Sunday, 23 August 2015

Gundam Converge : Operation Revive (Overseas Edition)

There are some busy bees there, over at Bandai Asia headquarters. No sooner was the SP Unicorn box set out the door than an even bigger box sneaks out on the market. And a new Operation Revive set no less. You'd think this is something they would like to market very aggressively, seeing as how it contains a couple of now really hard to find figures. But with this being another "overseas only" edition, it is not even hinted at on the official Bandai Shokugan website, hopefully the Japanese collectors are still on top of these news.

As some readers will remember, the original Operation Revive box set was the result of a competition on the Bandai website, were users were instructed to root for the figures they would like to see reissued. Polls were held over a couple of months as the selection shrank down to the top five most wanted figures (don't take my word for it, I haven't heard any confirmation from any OSCE spokesman on these election results...). To bait collectors who already had these figures the decision was made to plonk a brand new Hi-Nu Gundam in the box just to make sure no one shied away from purchasing the set.

So, does the original poll have any bearing on the contents of this new follow-up set? Probably not, since the Qan[T] was not released for the first time two months after the original Operation Revive set. The box art hints at some sort of voting results, perhaps there has been a related event held by Bandai Namco Asia Co., Ltd. Maybe an enlightened reader of this blog can share some more information with us.

The first Operation Revive box set which released in February 2014 was shortly followed by a "Premium Edition" (I can't remember if this was a Bandai web shop exclusive but it wouldn't surprise me) which featured the very same six figures plus an extra bag of optional gear for the five reissued figures. There are no such luxuries to be found in the "Overseas Edition" box, and I highly doubt that they will make a premium version of this package, since Bandai would have to be insane to create new parts and only distribute them outside of Japan. Of course one can speculate that there will be a Premium version of this parcel sold only in Japan, through their own shop for example. Such a nefarious agenda wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. :)

Anyway, at the core of this box is a set of Gundam reissues, six to be precise. There are several interesting figures in here, especially the very hard to find Zeta from Converge volume 2. The Hi-Nu Gundam amusingly reprises its role from the original Operation Revive release, although it has received a metallic coat this time. Upgraded paint applications are pretty much a hallmark of Bandai Overseas reissues, but in this box it is only the Hi-Nu Gundam that received this restyling. All a matter of money in the end I suppose.

Let's take a look at the mobile suits included with Operation Revive:

Right. Let's start with the exclusive figure of this package, the RX-93-v2 Hi-Nu Gundam (Pearl Color Version). Although highly reminiscent of the standard colour edition this figure was one of the two reasons that I decided to grab this set, the other reason was that the fact that I think the box art is really good. And speaking of the box art; I find it pretty surprising that nowhere on the packaging is there a photo of the actual model. On the original Revive box it covered the whole front, here it has been reduced to a line drawing on the back side, Bandai obviously must have expected their customers to be highly familiar with this figure. A very odd way of marketing.

As you can see from the parts included we get a fairly standard Converge setup here. Articulated head and shoulders, but with an optional beam rifle and booster tanks (it won't make much sense displaying the figure without the rifle though). The wings sit on shaped pegs which help keep them in place but also offer no display variations.

Here is the original Operation Revive figure (left) compared to the upgraded Pearl Color Version (right). The reissue is definitely a marked improvement although the original figure still looks good.

#1. If we are to believe the box-art, the XXXG-00W0 Wing Gundam Zero (Endless Waltz Version) was the most requested figure to be reissued this time. While it is a pretty spectacular Converge figure the whole Wing franchise rarely seems to get that much attention which perhaps explains why we haven't seen any of the other outlandish designs from that series.

The Wing Zero is one of few Converge figures to come in two plastic bags, the large soft wings being packed separately. As you can see from these images the wings are made from soft plastic which makes them durable if a bit unruly, finicky collectors will need to work the plastic into the shape they want it. Another unusual thing about this figure is that the two rifles are separated from the hands, so you can choose to display the Gundam with or without ordnance.

Here the Revive Wing Gundam (right) is posed next to the original figure #57 (left) from Converge Volume 10 (released in April 2013). As you can see they are as good as identical (the wings are bendable as mentioned before).

And a family photo. The original Endless Waltz version (Converge 57, volume 10, released April 2013) next to the XXXG-01W Wing Gundam (Converge 88, volume 15, released June 2014) and the new Converge Revive XXXG-00W0 Wing Gundam Zero (EW Version).

#2. Next up in this popularity contest is the GNT-0000 00 Qan[T]. Now this figure, in typical Celestial Being fashion, is quite spectacular with its translucent parts and striking colours. The original figure appeared in April 2014, it would seem odd for it to have become a rarity already, but it is something I am not up to date with.

The Qan[T] has the typical Converge articulation with a head and shoulders that rotate, and a wrist that also spins in its socket. The large shield is attached to the backpack using a connector piece and has a fixed placement.

The original version of the Qan[T] (left) is a perfect match with its Operation Revive successor (right). Did they even have time to take this mobile suit out of production?

Selected Celestial Being family members from left to right. GN-001 Gundam Exia (this has since been reissued twice) from the very first volume of Converge (figure 04, released in November 2010), the GN-0000 00 Gundam from Converge volume 9 (figure 51, released December 2012), the GNT-0000 00 Qan[T] from Converge volume 14 (figure 81, released April 2014) and the GNR-010 0 Raiser support craft which also appeared in Converge volume 9 (and can be combined with the 00 Gundam figure).

#3. I would have expected the MSZ-006 Z-Gundam to be one of the most sought after Converge figures. It is a very rare sight, and was released such a long time ago that it is definitely ripe for a reissue. If people miss one of the figures in this set, i would expect it to be this one.

Parts-wise there is not a whole lot going on with the Zeta. It is interesting that it offers an optional rifle, which was rarely the case with those early designs. It is also a fact that this is the figure that gives Jason Voorhees a cameo in Gundam Converge...

The Zeta has been given a faithful reissue virtually identical to the original edition (left) from Converge volume 2, released all the way back in January 2011.

Converge Zeta line-up. Apart from the original volume 2 Zeta (left) and the Operation Revive reissue (right) we also have the figure from Converge volume 11 (center), armed with the impossibly named "Hyper Mega Launcher", which appeared in June 2013. Yet another Zeta is bound to hit the shelves any day now, coming in a twin pack with the The-O, this picture will eventually be updated to reflect this release as well.

#4. Moving on down the line, we get an appearance by the RX-0[N] Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee Norn (Unicorn Mode). I find the Banshee and the Banshee Norns much more interesting than the Unicorn, but it seems to be only moderately embraced by the toymakers.

The Banshee Norn features the typical late Converge articulation, a head and shoulders that rotate, and a right hand with a weapon molded onto it, which can spin in its socket. The only major design flaw with this figure is that the shield is only able to attach to the back pack. Why we couldn't get a socket on the right arm I cannot really understand. Enterprising owners might want to try drilling a hole themselves... maybe something I can do to tell the figure apart from its ancestor...

Again the Operation Revive version (right) is identical to the original release (left) which appeared in Converge volume 10 in April 2013 (together with the Wing reviewed above).
And here is the Banshee line-up to date. The first Unicorn Mode RX-0 Banshee appeared as a promo item with the Dengeki Hobby Magazine in the July 2012 issue. The Destroy Mode Banshee was just released two months earlier as part of Converge volume 7 (figure 39, released May 2012). Next up was the original release of the Banshee Norn in Converge volume 10 (figure 58, released April 2013). Then come this summer's two "Overseas" edition figures; the Banshee Norn from this Operation Revive package and last the Awake Mode Banshee from the SP Unicorn box set. Both "Overseas" editions appeared in August 2015.

#5. Ah yes, a Converge review apparently cannot be complete without at least one Unicorn in it. Luckily, the last figure in this set is the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam (Unicorn Mode), probably one of the most heavily produced Converge minis ever. I find it very unlikely that a panel would have voted for more Unicorns but here we stand again, face to face.

If you were hoping for anything exciting in this figure, look again. The same old boring parts, the same tricky to insert horn, although this time the figure is only leaning forward moderately so that it manages to stay on its feet rather nicely (a quirk which is otherwise quite common in this figure, there's a reason I point the beam rifle into the ground when posing it...). The beam rifle appears to be a much darker tone than in previous releases which may serve as a point of identification.

Unicorn Mode RX-0s from left to right: Basic figure from converge volume 2 (released January 2011), secret bazooka-wielding version from the same set, a pearl coated Unicorn (the best version of this figure) which came as a bonus item with the Dengeki Hobby Magazine in December 2011 (a promo item for the UC3 movie), another pearl coated Unicorn (with less painted details than the UC3 version) from the "Converge Limited" Overseas Only Triple Pack (released in 2012), a Unicorn armed with a gatling cannon from the original Operation Revive Premium Edition (released in March 2014) and lastly the beam rifle equipped Unicorn from the Operation Revive Overseas edition.
Not counting the Destroy Mode versions (of which there are currently four), we now have a total of six Unicorn Mode RX-0s released in Converge (seven if you count the original two Operation Revive boxes as separate) and this is the fourth time we get the beam rifle version (fifth if you didn't get the Premium Edition of Operation Revive) and I'm really running out of steam in going over this figure one more time. Suffice it to say it is as faithfully modelled as it is uninteresting to look at.


So, is this Operation Revive box set a good investment? For the seasoned collector; probably not. If you are just new to Converge you will find a lot of good figures in this set to help build your collection, but I would assume most people looking at this set already own most of the figures in some version or other. Apparently some sellers are seeing things the same way, and are splitting up the boxes and selling the mobile suits separately. This would probably be a good way to fill up holes in more complete collections, seeing as the Operation Revive figures are almost identical to the first batch (only the Unicorn Gundam appears to have a slightly differently coloured beam rifle).

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Latest News: Converge Reboot

I usually don't post much in the way of Gundam news on this blog, however yesterday's announcement that Bandai and FW are rebooting the Converge line warrants a bit of attention.

As you can see in this collage of images from the official Bandai announcement on the Shokugan website, the five year Converge anniversary will see a reboot of the figure line. Exactly what this means is not fully clear to me, but I would expect that we will see many of the previously released figures returning in upgraded versions (the price has also been "upgraded" to ¥500...).

The first line-up of course looks amazing, and I just hope that Converge will continue to deliver new exciting mobile suits (such as the pictured Gerbera Tetra and the GP04) and not spend too much resources on reissuing all the usual suspects all over again.

Gundam Converge #01 is expected in December 2015.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Gundam Converge : SP Unicorn & Banshee (Metallic Version)

Bandai Namco Asia Co., Ltd., with office address in Hong Kong's busy Kowloon district continues to please Converge fans with its special Overseas editions of popular mobile suits. Most of you probably recall February's impressive reissue of the now rather expensive SP01 pack featuring the Sazabi and the Nu Gundam, and in shiny metallic colours at that, offering something new for the oldtimers as well. And now they are at it again, with a new "Overseas" pack putting two shiny metallic Unicorn Gundams in a box, simple as that.

Although the Unicorn Gundams are likely to be some of the most massively produced Converge figures there always seems to be a market for them. Seriously, I feel like half the posts on this blog are about this or that variation on the same theme, be it Converge, STANDart or Assault Kingdom, they are just all over the place.

I have reached a point where I feel that by now there couldn't possibly be any further Converge Unicorn manifestations left to add, but Bandai keep proving me wrong. So after pearly and semi-translucent versions of course it seems natural to follow up with some metallic versions...

The packaging is the standard two-figure style box, with each figure in its separate multi-compartment plastic bag. And being an "overseas edition", it comes with no chewing gum, so it isn't really fair to call it a Shokugan product I guess.

Assembly is as simple as expected; just snap together the half a dozen components for each figure. There are no optional load outs to consider.

The RX-0 Unicorn Gundam (Destroy Mode) figure should need little introduction, I'm pretty sure most Converge collectors have at least one variation of it on their shelf already. The metallic paint reinforces the three dimensions of the figure and helps transform it from a plastic mini into something more formidable. Considering the many equipment options released for the Unicorn over the years it would have been nice to get some alternative weapons but the basic beam rifle + shield configuration is elegant enough. Articulation is found in the usual places, shoulders, neck and right hand wrist. The shield attaches with a round peg so can be rotated freely or removed at will.

Unicorn Gundam (Destroy Mode) variations: Red and white from the SP 02 multipack (together with the Sinanju) from August 2012. Next up the green and white Full Armor Unicorn Gundam (Awake Mode) with some of the many weapons found in its EX 02 box, from March 2014. Third in line is the semi-translucent promotional figure distributed with advance screening tickets for the UC7 movie (sold in April 2014) and lastly the new figure from the SP Unicorn & Banshee multipack.
The Converge Destroy Mode Unicorn line-up now stands at four variations, all clearly easily distinguishable from another (which certainly isn't the case with the Unicorn Mode figures...). The new SP Unicorn figure mostly resembles the Full Armor Awake Mode figure and is a decent substitute for it considering the Awake Mode figure had a suggested price tag of ¥1800 and probably sells for a lot more these days.

Unicorn Gundam and all, but the figure I was most excited about in this package was its dark cousin, the Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee (Destroy Mode). Not only hasn't this mobile suit been done to death, but the green colour Awakened Mode is also a first for Converge, I was really surprised to see it premiere on a limited overseas figure (although now that I think about it, this was also the case with the green frame Unicorn Gundam overseas STANDart model that popped up in 2013).

The new green frame Banshee (right) compared to the regular gold frame version, which featured as figure 39 in Converge Vol. 7, released in May 2012.
The green frame Banshee really shines in its new metallic coat which is so dark it looks almost black. Other than that it features no new paint applications or detail, and also inherits the articulation from its predecessor. And speaking of articulation, the Unicorn Banshee has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. Apart from the bog-standard rotating head and shoulders there are also a few less apparent features. Both of its Armed Armor weapons are actually removable. The left arm sits on a square peg and the right arm on a round one. This allows for the left to be rotated in 90 degree increments while the right arm can spin freely. The actual body of the Banshee is also composed out of two parts, connected via a round peg hidden inside its waist. I wouldn't recommend fiddling with these too much, as the joint could easily become loose.


As much as I would really like Bandai to focus their Converge work on new exciting grunt type molds, little treats such as this set in between often turn out to be quite interesting in their own right. The SP Unicorn package is a great way to get the two Unicorn Gundams, even if you happen to own a couple of Unicorns already. And if you are new to collecting Converge, this should be a no-brainer. As is always the case with these type of limited box sets, they tend to appear in abundance, only to turn scarce sooner than you would have expected, so if you are interested in this set do not wait too long to grab that box.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Gundam Converge : SP G-3 Gundam & Rick Dom

This summer's The Art Of Gundam exhibition, held in Tokyo, lets users take in a lot of original artwork that went into the classic animes, and is of course also a scenario ripe for merchandise. Last year's exhibition in Osaka saw among other things a special Converge SP release, and this stunt is being repeated in Tokyo as well, with the new Rick Dom/G-3 box.

Just like last year's box the Rick Dom and the G-3 are reissues of classic figures with an upgraded paint job including unit insignias and patches, things rarely seen in Gundam Converge. However, recent figures are beginning to show more and more such detail as the Fusion Works design crew no doubt keeps refining their manufacturing process.

We have seen the G-3 Gundam and the red Rick Dom duo in Converge once before, then as promo items for the rather incomplete Complete Book of Gundam Converge (review here). As such they were really hard to come by and unless you lived in Japan you had to pay an arm and a leg to secure them. This box set is a very nice gesture to make up for their sneaky past, and the upgraded paint job will, as we shall see, make the former two figures obsolete.

The packaging holds no surprises here, it is the typical Converge SP box with the typical individually packaged figures. The parts and accessories are virtually the same as the original incarnation, except for the fact that the G-3 Gundam's Beam Rifle is now a separate component. Originally it was molded directly onto the hand, this evolution is a testament to the continuous development of the Converge figure line.

It is worth mentioning a few words on the backstory of these two figures. Although the G-3 Gundam originally started out as an official Mobile Suit Variation, it was later given a backstory in the events of the original Mobile Suit Gundam setting. In the novelization of the iconic television series, the G-3 is pieced together from salvaged parts of the other Gundam prototypes destroyed during the opening scene of the series. It becomes the vehicle of choice for Amuro Ray after his original RX-78-2 is destroyed, and is his steed during the final battle at A Baoa Qu, the Zeon asteroid stronghold. The same goes for Char's Rick Dom, which also takes part in this battle, where it replaces the MSN-02 Zeong featured in the television series.

Talking about the figures themselves for a second, there's not that much to say about them. The MS-09RS Rick Dom (Char's Custom) is the fourth Rick Dom figure to appear in Converge, and apart from its attractive colour scheme it has the same basic features as all the other ones. The only articulation is found at the shoulders. You can also choose which angle to position the Heat Sword, or remove it completely.

The RX-78-3 G-3 Gundam is the latest in a long line of Converge figures where the basic design has carried over all the way from the very first Converge figure released. This particular figure also has no obvious sculpt variations (apart from said rifle and hand separation) compared to the myriad of RX-78-2s that preceded it. The new colour scheme is one of the best to hit Converge though, the only thing that stands a bit and that I wish that they had fixed is the see-through visor on the shield. Both the resculpted "Detail Up version" of the RX-78-2 figure (Converge 98, volume 16) and the recent RX-78-1 Prototype Gundam (figure 104, volume 18) featured see-through shields. it is understandable that they would want to reuse the old mold, but at least a black paint line would have done the trick. Now I am debating with myself whether I should make this modification or not... :)

Compared side by side, the original Rick Dom and G-3 Gundam from the Complete Book package look a bit dated by now. The oddly pinkish colour on the Rick Dom is by the way very consistent with the STANDart variation of the figure, which was also developed by Fusion Works. Where the very white tone on the G-3 Gundam comes from though, I have no idea.

Here we can see the full Art Of Gundam family, with last year's MS-06S Zaku and RX-78-2 Gundam in their respective Real Type colour schemes. Notice the nicely painted beam rifle used by the RX-78-2 Gundam, some more detail in this regard on the two new figures would also have been welcome.

There are now a total of three incarnations of the G-3 in Gundam Converge. Apart from the two versions we have looked at earlier (center and right) we also have the dual bazooka wielding G-3 from Converge volume 3, where it appeared as a secret figure replacing the RX-78-2 Gundam in some boxes.

DOMography left to right: Char's MS-09RS Rick Dom from the new Art of Gundam set, the previous version from the Complete Book set (released December 2013), the cream coloured MS-09 Dom from the Operation Jaburo set (December 2012), the violet MS-09 Dom figure from Converge volume 5, November 2011) and the blue MS-09R Rick Dom from volume 10, released in April 2013. The last figure is available in two versions, either with the original Dom-style bazooka or as a secret version with the larger Beam Bazooka (pictured here).
The Converge DOMography is starting to look really good by now. Not that the line is anywhere near complete, plenty of green and brown Desert and Cannon versions to hope for. Apart from the five figures in the above photo there is also a sixth version, which is a variation of the blue figure on the right, equipped with the smaller bazooka.