In 1996 Bandai decided to reactivate the Chogokin label after an eight-year rest. The new line mainly served as a vehicle for the latest Super Sentai and Kamen Rider figures but there were a few more adult-orientated offerings.
Among them were four 1/144 versions of mecha from the first Gundam series Mobile Suit Gundam , made in 1999 for the franchise's 20th anniversary. The first of these was based on the starring Gundam, the RX-78 model piloted by Amuro Ray, and coded GD-16. This had first appeared in 1979, and the toys were produced in concert with the Japanese company Clover. They largely dropped the ball by sculpting their RX-78 figures to look more like conventional Super Robots whereas Gundam built up a cult following due to the sleeker, more realistic look of its' robots (leading to the Real Robots age). Thus the model kit license (which Bandai snapped up) became precious, as these were made very much in the style of the anime.
Clover folded in 1983 and Bandai took over the license for conventional action figures as well. However, Gundam has largely become a model kit line as far as toys are concerned, due to that format's scope for detail and customisation (not to mention the cheaper price making it easier to purchase vast armies of the things).
This figure was originally purchased largely for a robot fix, with me telling myself it being Chogokin made it 'okay'. I'd watched Mobile Suit Gundam Wing when it was all the rage and even owned a few of the PVC action figures around the time, but I was never really interested. With online information on the GD-16 figure being hard to track down, I'd basically convinced myself I'd paid over the odds for a PVC RX-78 in a fancy box.
Not so - I should know better than to doubt Chogokin (even though the line once marketed bloody Vavilos to unsuspecting children). The toy is around the same size as the PVCs at a shade over 5" tall. However, it includes diecast for the chest and feet with most of the rest being good quality plastic - there is a little PVC for the fists and the antennae, but that's about it. The colours are sharp and I love the uncluttered design - there are no fancy angel wings or anything on this one - while the neat blue/red/white/yellow colour scheme is easy on the eye without being complex... Apparently the original idea of creator Yoshiyuki Tomino was for the thing to be a functional flat grey, but animation studio Sunrise and Clover stepped in and told him to brighten it up a bit. Good on them. The detail level isn't to kit standards but it's more than adequate for an action figure, and it would actually be a shame to have the thing cluttered by decals.
Fittingly the figure has a rather dangerous poise, in part thanks to the amazing articulation. The RX-78 didn't transform into anything, so instead Bandai have compensated by giving the figure an unbelievable array of joints. Starting from the top, then - the head can turn and the neck can move; the shoulders can rotate and even extend from the body slightly to allow the arms to be moved closer together (allowing a weapon to be held in front of the figure with both hands); the arms can move outwards from the body; the elbows can rotate or, thanks to an ingenious sliding joint, fold back on themselves; the hands can rotate (more on them in a minute); the waist turns; the hips can move through 180° through another wonderful piece of engineering - the red sides to the chest can move slightly up and in, meaning the figure doesn't have gaping holes in it when these are used; the knees can again bend back on themselves, making this one of the few toys I've ever seen that can actually kneel properly; the ankles also hinge through a large radius. The diecast feet even give the toy a spectacular amount of balance. In short, there's very few poses you can't achieve with the Gundam.
For faults, I'd have to nitpick. The shield can be mounted on the side of the arm, but only by rotating the arm so the elbow turns into the figure. Placing the shield on the RX-78's back sometimes causes the sword hilts (lovely touch... oh, right, the faults) to pop out. Aside from that, the figure is too poseable to stand there in a stiff, unnatural pose for my usual 'default' picture. That's nearly a fault.
The RX-78 comes with a range of extra parts, all accurate to the anime series.
First are four different pairs of hands. One pair are clenched fists; one pair have holes for the 'hand-to-hand' weapons; one pair can be opened up to hold the firearms; one pair are open-palmed. These take a little effort to pop on and off the ball plugs on the wrists, and while this makes it secure, it wouldn't surprise me if the soft PVC split over time. The balled fists also look a little small compared to the others.
Two Beam Saber swords are also included. The handles for these can be placed in the figure's backpack, with the 'blades' being separate parts. Thankfully, the latter are made out of hard transparent plastic rather than PVC, and thus won't bend under their own weight. The Gundam Shield has a handle so it can be held in either of the 'firearm' fists. It can also be attached to either arm to leave both hands free (though as mentioned this requires moving them through 90° and thus having the elbow joints pointing inwards). I also love the little slit the RX-78 can look through.
The Beam Rifle is a handgun-looking thing than can be carried in either hand - it also has a moving sight and magazine - the latter means this can be placed in both hands. The Hyper Bazooka is basically what it sounds like - a giant launcher about the same length as the Gundam itself. This is a little tricky to mount at times due to the figure's small shoulders, but does look pretty impressive.
The Gundam Hammer is a morning star, and suffers from the same problem as weapons of this type tend to - while it's very nice to have a diecast chain, it does mean the thing's basically impossible to display (cf. SoC Voltes V, DX Goggle V) as it just tends to hang there.
Combined with the articulation, this means there's a wide array of display poses for the figure. A couple of the accessories are less than useful, but there are enough workable ones that it doesn't matter.
There's also a 2" tall metal statuette of Amuro Ray included. I'm not sure why Bandai felt the need to include an unpainted, not-to-scale representation of the character that is completely unable to interact with his Mobile Suit, but let's hope it wasn't responsible for driving the cost up by much...
| If you're
after a Gundam and either want something solid or aren't that good at
plastic kits, this is one to snap up. Hell, even if you're just into robots
in general, this thing is worth a look - only Revoltech to the
best of my knowledge approaches the dynamic features of this figure, and
that line doesn't have the Chogokin quality levels running through
it. A beautiful toy.