8.19.2015

Special Reivew: "Strikes Odaiba Set"


Background
A little over a year ago, an animated short was released at Gundam Front Tokyo's G-DOME with the title Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn: Neo Zeong Strikes Odaiba. Like most animated media shown at GFT, it is exclusive to the facility, most likely done in CG, and completely irrelevant to the main story. One fun product that comes from these short animations are Gunpla kits that are, in most cases, sold exclusively at Gundam Front Tokyo (MG Unicorn 03 Phenex currently the only regular production model).
For the Neo Zeong Strikes Odaiba animated short, Bandai produced quite a large kit. No, it is not a Ver. GFT of the HGUC Neo Zeong. The kit is actually a bundle of two HGUC kits, Full Armor Unicorn and Banshee Norn, labeled as the "Strikes Odaiba Set." As you may have seen from the title image, each of these kits have a vibrant green psychoframe under a special plastic and a bonus item. More on that for each review.

Preamble
Morgenroete Munition and myself, Gundariumsmith, built these kits simultaneously but separately. I took on the Banshee Norn whereas my brother tackled the Full Armor Unicorn. Because of this, each of us will be reviewing our respective kits. This is the first time in a long time since we worked on the same kit (granted this kit is a bundle of two kits) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you will enjoy this review as much as we did building together. So without further ado, we present the HGUC Unicorn Gundam 01 02 Ver. GFT (Strikes Odaiba Set).

click here for full album

Introduction
Back in February, I had the honor of staying at my uncle’s place in Tokyo after shipping out for six months. It was highly convenient because he happened to be on the way as I was travelling home. While chilling in Tokyo, I figured I should stop by the Tokyo Teleport Station and explore the area of Odaiba. There I found the Nissan convention, the antique car museum, a couple of huge malls, and the Gundam Front Tokyo (GFT) at Diver City Tokyo. As requested by my brother, I just had to get the Strikes Odaiba Set which is a GFT exclusive. It only took me half a year and a prompt from my brother to actually start building this kit, and thus began our day long project.

Straight Build Thoughts
In the Unicorn Mode, it would seem that the kit is built like any other universal century kit. However, with the revealed Psycho-Frame of the Destroy Mode and the additions of the Full Armor version, many of the structural engineering is seemingly thrown out the window for style. Although this this may only be a surface problem, the two combined were overwhelming.


Main Body
I have never seen a chest split up into so many different pieces in a High Grade before; it almost felt like a real grade where some of the pieces were unnecessarily split apart. In this case, because of the design of the Psycho-Frame, most of the pieces were required to be as small as they had designed them to be. For example, while most side skirts of a normal High Grade kit is made up of one piece connected to a poly-cap, the Destroy Mode side skirts are made up of three. In fact, I would even argue that designing this kit would have been easier if they made the Real Grade first; simply slap on some white armor onto a clear green inner frame.


All movement of the body is as expected from a normal High Grade kit except for the neck. As most kits go for the standard double ball joint poly-cap, this kit uses what I have seen to be a Master Grade style neck piece. This allows for many positions that are normally restricted by that standard poly cap.


Arms
The best way to use beam sabers is to mount them to your forearms and use them like Starcraft Zealots. Of all the suits I have seen, not one have the mounted like this. However, I was expecting a little more when it came to the mounting bracket; it is simply a friction fit, as opposed to poly-cap or axle. This means that if the tolerances are even slightly off, they will fall off. Thank goodness Bandai is pretty good about these molds. Other than that, I love how the Psycho-Frame is revealed in the shoulders and forearms.


Legs 
The only complaint I have is the way the knee connects to the calf. After trying to tweak the legs, this joint would disconnect and I would be left with a calf in my hand, and a suit without a calf. On top of that, the holster for the grenades would fall off, and I would be putting pressure on the back skirt where the covers for the vernier boosters would also fall off. It also does not help that the double joint that was initially designed is now blocked so that only one of the two joints will bend.
The feet are also fashioned like most High Grade Universal Century feet where they inhibit articulation by the guards around it. This in turn also limits the amount the legs can spread before the foot is no longer anchored to the floor.


Auxiliaries

Beam Saber / Tonfa: As mentioned before, there are two beam sabers mounted on each of the forearms. On top of those, there are two more beam sabers mounted on the backpack.
Beam Magnum: Made up of five pieces, the beam magnum looks more like a rifle than a powerful revolver. Although it is one of the original weapons from the Unicorn, I feel it is unnecessary with all the other equipment. In any case, on the right side of the rifle, there is a tab that is identical to the tabs on the back side of the shields to allow the rifle to be mounted on the beam gatlings guns.


Beam Gatling Gun: At first, I thought this section was going to be the worst. However, when I discovered that there were three identical half shells instead of six individual beam gatling guns, I was relieved. One set of guns are mounted on the back, and the other two are mounted over the beam tonfas on the forearms.


Hyper Bazooka / Grenade Launcher: By far, this is the strangest bazooka I have seen. This would be okay, but according to what I understand, the full armor mode should be a bunch of equipment slapped together. That being said, I feel as though these bazookas should be identical to other bazookas in the Universal Century. Despite this personal opinion, it does look like a great visual upgrade from the other bazookas and on top of that, there is a small grenade launcher mounted in the front. Too bad they are not separate pieces.
Anti-Ship Missile Launcher: Mounted on the two bazookas are three anti-ship missiles. These boxes, without painting look great with the red colored missile pods.
Grenade Rack: Like the missile pods, the grenades also come in red, giving a nice color separation. However, there are twenty-four distributed between both legs, and both bazookas. Why explosives would be mounted on more explosives, I will never figure out.


Shields / Armed Armor DE: Three shields and an Armed Armor DE are included in this kit, all of which I do not like how they are built. Although they look cool, that is about all they have going for them. Because they are supposed to have an opened and closed position, they throw structural integrity out for style. However, this is even more so than the body. If pressure is applied to the wrong place, pieces will fall.


Solid Rocket Boosters: I keep forgetting about these boosters and tanks, but the Full Armor version of the Unicorn utilizes two giant rocket boosters taken from a Base Jabber. I would have liked this kit a whole lot more if everything on this kit was referencing the armaments from older suits.

Final Notes
As with most new kits, I highly enjoyed building the Full Armor Unicorn. I also enjoyed building this part of the kit with my brother before I go back out to sea. So no matter what is placed after these sentences, I highly recommend this kit. Now that has been said, let me tell you what I did not like about this kit.
As I stated before, the kit overall threw away structural integrity for style, the idea of the suit was the jerry-rigged armaments after leaving Anaheim Electronics and the Earth Federation yet most of the equipment mounted on this thing seems like new technology, and the biggest thing that I do not like is the fact that the suit cannot hold all of its equipment. This is fixed by giving it more stands than any kit I have built (yes, more than the Rozen Zulu).

Despite all my personal gripes with this suit, it has been a very long time since I have built a lead suit. This High Grade kit has done the suit justice, and I will give them that. Whether it be the pink from the original destroy mode, or the green from the GFT version, I would place even the High Grade, straight built, on a shelf in my living room. This suit looks great and all complaints are all minor.

click here for full album

Preamble
The Dawn of 2015 Anno Domini: Boston was like a plate of fresh fried dough at the carnival where someone sprinkled liberal amounts confectioner's sugar for much too long. Citizens of the Commonwealth struggled to keep up with damage control as snow piled on top of snow until there was nowhere else to move the snow. In fact, the amount of snow that had fallen over the winter did not fully melt until July! While I broke my back over keeping a cleared driveway week by week, I kept in touch with my brother who happened to have avoided a majority of Boston's awful weather. He mentioned in an email that he was planning to take a detour to Tokyo after he was relived from his ship.
We started bouncing ideas on places to visit, but one place we immediately agreed he should visit was Gundam Front Tokyo (GFT for short). I decided to ask if anyone knew what kind of kits were being sold at the time since inventory could potentially rotate quickly. Thanks to redditor /u/Finishingtothesky, I was able to get a relatively up to date list of what was being sold at GFT.
I relayed the information to my brother, but he was not sure if he would be able to make the space for the kit. Whatever happened between the conversation and what he ended up doing matters not - he ended up making room for Gunpla in his luggage. For the things he does upon my request, I thank him from the bottom of my heart. Truly a great brother to have!

Fast forward six months, we finally get together and crank out both kits.

Thoughts
Having built the Unicorn Mode Unicorn Gundam late last year, I found a lot of the changes from head to toe to be very interesting. Though obviously not a transformation or a “parts-formation” kit, the pieces that are used in both Unicorn and Destroy Mode translated to their respective kits seems like engineering genius in my eyes. The fact that a decent amount of the exterior armor pieces are identical to the Unicorn Mode just blows my mind.

  

One thing I did not realize about Destroy Mode is the amount of thrusters that are revealed in the transformation. The four tiny thrusters on the backpack are accompanied by an additional four thrusters on the rear skirt armor and the rear ankles. The suit detail definitely fills out with those additional thrusters.


While building this kit, I thought about the previous kit I had built just last month, Crossbone Gundam X1. While the Vanguard's lead suit has similar stature to many of the alternative timelines of the Gundam franchise, the Unicorn sticks with the massive stature of the Universal Century's latter half. In the aforementioned article, I had the following size comparison with the same caption:

The Unicorn stands at least a head above Crossbone (and it's not even in NT-D mode).
Now that I have a variant of the Destroy Mode, I decided to do another comparison. Holy Neo Zeong, the difference is scary: almost two heads taller!


...but enough with the ridiculous comparisons, here is a more practical size comparison: Unicorn back-to-back with Destroy,

Banshee Norn Unicorn Mode provided by a friend (who lost interest in Gunpla)
Looking at the suit in the two different modes, I still think the Unicorn Mode looks better despite the lack of exposed psycho frame. Something about the single horn sticking outward makes the suit look so much cooler than the split of the Destroy Mode.

On top of my preferences, the sturdiness of Destroy Mode, compared to Unicorn Mode, is somewhat troubling. The same problems I mentioned in the previous review transfer to Destroy Mode with added problems with the flimsiness of the build. Because of the complexity of the suit, the pieces are more susceptible to falling apart. This is most apparent on the rear skirts and the arms.
With this complexity, some problems are actually magnified. I do not think I mentioned this in the review of the Unicorn Mode, but the Beam sabers on the back are friction fit and fall off pretty easily. With Banshee Norn’s rear fins (or whatever those horrible things are on its back), the beam sabers are even more likely to fall off as they are pretty much held by nothing. Speaking of which, the kit does not include any beam effects for the beam sabers. Yes, four beam sabers and not a single effect part. Thanks Bandai.


Specific to the Banshee Norn, the kit includes an Armed Armor DE, a massive shield that is an upgrade to the normal Shield on Unicorn Gundam. In terms of runners, the Armed Armor DE is on a separate runner that includes a back mounting bracket that is used on the Unicorn 03 Phenex which was only released a few months prior to the Banshee.

Destroy Mode Armed Armor DE's on a Unicorn Mode Banshee,
what was this guy thinking?

The Armed Armor DE includes two connectors: the same connector as all other Unicorn variations for use on the arm and a special connector to attach to the back while making room for the Armed Armor XC.


Speaking of the Armed Armor XC, the seemingly useless fins in the back apparently improve the affinity between the pilot and the suit. Aesthetically, these fins make the suit look too cluttered especially with the antler-like V-fins. But who am I to question Hajime Katoki’s work?

One part I liked on the Banshee Norn is the Revolving Launcher on the Beam Magnum. The Beam Magnum alone is an interesting piece with a lot of detail, but a boring protagonist weapon is boring. The Revolving Launcher fixes all the boring with various play options: extra ammo and the Beam Jitte specifically.


Other than the differently colored plastic, one might wonder what makes the GFT version unique. Though most GFT kits only differ in sticker sheets and plastic color, the Strikes Odaiba Banshee Norn includes a Hyper Beam Javelin, an item that was originally bundled with a volume of Gundam ACE. In universe, the Hyper Beam Javelin is a folding beam halberd that can be attached under the shield to be deployed in various forms.



As a 1/144 scale plastic representation, the Hyper Beam Javelin comes in two forms: folded and deployed. each of the beam edges can be attached to either folded or deployed versions of the Hyper Beam Javelin.

Your standard Hyper Beam Javelin
With beam effects, an alternative form
Hyper Beam Javelin, folded
Deployed while mounted between Unicorn's shield and dual Beam Gatling
On a side note, for those unfamiliar with the Hyper Beam Javelin, the rounded and triangular pieces where the beam effects are held are originally white with a sliver of exposed psychoframe running through it. refer to the Master Grade Full Armor Unicorn Ver. Ka or Kshatriya Repair if you want a better look.
All in all, this 1/144 representation is quite neat, however, the item is also quite flimsy, especially compared to other tall melee weapons like the Twin Beam Spear. I might have to use a little plastic cement to keep it together.

Off The Beaten Instruction Manual
After going through the straight build, I wanted to consider my options using the excess parts included in the runners. The first, most obvious option is the original Unicorn shield. The box did not advertise this shield and the instructions crossed out all the pieces, but here we are with the shield in its deep blue and vibrant green.


Looking at the other spare parts, the original back mount adapter and the original Unicorn chest with collar, I came to the conclusion there was nothing else for me. However, going back to those parts, I quickly found I could make the original Unicorn chest. This means there was a possibility of achieving a build I always considered to be much better looking: the novel version Banshee. Could I pull off the Banshee Ver. Ka (Last Battle Ver.) with this kit?


The answer, unfortunately, is no: the build is not 100% achievable within the kit. However, with the help of the other Unicorn bundled with this kit, the Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee (Last Battle Ver.) from the novels can be constructed. All that is needed is the two beam saber mounts on the back and the beam magnum (without the Beam Revolver).

Front: original Unicorn chest with the gunmetal collar.
Rear: the two gunmetal pieces that hold the beam sabers needed to be commandeered.
We are even given a sheet of gold stickers that could further the imitation, though instead of 'GR' we get '02' on the shoulder.


So there we have it, the scrap parts can actually be used as an alternative build. Maybe one of these days I'll go purchase the regular production versions of these two kits to have a novel version to display (while saying goodbye to my wallet).

Conclusion
Overall I am impressed with the beauty and the complexity of the Banshee Norn Destroy Mode, especially with the ver. GFT vibrant green psychoframe. I am also impressed with the amount of play options for the non-Full-Armor-half of the Strikes Odaiba Set.  However, due to the flimsy structure of not only the suit, but the Hyper Beam Javelin included, I cannot recommend this kit without a warning to any unsuspecting builders.


If you have made it this far, I commend you for a decent attention span. This article turned out a lot longer than I expected, then again, there are two kits to talk about. Nevertheless, you've reached the end! Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you in the next one. Until then, may your cuts be clean and sandpaper rough.