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By Thomas Wheeler


This is sort of a "Flashback Review", but it doesn't go back in time quite as far as some of the others, and given that I am discussing products whose availability in the United States was somewhat limited, I didn't want to give it the official "Flashback" designation.

The world of GUNDAM is a wide and varied universe, and so far, only four of those worlds have been officially brought over to the United States by Bandai and the Cartoon Network. Those include the original Mobile Suit Gundam, and several of its sequels, including 0080, 0083, and 08th MS Team (with Zeta to follow at some point, I hope); and the "alternate universes" of Gundam Wing, Mobile Fighter G-Gundam, and most recently, Gundam SEED.

But that is not the extent of the Gundam universe by any means. There are other concepts, a good number of which have not been officially released in the United States as yet. Which hasn't keep some products related to them from creeping over here and there.

When Gundam commenced in the United States with Gundam Wing, many retailers realized there was a definite hit here, and wanted more merchandise, even if it was from other Gundam concepts. Specialty stores such as Suncoast and Software Etc brought over action figures in their original Japanese packaging from the original Mobile Suit Gundam a full year before the toys were redone for the American market.

Of course, action figures are not the only toy-based mainstay of the Gundam concept. There are also the model kits. For some Gundam fans, the kits are far preferable to the action figures. Essentially, you get to build your own Gundam, and the end result is a fully poseable action figure.

For myself, I prefer the figures. They're pre-painted, pre-assembled, and certainly more sturdy than their lighterweight, more fragile plastic, hollowed-out kit counterparts. The figures have also sold a lot better in the United States, as any Toys "R" Us manager with several dozen dust-covered Gundam kits on clearance price will tell you.

But, in some cases, if you want a certain Gundam, the only presently existing form is the kit. Such is the case with the Gundams from yet another entirely separate Gundam concept, GUNDAM X.

The Animerica "Gundam Official Guide" describes the concept of Gundam X, which takes place in a time called "After War 0015" as follows: "Fifteen years ago, a catastrophic war broke out between Earth and its rebellious space colonies, and 99% of the human race was killed in the ensuing devastation. Now, mercenaries and scavengers pick through the debris while the common folk struggle to rebuilt. But the military powers that brought humanity to the brink of extinction have been rebuilding their forces, and now they're ready to start the war anew."

Gundam X was released in Japan in 1996 and 1997. It ran for 39 episodes, rather short compared to its counterparts. But the reason for that is that it was not especially well received. The reasons for this are fairly varied. Gundam X tried to bring together many of the successful formulas of previous Gundam concepts. It had a group of bright young pilots, much like its recent predecessor, Gundam Wing, but it also brought in the more military flavor of the original Gundam series, which Wing and its predecessor, G-Gundam, had downplayed.

Unfortunately, the story itself is described as "slow-paced and meandering", and its rather grim post-apocalyptic world just didn't catch on. (In fairness, it's not regarded as the most grim or violent series -- that distinction tends to go to Zeta Gundam, which might explain why its American debut has been delayed seemingly more than once.)

But, meandering post-apocalyptic storyline or not, that doesn't mean that the show didn't have some extremely cool Gundams! And several specialty stores, around the time when Gundam was at its "hey, look at the cool brand-new concept" height, imported quite a few of them. Ten, in fact. And I recently discovered them in a storage box here.

Alas, I haven't built them yet, and I didn't want to rush doing so for the sake of this review. But I can certainly provide pictures of the box illustrations.

The core Gundam in the concept is, of course, the Gundam X, piloted by 15-year-old Garrod Ran. There are several versions of the X which appear throughout the series, including the Gundam X D.V., and the Double X. As one might expect from the core Gundam of any Gundam concept, it is done in primary colors, mostly red and blue, with a little yellow, and a large percentage of white.

Another prominent Gundam in the series is the Gundam Air Master. It, like many of the Gundams in this concept, has more than one version. The other version is called the Air Master Burst. I find it interesting that between the red trim of the Air Master and the blue trim of the Air Master Burst, they remind me a lot of Gundam SEED's Red and Blue Astray Gundams.

Next up we have the Gundam Leopard, and despite the name, it's not yellow with spots. Its initial form is predominantly green, and its second form, the Gundam Leopard Destroy, is mostly red. Both versions are very heavily armed, reminding me considerably of Gundam Wing's walking arsenal, the Gundam Heavyarms.

Next there is the Gundam Virsago, and its second version, the almost creepy Gundam Virsago Chest Break. This second version looks almost insectoid, with six slender wings or arms or some such emerging from its back, and two spheres on its chest that, when the six appendages are extended, make the chest look like some creepy bug-face. The original Gundam Virsago, a more conventional Gundam in appearance, is largely red and black, and reminds me a bit of Gundam Wing's Gundam Epyon.

Last but most certainly not least is the Gundam Ashtaron. It doesn't have a second form. It's initial form is more than sufficient. In "real life", this Gundam would stand several meters taller than any of its counterparts. As it is, even at 1:144 scale, the kit had to be packaged in a slightly larger box than any of the others. This steel blue, black, and grey monstrosity with red trim isn't really comparable to any other Gundam that I can readily think of.

For the most part, these 1:144 scale kits of Gundams are a good product, and are not that hard to assemble. I've put together the Vayeate and Mercurius from Gundam Wing (two more mobile suits I'd like to see official figures of). I'd be a lot more inclined to paint certain parts rather than use the labels, but that's my personal preference. They are not as sturdy as the actual action figures Bandai makes, but overall, they're not a bad product -- especially when it's the only way to get a certain Gundam.

I have no idea if Gundam X will ever debut in the United States. I would like to think that one day it would, because it would give Bandai the reason it needs to make actual Gundam X figures, and really, however flawed the animated series might be, these are some of the coolest Gundam designs around. They're as outstanding as any of those from Gundam Wing, without getting into the admitted occasional silliness of G-Gundam (a series I nonetheless like very much).

Meanwhile, there are the kits -- if you can find them. I haven't seen any Gundam X kits even at specialty retailers in several years -- but there's always online.

Gundam X is a concept that I do hope gets a good run in the United States someday. Actual figures of these Gundams would be a very cool thing.

(For further information on the history and specifics of any of the Gundams from Gundam X, or any other Gundam concept, I recommend the Web Site