Sunday, April 11, 2010

HCM-Pro Exia Part 1

Once upon a time ...

Sending out the various versions of Gundam Exia in my collection to confuse showcase to everyone, starting with this HCM-Pro version ^^

The HCM-Pro series isn't a very long established product series from Bandai actually. The first release, Gundam RX-78-2 came out in June 2004, which is just about 6 years ago. That's really not a very long time ago, MG Freedom Gundam and Perfect Zeong were released around that time, just to give you the idea of the time line there. The "latest" release is O Raiser, out in March 2009, if the SHCM-Pro series is included, then it would be SHCM-Pro Unicorn Gundam, out in October 2009. However, the last one to be released before Unicorn Gundam is also from SHCM-Pro sub-series: Gundam RX-78-2 Real Type Color Ver., out in August 2009. It's also noteworthy that there was no release between Seravee Gundam and Gundam RX-78-2 Real Type Color Ver., for about half a year.

From one new release on average per month between 2004 and 2008, to just recolors and just SHCM-Pro releases in 2009, it really has a rather intriguing story to tell.

The HCM-Pro was once the crown jewelry of Bandai Hobby Division's releases apart from Gunplas, that it was. Quite high priced for each figure, very frequent monthly release, featuring MSs from both the latest series ("Gundam Double O", HGUC or MG) as well as its own series ("One Year War", "Gundam Wing" series). From how the series started, I kind of speculate that it was the product of an internal competition between Bandai Hobby Division and Tamashii Nation, or formally, Bandai Collector Division, which was running the MSiA line at that point. The folks at Hobby Division were trying to come up with their own action figure series to rival the MSiA line. Since the action figure series is still under Bandai Collector Division's management, they couldn't come up with something too similar to MSiA, hence the scale was reduced to 1/200, and various parts still came in attached on their runners (a bit of Gunpla feel there), even though they could do it otherwise.

Some of the releases from the HCM-Pro series.

Some of the releases from the MSiA series.

Also, I think both sides challenged each others to certain releases from time to time. The HCM-Pro series released almost every single item there were in Tamashii Nation's Extended MSiA line, trying to prove that it could do better in terms of articulation while the size is small. From Freedom Gundam, Gundam Mk. II, Sazabi to Herbert von Kuspen's Customized Gelgoog, you can find two releases from the EMSiA and HCM-Pro series.

Tamashii Nation took the competition in a pretty straight forward manner all the way till 2007 when "Gundam Double O" was released I suppose. They designed and released the MSiA version of the 4 Gundams from "Gundam Double O" with improved articulation, but the design remained very MSiA-like. Issues like design accuracy, paint quality and material used didn't improve much, and the fans realized that very well I suppose. For quite some time then, the HCM-Pro series enjoyed a period of triumph. ^^

Ultimately, Tamashii Nation responded with the Robot Damashii series, which addressed all the issues from the MSiA series - much improved and accurate design helped by CAD, new material used for both external and internal parts and much better articulation through extensive use of ABS joints instead of soft rubber.

And that was how the table turned. ^^;

The Robot Damashii series completed the release of the 4 Gundams from "Gundam Double O Season 2" in about 4 months, starting October 2008 with 00 Gundam, with O Raiser, 00 Raiser in Trans-Am mode color, Ahead, GN Flag and another 2 Knightmare Frames from "Code Geass". The HCM-Pro series, which released 00 Gundam a month earlier than the Robot Damashii version, couldn't keep up with the pace (or at least that was how it looked like back then during that period): Cherudim Gundam (November 2008), 00 Raiser set (December 2008), Seravee Gundam, Arios Archer set (January 2009) were the response, which pretty much wrapped up the competition against Tamashii Nation. ^^; O Raiser in March as mentioned before was the last of the HCM-Pro series before it went all SHCM-Pro.

Robot Damashii releases between October 2008 and January 2009.

HCM-Pro releases between November 2008 and January 2009.

HCM-Pro figures are expensive because of the extra details, including those for certain inner frame gimmicks. That's where Robot Damashii wins I think. The price for the Robot Damashii series could be set relatively lower (it's still pretty expensive for those who aren't into this line ^^;) than the same model in the HCM-Pro series thanks to no inner frame gimmick, and less details, which I suppose most fans who are into action figure don't really bother about anyway ^^;

Size is another selling point of the Robot Damashii series. At a scale roughly of 1/150, it's smaller than a HG kit, but is still way bigger than a HCM-Pro figure. Size also means stability, at 1/200 scale, there are limits to how much a HCM-Pro figure can do with balancing itself in mind; the Robot Damashii version is able to do this much better.

Tamashii Nation has no "special preference" between Gundam and non-Gundam series, and is able to expand the Robot Damashii series to include other series, like "Code Geass" ([Side KMF]), "Macross Frontier" ([Side VF]), "Eureka Seven" ([Side LFO]), more and more over the years.

Bandai Hobby Division on the other hand, specializes in Gunpla, and I don't really know what and where the real issue lies between that department and non-Gundam series, it would seem that they never took them seriously. They tried Evangelion in the HCM-Pro series with the "Blue Label" Eva Unit 1 and Unit 0, and the two of them remained the, er, only two non-Gundam series in the entire series. ^^; And one has to note that Evangelion has been an ongoing series for Bandai Hobby Division, which released many plamo kits from that series since mid 90's.

If you don't mind me breaking the topic here a bit, the same "unknown issue" they had with "non-Gundam" series also caused them to abandon the 1/35 "Code Geass" Mechanic Collection plamo series I think, which is a real shame.

And so it was the end of the great HCM-Pro series. Including the merely-recolored Super HCM-Pro Gundam RX-78-2 Real Type Color ver., there were less than 10 releases in the entire HCM-Pro series in 2009, as compared to over 30 the year before. If you don't call that a burn-out, maybe "slipping into hibernation" will do maybe? ^^; There's one really suitable Chinese phrase to describe the fate of this series: 被打入冷宫 ^^;

I have no particular preference for either Robot Damashii or HCM-Pro, since I'm more into Gunpla. Each has many interesting releases in the past. I believe many still remember HCM-Pro GFAS-X1 Destroy Gundam, which is one of the largest release in the series, which so happened to be the only merchandise of that huge Gundam as well. My favorite however, is Sazabi Special Painted Ver. The regular version is impressive enough with its details and articulation, but the beauty of the Special Painted Ver. is even better, even though it's more expensive.

HCM-Pro GFAS-X1 Destroy Gundam

HCM-Pro Sazabi Special Painted Ver.

Speaking of expensive, since HCM-Pro is now off the market, its collection value is understandably going the other way instead: up. ^^

Then again, one shouldn't look at the whole story as some sort of elaborate conspiracy planned by some big shots in a smoked-filled room. ^^; A lot of the development has to do with market forces. Maybe the response towards the MSiA line was weak, which prompted Bandai Hobby Division to react by releasing the HCM-Pro series, and maybe it was the same response which gave rise to the Robot Damashii series later as well. That we don't know of, but one thing for sure, the market forces the company to improve. Without the delicate details shown possible on the HCM-Pro series, maybe Tamashii Nation would just stop at MSiA level for its Gundam action figure series, which of course, isn't that favorable in terms of quality.

Anyway, as with the PG series years ago, Bandai never announced that the HCM-Pro series has ended. There's a 5-year gap between PG Strike Gundam and Astray Red Frame, and the HCM-Pro series has ceased release for about a year, just a year. ^^; It may be relaunched in the future, with new design maybe, you never know. ^^

That's a very long introduction, ^^; intended to bring out the background of this, sort of like the remnant of a diminished product series: HCM-Pro Gundam Exia.

I was very fond of HCM-Pro Exia when it first came out. The promotion made by Bandai made it looked really awesome, especially the level of the paint job against its size. Together with what it's supposed to be able to do, it's incredible. ^^

At the same time, I cannot deny that the special first batch release bonus of a display base included is a huge attraction for me. When HCM-Pro Exia was released in October 2007, no one was expecting that the series was going to go down. I most certainly didn't think of that. A display base would be good for future releases that I might get I believe, so there's an extra reason to get this HCM-Pro.

As the usual story goes, I missed the ball at the time because I was still insisting on just getting Gunplas. For a long story cut short, this-and-that-this-and-that for after more than a year, I got it from a hobby shop in Hong Kong, sent all the way to my hometown. Of course I made sure it's the one with the display base included. ^^

First impression about the figure: the box is somewhat unnecessarily big for the actual content. ^^; The special display base is attached right to the back of HCM-Pro Exia's box, so thanks to feature, both boxes have to be of the same height and width, but I wonder what would those who got the version without the special display base think about the box. ^^; As you'll see later, more than half the box is actually empty.

The special display base is attached to the back of HCM-Pro Exia's box.

Gundam Exia and its weapons shown through the window on the box, but what is the content beneath the picture on the top left and title on the bottom right?

An empty container, plus the big print of the name of the figure on the plastic tray. ^^;

Name of the Gundam and product, somewhat repeated there.

Two caution stickers on the top portion of the plastic cover, pointing at the V-fin I believe.

The empty compartment is a lot more than enough to store the other accessories included for the figure. ^^;

About 9cm tall, this HCM-Pro Gundam Exia is.

The manual and runners of accessories are attached on the back on the plastic container.

A 4-page manual. Click for larger view

Runners include extra V-Fin made of ABS, beam saber, beam dagger, mount rack for the shield and parts for thigh to mount the GN Blades.

Soft parts used for the spread palms.

A look at the figure and the accessories in the next review. ^^

Information is from Bandai Hobbysite, images are from Bandai Hobbysite:
- HCM-Pro Gundam RX-78-2,
- SHCM-Pro Gundam RX-78-2 Real Type Color Ver.,
- HCM-Pro Wing Gundam,
- HCM-Pro Char's Customized Z'Gok,
- HCM-Pro Hi-Nu Gundam,
- HCM-Pro Gundam Dynames,
- HCM-Pro Guntank,
- HCM-Pro Gundam Kyrios,
- HCM-Pro Dynames Gundam,
- HCM-Pro 00 Raiser Set,
- HCM-Pro Arios Archer Set,
- HCM-Pro Seravee Gundam,
- HCM-Pro Eva Unit 1,
- HCM-Pro Eva Unit 0,
- HCM-Pro Sazabi SP Ver.,

Hobby Search:
- MSiA Kampfer,
- MSiA Sword Impulse Gundam,
- MSiA Hi-Zack,
- MSiA Asshimar,
- MSiA Gundam Kyrios,
- HCM-Pro Gundam Mk. II,
- HCM-Pro Nemo,
- HCM-Pro Destroy Gundam,

ROBOarts: lineup.

1 comment:

iron2000 said...

Actually before HCMpro theres HCM: