When it comes to Mobile Suit Gundam I am a casual fan, at best. Like a lot of people my age, it wasn’t really something that was on my radar until Cartoon Network started airing Gundam Wing in the late 90s, and once it did, I would pretty much watch whatever Gundam series Cartoon Network chose to air. It was around the same time that Bandai started bringing some of its Gundam model kits state-side. I had my opinions on the shows, but I always loved the look of the mobile suits, and in particular, the ones featured in Wing. I would pick up a few 1/144 scale and 1/100 scale kits over the years, but mostly dropped off in the early 2000s. I only had so much room for toys, and money, and the kits were pushed aside in favor of other things.
When it comes to the actual anime series, I am most definitely a fan of The 08th MS Team. It’s my favorite of the Gundam shows I’ve engaged with, so when I saw that the main Gundam from that series was slated for release this year, I decided to give The Robot Spirits a shot. The Robot Spirits strikes me as the mecha version of the Tamashii Nations S.H.Figuarts line of action figures that I am most definitely familiar with. Just like how Bandai has Dragon Stars and SHF for its Dragon Ball figures, there’s basically a Target version of Gundam and Robot Spirits with the Robot Spirits being more high end, and thus, more expensive. I had never seen nor held or even sought out information on the line and when I saw this version go up for pre-order I decided to keep myself in the dark and just react to it when it finally shipped.
And obviously it has for I now have my figure in-hand after 6 or 8 months since I placed the pre-order. My first reaction upon getting this thing is, “Wow, this thing is small!” The box is larger than a SHF release, though it’s still a resealable cardboard box with a window and a blister inside. Only the window here is tiny so you basically can just see the head and a portion of the torso of the figure inside. As for the figure, it is indeed small. This mobile suit, which is hundreds of feet tall in the show, is a mere five inches and actually a tick under that officially. That’s not necessarily a bad thing on its own, but it did surprise me. I know a lot of Transformers fans were a bit surprised at how small the RED subline turned out, but my RED Soundwave looks like a giant beside this thing. Again, not really a bad thing assuming the line scales well from figure to figure, but I emphasize it because some people might be surprised and not in a good way. Me personally, I’ve always found smallish figures to be kind of charming, which is at odds with my also loving big, chunky, figures. I just see it as a quirk of a line and it’s fun, but that’s just me.
Size out of the way, the figure is largely as expected. It certainly feels similar to a SHF release. The plastic is fairly light and the figure is comprised of numerous small pieces. In that respect, it also reminds a lot of the old model kits that I used to assemble, only more durable and more refined. There’s lots of detail in the sculpt, especially on the head. I’ve always liked this unique shade of gray this suit is presented in and Bandai pretty much nailed that aspect. Also like SHF, there’s not a ton of paint to speak of, but there’s probably more here than on some of the Dragon Ball figures I have. There’s a metallic green applied to the eyes and a line of red beneath them that looks quite sharp. There’s some smaller details done in black and some red and yellow paint applied to certain areas. And what is there is remarkably clean. I don’t see one smudge or soft edge on any of the painted parts. It’s also possible some of the applications are decals, like the green at the top of the “crown,” which looks good too. I think the only criticism I could levy on the presentation of this figure is that it doesn’t look like something made of metal. And it’s not, but the suit in the anime is. That would take a more elaborate paint job to add cel-shading. They could have tried to give it a glossy finish, but I’m partial to matte when it comes to my figures so I won’t go that far. That’s a matter of taste though, what’s here is done quite well.
Aesthetics are one thing, but what a lot of people buy these high-end imports for is the articulation and a Gundam presents some challenges, and some opportunities, given it’s unique look. There’s definitely a lot here and I think Bandai did a pretty good job of balancing out the aesthetic and the articulation. The head sits on a ball peg and it has range up, down, tilt, and the usual swivel. There’s a fair amount of space carved out for the head too so while you always have to be mindful of parts rubbing, the head is fairly protected. The shoulders are on ball pegs and the shoulder pad, or pauldron, has some wiggle. There’s actually two butterfly joints, one in the shoulder and then another in the chest. Neither offers much range, but neither one also takes away from the sculpt so I suppose it’s fine. The shoulder can swivel on that ball peg, so it’s basically your biceps swivel, and the double-jointed elbow has terrific range. The hands are on ball joints and sit rather deep in the wrist and provide ample range in all directions.
The torso is where Bandai can’t really do much. There is an ab crunch, but it just tilts forward a small amount. I was always terrible at geometry, but it looks like it’s maybe 30 degrees. There’s even less backwards. There is a swivel at the waist, but it’s more like a pivot as it doesn’t move much in either direction. That’s basically it for the bad articulation, as below the waist is fine. The hips are just ball joints, but the figure can kick as far forward as the “skirt” pieces will allow. Those are also on ball joints and can be manipulated or even popped off entirely, if you wish. The thigh twists, or pivots, at that ball joint and the knees are double-jointed and can be bent all the way back. The ankles are on more ball pegs and they’re a bit more limited than other spots, but you still get some forward and back as well as tilt. The piece going over the feet is attached to a ball peg on one side so it can be moved out of the way to a certain degree. The center piece of the foot is also articulated and can be bent forward, which just mostly gets it out of the way so that the toe hinge can be used. I say toe hinge, but the joint is basically in the middle of the foot. It’s a bit unusual, but it works to make the feet more dynamic and to get the figure into certain poses, like a kneel-down. And because the figure is pretty light and the feet large, it’s pretty easy to pose and position.
The articulation is rather good, bordering on great, which is nice because this figure also comes with a ton of stuff. For starters, there’s 5 sets of hands: Open, tight grip, looser grip, trigger, and a relaxed set. Bandai includes a plastic “tree” to store them on too, which is pretty cool. There’s also the classic 08 shield which pegs onto the left forearm. It’s on a double-hinged piece so it can sit flush to the arm or be raised out and in front. The figure comes with two beam sabers and there’s a compartment on each “calf” that can open for storage of the beam saber hilt. There’s also five, translucent, red, attachments for the beam sabers: a burst, two thin blades, one thicker blade, and a swoosh effect. The burst can be placed at the base of any of the blades to add to the illusion, or you can go without. They look great, though the swoosh and thick blade are a tad heavy and I find the hilt prone to spinning in the hand of the figure when trying to pose it. The figure basically needs to grip the upper portion of the hilt to keep it in place.
The rest of the accessories kind of work together. There’s a frame that attaches to the figure’s back via peg holes. Putting it on removes the rear ab crunch range entirely, but since there wasn’t much to begin with, it’s hardly a loss. There are prongs on the top and bottom that are on hinges and can be folded out or against the frame. There’s also two thrusters on ball joints, and if you wish, the skinny beam saber effects can be inserted into them to simulate the figure blasting off. The frame is mainly for the large, gray, backpack which exists to store the firearms. The figure comes with two guns, a small, 100mm, machinegun a really big, 180mm, one. The guns can be broken down and attached to additional frames that can then slide into the backpack for total weapon storage. The clips for the smaller gun are stored on the side of the figure’s hips while the banana clip of the larger weapon just goes into the backpack. I’ll likely refer to the instructions for awhile when trying to assemble and disassemble the guns, but the frame for the larger one does have different sized holes to make it somewhat idiot proof. The actual guns, when assembled, are just colored plastic and I do wish there was some paint. I also wish we didn’t have to buy the options accessory pack to get some muzzle flash effects. Just one would have been nice because that pack is 50 bucks and I’m not sure if I’ll bite on it. It’s possible to use a beam saber effect for the guns, but it looks kind of silly and adds more weight to the 180mm gun which is already a hefty weapon.
The backpack itself just slides onto the frame when the prongs are open. It’s fairly light, but so is the figure so adding it to the figure will throw off the balance. It’s not impossible to work with though and I still found the figure easy enough to pose even with a full backpack. I do find the beam sabers to be a bit more fun to pose the figure with, but the guns are cool too. The larger one is cumbersome, but it’s supposed to be. Usually in the show, the suit would drop to one knee and aim off of the shield (something you can replicate with the accessory pack) while the smaller gun is more of a run and gun style of armament. The way the guns break down can also make them a bit of a chore to pose as they’ll come apart at times when you’re not trying to do that, but that can also help in posing, so it’s a good and bad feature. The 180mm gun also has multiple methods when it comes to holding it, so there’s a lot of variety available when it comes to posing. I love the overall concept of the weapon storage. My only nitpick is the compartment for the beam saber hilts is surprisingly tricky to open. Every time I do it I think I’m going to break something. Lastly, there is one other accessory and it’s a second yellow “crown” piece for the figure’s head. I’m pretty sure it’s only included because it’s a small, rigid, piece of thin plastic that could easily break so it’s a good piece of foresight for Bandai to just give everyone a replacement.
This figure is pretty damn impressive, but one thing we haven’t touched on is price. This guy did not come cheap. You will be hard pressed to find this priced below 60 bucks, and the places that have it that low probably have a fairly substantial shipping charge. Most places seem to price it at 70, which is what I paid at Big Bad Toy Store where it’s presently on backorder. That’s a lot of money for a figure that’s technically less than 5″ in height, and really it’s a lot of money for any figure. I was able to justify it because this is going to be the only Gundam line I collect and I presently have the desert variant ordered through Premium Bandai as well as the Zaku, Gouf custom Zaku, and the second option parts set which comes with the hover truck. I think once I have all of those together I’ll have myself a nice, tidy, display and I’ll be set on 08th MS Team figures. Basically, the only figure from the show I’m not interested in is the RGM mobile suit and I’m still on the fence when it comes to the option parts set (I wish they were like 30 bucks instead of 50). It’s great to see the 08th MS Team get some love from Bandai in this line and I’m certainly happy to dip my toe into it, even if I feel like I need to sell a kidney or something to get a full set.