusters designed for use in space. The colour scheme it sports is very attractive and especially the face markings impress.

As you can see in the parts breakdown assembly is not particularly complicated. Bonus points to Fusion Works and Bandai for including both a Beam Rifle and a Beam Saber as optional equipments. Recent Converge figures are being shipped with these nice semi-transparent sabers that look excellent. As usual, the weapons come with a molded hand onto them, so they will only work as right hand gear. There is also no empty hand to choose from. The shield can be inserted into a whole on the left hand. The figure has standard Converge articulation which translates to a rotating head, arms that spin at the shoulder and a right hand that can be turned in its socket. You can also adjust the angle of the shoulder mounted thrusters by rotating them on their pins. If you have experience with any Converge Gundams you will pretty much know what to expect.

Now, the second figure in the box is the truly unusual one. The massive RX-78GP02A Physalis with its bulky frame looks like nothing released before in Converge. Playing the role of antagonist, this E.F.S.F. prototype is stolen and fielded by Zeon remnants from the Delaz Fleet. It comes armed to the teeth with a monstrous Atomic Bazooka loaded with a nuclear projectile.

Design wise, this model is a bit more complex than the Zephyrantes. It features a slightly larger parts count, with some optional features for the bazooka weapon. The bazooka weapon can actually be separated into three pieces; the tube comes apart at the midsection joint, and the ammunition cartridge can be removed and replaced with the alternate piece which allows for the weapon to be stored (I should probably have illustrated this above...).

Just like the Zephyrantes, the Physalis is given an optional beam saber weapon to wield. The really nice touch about this figure though, is that the Atomic Bazooka can be stowed on the figures right shoulder, by replacing the ammunition cartridge with the optional piece that can be slotted into a hole on the back of the shoulder. The shield mounting for this figure also differs from the great majority of Converge figures. Rather than pegging the shield into the figure's left arm, the GP02 has a left hand with a large peg on it, where the shield assembly is attached. This gives the appearance that the shield is being held in a firm grip and pointing toward the enemy. The downside to this is of course that the shield is not really an optional, since the hand will look weird when the shield is not attached. The figure features the same articulation points as described for the GP01.

It is also worth pointing out that the two Gundams can switch weapons with each other. Their hands look similar enough to allow for the rearming of the GP01 with the Bazooka, and the GP02 with the Beam Rifle. The same holds of course for the two beam sabers.

There are a couple of figures from the Gundam Development Program which have already been released in Converge. The photo above shows the current GP-family, from left to right: RX-78GP01 Zephyranthes (Converge volume 8, released in October 2012), RX-78GP03S Stamen (Converge volume 13, December 2013) and the two new figures from SP05.

Overall I think the SP05 set is quite nice. The two figures look excellent and the ability to fiddle with their weapons is always welcome. While not essential or anything I think they will be a benefit to most collections out there.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Gundam STANDart volume 10

While waiting for the various December shokugan releases -which have now begun appearing in the market- to appear, we'll continue down memory lane for a look of one of the great STANDart sets of yesteryear, volume ten to be specific. Although three sets of STANDart figures were released in 2014, the future does look a bit pale in comparison to the rapidly expanding Assault Kingdom and Converge lines. With the last regular set (number 21) released back in August we still haven't had any indication from Bandai that they are even working on a volume 22. Instead they have been focusing on putting together a pair of expensive "limited" STANDart figures, the second of which (a Sinanju) is planned for release now in December. Apart from the fact that these limited figures are very pricey I don't even know if they will match the "scale" of the other STANDart figures so I have been skipping on them so far.

STANDart volume ten though, is a classic figure set with everything you've come to expect from the series. Four figures, two of which are variants of the same basic mobile suit, gathered from all over the Gundam timelines. Volume ten released in July 2011 and the figures in this set are all quite rare at this point. You'll need to keep both eyes peeled if are still looking to complete the set.

36 : The set-starter is the GNT-0000 00 Qan[T], a splendid looking machine with lovely tones of light blue and transparent cyan. This figure lives up to the high detail level of the STANDart series. As usual for STANDart though, the pose is quite rigid. The articulation is bog-standard for STANDart, which translates to arms rotating at the shoulder, a head that can turn to the left and right, as well as the possibility to rotate the weapon hand in its socket. The unusual shield arrangement, where the large shield sits on a peg which extends from the right shoulder also allows for some slight tilting of the shield's position.

Although the gundam has rather small feet it experienced no balance issues, even though the feet on my figure are bent slightly inwards (something that can probably be adjusted with a warm water treatment). Overall a very fine entry into the series that stands out nicely among the other Gundams released so far.

37 : Next in line is the MSZ-006C1 Zeta Plus C1. Now, whenever I see the word Zeta in a figure name, I have an expectation that it will be something of the badass variety, and the Zeta Plus delivers in spades in this regard. Just look at that brutal design. A toned down gray base colour with some stand out details in white and blue. This colour scheme is nicely carried over to its massive Beam Smart Gun as well, this screams of a functional machine bred for war.

Due to the figures stylished pose, with the right arm extended out, articulation becomes rather irrelevant for this figure. However, it still exhibits the traditional rotating arms, head and righthand wrist, so I suppose you can fiddle around with it a little bit, thought it feels somehwat superfluous in this case. Bandai saw it fit to include a small transparent support which can be placed underneath the Zetas large dorsal fin. My figure experienced no balance issues thought, so the support remains in the box. As with most Zetas, this one has a commanding presence and should be a given in your STANDart collection.

38 : At slot 38 we find one of the true evergreens of Gundam fame; the MS-06R-1A Zaku II (Black Tristar Custom). It seems that much like Char, the Black Tri-stars enjoy an immense popularity which also shows in the way their mobile suits tend to pop up in so many figure and kit series. This is one of the few to have been released in all figure series currently featured by the Gundanium blog.

The figure itself shares a great deal of features with the standard Zaku II, from which it differs a bit in appearance and equipment. As usual, articulation is limited to the shoulders and the right wrist, though with this large bazooka you won't be able to tilt its position much. Thankfully Bandai somehow resisted the urge of making a triple-set and instead chose to release machine #06 (Ortega's I believe). It also wouldn't have been that difficult for them to throw in a pair of extra shoulder pads with number 02 and 03 on them, as well as an alternate commander type helmet (they did something similar with the Zaku II featured in volume 02). In the end they decided not to, and my wallet lets out a sigh of relief.

39 : The last figure in the set is something of a novelty. As is customary with STANDart we are given a second version of the third figure but Bandai took things a step further this time. The MS-06R-1A Zaku II (Shin Matsunaga's Custom) is in most respects a colour variation of the Tri-star Zaku II, except that Bandai here saw it fit to give the figure a left-handed disposition to correspond with its ace pilot Shin Matsunaga, the White Wolf of Solomon.

This is the only truly left-handed mobile suit that I have encountered thus far. The absolute majority of Matsunaga-kits and equips I have seen of this figure though, place whatever weapon he is carrying in the right.hand. This makes the STANDart version even more of a curiosity (would be interesting to hear some thoughts on this subject). And left- or right-handed, this Zaku II looks decidedly awesome.


If you've been following this blog you'll recognize most of the comparisons below, which just goes to show how many interesting relations can be found between the STANDart 10 figures and their counterparts in other similar figure sets.

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.

Massive Zetas, from left to right: The MSZ-006 Z Gundam (with Z-logo on the shield) from STANDart 4 released March 2009 (volume 4 also features a colour variation, the white and purple Z Gundam Type-3). Next up is the MSZ-006C1 Zeta Plus C1 from volume 10 which was released in July 2011. March 2013 saw a reissue of the MSZ-006 Z Gundam in STANDart volume 16 (this time with an A.E.U.G. logo on the shield). And finally we are at the MSZ-006A1 Zeta Plus A1, released in STANDart 19 in January 2014.

The Zeta Plus (far right) with some of its distant cousins also developed in the Zeta Project, from left to right: The MSN-00100 Hyaku-Shiki from STANDart volume 2 (released in June 2008), its predecessor, the MSN-001 Delta Gundam (STANDart volume 14, July 2012) and the MSN-001A1 Delta Plus from volume 8, released in December 2010.

High Mobility Zaku II:s in Tri-Star colours as depicted in various figure series, from left to right: STANDart volume 10, one of the three figures from the Assault Kingdom EX 02 set (released in July 2013) and lastly one of the two figures featured in the ol' Ultimate Operation series (released way back in June 2004).

High Mobility Zaku II's in STANDart, from left to right: The Black Tristar Custom MS-06R-1A Type (STANDart 10, released July 2011), ace pilot Johnny Ridden's MS-06R2 (STANDart 16, released January 2013) and another MS-06R-1A Zaku II from set 10, this time Shin Matsunaga's Custom


If this hasn't been obvious thus far, let me again point out that I find STANDart volume ten an excellent entry into the series, all the figures in the set well worth seeking out. If you are still looking for figures released in this set, prices online might be something of a cold shower. Here's a tip for the U.S. collectors; check with Ofuda Imports, they've had this set available for quite modest prices. Other than that keep looking for the rare eBay bargain, though you'll probably have more look on the second-hand market in Japan, as in, physically going there and turning over rocks and stones.

STANDart volume 10 size comparisons: The QAN[T] is approximately 9 centimeters tall (tip of shield), the Zeta Plus comes in at 12 cm (tip of Beam Smart Gun) and the two Zaku IIs at about 8,5 centimeters.