Thursday, 2 March 2017

Universal Unit : MSM-07E Z'Gok Experiment

One of the Shokugan newcomers during 2016 was the Assault Kingdom successor Universal Unit. The line has had a really busy release schedule. Since its launch in August last year Bandai managed to churn out no less than 14 different mobile suits, several of them large or huge size. Quite the feat when you consider that we are talking about model kits here. A rather bold statement by Bandai also, before seeing the reception among the fans. I don't really see or hear much about Universal Unit but considering another ten different mobile suits (including one giant mobile armor) are already out or planned for the first half of 2017 the series shows no signs of slowing down.

One of the kits from 2016 I was most interested in is the mighty Z'Gok Experiment (which by the way I will continue to refer to as Z'Gok Experimental). This figure has also proved to be fairly uncommon, especially when compared to the other larger "one mobile suit" UN2-releases such as the Xi Gundam and Xeku Zwei. Price probably factors in here, since the Z'Gok Experiment has a suggested price of ¥ 1500 where the other large kits are in the range of ¥ 2500 to ¥ 4500.

With a price equal to three standard Universal Unit figures the Z'Gok-E is still a bit on the expensive side. It is especially ridiculous when you compare it to the High Grade 1/144 proper model kit which is currently selling for around ¥ 1000 with Japanese online sites. I've commented on this before, but I still don't understand the philosophy behind this entire figure line.

So what is it we are getting in the box? Well, apart from the basic Z'Gok-E figure we also have a couple of bonus parts to be used by the MSM-03C Hygogg. The Hygogg figure was also released on the same day but as part of the second wave of regular Universal Unit figures.

MSM-07E Z'Gok Experimental

If we begin with the Z'Gok-E it is pretty much a standard UN2 figure with a little bit of extra colour applications. The anatomy of the Universal Unit figures is very generic and the pattern is very recognizable here. However we have some nice light grey, red and black detail where perhaps a basic UN2 figure would have had stickers in place or omitted the detail entirely. I actually didn't mess that much with my figure since the look you get out of the box is a pretty good starting point.

As usual with the Universal Unit figures you should exercise some caution when removing the parts from the runners since you can easily end up with ugly marks at the connecting points. Here I didn't bother too much about it but if you want your figure to be as perfect as possible you may want to study some videos with techniques for parts removal, typically using nippers and multiple cutting. The arms are especially problematic. Each arm has two connection points in the painted areas so you will end up with ugly dark spots here. I did a quick paint over with some acrylic paint I had available which you can easily see on the following photos. I also added some red detail in places.

Because the Z'Gok-E is a bulky Zeon design with thick legs and sturdy feet you will have little trouble posing this figure. This mobile suit pulls off poses that the RX-78 can only dream about.

The Z'Gok-E comes with two stickers for its body, the Zeonic logo on the chest (in almost the right colour...) and the awesome Cyclops Team badge. The rest of the sticker sheet is intended for the Hygogg parts which we will check out further below.

The figure comes with two sets of hands; claws spread open or stabbing forward. It is easy to change these on the fly and they rotate easily at the wrist for some extra customization.

The box includes two Hydrojet Booster packs, one of which can be attached to either the Z'Gok-E or the Hygoggs. I have some issues with this since most UN2 fans will most likely have both the Hygogg variants so we are one booster pack short. Of course you can go all-in and purchase two Z'Gok-E:s and a third Hygogg if you want to build a full Cyclops Team but it feels a bit like a missed opportunity.

Then there is of course the main gripe I have with all the basic Universal unit figures. Hello, action base connection points!? I hoped that perhaps this figure might be getting an action base in its box, just like the Xi Gundam did. But no. And there are of course no pegs or holes on the figure to make it compatible with any type of stand either. How do the designers sleep at night?

Messing with bits and pieces from the Assault Kingdom figure action bases, since nothing of the sort is included with the Z'Gok-E.
Still, Bandai could have fouled up this figure a lot more if they wanted and I would still have purchased it. I am really happy about a Z'Gok-E finally appearing in the 1/220 scale. To my knowledge this is the first time this mobile suit becomes available in my go-to Shokugan scale, so it was a necessity for the collection. As far as I am aware it has also never materialized in any of the larger figure series such as Robot Spirits, MSIA or even Fix Figuration. Thankfully there are many excellent Gashapon-incarnations of it though.

Bandai seems to have problems deciding what colour a Z'Gok-E is supposed to be. Here the UN2 Z'Gok-E poses with some of its smaller Gashapon predecessors. From left to right: Gundam Collection (1/400), Gsight (1/350), Strategy of Gundam (1/300) and HG MS Selection (non-scale, ca 1/250).

MSM-03C Hygogg Optional Parts Set

Apart from the Hydrojet booster pack attached to the Z'Gok-E we also get the following components in the box: A second Hydrojet booster pack and two missile canisters. One opened and one closed, as well as two missiles.

As mentioned earlier we can use the two booster packs on either the two Hygoggs or placing one on the Z'Gok-E. Too bad we didn't get three sets in the box.

The two Hand Missile Units are quite well designed and clearly a lot of thought has gone into them. The closed canister is simply snapped together around a Hygogg hand and lower arm, while the opening canister has a sturdy connector piece that locks in place on the Hygogg's wrist. The canister is then attached onto it.

Another constant pain with the Universal Unit figures is the frustrating stickers. As soon as they are intended to wrap around something they have a knack for releasing their grip rapidly. Back in the days when I build model kits we only used water slide decals which are an absolute pleasure to use compared to these PITA-stickers. Ambitious builders will surely want to paint these areas white instead. I might actually give it a shot myself at some point because these stickers will clearly not survive into the 2020s.

Below you can see the connecting piece snapped in place sturdily on the Hygogg's wrist.

And here is the assembled Hand Missile Unit in place, ready to surprise unsuspecting E.F.F. units. As you can see the pieces line up with each other very neatly.

Opening up for a nasty surprise. Also notice the missile attached to the palm of the hand. It looks a bit unimpressive to be honest, more like an extra finger...

Playing around with a beam saber and some action base components from the Assault Kingdom figures. It shouldn't be too hard to create something like this.


Overall I think the Universal Unit Z'Gok Experimental is a really nifty figure. Even if you do not appreciate the mobile suit itself it is pretty much worth getting for pimping your Hygogg figures alone. The basic Hygogg figures felt a bit naked but here they are getting a lot of what was missing; all the missing accessories and snazzy unit insignias.

Of course it is still poor sportsmanship on the part of Bandai forcing you to buy a Z'Gok-E for the privilege of getting these Hygogg components but as well all know, that is how they choose to play their game. I think I will refrain from getting a third UN2 Hygogg just to complete the Cyclops Team, we have great figures available in the STANDart and Universal Operation figures lines that do the job just as well. And the actual model kit builders will of course have ignored this kit entirely and gone for a High Grade or something already...

1 comment:

  1. I found the Alex and Char's suit from Origins is this experimental wave ever expected to come to the states.