MS-06R Zaku IIThe seminal Mobile Suit Variations book, a surprise big seller drawing on the burgeoning Gundam fandom's love of painstaking detail, provided the inspiration for the first batch of High Complete Model figures.

Thus while the standard Zeon Zaku and Char Aznable's custom version were ignored by the line, we did get Zakus in the schemes of both made-up-on-the-spot failure Johnny Ridden and crack fighting team the Black Tri-Stars.

The Tri-Stars were given a full backstory in the book, whereby they blew up a load of stuff, becoming highly regarded Zeon aces without really fighting any other mobile suits. These early successes were apparently achieved in high performance Zaku IIs - they appeared in the Mobile Suit Gundam anime piloting Doms, where they were killed off quite easily by Amuro Ray when their much-hyped Jetstream Attack turned out to be the three of them lining up to run into the Gundam's weapons.

High Complete Model MS-06R Zaku IIThe Zaku isn't a bad little design, really - it's unusual without exploring the all-out ugliness that would later become de riguer for antagonists in the Gundam series. The Black Tri-Stars version is rendered in dark grey (not exactly black, more charcoal), purple and light grey (well, once upon a time the thighs of this version were were light grey, they're more yellowy-green thanks to whoever decided to display this one on a roof or whatever).

High Complete Model MS-06R Zaku IIIt doesn't look too bad, really - a little bit of style without being too ostentatious, though the usual use of coloured plastic means the colours lack the sharpness of the painted Chogokin version. The set only comes with decals to be the 06 machine, which is a little bit of a pain. The shape of the figure is a little unusual. It's more square and squat than the Zaku tends to be, especially alongside the Kado Senshi figure.

High Complete Model MS-06R Zaku II The chest especially is boxy, with the skirt de-emphasised and the legs not as rounded. I must say it costs the design a little of its' charm. On the other hand, there's some serious detailing on this one, especially on the backpack and on the backs of the legs. The little moving winglets and boosters on these are well done, though the former tend to fall off.

High Complete Model MS-06R Zaku IIArticulation isn't bad either. The arms are rather dynamic for something of this age, while the legs are also good - especially the pipes on the outside. The all-plastic make-up gives the Zaku good balance, and you can strike a fair few poses with the thing. Pleasingly the head, arms and legs can all be popped on and off easily, which makes it a fine display piece. Albeit this is in accompaniment with another, better figure that can stand impressively over the dismembered Zaku, but there we go - everything has to have its' place in the universe. The shield is mounted on a ball joint on the shoulder and can move around nicely or pop off, while the spiked shoulder pad on the other arm can also be removed. Unlike the (later) Hi-Zack model, there's no light-piping effect for the single optic, which is just a small red sticker - a bit of a shame, that.

The Zaku, of course, comes with an anime-accurate set of weapons.

High Complete Model MS-06R Zaku IIFirstly there's the standard Machine Gun - this is actually made up of four smaller parts in this case; the main gun, the little handle on the front so the figure can hold it with two hands (as usual, it can only do this in a very restricted group of poses), a removable ammunition drum and a snap-on sight (that's basically impossible to line up with the optic).High Complete Model MS-06R Zaku II

The other is the Heat Hawk melee weapon, basically an energy axe. This can clip onto the Zaku's left hip when not in use. It looks rather weedy in the robot's hand when in use, though it is beefier (and stiffer) than the soft plastic version included with the Chogokin version of the same figure. Sadly, the lack of pivoting wrists means the Zaku always looks a bit rigid when wielding the thing.

The figure does little wrong, with a passable bunch of features (remember that the Zaku is just a grunt unit, however much you try to tart it up with superstar pilots) and respectable display qualities. However, the straight lines won't satisfy fans, and to be honest take away a lot of the style of the design. The HCM's main failing is that it's just one of many, many Zaku figures, and just about everything it's capable of is done better by one or another of them.