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By Thomas Wheeler

Although the Gundam action figure line may no longer be available in the United States, except through a couple of online sites, the line most assuredly does continue in its native Japan and other areas in the region, including Malaysia, where I happen to have a friend that is willing to trade me Gundams in return for G.I.Joes. Who says the barter system doesn't work?

Recently, he sent me five new Gundams. These are part of what's known as the "Mobile Suit in Action" series, corresponding to the action figures which Bandai marketed here for several years. However, there are other types of Gundams such as the poorly-named "Advanced" MSiA's, which are little more than glorified kits, the "Extended" MSiA's, which are more complex versions of the figures, and of course there are the figural kits themselves. None of these especially appeal to me.

Of the five that I received, one of them is from GUNDAM SEED, the last series shown in the United States, three of them are from GUNDAM SEED DESTINY, its sequel, and one is from ZETA GUNDAM, a Gundam series from some years back that has been garnering recent attention for an extensive DVD release both in the States and in Japan. Let's start with that one:

NRX-044 ASSHIMAR. - A fairly bulky and top-heavy specimen, this mobile suit -- technically a mobile armor, has a "face" that is reminiscent of the "Dom" Mobile Suits from the original Mobile Suit Gundam. But the resemblance pretty well ends there. The color scheme is dark green and gold, and the articulation of the toy, and Gundams always have very extensive articulation, is probably a little more than usual to allow for the fact that, if one so desires, the Asshimar can be transformed into something that sort of resembles a flying disc. I decided not to attempt this. I'll leave the Transforming to the Autobots and
Decepticons, thank you.

According to a profile provided to me by Dave Goellnitz, a good friend and very informative Gundam specialit, the Asshimar was originally designed by the Earth Federal Forces. It eventually became one of the front line suits for the elite Titans forces. The Asshimar was designed with a transformation mode, allowing it to transform into a flying disc that allowed it to operate within the Earth's atmosphere. The suit was armed only with a beam rifle, which is included with the toy along with an assortment of spare hands (typical for most Gundam mobile suits) and a display stand for its "flying disc" mode. One of the first models was piloted by Buran Blutarch during his pursuit of the AEUG on Earth. Later, several Asshimars would defend the Federation Assembly
Headquarters at Dakar.

I tend to like the more unusual-looking Mobile Suits in the Gundam series, and this one certainly qualifies.

Next, let's have a look at the entry from GUNDAM SEED. This is the ZGMF- X10A FREEDOM GUNDAM. The Freedom Gundam is the successor to the Strike Gundam, in that it was piloted by lead character and main hero Kira Yamato, after the Strike was destroyed late on in the series. The action figure is a really nice piece of work. Very "Gundam"ish looking, as well it should for a Mobile Suit piloted by the main character. It is molded in a very brilliant white, with a dark gret torso, and red and blue details. One of its most notable features are its wings. The Freedom Gundam has an immense pair of highly articulated wings attached to its back. The figure comes with a nice assortment of accessories, including several spare hands, two beam sabers, a rifle, and shield.

The background of the Freedom Gundam states that it was developed by ZAFT forces using a blend of ZAFT and Earth Alliance technology based off the stolen Gundam protoypes. The Freedom Gundam was developed using "Neutron Jammer Cancellers", which allowed it to use a nuclear reactor as a power base, giving it a seemingly limitless power source. The Freedom Gundam would eventually be stolen before it could be used by ZAFT, and was used late on in the series by former Earth Alliance pilot Kira Yamato. The Freedom would appear also in the sequel series, GUNDAM SEED DESTINY.

While a fairly straightforward Gundam in basic appearance, those massive wings really allow it to stand out, and it's nice to see another entry from Gundam SEED, whose toy line was cut short in the United States.

Now, let's head into GUNDAM SEED DESTINY, and start off with the ZGMF- X56S/b SWORD IMPULSE GUNDAM. And a note here -- that's not actually a "b" that follows the rest of the model number. It's some odd little European symbol that I'm not sure how to type, and that I'm not sure the MasterCollector Web Site could process even if I did.

Anyway, the IMPULSE GUNDAM is one of the main Gundams in the sequel series. And much like the Strike Gundam from Gundam Seed, its main feature is its ability to make use of multiple weapons packs. This gave us sets like the AILE STRIKE GUNDAM, LAUNCHER STRIKE GUNDAM, and so forth. There are several versions of the IMPULSE GUNDAM, as well.

For whatever reason, many of the mobile suits from Gundam Seed Destiny are a bit shorter than those from most of the other series, even though according to statistics, if scale were to be maintained, something Bandai has generally done a very good job of (witness the distinctly larger Mobile Suits from the Char's CounterAttack segment), they'd be closer to identical size. They're still fantastic toys, don't get me wrong, and Bandai has done a terrific job of maintaining articulation and detail on these, but if this was a cost-cutting move, that makes me a little sad.

The Impulse Gundam is a fairly straightforward Gundam, but there's a color notation worth mentioning. The torso is mostly red. And I find myself wondering, especially since I haven't seen the TV series, if different weapons modules make the torso change color. I suppose its possible. If one recalls Gundam Seed, the Gundams in their "deactive" mode all looked grey. Turn them on and they changed colors.

The reason I suspect this is because of an interesting little nod to G- Gundam here. There's a little aircraft that comes with the Impulse Gundam, that plugs into the back of the Mobile Suit. This was a feature especially known in G-Gundam. Given that this remains my favorite Gundam series to date, I think it's a nice little tribute. But the color point is that the aircraft is mostly BLUE, and the photographic illustration on the back of the toy's box shows it being plugged into an Impulse Gundam with a BLUE torso. The rest is all speculation on my part until I either see the series -- or get some more Impulse Gundam toys.

Certainly the SWORD IMPULSE GUNDAM lives up to its specific designation. It comes with two massive swords that are taller than the figure, as well as a host of other equipment. The information on its profile is as

The Impulse Gundam was developed by ZAFT in their new line of advanced Gundam mobile suits following the end of the original Gundam SEED series. This Gundam was equipped with a "core splendor" system, a system that allows a fighter plane-like cockpit to dock with the torso unit, to allow for easy replacement of components, and ejection capabilities for the pilot. The Impulse Gundam shares many features similar to that of the Strike Gundam, in that it could equip itself with several weapons packs, including the sword pack, which features two large anti-ship swords. The Impulse Gundam was piloted by ZAFT pilot Shin Asuka.

Overall, a very cool addition to the collection. Let's turn now to the
GAT-02L2 DARK DAGGER L. This is a rather dark-colored Mobile Suit, as might be expected from the name, molded mostly in dark grey plastic, with black, red, and greyish-blue trim. The head is vaguely reminiscent of GM units from the original Gundam series and its sequels.

Of note is the fact that while the basic Mobile Suit is a fairly simple and straightforward piece of work, it comes with enough weaponry and hardware that, given that if a Mobile Suit existed in real life it would be about the height of a five-story building, this thing has enough really freaking huge rifles, cannons, whatever you want to call them, along with a couple of beam sabers, that it could probably vaporize most of downtown Tokyo without half trying, and that would INCLUDE Godzilla! Fortunately, according to its profile, it's designed mostly for space use. Here's the information:

The Dagger L was built by the Earth Alliance military as an all-purpose
Mobile Suit, which can be adapted to different roles, including flight and long range support using weapons packs similar to those of the Strike Gundam. The suit is armed with a beam carbine, head vulcans, two beam sabers, as well as two small stilletto daggers stored in the Dagger's hip armor. The Dark Dagger version was designed for use in space, where the dark color would provide more effective camouflage. The Dagger served as the main front line unit of the Earth Alliance until eventually being replaced by the newer Windam mobile suits.

Yeah, you want to tell something this well armed it's being replaced. And camouflage or not, if you miss a mobile suit the size of a five-story building carrying three guns that are each a third again that mobile suit's height -- pull over and get your freaking eyes checked!

But, speaking of the Windam, that brings us to the last Mobile Suit for this review, the GAT-04 WINDAM. This Mobile Suit has a fascinating design. It borders on looking like a rather angular Gundam, and yet the face manages to look a little more generic, probably because of the visor-like eyes. The color scheme of this basic Windam is a rather stark white, with grey, turquoise, and dark blue trim. Interesting combination. It's not as well equipped weapon-wise as the Dark Dagger, but it does come with a nice shield, a sizeable rifle, and a couple of beam sabers. Its profile reads as follows:

The Windam was developed by the Earth Alliance military as a replacement for the Dagger L. The Windam shares many of the same weapons and features, but has a more powerful beam rifle. It can also use the same weapons packs, which allows the Windam to be adapted for the same purposes, such as flight or long range fire support.

There's a special version of the Windam out there that's been molded in
bright purple, that is so strange looking that I'm really hopeful that I'll own and be able to review it soon. Meanwhile, the standard Windam here is a very cool addition to the Gundam collection.

There are several things worth noting here, that all five of these toys have in common. The practice of coloring in the "lines" on these Mobile Suits is thankfully GONE! The practice was never used in the American toys, and I always thought it looked ridiculous on he Japanese ones. Apparently someone at Bandai finally agreed.

Also, if you happen to acquire any of these figures, don't be too quick to throw out the packaging. There's instructions and a profile card tucked behind the background piece inside the box. Although these are, of course, in Japanese, you'll want to keep them.

I think it's a sincere shame that Gundam is no longer being marketed in the United States. Bandai does a really nice job with these, and along with Microman, Gundam is the coolest action figure line not presently being "officially" marketed in the United States.

The reasons for its cancellation are wide and varied. Some blame G- Gundam. I think that's unfair as G-Gundam was arguably the most "family friendly" of the series, and at least the mobile suits all had pronounceable names. If I were to blame any of the animated series for Gundam's failure, it'd be the original series. The animation was primitive by modern standards, and the suits all had these tongue- tangling letter-number-too-many-consonant names. "You want what? A Jagd Doga? What the heck is that!?"

But really, I think the blame can be assigned to the growing failure of the action figure world in general, as well as the horrible Battle- Scarred line (which can still be found on clearance at K*B), and the ludicrous SD Series (currently stinking up the shelves at Big Lots). There's also the factor that Bandai has always been more interested in selling Gundam KITS than FIGURES. I think they honestly expected that once kids bought the figures, they'd want to move into kits and build their own. Maybe that works in Japan. But we're lazy Americans. We don't want to have to assemble our toys if we can help it. Besides which, the kits were generally outrageously expensive.

There were rumors that Bandai was going to try to market Gundam to other outlets -- specialty stores and even pharmacies -- but I've seen no sign of this whatsoever. It's a shame, too, since one of the toys shown was Gundam Seed's GOLD ASTRAY GUNDAM, which would've been a nice complement to the RED and BLUE ASTRAY. As far as I know, the Gold one hasn't even turned up in Japan.

But other Gundams do. And I hope I'll be able to continue to add them to my collection, and review them for you as I do. Gundam remains a very cool concept, and a very cool toy line.