Friday, 21 July 2017

Gundam Converge EX 16 : AMA-X7 Shamblo

2017 has seen a steady stream of Converge EX-releases. The Shamblo is the third to appear in roughly four months (fourth if you count the CORE reissue of the Deep Striker) and after a quick summer break EX 17 and EX 18 sit on cue for release in September and October. Either Bandai and FusionWorks are upping the game or they are just clearing out all the planned high profile releases like they did with Assault Kingdom last year.

The Shamblo mobile armor is a pretty risky business proposition for an EX figure. Mobile Armors in general don't seem to attract as much interest as mobile suits, and the Shamblo is a pretty odd bird at that as well. It seems someone is hell-bent on getting out as many high-priced figures out of the Unicorn series as possible, you'd think there would be more money in all the remaining mobile suits though.

On top of that, the Shamblo figure is a standard retail release as well, meaning it should be expected to sell more units than its pricier P-Bandai cousins, a feat you got to wonder if it will be able to achieve. With a Bandai suggested retail price tag of ¥3200 the Shamblo definitely has an uphill struggle in front of it. I picked mine up from Mandarake just a few days after its release, at a price of ¥2500. I hope Bandai has a huge margin on these things otherwise it probably stands to be a disappointing performer. Still, I hear Japanese business practice is based on quantifying everything so someone must have made a calculation that it will be a profitable product.

The Shamblo figure is primarily made from the same type of hard plastic as was used on the recent Neo Zeong figure. It allows for crisp detail but turns a sturdy candy toy into a somewhat brittle statue in the process. I can't say I am a huge fan of this concept; I much prefer the soft plastic used on the average Converge figure myself.

The Shamblo is a rather straightforward build, there aren't that many parts involved and an instruction leaflet has also been provided. Just like on the Neo Zeong there are many nice paint applications that go mostly unseen once the figure has been completely assembled.


I have never really got my head around the Shamblo mobile armor design and pictures of it normally don't help either, so for me it was very informative to put this figure together to finally realize just exactly what its actual shape is like.


The overall concept design of the Shamblo mobile armor poses some challenges for the toy designers at FusionWorks and as a result the end result is rather rigid, there is not much articulation to speak of here. Basically the only moving parts are a neck which can move from left to right and a pair of gripping claws that can open and close. I have to say it is a bit disappointing that the arms cannot move in any direction at all.

It looks like it is possible to open up the head and adjust the facing of the monoeye, but I haven't bothered to try as I prefer not to mess with parts too much.


The figure also includes several transparent stands to help prop up the arms and the head which is a good thing for preserving the shape of the figure if you intend to display it for longer periods of time. I will most likely partially dismantle the Shamblo and keep it in its box since it is quite demanding of space.

The main gimmick and accessory of the Shamblo is the gigantic Mega Particle Diffusion Gun which sits concealed within the figures massive head. To expose the gun you actually dismantle the head and replace the centerpiece that attaches to the neck, and then reattach the armor pieces. It is a quick conversion but it would of course have been cooler if the figure could actually transform.

The mega particle gun part has been painted in a nice black finish with some silvery detail which gives it a very convincing metallic and somewhat rugged look. The spooky blue glow from the gun is also beautiful but a bit hard to see when hidden under the figure's head. It helps that the "real" Shamblo is 32 meters tall; it is much easier to see from your diminutive and helpless vantage point beneath it,



While the particle gun is definitely a cool component I think that the figure looks better with the head covering it up, the sleek shape of the mobile armor's face is definitely its best looking feature.

Comparisons

The Shamblo figure is surprisingly small for what it is supposed to depict. The mobile armor has a listed height of 31.8 meters, which is roughly equivalent to one and a half times the height of a standard mobile suit.

The Shamblo looks rather small when compare to your average Converge figure.
On one hand I think it is good that FusionWorks kept the dimensions of the Shamblo in a smaller and more manageable size, but its imposing effect is kind of lost in the process. When standing next to an average Gundam Converge figure it doesn't look very threatening at all. Then compare this to the massive Neo Zeong figure and the effect becomes very clear.

The Shamblo next to its recent EX cousins the Nightingale (EX 14), the Neo Zeong (EX 15) and a regular size Unicorn (here the CORE 009 version).
One way to make the Shamblo look a bit more threatening is to do like any short president would do; wear high heels and stand on a podium when addressing the masses. Still I do wish that the Shamblo would have been a bit larger and thus more menacing.

The 1/400 Unicorn from Gundam Collection is almost scared of the Converge Shamblo...

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier in this review I would be very surprised if the Shamblo performs well in the retail market. It is a large and pricey figure and with a pretty niche appeal in what is already a niche market I think it has a tough career in front of it as a shelf warmer. I could easily recommend it to Neo Zeon or Mobile Armor aficionados like myself though - the Shamblo is a very rare design that has as far as I know only ever made this appearance as a collectable figure (there is an even smaller one available in the Mini Kit Collection range as well).

However, when you consider what you get for your money, 2500 yen will currently get you either a Shamblo or a Neo Zeong the competition will remain tough within the Converge figure range as well.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

We're going super-deformed!

Although the Gundanium Gateway website is primarily focused on Shokugan Gundam candy toys it hasn't stopped us from acquiring and also reviewing the odd Gashapon figure here and there. You know how it is, one or two finds their way inadvertently into your collection, maybe as filler in a lot you called in on eBay (or maybe an unscrupulous seller passed on unsellable freebees with your order, seeding their own future market). Before you know it you sit with half a dozen cute little figures that end up on your desk. In the beginning I sold off such items but with all the hassle of peddling a few random figures for virtually no money I decided I might as well keep them around...

Since we have had a couple of SD-themed reviews on the site as of late (and no doubt more will follow) I wanted to have a place to hang the reviews for easy reference, so the new check list page was born. While far from complete we'll be adding more data to it piecemeal to make it serve as a suitable reference guide.

You can find the new check list among the other tabs here on the blog.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Universal Unit : MSZ-006C1[Bst] Zeta Plus C1 Hummingbird

Today's feature is something of an oddity among mobile suit designs. With its legless configuration the Hummingbird reminds more of some Zeonic mobile armor than a Federal Forces piece of hardware. It seems to be more popular than its Zeonig counterparts though, I guess its more manageable size makes it a good choice for an EX figure. Being of Gundam Sentinel pedigree also seems to help even though if I understand correctly, it actually was never even built.

The Universal Unit Hummingbird however is a real and tangible thing. Not only that, Bandai loves it so much that they offer the figure in two different colourations - the standard blue Hummingbird and a spiffy red variant intended for Karaba Air Force, matching Amuro Ray's Zeta Plus A1.

The standard blue colour variant of the Hummingbird is a retail product and was released at the end of February 2017. Bandai's suggested retail price of ¥3800 seemed a bit steep though, and appears to have collapsed more or less right away. I picked up my Hummingbird(s) for ¥2500 which while still high feels a bit more reasonable.

With the Hummingbird kit though, you really are getting a lot of fun in one small box. The Hummingbird kit offers no less than three separate modes in which to build the figure and we will go through them one by one.

MSZ-006A1 Zeta Plus A1 / MSZ-006C1 Zeta Plus C1

Although not really advertised on the box, the Hummingbird kit allows you to build the Zeta Plus as a common mobile suit in either the A1 or C1 configuration. This is not exactly earth shattering information considering that the foundation of this kit is the exact same as used for the regular Zeta Plus figures that appeared in Universal Unit 2 last year (reviewed here).

A "custom" Zeta Plus C1 flanked by the proper A1 and C1 versions of the original Zeta Plus figures.
I didn't go through the paces of building a separate Zeta Plus A1 and C1 figure, but you have the detailed assembly instructions inside the box if you want to do so. Instead I decided to beef mine up now that there are so many awesome accessories in the box. So the figure you will see in these images is basically the C1 version borrowing some additional equipment.

I really like the basic mobile suit form of this figure a lot, mainly because it is not so static as the mobile armor forms of the kit. I can only really fault it for two things; there is still not an open right hand included with the kit and there is no action base support even though the figure actually comes with a stand.

A proper action base is sorely lacking for the Mobile Suit mode - par for the course in Universal Unit.
Just like all the common Universal Unit figures the Zeta Plus mobile suit form has impressive articulation on par with any regular Assault Kingdom figure. Without action base support though it has little means of actually making use of it. I will never understand why Bandai chose to handicap these kits so greatly. I have considered drilling holes in the soles of Universal Unit figures before and now that I have some spare feet available I might just give it a try.

MSZ-006C1[Bst] Zeta Plus C1 Hummingbird

This is the main mode of the Hummingbird kit and also the one that makes use of the most parts included in the box. It is basically the mobile suit form with a completely replaced set of limbs

The Hummingbird form is a really a formidable and menacing design. And with its attractive blue and white pattern it really has a unique look going for it as well. The articulation is of course hampered by the bulky booster units on the arms and there is not much action going on below the waist.

The Hummingbird sits tightly on its stand which has a special connector piece that can be tilted in a few different angles, but I think it makes little sense not to use the default level mode. This makes the Hummingbird figure feel a bit static since you cannot even do the simplest of attitude correction. The stand is completely static and the peg connection prevents even the slightest pitch or yaw movement, the figure will just sit firmly looking straight ahead. This could have been better. Hell, even the 1970's Matchbox model kits I used to build in my childhood featured simple stands where the connector was on a type of ball joint.

Still, a clear stand is better than no stand at all, or the eyesore which was included with the Gundam Converge version of the Hummingbird. Perhaps when Bandai reinvents the 1/220 figure line the next time (give them a year) we might see even better action bases for our figures.

MSZ-006C1[Bst] Zeta Plus C1 Hummingbird (Waverider Mode)

The last of the main features of this kit is the Hummingbird in its Waverider mode. Similar to the Zeta Gundam the Zeta Plus has a Waverider mode of its own. This type of transformation is so complex however, that the Universal Unit figure cannot even begin to perform it. Instead we get a completely new centerpiece for its body which the booster modules latch on to in a very specific way. In fact the Waverider modeis the simplest mode of the Hummingbird kit and will result in a rather respectable pile of leftover parts.

I really like the look of the Waverider mode, it is so sleek and beautiful, especially compared to the bulkiness of the mobile armor mode. The figure feels like a traditional airplane kit though, you are giving up the articulation here and going for another very basic design.


Again the connection to the action base is through use of a peg, although it is a different one this time. Sadly this is also of the rigid type which means you can forget any wild banking or rolling poses for the Hummingbird and that's a real shame. The whole arrangement feels very matter-of-factly as if it was an office use miniature intended for a bookshelf in some conference room.

Since the Waverider sits on the same stand as the mobile armor it ends up floating quite high above the ground. This gives it a nice freefloating look although it ends up a bit high up if you want to pose it next to standard Universal Unit figures.

We have of course seen the Hummingbird Waverider mode in Gundam Converge as well. I used to think that was a pretty nice looking thing but it cannot really compete for looks with the Universal Unit figure. In fact it might actually be fairly convincing to pose the UN Waverider with Converge figures. I will try that out some time.

Whichever mode you do end up choosing for your Hummingbird figure I would advice against repeated pulling apart of this figure as the joints will probably quickly loosen up.

The Hummingbird kit is a great source of spare parts for customizing other Universal Unit figures you may have lying around, especially the Zeta Plus figures. Considering the large number of leftover components I had hoped I might be able to build a basic Zeta Plus mobile suit from the spare parts from the two Hummingbird modes and it would indeed be possible, but a few signature pieces would be missing, specifically the flightpack and the hip guns. Still it might be something to consider if you ended up with a spare Zeta Plus from the Universal Unit volume 2 box.

Conclusion

Overall I think that the Universal Unit Hummingbird kit is a really nice product. I had originally just planned to grab one blue and one red, but after building my first one in Waverider mode I did not want to take it apart and was still curious to see what the other forms would look like (and not one of them disappoints). Now that the price has come down since its release I can easily recommend it to any Universal Unit fans out there. The figure still seems to be in reasonable supply (unlike the red variant) so grab it while it is still easily available.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Assault Kingdom : FA-010A FAZZ

It is nice to revisit the Assault Kingdom figure line again after its (much too) early retirement in May last year. It seems Bandai had similar thoughts although in this case we are probably dealing with a very old project that has been shelved for some time.

The FA-010A FAZZ or Full Armor ZZ Gundam is a bit of an anachronism. The design, introduced in 1987's Gundam Sentinel is supposedly a development step between the enhanced ZZ Gundam (MSZ-010S) and the original Full Armor ZZ Gundam design (FA-010S). The original Full Armor Gundam had appeared in the Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam series a year earlier in 1986. And once the FAZZ had been released the Full Armor ZZ Gundam design also came to benefit from it by being upgraded to also carry the FAZZ's majestic shoulder cannon.

The Assault Kingdom FAZZ is also a backwards implementation of the existing MSZ-010 ZZ Gundam model. The ZZ Gundam was released as EX09 in March 2016 and the FAZZ followed as a Bandai Premium release in March 2017, at a point where the Assault Kingdom product line had already been sleeping for ten months, replaced by the Universal Unit line.

It took me some three months to finally find the FAZZ and I had to spend a soul hurting ¥3500 to obtain it. This is about twice the price Bandai originally sold it for. Ironic, considering how the standard ZZ Gundam figure (which also comes with the Mega Rider) originally sold for ¥3200 and can now be had for about half that price.

Although the titular FA-010A FAZZ mobile suit cannot unequip its armored coat this is a redesigned ZZ Gundam figure so of course we have the option to do so here. In fact the basic figure is a direct replica of the ZZ Gundam figure, apart from the different paintjob this is the exact same figure down to the last hinge and panel. So our model is free to pose without its cumbersome armour which gives us a lot of playability to consider.

The basic figure without its armour has some decent articulation but a lot of it is held back by the gigantic backpack. Don't expect anything that fancy but you should be able to get some decent poses out of it.

One thing I did not like about the original ZZ Gundam figure and that (of course) remains unchanged is that the action base is dark gray instead of transparent. This is an obvious production cost choice but since the figure only comes with the standard sized Assault Kingdom hexagon plate you can easily repurpose a transparent base from one of your other Assault Kingdom figures. In fact, I would encourage the purchase of some additional cheap AK figures just for this very purpose.

Improving the dynamic feel of the mobile suit with a custom transparent base and also borrowing a beam saber from the Qubeley.

Completing the FAZZ involves doing a few changes to the basic figure and then attaching the various armor components by clipping them on to the figure's various limbs. If you have built the Assault Kingdom Full Armor ZZ Gundam before this will be familiar territory since this figure holds no surprises on its own.

The transformation between two modes of this figure is simple once you have figured out which parts go where, and you can alternate between the two fairly quickly. As with all Gundam figures though, it is probably a wise idea not to do a lot of parts replacement as it can sometimes wear out the joints and create lose fits.

The FAZZ certainly looks the part in its fully assembled mode. The articulation is of course not helped by the addition of several bulky components but it is still really only the backpack that produces the most posing limitations.

The oversized beam cannon slung over the FAZZ' right shoulder is of course also a huge articulation stopper. Not only is it tricky to line up all the components to make the FAZZ's right hand hold on to the grip (I tend to use the open hand and consider a near miss good enough here) but if you want to swing it in any direction other than straight forward you will most likely end up uncoupling it from the backpack.

As pointed out earlier in the review a flying mobile suit works best with a transparent action base and since none is included with the figure, make use of other bases that you may have lying around.

Here the FAZZ poses next to the FA-010S Full Armor ZZ Gundam (Assault Kingdom EX09) showing the kinship between the two. I did unmount the shoulder cannon from the FA-010S as I think that design looks cleaner that way. With the advent of the FAZZ figure it now looks even more convincing to load the two out differently.

And just for fun, here the FAZZ poses to the MSZ-006C1[Bst] Hummingbird, a Universal Unit figure which released around the same time in 2016.

Conclusion

Overall the Assault Kingdom FAZZ figure is a successful repaint of the existing MSZ-010 ZZ Gundam figure. While it seems strange that Bandai would release it almost a year after the demise of the Assault Kingdom line, and as a pricey P-Bandai limited item to boot, you got to wonder who the target market is for a figure of this kind. However, if you are a hardcore Assault Kingdom fan with an accommodating budget I can definitely say go for it (and don't be shy to pony up the cash once you actually do manage to find it) but for casual collectors the money can probably be spent better elsewhere.

If you enjoy custom builds and repaints it would be a much better deal to buy the EX09 MSZ-010 ZZ Gundam figure. Not only is it much cheaper but it also contains the exact same figure plus the Mega Rider vehicle at half the cost. Before Bandai revealed the FAZZ figure I had actually gone and purchased myself a second EX09 with the intent to have it converted. Right now I'm still trying to decide whether I should pass it on or hold on to and display it as a plain ZZ Gundam to pose next to the Full Armor version.