Friday, 1 May 2015

Gundam Converge EX04 : MSZ-006C1 [Bst] Zeta Plus C1 "Hummingbird" (Blue Ver.)

Today we are taking a look at one of the most ambitious figures to have come out of the Converge range; the latest in a line of quickly expanding EX-figures. The first EX-series figure came out in December 2013, and already the line has swollen into four releases (plus one limited version) with two new entries planned for May 2015. EX04 though, which is the object of today's blog entry, the Zeta Plus Hummingbird was released in early April 2015 and it was also accompanied by a red colour variation sold exclusively through the Bandai online shop, as I understand it, while the blue version is distributed through all the usual channels.

The EX04 figure comes with a suggested retail price of ¥2400 which means it qualifies for the less than flattering "most pricy Converge-award", together with the EX03 PLAN303E Deep Striker, which it also closely resembles by the way.

Opening the box reveals a couple of plastic bags with a dozen or so parts, an assembly guide and the classic Shokugan chewing gum.

I was quite surprised at the relatively low number of parts; it looked to be a pretty basic figure, somewhat off-putting considering the high price. Still it wasn't obvious to me how to combine the parts to create all three versions of it, and as we shall see below, the design of the EX04 is way more intricate than I first gave it credit for. Let's walk through the three display modes as suggested by the assembly guide.

Mode 1a - Basic Converge Figure

Let's begin with the Zeta Plus C1[Bst] in its most rudimentary configuration, as a vanilla mobile suit, in line with the traditional Converge figures. As you can see from the parts used, this is simple Converge figure with the expected components and the result hardly qualifies as an EX-figure.

The Zeta Plus C1[Bst] is a pretty nifty little figure, with an attractive white and blue pattern. The limited version of this figure comes in a similar red/white livery of the Karaba Airforce. The oversized cannon looks a little weird for the figure but will make more sense once we continue reconstructing it. The core figure features the traditional Converge articulation in that it can rotate its arms at the shoulders, and turn the head around a bit.

The Zeta Plus C1 joins a small but growing Converge mobile suit family. Depicted above are, from left to right, the original Zeta Gundam release (figure 10, Converge vol. 2, released January 2011), a version equipped with the massive Hyper Mega Launcher weapon (figure 63, from Converge vol. 11, released June 2013), a mass production type MSZ-006 Zeta Plus (figure 90, Converge 15, June 2014) and the most recent Zeta Plus C1[Bst] Hummingbird figure. Not present in the photo are the red version of the Hummingbird, and the soon to be released transformable version of the Zeta Gundam, part of SP06, currently scheduled for August 2015).

Mode 1b - Base figure with action base

Just like with the Deep Strike figure (Converge EX03), the basic Hummingbird figure comes with an action base which allows for the storing of unused parts as a nice backdrop. You simply take all the major leftover parts and attach them to the empty base.

The display is perhaps a bit unconvincing but is a nice way to make the basic figure look a bit meatier. On the other hand most of the parts will be obscured by the figure itself, so not exactly sure how much more oomph this would add to a Converge display shelf, not to mention the fact that you'll need a rather deep shelf which sort of goes against the purpose of the small and simple figures.

Anyway, here you can see the final display with the action base at the back. If you have displayed a PLAN303E Deep Striker figure in the same fashion you will feel very familiar with the concept, perhaps a little too familiar.

Mode 2 - Space Combat Mode

Fortunately things will get decidedly more interesting as we continue to look at the C1[Bst] Hummingbird in its main mode, which is as a space combat vehicle, lower limbs replaced with massive boosters. To reassemble the figure we start to see the engineering that went into the creation of the figure. The legs are removed from the torso and the arms removed and split in half, as we replace the upper arms with massive boosters.

The previously unused lower booster section is attached to the torso by means of two pegs which securely hold the figure together. The redesigned arms are attached to the wing binders and the massive gun assembly is reattached to the right arm. Finally we take one of the alternative action base optional pieces to act as joiner between the figure and the base.

Bandai and Fusionworks have really succeeded in capturing the magnificence of the Hummingbird. This is a striking and imposing figure which will dominate most other Converge figures placed next to it. I wasn't that thrilled about the similar Deep Striker figure (which I have chosen to display as a plain Mobile Suit), but the space mode is far more interesting to look at than compared to the basic mode.

Mode 3 - Mobile Armor Mode (Waverider Mode)

However, I did save the best for last! Things are about to be much more compelling as we go forward and (attempt to...) rebuild the figure once more, this time into its Wave Rider mode. Let's begin by breaking up the Hummingbird again...

Here is where things got quite a bit more challenging, and the assembly guide a necessity. The very first thing to be done is to pull apart the Hummingbird torso into a surprising number of tiny parts, something we're not used to doing in Converge. We continue by pulling apart the figure's backpack and realigning its parts. Together these parts will form the Wave Rider's centerpiece on top of a previously unused gray baseplate (inner frame if you will...).

Once I figured out exactly how to create the core things became fairly straightforward again. The booster packs we used as upper arms before now attach to the center segment and from there on we start putting together the front and rear of the figure.

A couple of small pieces are again removed from what I previously thought to be single components, and used to add final touches and masking the inner frame. The Fusionworks engineers have done a really outstanding job here.

With the main Wave Rider constructed we replace the top segment of the action base with a simple palm-of-the-hand type of connector into which you simple balance the Wave Rider with no actual interlocking of parts. I found this a bit strange as this means the figure just loosely balances on top of the action base, which seems a little bit less than ideal (it is possible I have missed some nifty engineering detail here, the tiny assembly guide can be a bit obscure in places).

Once I had completed the Wave Rider mode I quickly became infatuated with it, such a mean and lean design, very much in line with the original Gundam Sentinel concept. The action based though is a bit clumsy, taking away from the slick lines of the craft. I would have much preferred a dedicated (and fully transparent) action base for the Wave Rider, it could have been really spectacular. Perhaps there are other more suitable based out there (maybe something to be salvaged from the Assault Kingdom figures for example).

Just look at this monster. At first I planned to display the Hummingbird in its space combat mode, since it is more to scale with other Converge figures, but this thing is just way too cool to take apart again. I also don't want to fiddle too much with assembly and reassembly to keep the joining parts from unnecessary wear. It should be pointed out that this construction is a bit flimsy here and there - this is one of those figures you don't want to drop on the floor (which is a bit unusual for the normally sturdy Converge designs).

On a whole, the EX04 Hummingbird figure impressed me with its slick engineering and several useful display modes. I might just have to get another one to be able to display the two main modes next to each other. Even though the figure is quite pricey for a Converge, this time I feel you are really getting the value for what you are paying, something that cannot always be said for the more upmarket Converge minis out there.

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