Bandai definitely wrapped up 2012 with a bang, and, for me, there was probably no better way to kick off the New Year! Putting this thing together has definitely been frustrating—really just because of the decals—but that's more a consequence of my own lack of experience, rather than any problems with the kit itself. That's not to say it's flawless, but I really enjoyed assembling mine, and I think many will agree that this is one of Bandai's best kits of 2012. So what makes it great, and does it live up to all the hype? Check out the highlights video here.
What's immediately apparent in this kit is the lack of ABS parts. The body is constructed entirely of polystyrene. Interestingly, the frame's material is a bit softer and more flexible than the armour's. This is apparent while cleaning up the pieces: the frame parts' gates are much less likely to fracture and split than the gates on the armour parts. Consequently, the joints are constructed with polycaps. They hold up all the limbs quite well, and this surprised me, because the lower legs are particularly dense and weighty.
The finished model feels much more solid than previous Ver. Ka releases. This kit is designed incredibly well, and, for the most part, it doesn't use terribly small parts. Everything is easy handle and every piece connects together securely. The only small parts on this kit are the some bits of yellow trim and clear green psychoframe, and they all fit very snuggly. The yellow parts seem to be made of the same polystyrene as the frame, so they're pretty resilient, but the clear green parts are slightly brittle, so take care when handling them. Some of the other parts are quite delicate as well (especially D12, I25, and J12, among others), so it's absolutely critical to pay attention during construction.
I hope the excellent colour separation on the parts comes across through my pictures. Some of the more subtle colour variation comes from stickers, however, such as the grey on the skirt armour and the blue on the calves. I'm not sure what they're made of (the backing paper only says "colour seal"), but these stickers are much softer than other seals I've seen before. They contour very well to the curves on the parts they wrap around, which means they're not likely to peel at the edges, and they have a somewhat dull surface that matches the plastic texture closely. From just a slight distance, they're hardly distinguishable from the plastic at all! I hope Bandai continues to use these in future kits to add colour where it may be difficult to do so with separate parts.
The foil seals, as you may expect, are used for the cameras and psychoframe. The silver backing stickers are really small, so applying them properly really requires a bit of patience and a steady hand, but the result, I think, is worth the hassle. They really bring out the colour of the psychoframe against the dark grey of the internals. I recommend using the leftover silver backing behind the camera parts, rather the green seals, too, because this allows you to take advantage of the clean green plastic that the parts are already cast in. The only place where a green seal (or paint) is necessary is the rear head camera, which doesn't have a separate piece.
The last thing I need to cover, and what frustrated me the most, are the watersides. They're very good decals—they have a fair bit of thickness to them, so they'll stand up to some manipulation—but they don't stick well to the plastic with water alone. If you don't plan on painting your kit, it's absolutely critical that you prep the decals properly before you apply them. I recommend using Microscale's Micro Set, which is probably the best value for what it does <em>and</em> it's widely available.
A small warning: when applying the Ra Caillum badge on the left outside calf, do not use decals 65 and 66. They're not cut to accommodate the gap between the two calf parts (F6 and F4), so positioning them to line up correctly with each other is a huge hassle. I suggest using decal 64 instead and, after it dries, cutting it along the gap between F6 and F7. Applied this way, the design is guaranteed to fit together properly, and the calf can still split apart to transform.
TRANSFORMATION Speaking of the transformation gimmick, it's really well-executed. Unlike the MG Unicorn, this model can shift into psycho mode without sacrificing any structural integrity, and the shifter parts stay inlace quite well. The critical points of the transformation mechanisms are fully integrated into the frame, rather than just the armour plates, and they lock into position securely. Here is a brief video of the transformation process.
Compared to other recent MGs, this is one aspect where this kit is decidedly quite average. The waist lacks a functioning second joint, but this design choice allows the body to stand upright with all of its accessories equipped. Aside from that, the other joints have pretty good range and hold their positions fairly well, despite their their polycap construction.
Fortunately, Bandai decided against ball-jointed ankles, opting instead to use a single large swivel joint, like those seen on figma action figures. This design holds up the weight of the kit incredibly well, while still affording a good range of mobility. The only downside is that, due the shape of the lower legs, the feet cannot roll sideways nearly as much as the swivel joint design potentially allows.
Before I cover anything else, I should probably talk about the hands. Their parts are cast together one plate, very much like the RGs' Advanced MS Joints. Compared to third-party hands in this scale, these are much more durable. The fingers are wonderfully articulated to naturally and realistically assume many poses, but their joints will tend to loosen over time. Fortunately, thanks to a two-peg connection, however, the hands can grip their weapons just fine. Each hand has a peg that folds out from its palm, each weapon has a peg that folds out from its handle, and they connect together quite solidly. The wrists, which have been a point of concern for some, seem to handle the weight of the weapons just fine.
On the subject of weapons, the rifle and beam sabres are rather plain, but the bazooka is really well built. Its parts separation is excellent, particularly the fittings around the barrel and the rounds in the ammo clip, and it adds an extension gimmick—reminiscent of Unicorn's bazooka—not featured on previous models of the Nu in the past. The shield isn't terribly remarkable either, unfortunately, featuring about as much complexity as HG incarnations. It looks good, but I have some qualms about the mounts, which just sets the shield a bit too far from the arm. I would have much preferred the shield attachment used on some older MGs.
When it came to the funnels, though, I think Bandai was a little too ambitious. Each funnel has small clips that can fold out on either side to attach to another funnel in a number of different positions. While this creates more options for displaying the funnels on the Gundam, the funnel attachments simply don't have enough contact area to connect together securely. The funnels also have a tendency to flop forwards, but there's a simple fix for that. If you'd like to display the funnels on both sides, the kit includes an extra backpack attachment for you to do just that.
To show off the finished model, this kind includes a stand and a display rod for each funnel. Each rod is ratcheted at the base and in the middle, and ends with a ball-jointed attachment to a funnel. All the joints rotate along different axes, so the rod can point the funnel in just about any direction and hold it there. The main stand is a different story: the attachment to the kit is fixed and the arm only locks into two positions. This is great for stability, but it really restricts display options. Interestingly, the stand's base is the same as that of the MG Hi-Nu's stand, so, if you have both kits, they'll match each other!
There is a light-up gimmick for the head, but you need to provide your own LED unit.
This kit, I think, continues the Ver. Ka tradition in the best way. It look fantastic, and it's a well-designed model that moves away from the fragile engineering and needless complexity that plagued many Ver. Ka releases before it. There are just a few things that hold it back, however. Aside from the small flaws mentioned above, this kit carries a design that, from what I've seen, is somewhat controversial. Sticklers to more classic iterations of Nu may prefer the original MG or the HGUC more, despite all the improvements this kit has to offer in nearly every aspect.
Personally, I really like the new look. It combines the simple anime look from the film with modern design cues from Gundam Evolve and the RG line to bring the Nu back to relevance—both as an integral piece of Universal Century literature and as a big step in the progressive evolution of MGs. Given how well the transformation mechanisms in this kit were designed, I can't help but wonder about how Bandai may possibly improve the MG Unicorn or, thinking more wishfully, how a PG Unicorn may be engineered. I'm thoroughly connived that, if Bandai were to produce PG Unicorn, it would be a masterpiece.
The other issue—possibly the biggest practical concern about this kit—is its hefty price tag: ¥7000 on the box. There's no question that it's worth what it costs. This simply offers more, compared to other kits in the same price range, like MG Sinanju Ver. Ka (roughly the same size, includes stand, arguably more complex build) and MG Hi-Nu Gundam (better funnel display solution, also more complex). For what you pay, you definitely get a very completely package. It's just that, at the price of nearly three RGs, it's not really as affordable as the typical MG (around ¥4000). In this case, it really pays to know exactly what you're getting for your money, even though I doubt anyone—even detractors of this kit's design—will be disappointed in the finished model, after putting one together.
So what's the final verdict? Should you pick it up? As long as you don't hate how it looks, you'll definitely love this kit. It's great value and solid engineering really make it worth your purchase, but, be warned, it does have its flaws. I doubt any of them will ruin your experience with this kit, but it's best not to buy into the hype—keep a level head, know what you're , and you won't be disappointed. I hope you found this review insightful, and, as always, thanks for reading! Feel free to let me know if you've any questions, and I'll see you guys next time!