Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Robot Damashii Exia

When the Robot Damashii line started up a few years ago, I didn't really know what to think of it. The figures seemed awfully expensive for an update to the "In Action" line of figures. The first figure launched, the Robot Damashii 00 Gundam, however, impressed me greatly, and I've been a fan of the line ever since. Offering the mold accuracy and posability of a plastic model with the durability and painting detail of an action figures, the Robot Damashii line is pretty impressive.


There are, however, a few stinkers--and the Robot Damashii Exia is one of them.

Construction-wise, the Exia maintains the same high-level of quality I've come to expect from the Damashii line. The figure is made from a dense, high-quality plastic. The figure features a number of moving parts, but all of the joints are fairly tight, making it very easy to pose--and it's very posable. The figure is also durable enough that you can play around with it, and it comes with all the accessories you could possibly want: seven different swords, transparent beam blades, extra hands, the shield, and so on. It even has two different V-Fins--one made of the same hard plastic as the rest of the figure, the other molded out of soft vinyl plastic, making it very flexible. It's nice not to have to worry about the V-Fins snapping off--and I hope this idea catches on with the folks making the Master Grade models.

Unfortunately, despite the quality of the materials involved, the overall shape of the Exia leaves quite a bit to be desired. To be perfectly blunt, the proportions are wrong. In some places, the design alterations make the Exia look a bit cooler (the legs, for example) but in others, the new proportions just don't mesh well with my image of what the Exia should look like. The too-thin secondary torso armor, is particularly disconcerting.

Aesthetically, the secondary torso pieces (the sides of the torso with the "vents" on them) are too small next to the main torso. This results in the figure losing the striking, triangular shape that defined the Exia, instead focusing on the large, circular GN components in the central torso. Because of the small size of the secondary torso, the two pieces of plastic aren't held onto the rest of the figure very firmly--attached only with a small ball joint at the bottom of the piece, these side-torsos have a bad habit of slipping off their mounts and hanging listlessly under the Exia's arms. That ain't cool.


The second major flaw in the figure can be found in the Exia's legs--specifically, with the thighs. Simply put, they're too large. There is, however, a legitimate reason for the change in proportions this time around: the forward half of the thigh armor is meant to be removed, so that it can be swapped with "new" armor that transforms the base Exia figure into that of the Exia R2, as seen in the final episodes of Gundam 00. Unfortunately, these extra-armor sets were a "special" item, only manufactured in limited quantities, and only for sale for a limited time. If you can't manage to find a set of the R2 accessories, you're stuck with an Exia that has odd-looking legs.

Personally, I rather like the new proportions here, as it lends emphasis to the legs of the mobile suit, and all too often the legs are an aspect of mecha desing that people tend to ignore. The wider thighs help to redefine the overall shape of the Exia, making it look stronger--more like a melee-focused machine ought to look. Coupled with the changes in shape to the Exia's torso, however, the new proportions present an Exia very different from that seen in the model kits, action figures, anime or lineart.


Beyond the more visible changes to the torso and legs, the Damashii Exia features a number of other, smaller deformations. The rear hip armor is bulkier and thicker than it ought to be, the GN cables along the shoulders are undersized, and the beam saber mounts on the back of the shoulders are deformed. The end result of all these proportional changes is that the Exia loses a lot of its sharp angles--which is what initially appealed to me with the Gundam's design.

Of course, the Exia isn't all bad. The weapon accessories fit very snugly into the hands provided; the massive GN sword is very impressive from every angle, and the torso and legs both offer a very wide range of flexibility, surpassing that of the High Grade Exia kit, approaching (or even equaling) that of a Master Grade model. If you can overlook the design flaws, the Damashii Exia is impressive, and definitely worth a look: just don't expect perfection.


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