Well, its been over a year since the last MSIA (Mobile Suit in Action) Gundam figures were released here in the United
States. I'm starting to go through withdrawal. And since there is almost no chance of Gundam Seed Destiny hitting the
airwaves here, it seems that my only hope for a fix is to import the latest figures. So after a very expensive month,
I've managed to catch up on most of the releases that haven't made it stateside. But reviewing over twenty figures at
once might be a little more than anyone could handle at once. So I'll start with the additions to the line based on the
Gundam Seed series: The Blitz Gundam, Strike Rouge with Launcher and Sword Striker, GuAIZ, Strike Dagger and Miguel's
Packaging - 5/10The packaging for the Japanese MSIA line is completely different from the American releases. Each figure is packaged in a small box with a large window on the front. The figure and parts are displayed through the window. The suit's name, and model designation are printed on the bottom. The back of each box has a CG image of the suit in 'action' as well as several actual photos showing off the accessories. There's a fair amount of text as well. But since I can't read Japanese, I have no idea what it says. The design of the packaging is nice and collector friendly. (No twist ties!) But the color scheme isn't very well thought out. It is mostly black with dark blues and purples. Even the background in the box behind the figure is a dark blue to purple. For lighter colored figures like the Strike Rouge and Miguel's Ginn the contrast does allow the figures to stand out. But for a dark figure like the Blitz or the GuAIZ it is hard to see the figure well.
Sculpting - Blitz & Dagger 7/10, Strike Rouge & Ginn 8/10, GuAIZ 9/10The Strike Rouge is the same sculpt as the Strike Gundam figures released domestically last year. The level of detail is excellent for such a small figure. But there are a few areas that are compromised slightly. The most notable one is the skirt armor on the sides. In order to accommodate the armored schneiders (folding knives) they had to be made larger than they should be. There are also a few minor details that are off such as the grey areas on the knee and the center of the waist section are slightly rounded when they should be flat. But such details are extremely minor.
The Strike Dagger closely resembles the Strike, but it is a new figure. It is essentially a stripped down version of the Strike Gundam. Of course, that is exactly what it is supposed to be. But that also has its drawbacks. Some of the areas such as the skirt armor and shoulder armor are quite dull.
The Blitz Gundam is a brand new sculpt. The detail is impressive as it usually is on the MSIA figures. But it does seem to be too thin overall. The arms and to a lesser extent the legs are slightly out of proportion with the rest of the figure. It is magnified by the large thrusters on the back and the pointed shoulder armor, not to mention the large shield weapon. There is also no attempt made to hide the elbow joints. They exaggerate the thin appearance of the arms since you can seen right through them.
The Ginn is another new mold. It follows the design from the anime quite well and is very fitting for a military grunt. The stocky design, dome helmet and pug 'nose' gives it a strong resemblance to the Zaku II and other Zeon suits from the Universal Century Gundam series.
The GuAIZ is my favorite of the five. It has a great balance between the traditionally stocky designs of the old Zeon style suits and the far more humanoid Gundam designs. The armor over the knees does a good job of hiding those joints, but the elbows are still quite exposed.
Paint - Strike Rouge & Strike Dagger 6/10, Miguel's Ginn 8/10, Blitz & GuAIZ 9/10The paint work on all five figures is remarkably well done as it usually is on the MSIA figures. The lines are clean. Sloppiness is next to nonexistent. The differences in the scores has more to do with what isn't there than what is. Neither the Strike Rouge nor Strike Dagger have the panel lines that I would have expected. In the past, the domestically released figures had the advantage of including lettering while the imported figures usually had painted panel lines. But these two have neither. The result are figures that a bit plain looking. The Ginn has the panel lines. Better still, Bandai seems to have learned some restraint. Where some of the past figures have had a bit of a dirty appearance because of their excessive use, the judicious use of panel lines on this figure is just enough to bring out the details of the sculpt. I just question whose bright idea it was to paint a mobile suit bright orange? Who ever it was, they obviously did not like Miguel. The only thing missing would be the large bulls eye on his back and perhaps a strobe light to really attract the enemy's attention. The Blitz and GuAIZ both manage to use a few complimenting colors together with a few brighter accent colors to create very attractive figures. The Blitz is fairly dark, but that is appropriate for a mobile suit that relies on stealth. Now they just need to make a clear variant.
Articulation - 8/10Strike Gundam is articulated as follows:
Accessories - Dagger 5/10, GuAIZ 7/10, Ginn 8/10, Rouge & Blitz 9/10The Strike Dagger comes with just the basics for accessories: three sets of hands, a beam rifle, a shield, a beam saber and a file card. The hands include a set of fists, a set of grasping hands and a set with separated trigger finger. The beam rifle is new. Like the rifles for the Strike and Strike Rouge, it has a moveable front handle that allows the figure to hold it with both hands. The shield has a peg that allows it to connect to the forearm or be stored on the figure's back. The same holes are also on the figure's hips and calves, but I can't imagine why you would want to connect the shield to any of those points. There is also a handle so that the shield can be held by the figure's hand. Unlike the shields for the Strike and Strike Rouge, the handle isn't adjustable though. The beam saber is nothing special, but the hilt is removable and can be stored on the backpack. The file card is a neat concept. It is a laminated 4x6 card with technical information about the mobile suit, several of the images from the back of the package and probably some other information. They even have the card pre-puched to allow fans to collect them in a small binder. It is a nice idea. But if you don't read Japanese, and I don't, they aren't very useful.
The GuAIZ has a rifle, shield, three sets of hands, two remote bits, four cables and a file card. The hands are the usual three sets: fists, grasping and trigger fingers. The rifle is longer than most of the rifles from the Gundam Seed line. But the GuAIZ can hold it well. The shield plugs into the side of the forearms. The mounting peg is attached via a ball joint which allows the shield to be positioned fairly well. It also has slots in the front where two beam 'claws' can be attached. The bits look like claws with a post in the center. The claws are hinged to open and reveal the laser barrel inside. The bits then mount to the included cables which attach to the backpack under the thrusters. When not in use, the bits attach to the hips for storage. The idea is pretty good, but the execution doesn't quite live up to the idea. The bits themselves are plain. The short cables which are meant to be used when the bits are stored don't quite line up with the holes in the hips. The long cables don't extend quite far enough. And attaching either set to the backpack is difficult unless you have fingers much smaller than mine. Removing the thrusters was the only way I was able to reach that area.
Miguel's Gin comes with a rifle, sword, a large bazooka, two missile pods, the usual three sets of hands and a file card. The rifle is a small machine gun with the clip mounted on the top. It also has a small rectangular peg that allows it to be mounted behind the figure's waist. The sword is a broadsword with a non-beam blade. Not only does it look good, but it makes a great letter opener for the envelopes in which those novelty oversized checks come. (Kidding) The bazooka is huge. It is over six inches long. Despite the size, it can be held fairly well by the figure one handed. It also has a folding handle that allows it to be steadied with the left hand. The missile pods attach to the legs and can rotate around the peg. But of course the missiles are not removable.
The Blitz Gundam doesn't have a lot of accessories, but it has some very cool ones. There is the file card and three sets of hands of course. Then there is the projectile that mounts to the figure's left hand. It can also be removed and tethered to the left arm with a short grey cable. While it comes with an open set of claws. They can be removed and a closed set attached, but it is difficult. An actual hinged set would be nice, but probably unrealistic. Finally there is the big accessory, the shield. Of course it is more than just a shield. On the back side there is a rifle, a beam saber and three missiles. The blade for the beam saber can be used while it is attached to the shield or removed and held in the figure's hand. The missiles are removable as well. The whole thing connects to the right arm while the right hand holds the trigger. Sadly, there is no functioning mirage colloid dispenser to make figure invisible.
The Rouge Strike comes fully loaded like any good import should be. (Though it should be noted that there are two versions of the Rouge Strike. This is the Gundam Seed version. The Gundam Seed Destiny version has different accessories.) This version comes with the three sets of hands, file card, a beam rifle, shield, a bazooka, and parts for the Sword Striker and Launcher Striker packs. The rifle and shield are the same as the domestic Strike Gundam releases. The shield can be mounted on the arms, held in the figure's hands or both. The bazooka is new and huge. The main body of the bazooka is just over five inches long, but adding the canister on the back gives it about the same length as the Ginn's. There are also four ammo clips that plug into the back. The handle slides up and down the barrel allowing it to adjust to the figure. There is also a folding handle in the front for two handed poses. The Launcher Strike pack includes another large cannon that attaches to the backpack and a vulcan gun that mounts on the right shoulder. The Sword Striker pack includes the large sword, two removable beam blades, backpack, claw, shoulder armor and beam boomerang with a removable blade. The Launcher Strike pack is identical to the one that came with US release. The Sword Striker pack is the main reason why I bought this figure since it didn't make it to US stores. It's nice to have the final parts of the Strike system, but it isn't without its problems. The two removable beam blades for the sword (one for the sword and one that attaches to the base of the handle) are quite small. And attaching the long one is difficult. The piece on the backpack where the sword attaches for storage is prone to popping off with the sword. The claw pack attaches to the arm. The claw can then be taken off and attached via the grey cable. Unfortunately the pack doesn't attach very securely. The additional armor for the left shoulder isn't much better. The beam boomerang can be stored on the shoulder pad or removed and the beam blade attached. I can see why the Sword Strike pack didn't make it to mass retail here, it is a display only piece. But still, the sheer amount of accessories with the Strike Rouge is impressive.
Value - Strike Rouge 3/10, others 5/10Since these are import figures, you can guess that they aren't available for the regular $6 retail price of the US releases. The original price in Japan was around $15. That is steep, especially after being spoiled by the cheaper US releases. But there are affordable options. By shopping around the more recent figures can be found for as little as $10 or $11 each. But shipping will likely push that price up closer to $15 each or more. Unfortunately finding the Strike Rouge for that price could be tough. Since it is the only way to get the Sword Striker pack, supplies have dried up quickly. From watching eBay, it seems to be going for closer to $30 these days. But if you aren't interested in the accessories, there is always the option of the newer Gundam Seed Destiny version.
Happy Hunting:I resorted to eBay for the Strike Rouge. And I've yet to find any other place with it still in stock. But the others are a bit easier to find. I ordered all four of them from Japan-Toys.com. At just over $10 a piece for most of the MSIA figures, they are the cheapest place I've found. The shipping pushes that price up by about 50%. But for the speed at which my order arrived, that isn't unreasonable. There are plenty of other sites where MSIA are available: Hobby Link Japan or Big Bad Toy Store are both sites I've had good luck with in the past.