Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Universal Unit : RX-105 Xi Gundam

The Xi Gundam is one of the first generation of the Universal Unit figures. It was released in August 2016 around the same time as the first volume of blind box standard figures appeared. However, unlike those the Xi comes in its own custom box and doesn't sport any variations in equipment, kind of like your traditional Assault Kingdom figure would have been sold.

The Xi Gundam comes in a box roughly the same size as the typical Assault Kingdom EX figures, and features a rather unusual mobile suit which is also considerably larger than your average design. It is however not a behemoth like the Psyco Gundam or Queen Mansa, but large enough to draw to itself some extra attention.

When the Xi Gundam appeared in Japan it had a recommended price of ¥2500, however I picked up this particular figure for a mere ¥1500 and otherwise I am not sure I would actually have bothered. With Universal Unit the pricing is really all over the place. While the standard figures all sell for about ¥500 the various special figures, which like the Xi are now beginning to pop up as specials, the suggested prices vary from between ¥1500 to ¥4500 (and that is not counting the planned Psyco Gundam Mk-II which is supposed to cost around ¥12800).

As we discovered in our first look at Universal Unit these toys have really migrated away from being preassembled figures into the realm of traditional model kits, although they are still of a rather basic standard. The parts are at least decently pre-painted and for the Xi we almost completely avoid coloured stickers for hull details and we have got paint apps on quite a lot of pieces which would probably have been single coloured if this was a bog standard ¥500 figure.

The assembly instructions are detailed and easy to follow, however they are as usual printed on the insides of the box itself, so you will have to choose between cutting it open or glancing into it from above, which is the method I preferred. The Xi consists of a respectable number of moving pieces, but after having assembled the volume one figures I recognized a lot of the technique they used here, so it was much easier to quickly locate and arrange which pieces belonged where. Still, it may seem a bit daunting for a beginner but shouldn't really pose too much trouble I think.

Fully assembled the RX-105 stands roughly 11 centimeters tall, which is quite impressive for a shokugan Gundam figure. It has large feet on sturdy legs which deal with the huge bulk of its body quite effectively. You can also use the large tail fins for some extra support if you want to be a bit cheeky.

Just like the previous Universal Unit figures we have a lot of articulation points on this machine, but the bulk of the armor and overall design prevents this figure from doing anything too wild. If you try to bend the legs forward or back you will quickly realize that the skirt armor on both sides is quite tight and you will be very used to seeing especially the front armor pieces flying off with an annoying noise. All the joints are very tight except the ball joints where the legs attach to the torso. When trying out some dynamic posing my figure's legs have a tendency to often just give in to gravity and dangle like a limp limb which is a bit surprising.

The accessories for the Xi are somewhat limited for such a pricey figure. Equipment-wise we have its large signature beam rifle, a nicely painted shield and two optional hands. Was it really too much to ask for at least one beam saber?

The big and pleasant surprise for me (not advertised on the box artwork at all) though is the inclusion of a proper action base. This is something I used to take for granted in Assault Kingdom and which is now making its first appearance in Universal Unit here. The base is actually very similar to the ones used by the Kshatriya and Qubeley in Assault Kingdom, however it has been redesigned a bit making it less flexible with only one adjustable joint where the AK bases had two. It also features storage points for the remaining hands as well and the beam rifle directly on the base which makes this figure resemble a standard Gundam model kit even more.

The Xi also has some limited transformation aspects in its basic design. The triangular shoulder plates can be flipped and tilted about 90 degrees upwards to form a semi-flat surface. The beam sabers can be folded down, and the long tailfins and large blue pieces on the figure's chest all tilt upwards to support this "Beam Barrier" shield configuration.

The Xi Gundam is absolutely massive when compared to a standard Universal Unit figure.

Here the Xi Gundam poses next to the large FA-010S Full Armor ZZ Gundam of the Assault Kingdom figure series.
The Xi Gundam figure does a lot of things right, but it does have its share of issues as well. The worst of these is in my opinion the dysfunctional stickers. Thankfully this time around we didn't have to paint up feet or legs or arms with stickers, everything was prepainted for us, save for a tiny red sticker placed on the beam rifle and half a dozen funnel-type psycommu weapons which are to be stickered onto the back skirt and the disproportionally large elbow and knee caps.

The main challenge for these stickers is that they are all intended to cover up hollow pieces. As you can see on the backskirt in the photo above, there is not a whole lot of surface for these stickers to hold on to. As a result they don't stay on very well and are very sensitive if touched. This is not a major concern for the ones on the arms and the legs, but the two stickers on the skirt are already both peeling upwards. If you happen to touch them while messing with the figure's legs or placing the Xi on its base, expect them to come off easily. These will have to be glued in place somehow or they will not last very long.

Overall the Universal Unit Xi Gundam is a nicely engineered little model kit. It gets bonus points for nice details like the four black plates which attach to the insides of the white shoulder armor pieces as well as the many prepainted details on the torso, legs and arms. This proves that Bandai can if they really want. I think it would have been great if they raised the prices of the base figures to cover some extra paint application rather than selling us two mediocre figures in the place of one.

The Xi is now being followed by its predecessor, the RX-104FF Penelope, which has an even higher suggested price of a whopping ¥3800. I don't really know any details about that figure yet, but I am guessing perhaps it has some transformation gimmick which would explain why it is priced 50% above the Xi. I guess I will pick one up if I can secure a decently priced one.

I can't help but feel that the articulation is somewhat wasted on a figure such as the Xi, which is so bulky that you cannot really accomplish much with it. Assault Kingdom and Universal Unit work best when the figures have a huge range of movement available to them. Personally I think a dynamically posed Ultimate Operation figure with some nice weathering would have been the optimal way to do this guy justice in 1/220-scale.

Overall I would give the Xi a casual recommendation to Assault Kingdom and Universal Unit fans, if you find one at a decent price you will probably enjoy putting it together and the action base will allow it to pose with your other figures quite nicely.

P.S. If anyone wonders what happened to the Converge reviews lately do not abandon your hopes just yet. I actually have a number of the little suckers en route but for some reason mail from Japan has turned extremely slow as of late. What used to take 3-4 weeks now seems to have crept into the 5-6 week range and the post office is actually blaming the Pope for stopping by two days a couple of weeks ago...


  1. How do you connect the foot to the leg ? It's kinda tricky for me

    1. Most feet on Universal Unit figures are attached the same way. You have an L-shaped connector piece with ball joint connection to the foot, and simple peg which is slotted into the leg.

      It is easier to attach the L-shaped piece into the foot socket first, and then put them into the leg. Put the foot on your table and apply some gentle pressure when attaching the connector piece. If you try to attach the foot to the connector once it sits inside the leg, the connector piece will slide away instead. Also make sure you have the L-shaped piece facing the right direction as shown in the assembly instructions.