Thursday, 10 January 2019

SD Gundam Full Color Stage 54

We are digging deeper into the Gashapon SD Gundam history with a figure set from the first era of full color super-deformed Gundam figurines. Prior to these there were also generations of rubbery single colour figures which are both insanely expensive today and of little interest to the Sergeant. Anyway, this particular set, Stage 54 is one of the later releases of the expansive 63 volume SD Gundam Full Color series and was released in January 2005. The figures sold for ¥100 back then. I picked this set up complete from a secondhand store for about ten USD which must be considered somewhat of a steal.

Being pure Gashapon figurines the SD Full Color figures are capsule toys and so come wrapped in plastic bags (typically of the bags in a bag variety) balled up with a wrinkled mini-booklet although these particular booklets have survived nicely.

Articulation in the SD Full Color range varies from mobile suit to mobile suit. Early figures are pretty much statues while later figures feature the occasional moving parts such as shoulders or heads.

346 : ZGMF-X56S/b Sword Impulse Gundam

The set opens with figure number 346 (yes, this series had been going for 8 years already) which together with the next two are collected from the Gundam SEED Destiny television series. While I was no big fan of the rather generic Impulse Gundam design the Sword Impulse mode is rather nice with its signature red colour and large double bladed sword. (I am also a fan of the rather similar looking Sword Calamity MSV design, here's hoping they will both be featured in Converge one day...)

The Sword Impulse has a static pose with both hands attached directly to the sword. You can wiggle the arms a little up and the head sits on a round page and so can rotate freely. There is some nice paint detail on the torso and head although the backs of these figures typically are much more Spartan.

This was the only Sword Calamity to come out of the Full Color line although a version with two separate swords later appeared in the SD Full Color Custom series in August 2006. The two complement each other rather nicely.

347 :  GAT-02L2 Dagger L

The Dagger L design replaced the GAT-01 Strike Dagger from Gundam SEED as the main Earth Alliance army builder mobile suit. It comes armed with a beam carbine rifle and this weird anti-ship penetrator armor which mainly looks like an oversized spear. The intended pose can be altered a bit since both arms sit on round pegs.

I really enjoy the army builder type of mobile suits, although action poses such as these tend to break immersion when you line up a couple of them. If you like the Dagger mobile suit family you can also find the Strike Dagger in SD Full Color Stage 45. There are also three figures in the Full Color Custom series; the Gunbarrel Dagger, the Dark Dagger L as well as a Jet Dagger L. Hard to find but fun to search out...

348 : ZGMF-1001/M Blaze ZAKU Phantom (Rey Za Burrel Custom)

Sticking a Zaku (oh sorry, a ZAKU) into SEED's Cosmic Era timeline is one of the aspects I like the least about this sad sequel to my favourite Gundam series. Still, the design turned out really badass and spawned a lot of outlandish and colourful variations, such as Rey Za Burrel's white Blaze ZAKU Phantom here. And SD Full Color Gundam does do it full justice... almost. Come on now, where is your rifle? Geeze, talking about skimping on the grunt suits even when they are piloted by named characters.

I'll have to assume it was too costly to include a tiny little black L-shaped gun now that we've got both a nicely detailed Phantom backpack and two spiked shields but I'm sure if you were the Freedom Gundam they'd have given you something nice to hold on to as well.

Rey's Blaze ZAKU Phantom compared to the new sculpt of Heine Westenfluss' armed version from SD Full Color Custom 04.
 All jokes aside, this is a killer figurine and there are quite a few of them to find and collect in the SD Full Color and Full Color Custom series and luckily many of them are properly armed. I'm not sure just what went wrong here.

349 : ZGMF-X10A Freedom Gundam

Ah yes, speaking about the Freedom, this mobile suit can also be found plastered all over the various SD Gundam figure series. To my knowledge this is the 6th version of it to pop up in the SD Gundam Full Color series and it was followed by a seventh as well as another three in the Full Color Custom range (not counting transparent figures). Then we have half a dozen of Strike Freedoms in there as well.

This particular version of the Freedom comes with semi-folded wings mainly pointed backwards and its two Lacerta-type beam sabers combined into the Ambidextrous Halberd mode which fits neatly in the suit's left hand. The right hand is balled up to form a clenched fist. The figure features arms on round pegs enabling a little bit of up and down movement and the head sits on the standard round peg. It is a fine version of the Freedom that I can definitely get in to.

350 : XXXG-01SR Gundam Sandrock

Having come this far we leave the Cosmic Era timeline for a dip into the After Colony era from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. With Stage 54 serving up the Sandrock and the Shenlong you have of course already figured out that the more popular machines from the pretty boy mobile suit brigade were already released earlier. The Sandrock Custom did show up already back in SD Full Color Stage 24 in April 2001 though. But unless I am mistaken, this is the one and only appearance of the Shenlong in SD format. Nobody likes Wufei...

This Gundam Sandrock figure has the appearance from the original television series (the Endless Waltz version replaces the black and yellow colour scheme and it begins sporting a huge shawl for some reason) and comes with its two rather iconic Heat Shotel blades and a shield (which can only be fitted to the left arm). The figure also has more articulation than the other figures in this set; the head rotates and the arms can swivel both at the shoulder and elbows leaving some room for customization. Its main drawback is that the backside is all white.

351 : XXXG-01S Shenlong Gundam

The Shenlong Gundam figure also takes its appearance from the main television series. Its evolution, the Altron Gundam, can be found in its Endless Waltz variation in SD Full Color Stage 23. This figure also has a decent enough painted frontside while the the backside is aaaall white.

The most interesting aspect of this figure to me is that you can actually do some really different posing with it. While the Bandai promotional material shows the intended pose to be right arm forward (ready to release the Dragon Fang weapon onto some hapless combatant) you can also do a more static pose with the right arm to the side and the left arm holding the spear-like Beam Glaive like if on guard duty. A word of caution is in order; be gentle when putting the beam glaive into the figure's hand. Do not apply too much force but take your time and adjust it in small steps or you risk bending or twisting the soft plastic material.

352 : MBF-P02 Gundam Astray Red Frame

The last figure in this set is yet another Gundam, and now we have swerved back into Gundam SEED MSV territory again. The very popular Red Frame needs no special introduction and its transition into SD Full Color format has really succeeded in retaining its fearsome appearance. Just look at those eyes.

The figure comes armed with its signature blade and a sheath to go with it, although the sheath is of course not functional. Notice how this figure gets the love of colour application also on its backside unlike the two Wing designs we just looked at.

The Red Frame has a couple of appearances in SD Full Color and Full Color Custom (and the same goes for the Blue Frame and the Gold Frame as well). This was its first appearance and it was later followed by a blade and rifle wielding figure in Full Color Custom 02 and the Powered Red variant in Full Color Custom 12.

Overall I think that SD Full Color Stage 54 is reasonably successful. There are a bit too many Gundams in it for my personal taste but all the designs work nicely and the only glaring fault I can think of is that the Blaze ZAKU Phantom really deserved a gun. As with all the other SD Full Color figures the availability tends to be somewhat limited. I would say your best bet of finding these is to go on a prowl in dedicated secondhand Gashapon market (which is mainly a pipe dream for us not located in the Far East...). When purchasing secondhand figures, SD figures of all types often come with incorrect (or missing entirely) parts such as weapons, backpacks or the like. I've dragged home a lot of figures over the years only to discover later that... wait a minute, this isn't right. So remain vigilant out there and be prepared to hit a few duds every now and then.

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