Superior Defender Gundam (part 1)

Alright, I'm weak. I bought one of the SD Gundam Zako Soldier earlier this year to see what the figures were like. My previous experience with super deformed (SD) gundams was limited to a handful of the small Gundam Wing model kits. They were cute, but not very impressive. The added articulation and improve sculpting of the new SD Gundam figures made for quite an improvement. Still, I managed to hold off buying any more, until I saw the new RX-78/G-Fighter and Guntank/Guncannon sets. I couldn't resist the appeal of the entire 'crew' of the original Mobil Suit Gundam series in a super deformed version. Then the completist in me kicked in and now I have a small army of over twenty SD gundams waiting for review. First up are the first four figures to be released which make up the core cast of the Superior Defender Gundam cartoon: Captain Gundam, Zero the Winged Knight, Bakunetsumaru and Zapper zaku.

Packaging - 6/10

The SD Gundam line has its own card design which all of the figures share. The card is similar to the new design used for the MSIA line, but brighter. There is a large cicular pattern behind the figure in the center of the card and an image of the Burning Gundam in the lower right corner. The top of the card has a large logo for the SD line on the basic figures. The deluxe figures have the logo on a sticker on the blister itself. The logo for the Superior Defender line is nothing more than the letters SD in a metalic silver finish. The figures are clearly displayed on the card with most of the accessories visible around the edges. As with the MSIA line, an insert on the bottom gives the name of the figure. The logo is joined by Bandai's logo and a choking hazard warning on the top corners. The card back is a generic card used for the entire first wave and for several of the figures that canme later. As generic backers go though, it does a nice job. There is a brief description of the SD Gundam story and images of both the three core hero figures and the first two deluxe figures, the Grappler Gouf and Zapper Zaku. Bandai did at least put forth some effort to digitally enhance the image of the basic figures and added two dialog balloons to help add some personality to the packaging. Still, in the end the card is lacking in originality and the lack of any information about the figure means that the card doesn't do the best job of selling the product. And the difference between a basic figure and a deluxe. Which means the figures tend to get mixed together on store shelves and I suspect many people don't know whether they are buying a basic figure or a deluxe figure until they reach the register and see what it rings up at. Worse yet, since this same card was reused for sometime after the release of new figures, it is difficult to even know what other figures are available unless you see them on the pegs at the store.

Sculpting - Zero 7/10, others 8/10

The sculpts on the SD figures are quite well done. The Zapper Zaku in particular is an excellent representation of the cartoon character. The figures all pack in a considerable amount of detail while still maintaining the cartoon appearance. Unfortunately Bandai decided to screw the figures to gether in many areas which results in numerous large holes in the backs of the figures. Zero lost another point due toseveral open areas of the sculpt, especially the neck. The sculpt itself is nicely done, but they left the bottom of many of the parts open. Bakunetsumaru has the same problem with his head, but the larger shoulder pads and shorter neck make it less noticeable.

Paint - 7/10

The figures have quite a range of paint applications and all of them are well done. The Zapper Zaku has the least amount of paint work, but that is just because Bandai managed to provide most of the color needed with the color of the plastic. Bakunetsumaru and Captain Gundam both look wonderful from the front but seem bland when viewed from behind. In the case of Bakunetsumaru that is simpley because there are fewer contrasting colors on his back than on the front. But in the case of Captain Gundam the only paint applications are the three orange spots on both shoulders.

Articulation - 8/10

This is one area where the line really seems to shine. While not as impressive as the typical MSIA figure, each SD figure does feature twentry or more points of articulation. Given the proportions of the characters, any more than that would likely just be a waste anyway. Both Zero the Winged Knight and Bakunetsumaru have twenty points of articulation:
  • double jointed ankles
  • rotating and hinged hips
  • rotating waist
  • ball jointed neck
  • rotating and hinged shoulders
  • rotating bicep (just above the elbow)
  • hinged elbow
  • rotating wrists
Captain Gundam adds two free rolling wheels on his heels but lacks a waist joint. Zapper Zaku has ball joints to move portions of both shoulder armors, a visor that flips up and a stabilizer to hold the gattling gun that has four additional points of articulation, three rotating joints and a hinged joint as well.

Accessories - Bakunetsumaru 5/10, Zapper Zaku & Captain G. 9/10, Zero 7/10

Zapper Zaku steals the show here. Zapper has a considerable arsenal with his large gattling gun, two machine guns and two heat hawks. The gattling gun is nicely detailed and is designed to be either held in the figure's hand or supported by the stabilizer strut that comes off the figure's waist. The gun also has a handle so the figure can use it's other hand to stabilize the weapon. The machine guns are a bit of a disappointment. They look pretty good but could be greatly improved with a little paint. The heat hawks do have some paint for both the blade edge and the spikes on the hand guard. One of the heat hawks can also be stored under the left arm's shoulder pad.

Captain Gundam is almost a well equiped. First of all is the beam rifle. It probably should have been done in a darker shade of grey or black but otherwise looks good. The shield looks nicely on model and can be held easily. Finally there is the beam saber and two beam saber hilts. The hilt can be attached to the backpack or the saber blade. It is a nice touch to include two saber hilts but unnecessary since the character is only supposed to have one.

Zero comes with just two accessories, his shield and sword. They both are very functional and are exceptionally well painted. Still, only two accessories seems light. Inclusion of the spirit egg or perhapse a rose to clip onto his blad would have put this over the top.

Bakunetsumaru comes with his two swords and sheaths to put them both in. The swords are fully painted and look good. The sheaths can snap on to the side skirt armor. Overall, the accessories are nice, just not spectacular.

Action Feature - Zapper Zaku 6/10, others 4/10

All of the SD Gundam figures feature an action feature of some sort. For Zapper Zaku it is a light up eye. When a button on the back of his head is pushed, the eye lights up. The feature works well and does make sense. And the only compromised that was ade to include it was giving up the ball jointed neck in favor of a rotating joint. The other three don't fair so well. Both Bakunetsumaru and Zero swing their arms when their waists are turned. For Bakunetsumaru, both arms swing while Zero only swings his right arm. Captain Gundam has a similar feature, but it is activated by rotating his backpack rather than turning his waist. In all three cases, the arms can still be posed as a ratching joint but will readjust themselves if the waist is moved. Personally I've never been a fan of such features, especially now when most figures have so much articulation that the features almost inevitably hindder the play value as much as they add to it.

Value - Zapper Zaku 7/10, Others 8/10

Captain Gundam, Zero the Winged Knight and Bakunetsumaru are all basic figures and will generally carry a price tag of $6 to $8. These days, that is a reasonable price for some nicely executed figures. The Zapper Zaku however is a deluxe figure and carries a slightly higher price, $10 to $12. Granted you do get the light up feature and some extra accessories, but they don't quite make up for the $4 difference in price since half of those extra accessories are mostly duplicates. But I picked these up on clearance from Big Bad Toy Store for $4 each for the basic figures and $6 for the Zapper Zaku. At that price, they are quite a deal

Happy Hunting:

And here's the rub. I was a little late getting into this line and noticed they were already getting difficult to find. These first few figures from the line in particular have sold out from many places and don't seem to be shipping anymore. As I mentioned already, Big Bad Toy Store has them on clearance now. Target seems to be dropping the line now too and the figures seem to be hitting clearance in many locations. Otherwise, the line is still available at Toys R Us, Kmart, Walmart and most other toy retailers.