My purge of back logged Mobile Suit in Action figures continues with a quartet of mobile suit figures from the Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta series: the Gaza C, Gabthley, Baund-Doc and Hambrabi as well as a toy I have been wanting to pick up for quite a few years, the Elmeth from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. The Baund-Doc, Gaza c, Hambrabi and Gabthley are all from Zeta Gundam and fairly obscure, even within the Gundam universe. But that is part of what makes the Mobile Suit in Action line great, they don't just focus on the most popular characters. No matter how obscure a mobile suit may seem, there is a good chance that it will receive plastic treatment eventually.
Packaging - Elmeth 8/10, others 7/10The packaging for current MSIA figures is a fairly simple but well designed window box. The figure and accessories are easily visible. The back of the box has several small photos of the toy in action as well as a larger computer generated image of the mobile suit. The packaging for the Baund-Doc is a little different due to its larger size. To make use of that extra space they moved the CG image to the front and added more images of the toy to the back. I like the fact that the boxes are collector friendly even though I don't keep my figures MIB. But if you do, the toys can be opened, played with and then returned to the box for storage. The downside is that the graphics used for the boxes don't impress me much. Compared to the design for the Gundam SEED and SEED Destiny toys which use at least some images from the anime, the random mish-mash of vaguely technical images and computer program output done in shades of yellow and black does little to link the toys to the animated series upon which they are based.
The packaging for the Elmeth is considerably different due in part to being almost five years old and partly due to the size of the box. There is no window to allow you to see the toy, instead the front of the box is used for a large image of the toy facing off against a RX-78 Gundam figure. There are also two small photos showing the Elmeth with a Gelgoog figure. The sides and back of the box have more photos of the toy, its accessories and features. There isn't much else to the packaging in terms of graphics. But that is fine. I'd rather have them use the space on the box to show off the actual toy. The cardboard box is also stronger than the material used for the regular figures allowing it to resist wear and tear better.
Sculpting - Elmeth 9/10 Hambrabi 8/10, Baund-Doc 7/10, Others 6/10I've been looking forward to getting the Elmeth for a long time, but to be honest I wasn't expecting much. The previous Mobile Armor toys with the exception of the Dendrobine have not been all that impressive. But the Elmeth is much better than I could have hoped for. There is a good deal of detail sculpted on the surfaces. The open areas around the beam cannons give the sculpt a real feeling of depth. But the most impressive thing is that there is a sculpted pilot and cockpit visible through the front window. If there is any shortcoming, it's that the landing gear is pretty plain compared to the rest of the Elmeth and lacks a way to lock it into place.
The other mobile suit figures share a trait which many mechs from Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta had in that they all transform from mobile suits to a mobile armor mode. The Hambrabi manages to balance both modes the best. Its mobile suit mode looks good though its arms are quite thin which does nothing to disguise the articulation. In mobile armor mode the fact that they really didn't come up with a good remedy for what to do with the legs and just folded them up over the top is fairly evident. But the unusual, manta-shape works well as a ship. The Gabthley as a design has a more unfinished look to it with a lot of internal structure visible when in mobile armor mode. The figure captures that well. But it also has the distinction of being one of the only transformable MSIA's which can not actually make the transformation and relies instead upon replacement parts for the legs. Both modes look nice, but to score full points, they would have needed to pull off the transformation as part of the design. The Gaza C was not meant to be a weapon originally but was designed as a construction machine. Its mobile suit mode captures that feeling well. It is only when it is transformed to its mobile armor mode that the kinks in the armor become more evident, literally. Large gaps, particularly behind the feet/claws and at the knees become much more visible in this mode. The Baund-Doc is a really impressive looking in mobile suit mode thanks to the considerable amount of detailing both on the mobile suit and the skirt. Unfortunately the skirt armor itself borders on the ridiculous looking when it sticks straight out behind the figure. It is a little better if you angle it down, but not much. But I suppose you can't hold it against the toy since that is the way it was designed in the anime. Its mobile armor mode is where the toy needs more work. There isn't a way to get the entire torso to fit within the outer shell. The right shoulder sticks out underneath. That is bad enough, but it also tends to draw your eyes to the bottom which spoils the illusion of being a fully inclosed ship by being wide open. To Bandai's credit, they did go through a lot of effort to add details on the underside so at least there is something there to look at.
Paint - 6/10The paint work on all five toys is neat and clean, but not terribly detailed. On the Elmeth that isn't a problem except for the cockpit. The detailing for the body panels is deep enough that painted panel lines aren't necessary to highlight the detail, though it could have helped if done right. But the visible detailing in the cockpit becomes a double edged sword when it comes to the paint work. It isn't realistic to expect them to paint such small details, but they should have at least applied some paint to the pilot. The areas of the Hambrabi and Gabthley that are in those suits' primary colors turned out well as did the smaller details such as the multiple mono-eyes on the Hambrabi. But the gray areas on the Hambrabi's arms and the Gabthley's legs in mobile armor mode have the plain, slightly washed out look that plastics sometimes have. The Gaza C is available in two paint schemes, white like the figure I purchased or a red, mass produced version. I think I would have been much happier with the red version. This one just seems too plain, like a car that has only received a coat of primer and no paint yet. The Baund-Doc is also available in two color schemes. In this case though I did get the regular version. The purple and violet color combination is nice and allows the yellow accents to really stand out. The arms could use a little more work. Both are largely one color, violet for the right and gray for the left. A few painted panel lines or accents could have made the details of the sculpts stand out much better.
Articulation - Hambrabi 9/10, Gabthley, Gaza C & Baund-Doc 7/10, Elmeth 2/10The Hambrabi has almost all of the articulation that any normal MSIA figure has. Obviously there is no articulation for the neck though since there is no neck in this suit's design. The Hambrabi also has a few extra points of articulation including the claws on its forearms, the tail and wings. The Gabthley is a fully articulated figure with a few added points of articulation such as the beam cannons on the shoulders. But even if you excuse the fact that the articulation doesn't allow the figure to actually transform, once you swap the mobile suit legs for the mobile armor ones the articulation has limits. The claws can open and close, but they barely open enough for anything to fit between the claws. So grabing anything thicker than another MSIA's wrist is out of the question. The transformed legs do have some maneuverability, but the design is pretty silly and makes it look more like the claws are falling off. The Gaza C has above average range of motion for most of the articulation thanks to the thin body design. Even the skirt armor doesn't hinder the movement much. But the waist joint which is suppose to allow the figure to bend over in mobile armor mode and use its feet as claws doesn't bend as far as it should. The result is a figure that can't quite maintain the appearance of being transformed instead of just being a mobile suit bent over. It also has limited range of motion for the claws in mobile armor mode so that they can not fully close. The Baund-Doc is articulated like a normal Mobile Suit in Action figure under the large skirt armor, but with a few unique touches. The right hand is actually a claw with four digits, each of which can move independently. The left arm foregoes the usual double jointed elbows in favor of one hinge at the elbow and one just above the wrist. It is a bit unusual, but it does allow the hand to pull away from the body panel/shield. The feet form the claws in mobile armor mode with each section having two hinges. This allows them to close completely even around something as thin as a beam saber. The only thing missing is an extra joint for the right shoulder so that it could fit within the body when transformed. Quality wise, the articulation on all four figures is about normal for a MSIA figure. They are tight enough to hold most poses but can be easily adjusted.
The Elmeth is the one disappointment when it come to articulation. It has two movable beam cannons, hatches that open in the rear to load the bits, and retractable landing gear. It would be nice if the covers for the bits clipped into place as they can fall open as it is. But it is the landing gear that disappointed me. Once it is extended, there is no way to hold the rear landing gear in place. So the Elmeth usually ends up sitting on the landing gear covers instead of the landing gear. Ultimately the Elmeth really doesn't need much articulation. They could have skipped the landing gear entirely and I wouldn't have cared. But since they decided to include it, they should have figured out how to do it right.
Accessories - Hambrabi 9/10, Gaza C & Baund-Doc 4/10, others 6/10The Hambrabi has a very well rounded collection of accessories. The weapon selection includes a large cannon, two beam swords, a grappling hook device and a canister which is suppose to either be a mine or some form of storage. They also included a stand to display the figure on when in mobile armor mode. Of course there is the usual file card, hands to hold guns and hands molded to hold a beam saber. But then they added a pair of hands with a looser grip and a pair of open hands that can hold the mine. If there is something missing for the figure, I don't know what it is.
The Gabthley comes with the same cannon and display stand as the Hambrabi, though with a different mounting clip on the stand. It also has a pair of beam sabers and the standard sets of hands (fists, grasping for holding the sabers and another set with separated trigger fingers for use with guns) and a file card. But the biggest accessories are the replacement legs to create the mobile armor mode. So they covered all of the basics plus a little extra with the display stand. But it feels like they sacrificed in this area in order to have two sets of legs which was only necessary since they didn't accomplish the transformation feature with the sculpt alone.
The Gaza C has a rifle, two beam sabers, two and a half extra sets of hands, two shields and a file card. The rifle is unique in that it isn't designed like a gun. There is no handle or visible trigger. It is also unusual in that it has a cable that is suppose to attach to the figure under the right arm. But the cable is too stiff to stay connected if the rifle is moved. The shields are slimmer than most for MSIA. And rather than attaching to the forearms, they attach near the elbow and cover the upper arms. They also give you the option to store the beam saber handles behind the shields. They are a reasonable execution of a unique design. But if they could have figured out a way to keep them in the proper place even when the arms were moved, they would have been better. The hands are unusual as well. To start with, one pair of the hands is no hands at all. They are a set of caps for the wrists for the mobile armor mode. There are no fists. They are replaced with a set of open hands that serve no real purpose unless you have two Gaza C's and want them to shake hands. There is a set of hands to hold the beam sabers. Though they are quite a bit larger than the beam saber hilts, as if they were designed to hold some other accessory that wasn't included with the final figure. The final hand is suppose to be designed to hold the rifle, but doesn't do so well. In terms of the number of accessories, the Gaza C is pretty normal for a MSIA figure, but just about everyone of the accessories has at least some problem with it except the beam sabers.
The Baund-Doc has a basic set of accessories: a beam rifle, a beam saber, another weapon, two extra hands and a file card. The rifle looks rather plain since it has no paint applications. But it does have the advantage of being the only accessory that be stored for use in either mode. The cannon weapon can be used in either mode thanks to a small manipulator arm that come out along the center ridge in the mobile armor mode. The beam saber is the usual fair with a removable blade. But there is no place to store the handle when not in use which is a pretty common feature on MSIA figures. The extra hands are the usual: a fist (the default hand), a hand for holding the saber and another to hold a gun. The unusal thing is that there is only one of each hand included. There is no replacement for the claw right hand. There's nothing wrong with the accessories that were included, but given the size and price of the Baund-Doc, it seems like they should have included more or at least put more effort into some of the accessories like the rifle.
The Elmeth really only needed one thing for its accessories, the remote controlled bits which made it such a dangerous weapon. And there are seven bits included. Each one is fully painted so they look great. You can even store two of them in the back of the Elmeth and fire them out via a button on the top of the mobile armor. But Bandai didn't feel that that was enough. So the Elmeth also comes with three replacement pieces that can be attached to the Char's Gelgoog MSIA figure to recreate the battle damage it received in one of the final battles with the original RX-78 Gundam. They even included a yellow stand to support the Gelgoog as if it were being towed behind the Elmeth. I'm impressed that they went to that much effort. But if they were going to include a stand, they should have made it a smaller stand to display the bits instead.
Value - Hambrabi 8/10, Gabthley & Gaza C 7/10, Baund-Doc 5/10, Elmeth 3/10The Hambrabi is the nicest of the figures this time around. It works well in both modes and has a nice selection of accessories. The Gabthley is very comparable to the Hambrabi in most respects, but the fact that they never quite got the transformation correct and the limits that put on the accessories make the Hambrabi the better figure and more deserving of the $16 price tag they both carry. The Gaza C isn't quite as nice. Its transformation is less complex and its accessories less refined. But it also carries a price tag that is a couple of dollars less. The Elmeth and Baund-Doc are real budget breakers. The Baund-Doc sold for just under $40 originally in Japan. While it's size certainly justifies a higher price, double the price of a regular MSIA figure is too much. I was fortunate though. I picked mine up for $20. At that price, it is a much better deal. The Elmeth usually sells for around $60. It is a bigger toy plus it comes with a few electronic sound effects, so the price was bound to be higher. But once again, size alone isn't enough to justify the price. This is the main reason why it took me five years to get around to buying it. It also explains why, five years after it was produced, you can still find store that have the Elmeth in stock. Of course, those prices reflect the Japanese retail price. Here in the United States they tend to be a few dollars more still. Even if you import them straight from Japan, the international shipping will usually negate any price difference.
Happy Hunting:I finally bought the Elmeth from Big Bad Toy Store since they dropped the price to $35. The Baund-Doc was purchased through one of my local comic shops when it was offered in Diamond's Previews catalog a few months ago. But it is one of the more recent MSIA figures and is still easy enough to find online. The other three figures were either gifts or came from Japan-Toys.com. There are plenty of other web sites which carry Gundam products as well, though that number is dwindling.