From 2000 - 2004, we were treated to some truly amazing toys representing Gundam concepts including Gundam Wing, Mobile Suit Gundam and its various sequels and spinoffs, Mobile Fighter G-Gundam, and Gundam Seed.
And even these shows and their related products were barely scratching the surface of the Gundam universe. Often called the "Japanese Star Wars", Gundam has managed to stand heads above most giant-robot anime, of which there is certainly no shortage, due in large part to its dramatic storytelling, but also due to a fair degree to its practice, much like those other Japanese monoliths "Power Rangers" and "Transformers", of reinventing itself every so often with a new storyline, new human characters, new Gundams and other Mobile Suits, while still keeping the core concept of super-powerful piloted giant humanoid robots called Mobile Suits, the elite of which are called Gundams.
One can speculate endlessly as to why it just didn't make the grade for all that long in the United States. Bandai wanted to push the figural model kits here more, but the basic action figures sold better. The line was diluted by a "Super-Deformed" concept that didn't fare well, and the action figures were diluted by an ugly "Battle Scarred" series that only gathered dust. And some of the names of the Mobile Suits from some of the concepts were lengthy and difficult to pronounce. It's one thing to see a toy called Wing Gundam or Gundam Sandrock. It's another thing to see a toy called MSN-03 Jagd Doga.
In Japan, the action figures are known by the group name "Mobile Suit in Action!", which serves to differentiate them from the model kits. At the moment, Bandai seems to be placing a dual emphasis on Mobile Suits from Zeta Gundam, a popular Gundam series from some years back, and on Gundam Seed Destiny, the most recent Gundam concept.
One of my recent acquisitions is called the ZGMF-X2000 GOUF IGNITED/ Heine Westenfluss Custom. It hails from the GUNDAM SEED DESTINY series.
Gundam Seed Destiny is the sequel series to Gundam Seed, which was the last Gundam animated series to actually be broadcast in the United States, at a truly abhorrent hour on Cartoon Network. Gundam Seed Destiny was unusual with regard to the fact that, unlike its predecessor, it borrowed some enemy Mobile Suit designations, ZAKU and GOUF among them, from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. Most Gundam series tended to create their own designations for enemy Mobile Suits, and this had included Gundam Seed.
An overview of Gundam Seed Destiny, reads as follows: Two years after the final battle in Gundam SEED, there has been an uneasy peace between the ZAFT and the Earth Alliance Forces. The story centers around a young man, Shinn Asuka, who bears a grudge against the hero of the original series, Kira Yamoto. During the course of the last series, Kira accidently killed Shinn's family, leaving Shinn angry and bitter.
Shinn joins the ZAFT military, and eventually becomes the pilot of the Gundam Impulse. Meanwhile, an Earth Alliance Special Forces unit steals three secret Gundam suits from a ZAFT armory, leaving it up to Shinn and his friends to try and retrieve these suits as a new war between ZAFT and the Earth Alliance flares up.
This is actually in some respects an interesting reversal of Gundam Seed. In that series, it was the ZAFT forces that stole a number of secret Gundam suits from the Earth Alliance, while Kira ended up piloting the Strike Gundam.
As for the Gouf Ignited, this isn't the first Gouf Ignited action figure that has been produced. A blue one came out some time ago, and I received (and reviewed) it at the time. This particular Gouf Ignited was specifically assigned to pilot Heine Westenfluss, and, as is often the case with such specially-assigned Mobile Suits that otherwise represent what is essentially a "trooper division", for lack of a better term, it has a distinctive color scheme.
Here is the background on the Gouf Ignited: The ZGMF-X2000 GOUF IGNITED was developed by ZAFT as a successor to their ZAKU mobile suit. Unlike the ZAKU, the GOUF was not equipped with Wizard Packs. Rather it had a special flight pack built into the suit. The suit is well armed with a four barrel beam gun mounted in the arm, a beam sword, and powerful heat rod, making this a deadly suit in the hands of a veteran pilot. The prototype GOUF IGNITED is assigned to elite ZAFT pilot Heine Westenfluss, who uses this suit against the Earth Alliance.
This Gouf Ignited is a deep yellow-orange in color, with brown trim. This is a highly unusual color for any Mobile Suit. Orange just isn't a color that has turned up all that often in the long history of any of the Gundam series. The end result, as one might expect, is an extremely distinctive Mobile Suit.
The resemblance to a Zaku cannot be denied. The rather squat, almost dome-like head, with the single pink eye in the center of a black slit across the front, has long been a hallmark of the Zaku units, even though this is technically a Gouf. Clearly it is a more advanced Mobile Suit, with the spiked shoulders, the wing-pack attached to the back, and the weapons on the arms.
It's fairly common knowledge among Gundam fans that Bandai really tends to go all-out on these Mobile Suit in Action figures. The level of sculpted detail, articulation, and precise painted detailing is nothing short of astounding, especially for a humanoid robotic action figure standing about 4-1/2" in height.
A random count of the articulation points on the Gouf Ignited comes to an impressive total of 28, and I've probably missed a few. Most of these articulation points have a considerable range of motion. The flight pack along has six, as each of the wing segments is adjustable at the pack, and each wing segment has two adjustable wings attached to it.
Then there's the painted detail. Consider the aforementioned four barrel beam guns mounted in the arms. The gun barrels themselves are painted grey. The point of each barrel of each gun point has been painted in black. We are talking about tiny little circles, four on each forearm, each of them less than 1/16" in diameter. Now that is a truly amazing level of attention to detail. I am sincerely impressed, even as I am equally pleased that I'm not on the production assembly line.
As I mentioned earlier, the color scheme for this Mobile Suit is very unusual. One tends to see a lot of primary colors in the Gundam universe, especially among the primary Gundam in any given series. Granted this is not one such. But you get used to seeing a lot of white, with blue and red trim, and some yellow. This particular Gouf Ignited is yellow-orange, with a brown torso and
"skirt", and brown forearms where the beam guns are placed, with dark grey trim on the chest hands, knees, and feet. Somewhat incongruously, the flight pack's wings are an off-white. Then again, this is supposed to be a prototype, assigned to this particular pilot. Maybe the technicians didn't have time to paint the wings.
But the detail on the wings has certainly been well painted. Bandai doesn't miss much with these Gundams. There are small, narrow little jets inside the main wings on the flight pack, and their interiors have been painted light blue. I'm sincerely amazed at how extensively the really fine details of Gundam action figures are painted. Once in a while there is a minor glitch -- a little bit of paint going outside its area, and one time I had one where a narrow line had been missed on one leg that had been painted on the other. But given the extent and small size of these details, I tend to be reasonably forgiving about it. I can think of several other toy companies that could take some painting lessons from Gundams.
The accessories include a shield, assorted weaponry, and five spare interchangeable hands, all as well-made and well-detailed as the Gouf itself.
Meanwhile, if you can find a way to add the ZGMF-X2000 GOUF IGNITED/ HEINE WESTENFLUSS CUSTOM to your collection, I encourage you to do so. Gundam continues to be one of the most impressive action figure lines of all time, and certainly the GOUF IGNITED has my definite and enthusiastic recommendation!