GAT-X103 Buster Gundam
Review by EVA_Unit_4A
"Mobile Suit Gundam SEED"
"This series begins with a war between Earth and the colonies that are similar to the One Year War of the original Gundam series [snip]. On one side is the Earth Alliance, and on the opposite are the space colonies that form ZAFT (Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty). Mankind is divided over human genetic engineering, with normal humans known as 'Naturals' and the genetically altered humans known as 'Coordinators'. Like the original series, ZAFT has a head start on mobile suit design, the Earth Alliance quickly catches up with its five prototype Gundams. With ZAFT having stolen four of the prototypes, young pilot Kira Yamato takes the Strike Gundam and is forced to fight against his old friend Athrun Zala. Little do they know that there are sinister forces at work that go far beyond their worst nightmares..."
"Designed as a long-range artillery mobile suit, the Buster's armament consists solely of long range weapons, including a gun launcher, a high-energy rifle and two missile pods. One weakness of the suit lies in its complete lack of any close combat weaponry. This fact is later corrected with the mass production model, the GAT/A-01E2 Buster Dagger.
Like the other X100 series G prototypes (GAT-X102 Duel and GAT-X105 Strike), the Buster is based on an agile, non-transforming frame system (it is in fact based mostly on an application of the Duel's frame)."
The backpack and both cannons (which must be fitted on the correct sides for them to work right) need to be attached before the figure is completed. Both the cannon attachment arms and the cannons themselves connect to tiny ball joints (...which of course are a total pain in the ass to fit together.)
Hard ABS plastic is used for the entire figure, with the sole exception being the trademark V-fin forehead antenna which is soft PVC. No transparent or vacuum-metalized plastic or polish is used. Almost every surface has been painted. (Oddly, some white paint made it onto a few spots; there should be none on the tan, green, and orange Buster.)
The Buster has a high range of motion, with double-axis joints just about everywhere insuring a minimum of 90-degrees of motion everywhere. The four front and back skirt armor plates have ball joints and are quite flexible (though they tend to pop out easily). The waist and upper torso joints cannot be moved until the cannons are un-pegged from their stored positions in back. And to help wield the extended combined weapons (see below), the shoulders have a third expanding joint that lets them pull away a little from the torso.
(I must apologize in advance- my camera really didn't like shooting this thing. What white balance?)
Four pairs of hands are provided:
- Splayed fingers
- Closed fists
- Handle gripping (a)
- Handle gripping (b)
The difference between the two pairs of trigger gripping hands is which handles on the cannons they are meant to grip. The instruction booklet is specific in which hands are used on which handles, so be sure to read the tiny print. (You should not need to force any of the hands.)
Each shoulder has a non-functional six-tube missile launcher, covered by a hinged door that you can open. (The doors do not come off, so don't force them!)
There is one last pair of accessories that I know nothing about…
The tan panels on the outer edges of the shoulder armor can be swapped for versions that have intentional holes in them. What these additional hard points are for, I have no idea because they were never used in the show, and I have never seen or heard of any other Gunpla figure or model with them. The box does make mention of the fact that there’s another fixed pair of [unused] hard points behind each forearm.
Now, coincidentally, all of these holes are the same size and shape as the display stand mounting points under the crotch and on the backpack. However, I must caution that these hard points on the forearms and shoulder panels could never support the figure on the display stand, so I don’t know where they’re going with these. (And in case you’re wondering, this figure cannot parts-swap to become the GAT-X103AP Verde Buster because they are too different from each other, so that’s not what they’re for either.)
An asymmetrical display stand is provided, which needs to be assembled out of the box. A clear-plastic arm features shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints respectively. The peg at the end of the arm only fits into the hole in the back of the crotch.
The main feature of the Buster is its long range cannons- a 350mm Gun Launcher (left side) and a 94mm High-Energy Beam Rifle (right side). These rotate around to form large under-the-arm cannons/rifles, used singly or in tandem.
Not too unlike the over-powered Twin Buster Rifles of the Wing Gundam ZERO from the earlier “New Mobile Report Gundam Wing” (1995), the Buster’s cannons also combine with each other to form more powerful weapons.
To wield such extended-size cannons and compensate for their larger blast recoil, extra retractable handles extend out to provide the Buster with a better grip.
When the Gun Launcher is pegged into the back of the extended High Energy Beam Rifle, this combination forms the Hyper Impulse Long Range Sniper Rifle.
(On this figure, the nose of the Gun Launcher is removed to accomplish this.)
When the High Energy Beam Rifle is pegged into the back of the extended Gun Launcher, this combination forms the Anti-Armor Shotgun.
I suppose that as this is my first Robot Damashii set/review, I am obliged to say I too sampled some US-release Mobile Suit in Action figures back in the day, and find this line to be of a superior quality to MSiA. It is not a toy, hence the unsurprising lack of PVC which haunted MSiA. It is, however, of a similar size, being an inch-and-a-half taller than my only surviving MSiA (a Gundam Heavyarms Kai), and has more than adequate paint and surface details. It is still smaller than your average 1/144-scale Gunpla.
I also must mention that while I have seen little of “Mobile Suit Gundam SEED” to this point, I’ve known about it for many years, and that this specific Gundam isn’t the best of all that’s out there from that series. But since it is a relative of the family consisting of the Heavyarms (from “…Wing”), Gundam Leopard (“After War Gundam X”), and Gundam Dynames (“Mobile Suit Gundam OO”), then I must pay it due respect accordingly since they are all favorites of mine. (Hey- I have a thing for mecha that pwn at long range, and are heavy into fire-‘n-forget, ya know?)
The articulation is just what the doctor ordered, and does pretty much every pose one could imagine. (Of course, having a three-jointed display stand provided doesn’t hurt either. But I digress.) Surface details and paint are also certainly up to spec (though I still can’t figure out why they included white, but it fits in nicely, so I won’t complain). The cannons are also well crafted, with no wishy-washy soft curved corners so kids will poke their eyes out a little less. On those points, this figure is an unquestionable winner.
Unfortunately, the focus of this particular mobile suit is also the most difficult to deal with in this figure. The cannons are rather unwieldy.
First-and-foremost, the arms that these cannons attach to at the waist are quite thin, and this might have been a really good place to utilize some die-cast metal strictly for structural strength. I don’t know if other Robot Damashii releases use metal in their construction, but this one definitely needed it in those arms. And what makes them even more precarious is those four ball joints you hooked-up before ‘playing’ with the figure are very tight. In this particular case, that’s both good and bad as they straddle that ultra-fine line between holding their positions for long periods of time and breaking under too much friction when you try to move them! So, for as good at articulating as they are, you also curse their existence at the same time.
Now, the whole point of having those connecting arms is so that the mobile suit can wrap the cannons between its main arms and its torso for duel-wielding auto cannon action. And they’ve done that more than a few times in other Gundam series (of notably prominence for the first time during the “Mobile Suit Gundam F91” movie). However, I’m not certain if it’s a matter of TV animation magic or CAD toy sculpting, but either way it didn’t turn out very well here. The cannons turn more into oversized deodorant sticks than hip-mounted blasters! The arms can barely get around the diameter of the cannons, and the cannons themselves hang way too far forward compared to all the official lineart and animation I’ve seen of the mobile suit where there should actually be a little of each one hanging out behind the torso.
And regrettably the two combined cannon modes are just an extension of the problems above. While the cannons fit together great, the arms just aren’t long enough to reach the cannon handles without straining and popping off their joints! Whichever arm is brought back is scrunched tightly in a position that often leads to the hand slipping off of the handle, and the arm reaching forward doesn’t have enough reach even with the bonus shoulder joint extended. Now, while the primary arms have trouble getting anywhere near screen-accuracy, ironically it is the smaller gray connecting arms that stay in position very well, so the blame in combined mode coincidentally seems to shift from one pair of arms to the other!
Having given the matter a little bit of thought, I’m guessing that the torso could have used a few more millimeters of height, and the length of the cannons could have been trimmed down a few millimeters so that the four handles across the two cannons’ lengths would have been closer together. This could have been done without affecting the proportions of the figure either.
However, I should emphasize that regardless of if the cannons are combined, separated, or stored, the figure is more than capable of keeping its balance in reasonable poses on a flat surface by itself without the use of the display stand or a convenient vertical structure to lean against. (Considering there’s no die-cast metal or other obvious counterweights internally, that’s really good!)
Despite the annoying difficulties in getting the cannons to do what you want them to do, I still do not consider this figure to be a bust. My lack of experience with other Robot Damashii figures aside, I find that this release of the GAT-X103 Buster Gundam is quite satisfying from both visual and articulation standpoints.
|Posted 16 June, 2012 - 19:28 by EVA_Unit_4A|