Monday, 3 April 2017

HCM Pro Chronicle 2004.4-2008.9

Today we are examining a rather sizable tome of the type that is likely to attract only the most adamant of collectors out there. Published by Softbank Creative this hobby magazine-sized book is a detailed walkthrough of the High Complete Model Progressive 1/200 figure series, or HCM Pro as collectors know them for short. Actually this is a bit of a simplification as there are a couple of larger figures thrown into the mix but the description holds valid for the most part.

The HCM Pro figure line itself ran as the title suggests mainly between 2004 and 2008 and saw some 60+ figure releases (depending on how you count colour- and detail variations). It represents some of the more high-end Gundam-related collectible figure series out there. I guess you can say that this torch is currently carried by the Robot Damashi and perhaps the Fix Figuration series.

Although HCM Pro is not a mainstay on the Gundanium Gateway site (or in the collection for that matter) it deserves special mention here since the figures do scratch the very same itch as their smaller Shokugan cousins. This holds especially true when you realize that you can pick up some of these guys for as low as ¥600-¥1000 in unused condition from sellers in Japan. And although they are notably larger than the 1/220 Shokugan figures they can still work together in some 3D-oriented displays and help to fill out some glaring gaps in the smaller figure lines.

The book chronicles all the known figures released in the HCM Pro, HCM Pro Limited, G-Box (box sets), HCM Pro SP (Special Painted) and SHCM Pro (Super HCM Pro) series and does a good job of covering most of the figures released. Mind you I have noticed some missing content near the end of the line. The book obviously tries to skirt around this problem by pointing out the time frame on the cover which seems a bit sneaky.

The main index is arranged by figure series and then individual figure numbers. The HCM Pro numbering system is a bit of a mess though and doesn't always make a lot of sense. Each basic mobile suit is given a number and a trailing variation number. The very first figure e.g. is the 01-00 RX-78-2 Gundam from 2004. Figure 01-01 is an updated "Master Markings version" of said mobile suit released 2007-03 and so on. However, you will find that the MS-14A Gelgoog does not share main suit number with the MS-14S, while the MS-09RS (Char's Rick Dom) is listed as a variation of the basic MS-09R. It is not the most obvious of numbering systems.

The main feature of the book is the display of the basic HCM Pro figures. A couple of notable figures like the RX-78-2 and the Zaku II get full spreads like above while most of the figures have to settle for being crammed together 2-3 on a spread.

It is not really as much of a "book" as it is a stylish product catalogue and collector reference sheet. Although I have no clue what the text is about I can't imagine it being more than the most basic of trivia.

Apart from showing off the figures we also get some detailed info about the accessories that come with them, although the publisher "forgot" to show that most of the accessories come on plastic runners from which they need to be (very carefully) removed.

While HCM Pro figures are normally fully articulated the actual posing options aren't always that great. On the other hand it is quite common for figures to feature with some removable panels or moving pistons, and some figures can also transform into Mobile Armor mode.

The G-Box series contains a handful of items where mobile suits and sometimes vehicles are sold together in extra large box sets. However, some of the regular single figures are actually also sold as "G-Box" sets, where two packages such as 08-00 (G-3 Gundam) and 08-01 (Casval's Gundam) are bundled and sold together. As I mentioned before, it is all a bit messy.

Under the Campaign Items heading we find a couple of odd accessories and promotional items. I would guess they could have appeared as hobby magazine promos or maybe first edition extra gifts etc.

The Special Painted series figures are basically repainted standard figures, typically using metallic colours.

The Limited Edition section also contains a number of interesting and odd items. The Heine Team ZAKU Warrior for example doesn't have its own figure number and recycles the packaging for the standard figure. Then there are odd combos like the Hyaku-Shiki. The basic matte-finish almost yellow Hyaku-Shiki (figure 10-00) is listed as a limited item while the gold coated version (10-01) is listed in the basic figure section. You would have thought that the gold coated version belonged in the special painted section and the plain figure in the basic list. Perhaps the first edition was deemed scrapped after the first series.

Coming up last are extra large 1/144-scale Super HCM Pro figures which feature some more gimmicks and improved articulation. Only a few items ever saw the light of day, I think it would have been more beneficial to continue expanding the basic line.

The second part of the book contains some general tips on modelling to get the most out of your HCM Pro collection. The chapter about coloring and marking points out ways to place additional decals on figures and of course also how they can be repainted into brand new liveries pushing you for picking up a second or even third unit. Seeing as the prices on certain figures are quite low I could definitely see that happen. And the book even comes with its own sticker sheet designed for this very purpose (see further down).

If the thematic suggestions were not enough we also get a helpful "Customize" chapter were some professionally tweaked figures are displayed in the hope of pulling you in.

Of course the Super HCM Pros are used to full effect in this section to help sell the deal.

There is for example no RGM-79 GM or Black Tristar High Mobility Zaku II available in the standard line (you've really got to wonder why they were left out in the first place).

We also get some instructions on panel lining and how to improve the detail of your figures.

One of the less interesting sections is the box art gallery area which seems like pointless padding considering we already have the box art lined up next to the individual suits but whatever.

The book also features a second index where all the releases have been grouped by TV series which is a really neat feature for those wanting a quick overview.

At the end of the book we found the custom decal sheet which has quite a lot of 1/200 stickers to use, but there is no way I would pull it out of the book. : )

Overall the book does a good job of introducing you to the possibilities of the HCM Pro line. The book was originally priced at ¥2000 and I picked up my copy a while ago for ¥1400 so the price hasn't come down that far. I suspect the decals might have something to do with that.

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