The Gundam SEED series as well as the follow up series Gundam SEED Destiny borrowed heavily from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series both in terms of the story lines and the mech designs. But not everything was based on old designs, there were also quite a few new mobile suits introduced through both series. And five of those designs received Mobile Suit in Action treatment by Bandai in the last few years. Among those are two quadruped designs, the LaGOWE and BuCUE, the Providence Gundam from the finale of Gundam SEED and the Windam and GuAIZ R from Gundam SEED Destiny.
Packaging - Windam & GuAIZ R 9/10, others 7/10All five figures come packaged in window boxes. The figures are easily visible along with most of their accessories while the back panels show off the features of the toys as well as a computer generated image of the mobile suit in action. The big difference between the packaging designs is the graphics. The GuAIZ R and Windam which both come from the Gundam SEED Destiny series have a brighter blue design and include either an image of the pilot or the insignia of the faction that uses that mobile suit. By comparison, the much darker design used for the other three figures which has little color and almost no graphics to speak of is quite a bit less interesting. On the plus side, the packages are completely collector friendly, allowing the figures and all of the accessories to be removed and put back into the packaging for storage if you wish.
Sculpting - GuAIZ R & Windam 9/10, others 8/10Sculpting a mechanical design is probably a bit easier than sculpting a human form since we learn to notice even minute differences in human characteristics. But there is still plenty of room for screw ups when translating two dimensional designs to a three dimensional form. Fortunately that is not the case here. All five figures look like they just stepped out of the anime. The GuAIZ R is the best of the five, matching its animated counterpart almost perfectly. The Windam is almost as good, but there are a few minor details that seem to be a bit off. The thrusters on the legs are higher than they should be and visor over the eyes should not be as round as it is. The Providence Gundam also matches the character design from the anime well. It seems like the backpack should be larger and it is portrayed that way in many of the scenes. But the actual sculpt does match the control art in the Gundam Mechanical files on the DVD's. My other quibble with the Providence Gundam is that it wasn't sculpted to have all of the remote weapons or bits to connect as seamlessly as they should. Both the BuCUE and LaGowe have all of the design details there and are impressive first attempts at quadruped designs. I would've liked it if they had made their bodies a bit larger so that they were more imposing. But this is probably more accurate.
Paint - LaGowe 6/10, others 7/10The days of painted panel lines on MSIA figures seem to be long since gone. That is a shame because the LaGowe could really use them to set off the details in its sculpt. The orange and yellow color scheme doesn't provide enough contrast. None of the other figures have painted panel lines either of course. But it is less of an issue on them as they have more variations in their colors. The Windam does have large sections of nothing but purple around the waist and upper legs though. Overall the quality control is pretty good. The edges aren't perfect of course, but there are no issues that stand out.
Articulation - LaGowe & BuCUE 8/10, others 9/10The articulation that Bandai packs onto such small figures is one of the things that attracted me to the line back when Gundam Wing figures. They have made some significant advances since those early figures. The modern releases feature excellent levels of articulation that allow the figures to do just about anything a real world version would be capable of. To top it off, they manage to do so without running into issues with loose or stuck joints. the drawback is that they articulation for the elbows and the knees don't blend into the figures well. I also think that they could have given the LaGowe and BuCUE more flexibility in their necks to allow them to look to their sides.
Accessories - BuCUE & LaGrowe 5/10, GuAIZ R 7/10, Windam 8/10, Providence 9/10Bandai doesn't generally skimp on the accessories for their Gundam toys. And that's true here too. Unfortunately, while they didn't skimp, they didn't go above and beyond for any of the figures either. Each one comes with all the accessories necessary and little more. For the Providence Gundam, that still means a lot of accessories. It includes eleven remote bits of various designs which attach to the backpack and skirt armor. It also comes with a large beam rifle, a shield and a beam blade that attaches to the shield. Plus of course it has the usual sets of extra hands, one grasping and another for holding a gun, to replace the fists and a file card. The shield is rather unique in that it doesn't just clip onto the figure's arms, it completely encloses the forearm. In an ideal world, i would have loved it if they had included some stands to support the bits when they were detached from the figure so that they could be displayed. But with so many parts already included, I can see why they didn't bother with stands. The Windam has a set of backpack mounted wings with two pairs of missiles that can be attached to them, a shield and beam rifle, two beam sabers with removable blades, two sets of throwing daggers (one with extended handles and one without) and the usual compliment of hands and file card. The beam rifle, sabers and shield are pretty standard fare. The saber handles can be stored on the waist, but they don't blend in well there. The throwing daggers with the retracted handles can be stored in the skirt armor like the daggers that came with the Strike Gundam. The biggest effort went into the wings. The look great when deployed. Or they can be folded up when not in use. The only drawback is that there is no room for the missiles when the wings are folded up. Plus the clips to hold the missiles in place aren't very strong so they fall off easily. The GuAIZ R comes with just the basics: a rifle, shield, beam blade to attach to the shield, spare hands and file card. There are also two rail guns that attach to the figure's hips, but since they are meant to stay there permanently and just fold up when not in use, I would consider those to be accessories. Honestly, I don't know of anything more that the figure needs. But it doesn't feel like it came with all that much. Of course, the GuAIZ R looks pretty good when compared to the LaGowe and BuCUE since both of them just come with a pair of beam saber blades and the usual file cards. It's to be expected I suppose. It's not like they need spare hands or guns they couldn't hold. But I was disappointed that the BuCUE only comes with the beam cannon turret. It would have been nice if they threw in a rocket launcher turret as well. Plus it might have encouraged some suckers (myself included) to buy an additional figure to form a complete squad. The LaGowe was never really shown in the anime with any other parts, but they could have created some of the small vehicles used by the resistance fighters just so it had something extra with it.
Value - Windam 9/10, Providence 8/10 others 7/10The prices for MSIA figures vary from figure to figure. The Windam sold for around $12 while the Providence Gundam was closer to $20 and the others in between. Of course those prices reflect the original retail price in Japan. If you are importing them here in the United States you can expect to pay $3 to $6 more per figure either in the price or in extra shipping charges. Both the Providence and Windam are nice additions with a full load of extras and worth the purchase price. The other three figures fail to provide quite the same bang for your buck but they are still nice additions to my mobile suit army.
Happy Hunting:The Mobile Suit in Action line is getting to be harder to find these days. But there are still several reliable sources on line. Two of my favorites are hobby Link Japan and Japan Toys.com. They both have a decent selection and prices that are quite reasonable. Unfortunately both are located overseas so the shipping can be a killer. Plus, since these figures have been out for a while, availability is a bit spotty now.