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By Thomas Wheeler

From 2000 - 2004, we were treated to some truly amazing toys representing Gundam concepts including Gundam Wing, Mobile Suit Gundam and its various sequels and spinoffs, Mobile Fighter G-Gundam, and Gundam Seed.

And even these shows and their related products were barely scratching the surface of the Gundam universe. Often called the "Japanese Star Wars", Gundam has managed to stand heads above most giant-robot anime, of which there is certainly no shortage, due in large part to its dramatic storytelling, but also due to a fair degree to its practice, much like those other Japanese monoliths "Power Rangers" and "Transformers", of reinventing itself every so often with a new storyline, new human characters, new Gundams and other Mobile Suits, while still keeping the core concept of super-powerful piloted giant humanoid robots called Mobile Suits, the elite of which are called Gundams.

One can speculate endlessly as to why it just didn't make the grade for all that long in the United States. Bandai wanted to push the figural model kits here more, but the basic action figures sold better. The line was diluted by a "Super-Deformed" concept that didn't fare well, and the action figures were diluted by an ugly "Battle Scarred" series that only gathered dust. And some of the names of the Mobile Suits from some of the concepts were lengthy and difficult to pronounce. It's one thing to see a toy called Wing Gundam or Gundam Sandrock. It's another thing to see a toy called MSN-03 Jagd Doga.

Fortunately, Gundam toys are still being made by Bandai, mostly for the Japanese and Asian market. It is difficult, but hardly impossible, for American fans to obtain them. In Japan, the action figures are known by the group name "Mobile Suit in Action!", which serves to differentiate them from the model kits. At the moment, Bandai seems to be placing a dual emphasis on Mobile Suits from Zeta Gundam, a popular Gundam series from some years back, and on Gundam Seed Destiny, the most recent Gundam concept.

One of my recent acquisitions is called the AMX-003 GAZA-C - Haman Karn Custom. It is part of the Zeta Gundam series.

Zeta Gundam is part of the "Universal Century" Gundam universe, the one started by the original series, Mobile Suit Gundam, and followed through with quite a few sequel series, including Gundam 0080, Gundam 0083, 08th MS Team, and others, including Zeta Gundam. Here is a basic summary of the Zeta Gundam series: Set seven years after the Federation's victory of the Zeon forces, the Earth Federation has taken control of space. In order to prevent another uprising, the Federation has formed an elite unit known as the Titans. Clad in black uniforms, the Titans crush any one they perceive as a threat, quickly becoming corrupt and oppressive. A group of Federation soldiers break off and form the Anti Earth Union Group or AEUG, and take up arms. The Titans begin developing new mobile suits at their base, where a son of one of the designers, a boy named Kamille Bidan will become one of the AEUG's greatest heroes.

Although the series has never aired in the United States, it is available on DVD, and is enjoying a fair measure of popularity just now in both the States and Japan for some reason. I find it slightly unusual since it does date back a number of years. One of my personal all-time favorite Mobile Suits, the metallic gold Hyaku-Shiki, is from Zeta Gundam.

As to the Gaza-C itself... Most Mobile Suits, Gundams and otherwise, tend to fit within a fairly reasonable framework, that is more or less humanoid, or at least robotically humanoid. There are differences in design, appearance, and capability, of course, but for the most part, there is a certain degree of commonality that, if nothing else, allows the Mobile Suits to enter into reasonably fair combat with each other, and allow their human pilots to be better able to operate them, since they're working with a physical structure not too far removed from their own.

The Gaza-C has a tall, narrow head with a single green eye in the middle of it. At least I'm assuming that's its eye. It has a fairly minimal chest, and virtually no mid-torso region to speak of, just what looks like narrow piping. Its arms are fairly convention, but its legs are huge compared to the rest of the body, and it has these immense feet that look like robotic versions of those of the mutant X-Man known as Nightcrawler. He has two toes pointing forward and a smaller one backwards. The Gaza-C reverses this, with two long "toes" pointing backwards and a small one pointing forward.

Among the accessories are two large shields. These snap to the arms close to the elbow. Normally I'm not one for attaching accessories, but in this case, they actually add a greater sense of visual balance to the figure (not physical balance -- with those big feet this thing has no trouble standing up), so I decided to attach them.

Attached to the back of the Gaza-C is a huge device that looks like it could be both a weapon and a means of flight. It can actually be raised up and snapped over the head of the Mobile Suit.

The background of the Gaza-C is as follows: After the One Year War, a portion of the Zeon Fleet escaped to the mining asteroid Axis in order to bide their time. In order to rebuild their military force, the Axis Zeno began rebuilding construction mobile suits and outfitting them with beam weapons and a crude transformation system, hence the GAZA-C. The GAZA-C became an early mainstay of the Axis Forces during the Gryps Conflict, even though they were severely outclassed by both Titan and AEUG mobile suits. The GAZA-C would remain in the Axis arsenal, even after the introduction of more advanced mobile suits.

One suit was painted white and piloted by Axis leader Haman Karn. Haman would use this suit for only a short time, before she would eventually upgrade to the Qubeley.

I'm not sure how much of an upgrade that really might have been. The Qubeley is a pretty strange piece of work, too. I know -- I have one. However, the fact that the Gaza-C started out as a construction unit, and as such was probably a distinctly less sophisticated piece of hardware than one intended for combat, might explain its relatively simple appearance. For all of its weirdness, it's not quite as extensively detailed as other Mobile Suits I have in my collection.

That's nothing against the toy company, of course. Bandai works with what they are given from the show. But there's just not quite as many vents, lines, jets, and other details on the Gaza-C as there are on other Mobile Suits and Gundams.

This doesn't make it a bad or poorly detailed toy. One of the biggest hallmarks of the Gundam action figure line is its articulation, and the Gaza-C does not fall short in this category. It has, in an offhand count, 37 points of articulation. Quite a few of these are in the big feet. The individual "toes" are individually articulated!

The Gaza-C doesn't have as much paint detailing on it as some Mobile Suits, but what it does have is intricate and very well done. There's these little jets concealed to the side of the lower legs, and they've been painted dark grey with little red jets inside each one. These are circles not much more than 1/16" in diameter. That's a pretty impressive level of attention to detail.

Colorwise, the Gaza-C is mostly white, with some purple, and yellow-gold cables in some areas. Interestingly, these were separately molded and installed. I'm glad I'm not part of the assembly line. This is, however, a custom unit, with regard to its color scheme, and assigned to a specific pilot. There is another Gaza-C out there, intended as a "general troop" Gaza-C, I believe, which I do not have yet. From the pictures, it looks to be a fairly bright magenta. Obviously camouflage is not a concern, but then again, hiding a weird humanoid robot that, in real life, would be about five stories in height, would be no easy trick regardless of color.

The accessories for the Gaza-C, apart from the shields I attached, include two beam sabers, a rifle-like weapon, three spare hands (and this is one very long-fingered Mobile Suit!), and a few other items. Interestingly, and surprisingly, some of these pieces are molded from a very rigid plastic that feels like model kit plastic. In my experience, most Gundam action figures are molded from a solid but slightly flexible plastic type. Not a complaint here, just an observation.

An advisory word if you're fortunate enough to find this toy for yourself. Don't throw the box away. There's a nice "Collection Data Sheet" on the back of the backdrop inside the box. Sure, most of it is in Japanese, but it's got a very cool illustration.

As I said at the start of this review, it's a shame that Gundam just didn't quite make it in the United States. But there is no question as to its ongoing popularity in Japan. Such as a whole new Gundam series, entitled GUNDAM 00 (that's "Double-Zero") in the works, with Mobile Suit in Action editions of the Gundams from this new series definitely coming out in the near future. Hopefully, I will have a chance to review them.

Meanwhile, if you can find a way to add the AMX-003 GAZA-C - Haman Karn Custom to your collection, I encourage you to do so. Gundam continues to be one of the most impressive action figure lines of all time, and certainly the GAZA-C has my definite and enthusiastic recommendation. It's pretty peculiar, but it's also pretty cool!