Ah, the RX-78-2 Gundam, the progenitor of the sprawling mass that is the Gundam franchise. Like it or not, the parade colour scheme of the main character’s mobile suit in virtually every single entry into the Gundam franchise traces back to it. While the original design is certainly not very fancy (especially by today’s standards), its lofty status in the hearts of fans has kept it popular through the decades. Of course, with popularly comes merchandise, and the original Gundam has certainly seen its share of it. After 30 years of gunpla, there are RX-78-2 kits in every grade and every size. Even if you don’t want the trouble of building it yourself, the original Gundam can be found in each and every gundam action figure line Bandai has worked on.

“How do they do it? How are they able to keep selling the same design over and over again,” you may ask. Asides from the fanaticism of the fans, I must credit Bandai with its continued dedication to innovate and improve upon their trusty workhorse, and the culmination of these efforts is the subject of this review – the Real Grade RX-78-2 Gundam. Armed with the tagline “Excitement Embodied”, this new grade makes a bold promise to gunpla fans – and boy does it deliver. Not only does it look great, but it is an absolute joy to build as well.

Inner Frame

When I first held the RG Gundam’s inner frame runner, I was very, very confused – after all, there were only 13 components on the whole thing. I knew the kit is supposed to be highly articulated, but I didn’t have the slightest clue as how that would work. But as I freed the pieces from the tree, it dawned to me.

Everything moves.

I’m not talking about the basic elbow and knee joints. I’m talking linked movements in the arms and legs, double-jointed thumbs and waist, articulated toes and neck, multi-axis shoulders – the whole shebang. I was so lost in my own amazement that I felt like a gunpla virgin all over again. Somehow, the wizards at Bandai managed to reduce the complexities of a full-fledged Master Grade inner frame into a single runner of a mere 13 components while compromising virtually nothing. It blew my mind.

The inner frame pieces are made from a hard rubbery material similar to the polycaps of some kits. The joints come pre-assembled – all one has to do is to cut the component from the runner and snap/twist the pieces into the right positions. The process of bending the joints for the first time may feel a little scary at first given the tightness of the parts, but all the joints budged smoothly after a moderate amount of pressure, very much like the elbows Evangelion plamo kits. Unlike the Evangelion elbow joints, however, the articulation on these Real Grade joints is not gimped. Both the knees and elbows bend the full 180 degrees, which makes the Real Grade RX-78-2 on par with even the best of the Master Grade kits.

The Real Grade inner frame is something you simply have to experience for yourself, simply because it’s by far the most exciting thing to happen in the plamo world in recent history. Whether it’s this kit or future RG kits, you gotta try it out if only for the nifty inner frames. Anything else would be self-deprivation.

Finished product

The original Gundam has come a long way since its blocky roots in the late 70s. This new incarnation is based on the much publicized 1:1 scale Gundam erected in Shiokaze Park (now re-located to Shizuoka). The surfaces on the armour are littered with panel lines and part divisions, giving it more realistic look – well, as realistic as the notion of a giant bipedal war machine can get!

When placed next to the HGUC RX-78-2 Gundam, it is immediately apparent that the RG version shits all over its predecessor. Each of the main colours (red, blue and white) of the original design has been separated into two distinct tones each. This gives some much-needed depth to the appearance of the suit. The amount colour separation in this kit is nothing short of absurd. In short, save for the eyes, the kit is 100% colour-accurate right out of the box. Even the tiny yellow vulcans on its head comes as a separate yellow-injected part. Like the MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver. 2.0, the face vents for this Real Grade Gundam are also moulded into the plastic. If Bandai’s aim is to show off their plastic-injection technologies, then they’ve definitely accomplished their goal, because this stuff is nothing short of amazing.

The model comes with a full set of clear sticker decals. These are thinner than the usual clear stickers that one receives in MG kits. Some of the markings also contain reflective foil – something that’s I’ve never seen from clear stickers before. For my build, I chose to mainly use waterslide decals (which are sold separately). I’ve only used the stickers for the eyes, chest vents, knee joints and the elbow joints. The stickers were not as adhesive as I had hoped, but a touch of superglue was sufficient tame the stickers that had to be folded over edges. It’s important to note the waterslide decals do not carry the same foil effect, so some of the foil details on the stickers I’ve omitted are not shown here. If you are curious about those, refer to the promotional images of the kit.

By the way, if you plan to use waterslide decals on this kit, I highly recommend purchasing two sets unless you are very confident in your skills. Many of the decals are downright miniscule, so it doesn’t take much for mishaps to occur. They may tear during adjustment, or downright vanish when you drop them by accident. So unless you don’t have any qualms with waiting for a replacement set of decals to ship, I recommend saving yourself the trouble and pre-emptively ordering a second set.

Accessories

The beam rifle comes with all the details you’d expect – and then some. The targeting radar comes with a separately moulded yellow part, and it can swing to either direction by 45 degrees. The frontal grip of the rifle can be turned to either side. And to spice up the look of the beam rifle, the designers of the kit chose to add a dash of whit to the back half of the weapon.

The hyper bazooka follows the same white and gray colour scheme adopted by the MG 2.0 version of the same suit and features an adjustable grip.

The shield is mounted onto the arm via a stubby tab, which is connected to the shield mount through a ball joint. The mount can be adjusted vertically, and the grip is also articulated. There is also a pair of tabs and indentations on the shield to mount beam sabers and beam rifle, respectively. The hyper bazooka cannot be mounted on the shield.

For melee weapons, the RG Gundam has its signature beam sabers. The hilts are moulded with great detail, and the kit even comes with a decal marking for each! The kit actually comes with 4 hilts: two with tabs protruding from their sides (which I will explain in a second), and two without tabs designed to be mounted onto the backpack or the shield.

The problem with the beam sabers is their blades – they are too damn long. Each blade is 13.5cm long, which is approximately the same as the suit’s height. I was faced with considerable difficulty when I was trying to take photos of the RG Gundam brandishing the beam sabers because they are just unwieldy. The photo above offers a comparison between the beam saber blade of the MG Gundam Exia (top), the blade of the RG Gundam (middle), and the blade of the HG RX-78-2 (bottom). When the blade of a 1/144 scale kit is just as long as that of a 1/100 scale kit, is it any wonder that it looks out of place?

Thankfully, it is possible to mount the blade of the HGUC RX-78-2 onto the hilts of the RG version. It’s not a perfect fit, as the blade has a tendency to go a little crooked, but it sure as hell beats the default option.

The kit comes with two pairs of hands: a pair of closed fists and an articulated pair. For the latter, the middle, ring and pinky fingers are moulded into a single solid piece with one ball joint connecting it to the palm of the hand. The thumb and index finger each come with a joint in the middle. These hands are preassembled on the trees, just like the hands of the PG Strike gundam, so there’s no need to snap together its tiny digits.

All of the weapons are mounted to the Gundam’s hands via small tabs. On the beam rifle and hyper bazooka, the tabs are unfolded from the handles, and the tabs on the beam sabers are moulded into the piece itself. While fiddling with the kit’s tiny fingers is somewhat of a challenge, once you overcome it, the tabs work very well in practice.

The Gundam’s butt can also open to either mount the hyper bazooka or accept the action base mount. Sadly, it does not do a very good job on the latter, as the grip on the piece is virtually non-existent. I’m not sure if this is a production error or what, but using the action base for this kit is not an option for my model. The couple of shots I did manage were a product of much trial and error, in which I had to rely on favourable physics to get the results I wanted. If every kit suffers from the same flaw as mine, then I would strongly advise against displaying the model on the action base, especially if on an elevated position.

The core fighter is fully transformable and colour-accurate. While it lacks the hidden missile bays and the shifting cockpit of the MG 2.0 version, the core fighter for this RG kit is still very impressive, given its miniscule size (it’s only 4cm long!). The canopy can be opened, and a three-piece landing gear can be attached to its underbelly. Also included is a miniscule 1/144 scale Amuro Ray in his pilot suit, which is surprisingly detailed right down to his helmet.

To incorporate the transformed core fighter into the suit itself, simply swap out the gray torso block that houses the main torso joint.

Articulation

I can speak volumes on the articulation, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Some especially exceptional elements include double jointed thumbs and index fingers, three-stage foot assembly, and joints hidden in the backpack which allow you to adjust the angle of the beam sabers when they are stored on it. For all intents and purposes, the articulation on the RG Gundam is equivalent to modern Master Grade kits. The only aspect I was underwhelmed by was the shoulders, as they do not swing out like the MG 2.0 version, so they can’t swing forward with any great extent. This is kind of a bummer, but only in the context of the kit’s generally excellent articulation.

Sadly, the combination of extensive articulation and small sizes does make for some annoyances. Each plate on the Gundam’s skirt armour secured via a shallow ball joint, and it has the habit of popping out frequently. The same problem applies to the fingers, as the task of mounting the beam rifle is as tricky as threading a needle. I suppose for a kit of this size, it’s better for the parts to be loose than to be stubborn to avoid the risks of breakage, but having parts pop off whenever you fiddle with the kit is nevertheless an annoyance, especially when the part in question is a tiny gray index finger falling onto a carpet of the same colour. I really wish Bandai included fixed-pose hands meant to grip the weapons like the HG kits. Sure, I like the articulated hands as much as the next guy, but a more structurally stable alternative definitely would’ve been nice to have.

Final Say

When I first bought the kit, I certainly didn’t expect to be so engrossed in it. Sure, I knew the RG RX-78-2 would have some nutty articulation for such a little model, but I didn’t think the inner frame would be so different from what I’ve become used to in Master Grade kits. Nor did I realize the extent of the attention paid to the colours of the pieces, right down to the smallest details. Surprise led to fascination, and fascination led to attachment. As the model took shape, I knew I had to go all-out with the waterslide decals, and when I screwed up on a decal marking, I knew I had to buy a replacement sheet of decals and wait my two weeks for shipping. This sudden urge for perfection signifies a lot coming from a guy who never even bothered to decal his MG kits.

Simply put, building Real Grade RX-78-2 was the most fun I’ve ever had building a plamo kit in a long time. While its delicacy prevents me from recommending it to newcomers to the hobby, it is a no-brainer to anyone with even a little experience with model-building. Hell, even if you think you’ve moved past the hobby, I would strongly urge you to check out this kit, because chances are you’ll find something new and refreshing here to reignite your passion. Besides, at only 2,500 yen (the price of a higher-end HG-level kit), you can scarcely go wrong with this.

Pros

  • Innovative and fun partially pre-assembled inner frame system
  • Absurd level of articulation for a model of its size
  • Impeccable colour separation
  • Perfect Grade level of details in 1/144 scale package

Cons

  • Fingers and skirt plates have a tendency of popping off
  • Action base mount is practically worthless
  • Grossly oversized beam saber blades