Robot Damashii Unicorn Gundam (Unicorn Mode)
Height: 12cm to top of head, 14cm to top of horn.
Articulation: 34 points total- double-jointed neck; 7 points each arm: triple-jointed shoulder, upper-arm swivel, double-jointed elbow, ball-joint wrist; Mid-torso double-joint; double-jointed waist; 7 points each leg: ball-jointed hip, thigh swivel, double-jointed knee, double-jointed ankle, mid-foot hinge. Various other joints associated with transformation.
Colors: Molded white, black, dark blue, gray, and transparent plastic with glitter. Painted white, dark gray, blue-gray, black, and green(visor).
Accessories: Beam Magnum, Shield, Beam Sabers with removable blades x2, Extra Hands x6, extra rigid antenna.
Release Data: Released in Japan on November 28th, 2009 at a price of ¥2800.
The Unicorn Gundam's Unicorn Mode was a spectacular design fakeout. When the first picture was released (with the "Gundam" part of the name conveniently left off), it looked like just another Katoki GM with an odd antenna. The Destroy Mode was definitely a pleasant, elaborate surprise... one that isn't represented here. It's just too complex to do at this scale. So there's a separate Destroy Mode figure, and we'll take Unicorn Mode as it sits.
The first impression of the design seems to be pretty consistent from person to person: "Man, that thing is white." When he started work on what was called "Gunboy" at the time, Yoshiyuki Tomino wanted an all-white robot, and they finally got one. Only took 30 years! Underneath the whitewash, you can see the influence of the Nu Gundam, which of course would be the Gundam immediately previous in the current UC timeline.
There's a lot more of the softer plastic here than on the Arios Gundam, but it's still different from MSiA plastic- it feels a bit stiffer, a bit crisper... it feels a lot like Gundam Fix plastic. Again, not sure if I really like that. In several ways Unicorn Gundam feels like a cross between Gundam Fix technology and MSiA technology- though I don't remember either line having as many metal pins in the joints. But the joints are generally stiff in the good way, so I won't complain.
I'm probably going to end up saying this a lot during the review, but: the head is pretty plain. It reminds me of fellow Katoki design the GM Custom. Except for the antenna from which the Gundam derives its name- the default version is soft-plastic, and curves off to the side a bit on my example. You have to remove the entire "mohawk" to install the hard plastic horn, which is damn sharp! It's not too difficult to pull out either version and replace it, even if removing the rigid one makes me afraid that I'll break the thing. There's a visor just barely peeking out from under the helmet- and I have to admit, the clean green paint on that tiny, tiny eyeslit really does impress me. It's something I think even an EMIA would have had trouble doing effectively.
The neck is great. The double ball-joint is much more effective here than on the Arios Gundam, and the Unicorn's head also sits higher. So there's great tilt- especially front-to-back, but side-to-side is very good too -and the swivel is completely unimpeded.
While there's some new(to me) things going on here, this is much more what I look to see in a Gundam figure! The shoulder-to-torso connection is related to the late-model EMIA joints, though without much of the upwards range that those joints provided. But when you slide the joint outwards, you can increase the shoulder's front-to-back swing dramatically. The joints are also very stiff, so the arm should stay wherever you want it. The shoulder armor is also pretty familiar, clipping around the shoulder-joint's shaft and being hinged so as to get out of the figure's way. The ball-joint part of the shoulder has a slightly greater than 90-degree range, meaning it can raise the arm above shoulder-level. Nice!
The forearms are similar in shape to Nu Gundam's Beam Saber-stowing left arm- and indeed, there are two more Sabers secreted there. In Destroy Mode. So they're just fancy blocks on the forearms here- drat. The elbows are decent- not the best I've seen, but that's a case of the shapes hindering rather than the engineering. You can fold the arm into a fairly tight V thanks to the double-joint, but not all the way into a U, which is what I prefer when I can get it. The wrist has the same bit of looseness that bugged me with Arios, but its accessories are equally light.
Very Nu-Gundam-like in its shapes. But of course, it's all white, with gray flanks, and- except for a huge number of uninked panel lines -is largely featureless. The lines themselves are interestingly jagged, which when combined with the odd mid-torso joint gives the impression of a jagged-toothed Gunmen.
The torso joint really is both odd and neat: there's a double-hinge folded up in the torso, and you can stretch it out to allow you to bend the midsection forward or back. It's an ingenious joint, and I like it, though it has its limits. Most of those limits involve how far you can push the joint before it looks kind of dumb, but at least that's left up to owner discretion.
The side-to-side movement is handled entirely by the waist, and that's decent but not as groundbreaking as the midsection joint. The waist swivel is killed by the skirt, which uses the same model kit-derived ball-joint system on the front and rear skirts as Kyrios, and the sometimes-MSiA-style socketed plates on the sides. No give in the skirt means no warping, again, but you'd be a fool to try and force the waist beyond that tiny front arc. On the bright side, the connectors are much thicker than on Arios' skirt, so I'm not quite as terrified that I'll destroy them. The skirt also doesn't stick, and gives decent but not wonderful range to the leg thanks to the hexagonal side-skirt, which seems designed specifically to define the range of the front and rear skirt. But in hindsight, this figure proves that the upside of the MSiA's warpable skirt was that you could get an extra bit of hip range out of it.
The backpack's very plain, but connects to the back firmly, and there's a hardpoint on the back for mounting the shield via an adapter. The Beam Sabers slot into the backpack itself, as opposed to attaching to the top- I believe they're supposed to flip up for Destroy Mode, which means that on this toy they're not going anywhere. They're extremely difficult to remove if you leave the small slots on the Sabers facing outward- I had to use a metal pick to pry them back out once. The thrusters are hard-plastic ball-jointed pieces, and I don't like this; I've had a lot of such thrusters break on model kits, and precisely zero do the same with soft-plastic MSiA thrusters.
Again, pretty plain legs but definitely a more elaborate version of the standard Gundam styling. The hips are great- the ball joints could move all the way out to the sides if not for that damn skirt armor. The swivels are similarly unimpeded.
As they sit at first sight, the knees can only manage about 90 degrees, the same as a first-version MSiA, because of the shape of the lower legs. (It's kind of galling to have transformation features of a design impede a toy that does not actually transform.) However, there's a secret joint here just as there is in the torso, and if you pull on the leg (in one case, far harder than I'd want to yank on a toy this expensive) the knee joint slides out, and you can get a much greater range. In this case, a tight V as opposed to an L. Still prefer a U, though.
The ankles and feet are pretty nice as well. The ankle is a hinged block with plenty of front-to-back range and the foot is then ball-jointed, providing the side-to-side range. (Not quite as much as the hips could stand, though. Even after the blocking effect of the side skirt.) The feet- which are not on the small side at all, unlike Arios' -are also hinged in the middle so Unicorn can lean into a step. Not the best legs and feet I've seen, but actually very close!
Paint and Deco
Like Arios, the paint is all very clean- again, I'm especially impressed by the tiny green line that is the visor. But there are some deco decisions here I just don't like very much. The undersides of most of the armor plates are painted with a light blue-gray, I presume just to break up the overwhelming whiteness of the piece. The overall effect is that the figure is shaded to look like it's lit a specific way in any lighting conditions. It doesn't look bad, but it's not ideal.
Know what would've helped a lot? Panel inking. I tend to dislike panel inking, as with thick lines (as with the early MSiA) it can look muddy and unattractive, especially if the lines are uneven. Arios' face proves to me that this would probably not be the case on a Robot Damashii figure- the black lines of the face are perfect, even, and tiny. Unicorn would look great with panel-inking like that. There's apparently an exclusive planned that was shown at the Tamashii Nations show of Unicorn about to transform to Destroy Mode; there, all the panel lines were inked in red-orange and it looked spectacular. I really wish at least basic black inking had been done here.
Why Magnum? Difficult to say- most of what makes a handgun a Magnum seems to do with the properties of the ammunition involved, which fires at a much higher pressure than ordinary bullets of a similar size. So for now I'll assume that it's a Beam Rifle with unusually high power for its size. Design-wise it's a pretty standard-looking piece, reminding me of Katoki's Victory Gundam rifle design- with the exception of the E-pack assembly. It uses what looks like a bundle of Gundam Mk. II E-packs all attached to a single frame for ease of reloading. They're molded as part of the rifle, but there's a tab molded into the magazine that appears to be designed for storing additional ammo on the rear skirt- perhaps the Destroy Mode figure will have some.
The Magnum itself can store on the skirt, though you will have to expand the torso joint slightly to avoid arguments with the backpack and the gun. The gun fits well in both hands and Unicorn can hold it two-handed with no trouble- as should be expected of shoulders that good.
It's had the Federation-style eyeslit added to the top, but the overall impression is of a refined Nu Gundam shield. The connector is also a holdover from the old Nu days, meaning it clips to the arm and has no handgrip. Clipping to the forearm is also a lot harder with a smaller, thicker clip that attaches to firmer plastic. If it doesn't scar up the forearm in the long run I'll be shocked. On the back, you have two hardpoints you can use to attach it to the shield mount or the backpack, and the shield mount itself is designed in the late-MSiA style of allowing you to mount the shield on either the side or back of the arm- nice!
While the Unicorn itself can't transform, its shield can be unfolded- though it seems as though its beam-deflecting I-Field functions only occur in Destroy Mode. First, swing the set of fins on the underside of the shield out into an X shape, then pull the bottom half of the shield off and replace it slightly lower on the main body. It's definitely much more interesting in this mode, even though it apparently doesn't do anything different for the Unicorn Mode. Without the X-bits to brace the shield connector, though, it feels a little loose. It's not coming loose, but the shield just doesn't feel as strong.
The blade seems more secure than on Arios', possibly more secure than most MSiA. Very nice! And they fit the appropriate hands nicely as well. What's weird is how the blades are uncolored clear plastic with what looks like glitter inside. I sure hope I can get a good photo of that. And as I said above, be careful of how you put them in the backpack, as it's difficult to get back out if you put them in flat.
Four sets this time: the "MSiA Six" of gun hands, saber hands, and fists plus a pair of decent-looking open hands. They all work just fine, though the fit of the Beam Magnum in the gun hand reminds me of the MSiA GP01- it's a fairly broad palm with a very narrow slot to fit the handgrip. Except here, the hands actually work, so that's a massive improvement over than hand style.
It's kind of dull to look at, but its "standardness" in many ways is why I got it- it seemed to be a good figure to judge Robot Damashii as a line. And if I take Unicorn to be indicative of the line as a whole, I'm still not entirely sold. To be sure, there are improvements in the cleanness of the deco that are noteworthy, and the materials are, I guess, "better." But the tradeoff is flexibility in the hips and knees, and the extreme flexibility of late-model MSiA is one of my favorite things about them. I would have loved to see this midsection joint used on an EMIA, though I'm still not sold on the knees.
This is undoubtedly the best Gundam figure possible right now, but that's only because the all-time best Gundam figure line is no longer running. Objectively, on its merits, it's an Excellent figure, but beyond tracking down a GN Archer, I'm not sure how far I intend to continue with Robot Damashii.