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 The old plastic bags have been replaced by newtypes which are more see-through and less oily to the touch than the Converge oldtype bags.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.

Conclusion

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.

3 comments:

  1. Not sure if you noticed it but the "pegs" that connect arms and other parts to the torso have changed in Part 20. They are now made of white/translucent plastic rather (clearly distinguishable from the rest of the body parts) suggesting a manufacturing change somewhere. Personally I felt the parts were more sturdy when connected.

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    1. Yes, same type as used on the STANDart series (rest in peace?) which is also manufactured by FW. The figures seem to be refined step by step as the series continues to evolve. Not really a great fan of recent modular figures though (such as the transformable Zeta or the Hazels), as they often have an annoying tendency to fall apart.

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  2. I agree, SP06 was done rather poorly. Conceptually gimmicky but lousy execution. The The-O's beam sabers are incredibly loose too, but that pales in comparison to the Zeta's problems. As you've aptly pointed out on your blog repeatedly, Bandai/FW should just stick to doing what they're good at -- economically priced, simple grunt figures, with a focus on variety. I am loving my pair of Hi-Zacks, it's built like a rock. A pair of grey and green Zaku III's would make my day. Or a Doven Wolf for that matter.

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