The MSIA buying binge continues. This time it is the latest releases from Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta. Bandai seems to be
trying to go back and turn out figures for some of the older series in addition to all of the Gundam Seed and
Gundam Seed Destiny figures. Zeta seems to be their main source of interest. There are four recent releases that represent
some of the lower profile mobile suits: the Hi-Zack, Asshimar, Galbaldy Beta and Marasai. I also tracked down a couple of
the older releases: The-O and Rick Dias.
Packaging - Rick Dias & The-O 8/10, others 7/10Both the Rick Dias and the The-O are older releases and came in the older packaging. Rather than a traditional box, there are two boxes attached to the card, one at the top and another at the bottom. The figure and accessories are packed in a clear plastic tray that rests between them. A thicker piece of plastic then covers the front and sides and is taped to the back to hold everything together. It is an interesting design, and somewhat collector friendly. By cutting the tape on just one side of the plastic cover, the tray can be removed and replaced. But the cover would then have to be retaped. The brushed metal coloring and generic mechanical designs are very fitting for a line of giant mecha toys and provide a good background for the figures. The back of the packages has a computer generated image of the mobile suit and several photos of the various features. It is a good thing that they included the photos since that is the only form of instructions that are given for the figures.
The other four figures come in the newer style package. They are back to using a standard window box with the figure and accessories displayed in a clear tray inside. The color scheme is a significant improvement over that of the Gundam Seed figures. While the boxes are still dark, the yellow highlights are an improvement. The back of the boxes have both the CG image and photos like the packaging for the Rick Dias and The-O, but with significantly less space used for the actual product photos. While it is more collector friendly, the newer design is not as attractive.
Sculpting - Rick Dias 5/10, Marasai 6/10, Galbaldy Beta 7/10, Asshimar & Hi-Zack 9/10, The-O 10/10The Hi-Zack is an updated version of the Zaku II. It works quite well in that regard. The addition of the thruster packs on the calves and the additional cables going from the body to the back of the arms are great additions. They also did a nice job with the small details like the imitation cables on the backs of the knee and elbow joints. The only area that could use some improvement is the front of the knee joints which are a bit too thin compared to the bulk of the legs and are very open when bent.
The Rick Dias is an older figure and it shows just how much the sculpting has advanced. There is nothing wrong with the Rick Dias. But there just isn't the level of detail that the newer figures have. The figure is also thicker than the newer figures. The hands in particular look like they are suffering from some significant swelling.
The Marasai and the Galbaldy Beta both have the extra detailing that I expect from the MSIA. But the Marasai has a very soft look to the sculpting. Since a Mobile Suit is supposed to be a large metal object, the edges should be straight and the transitions seem a bit abrupt unlike the flow that an organic form would have. The Marasai has just a little of that soft, organic feel.
The Asshimar is a very strange figure, but that is because the character design is strange. The Asshimar has the basic humanoid form: a head, body, two arms and legs. But the only thing that is really humanoid about it is the hands. There are no real feet. The feet and lower legs are all thrusters that just have the general form of legs. The joints aren't particularly well hidden, but the large orange armor help to distract from those areas. But the biggest feature of the Asshimar is that it is transformable. The figure can fold up into its mobile armor form. Though to be honest, I always felt that its mobile armor form looks like a rocket powered doughnut with a gun stuck to it.
The The-O is an amazing figure. It is quite a bit bigger than most of the MSIA figures which it should be. And the level of detail has been increased to match. It is particularly impressive since so little of that detail is even visible most of the time. Unlike most of the of the MSIA, the interior detail of some of the figure is visible, especially the legs.
Paint - Marasai 3/10, Rick Dias & Galbaldy Beta 5/10, Asshimar & Hi-Zack 8/10, The-O 10/10The Marasai is a disappointment in this area. There is very little paint work on it and no panel lines. Actually, none of the four newer releases have painted panel lines. The orange plastic with its satin finish makes the details of the sculpt even harder to see. The Rick Dias is better, but the extreme contrast between the glossy red and the dark black used for most of the panel lines makes the shadowing a little too exaggerated. Like the Marasai, the Galbaldy Beta doesn't have much paint work, but the contrasting colors of the design allow it to turn out better. Both the Asshimar and Hi-Zack have a nice contrast in color even with out the panel lines. The Asshimar could use some more color on the interior of the chest compartment. The The-O has one of the best paint jobs I've seen on any of the MSIA figures. While the vast majority of the figure is simply tan, there are plenty of painted vents and cables to break them up. Bandai also did a great job with the panel lines on the The-O. The brown color used for the panel lines compliments the tan well and does a great job of adding shadowing and depth that would otherwise be very difficult to accomplish on a figure of this scale.
Articulation - Rick Dias 6/10, The-O 9/10, others 8/10The Marasai, Galbaldy Beta and Hi-Zack all share the same basic articulation:
The The-O has one of the most unusual mixes of articulation I've seen. It essentially has triple jointed ankles which is impressive since it doesn't have anything that most people would recognize as ankles. The soles of the feet attach to the rest of the foot via a ball joint. The feet then connect to the lower legs via a second ball joint. And then the lower legs slide to recreate the motion of a hinged ankle. Each leg also has three moveable armor panels: one by the toes, one on the back and a large one on the front of the lower leg. The knee is only a single hinge joint, but the bulk of the leg wouldn't allow the leg to bend any farther even if the joint allowed it. The skirt armor on the side and back doesn't move, but the front armor is attached by a ball joint. There is a small manipulator under each of the front armor panels each of which has four joints. There are two waist joints, one rotating and a ball joint. The shoulder armor is double jointed, both rotating and hinged. The elbows are sort of double jointed. Rather than the usual pair of hinges, there is one hinge in the elbow and then a ball joint to connect the forearm to the elbow. Finally there is the ball joint for the neck and a hinge for the periscope that sticks up behind the head.
Accessories - Asshimar 5/10, Galbaldy Beta & Rick Dias 6/10, Marasai 7/10, Hi-Zack 8/10The Asshimar comes with a rifle, five spare hands, a stand and a file card. The file card is a nicely laminated 4x6 inch card that is pre-punched so that it can be stored in a small binder. It has various bits of information about the suit, all of which is of course printed in Japanese and useless to me. The rifle looks great except for the tab that sticks up on the top. It can be moved down to the side allowing the rifle to be stored, but looks out of place otherwise. The hands includes the usual three sets: fists, grasping and with trigger finger. There is also a fourth left hand that is posed with the fingers open. The stand is quite plain and only allows the figure to be posed on it one way.
The Hi-Zack has a considerable collection of accessories: a backpack, a pair of rocket launchers, two machine guns, an extra ammo clip, a beam saber, an updated heat hawk ax, a shield, three sets of hands and the profile card. The back pack is nice, with moveable fins and thruster nossels. The rocket launchers are mounted to a frame which clips onto the back. The rocket launchers themselves rest under the arms on either side of the figure. The frame also provides a place to store the heat hawk. But when the rocket launchers are equipped, the arms lose a lot of their range of motion. The guns include an updated version of the Zaku II's machine gun and a more modern version with a removable clip. Both can be held one or two handed. The beam saber and heat hawk offer options for a melee weapon, but storing them can be a problem. The shield attaches to the back of the forearms. It can't be held in the figure's hand. It does have the added feature of a small compartment in which the ammunition clips for the newer machine gun. It is a cool feature, but since the cover doesn't have a clasp the ammo clips can fall out if you aren't careful. The hands are the usual trigger finger, fist and grasping poses. I certainly can't complain about the amount of quality of the accessories, but I was a bit surprised that it didn't come with a 'big gun' of some sort.
The Galbaldy Beta comes with the profile card, three sets of hands, a rifle, shield, beam saber and balute pack. The file card and hands are the same as the previous figures. The beam saber isn't anything special but does offer an extra option for displaying the figure. The shield clips to the back of the left forearm. It has two small packs that store on the back, but I haven't been able to figure out what purpose they are supposed to serve. The rifle is a longer one that looks a bit like a sniper rifle. But the big accessory is the balute. The balute is set of parachutes and thrusters that were used in the show to allow a mobile suit to make atmospheric reentry on its own. The balute consists of a large pack that clips to the figure's back, a small thruster pack for the chest, two hoses to connect them and two thruster packs that clip to the figure's legs. The balute is a nice idea, but they hide much of the figure and really only played a minor role in the show.
The Marasai comes with a machine gun, two beam sabers, a shield, the usual three sets of hands, another balute system and a file card. The machine gun is the same as the one which came with the Hi-Zack. The shield attaches to the right shoulder. The two ends of the shield are hinged where they connect to the center section, but with no real purpose to the articulation. The shield also serves to store the beam saber hilts when not in use. The balute is basically the same as the one that comes with the Galbaldy Beta, but sculpted to fit the Marasai. Again, it is a nice idea, but hides much of the figure.
The Rick Dias has two sets of hands, a beam saber, two guns and a bazooka. The hands include a pair of fists and a pair of hands with separated trigger fingers. The saber is a bit thicker than most of the beam sabers. And when the blade is removed, the hilt can be stored on the back of the figure. The guns are accurate to the design of the show. But they are so small that they look like pop guns. While they can be stored on the figure's back, the clips which allow that get in the way when the figure holds them. The soft plastic used for the guns also makes them prone to popping off the back. Fortunately the Rick Dias has a big gun for a back up, or more precisely a clay bazooka. The design is simple but effective. Plus it can be stored on the figure's back, but clip looks out of place when not being used to store the weapon. The limited articulation of the figure also means that there is only one way the bazooka can be held.
The The-O comes with a beam rifle, four beam sabers and three sets of hands. The hands are the same three pairs (fists, grasping, and trigger fingers) as most of the figures have. The beam rifle is large and nicely detailed. The four beam swords are all identical. They are larger than most of the beam sabers both in terms of length and width. If you are wondering why there are four of them, the figure can be posed with one in each arm and each of the small manipulators in the skirt armor. When not in use, the blades can be removed and the hilts store on the side skirt armor.
Value - Rick Dias 5/10, Galbaldy Beta & Marasai 6/10, The-O & Hi-Zack 7/10, Asshimar 9/10The Rick Dias, Galbaldy Beta, Marasai and Hi-Zack all retail for 1,575 Yen in Japan or about $13. I was able to find them for just under $13 online. But by the time you pay shipping, the price was about $17. The Asshimar retails for a couple of dollars more than the others which is pretty good considering it is transformable. The The-O is one of the more expensive MSIA figures at 2,975 yen or about $24.50. But given the larger size and the quality of the figure, that is a fair price.
Happy Hunting:I bought the Hi-Zack off of eBay. The others all came from Japan-Toys.com. They have some of the cheapest prices for MSIA that I've found and a great selection. The shipping isn't cheap, but it is very fast. There are plenty of other sites where MSIA are available. Hobby Link Japan generally has good prices, but shipping can be a bit slower.