*Review* 3A’s ZAKU Gundam Inspiration Model


INTRO

Living in Hawaii has it’s perks. With fantastic weather, beaches and outdoor activities galore it’s one of, if not the best places I’ve lived. The one thing I’ve yet to find here however, is a decent comic book shop.  One of my favorites is in Columbia, SC  where I lived around 2002/2003 with a good friend and fellow comic book geek. Since it was Columbia, SC and not Hawaii we’d pass the time by frequently hitting up what was then the coolest comic book shop we’d ever known. The large portion of the comic shop held true to it’s name and had thousands of comics. A small strip of wall space was dedicated to Japanese imported obscure anime action figures and an over abundance of old yellowed Spawn toys that nobody collects anymore. They also had a baffleing array of Gundam Model kits.

My buddy and I had been eyeballing them for some time. Both of us had vague memories of watching the anime as kids and the models themselves looked amazingly intricate. One weekend we caved and decided to get the most expensive kit we could find. At the time it was $85.

To make a long story short, we spent the next 3 weeks, in our spare time, putting that beast together. Thus starting a chain of more trips to the comic shop, more expensive kits bought and more spare time over the course of many weeks tied up in deciphering the kanji instructions and piecing the giants together.

We loved it.

That year or so period of time of my life is pretty much the total sum of my knowledge of Gundam. So please don’t read this review in hopes for some trumpet blowing, alarm ringing guardian of Gundam lore, because I’m not that guy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that guy. Read on if you want to know what we thought about this 3A/Ashley Wood wink/pinch/nudge at the essence of Bandai’s Gundam Zaku.. if only in name.

Now where’d I put my monocle?

PACKAGING

Coming to us in the biggest package I’ve received via post in a long while, Zaku arrived with some lovely box art on front. The sides and back are basically blank white with only a few small titles and logos dotted around.

I was a little miffed that part of my box was crushed by some gorilla (or blind monkey) who works for the Postal Service. Thankfully nothing was harmed inside.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Even though all the bots you get from 3A are incased in a plastic clam shell, for some unknown reason seeing Zaku in his kinda took me back. Like seeing Han in carbonite. He’s such a big dude!

Zaku’s free! Dang he’s bulky. He’s pretty much one piece save two bags hooked to his sides.

His weapons of choice include an absolutely massive (and awesome) rifle..

and a large (yet skinny) battle axe.

You also get one of the largest posters I’ve seen come packed in with a 3A figure. As you can see here, my dog Murphy is feeling a little oppressed by how much space it’s taking up on his couch.

THE BREAKDOWN

I honestly didn’t know where to start with this guy. Everything on him takes a little time to move around and pose simply due to his overall heft. Posing him with his (again, HUGE) rifle is a bit of a feat because length wise, it’s practically bigger than he is.

That’s what.. she said?

And wouldn’t you know it? The first thing I attempt to move  greets me with a “crack“.

Yes, it appears that the supposed “moveable” part of the joint was actually more fixed in place than the “un-moveable” part. Thankfully it was only a flesh wound and took just a tiny bit of glue to patch and get back on track. On to brighter things.

The one thing I do know about Bandais age old design of Zaku is that he has a somewhat iconic “mono-eye”. Ashley Wood tossed that out the window to the chagrin of those that chagrin that sort of thing (note: Please know that I’m not knocking the reaction. If someone decided to do something like give Optimus Prime some terrible paint job with purple and orange flames going down the front of his truck cab or gave him an actual mouth, I’d be.. huh? What’s that you say? Michael Bay.. yeah, I’ve heard of him.. HE DID WHAT??”)

So yes, the mono eye is gone and we’re left with what I’d call a pretty typical 3A-esque head sculpt. Gas mask inspired with two round eyes and tubes flowing out it. It’s tiny too when you compare it to the rest of the body. I think it looks cool that way. If one thing is clear about the design of Zaku, it’s all about exaggerated proportions.

Despite my first attempt at wiggling it around ending with a temporarily broken (and expensive) toy, I really love the shield Zaku has mounted on his person. That thing looks seriously heavy with the massive bolts on the outside and thick hard edges. 3A could have been lazy and left the inside portion  clean and simple. Instead, they took the time to sculpt some really nice lines, paint some contrast details and weather it up.

Both the chest and back have hoses running over them and the affect is really cool looking. Zaku has layers of detail to him that I haven’t seen on other 3A bots. There’s a lot of interest pretty much anywhere you look.

I really love the back pack. It doesn’t come off to my knowledge, but has enough mass to it to look believably integral to the rest of Zaku’s design that you’d probably want to keep it on all the time anyway.

Sparring for the spot of MOST exaggerated body part would be the fingers. They’re extremely long, thin and spidery. My wife called them “creepy.” From some early shots of them, I thought they needed to be beefed up to fit the rest of Zaku’s massive form, but now that I’ve had him a few days, I think they work really well. If I had one complaint it’d be that the thumb is the exact same size/piece as the rest of the fingers, which just looks odd when you spread all his phalanges out wide. On a possitve note, they’re awesome for “I’m-a-gonna-gitch-ah” gestures.

I love the way the arms and legs are designed with bulk overlapping layers that give you that feeling that there’s more “machine” underneath the exposed shell. The left shoulder’s armored “pad” is almost as awesome as the larger shield. It’s also slightly articulated. You can really tell 3A took their time with this guy, getting all the angles and curves to coexist just right. Once again, everything looks heavy like any self respecting war machine should.

Speaking of war, lets get back to that BA gun Zaku leisurely strolls about with. The whole deal is made up of 3 parts. The gun body, a extra long clip and side grip. I thought making the side grip left/right swappable was a nice touch. Lefty’s and righty’s can join hands in mutual celebration with this guy.

The gun itself is beautifully sculpted. Coupled with the overall bulk of Zaku’s frame, it really gives the sense that it’s capable of unleashing all varieties of hell on his enemies.

I have mixed feelings about Big Z’s axe. On one hand, the blade is cool and having him hold it in a sort of neutral guard duty like pose looks dangerous enough. The problem arises when you try to get him to take a swing with it. The handle of the axe is a series of cylinders. Zaku’s fingers are long and spindley and can wrap around the handle easily. However, it’s difficult for him to get a firm grip on it since there are no edges to run into his flat fingers. While I could get it to stay occasionally, at most angles I put his arm/axe at, the weight of the blade would immediately cause the axe to swing down with gravity. Had there been some sort of flat surface on the hilt to wedge against the grip of his fingers, this wouldn’t be an issue. I found a place to “sheath” the axe between some of the tubes on his back that I think works really well, which is most likely the way I’ll display him.

As for articulation, Zaku is up there with 3A’s finest. Just about anywhere you’d expect a ball or swivel joint to be, there is one. Even with the heavy shields on his shoulders, you’re able to extend his arms out quite far and get some nice dramatic motion out of him. The only surprise was the lack of any sort of forward/back waist joint. I’d assume this is the result of the heavy layering of details on his torso that I was praising a few paragraphs earlier. Giveth and taketh away.

Zaku is relatively decal free. He has a few dotted around his massive body, but he’s a lot more “plain” than I’m used to from 3A. Most of the interest comes from his dynamic proportions and layered sculpt. What’s there is cool, however. I’m unsure of what nods, if any, his decals hold for long time Gundam fans. Fill me in if you know!

I’ve mentioned how big Zaku a few times this review. He is big. I was surprised to find that my EMGY Caesar is actually a little taller than him. Regardless of that technicality, Zaku appears more massive than any other 3A bot in my collection, even my Heavy Bramble. He also has a more solid feel than other bots in that scale. For 3A, he’s quite heavy. Here’s a quick shot so you can get an idea of scale.

So what chinks in this massive bot’s armor did I find? To be honest, I really had to work at finding some anything negative. I did keep coming back to his head. There was something there that was bothering me but I was having difficultly placing what it was. I like the double eyes and tiny sized noggin. The hoses running from the sides down his back. It wasn’t until I started going over the rest of the fantastic details sculpted into his arms, legs and torso that it hit me. There’s zero details around the base of his head/neck. It’s smooth, flat and looks like a part someone accidentally skipped over. If it was covered up by other pieces that’d be one thing, but other than the two hoses draped around the area, it’s completely visible. There’s no transition between shoulder, scrawny neck and tiny head head. With so much careful detail sculpted everywhere else, the lack of any at all in such a large area really stands out and to me, looks unfinished.

FINAL WORD

Most of what I’ve said about Zaku has been pretty positive. Guess what? Most of what I THINK about Zaku is positive! I genuinely really  like him. His exaggerated proportions are going to be up to personal taste. Some will hate them, while some (like myself) will love them. I’m sure my lack of history with mainstream Gundam lore probably plays heavily into my arms wide open approach to this guy. But come on, even the nay sayers out there have to admit that it’s really cool to get a 3A toy that doesn’t feel kit-bashed or has all it’s pieces borrowed from previous toys. While he screams designed by Ashley Wood and there are definitely a few familiar touches, head to toe Zaku is pretty much all new! Yay new! Who’s with me?

This is 3A’s first released 3rd party licensed figure after ABC Warrior’s Mongrol. If they can keep the quality of their licensed figures up to this caliber, you and I are in for some treats down the road.

 

Pros:

  • Fantastic sculpt and layered details
  • Massive bot with practically all new parts head to toe
  • Impressively articulated
  • Ridiculously huge gun. This is a good thing.
  • Exaggerated proportions. I give ‘em the thumbs up.
  • Figure has a good weight to him. Looks and feels solid.
  • Nice use of sparse decals and excellent weathering.
  • Love the shoulder shield and pauldron

Cons:

  • Mine broke immediately. It was an easy fix, but I stand by the concept that I should never have to fix new things I paid good money for, including toys. Use more glue or whatever on fragile, moveable bits 3A. Build those parts to last.
  • Axe design is cool, but Zaku can’t hold it very well given how smooth and round it is.
  • No forward back torso/waist articulation
  • No sculpted or decal details top of shoulder to base of neck. Looks odd/unfinished.
 

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9 thoughts on “*Review* 3A’s ZAKU Gundam Inspiration Model

  1. With some more decals, a big red mono-eye and some more green coulored parts it would have been one of the best 3A bot ever IMHO

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  2. He looks very unfinished to me overall. Like a 3a proto photo. The whole neck thing is pretty bad IMHO. Your review is interesting because though you give it a thumbs up I just kept feeling it’s not that great. Oh well, glad you like it. That guns looks more detailed and loved then the Caesars guns.

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  3. This Zaku, even if its really a very 3A design with hints of a Zaku, is not going to sell was a Zaku at all. I get the designers took some major liberties but in doing so they made it rather bland looking. And it really barely resembles a Zaku, it does not have any feeling of one, its missing the mono eye, the appropriate colors, its nothing even remotely like a Zaku, If they did not slap the name on it, i would have never assumed it was even based on one. Its not a bad toy, its just got a major identity crisis to me and i am not sure who is going to buy it. Does not really seem like an item 3A fans would pick up, and i do not see many Gundam fans doing so either.

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    • I must agree with Char…good effort by 3A. It definitely reminds me of the zaku but as a gundam fan, I would rather get the zaku which could be half the cost of this. Not considering budget wise, I would still say the gundam’s zaku looks better.

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  4. I just started to collect these amazing ThreeA figures, it got me hooked when I got my first NOM 27 last month. I also live on Oahu and my buddy and I are looking for more 3AA collectors and maybe even a shop displaying them. Great reviews, great site!

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  5. Personally I absolutely love this design. While overall it is a far cry from the original, something about it call out to me, almost like an ancient, lost piece of technology buried deep beneath the Earth, begging to be found, at which point the might beast would rise from the depths to live again (very mythical I know). It looks like it could have been the ancient predecessor to the Zaku we all know and love (Johnny Ridden’s Zaku FTW), and a mighty beast on the battle field.

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