Astro Toy
SDX Wizard Nu Gundam

by David Cabrera,

SDX Wizard Nu Gundam
Series: SD Gundam
By: Bandai
Cost: $70

How have I avoided Gundam for this long? It's likely produced more toys and other plastic than any other Japanese animation in history, with Eva trailing by comparison in a distant second place. Gundam's a cultural institution (the Odaiba 1:1 Gundam), an industry (see the Gundam section at your local Japanese toy importer), and a geek lifestyle brand (read "The Girl Who Loved Gundam," now running in Gundam Ace). And of course, little plastic robots are one of the cornerstones. Anyway, for my first step into Gundam on this column I will, as I like to do, cover something really weird.

High-end toys like this (and the toy for next time, but no spoilers!) are usually targeted at grown men who enjoyed something in childhood and are now big children with money to burn on it, and in this case it's SD Gundam. Gundam is a many-headed monster, after all, and not every kid grew up with the original UC shows or even a "proper" Gundam series like Wing. A lot of Japanese kids grew up with SD Gundam, the squatty offshoot that aims significantly younger than the original: this figure comes from the 90s Knight Gundam series, which refitted the Gundam characters and robots into a swords-and-sorcery world. Those 90s kids put down $5 on cheap miniature plastic kits back in the day, and they're now old enough to put down $50 on a deluxe piece. This thing is marked "ages 15 and up," you know. Even the packaging is far more understated than the usual SD Gundam model kits look: usually there's hellfire and lightning in the background, not solid red. Like many of the best Japanese toys, this is a grown-up presentation of a very childish thing.

Hey kids! Remember Nu Gundam, from Char's Counterattack, the Gundam movie that says the most and shows the least? (No? Probably not?) Don't you love Yutaka Izubuchi's 80's-sleek, back-to-basics Nu Gundam ? What if Nu Gundam was both a wizard and also very short? Yeah, I never really gave it any thought either. But here it is! You can see that they've splashed a little more red on Nu, turned the yellow to gold, and given the armor a more medieval flair overall. The design is much flashier than the original Nu Gundam, but not quite as gaudy as SD Gundam typically is (now if you want gaudy, here is an SD Gundam that wears a giant blade-tongued skull on its back. So metal!). Wizard Nu is almost regal.

Given the nature of this character, the base figure is very simple. However, as the point of this line is to be the best damn SD Gundam you can buy, the execution is strong. This is no Nendoroid (actually, a "Nendoroids-- now with posing!" line is starting to come out), but there isn't a ton of room for it to move either. The shoulders are on very Revoltech-like joints (without the ratchet click) that swing and stay put just as well as the joint on that line, and there's additional articulation in the neck, waist, skirt armor, and ankles (he's got no legs to bend!). What you see in this picture is about what the extent of what you get for posability. The waist part is die-cast metal, which gives the little guy a surprising heft.

What Wizard Nu Gundam does have a lot of, on the other hand, are accessories. If you're familiar with Nu Gundam, you might have already asked yourself where the fin funnels-- both the robot's tasteful accessory and most deadly weapon-- are at. As it so happens, the funnels have been completely redesigned: rather than the long, asymmetrical white stick funnels, we have red funnels which more explicitly resemble feathers, or perhaps petals. They are also as versatile as the originals: here we see them stacked onto each other to form a backpack, for example.

But that's not all! We may not yet have come up with the technology that will allow the funnels to separate and fly around independently, raining laser death on those who oppose their owner (and don't put this past Bandai: these are the guys who put out $400 radio-controlled figures of the Dom mobile suit that actually hover around like the ones in the show), but this wizard's magic funnels have a very cool gimmick. As you can see here, I've attached something else to the funnels. The figure comes with a bag of clear plastic "magic" pieces-- about twice as many in total as you see here-- that interlock and move around as you like, creating the illusion of the funnels gathered in mid-air around the Gundam, with magic energy bursting forth. I think the setup makes the funnels look like flowers. Flowers that grow on a vine made of lasers.

As for Nu Gundam's more conventional armament, Gundam fans will be sad to know that the standard-issue beam rifle, bazooka, Gundam Hammer and so on have been ditched for wizard's staves. Both staves also have transparent plastic effect bits which can be added to or left off the weapon. I like the blue staff: it's got what looks like an owl head on it. Clearly, Wizard Nu Gundam is wise.

In a nod back to Gunpla, Nu has replaceable face pieces that need to be clipped off a runner, like a model kit piece. You can probably twist these off with your fingers, but you gotta do it the real Gunpla way and cut 'em, then shave off the excess plastic for a nice, clean break. It feels good, you know. To round off the extras, we have a stand that the figure "sits" on, not unlike that used on the Tamashii Spec Layzner , and a few spare hands for the Gundam to hold weapons and be expressive with. I think they look like "Behold!" hands.

I really like this toy: the design is silly but not overboard, the production values are high, and the funnel gimmickry is straight up clever. I have a feeling-- a feeling that's making my wallet a little nervous-- that I would also really like the rest of the SDX line. $70 is not cheap (it's about the cost of a low-end Soul of Chogokin), but this toy does SD Gundam so well that I'm willing to accept it.

Next time on SD Gundam: Can Amuro defeat Char's cool new ride?

Where to get it? Wizard Nu Gundam is a recent release, and right now I only see it at Hobby Link Japan for the original retail: after shipping it'll be about $70 .

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