Thursday, 31 March 2016

Assault Kingdom EX 06 : MSN-00100 Hyaku-Shiki Set

Things have been a bit quiet on the Assault Kingdom side of the blog for a while now, mainly because we have seen no new regular figures since July last year. Instead the Bandai team have been busy with various vanity projects such as the oversized Psyco Gundam and the equally large Queen Mansa behemoth. Thanks, but I am not interested in paying 185 USD for a candy toy...

Yes, a full eight months have passed since Assault Kingdom volume 9, and we still haven't seen any mentioning of a planned volume 10. You would think Bandai would be eager to put on their best show and make something spectacular for this mini-jubilee, but instead all power seems to be spent on creating expensive EX-figures instead. That is not necessarily a bad thing however, as we have been rewarded with this rather tempting Hyaku-Shiki Set.

Traditionally, the Hyaku-Shiki tends to be released as a "common" figure (compare STANDart or Ultimate Operation for example), but Assault Kingdom is surprisingly giving it a lot of love and attention. This could easily have been a run of the mill yellow plastic figure with a beam rifle and a white toothpick for a beam saber. Instead Bandai went the extra mile and tuned up both its appearance and its toolbox.

Here we really get everything the Zeta Hyaku-Shiki is famous for; a full range of iconic weapons, including the massive Mega Launcher and a customizable DODAI atmospheric flight support vehicle. As a consequence of course, the price leans toward the expensive side, with a set suggestion of ¥2700, which is equal to almost seven standard Assault Kingdom figures. Having said that, I did pick up my figure from a shop in Japan and paid "only" ¥1800 for it.

The basic Hyaku-Shiki figure looks really great. This is the first metallic-looking Assault Kingdom figure I have seen. I had half-expected this to be a bright and plastic-looking overall yellow figure with a minimum of colour application. Instead we get this subdued paint scheme complete with logos on the shoulders and attention to details in red and black. Things that we are not accustomed to seeing in the Assault Kingdom figures. Clearly a lot of the budget has gone into the paintjob and as a result it looks excellent.

Another area where the MSN-00100 really shines is in the equipment department. We get a full set of interactive and interchangeable weapons, from the expected signature Beam Rifle to a Clay Bazooka, a translucent Beam Saber as well as a fully operable Mega Launcher (more on that one in a bit). Another neat feature is how both the Beam Rifle and the Clay Bazooka can be stored on the backpack rack in a similar fashion as the guns on the Rick Dias.

Articulation-wise, the Hyaku-Shiki is a bit of a mixed bag. It features the typical Assault Kingdom articulation points, and has especially good flexibility in the legs. The arms feel more rigid by comparison and do not offer as many nice features. The wing binders can get in the way a bit but can also be titled away to allow the arms to rotate fully in the sockets. We also have the traditional swiveling over arm and bending elbow. I just wish there was a way for the figure to extend its arms straight out to the sides.

Apart from the weapons pack, the Hyaku-Shiki comes with two major accessories; the DODAI configurable atmospheric flight support system, and the gigantic Mega Launcher weapon. A single standard hexagon base is also included which can be used to support one of the given accessories at a time. For some reason the support piece was made an opaque dark grey as opposed to the transparent pieces we have been seeing in the regular line for a while now, this feels like a silly oversight.

The Mega Launcher weapon features some minor articulation itself. The footstep titls down and the barrel can be extended forward a bit although the rubbery tubes tend to drag it back towards the back again. The two handle bars are neatly stowed on the butt of the launcher when not in use, and are repositioned to give the Hyaku-Shiki a means to operate it. This is all an illusion though, since there is no physical connection between the launcher and the mobile suit itself, instead they both have to be attached to the base through means of some fiddly but efficient pegging. It was awkward to pose the Hyaku-Shiki together with the Mega Launcher but once in place they sit nicely in place. It is a cool if gimmicky weapon although the next accessory is by far my favourite.

Yep, the DODAI is one of those highly versatile accessories that really open up for a lot of entertaining display options. The Assault Kingdom model has a good number of pegs and holes which enable some really creative use when placing figures on or around it. What is really cool is how the wings can be extended outward to make room for two figures side by side.

The obvious issue with the DODAI is of course its poor balance; the tiny base plate included in the box is nowhere near the size it needs to be to support anything but the most timid of angles. You'll want to dig out a larger action base (from e.g. the Qubeley or the Kshatriya) for the really crazy scenes.

This is such an awesome accessory, it borders on needing to be sold separately; how cool would it be to line up your entire A.E.U.G. army on a wing of DODAI:s? Hint to Bandai: Make a Karaba Dijeh with another DODAI and sell it as EX 15 or whatever. :)


MSN-00100 Hyaku-Shiki 1/220 scale, left to right: STANDart vol. 12 (released January 2012), Assault Kingdom EX06 (January 2016), STANDart vol. 2 (March 2008) and FW Ultimate Operation Plus 3 (March 2006).
Never before have I seen an Assault Kingdom figure which mingles so effortlessly with its brethren from STANDart and Ultimate Operation. Bandai really hit the mark with this figure.


The Assault Kingdom Hyaku-Shiki Set is a schoolbook example of how you do everything right with an action figure. It faithfully captures the mobile suit from the Zeta Gundam series and with its wide range of accurate and highly playable accessories this figure will add a lot to your Assault Kingdom collection.

Gundanium Gateway also came across a maintenance and performance evaluation on the Hyaku-Shiki signed by Lt. Quattro Bajeena himself. This is what he had to say:

"Overall the MSN-00100 has good mobility although its articulation is a bit hampered by the large binders on the backpack. Works well with DODAI support in atmospheric flight but the Mega Launcher is cumbersome to operate, and is not on par with the onboard targeting system, I can't seem to hit anything with it. Suggest Anaheim begins work on an upgraded system immediately. Recommend all A.E.U.G. and Karaba Armchair Generals add this mobile suit to their Assault Kingdom flight lines ASAP."

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Gundam Converge : UC Ace Vol. 3 Magazine RX-0 Unicorn Gundam

Well, hello there little fellow. Haven't we met before? I have this distinct memory I saw you in a recent Converge release, and one before that, and one...

In the typical backwards world that is Gundam toys, you can't take one step without stumbling on a preciously rare and top performing Gundam mobile suit whereas the low performing mass produced machines -that exist in the stories purely to be turned into mince meat- are nowhere to be found.

Today's mini review will be a quick look on one of the bazillion versions of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam. This particular figure was still rather fresh at the time of its release though, having only been preceded by one previous figure. This particular item was a promotional figure tied to the third issue of the Gundam ACE magazine, and was released in the end of 2011. Its claim to fame (apart form being a limited edition item in itself) is a layer of pearl coating.

As you can see from the above and below pictures this is a fairly standard Unicorn Gundam figure. You get the basic accessories and articulation which we have by now come to expect out of a basic Converge figure.

The pearl coating effect is really nice and the green eyes have also been given a nice and shiny appearance although this can be hard to see because of this figure's penchant for leaning forward. We've seen some of these Unicorns so eager to stoop forward that the only way to keep them on their feet has been to use the Beam Rifle (or that dull base which clips to the ankles) as an additional support. No such problems on this particular figure though.

RX-0 Unicorn Gundam lineage. To the left we have the originalRX-0 from Converge vol. 2 (released January 2011), in the middle stands the (also) pearl coated RX-0 from the Overseas Only triple pack from 2012, and to the right we have the most detailed version, the UC ACE figure from December 2011.

The pearl coating was apparently popular enough to be reused when the RX-0 was reissued in the "Converge Limited (Overseas Only)" triple pack in 2012, which saw it rebundled with a Jesta and a delta Plus, both of which had also had their colours upgraded. The UC ACE version of this figure is easily recognized through the additional colouring on its shield which was not added on the 2012 version.

To make this short review a bit more interesting I am including the line-up of cardboard box promo figures thus far released in the Converge line:

Promotional figures in similar boxes: Char's Zaku II with machine gun (Dengeki Hobby Magazine August, 2011), the pearl-coated RX-0 (UC Ace Vol 3, December 2011), the Banshee (Unicorn Mode) again from Dengeki Hobby Magazine (July 2012) and the X-0 Crossbone Gundam Ghost which came with Gundam Ace magazine in June 2013.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Mobile Suit Gundam Ultimate Operation : FW Gundam Ultimate File

Today I have a really unusual artefact to present, an item I recently stumbled on simply by chance. It is the Fusion Works Gundam Ultimate File publication, which is a glossy book (more like a product catalogue than anything else) published by Dengeki Hobby Books whose logo also appears in the top corner on the front cover. According to the production notes on the last page the book was formally releases on March 20th 2008. The price listed on the back cover is 2500 yen.

At this point in FWUO history the series had already folded, with the last figures of Operation Maelstrom appearing already a year ago in March 2007. And to this end the book is not dedicated solely to the Ultimate Operation series, but also contains material on the first two volumes of the recently initiated STANDart figures series, also manufactured by Fusion Works. As such, the book is not an exclusive FWUO tome, although for the Ultimate Operation collector it is a complete reference guide and as such quite seminal.

The book itself is in landscape format and sits inside a portrait-oriented cardboard cover, to match the size of your typical Dengeki Hobby Magazine. It is roughly 100 pages but wastes no time on unnecessary words. The first page is an index, and from then it starts presenting full artwork spreads of the FW UO figures in the order they appear. You will recognize the style of the artwork from the miniature images on the Ultimate Operation packaging back covers, where the actual figures are presented against computer generated backdrops, often with augmentations such as glowing eyes or motion blur effects. Sadly there is no text or other facts presented but just the pictures themselves.

The YMS-15 Gyan from FWUO vol.  9 shares page with the two RGM-79SP GM Sniper II figures from FWUO vol. 10.

The two MSM-03C Hy-Gogg figures from FWUO volume 10 in some dramatically enhanced portrait shots.

Char's MS-14S Gelgoog and a litter of MS-09 Doms (this time around without the Black Tri-Star numbers on them), all from the reissue figures from the UC0079 series.
Interspersed between the action shots we find the real meat of the book however, the figure series data. Here each figure wave is quickly summarized and the book also points out some basic details about each figure, such as if there are marking variations or special gimmicks or transformations. You will find most of this information on the individual figure cards as well, but not as nicely displayed and detailed as here.

The below spread is of particular interest, displaying all the limited figures (which of course are not mentioned on the regular figure card backs) as well as the two FW EX figures released in 2005. I myself didn't even know about the Burstliner model until now, a model which I will now have to begin searching for (rather fruitlessly I fear).

Nearing the end of the book we also get a short summary of the first two STANDart waves of figure, although there is no additional artwork associated with these figures (dear FW can we also have a meaty STANDart reference as the series epitaph now that the series has been killed off?). The very last page before the end titles is titled "Special Comments" and contains three articles that I would have loved to read, except everything except the heading is in Japanese only (you knew it).

Overall, I find this book highly relevant as a reference guide for any serious Ultimate Operation collector. I don't know how rare it is, since I normally do not bother with the Dengeki Gundam products, but my guess is it is probably tricky to find though probably not very expensive.

Before we go, let's just zoom in on a couple of these awesome suits:

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Gundam Converge CORE 004 / CORE 005 / CORE 006

Converge CORE is a quaint series of figure redesigns, originally appearing in August 2015. Figures have been released in three separate waves. The first wave contained CORE 001 and CORE 002 as separate items, these were sold exclusively as premium items through the Bandai web shop. Then just in time for Christmas we saw CORE 003 which was distributed through normal retail channels and containing three different figures sold together as a set. These figures were also much cheaper than the first two. Finally the last(?) wave appeared in January in 2016, again featuring three distinct and separate figures sold one by one. It is these three figures we are going to look closer at today. For convenience, these figures are reviewed together.

Converge CORE wave three: 004. FA-93HWS Nu Gundam, 005. GNT-0000/FS 00 QAN[T] and 006. RX-0[N] Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee Norn.
Since the start, Converge CORE quickly distinguished itself as being something very pricey. Although there are more pricey Converge EX figures around, when you consider the fact that you are basically getting basic Converge figures here (albeit with more bells and whistles) the asking prices seem quite steep. Bandai themselves priced these items at ¥2000, ¥1800 and ¥1600 respectively (a regular figure is priced at ¥500), but on the online market the prices are hiked to around $30-$50 dollars per head which borders on the laughable.

I know that my moaning about the CORE packaging is old hat by now, but it is also such an irresistible topic, especially when you have three figures that would easily fit within one of the boxes...

Alright, with that out of the way, let's open up the actual boxes, shall we?

As you can see from the pictures above, we are really dealing with very basic Converge figures here.

CORE 004 : FA-93HWS Nu Gundam Heavy Weapon System. The first figure in this wave is the first CORE figure to actually feature a brand new mobile suit model. Where all previous CORE figures are mainly repainted old designs, this figure contains several new components and body parts. The figure is clearly developed together with the recently released RX-93 Nu Gundam (Converge #01) as it shares many of its parts including the base plate which features the same part number on the underside.

We have seen several Nu Gundams in Converge already, so I was quite excited by the HWS model to be released. Out of all the three figures in this set it held my interest in a league of its own. The basic figure design is very slick, and its many interchangeable accessories are a joy to fiddle around with. The multi-coloured beam saber and bazooka deserve special mention here, whereas the beam rifle looks a bit bland in comparison.

Alternate armament options for the HWS. The bazooka can be carried on the back or in hand, however the bulk of the shoulder equipment makes it difficult to rest it on the figures shoulder, leading to the figure's head being slightly tilted to the other side.

The basic Nu Gundam figure is compatible with the HWS which allows for interesting armament options for each figure. I went as far as to replace the right arm on the HWS with the one from the RX-93, which lets it hold the bazooka in a more relaxed fashion.

CORE 004 FA-93 HWS (left) compared to the RX-93 from Converge #01 (right).
Overall the HWS is a really great Converge figure and I find it rather strange that it has been relegated to being an exclusive item, especially when it seems to have so much in common with the ordinary RX-93.

CORE 005 : GNT-0000/FS 00 QAN[T] Full Saber. The next mobile suit in this wave is also a redesign of a face we've seen in Converge before. The basic QAN[T] figure was striking on its own, but with the new components designed for its Full Saber variation even the Exia + O-Raiser combo figure seems unimpressive by comparison.

The QAN[T] Full Saber figure is bristling not only with transparent green parts, but a boatload of very small and highly detailed insignias and symbols. Just look at these below close-up shots.

The Full Saber figure comes from the older generation of Converge figures without black base plates, and with the weapon molded directly into the figure's right hand. It also has no optional equipment but instead goes straight for dazzling you with all its stylish and colourful detail (definitely succeeding in this regard as well). I wasn't that convinced when I first saw the previews, but after holding this figure in my hand it feels almost mandatory in the collection.

Converge Celestial Being line-up, from left to right: GN-001 Gundam Exia (this particular version form the Limited double pack released in 2011), the original GNT-0000 00 Qan[T] from Converge Vol. 14 (released April 2014), the GNR-010 0 Raiser from Converge Vol. 9 (December 2012), the GN-0000 00 Gundam + GNR-010 0 Raiser combination figure (CORE 001, August 2015) and finally the new GNT-0000/FS 00 QAN[T] Full Saber.
The Celestial Being armory has been growing nicely as of late, still there is much to be done here.

CORE 006 : RX-0[N] Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee Norn (Destroy Mode). Considering the multitude of Unicorn figures we've seen storming through Converge ever since the start, the last figure in this wave may also have seen the least exciting. But just like with the QAN[T] Full Saber figure, once I saw it up close that impression was whisked away in an instant. The CORE Banshee Norn is easily the most impressive version of Unicorn number two. The basic figure is familiar, but the backpack and the shield now come in their full Destroy Mode glory. The entire figure has also been given a very sleek bronze-greenish coat which simply looks fabulous.

The basic Banshee figure is interesting in that it offers a lot of articulation normally not seen in Converge. Where the basic Converge figure will feature a head that can -at best- rotate, arms that rotate at the shoulders, and a weapon that swivels in the righthand wrist (simply because the hand is molded onto the weapon rather than the arm), the Banshees also feature articulated waists and underarms. This is nice although it doesn't really compensate for the lack of weapon options available. Not that I expected anything special here, but it would have been awesome to get alternate parts for the Unicorn Mode or why not a nice shiny beam saber?

Converge Unicorn 02 family, left to right: RX-0 Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee (Unicorn Mode) released as a Dengeki Hobby Magazine promo item (July 2012), the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee (Destroy Mode) from Converge vol. 7 (May 2012), the RX-0[N] Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee Norn (Unicorn Mode) from Converge vol. 10 (April 2013), the recently released Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee (Destroy Mode) (Metallic version) from a limited "SP Overseas Only" double pack (August 2015) and the new Banshee Norn (Destroy Mode) figure from CORE.
Nevertheless, the Banshee Norn will not disappoint, and it makes all the previous versions pale in comparison to its might.


If you have the funds to spare, and the iron stomach for the purchase, you'll find that the most recent set of CORE figures are really superb. I hadn't expected much from this lot to be honest, but I am very happy that I did decide to pick up all of them, since they really surprised me with their great attention to detail. I just hope now that this will be the last part of the overpriced CORE fad and that we continue to see more basic figures down the line, which seem to be in such rare supply today.