Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Robot Damashii Leo

The Leo: arguably the best thing to come out of Gundam Wing. Arguably the quintessential mobile suit design. Arguably... well, maybe I should hold back for now: there's a lot to talk about when it comes to the Leo, and I fully intend to examine the subject thoroughly--but another time. For now, let's limit ourselves to the recently-released Robot Damashii figure. The final verdict: it's awesome. Buy one. Buy two. Buy three.

...But it's also somewhat emblematic of the worst aspects of the Robot Damashii figure line. So... let's jump right in.

Owing to the efficient simplicity of the Leo's utalitarian design, the Robot Damashii figure is incredibly flexible. Double-joints and carefully-sculped indentations in the legs are arms allow the elbow and knee joints an impressive range of motion approaching 180 degrees. The shoulder joints offer the full 180 degree range of movement, making this Leo the single most posable Gundam figure ever made (in my experience). It's also solidly built. Unlike prior, disappointing Robot Damashii offerings like the Aile Strike Gundam and venerable RX-78-2, the Leo is solid: no hollow plastic piece here. The added weight makes the Leo solid enough to play around with, and the nominally tight joints also allow it to assume--and stay in--nearly any pose you can imagine. The joints are so tight, in fact, that I often had difficulty bending the knee "naturally." The double-joint in the knee is attached to the "kneecap" armor, and the upper joint is often so tight that when bending the knee, only the lower joint will bend, which screws up the proportions somewhat.

Considering several Robot Damashii figures have joints so loose that they'll bend and sway without anything touching them, I'm inclined to be very, very happy to see the Leo's joints so tight.

The figure also has a lot of really nice details. Notice the panel-lines in the armor--I'd strongly suggest inking those in if and when you buy a Leo for your own. Just likely detailing a HGUC, you can really make the figure look quite a bit better by investing a few minutes of time and effort into filling in the details.

The Leo also boasts an impressive number of hardpoints for accessorizing... two on either side of the back, two cleverly hidden in indentations on the sights of each thigh, and two completely hidden under the armored shoulder plates. It's nice having options, but I was a bit disappointed to realize that, once again, the hardpoints are non-standard. Want to slap some Zaku or RX-78-2 weapons onto the Leo's frame? You're out of luck--the hardpoints don't match up. Standardization wouldn't have been hard, and would have made several of the more recent figures a lot more fun to mess around with. Oh well.

The first thing you'll realize with the six hardpoints is, well, there's really nothing to do with them. At all. Out of the box, the Leo figure only comes with some spare hands and the machine gun. That's it. Even the head is just a cheap, single-piece of plastic meshed with the rim around the "neck."  The "seam" between the head and torso of the Leo out-of-the-box is painfully noticeable (and looks hideous).

It's particularly bad from a top-down view, where the sides of the head just sort of melt into the rest of the torso. Absolutely awful. To remedy the awful head situation (and to find something to use those hardpoints with!) it's necessary to buy the extra "Option Set" for almost the same cost as the Leo figure itself.

Want to angle the head ever-so-slightly to the left? Buy the expansion pack!
 The Options set is really more of a necessity than an "option" for the collector-who-gives-a-damn. It comes with the Tallgeese-esque dobergun & shield, a bazooka, an optional set of shoulder armor with rotating beam cannons, a lovely round shield and a pair of beam sabers.

Oh: and a new head. One that can angle up-or-down very, very slightly and rotate.

Looks pretty badass, right? You can use the hardpoint-fixtures in any of the hardpoints, which adds greatly to the amount of poses you can do. I was able to get a pretty cool faux-guncannon look going using the hardpoint-fixtures to affix two machine-guns to the shoulders of one of my Leo's (with the armor plating angled vertically). Mounting weapons on the back or thighs is a bit more difficult. As you can see in the above images, all of the weapons have angled handles, which means that they tend to slide out (thanks to gravity) of the hard-point fixture if you set everything to a natural angle. It's a bit disappointing, but considering how incredible a Leo looks with a dobergun slung on its shoulder, or sipping around with a beam saber in either hand, it's a fault I'm more than willing to forgive.

 And did I mention that if you buy two option sets you can equip a dobergun on each shoulder at the same time? You can. The joints for the gun-mount are actually on the bottom of the gun (not the side, as would be anime-accurate) and the eye-sensor can be moved from the front to the back of the mount. Perfect! It's a small detail, and to be honest I found myself preferring the classic dobergun + shield look, but I'm really glad it's there. There's nothing like options!

I could rave about the perfection of the Leo's design for hours. In fact, it's one of those little rants I've been planning on scribbling out for a really long time now. But, hell, if you're here in the first place, you must have some appreciation for the quality of the Leo's design, so I'll spare the lecture. The Leo, sadly, has not seen much love. Aside from a single, horrendously overpriced resin kit, Gundam fans have never had the opportunity to own a Leo figure until now. Thank god for the Robot Damashii line! And thank god the Robot Damashii Leo is a good one!

I said before that the Leo was awesome, but I also said that, in many ways, it represented the worst aspects of the Robot Damashii line, which has more ups and downs than your typical roller-coaster. This idea of selling basic, fundamental accessories separately is a bit offensive, don't you think? Why couldn't everything be packaged in, well, a single package? And as if that weren't bad enough, the other classic Leo design--the purple space Leo--is available -only- as a Tamashii Web Shop exclusive. So if you want a purple leo, with different feet (space Leos have vernier thrusters in the feet that older-type Leos do not) you have to A) live in Japan and B) shell out extra money for the special "exclusivity."

And that's not even the worst of it.

Even the Web-shop exclusive space Leo is not immune to being sold piece-meal. Want the space-mobility backpack with your Space Leo? And, since you went out of your way to buy the thrice-damned space Leo in the first place, you almost certainly do, you have to buy the Options Set 2 (also a Web Shop exclusive). Want a head that can move? The space Leo's beam machine gun or beam pistol? Buy the option set.

Tamashii Web Shop exclusives have always been ridiculous, but the crap they're pulling with the Leo is just plain asinine. If you can get over the fact that Bandai sees us consumers as lemmings, and treats us with even less respect with their ever-increasing nonsense... by all means, buy a Leo. Buy ten. If you can't get over that, well, what choice do we have? This is the only Leo out there to buy, and it's a damned good figure, nonsense notwithstanding. Even with the (necessary) option set, it's very affordable, and its quality places it squarely on the better end of the Robot Damashii spectrum.

(Images from Hacchaka's photo-review)


  1. Love the Leo. Really glad it's so cheap.

  2. I just saw they're releasing the Aries, too.

    But, of course, all of the pre-orders were sold out by the time I noticed.

  3. Thanks for the great review. It convinced me to get the Leo after all. I got 2 of them and would've like to snag one more if only there were any left.