Review by VF5SS
Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ is many things to many people. For some it's the lighthearted sequel to the often grim Mobile Suit Gundam Z, to others it is another case of director Yoshiyuki Tomino making a wacky, zany TV show. However, I think everyone can agree that it is most definitely not an anime.
See? It says so right in the theme song. And to think the man who wrote the lyrics later became an integral part in creating AKB48.
Bandai's Robot Damashii line is a little bit easier to pin down. These premier mecha action figures seek to combine amazing articulation with excellent build quality and to do so in a way that captures the "soul" of the character they depict. While most of the time they're quite good, sometimes their fidelity to the source material can affect the final product. The Robot Damashii ZZ Gundam (pronounced "Double Zeta") is a good example of a more experimental way of capturing the look of a particular giant robot in a physical product. When is a toy both an anime and not an anime? Let's take a closer look and find out.
The titular ZZ Gundam is a chunky hunk of hard plastic who stands almost seven inches tall from the bottom of his feet to the tip of his beam sabers. Due to his sheer bulk, it has a good amount of weight to him despite being an all plastic figure.
When I look at this particular ZZ Gundam, I can't help but notice it is going for a much more stylized portrayal of the design that isn't adhering to the stock artwork. As a result, it can look kind of odd when put in static poses as the smallness of its chest and largeness of its thighs and lower torso become more readily apparent. Parts of it look like they were meant for a slightly larger ZZ Gundam toy, while other parts match the approximate 1/144th scale look one would expect for a figure this size. While the quality of its aesthetics are up to debate, it is interesting to see a Robot Damashii figure lean more in the direct of Revoltech-esque stylized sculpt. You often see Bandai doing this with certain figures if they are being released within a few months of an equivalent High Grade kit of the same design. The HGUC ZZ Gundam is certainly a bit more "normal" than the Robot Damashii figure.
I must point out that unlike what you saw in the show's opening, this ZZ Gundam cannot transform into G-Fortress mode or separate into its two component Core Top and Core Base fighters.
As I mentioned previously, I don't think these changes are really good or bad but some parts of this figure are kind of a head scratcher. For example, the backpack attaches to the lower body at an odd angle and cannot be adjusted any other way. The backpack actually come separate from the figure while it's all still in the box and simply plugs into the back of the lower body. It seems like it would have been easy enough to make the backpack movable on its mount or at the very least include an option to set it at a different angle.
The end result is the backpack always looks kind of weird. I'm guessing they wanted it look properly dynamic while still being separate from the ZZ Gundam's upper back but also with little to no gap in between. The backpack does not have functional missile pods nor does it have any way to display the missile launchers as being open.
Still the backpack has some nice details like fully painted engine nozzles and movable wings. Sadly the nozzles do not move.
Other than its off model proportions, the ZZ Gundam is fairly detailed figure with plenty of sharp paint applications and some panel lining for the facial features. Strangely enough there is no black lining done for the ZZ Gundam's trademark forehead High Mega Cannon so the tiny etched detailing can get kind of lost.
The ZZ Gundam comes with a good amount of accessories that represent its standard armament. You get the Double Beam Rifle, two additional Hyper Beam Sabers with removable blades, and a bevvy of optional hands. The hands include two for holding the gun, two for the beam sabers, and a pair of splayed hands. The figure also comes with a Tamashii Stage Act 5.
The Act 5 display base is designed to be used with heavier figures and features a ratcheted joint at the base of the main arm. The ZZ Gundam comes with a custom groin clip for attaching it to the stand.
You can also pop out these tiny plugs in the stand to expose more mounting points for the main arm.
This is handy if you want to shift the weight of the figure while maintaining a stable display.
You also get the standard articulated claw for use with other figures. I must admit I didn't notice an essential part was still in the package and nearly chucked it in the garbage. Clear parts inside a clear plastic bag are masters of stealth.
I found the extra adapter piece to be quite handy as it happily passes my test of "can be used for Muv-Luvs."
When looking over the ZZ Gundam's articulation, I noticed it has a very strange elbow joint. A lot of 80's mecha design had subtle contradiction with how the elbows were supposed to bend where sometimes it was done opposite of what appeared to be an obvious joint (see any old artwork of a Scopedog). So here in an effort to preserve the anime-esque look, this ZZ Gundam bends its arms with its gauntlet pointing outward. The upper red piece slides into the forearm as it bends. The mechanism isn't quite perfect though as I find myself having to push the exposed gray portion back into the arm to get everything to reset when the arm is outstretched.
The head has an adequate range of motion that is accomplished via a pair of ball-joints in the base of the neck and swivel right under the chin. The ZZ Gundam only has a hard plastic V-Fin with no soft PVC option like some other Gundam figures.
The whole arm can move around via ball-jointed shoulders that are attached to an addition inner swivel to bring them forward and back. The hands move around via a ball-joint in the wrists. Also I noticed there's an errant splotch of white paint on one of the fists...
A bicep swivel in each arm lets the ZZ Gundam do some morning stretches.
The figure has a ball-jointed waist that is limited could twist in a full circle but is limited by the backpack and the shape of the rear skirt armor.
There is also a working ab crunch that makes the big red cockpit hatch appear to shrink inward when you use it.
The legs are a cornucopia of ambitiously engineered gimmicks with lots of sliding panels that move when the knee is bent. Note the white block that is just ahead of the gray knee joint.
When the knee is bent that white block actually slides into the lower leg. On one of the legs, that white block would get caught on the inner detail piece in the knee guard. This required me to lightly push on that piece to let the white block slide past and return the leg to a normal position. The rest of the lower leg also pivots along the main calve blocks which have a grooved track the lower leg moves on.
Also be advised that the movable shin guards like fall off with the slightest touch. With a shin guard detached, you see the inner ankle joint which features a separate forward and back tilt just above the main ball-joint.
The hips use a combination ball-joint attached to a pull down hinge to add some crazy dimensions during posing. This allows the legs to actually grow a bit in length if you pull them away from the groin.
The legs also feature a thigh swivel where the gray part of the hips meet the upper thigh.
All of these joints working together let the ZZ Gundam kneel down like a champ.
Or let it soar into the air on its massive boosters. Also check out how the feet have movable toes that can move inward or outward. Additionally the calve mounted fins can also hinge up or down so they don't bump into the heels or the back of the thighs.
The beam saber racks can swivel downward for when the ZZ Gundam uses them in beam cannon mode. It's also handy when it wants to reach up and unsheathed its energy blades.
You actually get two pairs of beam sabers, one pair with notched handles and one pair without. Both types do fit into the racks so it's mostly a matter of aesthetics. Only the notched sabers work with the specially designed hands that have a tab that attaches securely into the indents.
The removable blades really put the "hyper" in Hyper Beam Saber as they are about as long as the whole figure is tall.
I really love the look of this guy with these massive hand and a half style beam sabers. It's just like in Mobile Suit Gundam: Gundam vs. Zeta Gundam (a Gundam game) for the PS2 where the ZZ could run around brandishing one of these sci-fi Zweihänder and ineffectually chop at Big Zam's ankles.
Even the mighty Stark Jegan cannot compete with the overpowering presence of the Hyper Beam Saber.
While the ZZ Gundam can utilize both beam sabers at once...
They're actually too heavy for the shoulder joints to handle for long. Since the shoulders are attached with ball-joints, it is possible to stiffen them up with the usual methods but it is kind of a downer the Gundam known for big weapons is unable to heft them them indefinitely.
For some of these poses I had to position the upper arm just right so the shoulder didn't flop around due to the weight of the weapons. Again it still looks great but takes some preparation.
The Double Beam Rifle is another big ol' gun that features a movable handle and gun barrels that can swivel inwards. The weapon itself still has the cockpit detailing for when it forms the nose of the Core Top fighter. Sadly the handle attaches to a hinged block via a somewhat weak ball-joint connection which can be frustrating to deal with when you try to put the gun into the ZZ Gundam's specially designed gun-holding hands.
While it is best to thread the handle into the hand before reattaching it to the gun, oftentimes the sheer bulk of the arms interferes with getting the handle to click firmly back into the socket. This also makes it easy to knock the gun off its handle when posing the figure. You can finagle it so the ZZ Gundam can hold the rifle with the butt pointing away from the elbows...
Or being held straight outward in a cool dynamic pose. Try to avoid sticking the butt end under the ZZ Gundam's armpits or you will most likely knock the gun off its handle and possibly start cursing.
One reason they included a stand with the ZZ Gundam is so you can replicate this shot from the opening credits and transformation sequence.
This is the best I could do with the figure given that its head and waist can't move nearly as much. Also the floppy arms are irksome for a pose like this. It's a noble effort for both Bandai and myself.
As large as the ZZ Gundam is it still cannot compete with the king of mid-series upgrades that is the L-Gaim Mk II, seen here in Robot Damashii form. The L-Gaim Mk. II figure provides an interesting contrast to the ZZ Gundam as it carries its size a lot better and isn't nearly as stylized. Granted the Mk. II is not know for being drawn too far outside of Nagano's carefully laid out design whereas the ZZ Gundam was at the mercy of Sunrise's finest animators.
Overall the Robot Damashii ZZ Gundam is a mixed bag. While it carries the impressiveness of the the design, the stylized sculpt and odd engineering choices make it less than the sum of its parts. In the end the whole package is good but rather underwhelming for a Gundam that is the titular Mobile Suit of a show. In a lot of ways the off model sculpt seems disconnected from a lot of the really good engineering like the knees for example. A lot of that simply comes from the fact this ZZ Gundam doesn't transform and can therefore afford better articulation. I can't help but feel that the need to distinguish it from the concurrent HGUC model kit had a negative affect on the figure. It doesn't help that HGUC is roughly the same size as the Robot Damashii and has twice the features and gimmicks for half the price. While the Robot Damashii ZZ Gundam is still a sturdy, well built toy it seems more like an odd experimental variant than the proper mainline version of the character. When you add in some irksome flaws, the whole experience tends to falter. In the end, I think the best way to sum it up is this is a nonessential piece instead of what should be the definitive ZZ Gundam action figure.
|Posted 30 October, 2013 - 07:33 by VF5SS|