MSZ-006 Zeta GundamThe Z-Gundam, or Zeta Gundam, was a mid-series replacement for the Gundam Mark II in the Mobile Suit Gundam anime. It was given to Kamille Bidan (which was fair enough, as he designed it) and was the first 'good guys' suit to transform.

The Zeta went a long way towards hooking me into liking Gundam - I bought the Deluxe 1985 version for a simple 1980s robot fix, and loved it. It's a great figure, but the 10" size hasn't been used very often. 1/144 (around 6") is my scale of choice for Gundam figures, as it doesn't tend to overextend the designs, and the Chogokin Kado Senshi figures fall into this range.

So I wanted a Zeta figure (I'm rubbish at kits) to scale with the rest. The first stop was the Chogokin version, which looked lovely in robot mode, but had an awful Wave Rider configuration and very little articulation. Not to fear, the 'other' 1/144 Gundam line, Bandai's 1980s High Complete Model series, also featured a Z-Gundam (being in its' pomp around the time Zeta Gundam was showing in Japan). That'd do the job, surely?

As it was released more or less at the same time, this looks very much like a scaled-down version of the Deluxe figure - a Z-Gundam ST, if you like. It's notably broader than the animation model (and thus the Chogokin), especially across the chest, and has a more prominently pointed head sculpt.

The boxy aesthetic actually looks rather good, though obviously it won't appeal as much to those who want something anime-accurate. Unlike other HCM figures, there's no diecast content to speak of, and the whole thing feels unusually fragile - the whole chest is basically hollow pieces of plastic, which seems very thin and brittle. It does look alright on the whole, though the lack of detail rather stands out now I've got the Chogokin.

In general, the HCM line has excellent articulation, especially for the time - their non-transforming figures may seem primitive compared to Revoltech, Soul of Chogokin or even Kado Senshi, but in context they came out long before most robot figures even had elbows. Sadly, just as it bucks the trend in the durability stakes, this one's got next to no poseability as well.

The legs can barely move, the joints being largely present for the transformation; the arms can bend inwards and the wrists rotate, and that's really it. In theory the whole arm can rotate, but the blue shoulder armour prevents them turning more than a fraction. The arms can also move at the shoulder, but the joints are awful - badly mounted and far too tight, so they squeak and protest when you move them, feeling like they're about to snap at any moment. This means that the mountable accessories like the Beam Rifle, Beam Sabers and shield are really adornments rather than accessories - the Rifle can barely be held in both hands, for example.

And this is a good a place as any... What's the point in the interchangable crests on the HCM figures? There was one on the Mk. II and RX-93 as well - they all come with a flat grey or white crest fitted, with a more show-accurate yellow one included on a plastic tree. Is it some poor attempt to sell two of the figures, so you can have one with each? Daft, seeing as most people are surely just going to take the generic one off?

The Z-Gundam is relatively light on accessories, being fitted with very little. There's the Beam Rifle for starters, an accurate rendition with a rather pointless folding handle arrangement. As mentioned, the main drawback is the figure's very limited articulation and relatively bulbous chest, which means most of the time the figure ends up waving this around in one hand.

The Beam Sabers are the usual one-colour hat-pins, and look awful in the figure's hands. As well as lacking the correct colouring (would a bit of pink paint really have been so difficult?) they just look too thin and short as well.

The shield just sort of sits on Z-Gundam's arm - the post is a little too wide to be moved much. It loses whatever the pretensions the original design had to looking like a shield rather than part of the Waver Rider, too.

Ah yes, the Wave Rider. How could I forget? The transformation is totally different to both the Deluxe figure and the Chogokin. It actually managed to be even less enjoyable than the latter too - the whole sequence is counterintuitive and once again feels like the toy is going to break at any moment. Thin bits of plastic are dragged or shoved along tightly-fitted runners, and nothing rally snaps into place. All the more unsatisfying is that the wings are totally removed and then reattached to the shield to form a sort of surfboard that loosely connects to the bottom of the craft. It's not quite as stop-start as the Chogokin transformation, but in its' way it's just as fiddly and annoying.

When you get there, the Wave Rider looks crap too. It's full of gaps, the legs look like legs, and it can't even balance on the underside. It's rubbish, in short. While the Deluxe is complicated, it doesn't actually contain a massive amount of small pieces, and I just don't see why the design couldn't be scaled down accordingly with only minor simplification, rather than this totally new, utterly unworkable system being designed.

If it wasn't for that sentiment, I might just accept that the Z-Gundam's transformation can't be scaled down this small without losing a fair bit. But, damn it, it must be able to be done with only minor compromises. This figure again makes things needlessly complicated, without the good looks of the Chogokin's robot mode, or even that figure's level of poseability. It's a very weak toy in all, and despite being one of the cheapest HCM figures to find, is best avoided.