Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Gundam Converge EX 07 : RX78GP03 Dendrobium

The Dendrobium, one of the huge and quirky looking weapon platforms featured in the Stardust Memory storyline is the largest monstrosity we have yet seen in Converge. Released as a premium style figure in November 2015 with a suggested price tag of ¥3200, it narrowly beats the older six figure Operation Revive premium set by 200 yen, making it the priciest figure in the line to date. And although we have seen some rather large EX-series figures before, nothing compares to this behemoth.

The Dendrobium also stands out from its Converge brethren in that the almost all platform parts are made of traditional rigid and hard plastic of the non-bendable type that you normally see in model kits, unlike your common Converge figure which has a softer almost oily feel to it.

Even the box itself is quite large and is seriously moving out of the zone with which you typically associate candy toys. And speaking of candy, there was no chewing gum in this package. This is something we've seen before on export versions of Converge. This particular box hails from Hong Kong and was distributed by the local Bandai Namco Asia company there.

In the box we find four plastic bags and a decent (Japanese only of course) assembly instruction.

Before we assemble the Orchis, the huge weapons platform, we will start by taking a closer look at the attached mobile suit figure.

RX-78GP03S Gundam GP-03 "Stamen" : The Gundam GP03, a.k.a. Stamen sits at the heart of the Dendrobium weapons platform system, surrounded by the large unmanned Orchis unit. Related to the GP01 and GP02, the Stamen is easily identified by its large hip-mounted wing binders, which allow for extra thrust and maneuverability.

The GP03 comes with a respectable equipment selection for a Converge figure. We are getting a basic beam rifle as well as two folding bazookas and a shield. Best of all is how all weapons are modular and can be attached to the suits hands at will. This is something I would have liked to have seen on the pricy Converge CORE figures as well. Notice also the two gray rings that function as the mobile suit's neck. When attached to the Orchis mobile armor the alternate neck piece is used to allow for the figure to fit in better.

The Gundam GP03 as it appeared in Converge Volume 13 (left), and with improved features in EX 07 (right).
We have actually encountered the Stamen in Converge once before. It originally appeared as a basic figure in Converge Volume 13 as number 77. The figure included with the EX 07 is vastly improved, not only by the addition of extra accessories, but the figure also has a more toned down white body colour and some nice decals on its shoulders (and if Bandai had made a CORE figure out of the GP03, you can be sure we would have gotten the colour changes and decals, but not the extra weapons...).

Dendrobium Stamen Configurations

The EX 07 figure has two optional display choices for the full mobile armor. They are really only minor variations on the same theme, but are entertaining to play around with none the less.

The first mode sees the GP03 Gundam being partially concealed wihtin the main fuselage of the Orchis weapons platform which locks the figure neatly in place.

As you can clearly see, the Dendrobium is huuuge. Still, I must confess it looks and feels much better than I had expected. The material used for the mobile armor is very easy to assemble, without any of the convoluted parts manipulation required for some of the more recent extra large Converge figures. Still, there is also something of the Converge soul lost in the process.

While the two large doors covering the multi-compartment weapon bays don't move, they can be attached in either fully opened or closed mode. In addition, two of the weapon systems (a three tube missile launcher and a micro missile array) can be extended from their compartments, which would be a really nice touch if the damned things would stay in place. Unless there is some gimmicky way of locking these pieces in place that I have yet to discover, these two weapons will just fall straight out of their sockets. Incidentally, that is also why they are drooping toward the ground in the photos. I do hope this is a massive oversight on my part, because otherwise you'd need to modify them somehow. Not exactly something we are used to with Bandai and FW precision models.

Another two optional weapons are included in the set. One is a weird wire-like thingamy (sorry, not up to speed on that one) which extends from one of two optional sockets on the Orchis frame, and the other a really nice translucent beam saber. The saber has a peg which lets it attach steadily into either of the two claw-like manipulators. These claws can open and close, and can also swivel a little, which is a nice touch.

The optional display mode for the Dendrobium Stamen is to have the GP03 Gundam crawl out of its innards and pose menacingly on top of the hull. To do this we first transform the actual mobile suit mini back to regular Converge configuration and then attach the clear leg locking piece to the spine of the Orchis.

This mechanic is a simple and effective solution which allows you to clip the mobile suit steadily to the Orchis without having to worry about it falling off at the slightest vibration, which would have been the case otherwise. It also allows for more aggressive poses with arms extended forward without toppling the mobile suit.

Overall I must say I am quite impressed with the Dendrobium package. The model is a reasonable compromise of size, price and functionality, and the new GP03 Gundam figure is a marked improvement over the existing one. In the end though, due to its size and general non-Converge style, I have a feeling the Orchis weapons platform will be disassembled and stored back into its box, while the GP03 figure will be the one going on actual display (just like some of the previous EX figure before it).

Monday, 28 December 2015

Gundam Converge CORE 003 : Earth Federation Space Force

After a bit of a hiatus Converge is exploding back into action as the end of 2015 is rapidly approaching. In recent weeks we have seen three different releases being pumped out, this being the second of them, and perhaps the least novel. We're looking at CORE 003, the third installment in the Converge Re-definition series. Thus far, CORE has been bringing back old Converge high-profile Mobile Suits and made some minor changes to their looks, adding more detail or colour alterations.

CORE 003 focuses on the classic vintage E.F.S.F. team from the granddaddy Mobile Suit Gundam television series that started it all. The set released as a special triple pack at a suggested price of ¥2500, making it a both pricier than its two CORE predecessors (as in total price) yet also improving the mobile suit per yen-ratio. CORE 003 also appears to have entered general distribution, whereas the previous figures were Bandai web shop exclusives. My box which came out of Hong Kong even had a Bandai Namco Asia subsidiary sticker applied to it.

Another thing which has changed from CORE 001 and 002 is that we now have classic Gundam Converge-style packaging as opposed to a tiny box plonked into an oversized, dull, brown cardboard box (see the previous reviews). I doubt we will see a return of that dreaded thing (if there will ever be any more CORE sets announced after number four).

If you have been with Gundam Converge for a while, chances are you will recognize most everything that this set has to offer. All the figures in this set have been released several times over, and you will feel instantly familiar with the components for the various figures if you have ever built them before.

As you can see, there's not a whole lot going on in the assembly department. These figures are tried and tested ever since the first Converge release saw the light of day five years ago in November 2011. Therefore it will also not be a great deal to say about them here.

RX-77-2 Guncannon : The first figure in the box, and in my opinion also the one which has benefitted the most from this release, is the Guncannon, the Gundam's trusted ol' sidekick. You are getting the same old model here, now for the fourth time, with some minor tweaks to its paintjob.

The CORE 003 Guncannon (far right) together with its predecessors from the Operation Jaburo box set (far left) and the Selection V set (center). There is also a vintage figure from Converge Volume 1 which is not yet in our armory which is best described as a something in between of the previous two versions.
The eye-catching white stripes that immediately set it apart from the previous versions are also accompanied by some more subtle tweaks, such as its darker red base colour. Considering that the Unit 108 emblem was attached to the 7-11 limited figure from last year, it would have been a nice touch if they put 109 on this unit instead The yellow colour is back on the beam rifle sight, which was inexplicably omitted on said 7-11 version. Over all, this is how it often feels with all the re-releases of Converge figures, fixing one problem yet introducing another. As for the CORE 003 versions though, they feel like they are getting everything just right (as long as you don't have a problem with the excessive striping on them, which seems to be a thing done for its own sake).

RX-78-2 Gundam : Depending on how you do your counting, the Gundam is now making its sixteenth appearance in Converge. Subtract the G-3 and the Prototype RX-78-1 versions we are down to 12. Drop the silver and gold figures and the Realtype colour versions and we are now at eight. So, chances are you've seen this guy around a couple of times already.

The CORE 003 Gundam hanging out with some of its previous Converge incarnations.
The New RX-78-2 figure, is still basically the same five year old figure in its most basic form. While it does add a lot of tiny text on its shoulder armor, as well as some seemingly random white striping and a pair of panel-lined feet, the mold hasn't seen any upgrades. The shield still does not have a see through section (like on more modern versions of the figure like the RX-78-1 and the Detail Up version), the head still leans down toward the left shoulder, and we are not getting any alternative weapon load out, not even the existing bazooka. A nice enough figure, but far from stellar.

RX-75 Guntank : This cute little hybrid prototype vehicle, which usually appears teamed up with the Guncannon, has also followed the Guncannon faithfully through the Converge history. The two have always appeared in the same product sets, seemingly inseparable.

Converge Guntank family, in order of appearance: The basic figure from Converge Volume 1, the shiny metallic limbed version from the Operation Jaburo boxset, the named figure from the Selection V limited edition set and finally the new CORE 003 figure.
Looking back on the various Guntank versions we have seen in Converge, this figure has never been one to display and significant differences. The CORE release mainly tweaks the base colours and adds a couple of white stripes for the hell of it. While the Guntank is a logical inclusion in a MSG combo pack, even Fusion Works clearly couldn't come up with much to alter in it.


As I think the pictures above speak clearly, Converge CORE 003 is not exactly reinventing anything in the Converge figure line. Both CORE 001 and 002 were fairly unimpressive in this regard as well, but at least here the price has been lowered a bit to reflect that. Still, at more than ¥800 per piece (which multiplies nicely for the foreign market, expect to pay somewhere around $25 to $45 for this set) they are even twice as expensive as the regular figures, with just a few stripes to show for it.

Ultimately, CORE 003 is a great way for recent collectors to get their hands on three iconic Converge figures, which are all now very difficult to obtain, and with the recent revivals of both the GM and the Ball, stand a good chance of building a nice Earth federation line-up. More seasoned collectors with one or more variations of these minis already in hand, will probably want to give this one a pass unless you happen to be completists.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Gundam STANDart volume 4

STANDart volume four was released in March 2009 and focuses on mobile suits from the Gundam Zeta era. Sadly, all of these figures are now quite rare, practically almost only showing up in Japanese second-hand shops at this point. And when you manage to do find them you can bet on them typically being sold as complete sets of 4. They've come a long way from the Bandai ¥660 list price by now, although none of these belong among the most sought after STANDart figures. Expect figures in this set to show up at around ¥1500-3500 or so.

Being one of the early generations of STANDart figures, the figures of volume 4 all come in those original oversize boxes where all parts fit into their own slots, which makes storage easy if wasting previous space at the same time. The figures also contain the nice collector cards wrapped in plastic together with a piece of Bandai shokugan style-gum (same type as used for Converge).

As you can see from the box photos, there aren't very many pieces that need to be assembled. Some pieces fit better than others. You normally do not want to touch the wing binders on the Zetas as they are often ready to fly off very easily. Notice that the Dijeh figure comes with a small white support piece to clip around its foot, although I needed not use it since I encountered no balance problems with this particular lot.

014 : The most iconic figure in this lot is of course the MSZ-006 Z Gundam. This figure is the most detailed version of the 1/220 scale Zetas I have encountered and has a lot of nicely painted little details and logos. The figure has the typical for STANDart articulated arms that can rotate at the shoulder. I am not entirely sure if it can also turn its head, I didn't dare to pull hard enough to find out...

MSZ-006 Z Gundam from STANDart volume 4 (left) and STANDart volume 16 (right).

Zeta 1/220 scale family, from left to right: The reissued Z Gundam (A.E.U.G. logo) from STANDart volume 16 (released January 2013), one of the two different Zetas from FW Ultimate Operation (this one from set FWUO Plus, released September 2005), the Assault Kingdom Z Gundam (AK6, released September 2014) and lastly the Z Gundam (Z logo) from STANDart volume 4.

An interesting thing about the Z Gundam is that it is one of a very few STANDart figures to have been re-released. It is not a straight reissue as such, but a revised figure featuring E.F.S.F. and A.E.U.G. logotypes (as opposed to the base Z logo on the original figure) and the reissue also has some watered down detail and paint job although it still looks very good. Overall, the Zeta is a brilliant looking figure, especially for its size, and well worth hunting for.

015 : The MSZ-006-3 Z Gundam Type-3, or rather, Type 3A (or Third Zeta, or White Zeta... there are many names floating about), is a bit of an oddity. The design featured in a short film called Gundam Neo Experience 0087: Green Divers, or Green Divers for short. The machine is supposed to be the third Zeta prototype and intended for the personal use of Amuro Ray, hence its big A splash on the shoulder pad (although the entire colour scheme does seem to lend itself well to some anarchistic reclaim the city graffiti-stunt...).

STANDart Z Gundam legacy, from left to right: The Zeta (Z logo) and the Type 3A Zeta from STANDart volume 4, followed by the gray MSZ-006C1 Zeta Plus C1 from STANDart volume 10 (released in July 2011), the re-release of the Zeta (A.E.U.G. logo) from volume 16 (January 2013) and the Karaba Airforce MSZ-006A1 Zeta Plus A1, again in Amuro's personal colours (STANDart volume 19, released January 2014).
Unsurprisingly the two Z Gundam figures are similar in design and feature only different colours. While it is definitely less slick than the original figure the colour scheme works quite well and can break up the monotony on the shelf a little.

016 : Another oddity from the Karaba team is the MSK-008 Dijeh. It is a rather ungainly sight, mostly resembling a pig with butterfly wings. Although it is supposed to be a redevelopment of the successful RMS-099 Rick Dias design, its Gelgoog heritage seems rather obvious, a testament to those ex-Zeonic designers on the Karaba development team.

The design of the Dijeh can be traced to the Principality of Zeon's Gelgoog and A.E.U.G.'s second generation Rick Dias. The design culminated in a badass MSV (official Mobile Suit Variation) known as the Dijeh SE-R. Now that's a figure I would have loved to see in the STANDart armory. All images taken from the Gundam Wiki (and are not to scale).
The Dijeh comes armed with the same type of clay bazooka that we've seen the Rick Dias and Hyaku-Shiki using, and also features a Zeonic style Beam Naginata weapon stowed on the back of it s skirt. Sadly there is no alternative Beam Naginata for the figure to wield, which feels like a missed opportunity. In spite of the outlandish appearance of this figure, the STANDart figure still appears to be quite popular and its price is higher than I would have expected.

017 : The last mobile suit in this set is the RMS-117 Galbaldy-Beta, the only non-ace mass-produced mobile suit of the four. Of course, following the basic reverse-logic of Gundam collectibles, this is of course also the figure in this set that appears to be the most difficult to find. Although flying the Titans flag, the purple Galbaldy-Betas featured in Zeta Gundam belonged to a regular Earth Federation unit (though its pilots were later promoted to Titans service).

Even the Zeta Gundam television series seemed to have issues deciding what colour the Galbaldy actually sports.
There are some quirks with the look of the STANDart Galbaldy-Beta. Most notably the Titans logos on the shield seem misplaced. I can't recall having seen these markings anywhere else than on this particular STANDart figure. The base colour also feels a bit red in comparison to its appearance on the show (where it seems to fluctuate between various shades of reddish-purple). These are minor niggles but I still feel that they are a bit distracting. Overall though, a "necessary" collection item as far as I am concerned.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Converge vol. 20 update

The review of Converge Volume 20 has finally been completed with details about the possible figure conversions.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Massive Converge News...

After a rather long quiet Bandai decided to shellshock us with announcements of three up and coming Converge releases. And what release they are! The Converge Reboot can now be considered a fact, there will be no volume 21, instead the new volume #02 is announced. At first look it seems a bit hit and miss. I see 50% old figures (although slightly revamped) but I am wiling to forget all that because finally the Gaplant is coming, and putting a very evil titanic grin on my face in the process! The TR-5 and Barbatos are only icing on that cake. Two variants of Char's Zaku II does seem a bit over the top though, especially since we only just had a Revival figure.

The EX series also continues to expand with a pair of all-in figures, showing similarities to the recent Knight/Musha twin release. The EX09 figure also comes with the 5 year anniversary logo on the promo material.

All three releases are scheduled for March 2016, so start saving up your pennies already, it will be an expensive Converge month!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Gundam Converge vol. 20

Jubilee time! Converge has hit volume 20. Not that this was celebrated by Bandai or Fusion Works in any particular way. The latest incarnation of the series instead continues digging deep into the Gundam history and finding a number of less common designs. The set contains six new figures plus the traditional hidden seventh variation figure, and this time there are also no Revive figures brought back from previous installments.

Most of this review has been ready to go for quite some time now, but the coverage is not fully complete. Although this review will dig in to the respective figures as usual, there is also a parts conversion project to undertake, which has been held back by... bad weather! Shokugan uses daylight for all photography, and we are stuck in the middle of a dark autumn where it has been in rather short supply as of late. The blog entry will be completed once some favourable light conditions enable that photo set to be completed.

Converge 20 is really a rag-tag band of misfits with mobile suits brought in from all over the place. The set was released in late September 2015 and is the last regular figure set of the year. So far there has still been no volume 21 announced, instead we can prepare for more CORE figures as well as the up and coming Converge Reboot (see our separate article about the reboot here). Volume 20 seems likely to be the very last figure set in this line.

There are a couple of less apparent news in the boxes of volume 20 as well. The old plastic bags have been replaced by newtypes which are more see-through and less oily to the touch than the Converge oldtype bags. There is something unusual about the transparent figure support pieces as well, as they look a bit different as well. The last and more humorous oddity is that several figures have been inserted into the bags with their arms raised above their heads, in some weird Hulk Smash-posture.

Right... on to the figures.

114 : First out is the BG-011B Build Burning Gundam, which is a custom build from the Gundam Build Fighters Try anime. Here both kids and adults battle in a Gundam world tour pitting people's custom built toys against each other in a sort of virtual reality environment generated by mysterious Plavsky particles... Well, in short it is an excuse to sell the damned toys but the series is pretty good as a lighthearted homage to the history of Gundam and certainly watchable.

The Build Burning Gundam design itself has passed through a number of revisions from its original life as a GAT-X105 Strike Gundam from the old SEED series. The Build Burning design however is intended to do battle using martial arts which should explain why there are so few fun pieces in the box. With no weapons to wield, you might have hoped for a more interesting pose, maybe some expressive hands, some leg articulation gimmick, but no, this is a basic Converge figure which means you get a couple of arms that rotate at the shoulders, and a head that can look left and right. The Build Burning Gundam is a good looking design (just the fact that it isn't blue is a huge bonus right there) but as a figure it feels a bit lackluster.

115 : The next figure also hails from the GBF Try series. The KUMA-F Beargguy F (F is for Family, aawww) has its roots in the classic Zeon ACGUY amphibious suit. The first Gundam Build Fighters series actually featured a yellow Beargguy of its own, which is a spiritual predecessor to this abomination. Now, I know that there are many Beargguy fans out there, and yes, the original figure was a fairly clever if outrageous plot device in the original anime, but this thing is starting to go overboard now. With the millions of kawaiii Japanese mini figures out there, there is certainly no need to push them into Converge as well.

The main figure (that would be the white one) is named Mamagguy (yes, not Mamaggirl, try to keep up...), and the tiny blue version is of course a Petit'GGguy. Seriously, what have these people been smokinGG?

As for the figure itself, it has a couple of notable features. This is the only Converge figure with articulated legs. We're talking a simple bend here, so the trade off for it to sit down properly is that the legs look rather awkward in the stand up pose. Again we have no weapons with the figure. Although the base figure can extend a beam saber from its paw, there is no such accessory present which is a bit of a shame, but it wouldn't be too hard to create one. The Petit'GGuy (sigh...) can be attached or removed to a seat which is pegged into the Mamagguy's (sigh...) back. The Petit'Gguy's legs also bend although my figure's legs have a tendency to fall out of their sockets. Dreadful figure, on to the next!

116 : With the GH-001 Grimoire we get a second design from the recent Reconguista in G anime. I have yet to watch this series (not particularly looking forward to it) so I can't really say if the figure captures the spirit of the actual design, but I must say it looks rather striking. The overall impression of the miniature though is that it seems a bit short. As you can see in the introductory group photo at the start of this review the Grimoire is dwarfed by the other figures in this set (and in Converge in general), much like what happened to the Barzam, and the Asshimar.

Finally some accessories! The Grimoire figure comes with a removable shield and a submachine gun with the right hand molded directly onto it, so not really an optional but this is how we are used to get the Converge figures. The arms have the traditional rotating shoulders, but the oversized head is molded directly onto the torso.

117 : Halfway into the set, and now things are starting to heat up. We are returning to the Universal Century timeline, here represented by the bombastic LM314V23 Victory 2 Buster Gundam design. This massive and impressive figure continues to build the League Militaire representation in Converge, hot on the heels of the LM314V24 Victory 2 Assault Gundam which we encountered recently in Converge volume 19.

While the Buster Gundam features the regular Converge rotating arms and head articulation, it also has a couple of other tricks up its sleeve. Notice that the beam rifle is separated from the hand, making it completely optional, and that it is actually held in the left hand.

Even more interesting though is the fact that parts from this figure can be combined with parts from the Assault Gundam figure (Converge 110) to create the (of course) LM314V23/24 V2 Assault-Buster Gundam.

The conversion process is fairly straightforward. You just pick apart each figure and put all the cool stuff in one pile; that will be the Assault Buster Gundam.

Interestingly, the leftover parts can be assembled to create a complete figure on their own, kind of a completey stripped down V2 Gundam. This also neatly explains why the Buster Gundam figure was left-handed, just so that the Assault Buster could hoard that rifle too...

V2 Gundam breeding chart...
Unsurprisingly, the components of the Assault Buster conversion figure fit very well and the completed figure is not going to fall apart on you (like for example the recent Zeta Waverider), but as usual I recommend minimal tinkering with the parts as they tend to get worn easily.

V2 variation line-up, from left to right: Leftover V2 (spare parts from 110+117 conversion), the V2 Buster Gundam (figure 117), the V2 Assault Gundam (figure 110) and the V2 Assault Buster (figure 110 + 117).
I really like it when "regular" figures are designed to combine with each other since it lets people freely pick the figures they are interested in.

The mandatory Converge League Militaire line-up: LM312V04 Victory Gundam (Converge 23), LM314V21 Victory Two Gundam (Converge 24), LM314V24 Victory 2 Assault Gundam (Converge 110), LM314V23 Victory 2 Buster Gundam (Converge 117) and the LM314V23/24 V2 Assault-Buster Gundam (Converge 110+117).

118 : The RX-121-2A Gundam TR-1 (Advanced Hazel) continues the line of Advance of Zeta figures started in Converge volume 19. We now get a third Hazel version, and this time around it looks more wonky than ever. The proportions on the Converge figure, in particular its massive forehead and bird-like feet, make it look rather odd and not particularly attractive. However, if you are in on the secret regarding this figure, that it is more or less a gimmick to be used in conjunction with the others, you will see through such initial impressions.

Because with the Advanced Hazel figure we get the last building blocks to create yet another Hazel version in what I would say is its official blue colour. So, is all this trouble really worth it, or would it have been better to just release and sell a blue figure separately? Let's take a closer look.

Converting the Assault-Buster Gundam was just the warming-up. Converge already has seven different variations on the various Hazel components. Apart from the four boxed figures we also covered the combination of the (white) Hazel Custom with its G-Parts support fighter back in the review of volume 19. The Advanced Hazel figure gives us the parts to create another two (official ones that is) variations.

RX-121-1 Gundam TR-1 [Hazel Custom] - Shield Booster Configuration

This is the easier of the two. Basically you steal the shield boosters from the new Advanced Hazel figure and put them on the white Hazel Custom.

The result is a very attractive figure with a good symmetry and colour balance. And speaking of balance, it will stay nicely on its feet unlike the bog standard hazel Custom which always wants to fall over. I actually like this configuration so much I am considering picking up another two figures (111 + 118) just to have a permanent one on display.

RX-121-2A Gundam TR-1 (Advanced Hazel) - Final version(?)

Take the blue Hazel Custom (figure 112) and the Advanced Hazel (figure 118) and begin picking them apart by removing the parts shown in the above picture.

Then take the body of the Hazel Custom and most of the parts from the Advanced Hazel and combine..

So... what exactly is it we have built here? I am far from an expert on Hazel conversions but it appears to be a slightly different version of the standard Advanced Hazel figure, with a fancy blue body and one better looking (also blue...) shield booster. Was it really necessary to go through all this trouble rather than just selling the above figure as shown?

 Again, we can take all the leftover parts from this conversion and create our own leftover Haze, and honestly... I think it looks just as good if not better. Anyway, you are free to mess up these figures to create your very own favourite Hazel minis and although that can never be a bad thing, I don't really feel that Converge is the most suitable platform for such activity.

Converge Hazel Family, from left to right: The RX-121-1 Gundam TR-1 [Hazel Custom] combined with its FF-X29A G-Parts, a combination of figures 111 and 113, both featured in Converge volume 19 from June 2015, the blue RX-121-1 Gundam TR-1 [Hazel Custom] (Official colour) figure also from the same set, and the latest RX-121-2A Gundam TR-1 [Advanced Hazel] from Converge volume 20.

119 : The last figure in the set is also the one I was the most excited about. Casual Gundam fans might take this for a Zaku II, but it is actually the RMS-106 Hizack as operated by the Titans elite Earth Federation unit from Zeta Gundam. After the end of the One Year War, the Hizack was the result of research into the Zaku II design and featured considerable improvements over it. Yet it retains many of its features, including a (rather attractive) green livery.

The Converge representation of the Hizack is simply gorgeous. It has a nice and chunky feel, and has many nicely painted details. The figure comes with two removable shields(although it would look weird without them) as well as the iconic 120mm machine gun, molded directly onto the hand as per Converge standard. If you only pick up one figure from volume 20, it has got to be this one. Top ten material!

Secret : When Converge volume 20 was announced, there was as usual no mention of the secret figure. In my mind there was only one possible candidate, and I hoped and prayed that Bandai would see things the same way. I was lucky. Because the secret figure indeed turned out to be the RMS-106 Hizack in its striking blue colours of the regular Earth Federation Forces version. Knowing Bandai this was far from certain, we might as well have ended up with another Beargguy wielding a beam saber or something of the sort.

What really surprised me about the secret figure is that it features a different weapon. Notice how Bandai and Fusion Works have been kind enough to give us a two part beam rifle (the handle bar sits on a little separate sprue from which it needs to be cut off).

Thematically you may wonder why regular E.F.S.F. soldiers get beam rifles, the bane of Zeon, while the elite Titans force has to use the 120mm machine gun. This is supposedly explained through the meager power output of the Hizack, which makes it less suited to carry weapons with a high energy consumption requirement (perhaps they expect Titan pilots to stay in the fight a couple of seconds longer...). You can of course change weapons in between the two figures if you wish. This figure is another absolute necessity on my Converge display shelf.


Overall, Converge 20 is something of a mixed bag. Just like with volume 19, we get high and low from all over the Gundam franchises blended together. I have a feeling many collectors will therefore opt to buy only the figures that interest them, rather than go for the full set. The quality of the figures remains on a high standard though, so I guess it will come down to personal taste whether you consider this set a success or not.