Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Robot Damashii Gundam AGE-1 Normal

Arguably the most traditionally-designed leading gundam since the Turn A more than a decade ago, the AGE-1 Normal type is one of the latest figures in the Robot Damashii line and demonstrates, among other things, both the greatest strengths of the figure line, while managing to avoid many of the faults that have plagued recent releases.

For the most part, the AGE-1 Normal is well-proportioned an anime-accurate, but there are a few noticeable flaws. Proportion-wise, the Robot Damashii figure seems a bit too tall and slender, and some of the parts are not the proper colors (like the sub-joints for the shoulder armor). Beyond these small flaws, however, the AGE-1 is magnificently detailed, very solid (and durable and posable) and is most certainly one of the better figures in the Robot Damashii line.

After much deliberation and a great deal of time spent fussing with a very  unwieldy camera, I've determined that the only way I'll ever get around to posting these reviews of mine is if I borrow images from elsewhere. Elsewhere meaning "Japanese photo-review blogs sites." These images are from Nuu's photo-review. I highly suggest you take a look--the link is at the bottom of this article.
Proportion-wise, the AGE-1 feels a bit off. The lower torso (black) is a bit too small, so the lines don't match up evenly with the top of the skirt armor. While this slight inconsistency is nowhere near so drastic as it is in the Crossbone RD figures, it's still a bit noticeable. Other than that, the shape and details of the figure are all magnificent. The paint is applied perfectly down to the most minute of details--there are even narrow gray panel lies of the face mask. The knees and elbows of the figure are double-jointed, but the shoulders are actually triple-jointed, allowing for a very high degree of posability.

The torso, arms and legs can all be separated. While the arms fit very snugly into the torso joints, I found that the torso and legs did not fit together as tightly as I would have wished, and would sometimes become separated slightly when angling the torso down or up to the limits of the joint. The torso was still lodged fairly tightly into the waist-slot, but I found the small amount of vertical movement to be a bit annoying as it only exacerbated the AGE-1's already unusually tall and slender profile.

Ostensibly, this allows for easy-swapping between the Titus and Spallow Robot Damashii parts... but I don't really see the point of that, as it would look very strange to see mixed-and-matched legs (not to mention the fact that the AG figures are built around the same gimmick) and the fact that in order to part-swap, you'd have to buy those extra figures, anyway. I have a feeling the true reason is simply to make manufacturing the figure cheaper, as all three versions of the AGE utilize the same torso and head.

The waste joint can rotate around a full 360 degrees, and can pivot up and down nearly 45 degrees. When pivoting down, the central piece of blue plastic on the torso slides neatly inside the white "cap" in the center, providing a seamless "bend," but when angling back (as pictured) that socket where the torso and legs are attached to each other becomes loose, opening up the "seam" a bit wider than it should be.

The skirt armor is fairly simple, and works very well for the figure. The front and rear skirt armor is mostly identical, with the white lower bits attached to the upper yellow bits via one joint, and the yellow bits to the hip structure via another. This let's the skirt armor fold down and around the legs in a more natural manner resembling an actual armor skirt, which is a very nice change from the solid, almost ridid skirt armor previous designs in the franchise have utilized.

The side hip armor (where the beam sabers are stored) is equally nice. Rather than be mounted on special joints, these small pieces of plastic have metal hinges! They're very firm, and while they only allow for movement along a single angle, they keep the hip armor firmly in place and looking good no matter the pose. The beam sabers fit snugly into sockets, and there's a small indent along the edge of each saber that makes them easy to grab onto and pull out. Excellently done. My only real gripe here (and make no mistake, it's a small one) is that when you've removed the beam saber, the side armor looks kind of silly.

There is no special swivel-joint for the hips (as is found in the high grade 1/144 kit of the AGE-1) but the thighs can rotate all the way around, allowing the legs to be posed at any angle. While it this does result in a more limited range of movement for the legs, the resulting increase in durability more than makes up for it in my opinion. The legs and hips, usually one of the weakest areas on any mecha figure, are very nice and durable here and sure to stay firmly in almost any pose--even standing on one leg--for as long as you can stand to leave it alone.

The AGE-1 came with a modest number of accessories. The shield is exactly what you'd expect--a solid mass of plastic.  It does, however, have a very nice, sharp shape to it (great molding) and fits onto the AGE-1's forearms very well. The hands make use of a new joint that looks a bit better than the old ball-joints and allows for a greater range of movement, but at the same time it's a bit more difficult to swap hands because of the size and flexibility of the joints involved.

The beam sabers are a bit of a disappointed. Two sabers and two knives, the molds are generic ones and don't reflect the somewhat-unique blades of the Gundam AGE. Whether or not this is a positive or a negative depends largely on how much you actually like the new design of beam sabers in AGE. Personally, I'm undecided.

And, lastly, there's the rifle. It's... great. No, really. Solid plastic, crisp mold, four very firm joints that allow it to be deployed any way you like, perfect paint-job on the "eye" sensor, and--best of all--a handy forearm peg to keep in snugly in the hands of the figure. The secondary handle has a "stop" to it so that it can only swivel out 90 degrees (something the high grade kit lacks, by the way)  but the other joints have no such limitations, meaning you'll have to be a bit careful when lining up the rifle in it's "vertical" and "horizontal" modes.

(And yes, that small piece pictured below is, in fact, a stand "adapter" allowing the figure to very easily be placed on a Action Base 2).

In theory, the idea of the thruster blasts is kind of cool. In practice... eh, not so much. I was fairly disappointed with the the AGE-1's thruster-fire accessory, but at least it did manage to actually fit on the figure the first time I tried (which is more than I can say for the Destiny's wings of light).

The first problem is perhaps the most obvious--as soon as I attached the transparent plastic accessory (which is SOLID plastic), the center of balance changed dramatically. With this piece attached, you either have to use a stand, or angle the figure forward. This cuts down on the number of poses the AGE-1 can take by a wide margin. Not to mention the fact that it impairs both the torso's vertical and horizontal rotation.

But the bigger problem reared its head with the second, third, and fourth times I applied the thruster-fire part. Namely in that I was unable to do so.  The plastic is vaguely soft, and fits into the AGE-1's backpack via three very small, very shallow pegs inserted into each vernier. It wasn't a firm fit the first time, and after I took it off, I found I could no longer get the thruster-fire accessory to stay in place. Ironically, this piece DOES fit fairly snugly onto the backpack of the high-grade 1/144 AGE-1 model kit, so it's not a total loss.

From left to right: high grade 1/144 scale Gundam AGE-1 Normal; Robot Damashii Gundam AGE-1 Normal; Robot Damashii Gundam F91

The most startling thing about the AGE-1 is that it's one of the few figures in the Robot Damashii line (and in the Gundam franchise as a whole, actually) to have fairly accurate human proportions. It still suffers a bit from the "super-lean" trend of recent mecha design, but in general its shape conforms far more to the human norm than other designs. Particularly in the case of the torso and legs. This makes the AGE-1 a bit hard to display, as setting it down next to the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, or a Stark Jegan, will highlight just how unnatural the proportions of those designs are.

Part of me thinks the slender frame of the AGE-1 Robot Damashii figure may actually be a response to those "all leg, no torso" designs, as it has an even more elongated figure than its high-grade counterpart.

The double-jointed knees allow the AGE-1's legs the full range of movement possible (more so than picture above, the thigh and lower leg can be placed parallel to one another) The "shin" armor with the black marking is a seperate piece of plastic and it moves, but unlike other Robot Damashii figures, it doesn't move very much and does absolutely nothing to cover up the the knee joint.

The feet are farily flexible and, in a nice change of pace, the ankle armor attaches on to the leg very fimrly. You don't have to worry about it getting loose, let alone falling off, which is almost always a worry with Gundam figures.

One last thing I should note--contrary to most Robot Damashii figures, the AGE-1 Normal does NOT include any "soft duplicates" of any pieces, V-Fin included. This is likely because the V-Fin of the AGE-1 is a far more seamless part of the head, and has a fairly detailed paint-job to it. Personally, I've never had an issue of losing v-fins or of breaking the hard plastic versions, but if you do have a habit of doing so, be warned that the AGE-1 comes with no durable soft-plastic duplicate and no replacement.

It does suffer from a few faults--exaggerated proportions, a few too many visible joints--but on the whole, the Robot Damashii AGE-1 is a very sharp, very striking figure. It's posable, it's durable, and it's got some serious mass, making it perfectly suitable to use as a display piece AND to play with. The lines of the figure are very strong, and are reminiscent of the classic designs of the past--the overall shape and colors are similar to the RX-78-2, obviously, but I found the slight curvature of the forearms very nostalgic, recalling Syd Mead's work on the Turn A.

With solid parts, firm joints and sharp lines, the Robot Damashii Gundam AGE-1 Normal is one of the better figures in the Robot Damashii line, and well worth you're time if you're at all a fan of the Gundam Age anime or it's mecha design.

(Images used in this review were taken from Nuu's photo-review)


  1. I got one a week or so ago. I only really bought it because it was on sale (really don't care about the design). It's nice.

  2. I'm always amazed at how much better figures and gunpla and stuff looks in photos versus how it looks in reality.

  3. I used to love the robot damashii stuff.

    But now it seems like all of the cooler figures are webshop exlusives. That bullshit.

    And the fact that they never made that Shokew that was previewed back in... 2010, was it? 2009? Back when Ngee Khiong was still doing his thing--that's just salt on the wound.

  4. Just wanna say that it's really nice to see you give Nuu his due, unlike a certain other toy review site that steals Japanese toy review photos and claims them as their own. Shows integrity on your part.