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by Thomas Wheeler

More and more new Gundams are finally starting to turn up, not only at online stores, but even at retail outlets such as Wal-Mart and Target. Here's a group review of some of the newest entries from G-GUNDAM:

NOBLE GUNDAM - Representing Neo-Sweden. This is the first and only female-styled Gundam in any Gundam concept. Piloted by a young woman named Allenby Beardslee, the Noble Gundam doesn't appear in the series until fairly late on, but it takes on a very prominent role during the final Gundam Tournament, as does Allenby herself.

The design of the Gundam has often been criticized by people who want to take Gundam more seriously than it needs to be. It looks for all the world like a Gundam with a wardrobe done by the producers of Sailor Moon, right down to a big red bow up front. The Gundam seems to have long blonde "hair", which in fact can be used as both a shield and a weapon at times.

Personally, I like it. It's certainly different than just about any other Gundam you're going to come across, and it's no more implausible than any of the other Mobile Fighter suits. I mean, why not make one that looks female? And I'm delighted we got a figure of it. Ask any Transformers fan what they'd give for a decent figure of Arcee...

There is a very scarce variant of the Noble Gundam, though. The Gundam and its pilot are capable of a particularly vicious attack method called "Berserker Mode". When this happens, the white portions of the Noble Gundam turn pink. There is a Noble Gundam figure out there done in pink, but it's very difficult to find. If anybody reading this turns one up, let me know, PLEASE!

Noble Gundam's accessories include a "Beam Ribbon" and a second "hair" attachment, a sort of "fanned out" version, which honestly looks a little silly.

ROYAL GUNDAM - Representing Neo-England. This is one of my personal favorites in the series, probably because it looks rather distinctively British. This Gundam was certainly designed to resemble a giant robotic version of the well-known guards that stand watch outside Buckingham Palace -- with maybe a little bit of the equally famous "Beefeater" design thrown in for good measure.

This Gundam also comes with one of the more interesting accessories -- an absolutely huge rifle that almost looks to have a woodgrain stock. Keep in mind that if these Gundams existed in real life, they'd be anywhere between five and seven stories in height, so that makes for one -- big -- gun.

Unfortunately, while the Royal Gundam comports itself well enough in its match early in the series, it turns up later in the G-Gundam series having been very decidedly turned towards evil. I found this unfortunate. Makes me wonder if the Japanese have something against the British for some reason. Still, apart from that, it's a cool design and a very cool Gundam!

HAOW GUNDAM - Representing Neo-Hong Kong. Certainly one of the bulkier Mobile Fighter Gundams in this series, the Haow Gundam is piloted by Master Asia, the martial arts expert who trained Domon, the fighter from Neo-Japan. The Haow Gundam is one of the more ornate designs, and looks like a robotic samurai with an almost sumo-sized weight problem. It doesn't last too long in the animated series, for reasons that if I divulged them would give away one of the key plotlines, and if you haven't been watching the show and it starts getting re-run or you decide you want to get the DVD's as they come out, I don't want to spoil it for you. But the Haow Gundam is another very cool design. Just don't drop the toy on your bare foot or you might break a toe.

RISING GUNDAM - Representing Neo-Japan. This Gundam, considered something of a back-up to the Shining and Burning Gundams, makes only a brief appearance late in the series, although is hinted at at least one earlier on. It's piloted by Rain Mikamura, Domon's tournament partner and technician. It looks very much like the Shining Gundam with some of the colors reversed -- blue where there was originally red, and vice-versa, but there are a few differences. It has much larger "shoulder pads", wide and flat. If they ever make a 12" version of this Gundam you could use it as a serving tray. The head structure is somewhat different, as well.

My only problem with the figure is that the shoulder pads do not want to snap into place all that well, but this could just be a slight molding defect that would not necessarily occur on all of the figures. Don't get me wrong -- Bandai does a superb job with Gundam. But we are talking about very complex and rather small figures with a lot of parts. And nothing's perfect. Sometimes there are slight molding slip-ups (I've had some occasionally where the socket isn't molded as tightly as it should be, etc.) that do adversely affect the final figure. But these are few and far between, and fortunately, the figures are not so expensive that replacements are that much of a burden if any defects are severe enough to warrant it. In this case I feel it isn't, and overall, the Rising Gundam is a cool addition to the collection.

SKULL GUNDAM - Representing Neo-Malaysia. This one tries a little too hard to live up to its name. Buy the figure and see how many skull images you can count on it. It's also pretty silly-looking, with an incredibly bulky skull-shaped torso, arms that look like someone was using a gorilla for a model, and all four of its limbs are designed to be rather skeletal in appearance. The feet even have robotic toes on them.

It didn't fare all that well in the series, either, as I recall. I seem to remember that it and the Asura Gundam were teamed up against Burning Gundam and Noble Gundam and they got their robotic butts kicked in relatively short order.

I'm not saying don't buy this Gundam. I'm just saying that it's one of the sillier entries in this collection.

COBRA GUNDAM - Representing Neo-India. No relation to a certain terrorist organization that has long plagued the G.I.Joe team, I hasten to add.

The Cobra Gundam definitely lives up to its name. It looks a little silly, but it shouldn't be underestimated. A huge snake-like head protects and sometimes covers the more conventional Gundam head that's part of the overal Mobile Fighter unit. A cobra-like "head fan" also drapes over the back of this Gundam, with two jets visible on its back. There's a second head that can be snapped onto the Gundam in place of the original, and this second one has a small hole in the "mouth" region, for what purpose I do not know, since I do not see any accessories with this toy that could fit it. Perhaps the Japanese version of this figure included something that the United States didn't get for some reason.

The biggest accessory is a huge and very well detailed and articulated robotic snake tail. Cobra Gundam's legs can be detached and the snake-tail installed in its place. Obviously, in the show, this was used like a gigantic robotic whiptail, to considerable effect. Interestingly, I believe that the figure would still have the ability to "stand" even with the tail attached instead of the legs. It's broad and square enough to allow for this, although as of this writing I haven't actually tried it.

GRIZZLY GUNDAM - Representing Neo-Canada. This particular Gundam showed up on two separate occasions during the G-Gundam series. Its pilot had a personal grudge with the pilot of Neo-Russia's Bolt Gundam, and Grizzly Gundam looks to almost be a match. It's a large and bulky machine, with large spikes emanating from its shoulders, and with plenty of accessories. Along with two distinct axe blades, this thing actually comes with a chainsaw! I doubt you're going to find this in the Sears Craftsman aisle, though. Given the size of the average Gundam, this chainsaw, proportionately, is probably two or three stories tall. This thing'd scare Paul Bunyan. Small wonder that its original name, translated from Japanese, was "Lumber Gundam". With that sort of equipment, it could make a log cabin out of the Redwood Forest in pretty short order.

Overall, though, the Grizzly Gundam is definitely one of the cooler new entries in the G-Gundam line, and I certainly recommend it! It has an interesting brown and steel blue color scheme that is quite unusual for a Gundam, and makes for an interesting addition to the series.

BURNING GUNDAM HYPER MODE - Representing Neo-Japan. This is the metallic gold "Hyper Mode" version of the Burning Gundam, second of two Mobile Fighter Gundams that Neo-Japan's fighter Domon uses during the Gundam Tournament. As with the Shining Gundam, Domon is able to activate a super-powered "Hyper Mode" with the Burning Gundam that gives the Gundam enhanced abilities. By the way, it's worth mentioning that both this and the standard coloration version of the Burning Gundam do have the concealed chest cannon that figures rather prominently in the series. Nice touch, really.

Overall, this line continues to be extremely impressive. I'd go so far as to say that no other action figure line presently available on the market offers the level of quality, detail, articulation, and accuracy to the source material that G-GUNDAM does, and it has my highest recommendation.