Tuesday, 17 October 2017

SD Gundam Warrior NEXT 02

The SD Warrior NEXT generation of Mobile Suit Gundam figures was an important reform in the Gashapon arena. The long running SD Gundam FullColor and FullColor Custom series had run for some ten years and produced a good number of all the usual and not-so-usual suspects and turned its focus to gimmickry like transparent colours and the like. With NEXT Bandai revitalized the Gashapon figure scene with a strong reboot.

The NEXT generation figures took advantage of continued technical evolution and set a new standard for these figures that we can still trace in today's Gashapons as well. A common skeletal structure was introduced, consisting of swiveling shoulder joints and a T-shaped pelvic structure to connect the legs and torso. This enabled moving legs, turning torsos and improved flexibility in the arm movements. Later, SD Warrior DASH would refine this concept further by adding elbow joints as well.

SD Warrior NEXT volume 02 appeared in April 2011 and consists of five different figures. They were mainly sold as Gashapon vending machine random figures although I suspect they were also available in random cardboard boxes (I have seen figures from volume 03 appearing in such boxes). My particular figures were purchased as a complete set from a seller in Hong Kong who had removed the exterior packaging. The figures originally sold for ¥200 in Japan and are still fairly easy to obtain today.

01 : MSZ-006 Z Gundam


The base white colour is a bit on the creamy side which becomes readily apparent when compared to later depictions of this mobile suit. The wing binder pack is all black lacking the red detail but this is par for the course for most Gashapon figures, all the effort is typically spent on the front side.

The Zeta comes in various forms and with various equipment. The NEXT 02 variant sticks to the bog standard BOWA beam rifle plus shield combination. Both hands are able to equip the weapon, the shield goes on a peg on the left forearm. It is a little bit sad that we don't get a beam rifle included with the figure, especially since the GN-XIV in this very set was allowed to have two items to play with.

The SD NEXT 02 Zeta sits to the far left in this photo. Second in the line-up is a more modern counterpart from NEXT volume 22 released nearing the series' end. This figure is equipped with the Hyper Mega Launcher. In the center we see the far superior Zeta from Senshi Forte volume 2 which comes with both the beam rifle and a translucent beam saber. Figure number four is the large-headed Zeta with Hyper Mega Launcher from FW SD NEO 2. Over at the far right we have the MSZ-006 from Gundam Converge volume 2.

02 : AMX-004 Qubeley


The NEXT 02 Qubeley goes all in for the expression. With huge mesmerizing eyes and fancily spread fingers it tries to hypnotize its poor prey rather than trying to strike it with say, a beam rifle or two. Right off the bat I am a bit disappointed that the Qubeley so rarely gets any accessories to play with. Imagine what an optional right hand with a yellow beam saber could have added to this figure.

No two Qubeley figures ever look the same in regard to head shape and back skirt positioning. The NEXT 02 figure is pretty toned down in these regards and instead focuses on beefy shoulders and attractive paint applications. Of course the shoulder binders which are nicely painted on the front side are all white on the figure's backside.

Somewhat surprisingly, the SD NEXT 02 Qubeley is currently the last incarnation we have seen in Gashapon size. While the Mk-IIs did pop up in NEXT 04 the Qubeley has been strangely absent from DASH, Senshi Forte and FW SD NEO even though its main nemesis the Zeta was present in most of these (also missing in DASH). Here the NEXT 02 Qubeley is seen next to one of the old Qubeleys from SD FullColor Stage 44 (left) and its first representation in Gundam Converge (right).

03 : GNT-0000 00 Qan[T]


Initiating the second fighting pair of SD NEXT 02 is the fancy Qan[T] of Celestial Being fame. This figure is a good measurement of the amount of flair that Bandai is willing to add to a figure series. In the case of SD Warrior NEXT this is perhaps not too exciting. The figure is even relegated to being number three in the set rather than the first slot that it usually enjoys.

The Qan[T] does feature some shiny metallic cyan colouring to good effect but it is a far cry from the translucent pieces that were to feature on later incarnations as time went by. The GN Shield also omits any fancy colouring sticking to white and blue which is perhaps a little bit disappointing.

While not a bad figure I think it is safe to say that there are now more interesting variations out there. The recent Senshi Forte version (middle) comes to mind, which nearly outshines the Converge figure (right) as well.

04 : GNX-803T GN-XIV (Commander Type)


Hidden away near the end of the set is my favourite figure from this volume, the wonderfully ominous-looking GN-XIV. I dare not say if this figure has been released as a Gashapon before but if it has I am not aware of it. This only serves to make this figure doubly intriguing as far as I am concerned.

The GN-XIV is the only army-builder unit in this set so it seems more than fitting that we get two different weapons for it to wield. Perhaps Bandai thought that the GN-XIV's dark colour scheme was so bland that it needed a colour boost. The figure comes in the dark gray commander type colours. It would have been doubly awesome if there was also a green colour variation for regular units but I guess we can't have everything. :)

The GN-XIV is truly versatile in that you can mix and match its equipment. Of course the short stubby arms make it tricky to do much in the way of different poses but I still find a lot of fun in playing around with them.

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


Trailing at the end of the set is the quirky looking Woundwort Hazel variation. I am not a big fan of the myriad of different Hazel units out there and the TR-6 definitely ranks among the more odd looking ones. I don't think the strange design choices transfer very well into SD format. The figure looks more like a cuddly character you would expect to see snuggling up next to Doraemon than a state-of-the-art mobile suit.

Yes I know, I know, the feet in the parts picture are in the wrong spots and are supposed to point backwards. This thing is so alien in its appearance that it had me scratch my head where you normally just assemble the pieces without much thought.

The Woundwort has a couple of releases under its belt by now but the SD NEXT 02 is I believe the first among the Gashapons (second left in image above). A translucent version followed in the first limited NEXT Premier 01 set (far left). This reissue was also modified to make use of the small stands that would later become common on more recent NEXT-figures. The original figure from NEXT 02 lacks both a stand and a socket to connect it to. To the right we have the tiny Woundwort from FW SD Neo volume 1 which is much more refined in its detail although it lacks much of the articulation options. Over on the far right we have the related RX-124 Gundam TR-6 [Hyzenthlay II] which was released as part of SD NEXT volume 14.

Conclusion

Overall the SD NEXT volume 02 delivers a fine set of figures with no obvious duds in the line-up. The widespread pedigree sees representatives from several different series although I feel that it is the GN-XIV that steals the show here. Such a shame that NEXT and later Gundam Gashapon sets did not continue down this road adding only a few more opposing forces from the MSG 00 era.

The good news is that these figures are still available here and there and not too pricey either. A good starting point for SD Warrior NEXT collectors I would imagine.

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