Sunday, 5 March 2017

FW SD Gundam Neo 01

With the start of a new year comes the start of a new Gundam shokugan series. This time around it is the adorable synthesis of the FW Converge and SD (super deformed) series known as FW SD Gundam Neo (Super Deformed Mobile Suit Figure Series).

Exia, Unicorn, RX-78-2, Marasai, Marasai Titans, Woundwart

While the title might not be the best these new figures seem like an interesting idea. They combine super deformed stylings with the detail and color applications of Converge. More than that they also offer colored clear parts on all of their eyes and cameras. Oddly enough they are also a scaled series, meaning that the Unicorn Gundam (21.7 m) is physically larger than the RX-78-2 (18 m); a marked change from both SD and Converge.

Detailed molds, clear eyes and cameras, scaled series

Being significantly smaller than Converge these figures retail for ¥370 as opposed to the ¥500 price range of Converge and SD kits. I pre-ordered mine through an online hobby supplier for ¥3,330. In the past I have never really been into SD Gundams but have been a steady Converge and shokugan collector. Seeing this new line I decided to test out the SD waters having never gotten into gashapon, the traditional home of SD figures. Lets see what we find!

Comparison to Converge

Comparison between the first SD Gundam Neo figure, Exia, and the new Exia figure from Converge #2 
As you can see the biggest difference in these lines is their size and proportions. Converge are only somewhat deformed while this new line has the more traditional Super Deformed look. These new figures as you'll see throughout this review are also lacking in the accessories department. No additional daggers come with the SD Gundam Neo figure as they did with the Converge. Surprisingly however the new figure's detailing is right up there with Converge. And this is even with significantly smaller figures. They also have equally stellar paint apps with many of the SD Gundam Neo even using metallic paint. The other difference is the use of clear plastic in the new series. While some Converge figures have used clear plastic over the years, SD Gundam Neo blows them out of the water on almost all cases. All of this while costing ¥130 less than their bigger siblings. (Keep in mind that the Converge Exia has been panel lined to draw out its details)

What's in the box:

Here is a layout of what you get in each box. Similar to Converge you will find the figures in different amounts of disarray; typically with their v-fins and weapons separated out in connected plastic wrappers. Unlike Converge the bodies of these all come together, no separate arms. Really no building required, however I did end up using glue on two figures. They also come with Bandai's "soda" flavored gun like in all other shokugan series, however I ate mine before taking this picture.

01: GN-001 Gundam Exia 

FW SD Gundam Neo kicks off with a fan favorite the RX-78-.......wait its the Exia! Unlike most Gundam products that begin with the traditional RX-78-2 and Zaku II this series is starting things off with three lead suites from arguably Gundam's most popular series. While one of those leads is the RX-78-2 they decided to begin the series with the perennial favorite, Gundam Exia. I actually started my re-introduction to Gundam with Gundam 00 and am more than happy to see this suit get such an honor.

This figure checks all the Exia boxes as far as color apps are concerned, even hiding those strange chest fins under its enormous head. Its only real lack being the clear green parts on Exia's legs. But given the style of the figure this is an understandable omission. It comes with a GN Shield as well as Exia's classic GN Sword.

The GN Shield attaches to the figure by way of an adapter. A little odd to not have it plug directly into the figure, but this is a feature we will see several times throughout this volume.

The small shield attached to the GN Sword can swivel 180 degrees to achieve the typical GN Sword caring position. It also has a nice metallic paint finish.

This Exia figure is a great start to the series. With tons of detail and color packed into such a minuscule figure I'm sure it will be a popular choice. Its also a great presentation of one of the series' main gimmicks, clear parts. Just look at those gorgeous head and chest pieces. The only down side to introducing the Exia so soon is the slew of Gundam 00, 00 Raiser, Exia Repair, and Quant figures I'm confident Bandai is already preparing.

02: RX-0 Unicorn Gundam (Destory Mode)

Wow, still no RX-78-2. Instead we get the intimidatingly large Unicorn Gundam in its Destroy Mode. One of the most popular Gundam designs of recent years, I think it has more PG and PG variations than any other suit, and a great choice to introduce a new series.

This figure looks great! Not too much color on this predominantly white suit, however where the psycho frame sticks through it is painted with a metallic red that really pops in person. We also get the blue feet and back pack and a hilariously large v-fin.The figure comes with the Unicorn's classic beam rifle and destroy mode shield.

While the shield's mold is great, it unfortunately uses an odd square peg to stick into the arm. Mine never really went in all the way and was constantly falling off. I ended up gluing mine to the left arm. That being said there is an attachment point on the right arm giving you the ability to wield two shields if you have multiple figures.

This picture really does not do the metallic red paint justice. In person it really glitters and shines. That being said this is a phenomenal figure. Its most striking quality has to be its intricate detailing. Look at that maze of panel lines and forms. Given that the figure is so dominated by white I feel it would benefit the most from panel lining to break up some of the monotony. This figure also has exceptional eyes, just look at those clear parts and detail! Minus the finicky shield, maybe it was just mine, this is a superb figure and great addition to the lineup.

03: RX-78-2 Gundam 

And finally the granddaddy Gundam himself, the RX-78-2. While a little odd to include in the third spot, not the first, this is a traditional figure to include in any product launch. An icon all over the world this suite was both expected and appreciated.

Now that is one mean looking RX-78-2. I really think they did a phenomenal job on the sculpt and proportions of this figure. Every single paint app is there, including the forward camera and stunning eyes; the details go down to the level of v-fin dents and circular bolts. Coming with the traditional beam rifle and classic shield, I can't wait to see a re-issue wielding clear beam sabers!

Like the Exia the RX-78-2's shield can swivel 360 degrees and is connect to the arm using an adapter. This adapter is different than the one used on the Exia and appears to be unique. Again why the shields could not plug directly onto the figure is beyond me. Especially given that they all have the same sized holding holes for their guns, which are interchangeable.

From the vulcans to the perfectly painted shield and clear red camera this figure has it all. Just look at the painting detail in the face under the eyes and on the chin. For a figure this small that level of detail is phenomenal. While this could have easily been the first figure in line, it also sits well as the third. A nice reminder half way through the volume of the classic designs that make Gundam such an endearing series.

04:  RMS-108 Marasai

After leaving the world of lead suits our first figure is the classic Zeonic grunt the Zaku......wait, That's no Zaku!! Unexpectedly the first non-Gundam suit is the RMS-108 Marasai from Zeta Gundam. While a lovely change of pace from the traditional pairing of Zaku II and RX-78-2 it is odd to see this grunt suit with no Zeta Gundam (in this volume). However, given the fifth and sixth figures in the set the choice does begin to make a little sense.

Looking at the figure itself we see a lovely sculpt with plenty of detail, a nicely large gun, and following in the footsteps of Converge a slightly too large commander antenna. All the colors on this figure are spot on with a nice contrast in the reds and oranges and even including its green energy cables.

Although the Marasai doesn't have any gun or shield gimmicks, no it cannot grab or use the secondary gun handle, it does have a movable mono eye. I was very surprised by this feature as I do not remember them advertising it and to have this ability on such a tiny little guy was very unexpected. It also gives them a chance to show off the bright clear plastic and intricate molding used on the eye.

Please ignore the unoriginal eye glare from the side pose and keep in mind how gorgeous this figure is. With all the detail of a Converge figure this guy is a real stand out. Not to mention his Converge brother is hopelessly rare and exceedingly expensive. While not what you would expect from the first Zeon grunt suit in a series, the Marasai is a welcome addition to the SD Gundam Neo line up and a breadth of fresh air.

05: RMS-108 Marasai (Titans)

And here it is folks, one of the main reasons to by this volume, the Titans colored Marasai! Much like the newest Converge releases the SD Gundam Neo figures do not include a hidden figure but rather a sixth suit which is a simple color swap. Which in this case is greatly appreciated. Do keep in mind however that while there are two of each of the other suits, there are only two total Marasais in a box of ten, one of each color. This does make these two figures somewhat rarer than their lead suit brethren.

While only a simple repaint of the Marasai this thing looks amazing. Instead of the different colors of red and orange this suit sticks with the bold pairing of blue and yellow. The part I particularly enjoy is the yellow stripe going from shoulder to shoulder. This really breaks up the figure and just goes to show the level of detail and care put into this series.

Again this figure only has the mono eye gimmick. However, this time it reveals a lovely sapphire colored eye. A nice change from the typical green.

What can I say, this is the way the Marasai was meant to be painted. Mean and menacing this figure is a clear standout in the set. The only real complaint being its overly large antenna and rather small shoulder spikes. On the Converge figure its shoulder has a really nice dimensionality to it because its spikes are so over the top. That being said Converge can eat its heart out as even it doesn't boast such a gorgeous Titans version of the Marasai.

06: RX-124 Gundam TR-6 (Woundwort)

Speaking of things Converge doesn't have, the final figure in this set is the completely unexpected Woundwort. A real stand out in the volume, this suit comes from a series of manga made as a collaboration with Dengeki Hobby titled AOZ: Advance of Zeta. With only a few HGs, no MGs/RGs/PGs, and only a couple figures in Converge it is fantastic to see this series getting some love so early in SD Gundam Neo.

This figure is super tiny and yet look at all that lovely detail. For someone who loves to panel line this is Christmas for me. Keeping with the strange and incomprehensible proportions of the AOZ series this figure boasts an enormous weapon that the Gundam Wiki calls a Long Beam Rifle/Claw. Its feet are also oddly proportioned being very tiny and very long. One of the best parts of this figure its dynamic hand which really gives it an elegance and movement that is sometimes lacking is the SD department.

This time the shield/long beam rifle/claw does not connect to the arm with an adapter but rather to the hand. Being held on a swiveling peg attached to the hand the weapon actually has a good bit of movement and can be more dynamically posed than the other figures in this set.

The level of detail on these figures really is breath taking. Hidden under that silly visor cone and v-fin is actually a fully detailed Gundam face. That is going above and beyond! However, that detail does come at a price. The little v-fins actually come on a baby runner and mine never really stayed all the way in. I ended up having to permanently glue them to the visor.

I'm showing off two final poses for this figure to demonstrate the amount of pose-ability that comes with that enormous weapon, something I really didn't expect from this figure. Beyond the sheer awesomeness that is including AOZ suits and specifically the Woundwart in the first volume of a new series; I think this figure's most impressive feature is its size. Being significantly smaller than even the other SD Gundam Neo figures in this volume, the Woundwart truly shows how far the molding technologies of Bandai have come; not to mention the precision color applications and clear parts.

Final Thoughts

I'll say it now, I'm hooked. Being a solid Converge collector for so long, and never really being interested in SD these figures have won me over. They really are technically impressive. The amount of colors and details they are able to pack into figures half the size of Converge is mind boggling. More than that however I enjoy the risks Bandai are taking with suit selection in this series. Rather than stick to the boring and typical choice of RX-78-2, Zaku II, and maybe a Guntank and Guncannon; Bandai instead chose outside of the box suits from several different series. Including lead suits from the most popular series along with niche favorites from the Titans Test Team and AOZ, this volume was able to deliver a little bit of something for everyone. Very rarely do I get a volume of shokugan where I sincerely enjoy every suit, and that's exactly what this set delivered. If you enjoy Converge, SD, or any combination of the two these figures will not disappoint!

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