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featbox_sandrock144.jpg - 14490 Bytes I have to admit that I started out as a Gundam skeptic. I have known about the Gundam franchise since the 1980's and even have seen parts of some Gundam movies from way back when. However, I was never able to get into the subtitled movies and toys were all but non-existent so I didn't have that hook to reel me in.

But then in late 1999, there were rumblings of Gundam coming to America on the Cartoon Network. Better still, toys were to follow. I must admit that in what was a fairly lackluster Toy Fair for many genres of toys, the Bandai Gundam sets stood out like a laser beacon. Here was something new to the American scene. It was the promise of obtaining cool Japanese kit at a regular retail price. I was intrigued.

sandrock1a.jpg - 10122 Bytes Better still, Bandai sent us two sample kits. So in the interest of good journalism, I offered to put them together and document the process for a Spotlight article.

One caveat: I do not claim to be an expert on the source material in any way, shape or form. However, one need not be even slightly familiar with the history of the franchise to enjoy these kits as much as anyone else. So don't be intimidated by the anime illiterati who can spout mech tech specs at will. Trust me, you can enjoy these even if you have never even heard of anime.

Furthermore, I do not claim to be an expert model builder. I build the requisite models as a kid and have not even attempted to put a model together for over a decade to be sure. However, I found the Gundam kits to be fairly straight forward and easy to assemble with some care. The instructions are pictograms that take a little getting used to. But once you have built one kit, you will quickly gain experience in the conventions used in all assemblies. So what I am saying is, don't think that you have to be a master modeler to create these kits. You don't. You do not need to paint them unless you want to. I think they look fine assembled right out of the box. I also like some of the paint detailing you can do. It's really up to you.

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featbox_epyon100.jpg - 12719 Bytes One last note: Go to www.gundamofficial.com. There you will find everything you'll need to know about Gundams. They even have paint tips which are only found in Japanese in the kits themselves.

These kits have yet to hit my local Toys R Us, so if someone with a connection wants to hook me up with more, please e-mail me at [email protected]. I sure would appreciate it because I'm pretty hooked at this point and would love to begin building more Gundams. I imagine I'll get them all eventually. They are simply that cool!

Now on to the reviews!

The two kits provided to us were Gundam Sandrock (1/144 scale) and Gundam Epyon (1/100 scale).

From the Official Gundam site, here are the descriptions of each:

Gundam Sandrock

The Gundam Sandrock was created by the illustrious Winner family of Lagrange point 4,who sent it to Earth to battle the secret society OZ. Its specialty is hand to hand combat, particularly in deserts and other arid regions. The Gundam Sandrock's high armored and power abilities, and its magnificent exterior, give it the image of a humanoid tank. Its pilot, Quatre Raberba Winner, is a scion of the noble Winner family. This slightly-built young "prince of the desert" pilots his powerful mobile suit with prodigious skill.

Gundam Epyon

The Gundam Epyon ("next" in Greek), created by OZ leader Treiz Khushrenada based on his study of the five Gundams, reflects his personal philosophy as a knight and a soldier. Carrying no beam rifle or any other kind of ranged weapon, it's a mobile suit appropriate for a genuine knight. The Gundam Epyon's main weapon is a beam sword connected via a tube to the waist's energy supplier; since it draws directly on the mobile suit's energy, it boasts the highest output of any handheld weapon. The mobile suit can also transform into a "mobile armor" mode for long-distance, high-speed space travel. When the Gundam Epyon transforms, the rearrangement of its internal mechanisms reduces its energy consumption, and it can cruise for extended periods in this energy-efficient form.

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I first attempted the Sandrock kit. It took me about an hour and a half to fully assemble it at a leisurely pace. I found the modular construction (i.e., first you assemble a foot, then a leg, then an arm, etc.) to be easy to understand and broken up into chunks that can be easily accomplished. Be sure to look for the symbol that indicates "Assemble This First" including when to place stickers. You might find yourself back-tracking if you miss this symbol where applicable. It only happened to me once and it wasn't anything that couldn't be easily corrected.

gundamepyonhead.jpg - 7845 Bytes Once assembled, you have several play and display options with Sandrock. His shield can be attached to his arm and combined with the heat shorters (curved blades) to make an awesome, articulated hand weapon. You can use the heat shorters as blades for each hand or attach them to the backpack for storage and a missile type configuration.

One overall criticism involves the use of stickers. I don't mind limited use of stickers where appropriate. However, when stickers are intended to cover large areas and especially when those stickers are meant to fold over edges, I would have preferred a molded plastic or even a vac-metallized part instead. It's a minor cirticism, but worth noting since some stickers are difficult to place and fold correctly. Furthermore, I dropped Sandrock's eye sticker on the carpet while trying to place it correctly. This put some fuzz on the sticky part and made it difficult to remain stuck to the plastic. Just a warning.

The Gundam Epyon kit was much more involved and took closer to 3 hours to complete (again, done in front of the TV at a very leisurely pace). My experience in completing the smaller model made creating the larger model much easier. There are certain facets of construction that are similar to all Gundams and once you get the hang of assembly, you will become an expert in no time.

gundamepyonback.jpg - 12159 Bytes The Gundam Epyon has the added feature of being able to transform into a spacecraft mode. I found this to be a difficult prospect and the instructions were less than helpful in this respect because it is merely a pictograph. This didn't bother me at all because I prefer the regular Gundam mode.

The best feature of this kit is the awesome heat rod which is actually a segmented and poseable whip that attaches to the left gauntlet. This is a model of awesome engineering serving the play and display value to a tee.

Overall, Gundams get my highest recommendation. You get the sense of satisfaction that comes from having created the figure yourself. And you also have the ability to move, pose and display your creation in any number of different ways which makes them more than just mere model kits. If the animated series takes off (and judging from our Toy Buzz Forum, the series is being very well received) I think that Gundams could be an overnight success...twenty years in the making. My satisfaction with the model kits has made me look forward to the pre-assembled figures even more. I think the entire line and its execution are worthy of a look by nearly all toy fans. This might open up a whole new aspect of your collection. It certainly did for me. Gundams are a great jumping on point. And who knows? You might just start collecting anime videos and giving yourself a quirky Japanese on-line handle.

Gundam Wing (Various)
Made By: Bandai
Height: 5" - 8" (1/144 and 1/100 scale)
Articulation: Various - Loaded with articluation points
Accessories: Weapons unique to each Gundam
What Makes It Cool?
You get the thrill of creating each Gundam yourself and end up with much more than a static model kit. It's a full-fledged action figure with tons of play and display value. Various sizes and types of Gundams ensure that there is one that will catch your eye. Easy to build. Awesome to behold.

From Box To Bot

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