Toys

MASTER GRADE GUNDAM BUILD FIGHTERS

HobbyLink Japan is GunPla Expo 2013 and is tweeting all sorts of sexy goodness including this drool worthy lineup:


No details on when these beauties are hitting shelves, but I am so stupid excited! If you haven’t been watching Gundam Build Fighters, catch up right the fuck now with this playlist:

It’s one big love letter to Gunpla. Yes, I suppose that makes every episode a half hour commercial for Gunpla, but I don’t give a fuck. It’s awesome. It has a guy named Mr. Ral whom everyone calls “taichou” because he’s fucking awesome. The suits in the show are all custom builds of Mobile Suits throughout Gundam’s history. So to see some of these versions get official Master Grade releases is beyond amazing!

I’m hoping we’ll get a more detailed write up of the expo soon because I totally need these on my shelf!

Gundam Build Fighters Is Kind of My Childhood Dream Come to Life!

I guess this is a week of me catching up on my Gundam!

The spiritual successor to Gunpla Builders Beginning G (which I loved the hell out of), Gundam Build Fighters is a very meta show.  Instead of taking place in a distant future with space colonies and new types, the main setting for Build Fighters is a little Gunpla store in a small town in Japan.  A young Gunpla builder, Sei, manages the shop with his mother and dreams of becoming a great Gunpla Fighter like his father before him.

I once dreamed of having a Gunpla shop.  I would have a little work area in the back where I’d put together kits for display.  It was an awesome dream.  So it’s very satisfying to see Sei living my dream even if it’s in anime form.

Anyway, back to the show.  To become the very best, like no one ever was, you must test your mettle in the Gunpla Fight.  This is a virtual battle where you get to pilot your Gunpla.  The better the model, the better your virtual Mobile Suit, although the Gunpla seem to take real damage when they fight so maybe it’s not so virtual.

Certainly, this show is mostly a toy commercial.  It’s more toy whorey than the most form changing Tokusatsu show.  Every kit that the kids build on the show will be available for purchase so you can build along.  And each kit in the Build Fighters line will have the same frame so you can mix and match parts to create your very own custom.  I think they will also be selling cards which will work with the Gundam Try Age arcade game.  I’m not entirely certain how that will work, but it sounds like the cards you get will allow you to customize your own fighter in the game which sounds fucking awesome!

It’s not the epic space opera that I usually like in my Gundam.  But it’s awesome fun.  And there are all sorts of franchise references like that one dude named Mr. Ral who is totally Ramba Ral.  Not sure if it’s a good jumping on point for new viewers (you should check out AGE), but it’s a lot of fun.

Gundam AGE Restored My Faith in Gundam

Still a better love story than Twilight. Hell, any story is a better love story than Twilight.

Still a better love story than Twilight. Hell, any story is a better love story than Twilight.

 

Long long loooooooong time readers of AZM may have noted the distinct lack of Gundam related posts of late.  The franchise lost me with Gundam SEED and it’s been a struggle to get back to it.  I tried a few episodes of OO and just couldn’t get into it and I kind of lost steam with Unicorn.  So by the time AGE was announced, I completely wrote it off.  The character designs made it look way too kiddie and the AGE design seemed like a Bandai cash grab with its changeable forms.

I. Was. Wrong.

On a lark, I decided to give it shot since the GundamInfo YouTube channel has the entire series subbed. In two days, I marathoned the first sixteen glorious episodes! I’m fucking hooked and if you’re a Gundam fan old or new, I think you’ll absolutely enjoy this series.

Generational Gundam

Be jealous of our hair!

Be jealous of our hair!

The series begins in Advanced Generation (AG) 101 and spans three generations of the Asuno family, Flit (AG 115), Asemu (AG 140-142), and Kia (AGE 164).  Each member of the Asuno family pilots his own version of the eponymous Gundam AGE.  I’ve only gone through the Flit arc so my review will be somewhat incomplete.  But I have every confidence that the next two arcs will be just as amazing.  There will be some slight spoilers, but they probably only make sense if you’re a huuuuuge Gundam nerd.

The Ghost of Gundam Past

To longtime Gundam fans, Flit’s arc will feel very familiar.  It’s almost like a very condensed remix of the original Mobile Suit Gundam with a little Zeta mixed in.  Flit’s personality reminds me a lot of Kamille and it’s not just his hair.  He’s so very conflicted about fighting and killing to save those he loves.  He also shouts the familiar “Gundam IKIMASU” when he launches like Amuro and Kamille.  And of course, in the tradition of “kill ’em all Tomino,” his mother dies in a fire right before his eyes which is weird because Tomino wasn’t involved in AGE.

Emily looks like a younger version of Sayla Mas.  In a way, this show kind of answers what would have happened if Amuro and Sayla got together.

Flit’s star-crossed relationship with Yurin echos Amuro and Lala so you can guess how that turns out.  I called it when they first met each other, but that didn’t make that final scene between them any less painful.  There’s also a sort of Char clone in the guise of the mischievous child, Desil, which is a pretty interesting choice for a Gundam series.  Normally, the Char clone is an older, stoic pilot with a lot of experience.  Desil doesn’t even come close to stoic, more psychotic.  So he’s not exactly a one-to-one Char clone, but the ease with which he pilots a mobile suit definitely reminds me of the Red Comet.

If you couldn’t tell by now, AGE also continues the tradition of absolutely terrible names and weird hair styles.

Call me Zack!

Call me Zack!

There are some other cosmetic references to previous Gundam series.  The Zalam faction normal suits look like Zaku.  The Diva’s final form looks like White Base. Oh, and Don Boyage sports a wicked mustache that totally looks like the Turn A.

I am the man who will stand at the top of all Gundam mustaches!

I am the man who will stand at the top of all Gundam mustaches!

If you’re not a longtime Gundam fan, you might not catch all the references.  And I don’t think they matter that much to the series as a whole.  The characters are wonderful and the plot is solid so if you’re new to Gundam, you’ll still enjoy AGE.  But for us oldschool fans, the nods are a welcome bonus.

AND HARO!!! I love Haro.

The AGE System

Hut one, hut two, hike!

Hut one, hut two, hike!

Time to talk mobile suits.  Though I know it’s a gimmick to sell more model kits, I really dig the AGE system.  The system is housed in that cement mixer looking thing to the right of Titus there.  It analyses combat data from the Gundam and builds a new component for the mobile suit that will help it adapt to defeat an enemy.  It’s essentially a high speed rapid prototyping 3D printer.  With the current advances in 3D printing, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see DARPA develop some kind of 3D weapon printer in the future.

The Black/Red Comet!

The Black/Red Comet!

Speaking of mobile suits, the Vagan enemy suits in AGE are lethal.  For the first few episodes, they tear through the Federation suits like they’re made of paper.  Conventional weapons don’t seem to do anything.  They have two forms, a mobile armor form which is three times as fast as any Feddie suit and a mobile suit form which is armed to the teeth.  As these shows go, the Gundam can usually run through a bunch of enemy suits without breaking a sweat.  But with AGE, every fight with a Vagan mobile suit is earned.  Flit gets his ass handed to him constantly.  It’s a welcome change to the franchise and one that I hope sticks around.  The stakes are raised when each fight really counts.

Two More Generations to Go

I’m really excited that I have two more Asuno’s to meet, Asemu and Kia, which also means that AGE-2 and AGE-3 are on their way.

So if you’ve been away from Gundam for a while like me, or if you’re interested in getting started with giant robots punching, I think AGE is a great jump on series for new and old fans alike.  I believe it’s still streaming on GundamInfo’s YouTube page in Chinese, English and Korean.  There are 49 episodes so be sure to get some popcorn ready.

Hands On With the Cintiq Hybrid

companionHybrid

This past weekend, I went to PAX Prime to hang out with my brother.  I didn’t really look at the exhibitor list because I figured we’d just play it by ear and wander around.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon the Wacom booth.  I grabbed the closest representative in a Wacom shirt and blurted out, “DO YOU HAVE COMPANION HYBRID THINGY TABLET PLAY WITH I WANT TO?!”  The gentleman calmly pointed to where the Cintiq Companion Hybrid rested, just waiting for me to draw things upon its glossy surface.

QUICKDRAW

So to really get a good feel for this new piece of kit, I’d have to sit down with it for a few hours.  But I didn’t want to be that shit head on the con floor, so I kept my time to few minutes to get a good overview of what to expect.

If you’ve ever drawn on a Cintiq tablet before, the Hybrid is instantly familiar.  If you’re new to the product, it might take some getting used to.  Unlike the textured surfaces of the Intuos 5s and the Bamboo line, the Cintiq drawing surface is smooth glass.  You won’t get the tactile resistance you might expect from paper.  I’ve never found that to be a problem but I heard a few other people next to me complain about the lack of texture.

Previous Cintiq models that I’ve worked with always had a weird tracking problem as I drew closer to the edge.  My lines would jump around making the device somewhat useless as I worked towards the edges.  This was the first thing I tested out with the Hybrid and it handled the edges perfectly.  No weird skipping.  No tracking problems.

The tracking and pressure sensitivity are exactly what you’d expect from a Cintiq.  It tracks almost flawlessly and handles changes in pressure just as well.  The Hybrid also functions as a tablet computer, but it turns off hand/palm detection when you’re drawing.  The woman next to me was playing with the Windows 8 version which was giving her problems with the palm detection.  Every time her hand touched the surface, her drawing would go all wonky.  The tech couldn’t figure out how to fix the problem so that might be something to watch out for.

The new Pro Pen is pretty comfortable.  From what I could tell, it’s pretty much the same pen as the previous Cintiq iteration.  I didn’t ask the tech, but I suspect it’s not compatible with anything else but a Cintiq.

If I had more time with it, I would have fired up a big ol 300-600 dpi CYMK file to see if I could make it crash.  I also didn’t test out the pinch or zoom or any of the tablet gestures but I’m assuming them shits work just fine.

Overall, I think it lives up to my expectations.  The specs made me drool, but actually having one in my hands made my pants all kinds of crunchy. Now to figure out how to afford the bloody thing…

Wacom Unveils Its All-in-One Tablet!!!!

Though the tablet computing space has intrigued me since Microsoft’s early Tablet PCs, I’ve never really considered them to be proper tools for me as an artist. The early tablets were never big enough or had high enough resolution for my purposes. Now that they are big enough with resolution to spare, the lack of true pressure sensitivity has always prevented me from hitting the buy button. Well it seem that Wacom is tired of hearing people like me bitch and whine about tablets and their limited art usefulness. Last week, they announced three new products that now make it impossible for me to ignore tablets as true production machines, the Intuos Creative Stylus and two flavors of the Cintiq Companion.

INTUOS CREATIVE STYLUS

The mobile stylus market is kind of saturated.  It seems like everyone and their cousin’s niece has brought a stylus to market.  Half the vendors at Macworld iWorld last year had styluses of various shapes and sizes.  And yes, there were a handful with pressure sensitivity.  Wacom also has various versions of their non-pressure sensitive Bamboo stylus.  So I guess a pressure sensitive one isn’t such a big deal.

Still, it’s nice to see that Wacom has been working on something for current iPad owners who want to push their tablet work farther.

Much like the Intuos pen tablets, the Intuos Stylus boasts 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity along with palm rejection technology so you won’t get any stray marks if your palm brushes up against the surface.  Shit, I need that when I’m inking with a brush!  Unlike most Wacom styluses or pens, this one is powered by an AAAA battery (I didn’t know the A’s went that far up!) which they say will last you 150 over hours.  It’s compatible with iPad Mini, iPad 3, iPad 4, and probably any newer versions that drop.  Sorry iPad 2, you just didn’t make the cut.

Aside from that, the Intuos Stylus should be familiar to anyone who uses Wacom pens.  It’s got the two-button switch which I imagine is as programmable as ever.  It’s got the comfy rubber grip which lets you draw for hours without finger fatigue.  It comes in a pretty slick case with a number of replacement nibs. It’s also available in two colors, black or blue.  Love the shade of blue they chose.

My only complaint is that it’s got one of them poofy nibs.  I’ve used a few styluses with a similar nib and it’s always a little tricky trying to figure out just where your line is.  I imagine after using it for a few hours, it won’t be such a bit deal.  That initially put me off.  I haven’t tried one in the wild yet so their version of the poofy nib might not be as annoying.

The Intuos Stylus is up for pre-order for $99.95 and will ship October 7. So if you’ve already got an iPad of some sort and have been waiting for something like this to add to your arsenal, it seems like a no-brainer.

However, if you’re like me and have held out, Wacom has something else for you to consider.

CINTIQ COMPANION

*DROOOOOOOOL*

The Companion is essentially a mobile Cintiq 13HD with more features somehow.  So you’re kinda screwed if you hopped on the 13HD train early.  It’s got the 2048 levels of pressured goodness, the programmable wheel, and four programmable expression keys.  One of the things that really bothered me about the 13HD was that it only had the wheel and the four expression keys.  I’ve got a 12WX and that mofo has ten programmable expression keys and two programmable sliders.  That’s 12 things I can fiddle with compared with only five and it’s the old busted model.  The Companion tablet takes that in to account with the addition of onscreen shortcuts that you can bring up and when you’re working thanks to multitouch control. FUCK. YES.

Ah, but remember, it’s a tablet so it’s got two HD cameras, speakers, wifi, bluetooth, onboard storage, USB support, and some other connections depending on the version you get.  As for operating systems, the Companion comes in two flavors, the Windows 8 Companion and the Android Companion Hybrid.

Both the Companion and the Companion Hybrid can be hooked up to a laptop or a PC and used as a second monitor while you transfer files or if you just want a second monitor.  Only the Hybrid can be plugged in to another machine and used as a Cintiq.

If price were no issue, the Hybrid is definitely the way to go.  You get the best of both worlds.  If you’re a digital artist, chances are your laptop or desktop is way more powerful than the Companion.  You can take your Companion on the road for some initial sketching, maybe even some tight line drawing.  Then when you need some real horsepower to do your effects or coloring or animation work, you plug that thing into your workhorse and you’ve got a Cintiq 13HD without having to buy any more gear.  It’s the most bang for your buck.

If price were no issue.

The Companion line is exactly the kind of tablet I’ve been waiting for.  So of course, it comes with a respectable price tag.  The Windows 8 version is priced more like a laptop.  The standard model comes with 256GB of storage and will set you back $1999. If you upgrade to 516GB, you’re looking at $2,499.  The Hybrid is less laptoppy.  The 16GB version goes for $1499 while the 32GB is $1599.  For a $100 price difference, it probably makes sense to just go for the 32GB.  That’s enough room for a whole mess of comic files to work on when you’re traveling.  Then you can transfer them over to your workhorse when you plug back in at home.

Both are up for pre-order and ship mid-October.

The nice thing about Wacom is that they usually wait a few years between releases.  They don’t update their hardware unless it’s a significant jump forward in either design or functionality.  These Companions are likely to be around for a few years before they drop new ones so I don’t think you’ll have as much early adopter’s remorse as you might with some other companies.  One thing to watch out for with any Cintiq is how well it tracks at the edges.  Sometimes shit gets wonky as you draw towards an outer edge.  But honestly, if you’ve been waiting for the perfect Cintiq, I think this is the one.

Of course, you should probably test drive the bloody thing before dropping the money.  You can sign up for the mailing list for all the latest and greatest Wacom news.  Hopefully they take the thing out on tour to show it off.  I’ve signed up for the shit so I’ll keep an eye out to see if they are indeed taking it around for you to play with.

Form 1, High Resolution Desktop 3D Printing


This Techrunch review of the Form 1 from Formlabs is soooo drool worthy! I’ve been eyeing desktop 3D printers for a while now and the Form 1 looks like it’s the one for me. I love the fact that it uses freaking lasers to do the printing instead of those plastic spools like the Makerbot. I never liked the layered look of pieces that come out of a Makerbot which makes the Form 1 even that much more appealing.

Of course, the price tag is a bit too much for me right now.  Clocking in at $3,299, the Form 1 is a pretty substantial investment.  If I had a library of models ready to go and print, it might make sense.  But I think I’ll spend some time building a line of things and then see where I’m at.  Who knows, by then, the Form 1 might be old news.  The desktop 3D printing scene is pretty damn exciting and I think the Form 1 is pushing things even further.

The Mac Pro We’ve All Been Waiting For Or A Shinier Cube?

Man, that’s a sexy promo.

Apple gave a sneak peak of the newest Mac Pro coming later this year at WWDC 2013 and it’s a gorgeous looking piece of machinery.  It’s like a slick Mega Man powerup or a really shiny trash can.  There aren’t too many details on the release or price point, but Apple’s made a nice HTML5 web presentation on their site revealing all the tech specs.

My question, is it too late to win back the prosumers?

The Mac used to be the graphics machine to beat with the Mac Pro standing above the rest.  Now, not so much.  For years, it seems that Apple has been more concerned with the iElite.  And with good reason.  iDevices have helped prop up Apple as one of the most successful tech companies in history.  But with all this attention on iOS, the prosumers have wandered to other companies.  Couple that with the trouble between Apple and Adobe and the ruining of Final Cut Pro and you’ve got an entire market of creative professionals who no longer consider the Mac to be their holy grail.

The other thing this Mega Man pill reminds me of is the G4 Cube.  It was certainly a clever design:

Sadly, it was too expensive and nearly impossible to upgrade.  It lasted a year before it was shelved.

Now it looks like you can upgrade the Pro however you like which is certainly a plus.  And on paper, the specs are really impressive.  And it’s manufactured and assembled in ‘Merica.  But all that power will come with a price.  Will it be in a range that will woo graphics and video professionals away from their HPs and Avids?

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