Of the many virtues of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, its memorable antagonists always held a special place in my heart. After running away from the White Base with the Gundam, the young Amuro Ray meets the charismatic Zeon lieutenant Ramba Ral and his lover Crowley Hamon – arguably a pair of parental figures in Amuro’s troubled emotional life. However, as fate would have it, Amuro and Ramba Ral soon discover each other’s identities as the ace pilots of opposing camps while locked in deadly mobile suit combat. While Amuro respects the skilled veteran, his obligations to the crew of the White Base (as well as his concern for his own survival) demands him to exercise his duties as a soldier, making for another tragic chapter in his odyssey.
Of course, this review isn’t about Rambal Ral, but rather his big blue bruiser – the MS-07B Gouf. As Ramba Ral himself puts it: “This is no Zaku, boy, no Zaku!” Caught between the Zaku II and the Dom, this land-oriented mobile suit was never produced in significant numbers during the One Year War. However, as a bigger, faster, and stronger brother to the Zaku II, the formidable close-range capabilities of the Gouf were demonstrated plentifully in Ramba Ral’s assaults on the White Base. However, as the 2.0 version of the MG Gouf was released after a string of Zaku II variants based on the new 2.0 frame, the suspicion of a rehash inevitably hovers around this new take on the Gouf. Well, rest assured – while the MG Gouf Ver. 2.0 does share a number of traits with the MG Zaku II Ver. 2.0 kits, it sufficiently sets itself apart from the pack.
Of all the words that can be used to describe the MG Gouf Ver. 2.0, “beefy” is probably the most appropriate. While it isn’t exactly bloated like the Dom and Geloog, it has a thick set of limbs that have a really sturdy feel to them.
Compared to the Zaku II, the Gouf is both taller and thicker. The parts may look similar, but when placed next to each other, it’s clear that most of the parts for the Gouf come from a completely different mould than the Zaku II (though some overlaps do exist). The most striking differences I noticed are the fatter thead, the thicker arms, the bulkier thighs, and the enlarged feet. Furthermore, its trademark curved shoulder spikes, as well as its unnatural dark blue colour scheme give the Gouf that extra menacing edge befitting of Ramba Ral’s infamy.
Whereas the MG Zaku II kits slightly modernized the classic design with improved vernier details and re-adjusted proportions, the MG Gouf 2.0 follows the footsteps of the MG RX-78-2 Ver. 2.0 in its close adherence to the source material. Like in the anime, you won’t find any thrusters on the Gouf other than its backpack, the simplistic design of which is faithfully reproduced in this model. My favourite visual throwback is the return of the curved “brow” which dips downwards at the center of the visor, giving the face an angry look.
The pipes that run around the Gouf’s waist and head are the highlights of the building experience. First, a flexible plastic rod is fed into the runner holding the pipe links. The links are then cut form the runner, fed into the curved section of the rod, and the process is repeated until the sufficient number of links is processed (13 for the each of the head pipes and 15 for each of the waist pipes). Finally, the straight portion of the rod is removed, and the remainder is fitted onto the body of the model.
The waist pipes run from the crotch to the backpack. They are also flexible enough to withstand any shifts between the upper and lower halves of the torso. This is actually not such a hard feat to accomplish, as I’ll elaborate in the articulation section of the review.
The Gouf’s right hand is a carbon copy of the regular MG Zaku II Ver. 2.0 hand, but its left hand is a whole other story. The wacky finger vulcans on the left hand make for a ridiculously swollen appearance. Each finger is articulated at the base the middle with joints, which offer a minimal amount of articulation. As such, the Gouf’s left hand isn’t capable of gripping anything, though it can reproduce the standard firing configuration with ease, as well as some relaxed open-palmed poses.
Sadly, the wrists suffer from a case of corner cutting. The gray piece that fits into the end of the forearm are lifted straight from the Zaku II runner, which means they are not wide enough to cover the enlarged forearm of the Gouf. Though this is a minor flaw, I find it Bandai’s decision to drop the ball a little perplexing – how hard is it to add two extra pieces to the gray mould?
Partly due to the absences of pipes, the Gouf’s legs are noticeably more streamlined than the Zaku’s. With the exception of an air vent on either side of each leg, the legs are completely sealed. The upper thighs have a slightly angular design, as straight edges are visible across their surfaces.
Weapons taken from the MG Char’s Zaku II Ver. 2.0
Though the Gouf does not come with a bazooka and heat hawk, the appropriate mounts for these items are still present on its skirt armour.
The Gouf’s trademark weapons – the heat rod – is recreated in this model with 48 soft plastic links attached to each other via ball joints. The immediate problem with this design is the question of weight, as the small ball joints are simply not enough to support the weight of the entire weapon. While the heat rod looks fine in the dangling position, if you try to pose the heat rod in an action pose (like having the Gouf shoot the heat rod out of its wrist Spider-Man style), it would most likely end up looking pretty limp. One cannot help but think that the design of the original MG Gouf’s heat rod, which has a metal wire running through the links, is superior.
This pose was only made possible by shortening the heat rod by around 2/5th.
Joint strength problems aside, the heat rod looks pretty good. Its ball joints allow for some very pretty wide bends, and it looks pretty much identical to what it looks like in the anime. The lengthy weapon is connected to an opening on the Gouf’s right forearm. Honestly, the entire concept of the heat rod is pretty silly – do they expect us to believe that the entire rod is supposed to fit into the Gouf’s forearm? You would have an easier time convincing me that Taki Corporation is a top-tier figure maker than to make me a believer.
The heat saber, on the other hand, is a much more straightforward weapon. The black claymore-like hilt is combined with a huge clear orange blade, which looks far more intimidating than your tired old beam sabers and heat hawks. When not in use, the hilt can be stored on the back side of the Gouf’s shield.
The Gouf’s shield is pretty basic. It has a gray backing and a round hole on the top half, the purpose of which will forever remain a mystery to me. My gripe with the shield is with its mount: the shield can only be mounted on one side of the forearm via a ball joint. This significantly limits the posing possibilities of the shield, since it is often bulky enough to get in the way of specific poses. Since most models allow for the shield to be mounted on at least two sides of the forearms, this shortcoming on the MG Gouf is a little perplexing.
If you are not a big fan of the heat rod or the hand vulcans, the kit comes with the parts needed to convert the suit to the MS-07A variant of the Gouf, which replaces the opening on the forarm with a seal and the left hand with a standard Zaku II hand. Also included are a pair of 1/100 scale figures of Ramba Ral and Hamon, which will require a daunting level of precision and skill to paint. Lastly, a crotch clamp is included for the purpose of mounting the model on Bandai’s Action Base 1.
The mono-eye’s movement is linked to the movements of the neck via a gear mechanism: as you turn the neck of the Gouf, the mono-eye in the visor will move accordingly to the corresponding direction. If you don’t want the eye to move, simply pop out the neck joint slightly and the mechanism would be avoided.
The neck of the Gouf is centered on a single ball joint along with a single-axis joint on top. However, while this design worked well for the MG Zaku II 2.0 kits, the Gouf’s enlarged mouthpiece and more pronounced chest plate makes the task of tilting the head forward an impossible task. While this this may seem trivial, it does put a slight hamper on some action poses.
As per usual of recent MG kits, the shoulders of the Gouf can swing forward, in this case by around 45 degrees. The cockpit door – which is adorned with clear orange windows – can be flipped open to reveal a tiny pilot figure of Ramba Ral with.
The articulation for the torso is slightly disappointing. While it can bend forward by a significant degree, it’s not capable of much in the way of sideway rotation. This is due to the high and obstructive skirt armour which inhibits the movement of the waist.
The spiked pauldrons are attached to the shoulders via a double jointed mechanism, which allows the bulky piece of armour to be adjusted to different positions in order to becoming obstructive. The arm swivels right below the shoulders. The elbows bend all the way up, and the wrists combine a ball joint and a single-axis joint for an impressive range of motion.
Out of the box, the base of the middle, ring, and pinky fingers are joined together while the thumb and the index fingers are separate. You can easily separate the bottom fingers with a knife, though I saw no need to do so. The tips of each finger are a separate snap-on piece capable of movement, while the thumb is just one solid piece.
Unlike some of the bulkier Zaku II variants, the calves of the legs do not obstruct knee articulation at all, allowing the leg to bend very far back. The kneecap armour features a linked movement gimmick and will part accordingly as the knee bends farther and farther. The front half of the feet can also bend upwards to mimic a more realistic stepping motion.
One tricky thing about the Gouf is the way the leg bends at the hips. Because of its bulkier thighs tighter hip cavity, the side skirt armour – to which the frontal skirt armour pieces are attached to – must be shifted backwards in order for the thighs move upwards. This gimmick will take getting used to, but ultimately it works well as it offers the freedom of movement without sacrificing the model’s aesthetics.
After no less than 8 MG Zaku II Ver. 2.0 variants, the fanfare has probably died down significantly when it came to the Gouf’s turn. Of course, the Gouf isn’t any less of a model than its predecessors. Sure, the limp heat rod is a disappointment, but I think the MG Gouf Ver. 2.0 makes up for it with its bulk and personality. If you already have a MG 2.0 Zaku II kit, the Gouf is sufficiently different to warrant a purchase. If you already have the original MG Gouf, this new version improves upon it in virtually every way. And if you just want a big homage to Ramba Ral… well, that answer to that is obvious, isn’t it?
Distinctive and fierce appearance that is true to the anime
Superb shoulder, elbow and knee articulation
Heat saber looks fantastic
Virtually zero sideway waist articulation
Heat rod joints are not strong enough to completely support its own weight
Shield can only be mounted on one side of the forearm
Head cannot be tilted forward
Note: Sorry for the crappy photos in general. I don’t know whether it’s the Mr. Super Clear brand or just the number of moving parts in the kit, but the top coat scratched up like crazy as the photoshoot progressed. And on top of that, the humid air, the shortness of time and the excess of dust on the model all severely tested my patience, so I ended up rushing things. Bah, hopefully things will go smoother next week.