After talking about two different versions of the Gundam Ground Type from Mobile Suit Gundam – The 08th MS Team it’s about time we talk about the bad guys. That’s right, the Principality of Zeon has their own mobile suits, and in true bad guy fashion, they look pretty cool. Arguably cooler than the good guys and their Gundams. I say arguably because it’s definitely not as cut and dry as it was with say G.I. Joe in which Cobra always had the better looking vehicles and uniforms. The Gundams are mostly refined with a touch of elegance despite their rather beefy and cumbersome appearance. The Zeon and their Zaku are even bulkier with less flash, but they have a certain menace about them not present with the Gundam mobile suits. I think the distinction is captured rather well in the choice of melee weapon for each, the futuristic, Jedi-like beam sabers of the Gundam vs the violence of the axe-like Heathawk.
Bandai has sunk its teeth into me with its Robot Spirits collection based on The 08th MS Team anime, so I basically had to get that show’s interpretation of the Zaku. The Zaku is, like the Gundam, featured in various series of Mobile Suit Gundam and it usually looks fairly recognizable to anyone familiar with the franchise. They’re usually green or olive drab and armed with that aforementioned axe, the Heathawk, and feature a single camera in the head that appears as a red, glowing, “eye” that makes the suit resemble a cyclops. They usually have some heavy artillery as well, maybe some spikes here and there, as well as tubes around the head or encircling the torso. They’re basically never not cool looking, and while I actually do prefer the look of the Gundam to it, that’s by no means a slight upon the Zaku.
The Robot Spirits version of the Zaku from The 08th MS Team looks about as expected. It stands at approximately 5″ in height and is composed of mostly colored plastics of differing shades of green. There’s plenty of sculpted detailing on the body of the beast with a spiked shoulder pauldron on the left arm and a spiked shield on the right shoulder. This version of the Zaku appears to be based on the second episode of the series, and a spare part that comes in another set would only seem to confirm that since its a reference to a battle in that very episode. The main torso of the Zaku is a deep, forest, green while the limbs and head are a lighter shade of green. The hoses connecting the thigh and the lower leg as well as the head and torso are a gray, almost purple, color and in that head is the menacing red eye. Pop off the top part of the head and you can even spin that eye just like in the show to have the Zaku’s focus elsewhere.
The Zaku, like the ground Gundam, is well-articulated for such a beefy design. The head is on a ball and hinge combo that lets it look way up as well as down a bit. It’s neat because as you force the head up the coil that is the neck becomes more exposed. There’s a butterfly-type joint in the sides of the torso that let the Zaku’s arms come forward a bit and an ab crunch that allows a generous amount of range forward, but little to none back. The shoulders are a bit limited, especially the left one, due to the presence of the pauldron and shield, respectively. The left arm can almost be raised to a horizontal position, while the right can achieve that and a touch more if you spin the shield around. There’s a biceps swivel and another swivel above the first elbow joint. You may want to make sure the upper elbow swivel is in the proper spot as mine was not out of the box and I thought it only had one elbow hinge. It does not, there are two, and the Zaku can bend its elbows well past 90 degrees. The wrists are the standard ball pegs and there is a waist twist, but it doesn’t seem to want to go very far to either direction so I’m not going to force the issue.
At the hips we have the usual skirt armor and on the Zaku it blends really well when in a neutral pose. There’s something satisfying about kicking the legs forward and watching the skirt piece come apart. Anyway, the Zaku can kick out to the side at 45 degrees or better, and can kick forward a fair amount with almost nothing backwards. There is a thigh twist and the knee is double-jointed to bend past 90 degrees and it looks good. At the ankle, the feet can rock side to side a bit and the foot bends forward a surprisingly amount, but not back very far. There is a toe hinge that you have to pull out on first before it will bend back. It’s odd, but it works. All of the joints on this guy work very smooth and there’s a nice tolerance to them. He can wield his heavier weapons with little issue and overall I’m very happy with how the articulation turned out.
For the accessories, we have the usual load-out of hands plus a little “tree” to clip them onto. There’s gripping hands in the box, plus another set of tighter gripping hands, trigger hands, relaxed hands, and open hands. For weapons, this guy is pretty well stacked. There’s a collapsed Heathawk that can clip onto either hip plus a deployed Heathawk that’s longer and features a golden blade to simulate it heating up. He has his 120mm machine gun with circular magazine that can be held or stored on the rear of the figure with an adapter. He also has the Zaku bazooka which has an adapter for the rear of the figure and a second one for a shoulder mount meaning this guy can store all three of his main weapons without issue. The bazooka features a removable gravity-fed magazine that even has a little sculpted missile in it. Both weapons feature moving parts to help facilitate with posing, but feature little in the way of paint aside from the cameras on them. No effects parts are included for them either, but they can take them. The machine gun uses the same effect part as the ground Gundam’s machine gun while the bazooka uses a rocket effect that, as far as I know, has not been included in any 08th MS Team release. There’s also an interchangeable plate for the arm shield that replaces the spiked portion with a flat one as some Zaku in the show carried such a shield. Lastly, we have two effect parts for the Zaku’s rear thrusters, though these ones are not ball-jointed like the ground Gundam Desert type. The Zaku’s thrusters are on ball joints so you can at least adjust them there.
It’s a solid assortment of accessories, though as seems to always be the case with Tamashii Nations releases, I’m left wishing we got some more effect parts. This guy has spots on the figure where gunfire blasts can be affixed, like on the shield, to make it look like it’s under fire. And of course there’s both weapons that can use some. I really wish the bazooka came with a missile effect because the one included in the Options Set doesn’t fit. There is a part in that set though intended for the Zaku and it’s a battle damaged one. It’s basically a stump that can replace the figure’s left arm. It pops off and on pretty painlessly and it’s cool. It’s meant to allow for a recreation of the Shiro vs Norris fight in that second episode. The Zaku also has the usual peg hole for a Tamashii Nations stand, but does not come with one.
Overall, I’m really happy with this release from The Robot Spirits line. I might even like this Zaku more than the Gundam Ground Types I’ve reviewed as it’s real easy to work with. There’s plenty of options for a display right out of the box, and more if you have some additional accessory parts. It doesn’t feel as overwhelming as the two Gundams which almost have too many options that I can never settle on anything. And then when I do, I usually wind up feeling like my posing is way too vanilla for what they’re capable of. Nevertheless, that’s a “me” problem, and so is my desire to add another Zaku! If anything, I’m disappointed I only got one, but at around $70 via US retailers, it’s not really the type of release one should army build. Like the Gundam Ground Type, there is at least a variant of sorts on the way in the form of the Gouf Custom that I plan to get so I will have another Zeon unit to join this one. It’s just do I want to make it an even 3 on 3 some day? We’ll see.