Thursday, 19 October 2017

FW SD Gundam Neo 03

The third volume of FW SD Gundam Neo is here! This is easily the most experimental and far reaching of the volumes released thus far, brimming with huge figures and more gimmicks than you can shake a stick at. However, with all this energy and ingenuity comes a down side. The possible end of SD Neo. With no Volume 04 or EX figures announced as of this writing I am pessimistic about the future of this amazing series. Lets hope that Bandai sees all the great things this series has to offer and continues to let it exist along side its more established Gundam shokugan brand of Converge. I would hate for SD Neo to go the way of Universal Units.

Nu Gundam, Unicorn Gundam Banshee Norn, Kampfer, Baund Doc, Baund Doc (Twin Seat), Mudrock Gundam

Here is what you get in the boxes. You also get some soda flavored gum, but as usual I was greedy during the review process and chewed some pieces while laying out these boxes. If you've ever purchased a Bandai candy toy then you know exactly what to expect from their short lived soda gums. Also worth noting in this image is the disparate sizes of these "scaled" figures with the Baund Doc and Banshee having substantially larger part counts to match their bulkier forms. 

13: RX-93 v Gundam

The first figure in this volume is the perennial fan favorite, the Nu Gundam. The titular suit of the film Char's Counter Attack this Amuro Ray piloted behemoth is looking sharp in its SD Neo form factor. Its lack of parts made up for by its great sculpting and paint job. A nice and familiar way to open the volume. Hopefully if the series continues we can get the usual follow up of a Sazabi to stage some adorable fights.

What I particularly like about this figure is the detail painting, with tiny shoulder vents and chest cameras given some yellow and green love respectively. Also note the cute little paint apps on his toes. The only real lack being its fin funnels, which while nicely filling out the figure, do look a little tacked on and boring compared to the gorgeous body. 

The Nu Gundam comes with minimal accessories boasting a simple beam rifle and shield. That being said each is sculpted nicely and the shield has a great paint app in Amuro's symbol. A nice touch for this figure and perfectly applied, it really pops on that bright white. The shield also uses the classic SD Neo adapter piece so the figure can swap weapons with friends. 

Something worth noting on this figure is its lack of extra plugs. It is missing a right arm hole so there is no option to double up on shields like most SD Neos can do. Also the back pack is regrettably missing a second plug. It would have been nice to add a plug and extra peg onto the binders to allow for the over top double binders look that the MG has. 

As far as first figures in a volume go it is hard to go wrong with the Nu Gundam. While this figure might not be as large or gimmicky as the rest in this set it is none the less a great addition to any figure collection. Nicely representing its anime counter part with fantastic sculpting and detail painting this is a figure even Amuro Ray would be proud of. 

14: RX-0[N] Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee Norn (Destroy Mode)

Next up is a variation on the Unicorn Gundam, the Banshee Norn. This is one of the rival suits in the Unicorn Gundam OVA series and a nice counter part to the Unicorn figure in Volume 01. While still called a unicorn the motif of this suit is actually that of a lion. This is clear in its mane of a v-fin which is so large it has to come in two separate parts. 

This figure is huge! The added size of the v-fin and back pack fins really give this guy a girth and weight. This is added to by its fantastic color design of dark blue and gold. The gold on this figure really shines making the dark blue that much heavier in contrast. The ominous presence of this dark version of the Unicorn is palpable in this figure.

Like the Nu Gundam, the Banshee Norn is packing only the essential accessories in its beam rifle and shield. However this small compliment is made up for by its larger size. Both of these weapons are essentially beefed up versions of the original SD Neo Unicorn's weapons. The beam rifle adding a bottom grenade launcher and the shield about doubling its surface area.

The shield uses the same unique square peg as the other Unicorn figure allowing them to swap weapons. It also has pegs on both arms allowing it to carry two shield and two rifles. 

For a quick size comparison here is the Banshee Norn next to its rival the original Unicorn Gundam, and a side by side of their weapons. As you can see the Banshee Norn takes everything that the original did and simply does it bigger and meaner with more plastic and a heavier color palette. I was initially impressed with the size of the SD Neo Unicorn Gundam, but the Banshee Norn really blows it out of the water.

Looking at its final image I am struck by just how intimidating this figure is. Is it healthy to be scared of an SD Gundam? But seriously with its striking gold paint and sinister red jeweled eyes and front camera this is the first time I've really been impressed by the Banshee, as its MG and PG counterparts have only ever struck me as color shifted Unicorns. While the figure is largely a rehash of the original Volume 01 Unicorn this figure adds enough detail, paint, girth, and weight to keep me satisfied.

15: MS-18E Kampfer

Right in the middle of the volume comes the Kampfer. This is the final enemy suit in the OVA series Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (which if you haven't seen is worth checking out), and is piloted by the Zeon forces right at the tail end of the One Year War. I should be honest here and admit that the Kampfer is one of, if not my all time, favorite mobile suit designs ever. So please forgive my gushing and swooning throughout this review. 

Unlike the first two suits the Kampfer is fully decked out with two bazookas and a shotgun. Yes you heard right a giant mobile suit shotgun, cause you know realism. The Kampfer was designed to be a fast close quarters combat unit with minimal shielding and multiple attack angles. In the anime it also boasts a chain mine whip and some sturm faust grenades, but hey it is only an SD figure. 

While the suit itself is about average size its weapons really fill out its outline and add to is apparent girth. With a full armament in tow this figure competes in size with the larger figures in the set. As always with SD Neo it also boasts some fantastic painting with some nice yellow thrusters up front and white decals on its antenna and shoulder. 

Fully loaded the figure is actually comparable in size to its Converge counterpart (minus the weapons). Unfortunately my fully decked out Converge figure was at the office so I couldn't compare it (FYI it also lacks the chain mine whip and grenades). Worth noting is the lack of Zeon insignia on the SD Neo figure, a rare case of the Converge figure having slightly better paint than its SD Neo brethren. Although the SD Neo figure does have more yellow thruster paint apps. 

While the sculpt and proportions of this figure are right in line with what we have come to expect from the SD Neo line up, I do have one complaint. Those ridiculously large bazooka holders. While they look fine holding the weapons, as soon as they come off they become real eye soars. These are also molded to the figure so there is no getting them off with out permanent modifications. The Converge figure's solution to this issue is vastly more elegant and superior. 

Now for the gimmicks. We will begin with the figure's odd ability to remove the front spike from its left shoulder. But why you might ask?

For Bazooka Time!!!!! Due to the super deformed nature of the figure its generously spiked shoulder got in the way of it dual wielding its bazookas. This is a really nice touch by the designers and allows you to fully show off this figure's military grade arsenal. However, while it can easily wield both bazookas there is no where to stow the shot gun so be prepared with a zip lock bag. The only other complaint here being again those bazooka holders which impede the movement of the bazookas. They can only go up so far until they hit the holders, greatly diminishing its possibility. 

Even after all that there is yet more gimmicks. Like the other Zeon figures in the SD Neo line the Kampfer can remove the top of its head to position its mono-eye. This adds a lot to the possibility of the figure, allowing it to stair down the enemy no matter where they stand. 

The hardest part of this figure's review was choosing its final pose. With so many weapons and a movable eye I probably had too many options for a lazy poser like myself. I ended on this pose as I didn't have to store the shot gun in a zip lock bag and the eye and head sculpt just screamed mean evil villain. While there are clearly things this figure is lacking and some molding choices that could have been better implemented, at the end of the day I am nit picking. This is a fantastic representation of the Kampfer and great addition to the line up. The willingness to do more underrepresented, yet still fan loved, suits like this so early in the SD Neo series is what sets them apart from their more traditional counterparts like Converge. 

16: NRX-055 Baund Doc

And speaking of underrepresented, the fourth figure in the volume came as a complete shock to everyone: the Baund Doc. A relatively obscure transforming enemy MS/MA from the anime Zeta Gundam. This particular machine was an experimental unit with a full Psycommu System used by the Titans during the Gryps Conflict.

One of only three units built, this pink model was piloted by the cyber newtype Rosamia Badam to fight some girl named Kamille. A rather striking mecha design in its own right, the SD Neo figure does a great job highlighting its unique characteristics and relative size. Its bulbous butt nicely proportioned to its large head and ears. I particularly appreciate its asymmetrical shoulders and arms.

As for accessories it comes with an adorable shield, and that's it. While that might seem like too little, its other gimmicks help make up for this apparent lack. Of these it has the signature shield adapter so it can exchange weapons and its clawed right arm opens and closes on a pegged joint. 

Similar to the Kampfer and its other Zeonic inspired brethren it has a removable head that allows you to adjust its mono-eye. This is a great feature which seems at this point to be standard on SD Neo figures. 

And of course the headlining gimmick of this figure, and volume really, its transformation into the mobile armor form. By removing the top of the figure, don't forget your zip lock bags, and replacing the whole thing with its shield you get this adorable cutie. With those huge thrusters on the back and sleek design this MA was incredibly fast in space combat and a force to be reckoned with. While our SD Neo figure is missing the pinching claws, I think the adorable look of its squat feet easily make up for this. 

An intimidatingly odd mobile suit/armor, the choice to add the Baund Doc to the SD Neo line up in only the third set speaks volumes for the audacity and bravado of who ever runs this figure line. I mean even Converge hasn't had the courage to model this mecha yet. Beyond the choice itself, this is an exceptional figure. Something I didn't fully mention was its color, which beautifully separates the parts of this figure and is very anime accurate. The pinks, dark purples, and yellows really scream 80s in general and Zeta Gundam in specific. The added detail of the transformation and working claw push an already worthy figure over the top to true excellence. This figure demands attention and will start a conversation with everyone from Gundam fanatics to casual observers.

17: NRX-055 Baund Doc (Twin Seat Type)

As was the case with the previous two SD Neo volumes the fifth figure in Volume 03 is a simple color swap. In this case the Baund Doc turns in its vibrant 80s outfit for a more muted grey palette. Not mentioned above is just how many parts this figure comes in. Due to the ears and transformation gimmick this suit is not only large but also numerous.

While this color scheme looks like a Strike Gundam in Deactive Mode it is in actuality an anime accurate depiction of the first model of the Baund Doc, the twin seat unit operated by Jerid Messa along side Loren Nakamoto. 

Being an exact sculpt replica of figure 16 this version of the Baund Doc similarly transforms into its adorable MA counterpart. 

Since there is less to say about this color swap I thought I'd give everyone a closer look at its detailing and painting. While the grey look is undoubtedly more subtle the variations of no less than four different greys still give the figure nice parts separation. It is quite lovely in person.

Not too much more to say about this figure other than its size. While not mentioned above this figure is huge. Seriously this is going above and beyond as far as the whole "to scale" SD Neo trope is concerned. In fact I found the whole size issue so interesting that I gave it its own section lower down. Look there for pictures and size comparisons. As for this specific figure everything about the first is true of this one. It is a bold choice which has absolutely paid off as far as I'm concerned. While I dig the 80s colors of the first figure I do personally prefer the more subdued presence of the twin seat Baunt Doc.

18: RX-78-6 Gundam (Mudrock)

Like every sixth figure in an SD Neo volume, figure 18 (Gundam Mudrock) came straight out of left field. Not linked directly to any anime or manga the RX-78-6 Gundam Mudrock comes instead from the acclaimed series of Mobile Suit Variations (MSV).

The sixth incarnation of the Grand Daddy Gundam, the Mudrock has boosted armaments in its arms and rear mounted cannons. This added weight is of course off set by the added boosters and thrusters of the design. Unfortunately most of this added boost comes from large boosters on its legs which the SD design of the figure minimizes. 

As mentioned above the figure's main weapon is two large back pack mounted cannons, however it also comes with a nicely sculpted beam rifle. A smart design on the cannons, they actually have different sized peg holes. This ensures that you always place them over the correct shoulder and right ways up. That being said the design is lacking the versatility of other SD Neo figures. With no second hand hold or shield ports it is relegated to its cannons and beam rifle, no more and no less. 

The cannons can obviously rotate independently and easily turn over 90 degrees. They do however catch slightly on the v-fin so be careful raising them or you might damage something. 

Like the sixth figures from previous volumes this unique suit does not disappoint. While I initially wrote it off as a simple RX-78-2 rehash, upon closer inspection and after spending some time with it I've come to appreciate its subtle differences. For one while the proportions in general remain in tact nearly every piece of armor from the shoulders, to the face and front skirts has been retool and resculpted. The back pack itself, minus the cannons, is also much larger and beefier. I also underestimated the difference in colors would make. The blue and yellow aesthetic, minus all the red, gives it a more serious determined vibe. While this is easily the simplest, and smallest, addition to the volume it makes up for these deficits with its unique representation of the often forgotten MSV suit series.

Size Comparisons

As I mentioned throughout this review (with the Banshee Norn, Kampfer, and Baund Doc) one of the really impressive qualities of this volume is the size of the figures. To help put this into perspective I have made a quick size comparison below. The figures involved are the Baund Doc (both MA and MS modes), the RX-78-2 from SD Neo Volume 01, a classic Converge RX-78-2 (clear version), and a new Converge Wing Zero EW.

As you can clearly see the size of the SD Neo line has really increased. Since this series is meant to be roughly "to scale" the larger Baund Doc easily dwarfs the original volume's RX-78-2. In fact is smaller MA from is about the same size as the Grand Daddy. While in height its nearly the same size as a Converge, if we count the ears, the weight and girth of the figure make it feel in person much larger. In fact I would say that in person, and in the image above, it is about the same size as the relatively large Wing Zero EW figure. Something I seriously never expected from an SD line of shokugan! For even more size comparisons check out this article from Bandai's official blog.

Final Thoughts

What can I say, from the ridiculous size differences to the the wacky switchable weapons there is so much I love about this figure line. Beyond the great detail in both sculpting and painting I admire Bandai's attempts to give us truly unique SD figures and choices. I mean heck we haven't even seen a Zaku yet, something that continues to impress me. After reviewing this volume it is clear that Bandai was pushing the boundaries with these figures making them bigger and bolder, giving them too many accessories, and generally overloading them on gimmicks and details. With this release they really have carved out a new space between the shokugan king, Converge, and the gashapon plebes of SD. Making serious detailed figures that keep finding new ways to intrigue and interest me, all while straying as far as possible from the "obvious" choice. For all these reasons I am more than sad to see this figure line so obviously tossed aside. With more than eight Converge releases announced since the reveal of Volume 03, and no word on Volume 04 at the All Japan Hobby Show or the blog post celebrating Volume 03's release I am left waiting and wanting. I truly hope they do not abandon this line as they did Assault Kingdom and Universal Unit, but if they have I am happy to have gotten to open and review them while they lasted. Until the next volume, see you space cowboy.....

1 comment:

  1. I recently picked up a 10-box of these in Bangkok for 1200 baht. Sure enough, doubles of everything except the colour swaps on the Baund-Doc, the only figures I wanted two of. Found those as singles in another shop paying 200 baht for each. The strange thing is these rarer figures still don't seem to be more pricey than the others.