5.01.2016

Review [Part I]: GM II Semi-Striker


Preamble
While my brother was in New Jersey for business, he found the time to visit Gundam Planet. While in the North East American Mecca of Mecha, my brother asked a few friends for kit requests. Because Gundam Planet is the closest store with P-Bandai online exclusives, I thought it would be the perfect time to purchase one of my favorite grunt suits of all time, the GM II Semi-Striker.

Seriously, this is one of my favorite grunt suits - almost immediately after knowing this suit's existence inspired me to build a Semi-Striker type of my own.


Apparently I voiced my opinion on this cursed-to-only-a-cameo mobile suit enough times that our friend over at Gunpla Works asked for the same kit to give to me. At least that is what I think happened. Nevertheless, thank you, Munitions, thanks Gunpla Works. You are both awesome people and I am proud to call you both my friend!
Like the previous review, this will be another first - my first foray into a P-Bandai Online Exclusive kit. I have seen many pictures of these kits and I think I know what to expect, but no picture can determine how I feel about the actual product. So here's to hoping it was worth the thirty-five US Dollars.

Background
Not much of the GM II Semi-Striker is seen in episode 4 of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. What we do know is that it receives a swift end by a Zeon Remnant mobile suit by the name Efreet Schneid. What else do we know about this retrofit of outdated technology?


The original GM II was put into service in the early 0080s to replace the original GM and was commonly seen in combat during the Gryps Conflict of 0087. Nearly two decades later, despite vast advances in technology, the Earth Federation retained its older mobile suits.
During the Laplace Conflict, we catch a glimpse of this beautiful letdown known as the GM II Semi-Striker. It is essentially a normal GM II retrofitted with parts from a GM Striker, an even older suit that specialized in close combat created to counter Zeon's Gouf. Additionally, the arm-mounted shield is similar to the shield found on Full Armor Gundam.
We will probably never see much more of the GM II Semi-Striker outside of Torrington Base, but what little we see from it contributes to the (somewhat) deep history of technology in the Universal Century.

Unbox
For those who are unaware, "P-Bandai" refers to the website p-bandai.jp which is Bandai's distribution hub for exclusive toys. The 'P' stands for Premium. Specific to Gunpla, the Bandai Online Hobby Shop sells kits exclusive to the website. A majority of these P-Bandai kits are based on a regular production kit with either a recolor, alternative parts, or a combination of the two.

Advertisement taken from p-bandai.hk
Depending on where one is located, purchasing P-Bandai kits can be murder to the wallet - Bandai's online shops ship only to the region it resides. Online stores exist in Japan, Hong Kong, and some other Asian countries, but as an American, no such direct store exists. This means P-Bandai kits would have to go through a secondary seller, shipped from Japan (or another P-Bandai store), then sold once again, or whatever combination of buying, selling, shipping selling exists. Whatever the case may be, the price of these P-Bandai kits in America are much more expensive than they should be for this very reason.
Specific to the GM II Semi-Striker, the MSRP printed on the box is 1600 JPY. In the current market, that is 14.40 USD. However, buying it from Gundam Planet, my brother (and/or Gunpla Works) ended up spending 35 USD for the kit. That is more than double the MSRP!
...and that is how our wallets were murdered.


Right! The unbox! Because P-Bandai kits are not usually put on shelves of physical retail locations like a toy store or a hobby shop, the package design is much more minimalist than regular production kits. The main graphic on the top of the box is a photograph of the assembled kit in monochrome with a CG render of the suit in the background. The format of the graphics on this kit are the same as a regular HGUC kit, barcodes and information in place. However, instead of information on the suit and example builds, the sides of the boxes are printed with a single color and the title of the kit bold and centered. As mentioned earlier in the paragraph, because these kits are not typically sold in a retail location, there is no need to take the extra measure to sell the kit with flashy graphics and anime/manga affiliation.



Opening the monochrome box, We are met with a familiar sight of runners in various bags. One part that sticks out is the instruction manual. Like the box, the instruction manual does not include any flashy graphics -- just the black and white wire frame diagrams.


Runners
As expected, runners from the original HGUC kits the GM II Semi-Striker is based on, GM II and GM Striker, are included. To my surprise, there is a runner from another P-Bandai kit: HGUC GM III (Unicorn Desert Ver.). It seems there are a lot more subtle modifications were made for this kit than I originally thought.


Another interesting runner is 'B.' Though this runner has shown up in multiple variations of GM II and GM III, this version of the runner shows up specifically on the P-Bandai kit, HGUC GM II (Desert Color Ver.). This makes sense since the Semi-Striker is in the desert color scheme.


Also from the HGUC GM II (Desert Color Ver.) is the sticker sheet. Too bad the clear sticker sheet of decals were not included - the one from the GM II Desert has multiple sets of numbers in black and white with a couple of Federation emblems.


Unique to the GM II Semi-Striker kit are runners 'E' 1&2 and 'F.' Runners E1 and E2 include modified GM Striker shoulders to fit the GM II arms, the altered details of GM II's legs and modified arm to attach the FA Gundam shield.


The only actual part that will come from the GM Striker is the twin beam spear. Runner A from this 2006 kit is cut up in multiple places to ensure as little excess plastic remain. Even so, one part of the spear is missing.


That missing piece is included on one of this kit's unique runners - Runner 'F.' Instead of cutting out a section of Runner D, which would have produced more excess plastic, adding it to another runner makes more sense. Now I would like to know why this runner has such a strange shape. Are we to expect this runner somewhere else (HGUC FA Gundam please)?


The rest of the runners are straight out of a vanilla HGUC GM II (in the desert colors). I am quite sure i will be able to build the full GM II using these runners.


Originally I was expecting a kit essentially made up of a GM II with GM Striker runners. However, a lot of the subtle modifications Kei Nakamura had put into his customized kit were molded into this P-Bandai kit. This realization has lead me to believe that even with a 35 USD price tag this kit may actually be worth it. Doing out the simple math of addition, the GM II and GM Striker have a combined price of 28 USD (based on Gundam Planet prices). Paying the extra 7 USD for the GM III parts and alternate GM II details seem worth it to me (obviously if I could pay the 1600 JPY printed MSRP on the box, I would have jumped at this kit immediately).

Image taken from Gundam Guy. Scans from Dengeki Hobby January 2012
Overall, thinking about the worth of this kit purely on numbers, I find the GM II Semi-Striker to be okay. It will not be for everyone, but those of us who take a liking to obscure grunts and unique kits, this may be a kit to look at. Despite my opinion based purely on the runners, everything could drastically change after experiencing the build. Please stay tuned for the latter half of this review where I go over the parts, the overall suit, and give my verdict over the suit.