Gold Hyper Mode Gundam Rose
Gundam is a difficult line to review. It's an ongoing line, with several Gundam concepts generally running concurrently, and one never knows what's going to turn up when. I would love to get a handle on the logic behind Bandai's shipping strategy -- assuming there is one.
That having been said, there are a few new entries in the overall Gundam line that are worth discussing.
First up is a variation of the NOBLE GUNDAM from G-Gundam. This variation is predominantly pink, instead of white. This is not a miscoloration. In the television series, the pilot of the Noble Gundam is capable of entering what is described as a "berserker mode". This has the effect of creating a red glow around the Gundam, and turning much of it pink. There was some early thought that this pink Noble Gundam might have been a mistake in the manufacturing, since it is not listed as a variation on its packaging, but I dispute this for two reasons. First of all, it's not just the plastic that's pink. Several paint details are, as well. Secondly, there have been way too many pink Nobles turning up -- even just right here in Tucson -- for this to be a glitch. The pink Noble Gundam is a legitimate toy, and a worthwhile addition to any Gundam collection.
Two other new entries in the G-GUNDAM Collection are transformable Gundams. These are TORO GUNDAM and MERMAID GUNDAM. Granted two of the sillier designs from the concept, Toro Gundam, representing Neo-Spain, can transform into a giant bull's head, whereas Mermaid Gundam, representing Neo-Denmark and figuring prominently in one episode of the series, can transform into a fish-like robot for underwater attacks. It also has a very well articulated tail.
Also finally appearing, albeit at a rather unusual location in Tucson, are the metallic-gold "Hyper Mode" versions of more of the core cast of Gundams. Previously, the only "Hyper Mode" Gundams available were Burning Gundam, Master Gundam, and Shining Gundam. Now Neo-Russia's BOLT GUNDAM and Neo-France's GUNDAM ROSE have turned up in Hyper Mode fashion. Strangely, though, I found them at a Walgreens pharmacy! I have yet to see them at any major toy retailer such as Wal-Mart or Toys "R" Us. Still looking for the Dragon Gundam and Gundam Maxter in these versions, as well.
What did turn up at Wal-Mart recently, though, was the DARK GUNDAM "Final Mode". This is the one I'd been waiting for. There's nothing wrong with the recently released BOXED version of the Dark Gundam, except that its two versions -- one with a giant caterpillar-like body, and the other with legs that look like it stole the "pants" off of Shining Gundam, just didn't make it look like something you wanted to pit against the other Gundam figures. The "Final Mode", an immense carded figure, accomplished this nicely. It's big, it's weird, it's menacing, and it's got more articulation points than can readily be counted, and that's before we get into its accessories and its transformation capabilities.
G-GUNDAM isn't the only Gundam concept to see additions to its ranks. GUNDAM 0083 recently added the boxed YMS-16M XAMEL with Artillery Unit to its collection. One is truly amazed that this bulky chunk of ochre plastic is articulated at all, let alone to the degree that it is. The notation on the back of the package describes the Xamel as follows: "During the One Year War, the Principality of Zeon produced many prototype mobile suits based on radical new concepts. Among these was the Xamel, a mobile artillery platform armed with a 68 cm cannon, which could hover at high speeds thanks to jet engines in its legs. In the year UC 0083, renegade Zeon soldiers use this prototype to attack Earth Federation base in Australia."
The Xamel, bulky enough on its own, does come with the artillery unit, which snaps onto its back. There have been some online reports that this is a somewhat difficult procedure, but not impossible.
Gundam toys continue to crop up overseas, as well, especially in its original region of Japan and Asia. Some of these are not likely to see release in the United States. Two recent additions are from the Mobile Suit Gundam concept, which played out in 2001 and somewhat into 2002 here in the USA. Although recolored from existing figures, they are still legitimate figures in their own right, and quite interesting on their own.
First up is the BLACK TRI-STARS ZAKU I. Distinctly different from any Zakus available in the United States, this belongs to the Tri-Starts special unit, and as such is predominantly dark grey, with some white and pale lavender segments.
Even more impressive is JOHNNY RIDDEN'S GELGOOG. The Gelgoog is already a fairly nasty and decidedly large piece of work, but when you color it in dark red with metallic black trim, the end result, obviously, is something that no one in their right mind would want to mess with. These two Gundams are not available in the United States. If you have friends in Japan, I suggest you contact them. If not, I recommend either an online store or perhaps eBay. Both the Zaku and Gelgoog are very worthwhile additions to any Gundam collection.
Finally, I want to turn my attention to the one negative piece of news I have at this time. Even as superb a line as Gundam, which for me presently rates as near equal to my 3-3/4" G.I.Joe collection, something I'd never thought I'd say, is going to lay the occasional big fat turkey egg once in a while. What Bandai was thinking when they came out with this segment of Gundam toys completely eludes me.
I'm speaking of the BATTLE SCARRED GUNDAM line. Now, I know that "weathering" and dirtying a toy is, for some ridiculous reason, a popular thing to do. But these things take it to an extreme that is even more absurd. Parts are remolded and deliberately damaged, limbs are missing (although in some cases provided as spare parts, although damaged spare parts), the toys are dirtied to the point of unrecognizability (although apparently they can be cleaned, but this doesn't remove the molded battle-damage), and they just look hideous. Reaction in Gundam fandom has been EXTREMELY mixed and, thankfully, generally negative. A few diehards, probably diorama builders, like them, but most collectors don't. A few in one newsgroup devoted to Gundam have gone so far as to call them superior to the basic figures, but these are most likely "trolls" looking for a fight, whose opinions aren't worth the bandwidth they take up. (It's worth noting that there's a certain amount of hostility between Gundam KIT builders and FIGURE collectors, mostly from the kit builders. How much of that enters into this debate I do not know.)
Worse, the latest entries in the Battle-Scarred line hail from GUNDAM WING, which was the first Gundam concept introduced in the United States in 2000. More recent Gundam fans who might not have had the chance to pick up the figures at that time will now only see these horrible damaged-looking versions. One person commented to me that if a collector were to buy these Bandai might see that there's still a market for Gundam Wing and bring that line back in the standard figures. I disagree. The more of these Battle-Scarred figures that sell, the more Bandai will think that people want more Battle-Scarred figures. That's why I refuse to buy them.
Bottom line on the Battle-Scarreds. They haven't put anyone into this line that they haven't already done in a clean, basic form. But, when one considers the vastness of the Gundam universe, all the different concepts, and the number of mobile suits that have yet to see the light of day in toy form from Gundam concepts past and present, from Wing, Mobile Suit Gundam and its related series, G-Gundam -- the likes of Mercurius, Vayeate, the 0080 GM units, Spike Gundam -- it's impossible to see these Battle Scarreds as anything other than a waste of time, resources, and space on the toy store shelves that could be put to much better Gundam use. And the first time Bandai puts a figure into this BS line (call that abbreviation for what you want) that HASN'T been done in a cleaner form, I have no doubt that a good number of Gundam collectors, myself included, will be sending a message to Bandai's headquarters in Japan that will need very little translation. Hopefully it won't come to that.
Apart from the Battle-Scarreds, though, GUNDAM as presented in the United States continues to impress. There's a generous number of G-Gundam figures yet to come -- hopefully very soon -- and later this year the concept will move into ZETA GUNDAM, something to look forward to even as we continue to enjoy G-GUNDAM, and hope for continued prosperity and presence in the toy stores for Gundam as a whole.