PHOTOBER THE 30TH – Robot Spirits Master Gundam

This is not a Mobile Suit in Action. The Spirits line more or less fills the product gap left by MSiA dying out, but it’s a pretty different animal. Way more expensive, for one thing. But that’s both a matter of the times, as well as the unfortunate expectation of anything falling under the Tamashii Nations sub-imprint of Bandai. The scale is different, as is the construction. There’s good and bad to be had in that. Good: less soft plastic, less ability for parts to warp. But then they might be more vulnerable to breaking outright. Bad: The less-soft plastics means that the joints can wear faster, though some are treated almost like model kits with a softer plastic insert to help reduce that effect. While these aren’t of MSiA lineage as such, they are the current evolution of what Gundam action figures have become. That and Gundam Universe. But sadly the Tallgeese wasn’t available in time to buy for this month.

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I got a Master Gundam second hand. Partly to help out someone who was trying to raise a little money with a sale, and partly because this was a much later entry in the line than any I’d had before, so I was curious about how it might differ from my prior experience. I would say that in terms of the sharpness of the sculpt and the accuracy to source material, the line has refined itself and really dialed in on those qualities. I understand the A.N.I.M.E. subline focusing on the Universal century designs now is even better in this regard. As a finished display piece, this is an excellent Master Gundam representation. Well, mostly. Elements like the unfurled wings in cloak mode and some additional effect elements were relegated to a separate accessory pack, only available via Bandai Japan’s online premium shop.Such things are often easier to get directly now, but not too long ago this was a big barrier for anyone outside the home territory, and it’s irritating to have the contents split up like that. But in terms of how the build works and feels… it might not have come all that far from where I last left off with it.

Master Gundam is quite poseable. The shoulders have complicated multi-joint arrangements that give the arms a ton of freedom. That accessory pack includes a sculpted piece to pose Master Gundam with arms crossed, but given the existing option hands here and how the joints are set up, you can fake a pretty decent crossed-arms pose just as-is. What may sound a little dumb though, I think in some places it’s too articulated. There’s various joints in the torso for crunching and stretching different ways, and that’s great in the really specific case that you want to bend the body some odd way. But the rest of the time it makes the figure feel kind of unstable.

Another point along a similar line is the skirt armor. I mentioned with MS in Action that skirt armor was a soft plastic thing, and rarely, if ever jointed itself, often causing it to interfere with posing the legs. Robot Spirits gives hinged and/or ball jointed skirt panels, at least on every example I’ve seen personally. But I still find that there’s often not quite the right clearance for kind of basic posing of the legs, or even when that’s not the case keeping all those separate jointed panels lined up and pleasing looking is itself a chore. In a lot of ways, the articulation model does remind me of Extended MSiA, but something about the way that it handles as a practical application has never quite sat right with me. The Hyaku Shiki was a little worn out from age, but when it was fresh and new, the posing experience with it was fun and pretty easy. A lot of the time during this shoot, Master Gundam felt like it was working against me.

Master Gundam came with several different hands, for signature pose purposes mostly. Plus the Darkness Finger hands, where the only thing that sticks with me as an iconic or signature pose requires the use of the cloak-mode wings (sold separately). You get one beam cloth, which the way it’s sculpted does not come across as super-useful for general posing. And… that’s about it. The extra hands can offer some interesting options for expressive uses – or just goofy stuff if you also utilize a Tamashii Stage – but I could see myself being just fine with trading, say, the slightly-curled hands for some modest effects part, say to simulate Master Gundam’s flying forearms technique. It just feels a little empty as-is.

That really wraps up the exploration of the evolution of Gundam in action figure form for now. I do want to come back to this in some capacity after I can get the Gundam Universe Tallgeese. Unless I decide that I’ve lost interest in the meantime. That happens …kind of a lot. But I figure if I’m gonna buy anything from that line, Tallgeese will probably be it. I miss MSiA, and it did so much to define for me what a Gundam action figure feels like, it’s not really surprising that even something as technically proficient as Robot Spirits just doesn’t really do it for me, because it’s so different. I’ve been ruined by something I can never have again.

The end of Photober is upon us! Our last day will bring a big finish on one of my very favorite Transformers molds ever. See you tomorrow for Photober the 31st!