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By Thomas Wheeler

With the status of Gundam toys in the United States presently somewhat up in the air, we have to turn, at least for the moment, to Japan for new Gundam toys. Fortunately, the line continues to be most popular there.

So -- who wants a pink Gundam? The last one was a version of the Noble Gundam from G-Gundam, and even that one was intended to represent a, shall we say, more energized version of a Mobile Suit that normally was predominantly white. The Noble Gundam was also the first truly female-looking Gundam.

There have been a few versions of Char Aznable's mobile suits from the original Mobile Suit Gundam that have also had a pinkish tinge to them, but more often than not, this seems to have been mold color glitches in the molding. His Zaku was distinctly colored a darker red in later releases.

Now we have the STRIKE ROUGE Gundam, and no, Strike Gundam pilot Kira Yamato didn't suddenly decide to do something weird with his Strike. The Strike Rouge is actually a second Strike Gundam, a different Mobile Suit entirely. I asked one of my Gundam informants, Dave Goellnitz, to track down some information on this curious-looking Gundam:

Appearing in the later parts of the Gundam SEED story, a split faction made up supporters of several groups emerges calling itself the Clyne Faction. In short supply of suits the Rouge Strike Gundam was built using the spare parts from the Strike Gundam. Aside from the color, it was identical in function and performance as the Strike. Since it was built from spare parts from the Strike, they were only able to provide it with one of the special packs, the Aile Striker pack. The suit would be piloted by Cagalli Yula. The Clyne Faction, of course, is led by none other than pink-haired girl herself Lacus Clyne, fiance of ZAFT pilot Athrun Zala and friend of Strike pilot Kira Yamato. Cagalli is the blond female resistance fighter and fighter pilot, who has had some considerable screen time in the past few episodes.

Brother, talk about your triangles. The toy, interestingly, comes with both the Launcher and Sword Striker accessory sets, seemingly veering away from what took place in the animated series. This is somewhat unusual for a Gundam toy.

The photograph doesn't really do the toy justice. It's a good bit pinker than it looks, but it's close. It's a superb Gundam figure, with all the detail and articulation we have come to expect from Gundam action figures. Of course, it's derived from the same molds as the Strike Gundam, but at least it's a legitimate recoloration. And it's also worth noting that the amount of detail lines "colored in", a rather annoying practice common to Japanese Gundam toys but not American ones, is distinctly minimal. Bandai seems to be getting away from this a bit, thank goodness, which makes the Japanese Gundam toys more visually compatible with their American counterparts. This is good news just in case Gundam doesn't return to the toy stores here anytime soon.

I really don't know what's up with Gundam toys in general. There are several Gundam SEED figures available in Japan, or soon to come. There are two GINNs (ZAFT Mobile Suits) now available. The BLITZ has also been announced, and just recently, so has the FREEDOM Gundam, even as Bandai gears up to air (and produce toys) for the new sequel series, GUNDAM SEED DESTINY.

I am hopeful that Gundam action figures will soon return to the United States. Meanwhile, there are some interesting items to be found out there, and you can generally get them through select online toy stores or eBay without paying too exorbitant an amount for them. The STRIKE ROUGE is one of them, and although based on an existing set of molds, manages to be a very distinctive-looking Gundam in its own right. I most definitely give it my highest recommendation!