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October 17, 2003

Back to the Academy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 1:08 am

B. Preecha’s photographs (shown here) inspired me to finally Rumble on the “General Marshall Gundam” produced by the Korean company, Academy, in the early 1990s. The box is HUGE. It shows a color drawing of the toy inside, perhaps as the deranged boolegger/designers saw it. Other inset photos show actual pictures of the toy in its various poses.

Opening up the box yields a mech not quite jumbo size, but much heavier. There is an inner tray of vacuformed plastic, of the quality you’d find in a modern action figure package. (Note: if you buy one of these puppies, make sure you check under the hood. My box was full of mold underneath the inner tray.)

Pulling the giant Gundam free of its inner tray, one is surprised how heavy it is. This is no jumbo; nor is it a cheap bootleg. With a few exceptions, the plastic seems of quality equal to the MKII Mushacloth Gundam from which the Academy was obviously derived. Even after sitting on a (damp) shelf for almost ten years, the joints are tight but smooth. One has to respect Bandai’s original designers–and the admiration Academy clearly had for them. Not every toy can be doubled in size (and multiplied by eight in volume) and survive the transition.

The MKII mode of the Academy is impressive based on its size and the elegance of the design. But where it really shines in a gonzo-bizarre way is when you put on the samurai armor. With the exception of the helmet, the General Marshall Gundam’s armor is an exact duplicate of that of the smaller Mushacloth MKII. Unlike the Mushacloth, the armor in no way diminishes the Academy. (I always felt
that the Musha armor looked a size too large for the poor MKII wearing it.) The bulked-up Academy looks, well, bad-ass.

But that helmet … what can I say? I have no idea what Academy was thinking. Rather than the traditional samurai helmet of the Mushacloth, the General Marshall’s helmet looks like a WWII Gi Joe’s helmet as designed by Neptune, god of the sea. It has a strange, gold-chrome trident square in the forehead and a matching gold faceplate that looks more Jacques Cousteau than Lone Wolf and Cub. Better, I think, to take it off and let the MKII head see the light of day.

Articulation is decent, especially for a near-jumbo. You can strike some menacing poses even with the extra mass of the armor. Accessories are what you’d expect from the Mushacloth: two swords, a spear, and a Musha-ized gun. I rather like the chromed letter-opener look of the twin swords, very Franklin Mint. But the weight of Musha gun is simply too much for the arm joints. I’m not sure what Academy was thinking with this goofy attachment, which includes some electronics I haven’t been able to get working.

In an era where jumbos have returned to Toys R Us and even the venerable RX-78 and Zaku designs have received the giant treatment, it’s easy to forget the decade when big not only wasn’t better, it wasn’t even available. As a bright spot from this dark time, the General Marshall Gundam is highly recommended. I applaud Academy’s audacity of for churning it out, evidently without a license. I wonder if they ever got sued?

Ken-A

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