(Editor’s Note: Today’s review comes from Nekoman, proprietor of The Viper Pit. You might have noticed the link in my sidebar before now. Nekoman is a person whose writing and photography I respect immensely. He’s one of the rare GI Joe enthusiasts who’s younger than I am, and I enjoy reading his perspectives on the toy line and how it influenced him growing up. If you haven’t read the Viper Pit and you’re hungry for more GI Joe content, then get started immediately. Today’s post, though, isn’t GI Joe related at all. It’s even better!)
Review and Photos by Nekoman
Japanese 90‘s toys are an interesting thing in the ways that both eastern and western cultures overlap and diverge. In some ways I feel like Victory Gundam represents a similar take on the edgy and extreme stuff from the 90‘s, like Unlimited Carnage, just by way of Gundam. Of course, I would also tell you that Victory Gundam has aged about a thousand times better than anything from Marvel in the 90‘s, but that’s probably because I’m less keen on comics, and very much more of a weaboo, so… yeah bias and stuff.
Victory Gundam is very much the obscure and overlooked part of the Gundam franchise, akin to other niche 90‘s stuff like G2 Transformers. Of course, a big shame about that, is that it means it’s usually overlooked for updated modern products, and the vintage stuff is limited to a time in Japan that’s best known for being terrible. That’s very well pronounced in the model kits, where you went from high-quality multi-colored kits that needed very little paint to look decent, to the Victory kits, which consisted of few parts and were mostly single-color affairs.
For the most part though, the MS in Pocket toyline was pretty good. The toys are solidly built, relatively cheap, and have a nice action-figure feel to them. They’re not nearly as detailed (or fiddly) as modern offerings like the Robot Damashii line, and little things like the penchant for exposed screw-holes and simplistic hands that hold weapons just by pegs, cements these more as toys to me, rather than overpriced collectibles for rich people.
For additional context, a good line of Gundam toys is not something you can associate with the brand year after year, especially during it’s vintage run. When Bandai brought Gundam to the US in the 2000‘s, a bigger focus was put on the line of 4 ‘1/2-inch PVC figures usually referred to by their Japanese branding of MSIA. In Japan however, the models are the main toy line for Gundam, and prepainted, pre-assembled action-figures were more of a rarity, especially in the 80‘s and early 90‘s.
1993 Gundam MS in Pocket Zolo Review
Getting it out of the way, the first thing I should comment on is probably the packaging. The packaging is super nice, but it’s a Japanese toy, so a fancy box is to be expected. It comes in a solidly chunky box, with a styrofoam insert that holds the figure and it’s parts inside. When you go looking to find these for sale, you’ll find them with the box more often than not, so it’s a nice bonus for displaying them or storing them.
The back of the box features a fairly cool photo, showing the Zolo in front of a very Death-Star-esque wall panel. It also shows off the parts and some technical information about the unit. On the sides there’s some more photos, which are also pretty neat.
The Zolo is one of my favorite pieces from this line, as it’s one of the few toys or models to represent this design. Despite being one of the first mooks to appear in the TV series, the Zolo was skipped for a model kit. As such, it was an item I sought out as a priority from this line. That’s also a decision I’ve never regretted, as it’s an excellent representation of a cool looking robot design.
One of the things I love about these 90‘s Gundam designs, is the deviation from the mono-eye bad-guys aesthetic setup by the first Gundam series and it’s subsequent sequels in Zeta and ZZ. I love mono-eyes, but the bug-like eyes featured on all of the baddies from the Zanscare Empire look sick.
The toy is relatively simplistic and isn’t saturated with gimmicks and action features. While most of the time I like that, it’s a little bit of a shame it doesn’t split into two components like it could in the show. At the same time, that would have probably made this toy either much uglier, or much more expensive, so I can live with it.
These are solidly articulated, but it’s important to set your expectations correctly. This Zolo for example has articulation in the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, thighs, knees and ankles. From the perspective of someone who likes vintage toys, it’s quite a lot. Alternatively, someone more used to newer Gundam figures might come out a little disappointed. It’s also worth noting that many of the joints are oddly chosen and have a limited range of motion. For example, the thighs connect to the waist via ball joints, and have a pretty limited range of motion.
The accessories are pretty nice, and are another example of where these feel much more toy-like. Included with the Zolo is it’s beam rifle, bazooka, shield, beam axe, and beam saber. It’s more than enough parts to arm a squad in a few different ways, and it’s very nice that they covered most of the unit’s basic equipment.
Some of the parts, including a few required to complete the Zolo like it’s backpack, come molded on a runner. I bought this one with the parts already cut, so no picture of that. Though, it’s worth saying that it’s not too much work putting it together.
The Zolo is a fairly simple design, so there’s not much going on here in terms of paint or separate colors. The eyes are intricately painted gray and red, and there’s some gray paint on the thighs and tops of the feet too. Other than that, the toy’s mostly cast in brown plastic, with some dark gray for things like the hands and some of the backpack. It keeps it simple, but that’s part of what I like about it.
1993 Gundam MS in Pocket Zoloat Review
This Zoloat toy is a little more odd in a handful of ways, and has a few shortcomings that aren’t as apparent in the Zolo. The Zoloat was a much more prolific grunt in Victory Gundam, which makes owning a toy of it a little more desirable. This is the mean looking dude you see fly by in the opening, which is objectively awesome and everyone should listen to.
A weird thing about the articulation on these, is that the shoulders are on swivel joints, while the biceps are on ball joints to give the arms a better range of motion. It’s a weird way to construct arm joints, though on most of the figures, it works okay. In the case of the Zoloat, this is much more cumbersome, as the large and bulky shoulders would be a lot better if they could bend some.
Another thing that’s peculiar about the Zoloat is it’s use of stickers for yellow details. It’s not too out of line for a vintage robot toy, since this sort of thing was par for the course with Transformers, Robotech, and others, just to name a few. It is stranger when you consider that most of the MS in Pocket line didn’t use stickers like this though. I wish they could have painted some more of these details, as the stickers don’t look all that swell to me, but, as I said before, these are more fun in the vintage toy kind of way (For these photos, I skipped the stickers on mine, since I think they look bad.).
As for paint, there are some painted details on the figure, mainly on it’s head. The mouth, side vents and head crest all show some nice detailing, and the eyes are painted as well. Oddly enough, the eyes are somewhat painted incorrectly, as the eyelids should be entirely grey, while the sensors should be red underneath them. Instead, the eyes here remain red like most of the toy, while the sensor area is painted gray.
Like with the Zolo, the Zoloat comes with some fantastic parts not present with the vintage model from the same time period. In particular, the shoulder cannons stick out as an omission from the model that makes the toy far more interesting.
You also get a beam rifle, a beam saber, and a beam shield. Once again, these are some pretty good parts and give you practically all of the weapons majorly associated with the Zoloat. The only real downside that becomes apparent, is again because of the shoulders. On the Zoloat, it’s beam shield mounts on it’s left shoulder, which means it can’t pivot into any useful position.
My Zoloat still has it’s parts on the runners, so here’s a look at how those come packaged. Apparently I’ve had this for a few years and never remember to clip these parts out, same as the last owner.
1993 Gundam MS in Pocket Contio Review
The Contio is probably my least favorite that I own, some of that owing to the fact that I just don’t like the look of this unit much to begin with. If you compare it to the model kit, this figure has a handful of features going for it that make it a slightly nicer representation of the Contio, or at least as nice as you’ll probably ever get.
I’ll start by saying it’s surprisingly more articulated than some of it’s peers. In addition to the typical joints found on the Zolo and Zoloat, the Contio features some chest articulation, and additional joints in the legs. The catch is, it’s also much less stable than the other two. In particular, the chest joint struggles to hold a position, likely because it’s supporting so much of the toy’s weight. The joint tightness could probably be remedied with a little work, but it’s a problem people frequently have with these toys.
Another nice thing about the Contio here, is that it’s proportions are somewhat more accurate to it’s anime appearance. The original model was relatively slim, but this MS in Pocket figure is wider and looks a little more accurate to me. Comparing any of these figures to the cheaper 1/144 scale models probably isn’t very fair, but it’s the only other toy of the Contio out there I know of.
It also has an extra gimmick in that it’s shoulder mounted “short claws” are detachable. I couldn’t get these off of mine very well after I attached them, so I didn’t bother to take any pictures, but you can see it advertised on the back of the box. It’s neat they added a little gimmick like that, though personally I don’t get much out of it.
The Contio comes with a good number of parts for it’s various beam weapons, and a beam rifle. The larger blades that fit into the short claws look pretty neat, but they’re also heavy, and my figure has some difficulty supporting them upright. You also get the blades for the short claws, 3 different beam sabers, and a beam shield. The beam shield fits onto it’s left arm behind a removable square piece on it’s wrist. I like that it’s fairly discrete.
Overall, the MS in Pocket line is a series of toys that I recommend, but for anyone looking to get into them, you should know what you’re getting into. These aren’t the hyper articulated, high detail Gundam toys you saw from the MSIA line (AKA the Gundam action figures Bandai sold in the 2000‘s.). These are vintage robot toys that are a little closer in quality to something like the EXO Squad Robotech reissues. The main appeals here are the more old-school toy charm they present, and also the fact that they’re some of the few Victory Gundam related products that were made.
Despite being a line of almost 30-year-old toys, it’s also nice that these aren’t too hard to collect. You’ll often find them boxed for around $20 for any given figure, though finding all of them may take some time and a bit of hunting. It’s also pretty hard to find most of the Gundams with pristine white plastic, which is a bit of a shame. Still, it’s also a short line that consists of a little more than a dozen figures, so it’s easy enough to complete the collection without breaking the bank. I recommend them.
These toys are incredible and I need some of them immediately.
I’ve been watching and re-watching some various Gundam shows over the last 6 weeks, but this post from Nekoman really put me on a Gundam kick. To a degree that I’ve already ordered some toys, some of which I owned a lifetime ago. It’s wild to me that there was a time where you could walk into Fred Meyer or Walmart and find fun Gundam toys on the shelves. Granted, you can still go to Target and find Gundam toys and model kits in the “Serious Adult Toy Resellers” section, but it just doesn’t feel the same to me.
Thanks again to Nekoman! I have another post coming up for you tomorrow but, in the meantime, why not start binging the Viper Pit archives?
Do you have a favorite mobile suit? Or just a favorite giant robot of Japanese origin? What sort of sound effects do you make when you play with your robot toys? Let us know in the comments!