Saturday, 23 January 2016

Gundam Converge #01

Gundam Converge #01 is the fifth anniversary relaunch of Gundam Converge. It has no doubt been keenly anticipated in more corners of the globe than just our headquarters. To send it off on the right foot it features, of course, a very high profile line-up in an attempt to stir interest to the max. The set was released just before the very end of year of 2015 and remained shrouded in an unusual amount of confusion and speculation on my part. Were the Fusion Works engineers running out of ideas or was consumer interest waning once all the usual suspects had been released? Was this to be a complete relaunch with upgraded versions of all the old figures? And what was the deal with the dark silhouettes that featured on some images, were there going to be multiple versions or secret figures galore? These questions appeared only to be answerable by obtaining a set.

The next question that presented itself then became; how can I be sure that I am really going to obtain a full set? Would the resellers have the complete information themselves? I recalled the confusion surrounding the release Assault Kingdom volume 9. I found that resellers would only sell a set of four figures rather than the total five available (there were two variants of the Kämpfer figure). I did ask some sellers whether they knew anything of alternative versions or secret figures, and received assurances that there were none, yet still I did not trust them. One helpful seller took it upon himself to actually investigate by opening up the boxes he had received from Bandai and could confirm that the optional gear that had been seen on various photos actually was included with a single figure. That sealed the deal for me and I felt pleased to plunge right in.

On the Bandai teaser images I kept seeing the RX-93 and Sazabi wielding different weapons, and sometimes the RX-93 was seen standing on a black plastic base. I wondered how all this stuff could fit in a single Converge box or, as mentioned above, if there were going to be secret versions of them with alternative gear? This is after all how the Converge line has operated since its launch.

Well, a big part of the puzzle fell into place when I held the first of the boxes in my hand, as you can see in the comparison above not only has the price been upped from ¥400 to ¥500, but the size of the container has grown as well.

As you start fiddling with the Converge #01 figures you will feel instantly the familiarity of the Converge line as well as a couple of new properties. The most obvious of these is the doing away of the semi-transparent support pieces that used to clip to the ankles of each mobile suit, adding support to shaky feet and top-heavy candidates for display. Most of the figures never needed these although they could come in handy on a handful of small-foot machines (Union Flag I am looking at you...).

The new support piece in place is a plastic base of standardized size featuring a little peg which is designed to insert into one of the mobile suit's two feet (there is only a hole in one of the feet unlike e.g. the 1/400 collection figures which have holes in each sole). Each figure has its own plate though, since the peg can vary in placement and size depending on the foot it is designed for. It would have been handy to have the name of the figure printed under each plate, instead you have to make do with its number, so underneath the Sazabi base the number #02 is printed and under the two Zaku Workers you will find #05 #06 since they share the same part.

Other less apparent changes you will notice are the improved detail and multi-colouration of each figure, as well as more finicky and fragile components. By fragile I mean, less likely to stay in place. You can't just lift these figures any way you like it, as they will come apart if handled too roughly.

Before we begin looking at each figure I also need to touch on the individual figure numbering. With the relaunch of Converge I had expected the figure numbering to reset to 01 again, but interestingly enough Bandai have kept the old series. So the Converge #01 figures are now numbered 120 to 125. This seems to clash with the numbers underneath the bases, perhaps the molds were already completed and a last minute change saw the existing numbering kept anyway.

120 : The first figure that is allowed to represent the relaunched Converge series is an old friend of the line, the RX-93 Nu Gundam as piloted by Amuro Ray in Char's Counterattack. Although there are perhaps more interesting candidates for such an honour it is not hard to see why Bandai selected it. The design with its exotic wing binder and multiple accessories is well suited to be portrayed in impressive figure form.

The superior paint applications should be readily apparent when you compare it to an older figure. There are more detail paint apps, just compare the wing binder with the older versions (see comparison picture further down).

Amuro's RX-93 comes kitted with no less four accessories; a beam rifle or optional bazooka, as well a left shoulder wing binder and a shield. It is rather significant to point out that while the original Converge RX-93 also featured these parts, they were distributed through two different products, so you ended up having to buy two figures to obtain the complete gear (special exclusive variations did come with the full gear though).

As you can see, the weapons are now completely separated from the mobile suit's hand, a refinement that has become more and more common on Converge figures over times. This lets you choose which weapon for the figure to wield and the Bazooka can also be attached (if a bit loosely) to the figure's back when not in use.

Another novelty for the RX-93 is the plastic sprue with eight tiny, tiny pieces to be slotted into specially shaped holes on the figures shoulders and legs. I am not entirely sure what this adds to the figure, on the legs it seems to simplify manufacture of multi-coloured areas but the use seems less apparent for the shoulders. The (appreciated) little paper leaflet which explains how to attach these pieces doesn't give any answer in this regard.

Converge RX-93 history, left to right: The two Converge volume 3 figures (13+14) which together give a full set of accessories and optional logos on the left shoulder (released in June 2011), the blue-tinted "Fully Equipped version" from the SP01 double pack (together with a Sazabi, released in August 2011), the twin wing binder version from Converge Operation Revive (Premium Version only) released in February 2014, another "Fully Equipped version" now in metallic blue tone, from the Overseas Limited SP 01 pack (again with a Sazabi) released in February 2015 and lastly the Converge #01 rerelease from December 2015.
Being a Converge figure, it behaves in the same way you would expect it to. You find the same articulation as in the old figures, the arms can rotate in their shoulder sockets and the head does the same. The left hand being removable can also be swiveled around (I suppose this is a relic from the old days when the Converge figures had their weapons molded directly to the hands). The new sockets and connection points do feel a it weak here and there, the wing binder does like to fall off its peg if touched (I have not yet decided if a drop of superglue should seal that bond forever or if it is better to keep the figure in easily storable condition).

121 : You cannot say Nu Gundam without instantly thinking Sazabi. And naturally, the MSN-04 Sazabi is up next on the Converge #01 roll call. Whenever Bandai wish to stir up a frenzy among Gundam fanboys the Sazabi is a pretty effective means of doing so. Naturally, the Converge version of this figure is no exception. It comes with very high expectations and also manages to meet them.

The massive and suitably chunky Sazabi figure feels a bit more simplified and streamlined when compared to its older counterpart (which, mind you, only existed as a premium figure). On the other hand it has also received a more pronounced head, larger booster tanks and more sculpting on its shield so the overall appearance is almost on par with the more expensive predecessor. The most important change is found among the accessories. While the old figure had a beam rifle molded to its right hand (and that was it), the new one has two interchangeable right hands. One hand is molded directly onto a large beam rifle in a carrying position, the other hand is open and can have a nice semi-translucent beam saber attached to it.

Converge Sazabi lineage, from left to right: The premium Sazabi figure from the SP01 twin pack (together with Amuro's RX-93) released in August 2011, the metallic style reissue of SP01 (overseas only limited edition, released February 2015) and the new Converge #01 figure from December 2015.
Overall, I don't feel that the new Sazabi figure is major improvement over the old one, but it is also not fair to compare figures of different price families. Any Converge collector who does not own a Sazabi will be moved to tears by any of these figures, and the new figure's translucent beam saber makes it worth getting just for that shiny piece of equipment alone. Expect this figure to become hopelessly rare before long and get yourself a copy sooner rather than later.

122 : With that, we have the two reissues out of the way. Now it is time to start looking at the four brand new figures for Converge, first of these being the awesome RX-78GP04G Gundam GP04 Gerbera. This impressive figure is really only a slightly modified Gundam figure, but its large wings and beam rifle give it a very commanding presence. As a diminutive Converge figure, this impression is enhanced further. The figure is very sturdy and stable on its feet, which is good because this particular figure did not want to stand on its base at all. I had to do a little bit of carving inside the socket of its left foot just to manage to peg it in place on its base. I won't be using these bases for display anyway, but it was a bit annoying nevertheless.

The GP04 figure comes with a large multi-colored beam rifle (molded directly on to its hand) and a shield, but there is no optional gear around. I expect this is how the new Converge figures will work; only a few high profile figures will be getting optional parts candy, the rest will be stuck with the traditional Converge weapon-molded-onto-hand-parts after all.

Gundam Development Project line-up, left to right: Gundam GP01 "Zephyranthes" (Converge vol. 8, released October 2012), the GP01-Fb "Zephyranthes" Full Burnern (from twin pack SP05 released December 2014), Gundam GP02 "Physalis" (also from the SP05 twin pack), Gundam GP03 "Stamen" (Converge vol. 13, released December 2013), the same Stamen from the Dendrobium Mobile Armor pack (SP07, released November 2015) and the new GP04 "Gerbera" from Converge #01.
The GP04 completes the traditional Gundam Development Project quartet for Converge and is easily the most detailed and (in my opinion) best looking of the lot. If this is the detail level the "generic" Converge figures will be sitting at from now on we can expect some really nice figures down the line.

123 : Just like you can't say Nu Gundam without thinking Sazabi, you cannot possibly think of Gundam Gerbera without straying over to the AGX-04 Gerbera Tetra. And it is a good thing that the Bandai project team is wired in that same fashion, since they saw it prudent to give us another long anticipated Converge candidate. For those not familiar with the Gerbera Tetra, it is based on the Gundam Gerbera prototype which was never completed, and instead found its way into the Zeonic Delaz Fleet through political intrigue.

The Gerbera Tetra figure is another excellent new addition to the Converge series. As cool as the design is, the execution is not flawless. The fins on its shoulders can probably benefit from some glue, and the antenna on its head will fall out if you just happen to breathe on it. The beam rifle's peg which connects to the hand is also a bit on the short side but as long as you do not meddle with it, it will stay in place.

Apart from the basic Converge articulation, the Gerbera Tetra figure also simulates the nice Zeonic movable monoeye functionality, which we have seen on a couple of Converge figures before. Basically you can pick apart the helmet to reach in to where the cylindrical monoeye part sits on a peg. This enables you to reposition the direction the eye is looking into, although I find this is more of a gimmick than something I use.

Talking about adjustable eyes; I am not sure whether the Sazabi and the Zaku Worker models can also be tweaked in this regard. These figures are clearly made up of several parts, but I can't really figure out if they are glued in place or supposed to be opened up on those figures, and I am not really in the mood to try to open them up for fear of breaking something.

124 : The last two figures in this set are colour variations of the same model. The MW-01 Mobile Worker Late Type (Mash Custom) is featured in the Origin prequels to Mobile Suit Gundam and is a refined version of the first stumbling attempt at a mobile suit weapon. The orange prototype is crewed by the Zeonic pilot Mash, who will later be known and feared as one of the three ace pilots of the Black Tri-Star unit.

After Converge #01 having showered us with eye catching mobile suits the Zaku Worker might seem a bit light in the accessory and size departments, but should not be neglected because of that. It is a very unique looking mobile suit with many nice details and paint applications in the mold. I should point out that the righthand claw and the two hooks protruding from its chest are filled up with some extra flash to make these components sturdier. With a bit of skill and patience you could possibly cut these out if they really bothered you that much. The figure also has a slightly annoying list to the left (which does seem intended) and could have benefitted from a couple of more milimeteres in stature, since Converge figures aren't made to scale anyway. As mentioned earlier, I believe that the monoeye can be manipulated by opening the head, but I have not wanted to try messing with it.

125 : The last figure in this set is the MW-01 Mobile Worker Late Type (Ramba Ral Custom). It shares the exact same properties as its Orange-coloured counterpart, save for a new set of colours. Poor old Ramba Ral, destined to forever pilot blue mobile suits it seems. I wish he would have survived the Earth Campaign of U.C. 0079, it would have been awesome to see his blue RICK DOM or GELGOOG.

There's not a whole lot to say about this figure without repeating myself, it is one of the more interesting Converge figures as of late, there's not a single dud in this set so let's just continue to wrap things up (and you go out and grab a set while there is still time...).


Conclusion
As I hope this review has made firmly clear, Converge #01 should be a true joy to behold for any Converge collector, regardless of your affiliation or favourite period. As a relaunch of the whole Converge brand it succeeds in doing so, without unnecessarily disconnecting itself from its history. These figures will display well next to the old figures and not feel out of style. I am very excited about Converge #02 (because it contains the Gaplant) and it will be interesting to see how Bandai will continue to develop this figure line.

3 comments:

  1. I think the pegs on the Nu are related to Bandai possibly recycling its mould/parts for the upcoming Converge CORE Nu Gundam HWS?

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like a very plausible explanation.

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  2. The Sazabi eyes cannot be moved. They are shaped like half a donut. I noticed this when I modified my Sazabi eyes

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