First thing I will say is that I am THRILLED that the new crop of Gundams were NOT designed by Okawara. Overall, I like these designs quite a bit -- the more I look at them, the more they grow on me. There's some welcome fresh air being breathed into the Gundam orthodoxy with these four, what with the Flash Gordon-like engine backpacks, the somewhat baroque jointing of the knees, the proportions, and all that. Same goes for the faces as well.
At the same time, these designs are somewhat understated -- almost conservative, yet still creative. There's an apparent absence of the elaborate gimmick-devices for which Okawara has become known lately. I'm a bit sad to see the count of crazy arms, shield binders, and other doodads decrease, but the trade-off is well worth it.
Also conservative is the fact that there's definitely a similar vibe to the GAT-X series from seed -- There four all seem to use the same basic body frame, with various modifications for each. Fine by me, and Im sure it make's Bandai's life easier. I expect the next crop(s) of Gundams will be more varied and more elaborate. The titular Double O should, if these MSs are any indication, be inspiring.
I should note that I'm trying to critique these Gundams' concepts, aesthetics, and execution, but not their PORTRAYAL -- as in Seed, these Gundams get distorted, dynamic "glamour poses" that don't tell you anything about the real design. If I went by those, I would be forced to love the friggin' Impulse Gundam.
Alright! Getting specific, I'll start with the Exia... Hm. Damn. The more I look at it, the more I like it! Its head is really snazzy. (AT LAST, a departure from the painfully-standardized Gundam head designs we've had to look at of late. I've been pining for face/head innovation like we saw in Zeta and Sentinel. Even Astray has been too consistent when it comes to the Gundams' faces, though much less so than the TV designs.) The seven blades gimmick is appealing, though I cant make them all out right now. The ones I do see are pretty neat-looking. The inclusion of light blue panels hearkens back to the Impulse, a bit, but works better here, and the black circles (perhaps lenses, or the mysterious GN system) are a welcome addition. Man, it's torso design is appealing... as is its pelvic design. I especially like it's rear skirt arrangement. (Nice ass!) Its legs seem a little underdesigned to me, given its head and torso, but of course underdesigned is a design choice as well. The only thing that actually bothers me about the design, though, is the shoulders. They are awfully uninspired, and a bit out of place on this design. Other than that, I love it!
Next, the Dynames. A less-than-exciting variant on the Exia frame. Kinda "blah" so far. Very much like the Buster Gundam, but without the spiffy combo-cannon gimmick (as far as I can tell). Not keen on the color scheme. Not crazy about the paltryness of its armor. If more green plating were distributed over more surfaces, and if it was shaped more interestingly, this could be a defensible design. I do like its ass-thrusters, though. Again, the shoulders are the weakest part of the design. The shoulder-shields are a viable idea but come out totally boring. Same for the knee boxes. The pelvic armor looks, probably unintentionally, like a flower or a bow. Right on the crotch. Oy.
The Kyrios: the Zeta of the group. It's noice! I love the tippy-toes shape of the feet. I love the big wing panels on the knees. I dig the thruster-y pelvic skirts. Again, the shoulders are not terribly inspired but at least they fit in and look suitably cool. The head and chest are sharp (in both ways), me likey. The legs are quite glamorous, and the thustery sidepanels on them are a great touch. Looks like we might have a waverider mode on our hards, what with all the black paneling. The forearms are nice too. I likes the Kyrios a lots!
The Virtue: Gah! This thing looks very Junya Ishigaki-ish. Very beefy... reminds me of his Wallabys from Gundam X. It is really, really nice to see a Gundam design that dares to have a drastically different body shape. I wonder if all that additonal armor can be ejected? Probably not. Man, this thing reminds me of the Gundam Feather-9 from one of those Dabasans vs Daisans "Meaningless War" doujinshi I have. That's a good thing though. Unlike the Sandrock or the Buster, this machine shouts its toughness out loud. And its head is neato too -- pugnacious and yet still Gundammy. Ya know, there's a very GP02-like vibe to this machine. That's a good thing as well. Those blocks on the shoulders, the huge lower legs... Its porportionally tiny feet are amusing. Not totally effective, perhaps, but amusing. It also has the best color scheme -- pretty much the same as the Nu Gundam (and the Crossbone X-1). Spiffy!!!
So, three out of four of these designs strongly please me, with one being just OK. Much better than previous Gundam shows, that's for sure! The character designs are a little willowy-looking, to me, what with the skintight, color-coded suits and all... sorta superhero-ish in a wimpy way. But that's alright, I'm mostly here for the robots.
So, what do YOU guys think?
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