Friday, 17 February 2017

Gundam Converge #05

Just in time for Valentine's, Converge #05 decided to show up at my doorstep. Our relationship is currently on its fourth year already so we didn't bother with any useless courting gifts and went straight to work. As usual with the new Converge format, we have a set comprised of six figures, in this case without any variations or secret items. I can't begin to explain how refreshing this feels for a simple fan trying to keep up with the Converge line. The basic figures are what Converge is really about and they always provide good value for money.

Converge #05 released officially on January 24th 2017 and are sold as individual figures at a price of ¥500. Volume 5 gathers figures from wildly different sources and timelines, which is a typical and enjoyable aspect of Converge as far as I am concerned.

The bigger the plastic bag, the more intricate the figure design. Converge #05 has a couple of standouts in this regard, which are balanced by some less complex figures.

144 : It is easy to see where most of the budget for wave five went. The RX-93-v2 Hi-Nu Gundam is not only the first figure in the set but easily the most luxurious of the lot. If all standard Converge figures were up to this level they would not be costing a mere five hundred yen.

The RX-93-v2 has always been one of those chock-full of bling Gundam designs with bits and pieces sticking out all over the place (think Sazabi or Freedom Gundam for example). To solve this, the Converge figure relies on a lot of separate pieces with fine precision built into them, and the paintjob and logos fall rather close to CORE territory. This is one of those figures that bridge the gap between regular figures and the EX/CORE families (making you wonder why the latter two have to exist in the first place...).

I don't have a whole lot of insight into the Hi-Nu Gundam but as far as I understand it from some of our readers this version is based on the Ver. Ka (for modernized designs by Katoki Hajime) although this is not particularly mentioned on the box itself. What I can see though, is how much this version differs from the older Hi-Nu that shipped with the Operation Revive box sets (in 2014 and 2015 respectively).

Comparing the new RX-93-v2 with its earlier Converge appearance.

The new version of the Converge Hi-Nu has been cleaned up and has a much more angular and slim look when compared to the previous figure. Another notable difference is the increased size of the head and in particular the V-Fin. The original figure was no slouch either, so even though the new figure is an upgunned design it doesn't necessarily mean that I think it looks any better. In the end it will come down to personal preference (I still prefer the first design myself).

Converge Hi-Nu Gundam evolution: Original version from Operation Revive box set (February 2014), the pearl-color edition from the "Overseas Only" Operation Revive sequel (August 2015) and the new RX-93-v2 from Converge #05.
Whichever way you choose to look at it, the new Hi-Nu figure will sell like hot cake, especially when you consider how tricky it was to get hold of the first version. Either figure has a given space in any Converge collection as far as I'm concerned. Don't sleep on it.

145 : ASW-G-08 Gundam Barbatos Lupus. Following the excesses of the Hi-Nu Gundam figure the Lupus comes off as exceedingly simple as you take it out of the box. Snap on the (ridiculously large) V-fin and stick that baseball bat in its hand and you are done. That's not to say it is in any way an inferior design, it just gets the job done with less bells and whistles.

The Barbatos Lupus is an evolution of the earlier Barbatos figure and the more you study the Converge figure the more you will see all the intricate detail that went into its design. It is easy to miss tiny detail like the little green decals markings on its kneecaps for example.

The original Barbatos figure from Converge #02 is quite a bit shorter than the new figure and although it also has a very large V-fin on its head that one doesn't bother me as much. It seems we get a couple of crazy designs like this every now and then (think the Converge Asshimar for example).

So far we have seen a total of four mobile suits drawn from the Iron Blooded Orphans series enter the Converge line, and they are all very solid figures. I do hope we get to see some more grunt suits like the EB-06 Graze to flesh out the group a little.

Not sure just exactly how popular the IBO figures are with Converge fans but the model kit builders seem to have embraced them so hopefully we can see some more appearing in Converge as well.

146 : With the Barbatos Lupus being one of the most recent Gundam designs the RX-160 Byarlant can be said to be a true veteran at this point. It is pretty fascinating when you realize that 30 years have passed between Zeta Gundam and Iron Blooded Orphans, yet the two mobile suits can stand next to each other without looking any awkward. Well, unless you consider the fact that the Byarlant is perhaps one of the more awkward mobile suit designs with its lumbering Gorilla look, which is exaggerated even more in the Converge representation.

The Byarlant figure is another one of those "simple" Converge builds. You will however have to cut out its yellow antennas from a plastic runner and attach each separately although this should present you with no particular trouble. The two arms are very symmetrical and seem to fit just as fine on either side of the body. Not to worry though, the designers have made the pegs a slightly different size. Nothing is left to chance here...

The Byarlant has a pretty ominous looking monoeye which can be a tricky to spot under its brow, a problem it shares with a very large number of Converge figures. They look down to the ground but since they are no longer 18 meters tall it can be tricky for a viewer to enjoy this spectacle. Overall the Byarlant figure is nice if a bit basic, one of those middle of the road things that have to exist for the Hi-Nus to be able to spread their wings in glory I guess. Still, a beam saber for the Byarlant would have been much appreciated.

147 : We've seen a couple of Celestial Being mobile suits in the recent Converge waves with the GN-003 Gundam Kyrios being the third and as it appears, last of them. It was really about time for Bandai and FusionWorks to feature the Dynames and Kyrios into the line. We've seen so many variations on the Exia / 00 / Qan[t] and here finally it has something other to pose with.

All the Mobile Suit Gundam 00 designs are fairly intricate and complex, not to mention tall and slim.  Ironically the Converge format therefore seems to suit these figures well. The short and compact limbs of Converge figures should give the engineers a bit of a break, allowing them to avoid delicate and easy to snap components. Let's just say I don't expect these to be featured in the Universal Unit line-up any time soon.

Those... eyes.
The Converge Kyrios is also a superbly detailed mobile suit and is one of those unusual figures that look almost as good when viewed from behind. When you compare it to the Converge Exia it suffers from the same "basic" feel as the Dynames, no optional equipment or beam sabers here.

Converge Celestial Being line-up: GN-001 Exia (Converge #02, April 2016), GN-002 Dynames (Converge #04, October 2016) and GN-003 Kyrios (Converge #05, January 2017). Several older variants of the Exia / 00 / Qan[T] also exist.
We now have the core Celestial Being line-up available in Converge (still missing the Virtue) and it seems as if Bandai have turned their attention to other timelines. I am still hoping for more MSG 00 designs; especially from the various opposing forces whose mobile suits are all pretty spectacular and unique looking beasts. I will admit that the chance of this actually happening seems pretty slim.

148 : RMS-179 GM II (also known as the RGM-79R for upgraded original RGM-79 units). Ahhh... finally a proper grunt suit in this set! The GM mark II is a modestly revised bog-standard GM and I guess you can say the same for the Converge GM II. It sure has a lot in common with the original RGM-79 figure.

The first Converge GM was rolled out from Jaburo in June 2011 and not a great deal has changed in these five and half years. As you can see in the comparison shots below the new figure is more defined and precise in its appearance but there isn't really a whole lot to differentiate it from its ancestor.

Gundam Converge GM evolution: RGM-79 GM (Converge vol. 3, released June 2011, RMS-179 GM II (Converge #05, January 2017) and the RGM-86R GM III (from Converge vol. 13, released December 2013).

One peculiar detail in the figure's presentation is how the box text specifies the mobile suit user as Titans/A.E.U.G. While technically correct the actual figure is painted in the standard Earth Federation colours (compare the various liveries on the Gundam Wiki) so this seems a bit misleading. While I won't make a fuss about the minor differences between Titans and E.F.F. colours you can be sure that I will attempt to acquire multiples of this figure for conversion into A.E.U.G. and perhaps Titans Test Team service.

More GMs! The original figure with Beam Spray Gun from volume 3, the Operation Jaburo box-set repaint (December 2012), the "secret" beam saber wielding "revival selection" GM  from volume 18 (March 2015) and the GM II and GM III as specified earlier.
It is nice to see the GM return to Gundam Converge and although the figure is a bit basic I am sure it will be quite popular with collectors out there so you probably want to secure yours before long.

149 : Holy moly! Coming in at the end of Converge #05 is perhaps the figure I was the most excited about for this set. The RMS-179 GM II Semi Striker is an outrageous gladiator-style GM with a crazy beam spear close combat weapon. As cool as it is I doubt it would have much survivability on a Universal Century era battlefield.

The figure itself is not just a simple repaint of the GM II but FW have taken time and attention into sculpting new accurate shoulder armor as well as a new left arm which also replaces the standard shield for a more close combat oriented one. Not that anything of that will matter to you because your eyes will be drawn to the crazy good looking beam spear with its two translucent tips. One word accurately describes it: Awesome.

Although not technically accurate, I will definitely aim to get a second unit and have it painted up as a RGM-79FP GM Striker. It would deeply shock me if this doesn't turn out to be a fan favourite among the Converge collectors. It is just crazy good looking.


Overall I feel that Converge #05 has something for everyone. Even the more basic figures in the set look very appealing. Once again a fine testament to the work being carried out by FusionWorks and Bandai. It is an easy recommendation to pick up all the figures in this set.

As you probably already know, Converge #06 has already been announced since a while back, planned for retail in April. However, the second part of the year is still shrouded in mystery. The Converge line-up for Q1/Q2 is pretty dense and I hope that we will see more Converge news rolled out for the latter half of 2017 as well.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Gundam Converge : "Wing of Light" Option Set

The Wing of Light Option Set is the second premium accessory kit to be featured for Converge. It was sold as a Bandai-only item for about ¥ 2000. The box was released in the end of November 2016 around the same time that the Converge SP08 boxset featuring the Infinite Justice and the Destiny Gundam entered retail. Some sellers have thus been bundling these items, including the source from where I picked mine up.

Presumptive buyers should be aware that the Wing of Light kit is not a simple add-on for Converge SP08. Instead the parts are intended for one of the figures from SP08 only (the Destiny Gundam). The other parts are aimed at the Strike Freedom figure which was released as a regular figure in October the same year (Figure number 138, as part of Converge #04).

The main feature of the option kit is of course for the two mobile suits to enter full bonkers mode with their incredibly cheesy Voiture Lumiere drives. Using this technology for some reason causes mobile suits to convert energy into propellant light... Well, any excuse for adding gizmos on your models is fine I guess. You can read the finer points about this technology on the Gundam Wiki.

The option kit comes in a slim box not unlike the ones we've seen for the SP and EX figures for some time now. And being a Premium Bandai gig we of course also get to deal with the comically large outer packaging.

The box features two sets of components, one for each figure, as well as a handy assembly instruction.

There are a total of eleven components, six for the Destiny and five for the Strike Freedom. Let's take a closer look.

ZGMF-X42S Destiny Gundam

The main feature is of course the two large butterfly-like "wings" produced by the Destiny's VL-drive. The parts replace the standard backpack wings and make the figure considerably more back heavy. The ankle support piece will have to be deployed here to prevent the figure from falling onto its back. The wings are completely rigid with no articulation or optional features, and the "light" sections are attractively modelled in translucent pink. I guess this is a love-it or hate-it kind of thing, it looks stunning but also way over the top for my taste.

Also found in the box are a set of open hands, the type you usually see on mobile suit model kits and figures that don't happen to carry a weapon at the moment. The leftmost open hand also doubles as a decent match for the large M2000GX Long-Range Beam Cannon which is also included in this box, this time in its deployed version. It attaches to the back pack using a special extension arm.

Right hand options for the Destiny. The open hand to the far left is only included in the Wing of Light option set.

Using these final components we are now able to have the Destiny Gundam play the counterpart to the Perfect Strike Gundam which it so painfully copies. The Strike Gundam and its backpack system was alright, but with suits like Strike Rouge and Impulse Gundam around it seems even more cheesy for Destiny to copy this design so blatantly.

Overall this parts set is a real booster for the Destiny Gundam. Your love for angelic wings on Gundam figures aside, the extra beam cannon and open hands parts really belonged with the Destiny Gundam figure inside the SP08 box. It feels suspiciously like they have been lifted out of the box to steer customers toward the Wing of Light kit although that might just be a conspiracy theory on my part.

Just to get an idea of how large the figure is when deploying the wings, here it is next to the Neue Ziel.

ZGMF-X20A Strike Freedom Gundam

It is interesting to notice the differences between the Converge Strike Freedom figure and the Destiny. Being one of the rebooted Converge figures, the Strike Freedom comes with a proper base. This is easily keeping the figure upright despite the massive weight now on its shoulders. One can only assume that the Destiny Gundam was modelled way earlier than the Strike Freedom, even though it was released later. We keep seeing these anomalies in the EX, SP and even CORE series, it makes the figure line a bit schizophrenic.

The original Strike Freedom wings were a bit confusing to assemble and here we get to relive that confusion one more time with the new effect parts. Using the attachment pieces from the original figure the new wings are put in place in this not entirely self-explanatory way. The second accessory included for the Strike Freedom is the combined form of its two MA-M21KF beam rifles which are also normally wielded one in each hand. I dunno, I find it a bit lackluster although it is perfectly design accurate.

The Freedom/Strike Freedom evolution in Converge is indeed following the bigger and better mantra. The figure feels pretty complete at this point and I hope that if Bandai and FusionWorks decide to revisit SEED in the future we might get some entirely new mobile suits in the Converge line-up (although I have a sneaky feeling that a "pearl" or "metallic" color variant can't be that far away...).


Overall the Wing of Light kit is a nice component set that increases your options for these two high-profile figures. The price is quite steep though, and unless you are really into this wing-thing, the asking price for the other extras might be a bit hard to swallow.

The base figures are very good in their own right so this set feels like a thing for the hardcore followers and collectors only. Bandai were correct in making the wings optional but I wish they would have put the other components with their respective figure right away.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Gundam Converge SP08 : Infinite Justice Gundam vs. Destiny Gundam

Converge SP08, with its two Gundam SEED Destiny combatants feels like a natural extension to Converge SP07, which featured two rivals from the Gundam SEED finale. The box set released end of November 2016 at a suggested price point of ¥2 500 although I've seen it sold for around ¥1 800 for a while now. SP08 also has the added feature of being a retail set, a welcome change from all the special editions flooding the product line these days.

I must say I am really curious about which way Bandai and FusionWorks will take the SP-series from here. Bar the very first SP-set (one of those "Overseas Only"-metallic repaint type releases bundling the Exia and the Union Flag from 00), all the other previous SP-sets have drawn from the Universal Century archives. We saw half a dozen or so other Cosmic Era (SEED) figures released over the same time period as these two sets, but no new Cosmic Era figures are scheduled for the first half of 2017. Instead FW are doing new figures from 00 and Wing, perhaps this could be an indication of what to expect for SP 09 (well, unless they decided to shift all focus into the lucrative business of repainted CORE figures that is).

As a concept, Converge SP08 has a lot of things in common with its predecessor. Apart from the price point and the SEED connection, we are again looking at a slightly unbalanced set where one of the mobile suits has been given a boatload of accessories while the other has to do with much less.

Of course, a closer look is in order...

ZGMF-X19A Infinite Justice Gundam

The Infinite Justice is of course the spiritual successor of the doomed ZGMF-X09A Justice featured in the first SEED series (what is it with Athrun Zala and blowing up his rides?). The base figure has an attractive pinkish-red, white and black colour scheme with some silvery metallic paint applied on various joints and the hands. The accessories add a dark violet into the mix for some really nice results. The only disappointing thing would be the all gray beam rifle which looks pretty plastic when held in that hand, but it is pretty much par for the Converge course.

As you can see we are not getting a whole lot of accessories for the Infinite Justice. Apart from said beam rifle there is the Fatum-01 variable wing-flight unit which is the main attraction on offer here, but that's it. Where... are... the... beam sabers? We got the spectacular double saber for the Freedom, so why was it dropped here? I am really not feeling this decision. I guess I shouldn't be surprised though, we've had three Strike variations already and the ZGMF-X09A is still nowhere to be seen. There is no Justice...

The Fatum-01 flight unit on the other hand, is a well thought out accessory which pegs into the back of the mobile suit figure. As you can see on these photos this Infinite Justice is rather back heavy and if left without the (ugly) ankle support piece will lean backwards on his heels until the and wing tips hit the ground. Too bad this figure was not upgraded to rebooted Converge standard with one of those black bases instead. You can hack it a bit by slotting the Fatum-01 into the lower positioned hole on the figure's back instead. This will have the figure leaning slightly forward instead into a more aggressive stance.

The flight pack also comes apart into half a dozen pieces of that same mind-bogglingly 3D-puzzly variety as used for the ZGMF X10A Freedom and its wings. Luckily we have a printed instruction leaflet to follow but it still requires a bit of concentration to get the hang of it. When the wings are deployed, the little silver-painted piece is added as a second peg to the flight pack for added support when attaching it to the figure's back.

If the figure seemed back heavy before, this is of course a completely different story. There is no way around it now; you will have to use the ankle support this time. Oh, such a shame that we didn't get a modern base. You can of course modify the figure by drilling a hole into the foot or gluing it onto a makeshift base of your own.

The Fatum-01 can also act independently of the mobile suit which is a nice way to display it. Sadly there is no stand (or support for one) included with the figure but you can whip something up of your own. Here you can see two variants using a couple of action base pieces from your random Assault Kingdom figure, as well as the stand included with the Converge Skygrasper figure (Converge number 35). Neither is a tight fit since there is no hole or peg on the flight unit, so you will have to improvise again.

ZGMF-X42S Destiny Gundam

The Destiny Gundam is supposedly a late generation Z.A.F.T. designed powerhouse with its roots in the Impulse Gundam family which in turn is supposed to come out of a GINN. How quaint then, that it seems to share pretty much all of its notable visible features with the GAT-X105 Strike Gundam, or more specifically its Perfect Strike form. Blue and white "Classic Gundam" look? Check. Flight pack with red and black wings? Check. Oversized blue sword stored on right shoulder? Check. Huge green high output energy weapon stored on left shoulder? Well, you get the idea... Someone at the toy factory clearly ran out of ideas...

As uninspired as its heritage may be, the Destiny Gundam is still a mighty fine Converge figure. This little mobile suit comes with a really nice paint scheme with lots of differently coloured details. The accessories are less impressive in this regard, an area where Converge figures are usually going the budget route.

One unusual feature for the Destiny is the two replaceable clenched fists. Neither hand can actually hold any items. Instead we get two weapons with hands molded directly onto them, a very old theme for Converge. However, both weapons are designed for the right hand only, so the detachable left hand seems a curious design quirk. This will be explained once we look into the Wing of Light accessory pack.

And speaking of wings, the Destiny features unfolding wings straight out of the box. The mobile suit quickly grows in relative size and apparent strength through this simple tweak which is a really nice touch. And unlike the Infinite Justice, the sturdy and compact Destiny figure has no problems standing upright without having to rely on its ankle support piece.

Another odd design choice is the peg and hole for attaching the shield. There are holes available on each arm, but the peg is rectangular in shape which means it will only go into either arm at a predetermined angle. This seems a bit limited for a Converge figure.

Above you can see the many choices of right hand for the Destiny. Notice that the far left hand with open fingers comes from the Wing of Light accessory kit which is sold separately. This must be some sort of Converge record as far as choice of hands is concerned.

The last accessory for the Destiny is the Arondight-type Beam Sword in its extended form. This is a really cool component and I can't help dreaming of a Converge Sword Calamity or Sword Impulse Gundam wielding two of these things at the same time...

As mentioned earlier, there are even more parts available for the Destiny Gundam available in the "Wing of Light Option Set", which is sold separately and also features more effect parts for the Strike Freedom. Above you can see a quick breakdown of the news for the Destiny; open hands, the extended Long Range Beam Cannon mounted to the backpack, and of course the Voiture Lumiere Propulsion System in action, which is just a poor excuse for giving the mobile suit translucent angelic wings. This box is reviewed separately here.


2016 was truly a superb year for Gundam SEED aficionados. There hadn't been a Cosmic Era Converge figure since December 2012, and suddenly we got ten figures over a period of six months. And almost all of these figures have held such a high level of quality that these two hardly stand out. Picking this set up should be a no-brainer if you like SEED mobile suit designs, and the added playability factor out of this box should really sway most other Converge fans as well.

I really hope that SEED will come back to Converge soon again, there is so much more untapped potential here.