PHOTOBER THE 26TH – MSiA Gouf (Okawara Version)

Yeah, we were never not gonna have some MSiA Gundam this month.

Mobile Suits in Action (MSiA) was a line launched by Bandai in 1999. The line started as being exclusively in Japan and some of southeast Asia, but Bandai America ended up marketing a version of the same products, starting with Gundam Wing. It’s pretty much understood, in fact, that the original Wing MSiA selection was designed specifically with the North American market in mind and then effectively reverse-imported to the Japanese line. But we’re not talking about Gundam Wing today.

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Bandai Japan’s initial bunch of figures in 1999 were of designs from the original Mobile Suit Gundam, among them Zeon’s Gouf mobile suit. Now, going even further, there was an assortment of these that were decoed based loosely on artwork by Kunio Okawara, a well-known mechanical designer who worked on Gundam over the years. And one day last year while browsing a local second-hand store, the Okawara’s Version Gouf was just hanging there for the actually quite reasonable price of $12, which with currency conversionis roughly what it would have cost new back in 1999 or so when it was first released. The back of the box, rather than product photography, features a sample of the Okawara artwork that the deco of the figure is based on. Again, loosely. While Okawara’s art is rather detailed with a variety of markings all over the body of the suit, the practical application for the figure is somewhat more limited.

Besides the base color of the figure, which is much, much more muted than the Gouf’s standard flavor of somewhat dark blue, all the Okawara-ness amounts to is adding some pin-striping on mostly flat surfaces of the body, and that tended to be true for any of the figures within this category. It’s an interesting oddity to be sure, but as it was back when all of this was new, it’s nothing I feel compelled to comprehensively collect.

MSiA in general though was pretty cool. Eventually. When it started out it was pretty rough, and the Gouf is a good example of some of that. The arms have barely any outward motion despite the shoulders being ball jointed. Why? Because they didn’t give a cut-out in the top of the arm to allow room for outward movement, effectively reducing it to just a swivel. This is probably more to do with having the shoulder armor as separate pieces that peg in and having trouble accommodating that and a channel for the ball joint to move more freely, rather than just basic incompetence. The Zaku had an identical problem.

Actually, the Gouf has virtually identical skirt armor as the Zaku, so they also share the problem of the leg poseability being highly restricted because the plastic, while relatively soft, was still much too stiff and not built in such a way that it was able to get out of the way of the legs. I kind of think that when they first did these figures, they were looking at them more as being display items that captured the look of the lineart above all else, with being a poseable figure as a more distant secondary objective.

Generally speaking, MSiA tended to excel at accessories right from the start. The Gouf has a heat sword, heat rod, shield, and two replacement hands to use the accessories. The American release of the Gouf ended up topping the Bandai Japan version with inclusion of the Do Dai YS support bomber (which had at least as much mass as the figure itself) and a second, much longer segment of heat rod, but omitted the closed fists. Win some, lose some, I guess.

The limited poseability, comparatively speaking, means it’s not super easy to do a lot with these parts, but cool looking poses are in there. Well, maybe not so much for the heat rod, which in this application is only good for demonstrating its own existence. But pair the heat sword with the angled heat rod hand, and suddenly you have some expressive posing!

The Gouf is one of the very earliest examples of Mobile Suits in Action, a series that lasted something like 8 years and underwent remarkable evolution throughout that time and would eventually bring stunningly well-designed figures offered at prices that are honestly unbelievable today. I collected this line with a passing during the early 2000s, and I to this day regret its passing. And that I wasn’t able to buy more of them than I did.

It’s the final week of Photober! There’s no telling where we’ll end up as I try to squeeze in as much cool stuff as I can in the time remaining. Come back tomorrow to see what’s next on Photober the 27th!