MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiThe Hyaku Shiki (literally 'Type 100') was a major supporting mecha in the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam series, piloted by AEUG ace Quattro Bajeena (I know, but we should probably try to preserve the mystery for everyone who doesn't pick up the clunky, leaden hints from the start).

Due (in part) to its' pilot the Shiki has remained a popular suit with Gundam fans through the years, but with somewhat mixed results. The mecha was coated with a gold beam-resistant material, which meant it was the same colour as piss in the cartoon. Bandai's otherwise largely accurate High Complete Model series included a Shiki, rendered in flat yellow. Various model kits and PVC figures have also been made, with varying degrees of success.

But there was only one way the colour scheme was really going to work - diecast and chrome. Enter Bandai's Kado Senshi series of Gundam figures, a subsection of the periodically revived Chogokin brand. The Hyaku Shiki came out in 2003, coded GD-53 and - like the rest of the Kado Senshi figures - in 1/144 scale.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiNow, firstly a disclaimer - my photography is usually pretty poor, and the combination of my lack of skills and the highly reflective Hyaku Shiki was always going to be doomed to failure. Long story short, the pictures do not do this figure justice at all, I'm sorry to report.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiThe Shiki looks nothing like any other Gundam I've ever owned. While the gold colour was given a suitably joyless explanation via the beam-resistant alloy it's coated with, the scheme is more reminiscent of classic 1970s Super Robots. The scheme has a very high impact, and the gold works nicely with the dark blue torso and red trim. While I do still just about prefer the primary colours of the standard Gundams, this is certainly a valid variation.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiThis creates a nice contrast with the shame of the body - it's more angular and skeletal than most other Gundams, with the legs especially having a lot fewer small panels. The Shiki certainly manages to look different, and I quite like the contrast - it looks a lot more dangerous and vicious than other robots from the series.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiBandai have also gone to town on the articulation front. After the overcomplicated Z-Gundam that could barely move Bandai haven't just gone back to basics and used the same joints as on their excellent Gundam figure; they've used the less restrictive Shiki design to put articulation anywhere it'll fit - head, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles - and all with multiple directions of movement. Splendid.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiAs with the HCM RX-93, they've even got the 'skirt' around the waist to lift (as five separate pieces no less) to allow full movement at the hips. Even the little wings on the backpack are mounted on ball-joints, and hinge in the middle as well. There aren't many poses this thing can't pull, especially with the thoughtful construction - the chest and legs are mainly diecast while the arms are plastic (the lavish gold chrome means you can only tell metal from plastic by touch), giving the Shiki superb balance.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiNot that the figure's faultless. Once again, the head doesn't have as much range as should be possible. It's a bit of a shame. Also, the storage for the Beam Saber hilts (on the back of the Shiki's waist) is baffling - there's no way to get them out of their holsters without first removing the backpack. And what are the two antennae all about? These are supplied as separate pieces, one in PVC and one in hard plastic - why, exactly? For a start, the hard plastic one won't stay in, so why include it? It might just be dodgy quality control. Which also might explain why the backpack on mine is so loose - it tends to fall off if the figure is tilted too far backwards (I sorted this though simply applying some electrical tape to the posts). That's actually the only one that's anything other than a minor quibble, to be fair.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiAs with the Z-Gundam, Bandai have pared back to just two sets of hands - one set of closed fists, and one set of slightly open ones. It is actually a little fiddly to squeeze the handles of the weapons into the latter - they're moulded from PVC with the thumb and fingers touching, and have to be prised open.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiAgain this is largely nitpicking on my part, and while it means the gestures the Shiki can make are a little more restricted than earlier figures in the line, I'm happy enough with these. How many people pose their Gundam figures with empty, open palms anyway? None, that's how many.

The backpack is a removable piece of course - lining up the red cables that connect to the main robot can be tricky. It's quite a complex thing on the whole, with the wings mounted on ball-joints (these are also removable) and notches that can store the Beam Rifle and Clay Bazooka. The figure even has the articulation to reach back for these, even if they are stored barrel-up.

As usual, the Shiki has a range of weapons.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiAs with most Gundam figures the Shiki is equipped with a Beam Rifle as standard. The Shiki's is a little different, and even has gold piping carried over to the top - did they coat this particular bit of the Beam Rifle in beam-resistant coating? Or, God forbid, did someone just think it looked cool? If it's the latter, they were right. The rifle also has a small retractable catch above the trigger that allows it to attach to the backpack.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiAlso as standard for the range, the Shiki has Beam Sabers - two of them with gold handles and removable transparent green blades. They look neat, but the storage is awful - obviously the removable blades don't go anywhere, but the problem is that the hilts just rattle away in a pair of hoops on the small of the Shiki's back. Along the same lines as the antennae, Bandai win another Pointless Accessory Award for the extra pair of hilts that have no holes drilled in - you can barely see the top of the unignited Sabers due to the backpack. Fair play for going that extra mile and everything, but I'd be surprised if anyone ever took those out of the box.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiFor handheld artillery, the Shiki gets something called a Clay Bazooka - I'm fairly sure this doesn't fire clay. Fairly sure. It's not a bad design, but is spoiled a little by the non-retractable catch for hooking onto the backpack - I can't remember if that's an anime-accurate touch or not, but it certainly looks a bit poor. The other problem is the large stock of the gun makes it very difficult for the Shiki to hold it in a dynamic fashion.

Chogokin GD-53 MSN-00100 Hyaku ShikiZeta was the series for stupidly big weapons, it would seem, as the Hyaku Shiki also comes with something called a Mega Bazooka Launcher (who the Hell made up the names for these things? Stan Lee?). While this is every bit as ridiculously out of proportion as the Z-Gundam's Hyper Mega Launcher, it's actually a much better design. The Shiki more stands behind this monster like it's a genuine artillery piece rather than us being asked to accept it waves it around like a handgun, something emphasised by the design - which has the mecha stand on a sort of ladder to aim the thing. It's a decent enough toy in its' own right, with the barrel, handles and lower section all folding out from a more compact form.

In short, the Hyaku Shiki is a gem of a figure. It looks very sharp both in terms of the eye-catching colour scheme and the lean, dangerous design. The articulation is fabulous, giving the figure a genuine range of natural poses, and the accessory kit is near-faultless. A real masterpiece of a toy.