Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Art Of Gold

The exhibition The Art of Gundam, held last summer in Osaka is on again, this time in Tokyo. Beside the displaying of artwork from the Gundam legacy, advance movie screenings and such, there will of course be a lot of exclusive collectors items to celebrate the occasion. Last year for example, we saw a pair of nicely detailed Converge Realtype Color figures, a stunt that is being repeated in Tokyo as well.

This year's figures are the rather obscure Converge items G-3 Gundam and Char's Rickdom, figures that saw their only release as components to the rather disappointing Converge (Not so) Complete Book. These are bound to sell out quickly, so locate your pair as quickly as possible.

As with some other limited items, Bandai does not mention the G-3 and Rick Dom duo on their Shokugan page, but when it comes to their other Converge exclusive they have been banging the drum all the more. And I kind of have to understand them on that, when's the last time you had an opportunity to own an RX-78-2 made of gold?

If you thought that Converge has been going upmarket over the years, nothing will have prepared you for this obscene extravaganza. Gunpla has never been considered a cheap hobby, but this time Bandai want us to spare no expense for sure... A small comfort then that the gold price has just hit a new low, back to 2010 levels, is it a way to get your gold into the market and make a quick buck?

If you are feeling less spendy why not go for the budget alternative? The silver RX-78-2 Gundam weighs in at onehundred and twenty grams of French 1st Standard, and it comes at a moderately suggested price of 270 000 yen, or 675 standard Converge figures.

However, if you need something to really brag about at the gentleman's club, you'll know that nothing below 24k will do for you. Luckily, Bandai have this 220g looker ready to ship, yours at a measly 3 780 000 yen, or 9 450 standard Converge figures.

What are you waiting for?

Friday, 17 July 2015

Happy Converge 100!

I bet a good number of my fellow Gundam Converge fans remember the recent 100th figure anniversary, where Bandai teased its followers to guess which figure it would be. This was of course the Turn X, and all the boxes of volume 17 carried a little anniversay badge on them. We also saw the release of two special SD Gundam carryovers in the Musha Gundam and the Knight Gundam to mark the occasion.

And with this post Gundanium Gateway has also reached its 100th entry, so it seemed prudent to mark the occasion with a little Converge special. Here is a little trip down memory lane through the (far more than one hundred) figures we've seen this far. This page will be expanded with new Converge figures every once in a while so just kick back and enjoy the ride.

I should point out that there are four proxies among the early figures, with reissues standing in for some figures still missing in our armory.

Happy Converge 100! :)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Gundam Converge vol. 19

It is July 2015, and Gundam Converge 19 has been out for about a month's time by now. As I was sitting here opening up boxes and assembling figures it struck me just how consistent the Converge line really is. While the numbers on the boxes keep getting higher and higher, the same principles are still in place ever since the very first figures saw the light of day (that would be in late 2010 by the way). Although production technique and material used might be revised every now and then we're still seeing a very strong identity in this product line, even the boxes have kept the same size and design since the start. It pleases me that no marketing people have managed to reboot or otherwise mess up this series.

Converge 19 cast. Note that the clear action base is not included with the G-Parts model, it is borrowed from an Assault Kingdom figure.
Anyway, I am not here to rant about Gundam Converge on some meta-level, but rather to open up the seven boxes of volume 19 and snap some photos of the contents. And perhaps utter a piece of misguided advice here or there that may even prove unintentionally useful. I must admit though, that I was kind of on the fence about this set. For the first time in ages this Converge set simply didn't seem that exciting.

I think it stems from the fact that this volume is mixing a lot of obscure mobile suit designs from some lesser known story arcs. It is of course also an extravaganza in Gundams, with no less than five out of five mobile suits being hero-type suits, which automatically makes it less exciting for a grunt suit follower as yours truly. Again, this criticism is more of a Converge-meta thing than any faulting of the actual miniatures as such.

Rrraahhh! Hulk smash! Look at those Hazel figures...
My copy of Converge volume 19 was produced for the overseas market (which feels like Bandai-lingo for Hong Kong). As a result the boxes contain no chewing gums, which I suppose they will do if you get the figures from Japan. I also noticed that the multi-compartment plastic bags have been replaced with a clearer type that also feels less oily when you touch them.

Enough rambling, on to the figures themselves!

108 : YG-111 Gundam G-Self. The poster-boy for volume nineteen comes from Bandai's latest Gundam universe, the rather odd (and poorly titled...) Reconguista in G, which came out last year. This show seems to fall in the love-or-hate category but something it has going for it is a lot of interesting if somewhat odd mobile suit designs. There is something insect-like about the Converge version of the G-Self, the main mobile suit of the show. And those creepy eyes... it looks a bit like an upset wasp.

The G-Self design does away with the traditional V-fin and instead converts it into large antennae that attach to the cheeks. As a result we end up with a figure with a very rigid head, but the arms can still do their rotation thing at the shoulder level. Different flight packs seem to be a big thing for this mobile suit, I wouldn't be surprised if we will see different versions of this figure with different packs tat can be attached. Overall this is a very nice figure and a good introduction to the G-Reco universe, but I have a feeling that a lot of traditional buyers will shun it simply because of that.

Secret : YG-111 Gundam G-Self (Beam Saber version). What better way then, than to completely alienate the G-Reco skeptics with a second G-Self figure? Yes, the chosen secret figure for volume nineteen is the same figure one more time, but with a beam saber accessory and a slightly different shield. I was speaking about the merits of Converge not having altered its modus operandi since the beginning, but this is one stale marketing ploy I can't wait to see disappear.

We have seen it countless times by now, the useless secret figure concept, designed of course to make you pay twice for the same thing. An beam saber and shield does not a new figure make. These are known as accessories, and should be plonked into the same box as the figure with the beam rifle. If this gets too expensive, then you save it up for an SP or EX figure set that will please collectors that much more. I feel that Converge secret figures only work when you are convinced that you are actually getting a different figure, not the same one with a different accessory. Bandai, kindly take note...

109 : The second figure in Converge nineteen is another oddity. The RTX-65 Guntank Early Type is a design that can be traced back to an alternate version of the original RX-75 Guntank, as displayed in the Origin manga. The RTX-65 version in turn appears in the cinematic release of the Origin storyline, which is an ongoing process with the first movie released earlier this spring. Converge was quick to jump on that bandwagon with this release...

The Early Type Guntank is a much more modern looking design. Unlike the garishly painted RX-75 this tank actually looks like it might actually be usable in combat. The miniature figure itself is also an improvement in this regard, with both a swiveling turret and a head that can turn, offering up some additional interesting poses. With a bit of luck we might be getting the blue RX-65 production type version of this vehicle further down the line (wouldn't that have made for a nice secret figure by the way...).

Above is a comparison shot of the currently four different types of tanks released in the Converge line. First is of course the ancestral RX-75 Guntank, here in its most recent incarnation from the 7-11 set that came out in October 2014. Next follows our new Early Type and third is the G-Bull, a G-Parts construct related to the granddaddy Gundam (this figure also happens to be from the 7-11 set) and lastly we have the infamous Zeon HT-01 Magella Attack tank (which was released together with a Dopp fighter as Converge 87 (volume 14, released April 2014).

110 : The third figure of this set is probably also the most visually stunning. The LM314V24 Victory 2 Assault Gundam is both a large and vibrant with lots of colour, including golden yellow parts. It dwarves the two previous League Militaire Gundams featured in Converge so far (see below). If Converge can feature stunning figures like these, then surely Bandai and FW could have placed an extra beam saber into the G-Self box (and the GM box, and the Blue Destiny Box, and the...) instead of wasting people's time and money with secret items...

The Victory 2 Assault Gundam (or V2 for short) is armed with two very nice looking accessories; a four coloured Mega Beam Shield (Converge Jagd Doga with single colour shield, I'm looking at you...) and a large Mega Beam Rifle which has a real Converge novelty in the way it inserts into the mobile suit's hand. Although we have had a few figures with optional weapons before, the overall majority simply have the right hand molded directly onto the weapon. Not so here, this is an immense plus. Perhaps this is something to do with standardized parts, as the LM314V23 Victory 2 Buster Gundam will appear in Converge volume 20 later this year. Regardless of which, this is great!

The history of the League Militaire really shows how far we have come in terms of Converge figure development. From left to right: LM312V04 Victory Gundam (Converge 23 from volume 4, released back in September 2011), LM314V21 Victory Two Gundam (Converge 24 from the same set) and the newly released LM314V24 Victory 2 Assault Gundam.
The Converge League Militaire armory suffers a bit with only three figures released so farm but a fourth on is on the way. Perhaps we might even get one or two Zanscare Empire enemies for them to combat? I realize this is a real longshot as most Gundam commerce seems to be in endless repeating of early Universal Century designs, but suits like the Zoloat or Zollidia would be well suited for Converge display.

111 : The last three slots of this set are claimed by mobile suits from the Advance of Zeta story arc. This means mobile suits form the formative years of the Titans, oh yeah! There are a lot of really spectacular designs coming from AoZ, and the RX-121-1 Gundam TR-1 [Hazel Custom] is the first one for Converge. If you think that the posing seems off, it is because this figure has an unusually troublesome time standing upright on its own. The weird leaning forward pose is the main culprit behind this, and the slightly bent legs can probably be adjusted somewhat in a hot water bath, but the overall mold will have to take the main blame for this. This is of course also explained by the fact that the Hazel figure is intended to be modified with G-Parts, more on that below.

With only a tiny beam rifle and a single shield (the original RX-121 Hazel featured three), the Hazel Custom does come off looking a bit spartan. There is more action hidden in its components though, which is not revealed until you start fiddling with the G-Parts add-ons. The basic figure though, has your typical Converge articulation, a head that turns a little, and arms that rotate at the shoulder. Just like the V2 above, the Hazel Custom figure has been given an optional beam rifle which can be slotted into its right hand. It also features holes on both arms as well as on its back where a shield can be placed, are we to assume that there will be more modifications to this design in the Converge future?

112 : The mobile suit in the next slot looks an awful lot like the last. And the reason is of course that it is the very same mobile suit all over again, although this time in its badass dark blue Titans colour scheme. It is not just for show though, the RX-121-1 Gundam TR-1 [Hazel Custom] (Official colour) is actually an improvement made on the previous Hazel Custom, which was pressed into service before it had time to be properly painted. This figure shows us the result once that has taken place. Again, here is a figure that would have been better suited as a "secret version" of figure 111. So far Converge 19 left me with a lingering feeling of lazy product development.

The blue Hazel Custom comes with the same type of gear as the white one. This means that you can tweak loadouts a little, by giving one of the figures two shields for example, but other than that there's not a whole lot of variation for this figure. The poor footwork on its white counterpart is even worse here, I couldn't get this figure to stand properly for long even if I had it hold its shield behind its back. Something was clearly messed up here.

113 : The last "figure" of the lot is the FF-X29A G-Parts (Hrududu). This is the second non-mobile suit of the set which thankfully breaks up the monotony of Gundams. The impossibly named Hrududu is a support fighter paired with the Hazel, kind of like what the G-Fighter is to the RX-78-2. This model is basic in the extreme, and frankly not very interesting to look at. The spartan colour scheme also won't do it any favours in the looking good department.

The Hrududu parts are primarily meant to modify the Hazel Custom figures, and as such has no suitable space for an action base peg. Instead the figure rests on a U-shaped piece which slots into a black base molded to resemble the Titans Test Team logo, which is a nice touch. I would be surprised if anyone will actually display this fighter craft as such, so let's head on over to its role of Hazel conversion instead.

This is probably the most interesting aspect of Converge 19. Again, the FusionWorks engineers get to show their craftsmanship in letting us reassemble components of both the Hazel Custom and the Hrududu figure into a more menacing and complete design. In the photo above I have tried to illustrate which components replace others to form the new design, which would have been that much more easy if Bandai and FW would have spent a few cents on giving us a tiny assembly instruction. Right now, all we have is the picture on the back cover which somehow suggests that, oh, you can put something on this figure's back, but we won't show you where or how so that you can fiddle in vain and still not get it completely right...

Although I managed to get most things in the right place, it wasn't until I actually started penning this review that I saw one piece was missing from the design. I discovered that the Hrusudusdudsds' nose cone can be removed and placed at the top of the Hazel Custom's backpack, so you'll just have to imagine it is there in those shots because I can't be bothered with taking a new set of photos right now...

Still, the result is formidable and now the two figures really begin to shine. The heavy gear on the Hazel's back removes its leaning forward problem, and I stuck the large beam rifle in the hand of the blue Hazel instead to prevent that figure from falling on its nose.

Custom Hazel Customs
In the end this is how I have chosen to display my two Hazel Customs. I removed the transformed chest piece to its normal configuration, to add some of the preciously scarce colour back to this overly white mobile suit. The Hazel + Hrududu is now the only Gundam + Support Fighter pair that I have chosen to display combined, since the models on their own weren't all that interesting.


In conclusion, Converge 19 is something of a mixed bag. Although it contains several well executed figures from an unusually wide selection from lesser known Gundam properties, it also lacks that real looker to pull you in. The set seems to have more of a filler character in that it fleshes out your collections with more units for your favourite factions, rather than convincing you to start collecting in the first place. Good for serious collectors but the more casual fans will probably be more reserved.

The secret figure is also kind of wasted on this set, and with twin Hazel Custom figures and a support fighter that is nothing more than a few crossed tiles, this becomes extra apparent. I imagine a lot of fans will prefer to cherrypick what they need for their collections rather than go for the full set.

If you are one of those that feels that Converge 19 isn't bringing that much to the table, prepare for a dose of more-of-the-same when Converge volume 20 rolls out in September. This jubilee number release will be dedicated to more Hazel, more Reconguista in G, two figures premiering from the Build Fighters Try show (including a Bearggu-uurgh). There is one real promising figure for the grunt-type followers in that pack though, a shiny green Hizack which I obsess about already.

Notice also the promo picture on the inside of the Converge 19 boxes (wouldn't that have been a good spot for Hazel + Hrududu assembly instructions...), this silhouette figure. I don't know G-Reco well enough to say if it is some sort of G-Self variation. Perhaps it might be related to the upcoming G-Tekketsu Gundam franchise that is being hyped right now on the Bandai Gundam Shokugan page, we shall see.