Review by VF5SS
In the wake of Victory Gundam's lukewarm reception in Japan, the long standing franchise took a big risk with its first Alternate Universe (AU) series called Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Under the direction of Yasuhiro Imagawa (well known for the Giant Robo OVA series), G Gundam combined the franchise's familiar setting of Earth dwellers vs. space colonists with a high-powered martial arts drama to create one of the most memorable anime series of the 1990's. The show had a good number of action figures and model kits during its original run from 1994 to 1995 and many of these were retooled for the American market when the show was aired over here in 2002. To bolster the range of existing figures, Bandai created a large number of G Gundam toys in their Mobile Suit in Action (MSiA) line. While there were a good number of toys made of the main Gundams, many of the secondary and tertiary designs were getting their own action figures. Many of these designs were often bizarre and only appeared for two or three episodes of the show at most. As a result, toy stores were overburdened with well meaning but generally unappealing toys like the Mermaid Gundam or the Zebra Gundam.
One of these toys is the Nether Gundam, which was renamed as the Hurricane Gundam for western markets for some strange reason. I suppose Bandai wanted to convey some sense of mightiness to the figure rather than reference the nether regions.
In the world of G Gundam, the nations of the world now reside in their own space colonies, which are shaped like things a Japanese person expects to see from said nation. War is now outlawed, with the right to rule the Earth and its natural resources left up to a global tournament known as the Gundam Fight. Every four years a single Gundam from each nation is sent to wander the Earth in search of opponents whom they must behead in singular combat. Of course, one way to survive through the preliminary rounds is to simply not fight anyone. Which brings us to the main tactic of the Nether Gundam:
It's a goddamn windmill.
In a very clever move, the government of Neo-Holland decided that the best way to keep their Gundam safe for the duration of the preliminaries was the hide it as an ordinary windmill. They did give prospective opponents a fighting chance at finding the Nether Gundam as the trademark V-fin antenna is still visible.
Out of all the different designs from G Gundam, the Nether Gundam is one that is the subject of equal amounts of delight and embarrassment. While some of the other third string designs were either somewhat bland or just too bizarre, the Nether Gundam walks a fine line between being rather charming and utterly baffling.
In its windmill mode, the Nether Gundam is one of the most unassuming toys you could ever find. I find it looks perfectly natural surrounded by the fall foliage at Callahan State Park.
In its Mobile Suit mode, the Nether Gundam is a very minimalist action figure. It certainly looks the part as it captures the essence of the character quite well. The toy is roughly 4.5 inches tall in this mode.
Unlike most MSiA figures, the majority of the Nether Gundam is constructed from hard ABS plastic rather than softer PVC. This is mostly due to the fact that is has a simple mechanism inside for spinning the windmill's sail. As a result is feels much sturdier than most MSiA figures and does not suffer from having many of its parts bent out of shape in the package as some other MSiAs do.
The large wheel in the back is one area where the toy differs from the original line art. Not that this is particularly egregious, I just need to point out these things for my pedantic peers. Simply spin the wheel to spin the sails.
Due to how the spinning sail gimmick dominates the midsection, the Nether Gundam's articulation is mostly relegated to the limbs. The simple ball-jointed shoulders can raise the arms up and down provided you first moved the windmill's sail out of the way. Without any outward motion in the arms, the best the Nether Gundam can do is signal a touchdown.
As a later MSiA figure, the Nether Gundam has double-jointed elbows. Using a combination of the optional open-palm hands and the bicep swivels, the Nether Gundam can hide its face in shame.
Since the legs are plugged into Nether Gundam's hips at the top of the thighs, the figure has almost no articulation below the waist. The sides of the thighs knock into the skirt so it can barely splay its feet outwards. There is a single joint in each knee so at the very least the Nether Gundam can perform the awe inspiring Indra Bridge!
I have heard rumors that Yasuhiro Imagawa was annoyed with the merchandise driven nature of Gundam and instructed G Gundam's mechanical designers to make machines that could not be easily turned into toys. The Nether Gundam's transformation borders between whimsical and plausible as its arms and legs are supposed to retract into the body for windmill mode. Again since the interior of the body houses the spinning mechanism, there is little room for the arms or legs so the toy just has you remove them entirely. It is here I observed that the ball-jointed connection points for the limbs are simply there for ease of removal and not articulation.
The Nether Gundam has a third form called "flight mode" in where the legs are removed and the windmill's sail is placed on that conspicuous shaft in the nether regions. This extra mount for the sail is geared to move when the main dial on the back is turned to create a silly helicopter effect. A handy Revoltech stand allowed me to show the majestic Nether Gundam in flight.
For windmill mode the head is meant to be hidden behind a set of sliding doors. This is replicated on the figure by a simple mechanism in where turning the whole head to one side will rotate the "helmet" around until the face is replaced by a pair of closed doors. This means that for regular posing you must always rotate the head one way if you want to keep the face exposed.
The whole gimmick is pleasingly straight forward. All that happens is the outer "helmet" goes around until it catches a lip on the inner face part. One other deviation from the original design is the main shaft for the sails in supposed to retract and get covered by a windowed door when the sails are removed.
FIRE THE NETHER CANNON!
Naw, I'm just kidding there.
To complete the windmill mode you add an extra base to the bottom. Since the extra shaft for flight mode is linked to the main rotation point in the chest, it may be possible to modify the Nether Gundam with a small electric motor so that the sails spin by themselves. A person with a battery powered Gundam fan would be the coolest cat around.
Just to reiterate, this thing turns into a goddamn windmill. Still, it's a very nice windmill and the bare brown plastic has just enough detail that the whole toy would look great with some custom weathering.
Would you like to fly in my beautiful windmill...
With a greater level of commitment, the Nether Gundam could be turned into the most radical weather vane.
When I look back on Bandai's attempts at bringing Gundam to the American market, I find that the gaffes usually outweigh the victories. The surprise success of Gundam Wing left Bandai in a tricky situation as Wing is a small part of the Gundam franchise and has no full length sequels or spin-offs. As the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam TV series failed to catch on in Cartoon Network's Toonami block, Bandai quickly searched for a more marketable (and modern) show to fill the void. While G Gundam's toy line appeared to enjoy moderate success in the wake of the original show's failure, the flood of undesirable filler Gundams clogged shelves and soured relationships between the Bandai and retailers with regards to the Gundam property.
I've been told the Nether Gundam itself was not as heavily produced as some of the more infamous peg-warmers (looking at you Mandala Gundam), but was still part of the problem that proves the adage, "just because you can make something doesn't mean you should." Franchises based around giant robots are somewhat infamous for throwing different designs on screen in the vain hopes someone out there really wants to own a toy of said designs. The whole notion is a double-edge sword as the original Mobile Suit Gundam's own peculiar Mobile Suits like the Acguy have achieved a cult following while others languish in the world of limited run Garage Kits and small trading figures. No one can really know what the buying public wants, but I'm fairly certain most of them do not want a small plastic windmill with a V-fin on it. Especially one that is not even heavy enough to be a decent paperweight.
In the end I like the Nether Gundam toy as a charming curiosity. Whenever I look over my collection I can always glance at the Nether Gundam and say to myself, "Yeah, Bandai made a goddamn windmill."
|Posted 17 October, 2012 - 17:12 by VF5SS|