As of the time of this writing, Hobby Hovel is currently reeling its most spectacular flop in recent history. It seems people just aren’t all that interested in over-muscled men in tight clothing (unthinkable, I know!). The MG Gouf Ver. 2.0 review I wrote while in China that is scheduled to go up in a couple of days consist of what I expect to be a very dry 2,000 word + rant that only the masochistic would read in its entirety. The situation is dire and I need to breathe some life back into Hobby Hovel, and what better way to do it than a review of Gundam 00’s original poster boy – Gundam Exia?
As the latest TV entry (no, Sangokuden doesn’t count) of the ever-expanding Gundam franchise, Gundam 00 probably doesn’t need an introduction. But in case you don’t know anything about it, here’s a little crash-course: About three hundred years in the future, in a time where humans no longer cry over oil spills thanks to the vast solar energy system built around the earth, a small private military group known as “Celestial Being” surfaces. The sole purpose of Celestial Being is to piss off every major world power with by butting into every armed conflict with their technologically advanced death machines known as Gundams. These Gundams, which are powered by green pixie dust (otherwise known as GN particles), are so far above the current level of weapons technology that they are virtually invulnerable (think Tony Stark in his Iron Man suit). One of these peace-enforcing death machines is known as Gundam Exia, piloted by a Kurdish former child-soldier with a fetish for pointy things. Together they merrily travel around the globe, making plenty of widows as they go.
…On second thought, you should probably refer to a Wikipedia entry or something for a synopsis if you need one.
Anyhow, being a MG kit of a recent main mobile suit, the MG Exia unsurprisingly received a lot of attention. Bandai, being the devious marketing genius that it is, foresaw this anticipation and released a special “Ignition Version” of this kit, which features metal-plated blade parts, LED light for the chest, and extra parts to make the Exia Repair (thanks for the reminder, hamstercorp!). Because I wasn’t crazy about the prospect of having shiny bits on an otherwise matte-finished model, I opted for the regular version. With out of the way, on with the review!
When I was writing the MG Gouf review, it occurred to me that my reviews are long – too long. Never mind the fact that you probably have better things to do then to read redundant textual descriptions when the pictorial guides are RIGHT THERE, the time I spend writing these things have gotten out of hand. I’ll be entering my last year of my undergrad soon, and I would rather get into the habit of a different style than continue to burn the midnight oil when school starts. Longer is not necessarily better, especially for me, and as Shakespeare puts it: “brevity is the soul of wit”. From now on, especially with plamo and toy reviews, I’ll be making broader strokes and avoid redundancies. Let’s hope this works…
The biggest difference you’ll notice between the MG Exia and its HG and 1/100 counterparts are the proportions. While the older versions featured a wide set of shoulders and narrow head, the MG features a slightly more compact set of shoulders and a fuller and rounder head. These subtle changes really make a huge difference in the overall image of the suit, which conform a lot better the appearance of the suit in the anime.
The MG Exia is certainly not lacking in terms of details. The gray cheeks, openable cockpit hatch, and tiny yellow face vents are faithfully reproduced, and the various clear green parts on the model are laser-etched with markings. These round green covers also have clear lenses placed underneath to enhance the effect of the clear green bits.
Another nifty new feature to the suit is the GN conductor cables, which are made of a special rubber material that reflect different colours spectrums at certain angles. In addition to the usual places where you may expect to mind them (like the shoulders and thighs), these GN conductor cables are also present in the sides of Exia’s torso and the top of its head. While this gimmick never appeared in the anime, they do look very nifty, so I’m not complaining about them in the slightest.
The key feature of the Exia is the seven swords equipped throughout its body – a feature that would surely come in handy when the pilot loses his weapon… six times.
First up is Exia’s trademark weapon: the GN Sword/Rifle. This weapon is held in the right hand in addition to being mounted onto the right forearm. It is capable of transforming between rifle mode, to a “gunblade mode” (in which the blade is merely flipped to the front), and sword mode (where the rifles transforms into the hilt of the sword itself). The blade is nothing short of massive and can feel cumbersome at times, but thankfully it does not weigh enough to cause any significant weight issues.
The rifle/blade part of the weapon can also be folded into the side guard itself in order to free up the right hand in order for the Exia to hold other weapons – a very thoughtful inclusion that’s not present in the HG or the 1/100.
Second up are the GN long blade and the GN short blade, triangular sword weapons that can be mounted onto the sides of Exia’s hips. While the swords themselves are pretty ordinary, their hip mounts are a point of interest.
By popping open the round hatch at the base of Exia’s legs, a small ball-joint can be swung out to be connected into the sockets on the GN blades. However, while these mounts work fantastically in a standing pose, they do not work very well in action poses requiring leg movement, as these mounts are ultimately fixed onto the upper legs and cannot accommodate the more extreme poses. In the end, I wish the Exia’s blade mounts were based on a part-swapping design instead of this integrated design, as the former would be more flexible and durable than the flimsy and limited design featured in the model.
Third up are the 4 beam sabers, 2 of which are stored behind Exia’s shoulders, while the 2 others are stored on Exia’s bum. The 2 long beam blades and 2 dagger-length beam blades are included with the model. The pair stored vertically on the bum can be flipped to the side for easy retrieval, while the shoulder-mounted hilts are attached to a swinging base piece also designed for easy retrieval by the hands.
Then there’s the GN shield, which can only be mounted on the side of the forearm, which is accurate to the anime and functionally satisfactory, as the shield is narrow enough to feel cumbersome in this configuration. The blue parts of the shield can be shifted outwards to reveal a sliver of the shield’s gray interior.
Finally, the GN drive is removable. Being the regular version, there is no LED light housed on the inside. However, a clear display base is still included for it, along with a 1/100 scale figure of Setsuna and a Haro worker. A red cover for the hole behind a drive-less Exia is also include, as well as a crotch clamp for use in conjunction with Bandai’s Action Base 1.
Before I forget, I would like to point a quirky fact: the MG Exia’s hands are tiny. So tiny that it looks like it has trouble holding onto the mammoth handles of its various thick-handled swords. This isn’t a big detriment to the model as a whole, but I can’t help but to think how a pair of Zaku II-sized hands would be more appropriate for the Exia.
Surprisingly, the neck of Exia is single-jointed. This design decision was probably made to accommodate the GN drive housed in the chest of the suit. Regardless, this is the only MG model I have (excluding the Ball, which has no neck) that only has one point of articulation for the neck. This unfortunately makes reproducing convincing action poses more difficult.
While the forward shoulder articulation of the MG Exia is average amongst MG kits, it is somewhat lacking for a suit that focuses on melee combat, to which shoulder articulation is paramount. Furthermore, the GN conductor cables underneath the shoulders tend to push the arms downwards if they are propped too high up, to the side, so you’ll have to remove them from time to time if you want certain poses.
While on the topic of melee combat, Exia’s arms and wrists are also a tad disappointing. Gundam models have always lacked the ability to point their swords forwards, and the Exia is no exception. Bandai really needs to innovate their wrist and hand design to accommodate the possibility of the fencer’s grip for their models, and sadly such an innovation did not arrive in Exia.
Rest of the model is pretty much standard fair with a few brighter notes: the hip articulation for the Exia is virtually uninhibited by the combination between the shiftable hip pegs and the miniscule and double-jointed skirt armour, the chest v-fins can be folded down, the waist an bend and twist sideways with admirable ease, and even Exia’s “toes” can wiggle up and down.
As far as looks go, Exia does good justice to the original design – and then some. Its reworked proportions and detail takes the suit beyond what it was in the anime. But in terms of articulation, Exia reminds us of the fact that models are not toys – they are not meant to be constantly bent and manipulated. I believe most of the articulation gimmicks for MG kits are designed with the goal of the joy of construction rather than playability in mind, and that definitely shows in the MG Exia. While it is a joy to build and behold, when it comes to putting it into the swashbuckling poses in the anime, this thing is not capable of managing that. Keep this fact in mind, and you’ll find the Exia to be an enjoyable kit. Alternatively, consider the various Gundam Exia Action figures (such as the Robot Damashii and the Super HCM version) out there.
Significantly improved proportions
Very detailed, especially on the laser-etched clear green parts
Unrestrictive hip armour and flexible hip joints
Neck only has one point of articulation
The GN Blade holders do not work in most action poses
The shoulder, wrist and hand articulation are not enough to reproduce the more intricate action poses