It’s time to take a look at one of my most anticipated releases in Bandai’s The Robot Spirits line based on the anime Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team. And that figure is the Gouf Custom which was piloted by Colonel Norris Packard during the climactic battle at the end of that series. The Gouf is basically a Zeon mobile suit that’s pretty similar to the Zaku which we already looked at. It’s just got a cooler design and a different weapons loadout. My expectation was this figure would be very similar and share some parts with that previous release, but to my surprise, it does not. Is that a good thing? Well, the Zaku is a terrific action figure so if another figure to follow was going to imitate it then that would be fine by me, but who also doesn’t love a figure that’s unique on their shelf?
The Gouf Custom comes in the standard window box this series is known for. The window is tiny and just gives a peek at the figure and it’s adorned with product shots that are probably renders as opposed to actual photography. It’s easily resealable and the tray that holds the figure in the box just slides out. There are no tie-downs, which feels like a god-send given the amount of those things that wind up in my carpet.
Once removed from the packaging, the Gouf is quite familiar in size and build quality. It’s only around 5″ tall not including the fin on the helmet so it’s a quaint little guy. The Gouf follows a lot of the same design elements as the Zaku with the single-camera “eye” and various hoses along the body. The shoulder pauldrons are horned for added menace, but unlike the Zaku, both shoulders feature the same design. The legs are similar, but different, as far as the molds used go. There’s really not much reuse here, maybe the hands or the rear skirt piece, as the Gouf is just different enough to necessitate it’s own molds. The main difference between the two is the color palette. The Zaku goes for that traditional, military, olive drab while the Gouf opts for a rather pleasant sky blue. The torso is a darker blue-gray and there’s some black on the knees and feet, but the dominant color is clearly the blue. And I like blue, so I’m just naturally drawn to this one. And like most releases in the line, there’s very little paint. It’s mostly limited to the eye and some red on the chest. Otherwise, we’re mostly dealing with colored plastic and it looks okay, but a paint wash wouldn’t hurt.
Since this figure required extensive new tooling, it also differs when it comes to the articulation. The head still sits on a ball peg and the base of the neck can hinge back allowing the Gouf to look up. It’s limited in looking down, and the top of the head is removable to allow for the eye to be re-positioned. The shoulders are pegged in and the joint it pegs into moves a bit for mostly nuance posing. The pauldrons peg in as well and they’re going to get in the way. The Gouf can’t quite raise its arms out to the side, but can get reasonably far. The arm rotates just fine, and there’s a pseudo-butterfly joint in the torso that affords some minor movement there. There’s a biceps swivel, but surprisingly just a single hinge at the elbow. The Gouf can just about hit a 90 degree bend, but I’m surprised it can’t go farther. The hands are on ball pegs, per usual, and the tolerance is just okay. I wish they were tighter, but we’ll talk more about that later. The torso has a ball-joint and hinge in the diaphragm that lets it tilt side-to-side a little. He can bend back just a tiny amount, but not forward at all because of the design of the chest. Once you engage the hinge, however, you can make this thing bend back really far, but it exposes a giant gap. It does provide some clearance though for the front, diamond-like, piece on the chest to slip behind the lower torso to get some better ab crunch. There’s a waist twist below that, but the hoses that wrap around the figure restrict the movement there quite a bit. At the hips, we have some big old balls that peg into a really small piece of plastic which looks a bit scary. The Gouf can’t quite do full splits due to the skirt pieces, but it does kick forward very far and back a little. The knees are double-jointed and there are no issues there nor are there any issues with the thigh twist. The ankles are surrounded by a lot of plastic, but the feet hinge forward and back and you get a little rocker action. They also have that joint in the middle of the foot that allows for more bend in the same style as a toe hinge, only it mostly provides range down as opposed to up so I don’t know that it’s very useful for standing. Lastly, there’s two thrusters on the rear of the figure on ball hinges for some directional posing when using effect parts.
The Gouf moves just okay. Part of that is due to the hoses around the body of the figure which didn’t allow for much. Bandai could have tried adding some sliding pieces there to allow for more movement, but that would come at the cost of some of the aesthetic. I’m more disappointed in the elbows and wrists. I keep checking out the elbows thinking I’m missing something, but they really are single-hinged. The wrists feature fine range, but like some of the other figures I have from this line, they’re too weak. This guy has trouble holding heavier weapons which happens to matter quite a bit if you want to hand it a Zaku bazooka. As we’ll see shortly, at least the weaponry the figure comes packaged with matters more for the shoulder joint than the wrist, but that’s also a problem as the shoulder joint could stand to be tighter.
The Gouf comes with the standard assortment of hands and a tree to place them on when not in use. They are: gripping, trigger, slightly wider gripping, open, and style posed. His melee weapon of choice is the heat saber which is just a sword. The blade is done in gray, but with a nice, graphite, finish and the hilt is a blue-gray piece of unpainted plastic. He has a three-barrel gatling gun that clips onto the left wrist with an effects part that can be affixed to any barrel (a special three-barrel effect part is coming in a new options set next year). On top of that, a shield can be affixed which is on a hinge piece like the Gundam Ground Type so it can be raised off of the figure’s arm which is necessary to make use of the effect part. When stored flat, the heat saber can slide behind the shield and a massive gatling gun can fit over that. This gun can accept the effect part plus an added burst effect as well, but doing so creates a lot of weight on the figure’s left arm and it’s rather cumbersome to pose. The last weapon is the heat wire which clips into a peg hole on the right arm. There’s a tiny plug that has to be removed first which is a nice bit of accuracy, but also a touch impractical since it’s hard to get it out and easy to lose. The wire itself is bendy so you can do some fun stuff with it and topped with a grappling hook. It’s also around ten inches in length so you have a lot to play with, almost too much. If you want it to just be firing in a straight line it looks kind of ridiculous and can’t support its own weight. I much prefer a coiled look, but I don’t think that’s anime accurate. The last two accessories are thrust effects that can be used on the jetpack or the feet. Like all figures in this line, it can accept a flight stand so opting for a flying pose is possible if you so desire. The effect parts are the superior ball-hinged variety so positioning them is quite easy. Bandai also included an extra fin piece for the head in case one gets lost or breaks. It does pop out very easily.
The Gouf Custom looks the part and comes with enough stuff to really outfit it for battle, but I do find myself a little disappointed with this one compared with the other releases in this line. It’s design makes posing it less fun than the others, and the cumbersome accessories add to that frustration. It basically looks cool in a vanilla pose, but struggles with the more dynamic stuff. It also has a more fragile feel to it which just adds a layer of anxiety to the experience that isn’t much fun. And given that most places price this figure at around $80, it makes it harder to recommend. On one hand, if you’re really into The 08th MS Team it’s hard not to include the Gouf Custom, but on the other hand if you’re more interested in just having a figure or two from the line then it might be easy to just skip this one. If I was only getting one enemy mobile suit, I think I’d go with the Zaku over this which is not what I expected going into this review, but it is what I got.
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