Now that I've caught up with most of the Mobile Suit in Action figures that didn't make it over to the U.S. from past
lines, I can finally start in on the figures produced for the latest series: Gundam Seed Destiny. Seed Destiny is a
continuation of the events from Gundam Seed. It follows the crew of a new Z.A.F.T as they pursue another set of stolen
mobile suits. (What is it with the Gundams getting stolen? Haven't these people heard of security or at least a set of
keys?) Today's review covers two of the main suits from the series, the ZGMF-X56S Impulse Gundam in its three incarnations
(the Force Impulse, Blast Impulse and Sword Impulse), the ZGMF-X23S Saviour Gundam and the two pack of those suits in their
deactive mode paint schemes.
Packaging - 9/10All six of the figures come in the standard MSIA window box packaging. A large window on the front and sides allows for a clear view of the figure and accessories. Unlike the designs for the MSIA figures from some of the other Gundam series, the Seed Destiny figures have a fairly attractive color scheme of blues and white. The use of silver with red lettering draws attention to the character information. Another nice touch is the addition of a head shot of the primary pilot of each suit. The back of the boxes is basically the same as the other MSIA figures with a large CG image of the mobile suit and several smaller photos of the actual toy. The packaging also has the advantage of being completely collector friendly. Either end of the box can be opened and the tray removed and replaced later.
Sculpting - 8/10All four of the Impulse Gundam figures use the same body, as do the two Saviour Gundam figures. But that isn't a problem as both figures are terrific renditions. All of the details from the cartoon are rendered in the sculpts. There are also fewer problems with proportions being exaggerated in areas such as the fists or the side skirt armor on the Impulse where the switch blades are stored. But the two figures do share a problem in the design of the elbow and knee joints. No serious attempt was made to disguise them on either figure. The elbow joint are a bit smaller and thus less noticeable. But when the knees are bent there is a large gap left where you can easily see clear through the knee.
Paint - Deactive set 7/10, others 8/10The paint work on all six figures is excellent, as it almost always is with the MSIA figures. All of the lines are extremely clean despite the fairly intricate nature of some of the details. Once again, there are no panel lines which is a mixed blessing. Like the paint washes that we see so often on figures here, inked panel lines often seemed overpowering on figures and simply made some figures look dirty. But on those figures where they were done well such as The-O, they really bring out the details of the sculpting. It is also nice that each of the Impulse Gundams has a different paint scheme. After buying three identical Strike Gundams from the domestic releases of the Gundam Seed figures (five if you count the deactive variant and Strike Rouge) and now four versions of the Impulse, it's nice that these at least look different. It is also worth noting how well the gray scale paint scheme works for the Saviour Gundam since it is the only difference between the two Saviour Gundam figures. The only minor quibble I have is that the shields for two deactive mode figures look a little strange with the figures since they retain their brighter color schemes. This is in keeping with the fact that the shields don't change color in the anime, but the fact that they don't match still looks a bit odd.
Articulation - 8/10The Impulse figures have the following articulation:
Accessories - Saviour Gundams, Deactive Impulse Gundam 6/10, Force Impulse 8/10, Sword Impulse 9/10, Blast Impulse 10/10Both Saviour Gundam figures come with identical accessories: a rifle, a shield, two beam sabers and three sets of hands. The hands are the usual selection of a pair of fists, a pair of grasping hands (to hold the beam sabers) and a pair of hands with posed trigger fingers. The beam sabers are pretty much the same as those that come with most of the MSIA figures. As usual, the hilts are removable and can be stored on the figures. In the case of the Saviour Gundams, they plug into the shoulder armor. The fit is fairly snug, but they stick out enough that I'm concerned about them being knocked loose. The rifle is a decent sculpt, but nothing very special. The shield has a streamlined look that is a nice change of pace. It also has one of the strangest mounting systems of any of the MSIA figures. It can either connect to the forearms or be held in the figure's hands. But what is strange is that the hardware for both options are connected together in such a way that the peg folds inward when the handle is used and visa versa.
The different versions of the Impulse Gundams have a few basic components in common. The first is the beam rifle that comes with the Force Impulse and Deactive Impulse. The targeting sensor is moveable. The rifle can be stored on the back of the figures' waists. Every gundam needs a shield of course, and all four figures have the same identical shield. It is an interesting update to the original RX-78 Gundam design. In its default state, it looks exactly like a shortened version of that shield, complete with the yellow cross/star on a red background. A peg on the back and folding handle allow it to be mounted on the figures' arms or held in the hands. But the shield has an interesting trick. The front of the shield comes off in two parts, a top and a bottom panel. Two fins then come out of the sides and the panels reattach to form an extended version of the shield. I like the design of the extended form, but it does present the risk of losing a piece. They all have the removable core fighter. True to the animation, it is a stubby little plane that doesn't look like it would be capable of flight. The core fighter does fold up in a similar manner to the animation except that there are no booster rockets on the wings to remove and the nose folds at an extra point. But the wings fold back, the tail fins fold in and the cockpit folds under the body of the plane. Once folded up, the core fighter plugs into the back of the figure. Each figure also has a pair of small folding-blade knives that can be stored in the hip armor. There are the three sets of hands which come with each figure except the Sword Impulse: fists, grasping and trigger fingers. (The Sword Impulse has no guns so they left out the hands with the trigger fingers.) Finally there are the file cards. The deactive mode figures share a card with nothing but two large images. Each of the other figures has a card with various background and technical data about the mobile suit. Of course, the file card is in Japanese and completely incomprehensible to me.
The Force Impulse Gundam has just a couple of additional unique accessories. First and foremost is the backpack which is basicly an updated version of the Aile Striker pack from Gundam Seed. The pack has two large wings and two small stabilizer fins which are fixed in one position as well as two fins which are moveable. They even mounted the two thrusters on the back of the pack on ball joints to allow them some (very limited) movement. The Force Impulse Gundam is the only one of the Impulse Gundams with traditional beam sabers. As usual, the blades are removable. The handles can be stored on the backpack. The final accessory is the small drone plane which is used in the show to launch the accessory packs. It is fairly simple, with the only real feature being the moveable thruster on the back. The backpacks can be attached to it, but they only attach by being wedged into the back of the drone plane. Still it is a nice touch to include it.
The Sword Impulse varies from the others in its lack of any guns. But it makes up for that with some impressive melee weapons. Its main weapons are of course the two large swords it carries. Unlike the usual beam sabers, these swords are more like the Sword Strike's sword with a single beam 'blade'. But they have two tricks the Sword Strike didn't have. The two swords can be connected to form one very large weapon. More importantly, the beam blades can be attached easily unlike Sword Strike. Of course, when not in use the swords can be stored on the backpack. The Sword Impulse's other major weapons are the beam boomerangs. There are a pair of them which can be stored on the backpack when the beam blades are removed or held by the figure. The Sword Impulse's backpack is a little more complex than the Force Impulse's with moveable mounts for the swords and a mount for the boomerangs and a hinge in the middle. Once attached, the boomerangs form a wing for the backpack. But it tends to get in the way when the backpack is attached to the final accessory, another drone plane.
The Blast Impulse has the most impressive set of accessories of the six figures. Aside from the shield and knives, its only hand held weapons are the beam spears which can be stored in the weapon pods of the backpack. The beam tips are removable of course. Unfortunately they can't be attached at the handles as they did in the anime, but a separate, combined handle is included as well. The Blast Impulse's primary weapon is the backpack with its two large weapon pods. Each pod has a missile launcher on one end, nonfunctional of course, which can be aimed over the figure's shoulders. The pods can also be positioned under the figure's arms to form a large beam rifle. There are even handles which fold out of the sides for the figure to hold. But in case that isn't enough, there are also two more beam cannons mounted in front of the large fins on the backpack. For reasons I have yet to fathom, the fins are not permanently attached to the rest of the backpack. Fortunately it isn't a problem though, as they do fit snugly enough that there should be no problem with them falling off accidentally. Of course, there is also a drone plane to carry the backpack into battle as well.
Value - Deactive Mode two pack 6/10, Others 8/10The three versions of the Impulse Gundam and the Saviour Gundam were all 1,575 Yen when they were first released, or about $12.50. Of course, since they are not available domestically, you can expect to pay at least a few dollars each more in markup to an importer or for shipping. That is still an reasonable price. But it is hard to score them much higher after being spoiled by the cheaper domestic release MSIA figures for so long. The Deactive Mode set offers an interesting addition to the collection. But with two figures and fewer accessories, you would expect the set to be cheaper than the cost of two of the individual figures. At around $25, you would of course be wrong.
Happy Hunting:Oh for the days when you could find Gundam figures on the pegs at any local toy retailer. Well the chances of the Gundam MSIA line being revived in the United States in the foreseeable future is just slightly slimmer than seeing actual mobile suits at you local car dealership. But there are options. EBay is one option. There are plenty of overseas sellers willing to pick up where Bandai left off. There are also quite a few websites that sell the figures as well. But finding them in stock may be a challenge as the Impulse Gundams sold out quickly. I ordered the Force, Blast and Sword versions of the Impulse Gundam as well as the Saviour Gundam from Japan Toys.com and was quite happy with the price and service.