Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Mobile Suit Ensemble: A Little look at some Little Mobile Suits
This is one of those toylines where you find out about it and immediately hunt it down. In most cases, you come up with nothing. In this case...
Mobile Suit Ensemble! Yet another Gundam gashapon series, which is probably such a wide-range of toys and collectables that you could fill most of Japan with a history of Gundam gashapon and there wouldn't be room for any other gashapon!
...maybe I should explain the word "gashapon" real quick, in case you don't know what I'm talking about. They're like quarter machines, in Japan, except they not only carry little collectables, but sometimes tiny action figures; full of articulation! The word "gashapon" is an onomatopoeia for the sound the machine makes when you put in a coin and turn the crank "gasha!" and then a toy falls out "pon!" Kinda like if we called quarter machines Gshkanktink. Or something. Whatever that noise is. It's not anywhere near as cute as they make it out to be in Japan.
These two are actually part of a special set, so I'm not sure if they came out of a machine, but they still came in the little gashapon balls, like most gashapon toys.
They are....man, how do I describe these things? Like a toy collector's dream. There's just something about these little translucent spheres that get you even more excited than regular quarter machine stuff. It's such a simple idea, but it's so prevalent in Japan that even the ball itself is famous enough to BE a toy, with one gashapon series just coming with tiny accessories to add to the gashapon ball to make it into a spaceship or a submarine (and lemme tell ya - I WILL hunt those down sometime).
Enough gushing about gashapon! What's inside? Mobile Suit Ensemble? When I found out about these, I went through a familiar pattern:
- WHOA, what are these? Are they old?
- Sort of old, but not so old that I can't find them!
- ....oh, the first series is super expensive now. Great.
- There's a special two pack that isn't, though! Awesome!
And then I ordered them. I'm not sure why the basic series is expensive but some limited two pack is cheap, but hey, at least I got some!
Inside, you'll find what looks like the inside of a Gundam model box. The only parts trees you'll find are for the stand and the joints (and hands), so there isn't all that much to chop out and put together. The rest are just bagged parts.
The parts are self explanatory, and the directions are simple enough. If you've put together a Gundam model, then you know what to look for. If not: They're the kind of directions where you need to pay close attention to the pictures. Everything will be pointed out with little markings that are obvious "look out!" points, so you know to face something in the correct direction before putting it together.
One big thing to note, is that this series is heavy on the mix-and-match theme, which I can't display very well with just these two. There are sets that just have weapons and connectors, so you can slap weapons together like Ripley with some duct tape. I can't do that here, but you'll notice holes in the weapons and on the body that are ports for this feature. If you search for Mobile Suit Ensemble, you'll see what I mean.
That doesn't matter, though! And that's a tough thing for me to say, since I love mix-and-match toylines. Still: They stand on their own, without all the extra accessories (that I really want to hunt down). The closest thing I can compare them to is a series called Gundam Converge. They're similarly sized, except Converge is known for being mostly unarticulated, save for the shoulders or neck (and only because of how they snap together). These Ensemble guys are very articulated!
What we're looking at is obviously Char's Zaku II, but without the classic commander's fin on the head. I'm...not sure why that is. This may be some sort of prototype Zaku II, since the Gundam that comes with this set is in the "Rollout Colors", which I've never been able to define beyond "maybe that's what color it was supposed to be if they had ever mass-produced the Gundam." One way or another, this isn't the standard Char's Zaku II, and the other one isn't the standard Gundam.
The articulation is surprising, given the squat proportions. When I originally found out about them, I was hunting down picture after picture to make absolutely sure that people weren't just customizing Converge figures with articulation! Once I realized this was called Mobile Suit Ensemble, I then tried to make sense of the articulation scheme from pictures alone. It's easier than it seems!
The points are:
- pin shoulders on hinges, embedded in the torso
- hinged elbows
- swivel wrists
- ball jointed neck
- swivel waist
- ball joined hips
- hinged knees
- ball jointed ankles
They all work well, with minor problems depending on what the joints interact with. For instance, there are hinges in the shoulders, but the arms can't move out that much, since they run into the large head. Also, the hips are on great ball joints, but the hip joint is all one piece that pegs into the crotch piece and then into the torso, so moving the legs around can sometimes dislodge the peg from the torso. These are fiddly things that would usually annoy me, but I still find them fun to pose around. The novelty of posing something squat like this (that is usually just a non-posable collectable) keeps it fresh.
This Zaku II comes with the basic Zaku machinegun, which doesn't allow for two-handed poses, but you can pose him around to mimic it anyway. The gun has a huge hole in the side for pegging in the scope, but the hole is large enough to peg in other accessories on the other side. The ammo disc is also on the same peg system, allowing some crazy weapon combos that...I can't do.
Finally, each figure comes with a little clear stand that jams up into the crotch, so you can do some flying poses. The stands are versatile, but, almost a little TOO versatile. It took me awhile to figure out how they were supposed to go together and actually stand up, but I believe that the stands also serve as storage space for all the little accessories and pegs I'm supposed to have. The figure also comes with some extra pegs but, once again, I've got nothing to use them with.
The Gundam comes in a similar spread of parts, and goes together in the same way.
I'm a big fan of a red and white (or silver) color scheme, so this has been one of my favorite Gundam color schemes since I originally saw it on the MSiA figure. I don't think it has ever been in anything but pictures and toys, so I don't know what it was meant for, but I LOVE IT.
The Gundam has the same articulation as the Zaku II, except the shoulders can move outward farther, since the head is thinner than the round Zaku head. His skirt armor is also smaller, so moving his legs has less of a possibility of popping the torso apart.
The Gundam comes with the classic Beam Rifle (in snazzy silver) and the tower shield. The shield pegs into the elbow joint (which can share any of the accessories with the same pegs) and the rifle sports a hole straight through it, for weapon combining. Sadly, the beam saber handles do not come out, so you can't mess with beams from other Gundam toys and make your own beam saber. The series does have beam sabers, but they're in with weapon sets.
For scale, we're looking at an Assault Kingdom figure on the left, and an MSiA (Mobile Suit in Action) figure on the right. These guys are pretty small!
These are very fun, and the size and posability for the kind of figures that these are is novel. They're not worth the high prices that the first series goes for, but this set is weirdly cheap, so if you like these variations, they're worth getting for your Gundam collection. If you can catch the gashapon series as they come out, I'd say they're worth it too! The mix-and-match weapons gimmick looks awesome, and I love the various accessories that are available. They make no show of trying to get them with weapons they're known for - the examples just toss everything together and load these figures up with as many weapons as possible!
So, to sum up: Love 'em! I'd get more, but they're hard to come by. Grab these if you like random Gundam merchandise you can pose!