Monday, January 14, 2019

Hi-Resolution Model Gundam Astray Red Frame Review



I know I said that I was going to be on a review hiatus, and that's still in motion. However I had to make an exception to this kit, because I feel a required responsibility as a Gunpla builder and a figure collector to review this kit and tell the world about it.

So, the HiRM Astray. The first time I saw this announced, I was super hype. Yeah the previous HiRM's were far from the best kits out there and had a myriad of problems, specifically stability and price value. Despite this, I liked their designs and the whole concept was still enticing and unique, and I was curious to see what Bandai would do to stylise the design of the Astray. Then I saw the actual design and honestly I kinda hated it. It looked really bulky and far from the sleek, agile proportions that I enjoyed with an Astray MS and what makes me enjoy them so much. The design felt too bulky and far off from what I originally liked, even the original lineart, so my excitement died down for a bit after seeing it, even though the promo images were impressive.

However shortly after it was released and images of it in person were circulated around the net, I found that the design did look far more enticing in "person". Early reviews and rumours were claiming that this kit did to HiRM's what the RG MK II did for it's own grade: bring a new standard for the grade, showing that Bandai had learned from previous releases and fixed their problems in this new, definitive release. So with the impressions being so good, I was very enticed to give it a shot. I had saved up a lot of money beforehand over the school term so I could make one huge expensive purchase, and when I saw this thing for a reasonable price at Fook Le, I decided to go for it, and walked out with my very first HiRM Gunpla.

So how is it you might ask? Well...I've got some things to tell you.


Box:



The Astray continues the trend of HiRM's having no idea what they want to do for their boxart. The overall box shape, text and grade are all the same, but this time we have a close up silhouette of the Gundam Astray drawing it's Gerbera Straight. Considering the Barbatos was the MS standing neutrally with the frame in the back, and the Wing Zero EW was floating in a semi neutral floating pose with it's rifles, there is no correlation in the actual box poses for the HiRM's, woopee.


Parts:



With every HiRM, there's a pre-built frame, and the Red Frame has it slid inside a plastic casing in a nice red cardboard cover. I'll go into more detail of it later, but note that it does also have a separate part that attaches the backpack to the frame after you build it a bit.




As per every other HiRM, some of the parts are in different finishes to normal. Here, we have 3 gloss white runners...




...3 light grey runners in a matte finish...




...2 red runners as well as 1 grey runner in normal finishes, along with a multi colored A runner with high gloss black...




...high gloss ABS red and white runners for the hands...




...a matte warm gold coated runner for the gold parts similar to the Hyaku Shiki 2.0, as well as a bright mekki silver runner for the sword blade.




The sword itself actually has a matte hamon imprinted on the part, as well as characters on the area that attaches to the hilt.




Finally we have unique beam saber blades, and a gloss sticker sheet. The fact we got stickers is a bit annoying, but the gloss makes it so it doesn't look that bad in person. Still, it's a shame, especially for the price.


Manual:



The manual is an interesting change to the norm. As a HiRM, we get the kit in a cool pose, as well as info on the MS and a load of it's specs right on the cover, talking about it's weapons and such. Inside there's the instructions and part count, but no color guide! Yeah, since HiRM's aren't intended for painting/modding, I guess they chose not to add a color guide. Interesting.




At the back we have information on the pre-built inner frame that the kit comes with, as well as some of the extra small details and design philosophy of the redesign. It's interesting, but lets get to the real good stuff.

Inner Frame:



So here is the pre-assembled inner frame of the Astray, and you can immediately tell that this thing is bulkier than your average Astray. It's definitely a more muscular and weighty silhouette and doesn't really feel like an Astray frame right away. As I said, I wasn't a huge fan of the proportions at first, and I understand that some won't enjoy them. However, I will say that in hand, it looks and feels much nicer. On another note, some people probably won't be a fan of the concept of a pre-built frame, as it makes the build a lot easier and a lot less complex. Personally, I don't really mind, but that is also possibly because I'm more of a figure collector than a model builder. I will say, give it a try first, you might enjoy it.

Being pre-built also gives the frame it's fair share of advantages. For one, what would usually be just static red frame, the HiRM's frame has a myriad of different colored reds and finishes in both gloss, semi gloss, and matte depending on the plastics, and it looks really detailed as is. However, the multiple colors is not the only advantage. This frame also has metal screws and parts in a lot of the joints, as well as and die cast areas on the frame. I will say that compared to previous HiRM's, the die cast is really lacking, as the only visible die cast are at the bottom of the feet and back of the thighs. However, in hand, this frame feels very weighty, and that's reflected in the stability as well. Due to the metal joints and the die cast soles of the feet, the frame has great balance and superbly tight joints, that allow it to balance very well and hold many dynamic poses with ease. The joints aren't too stiff either, they're tight to be sure, but are also relatively easy to move, and it makes posing with this kit an absolute joy.


Frame Articulation:



Of course, great joints need good poseability to be taken advantage of, and no worries, this frame can do that very well. First off there's a balljointed head, however the head itself only really swivels. Although, there's also a hinge joint on the neck itself with a great reach, so the movement is really nice regardless.




Shoulder has a swivel with pretty fantastic range. The upper torso itself also moves up a bit for more range and natural looking poses.




The torso also has a hinge that allows the shoulder to swing out a lot.




Elbow bend is not a perfect 180˚, but it's perfectly satisfactory. Of course it also swivels at the bicep.




The torso itself also has a TON of poseability, and while for a frame it isn't amazing. What's truly amazing is that it keeps all of it when fully armored. First is that awesome side bend, there's also a waist swivel.




Lurch forward.




and bend back a bit. Doesn't seem like much, but trust me, it does the job.




Kick up and sideways kick are both perfect, no problems here.




There's also a swingout bar in the hips to get an even higher kick when fully armored.




Knee has a perfect 180˚ bend.




and the ankle movement is just mad. No problems in poseability, it's as flexible as any good frame could hope to be.


Completed Product:



I know the decals aren't on yet, but that's because I forgot, I add them on later.

Finished kit definitely isn't as immediately impressive compared to other HiRM. Sure it looks detailed but it doesn't have the same obvious metal parts, tones of finishes, coatings, and complex frame of the others, and you're kinda right. However upon closer inspection, you realise that the kit itself does have it's fair share of detail. Sure there aren't a lot of special coatings, however the plastics have lots of beautiful matte and reflective gloss finishes that IMO, look really good, combined with the what I assume to be at least 3 tones of red, with white and grey bits all around, the parts separation is nuts. In terms of detail, this thing is basically RG but at 1/100, meaning MG's will weep at a comparison with this thing. There's also even carbon-fibre like detail on the upper legs and shoulders to reference samurai armor or clothing, and it's really cool. In fact, with the armor on you can see that the bulky proportions are meant to replicate the look of a fully armored samurai warrior with strong muscles, and while I hated the look at first, it has grown on me immensely once I saw it in person and in poses.

Of course, none of the detail in the frame is lost since the Astray shows so much of it, in fact it adds on with the armor on and the two look fantastic together. The armor does put off the balance a bit, but it's still solid, and the tightness of the joints ensures he can pull of any pose, and peaking of poses!

Articulation:



The check armor can be slightly restrictive on the head as they do get caught on the neck area, but overall the head does what a head needs to do.




Arm movement is completely unhindered as the shoulders basically have free range.




Forward movement and the armor at the back of the joint is completely unhindered.




Double joint is the ideal reach and the armor actually splits and moves with the arm as well similar to an RG. I also show off the shoulders poseability, as they have a swivel, and the front part of the shoulder actually moves as well to make some poses look a bit better.




As promised, waist poseability is crazy and completely unhindered.




Leans back.




Leans forward.




The front skirt is actually all one piece, and there's actually a double hinge joint and peg that allows it to move out of the way during poses.




Meaning, insane kick up, which allows you to show off the ideal knee bend.




Ankle pivot is pitch perfect, for as bulky as this thing is, this is as good as it gets and is absolutely maddening how much the reach is.




Feet can move forward and back too!




There's even toe poseability! Not just one single toe hinge either, but the big toe actually is on it's own hinge. This is to replicate the posing of samurai slippers, which separate the big toe from the rest. Very nice attention to detail that homages traditional samurai warriors once again.




Backpack can also fold down with the separate frame part.




Beam sabers move.




and the thrusters move too! Overall poseability leaves nothing to be desired, this is as flexible as a figure could possibly need to be, and hope to be. It fucking nails it.




Now the stickers are on! Again, I do wish these were waterslides, but ah well. The sakura emblems are nice though, and you can't have an Astray Red Frame without Lowe's Junk Guild emblem.


Accessories:



Everything you want? This guy's got.




First off, other than the pre-attached fists. You also get open hands, closed finger open hands, weapon holding hands, and katana holding hands.




Each hand fits on well, and with the exception of the fists, actually has a hinge in them similar to the Build Burning Gundam for extra mobility.




Two in fact! One for the side as well!




Of course, beam saber hilts are useless without beam saber blades. These are nice, typical of Astrays, these have a cool slim forked design as opposed to the norm.




And my god, he makes beam sabers look really fucking awesome in a pose, which is the mark of a great looking kit.




Of course, you also get the beam rifle.




There's a moving handle that lets him hold it with the other hand.





It's pretty self explanatory.




Also a feature unique to the HiRM's rifle, you can take off the parts to have a beam short rifle.




Unneeded, but welcome feature.




There's also this piece, which allows you to store the rifle.




You simply attack it onto the front part of the rifle.




and it attaches right onto his ass.




You also can flip up this hole in the arm, and why would you want to do that you may ask?




Why, to attach the shield of course!




The handle goes into the hand, and the subarm plugs into the arm proper.




It works, but it's admittedly kind of a pain in the ass to get it into the hand, as the hand can fall apart easily while trying to get it to be hold.




When you do though, it's awesome.




Finally, and lets be honest, the real weapon you're using on him, is the Gerbera Straight Katana and the scabbard. This part of the MS is the only place with the iconic special coatings, and you can find both kinds here.




The sword itself stores right into the scabbard and makes a satisfying click once it's in. It's not tight either, and comes out at light pressure, so there's no need to yank this thing out.




There's even a hinge and swivel here so you can pose around the scabbard and put it on either side of the MS. and you actually get a spare connector too, probably future proofing for the inevitable P-Bandai HiRM Gundam Astray Red Frame Kai.




You do have to take the side skirt to peg the sword in which can feel annoying to some, but honestly idc.




Just slot it in.




To get the handle into the hand, you need to carefully take off the back end, slide the hand into the handle, and put it back on.




Rock on with the sword brave samurai!




With the insane poseability and crazy balance, expect this guy to pull off a ton of awesome slashing poses.




Finally you get this adaptor which allows you to attach him onto an Action base 1 or 4.




You can either slide it into his pelvis...




...or for some strange reason, onto his backpack...ok then.


Size Comparison:



He's basically your standard 1/100, definitely looks the part compared to an MG or HG though.


Verdict:

So to answer my question of "how is it", I'll answer it in one sentence.

The Hi-Resolution Gundam Astray Red Frame is the best piece of plastic in the entirety of my full figure collection, let alone Gunpla.

Simply put this thing hits all the marks that I look for in a good figure perfectly, while fixing all the shortcomings or previous HiRM's in terms of engineering. Like previous HiRM's, the detail is high compared to other kits, and while the amount is not as insane as previous releases, it's still considerable. The lack of obvious die cast and lack of special coatings is a let down in terms of aesthetics, and the stickers are as usual, not what I'd like for a high-end model kit. However what it trades off for that is far worth it. It's super stable, and has no lose parts whatsoever, which is something previous HiRM's have always failed to do. For once, the frame is not the only solid part of a HiRM's, but that's not slouch on the frame either, this shit's solid with it's tight screws and metal in the joints, allowing for strong joints that hold any pose. Die cast metal in the feet and legs allow him to have weight down there, and balance spectacularly.

Speaking of poses, please remember how insanely flexible this thing was. Other kits can only hope to have the same level articulation of this thing, and it doesn't get much better either. The hips, waist, and ankles were especially impressive, and for how bulky this thing is, it puts a very good portion of slimmer Gunpla to shame, which is no small feat whatsoever. This thing can get into any pose and look great with it's dynamic proportions. On it's own the proportions might seem off, and I can see why, as I initially hated them. However in person and in a dynamic pose, it looks far more impressive, and easy to see why they were chosen. Speaking of looks, the multi tone plastics, maddening detail and parts separation, and surface sculpting like the carbon-fiber like hatching on the armor just makes it really stand out. It doesn't quite make up for the lack of obvious die-cast and metallic coatings, but it still looks like a HiRM, and that's all it needs to do.

All in all, this thing has officially dethroned the RG Unicorn Gundam for my favorite kit (which is no small feat), and officially become my favorite hunk of plastic to own. It is very expensive, and only get it if you can afford it, but if you can, it is absolutely worth the purchase if you're interested. Any Astray Red Frame fan such as myself should aim to get this amazing kit in their collection, because IMO, Gunpla doesn't get much better than this.

Pros:

- Screws and metal in joints give strong, sturdy joints that aren't too tight, but just stiff enough to hold any pose with complete ease. (!)
- Poseability is completely maddening, with tones of areas replicating true human movement, and a combination of great engineering and design choices to maximise all joint ranges for posing. (!)
- Color separation is crazy, the legs especially is a complete colorstorm of tones of detail. (!)
- Weight of the figure and die cast give the figure good balance, and can hold many dynamic poses with the tight joints.
- Crazy high multi-tone parts separation as HiRM's typically have, RG level if not higher. 
- Tones of different finishes like gloss, matte, and everything in between to make a beautiful, premium finish to every part. 
- Prevalent sculpted details on the armor, some of it giving a carbon fibre clothing like appearance. 

Cons:

- Gloss stickers are used for decals, no waterslides.
- Doesn't have as much metallic coatings or obvious die-cast metal as previous HiRM's.

Neutral:

- Price is really high and expensive. It's definitely a high-end collectable, even though it's absolutely worth it.
- Proportions are an acquired taste, very bulky and not like the common views of how people expect the Astray Red Frame to be like, however it does look better in a pose.