Mandala Gundam (aka Mandor Gundam)
Fifth Anniversary Special!
Height: (as packaged): 13cm; Defensive Mode: 8.5cm; 'Normal' Mode: 10.5cm
I don't really need to explain that G Gundam had some really freaky designs running around. It may not be necessary either to describe how they did not always translate into the most attractive toys. Possibly the single most infamous example of this is the Mandala Gundam - or Mandor Gundam in the American toyline. There would come a time when a heck of a lot of G Gundam product would sit uselessly on store shelves, but Mandala Gundam was already there keeping their seats warm. Mandala was part of one of the first Deluxe G Gundam assortments. Up until then the Gundams released had looked relatively normal and Gundam-like. Mandala was the first really weird thing to hit. And given that its wave-mate was the much more reasonable looking Burning Gundam, it's not hard to see how these would be a bit unappealing. I'll admit I fell into that trap as well back then. But later on, Kyral, Mandala's Gundam Fighter kind of made an impression on me and I decided to finally pick up the Gundam. heck, it was on clearance a lot of places by then anyway, so who cared how terrible it was?
I would soon come to find I'd made a mistake. No, not in assuming that Mandala would probably be worth clearance prices, but in assuming that it had not been well worth its full, original retail. Cripes, what was I thinking?!
This review was originally written for the now long disappeared Newtype Asylum ...or it might have been Fantoysia at that point. See, at one point Core, the owner of Newtype Asylum and his main contributor decided to go their separate ways, and so Fantoysia was born to house all of Newtype Asylum's prior model kit and toy reviews and release information. It was a really important resource to the Gundam merchandise community and it was quite a blow when it fell into disrepair and eventually faded away.
Legs and Transformation
...okay, it doesn't actually HAVE legs as such. It has.. er.. a bell. The Gundam itself is designed as a prayer bell, anyway, so it has a bell instead of legs. It's not quite a single solid piece. The top half splits down the middle, and is on hinges. It opens for the sole purpose of transforming among three modes, using the two base pieces. The Gundam comes apart into three pieces for transformation: Upper body, connection base, and lower body, which is the bell. As packaged, it's in Attack Mode, using the tallest base piece. Open the bell, and change out for the shorter connection base piece, and you have Normal Mode, which hides the red balls in the lower body, leaving only the Gundam's upper torso exposed. Removing the shorter connection base piece, you can plug the Gundam torso directly into the lower body, and thread the arms through holes in the sides of the bell, giving you defensive mode.
The bottom of the bell sports a ring of vents and four rocket nozzles, which is fortunate, since Mandala Gundam would have to hop to move around. While this would be humorous, it deserves a more dignified means of mobility.
Torso and Head
The lower torso is made of three red balls, connected by ball joints, and then connected by posts to the upper torso and connection base or lower body itself. The ball joints allow for remarkable flexibility, which in turns gives you an incredible aid in neat poses, and just a variety of poses that you couldn't normally reach.
The upper torso is kinda funny, since it looks more or less like a standard Universal Century style Gundam chest. The backpack is some kind of funky rocket backpack. Now, the head is pretty neat. It's a Gundam head, complete as far as I can tell, with a separate 'scarf' piece covering half of it, and a hood, which is a molded part of the head covering the rest, leaving just the eyes and a small amount of the faceplate visible. The scarf and head are independently jointed, giving Mandala's head unrestricted side to side motion. The design prevents any up/down, however.
These are made of six of the red balls each. Three for the upper arms, and three for the forearms. Each is connected like the torso, via restricted ball joints, with a more open joint for the elbows and shoulders. Like with the torso, this added flexibility opens up alot more posing. Definite advantage of the design.
The staff is just a two piece yellow rod. The upper half has a tear drop shaped ring, with six small rings on it, each of which is a separate piece. The lower half really doesn't have anything special about it.
The beam blade attaches to the upper piece, making a neat looking 'hidden' beam sabre.
This attaches to the staff. A bit loosely, I find. Depending how you pose it, you may need to change which side of the staff you attach it to. It's pretty heavy, and combining that with the poor hold, it's a little hard to pose with this accessory. Though at least it A: looks more like what it's supposed to be than Burning Gundam's Hyper Mode halo, and B: doesn't necessarily have to make Mandala Gundam heavy to any particular direction.
Not really accessories as such, these are just used to change modes. They both hold very well, and the upper body plugs in tightly to both of them. Both are meant to remain hidden inside the lower body.
These attach by ball and socket, in the same manner as the RX-78 Gundam Second Version, with the socket on the hand, instead of the wrist. The only notable hand is the staff twirling hand, which is a bit more unique than the normal fists and open hands.
From the time I got Mandala Gundam I knew it had been a terrible shame that it was allowed to sit warming pegs the way it had. The extremely non-traditional design gives the toy a remarkable flexibility, and in some ways it was never surpassed by any subsequent development of MSiA. If you can get beyond the appearance for even a moment to see the possibilities within it's a figure I feel strongly belongs in any MSiA collection. Of course at this point in time you'll have to pay a little more for a complete example than you would have at retail. But that's a penalty we all have to take at one point or another when we've learned that we missed out on something really great.
Mandala was probably State of The Art for its time, and given that some of its design elements have never been outdone it could still be considered such. It still holds up wonderfully even against much later figures like Extended MSiA. But for balance I'm going to give it a rating of Excellent. I'll quote myself from this review's original closing: "You need this figure."
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