Gundam Universe:Creators Interview
New Action Figure Line Begins Summer 2019
‘Gundam Universe’ Interview Julian Oreska
Not that long ago, we heard news of a new Gundam toyline that would utilize different materials to reach a lower pricepoint while still retaining a similar quality level to things like Robot Spirits. That toyline is now called Gundam Universe and I caught up with Julian Oreska at Bandai Spirits to find out more about it.
To give a bit of context as to what Gundam Universe is, Julian happily explained how the new toyline worked.
“Gundam action figures, as many Western fans will remember, were first introduced to the American and European markets back in the early 2000’s with Gundam Wing and the subsequent TV broadcasts of G Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam (0079), and Gundam SEED. At the time, the Gundam action figure line was sold alongside a selection of Bandai’s hobby model kits, particularly the HG 1/100 and HG 1/144 scale kits, and was targeted mostly at younger fans, being a soft plastic construction that made them safe for fans of all ages. That era was over 15 years ago, and the current presence of Gundam is once again mostly imported figures and model kits available in select figure shops and online stores. Our most dedicated Gundam fans in the West have continually supported us even in this 15-year period without official content distribution, and many of those fans have also supported Gundam since the days of 0080 and 0083 on VHS in the mid-1990’s. With this new line, however, we hope to once again bring Gundam to a wider range of fans, both old and new—fans who may have only heard of Gundam before, or may be encountering the characters for the first time. This year, 2019, is the 40th anniversary year of Gundam in Japan, and looking forward to potentially massive future content projects, we at Tamashii Nations want to help fans reacquaint themselves with what Gundam is. Gundam Universe, therefore, is a new line that will incorporate Gundam’s core Mobile Suits across multiple generations in a format and price range that is easy to purchase and easy to play with and display. Of course, we are particularly focusing on the West this time, so many of the main Gundam Mobile Suits from Gundam Wing will be featured prominently, but Gundams from series that were never broadcast on television, such as Gundam 00, are also planned for later waves.”
The interesting thing here is that these new Gundam Universe toys are not the first time mecha fans will have encountered this new approach with materials, something that Julian was happy to give a bit of background on.
“Fans who purchased some of the Robot Spirits Pacific Rim: Uprising figures will be instantly familiar with the construction of these figures, as they are very similar. In addition to hard plastic (ABS), and joint plastic (POM), we are using softer plastic (PVC) as we did with the Pacific Rim figures. When I say “soft,” it may raise alarms in the minds of fans that we are returning to the era of Mobile Suit in Action from the late 90’s, but our molding technology has evolved substantially in 20 years, so the detail and edges are very sharp, even on the parts made with PVC. Additionally, though the Pacific Rim figures were in scale with each other despite not advertising an official product scale, these Gundam figures are coincidentally roughly the same size at about 6 inches or 15 centimeters per figure. Model kit fans and fans of Robot Spirits will see a big difference in size from the 1/144 scale line, which averages 4.9 inches or 12 centimeters.”
Now, for those that bought the older Gundam toys from around the time Gundam Wing was aired in the U.S. you will likely remember the Mobile Suit in Action range. While those used similar materials to these new Gundam Universe toys, the process and manufacturing is more sophisticated, something Julian went onto clarify.
“All products produced by Tamashii Nations are made for customers ages 15 and up, meaning that the figures can have sharp points and some areas that are thinner and perhaps more delicate than on toys made for younger fans. When Mobile Suit in Action was first released in the late 90’s, they were designed for Gundam fans of all ages, and thus had to comply with certain safety regulations. These Gundam Universe figures are for adult collectors however, so the “V”-shaped crests for instance on the Gundams’ heads are made from hard plastic and have a very sharp tip on either side. The beam sabers also end in a sharp tip, and areas like the edges of the shields or sides of the chest are not rounded out, thereby not sacrificing any detail. This is not to say that these figures are fragile, rather one of the points we think will appeal to many fans is that the use of PVC plastic with the POM joints makes them very durable for repeated posing, meaning fans who like to fidget with their figures on their desks will enjoy putting their Gundams in a variety of lunging, dashing, slashing, and shooting poses.”
I managed to play with some of these new Gundam Universe toys when I spoke with Julian and the articulation was very good and allowed for a wide array of dynamic poses. The finish was also nicely done, with more athletic sculpts and decent detailing. So I was curious what Mobile Suits were planned for this new toyline.
“At this time, we have in the first two waves a total of six Gundams, the RX-78-2 which is the main MS from the original series in 1979, Gundam Wing from 1995’s Gundam W, Gundam Unicorn from the recent Gundam UC (2010), the second unit Banshee from Gundam UC, Gundam Deathscythe also from Gundam W, and Gundam Barbatos from Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans which was recently aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. We try to absorb as much as we can of the voices of our fans, so we have a general idea of which main mobile suits are popular and also we of course want to reacquaint fans with certain mobile suits to help reestablish the core identity of the Gundam lore. In later waves, we are looking at key Mobile Suits from series like Gundam the 08th MS Team, G Gundam, Gundam SEED, and Gundam 00. Also, while the Gundams are typically the main characters for each series and we want to establish that fact, we know that having the main rival Mobile Suits from each series will enhance display and play value significantly, so we are also looking at such well-known rival units like Char’s Zaku II from the original 1979 series.”
While I didn’t get to play with any of the 08th MS Team Mobile Suits, it seems an Ez8 is planned, which hopefully means we have some Ground Gundams to look forward to as well.
My personal hope is that if we get some 08th MS Team toys, we might have a chance at seeing some classic Blue Destiny designs at some point, as they are of a similar style and type to the Mobile Suits in 08th MS Team.
Naturally, I shared my Blue Destiny related hopes with Julian and he finished off with explaining what further hopes and plans he had for the Gundam Universe toys prior to their release.
“Our current plan is to have Gundam Universe exist tangentially with our regular flagship robot figure brand, Robot Spirts. The Gundam Universe line will focus principally on the main character mobile suits from each series, and the sculpt and design of each mobile suit has been refreshed to have a more modern look so that as a collection, all the Gundams will look like they belong with one another. The sculpt design also emphasizes the limbs and weapons of the Gundams so when posed, they capture a lot of the dynamic action feel of the anime series. As stated in the previous question, rival mobile suits are a big possibility, as are some of the larger Gundams that might take form as a “deluxe” version to match scale with the series’ regular lineup. Other things that we are exploring right now are additional weapon sets and also support items like stands to enhance the play value of the figures even further.
“As a Gundam fan myself, and as someone who has experienced all the eras of Gundam history and its expansion in the West, I hope that fans like myself who have supported the brand for over 20 years will be interested in trying out these new figures for themselves. I wanted the product, including the package, to fully evoke the collectability of these figures, so the illustrations on each box, for example, I think will be a particularly nice treat for fans. They are also numbered using a new “GU” number system, so that collecting them as a series, you will end up with a nice group of key Mobile Suits from across 40 years of Gundam history and even forthcoming new series might join this lineup in the near future, so this will be an excellent centerpiece to any Gundam figure fan’s collection. I think the fact that the Gundams all have a lot of fine, original molded detail also makes them unique amongst other Gundam figures, so even fans who already collect the Robot Spirits or Robot Spirits A.N.I.M.E. lines will be intrigued by the new take on Gundams like the RX-78 and Unicorn. Wing in particular, I think has a very strong feeling of the show coming from its sculpt so fans of the anime will be particularly pleased. This new era of Gundam history is only just beginning so get excited for what is yet to come.”Gundam Universe Official Website ≫