Sunday, 28 August 2016

Gundam STANDart Armoury

I have been meaning to engineer this lineup for quite some time, but the thought of rummaging through the various figure boxes to accomplish it made it easy to procrastinate. But as summer is now steadily fading away, and the beneficial daylight with it, I finally got around to doing it. This is the Gundanium Gateway dedication to one of the most awesome Gundam figure collections out there; the 1/220 STANDart series.

The release details for the STANDart figures can of course be found on the checklist page, here we just enjoy the good times and salute the outstanding work of the FusionWorks and Bandai teams who made it possible. A couple of remarks regarding the display below:

-The only figure missing from this chronology is the transparent Wing Gundam, which is a rather expensive novelty item that I have no plans to get as I'm not much into the craze of clear figures.

-Gundam Exia is carrying the GN Sword and select armour bits from the Dengeki Hobby O-Raiser accessory pack.

-The two premium Bandai figures are not fully equipped as I was a bit lazy to fiddle with all the components, a future version of the list might see these changed.
































Saturday, 20 August 2016

Banpresto Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam DX Part 2 : ORX-005 Gaplant

Today we have something out of the ordinary routine on the display. It is a prepainted articulated figure manufactured by Banpresto in 2006. Released as part of a three set of figures under the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam DX Part 2 moniker, this item was manufactured specifically as a prize item. I have to presume it was intended for the classic Ichiban-Kuji lottery which Banpresto produces a seemingly endless supply of novelty items for.

While normally I tend to shy away from "one-off" items, especially if they are out of scale, the Gaplant is such a rare bird that I felt compelled to check it out. The fact that the figure sits in a set together with a Messala and a Gabthley only strengthened that decision. I would hazard a guess that MSGZ DX Part 1 would consist of three transformable A.E.U.G. figures, although I have never seen any of them on sale before. It would seem to make sense though, with a Zeta, Methuss and RX-178 (G-Defenser) for example.

Like other prize items, the Gaplant comes in a rather oversized and over-engineered box, but at least the figure will be sitting very safely inside it, a good thing considering it has several delicate parts. Although the main figure is made of semi-hard plastic (although not as soft as e.g. FW figures and Gashapons) the fins on the large booster unit are very brittle since Banpresto obviously wanted to avoid them bending out of shape. This is a lottery prize item after all.

The ORX-005 Gaplant is a behemoth of a machine while at the same time featuring some very tiny joints in certain places. This must be something of a challenge to model and finding the best combination between aesthetics and durability. I think Banpresto have hit it right on the head with this figure, the proportions are very smooth and the figure feels quite sturdy in spite of being so slim. Had this been a STANDart figure I would pretty much expect pieces like shoulders and fins to come flying off the minute you touch it, but here it remains solid and even playable.

The main issue with this Gaplant is the many loose joints which tend to make the figure wanting to slump forward or sideways depending on where gravity needs it to go. The large feet usually keep it standing without falling, but it tends to look a bit awkward and groggy sometimes. Several ball-joints in arms and legs give the figure somewhat limited poseability but don't expect anything Assault Kingdome like here. The absence of a base for it to clip to is also absent, so gravity will indeed dictate what you can accomplish with it.

Esthetically I find the figure nicely sculpted and painted in bright recognizable colours. Although not up to par with STANDart, and featuring no weathering like the Ultimate Operation figures, it still pretty damned nice when displayed next to them.

Size Comparisons

Although no scale is mentioned for this figure I would place it somewhere very close to the 1/220 scale meaning it matches Assault Kingdom, STANDart and Ultimate Operation very well. I don't know if the other figures in this Banpresto line are made to scale with the Gaplant, but I am really eager to find out.

The Gaplant compared to a STANDart Zeta Gundam (above) and a Zeta from FW Ultimate Operation (below). With its 25 meter height the Gaplant has about five meters on the Z Gundam so the scale feels close enough.


The Gaplant sadly never made it to any of the other 1/220-series we feature on the blog. As far as I am aware it also never made it to neither HCM Pro, MSIA or Robot Damashii which is rather disappointing. I would assume engineering reasons are to blame. Might this be the largest figure representation of the Gaplant? Next step up seems to be the 1/144 HGUC model kit.

Gaplant Gashapon representations, from left to right: Mini Figure Selection Plus 5 (ca 1/400, 2005-2006, a silver version is also available in the MFS series), Gaplant with detachable booster (Gundam Collection 1/400, 2005), Converge Gaplant (March 2016), HG MS Selection Vol. 32 Gaplant with beam saber (ca 1/250, released 2004).
Luckily the Gaplant gets much better representation in the Gashapon figure lines. The recent Converge representation was also a nice figure in its own right. It is interesting to note how Bandai and their respective partners never seem to agree on exactly what colour to use for the Gaplant's body. And the Banpresto figure is by far the greenest guy in this crowd.

Mobile Armor Mode

Just like the other two figures in this set, the Gaplant can transform into a high speed mobile armor mode. The whole transformation takes place without any need for parts removal; instead you twist and turn key components to transform it to a reasonably good representation of the actual design.

In spite of the large instruction sheet I missed the point the first few times before finally understanding how the machine is supposed to look when fully transformed. I first took a set of photos before I realized that I hade put the wing binders backwards. Then I took a second set and it wasn't until I actually began typing up this blog entry that I realized the arms should not point forward but backward, so I had to take it out for a new round of photos. However, when I tried to rotate the wing binders according to step five, neither binder wanted to budge. Of course, I tried to apply more force and one of them snapped. So, I managed to glue it back together and will refrain from trying to mess with the arms again, so bear that in mind when looking at the below pictures.

Now, apart from some minor elements missing in the transformation (such as bendable feet for example) the figure actually does a really good job of presenting a relatively clean and sleek mobile armor mode. With arms and legs a bit prone to gliding around though, it can be fiddly to get all angles to line up properly. And of course the lack of an action base hurts the figure a lot.

Note: No action base is included with this figure.

In the above figures my Gaplant is sitting on a simple DIY base cobbled together from Assault Kingdom figure bases, it does a reasonable job of giving some illusion of flight. I suppose that an action base was omitted since it would have had to be something impressive which could also handle the large detachable flight booster unit. Speaking of which...

Gaplant Booster Unit

There is really only one accessory with the Gaplant figure in this box, and it is big enough not to be missed. In fact, it is bigger than the mobile suit itself. Out of all figures coming with extra boosters, nothing compares to the behemoth jet pack they attached to the Gaplant...


The booster pack attaches to a point on the back skirt and slots in perfectly, presenting a continuous and clean fuselage line. Again I ended up using my custom action base because otherwise I fail to see how you can get any enjoyment out of this figure.

It is a little bit sad that no other extras are included with the Gaplant. A pair of extra hands with translucent yellow beam sabers would have really sealed the deal here.



Conclusion

Overall the Banpresto Gaplant is a very fine figure which fills an important gap in the 1/220 collection (whichever figure series you happen to collect). This being a secondary market item only, it is tricky to find but still not particularly expensive. Perhaps in the future we will see a Gaplant popping up in the Universal Unit series but I am honestly not holding my breath about that. If you like 1/220 figures and find a moderately priced one, buy on sight would be my recommendation.

You should have stuck with the Gaplant Rosamia; that Baund-Doc was just messing with your head...

Monday, 15 August 2016

Gundam Converge EX 13 : FA-78 Full Armor Gundam

The Converge EX series has now virtually doubled in size since the turn of the year, if this trend continues we'll see more exclusive figures than standard ones. With the similarly recent onslaught in Assault Kingdom I am beginning to feel a bit of a burnout when it comes to these things. I suppose I should be glad that a lot of money has been invested in the furthering of this figure series but I cannot help but feel that some of its innocence and entertainment factor has been lost in the process. I am starting to get a similar vibe even from the SD super deformed Gashapon figures that keep evolve and become more and more complicated with each passing release. The Gundam generation has apparently grown up, as far as marketing people are concerned.

The latest Converge EX figure to join the fray is another of those "ret-con" types of figures that are inserted into various segments of the Universal Century timeline. Here we see the FA-78 Full Armor Gundam, which hails from the recently conceptualized MSG Thunderbolt setting. Although I have yet to be exposed to this section of the U.C. mythos and now as much that we're dealing with a subset of the E.F.S.F. and Zeonic One Year War taking place in "Thunderbolt Sector", far away from Char and Amuro's iconic battlegrounds. However a new prototype Gundam design ended up in such backwaters I'll never know...

Figurewise we're dealing with something of a mix of new and classic Converge. The figure itself feels like an updated old design, although the improved detail, many parts and overall flexibility screams Converge reboot.

Although first impressions might deceive, what we are looking at here is really nothing more than your bog standard RX-78 with some extra flair in the form of colouring and a bit more accessories than usual.

The basic figure comes with a peculiar looking righthand. The hand is can accommodate the heavy twin beam rifle (which bears more than a passing resemblance to the classic FA-78-1 gear) and a shield to cover it. On the left wrist is provision for a multi-tube missile launcher and again a shield to protect it. If you want you can skip these weapon systems and attach the shields directly to arms, or even leave the figure bare bones.

On the back the figure has an extra large flight unit and weapon rack which is so heavy it is in no way possible to allow the figure to stand upright without use of the large transparent support piece. Here is a figure that really would have benefitted from the new black bases with peg for the figure's foot to help it stay upright. I guess the FA-78 Converge model was developed in the era before the new action bases had been devised.

There are three preconfigured display variants for the FA-displayed in step by step detail on the included paper sheet. Honestly, these three are really only minor variations on a theme. Above you can see the first type, which makes use of only two shields and instead features some sort of protective shields sticking out from the backpack and protecting the sides of the head.

The second variant removes these head protectors and instead places the remaining two shields on long flexible arms that give flank protection. I think the first variant looks tighter but it is difficult to avoid playing with the full amount of shields provided in the box...

The third variation just takes the flexible arms and repositions them to cover forward instead of the flanks. The figure looks more striking when viewed from the front although a lot more of the details is obscured by the shields. You can play around with whatever mode you like the most, it is not as it matters a great deal after all.

To place the FA-78 Full Armor Gundam in context here it is with some of its closest kin from the Converge line up. The two old MSV FA-78-1 Full Armor Gundam designs look very primitive when compared to the new figure, which looks decidedly more hardcore. This is not only a product of Converge evolution but of mobile suit design evolution in general. The "new" FA-78 looks less like a toy and more like it means business. To the right we can also see the ol' RX-78-2 in two "Real Type" colour variations. I suppose I could have put the RX-78-1 Prototype Gundam in the picture also.

Overall the FA-78 is a really nice Converge figure, although it doesn't really strike me as a must have in any way. There is something lazy about an updated "FA-78" replacing the existing "FA-78-1", just like the RX-78-02 Gundam from The Origin feels like a boring variation on the RX-78-2 Gundam theme. At the relatively high price of ¥2200 this equals four standard Converge figures. Unless more Thunderbolt era figures are made available this strikes me as a completist figure only.