Monday, 11 September 2017

SD Gashapon Senshi Forte 02

When I first encountered the Senshi Forte series it was through some singles from this volume popping up on eBay. A set containing 50% grunt suits and featuring Zeta units at that? I was hooked right from the start. Here was a perfect opportunity to do a little squad building that I couldn't pass up!

The Senshi Forte series premiered this winter and volume two followed shortly thereafter in March 2017. Being Gashapon these figures are typically sold in vending machines at a price of 300 yen each. Flip the handle and you receive a figure in a plastic bubble. The figures can also be found on store shelves with the plastic bubbles packaged in cardboard boxes. Pray that you get the one you wanted and if not, spend another 300 and try again.

Since there are most likely no Gashapon machines within the nearest 6000-7000 kilometer radius I took the lazy route and purchased a full set from a seller in Hong Kong and also topped it up with a couple of selected singles for army building purposes.

Each figure comes with a mini-booklet detailing the figures of the set and also hints at the next release which in this case is the first Senshi Forte EX figure, the Penelope which is a very expensive little piece of Gashapon.

Anatomy

Senshi Forte is a refinement of an earlier generation of SD miniatures. The figures come with what you could almost call an inner frame of sorts. So far all the figures seen in Volumes 1 to 3 share the very same skeleton and build principles, illustrated below by the Galbaldy Beta.

The average Senshi Forte figure has three major joint sections where a limited inner frame is put to use. The arms are attached to the shoulders through a dual ball joint, allowing for wiggling and turning freely (or until the arm hits some cumbersome detail like wing binders, backpacks etc.), an elbow which can bend like a real arm and beyond (although the compact design of the figures rarely gives the arms much room to maneuver) and the underarm is also free to rotate. The legs and armored skirt attach to a T-shaped frame which allows the stubby legs to dangle around and the torso to twist while allowing the skirt some limited wiggling room. Head and hands then follow on traditional round pegs enabling left and right turns.
 

F007 : GNT-0000 00 Qan[T]


The Qan[T] is the most complex and elaborate of the figures in this set with its many transparent or special colour parts. The head and face for example come in half a dozen parts, a few of them so tiny that they are probably hopelessly lost if you were to drop them on your floor. The colours are vibrant and attractive and the little figure is sure to catch eyes.

I must admit that I am getting a bit fed up with Celestial Being mobile suits by now. The cause for this is that it is almost always a variation on the Exia or the 00 that is being featured. If Senshi Forte were to load up with some Union or AEU grunt suits like the Over Flag or the Enact I would begin to snicker and froth uncontrollably instead. So far there is only one MSG 00 figure present in Senshi Forte. Looking at other series like SD Warrior DASH or MS Ensemble I would expect that the next appearance in Senshi Forte (if any) will be the 00 Gundam with the 0 Raiser.

To be fair though, the Qan[T] is a really beautiful figure and it can easily hold its own when compared to its bigger Converge cousin. Fans of MSG 00 will surely enjoy it.
 

F008 : MSZ-006 Z Gundam


Another face that tends to pop up in many figure series is the iconic Zeta Gundam, my guess is this is mainly because of its attractive and colourful livery. I always enjoy putting my hands on a Zeta figure and this one is no exception.

The Senshi Forte figure comes with shiny green metallic eyes and a loadout comprised of beam rifle, translucent beam saber and shield - what's not to like? The optional weapons can either be held one in each hand or you can do like I did and lend one of them to a friendly Rick Dias.
 

F009 : RMS-099 Rick Dias


The first feature you will notice about the Senshi Forte Rick Dias is its large emerald green eye. It comes loose in the package and mostly resembles a little gemstone. The mobile suit has rather basic paintjob in red, brown and gray but so this piece works extremely well at drawing your eye. I really hope if Bandai will use a similar technique if they decide to do a Senshi Forte DOM or other similar Zeonic mobile suit. And while we are on that topic; with four sets of Senshi Forte announced or released so far, we are yet to see a single mobile suit from the Mobile Suit Gundam television series. This is both really surprising and oddly refreshing.

The Rick Dias comes armed with a clay bazooka and a pair of beam pistols. The figure has no problem equipping either of the guns and it is possible to hang the bazooka on the backpack weapon rack (although it will easily fall off when handled).

The Senshi Forte Rick Dias is a really good figure and a real favourite of mine. Too bad they didn't release a black colour variation of it but it can always be customized if need be.
 

F010 : RMS-117 Galbaldy Beta


This little guy is what really sold me on starting a Senshi Forte gang (which then grew out of control as they always do... damn you Bandai). Not only is the Galbaldy-Beta a really smart and sinister looking EFSF suit, it is also not getting enough love in the figure department. Apart from its big brother in STANDart we have for example not seen it in any of the other Shokugan figure series here on the blog. Pretty disappointing considering the presence of Zeta figures is fairly good in all of them. It has also been conspiciously absent in the SD format since its last showing in the Full Color 57 set which came out back in 2005.

With the Galbaldy-Beta originating from Zeonic mobile suit design it's most distinguishing feature is the Gelgoog-like head with a purple monoeye. The eye sits on a ring like on some of the Converge figures which enables it being moved left and right which is a nice although pretty standard feature at this point. Personally I would much have preferred a shiny ruby eye like the emerald one they gave to the Rick Dias.

The figure comes with its signature beam rifle and shield. Although I didn't expect a beam saber to go along with it, it would have been a really nice touch. Nothing stopping you from stealing some equipment from other mobile suits though, like the clay bazooka from the Rick Dias as seen above.
 

F011 : Me-02R Messer


And speaking of rarely seen mobile suits; this must be a first ever form the Messer in any Gashapon or Shokugan format. I hadn't even heard of this badass looking battlesuit until it popped up in Senshi Forte. The Messer originated in the Hathaway's Flash storyline which is most famous for spawning the high performing Penelope and Xi Gundam mobile suits, but never have I seen a grunt suit from this timeline before. The Messer is supposedly a development of the Geara Doga (it looks more like a customized Jagd Doga in my opinion) and operated by the anti-federation group Mufti.

Just like the Galbaldy the Messer comes with a zeonic style rotating monoeye and a beam rifle and shield arrangement. It is a pretty good look-alike although the full-scale design is much more menacing looking. It would have been sooooo good to see it pop up in the 1/220 figure line sometime in the future (yeah, right...).

Perhaps unsurprisingly the Messer is also accompanied in Senshi Forte by Mufti's powerhouse RX-105 Xi Gundam mobile suit, as well as the opposition RX-104FF Penelope which features as Senshi Forte's first EX figure (with a horrible price tag to match).
 

F012 : Musha v-Gundam


Just like in the SD Warrior Dash series, Senshi Forte is following the tradition of placing an SD Warrior character at the end of the set. I don't really know anything about these figures, I don't even know if the Musha Nu Gundam is in fact a TV-series character or some kind of SD MSV gimmick where they just mix and match for fun.

Whatever the story behind it, the Musha Nu is as you would suspect a mix-up of the melee-style Musha Gundam and the well known RX-93 Nu Gundam with its winglike remote fin funnel equipment. The figure comes armed with two wingbinders (the "real" Nu Gundam will only rarely feature more than one) as well as a spear and a sword. The weapons are painted in nice metallic colour and there is plenty of gold detail on the mobile suit as well.

Gundam Converge Musha Gundam (left), Senshi Forte volume 1 Musha Mk-II (center) and Senshi Forte volume 2 Musha Nu (right).


For what is is, the figure looks really great. Perhaps not as impressive as the Musha Mk-II from Senshi Forte 1 but definitely better than the Musha Psycho Gundam from Senshi Forte 3. (Seriously who comes up with these things and when can I expect to see a Musha Asshimar?)


Conclusion

Senshi Forte volume 2 is easily my favourite release from SF this far. Not only are all the figures in this set great but we get a whopping 50% of the figures being army buildable which really tempted me to bulk up the collection unnecessarily. I hope that we will get more frontline grunt suits to play with in future sets as these figures are not only adorable but also pretty customizable and excellent as pieces for your own custom games. Overall, the entire line consists of many fine figures and I would highly recommend them for any SD format collectors out there. Although they are not size compatible with Converge they are almost of the same quality and have a fairly similar feel to them.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Gundam STANDart : MSA-0011[Ext] Ex-S Gundam

This review is a double feature of two different Gundam STANDart figures which both depict the Ex-S Gundam mobile suit from Gundam Sentinel. Both were released as rather pricey limited edition figures, the original Ex-S appearing in March 2014 and the recent CORE revisitation coming out in July 2017. The original figure had a price of ¥3600 while the CORE version upped it to ¥4167. Somewhat amusingly, the 2014 version was hailed as the first step in the next ten years of FW Gundam figures, we all know how that went.

Each figure comes in a large box the size of roughly two normal STANDart boxes, and contains all pieces in separate slots for easy storage and with extra soft plastic sheets in between to avoid pieces rubbing against each other and messing with the paintwork. To date there have only been three premium STANDart figures like this; apart from the two Ex-S versions we also have a magnificent Sinanju figure that was released in between.

Each figure comes with full assembly instructions which come in extremely handy as there are many specific features of especially the action base configuration which would be tricky to sort out through trial and error.

Each figure contains the exact same parts, with mainly paint applications differing between the two.


Instructions are included to display each Ex-S figure in up to three different modes. We'll be looking at both figures simultaneously as we go through the different poses.


Mode 1 - Basic standing mode

The Ex-S Gundam figure is pretty massive and has several heavy parts attached to its back which makes it difficult to display on its own. Hence we get an action base with three different configurations. Even in the most basic form a simple stand is used which clips into the figure's crotch keeping it securely upright. This is necessary since the legs are only loosely attached to the torso. This is done to allow for the figure to either stand upright or dangle its feet while flying.






The basic mode omits the most iconic accessory of the mobile suit, which is instead featured specifically in the next display:
 

Mode 2 - With Beam Smart Gun

Notice that the action base now uses a sturdier stand which attaches the Beam Smart Gun on a separate arm in front of the figure (this is the famous smart gun claviature pose...). The Smart Gun attachment point is rather loose and the gun will easily spin around or fall off in this position. Note also that the mobile suit is now propped up from the ground and is instead hovering above it.







Other than this, the first two modes are very similar and you could easily remove the front arm holding the smart gun to display the base mobile suit only.
 

Mode 3 - Parts Separated

The parts explosion mode removes several components from the mobile suit itself and floats them around the basic mobile suit by attaching them directly onto the action base instead. This has a more natural looking Beam Smart Gun positioning at the side of the suit rather than it being dangled in front.










Out of the three variants this is easily the most imposing and also the main feature of the figure.


Comparisons

Here you can see the two colour schemes next to each other. The standard Gundam red-white-blue is enhanced with a sharp two-tone blue zigzag pattern and there are also several smaller distinct colour changes giving the CORE version a more modern look (the old colours are beginning to look a bit vintage already). I am not entirely sure I appreciate the updated white action base though. Although it matches the figure quite well I think it is attracting too much attention and could have benefitted from being toned down or why not even fully transparent.

If you are a Gundam Converge collector you will recognize the colour pattern used for the CORE figure from the Converge CORE redefinition of the S-Gundam figure as well. Both figure series are/were manufactured by FusionWorks after all.

The STANDart Ex-S Gundam is significantly taller than the average STANDart figure. Although the figure line is not done to scale, the Ex-S Gundam has been allowed to retain the same proportions as the S Gundam that it modifies, which is a really nice touch.

2017 has really been a Gundam Sentinel year in the Gundam Shokugan series. We have got new Sentinel-themed figures also in Universal Unit and Gundam Converge and even Assault Kingdom was revived to provide us with a FAZZ recolouration of the old FA-010S Full Armor ZZ Gundam figure. The E.F.S.F. Sentinel line-up is now pretty daunting when you combine figures from all these 1/220 figure series.

Overall the STANDart Ex-S Gundam figures are highly enjoyable and both are given centerpieces in a 1/220 line-up. Their main problem is of course the high prices. The CORE Ex-S figure is currently commanding around ¥3500 on the Japanese market while the original figure is getting harder to find as well as more expensive, expect to pay at least ¥4500 for it.