The post holiday lull in action figures is here once again. So while I give my wallet and my credit cards a break, I'll also use the time to catch up on a line of figures that I have been largely neglecting for the last few years: Bandai's Gundam Mobile Suit in Action (MSIA). And with the final volume of Gundam Seed Destiny having recently been released on DVD, I thought I would start with some of the grunts of that series, the Zaku's. As they did with many of the mobile suit designs from the original Gundam series, the Zaku design received a update to become part of the Gundam Seed Destiny series including the addition of various weapon systems to form several variations including the Gunner Zaku Warrior, Blaze Zaku Phantom and Slash Zaku Phantom. Add in a few color variations to represent the mobile suits of specific pilots from the series and you have a sizable squad ready to defend ZAFT and the PLANTS.
Packaging - 9/10The packaging design for the Japanese releases of the Mobile Suit in Action line is fairly simple but manages to still be both attractive and functional. The figures are well displayed in the center of the window along with the accessories. Though some of the accessories are less visible than they could be. The name and model number of each toy is prominently printed at the bottom and outlined in silver to really make them stand out. They also included an image of the pilot of each mobile suit on the front and side panels. The back panel has a large, computer generated image of the mobile suit in action as well as three photos of the actual toys' features. The packaging looks nice, but it could stand to be more durable. My figures have sat around for a couple of years, and despite being stored with little to no weight on them, the boxes show signs of warping already. It doesn't matter much to me since the figures won't be seeing the insides of their packaging again, but if you are a MIB collector, consider how you will store them.
Sculpting - 7/10If you hadn't guessed, all six versions of the Zaku use the same mold for the body. The only variation is with the Gunner Zaku Warriors that have head sculpts without an antenna and a different shoulder pad for their right shoulders. The body is nice, a bit bulkier than the original Zaku II design and with more angles. They do seem a bit short on sculpted detail, but it isn't very noticeable once the accessories are attached. The elbows are another matter. The elbow joints don't blend into the figures at all. It is a decent figure. But considering that they were going to milk this mold for six different figures, they should have gone the extra mile to make it a terrific figure.
Paint - red Gunner & orange Blaze Phantom 5/10, others 6/10Back when the Mobile Suit in Action line was available on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, you could generally count on the US releases to have somewhat limited paint applications compared to their Japanese counterparts. Those days seem to be long gone, and not just because the line is dead in the US. All six versions of the Zaku have limited paint work in favor of relying on the color of the plastic. The results are better for some of the figures than others. The orange Blaze Zaku Phantom and red Gunner Zaku Warrior look a bit washed out as often happens with brighter shades of plastic. The results are better for the other figures at least. There is some painted detail on the figures. And the paint work that is there is well done with no sloppiness or quality control issues.
Articulation - others 8/10The Zakus have the usual articulation for a MSIA figure:
Accessories - Gunner Warriors 9/10, others 8/10The Zaku figures have a set of basic accessories that are included with each version as well as one of three weapons backpacks. Every figure comes with a rifle with removable ammo magazine, four extra magazines, a heat ax with a removable translucent blade, and two extra pairs of hands. The extra hands include grasping hands and hands to hold the rifle with a properly positioned trigger finger in addition to the closed fists which the figures are packaged with. The rifle is an updated version of the standard guns used by Zakus in the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. They can be held in either hand or with both hands thanks to a fold out handle on the front. The ammunition magazines can be swapped out with the extras being stored under the shoulder mounted shields. And when the rifles aren't needed, they clip to the back of the waist for storage. But it is the weapons packs that are the main draw. The Blaze Zaku Phantoms come with a combination thruster and missile launchers. The Slash Zaku Phantom has a smaller backpack with two mini guns mounted on it. But it also comes with a larger beam axe/staff. But for sheer, over the top, weapons overkill, there are the Gunner Zaku Warrior backpacks which feature what I believe is the second largest cannon ever for a MSIA figure. (I doubt they will ever top the cannon on the Dendrobium from Stardust Memory.) It's easy to look impressive when you are holding a cannon that is one and a half times the length of your own body. I do wonder why they bothered to include a fold out stock on the back since there is no way to but this thing up to the figures' shoulder. When you are not try to reduce your enemies to subatomic particles, the cannon's barrel and stock fold up so that the cannon can be stored behind the figure.
Value - 6/10The Zaku figures were among the cheaper of the MSIA figures at around $14 to $15 a piece. As import figures go, that isn't too bad since the days of cheap MSIA figures on store shelfs here in the west are long gone. Unfortunately that doesn't take the cost to import them into account. By the time you pay for shipping or buy them from a shop that imported them, the price is likely to be pushing $20 each. The figures are nice, but with so many to choose from, a $20 price tag will take a large chunk out of your wallet in a hurry.
Happy Hunting:I ordered these figures several years ago so finding them these days is considerably more difficult. If you are interested in ordering some imported Mobile Suit in Action figures, the two places I generally look are Hobby Link Japan or Japan Toys.com. It may also be worth checking you favorite online shop as many carry the MSIA line or did at one time.