Gundam Astray Red Frameby Lauren Orsini,
Gundam Astray Red Frame has its origins in the manga Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Astray. Published by Tokyopop, this manga has been out of print in the US since 2004. Nevertheless, its lead mobile suit's samurai-inspired design has captivated model builders ever since.
Gundam Astray Red Frame continues to be a bestselling Gunpla design even now. It's one of only 18 kits to ever become a Perfect Grade—and out of those, the only one inspired by a manga-only mobile suit. Keep in mind that Perfect Grade is the largest and most complex (not to mention expensive) type of Gunpla kit in existence.
Fans have shown themselves to be willing to invest in this suit's Edo-era-meets-science-fiction vibe, so it's no surprise that it is the subject of 2018's only Hi-Resolution Model (HIRM) release. HIRM is a line of Gundam model kits so new that there are only three so far.
I was fortunate to get a review copy of this unusual model kit, which comes partially built with a deeply-flexible inner skeleton. All I had to do was put the armor and accessories on top of that. As a result, this entire kit took me five hours to build, which is less than half of the time it would normally take me to build a similar 1/100 Master Grade kit. In short, this kit's price tag is equivalent to trading your money for your time. The tradeoff here is that you pay about double in order to spend half the time for a kit that still looks like you spent ages on it.
Since I received a review copy, I didn't get a box. But inside the package I did receive, I got about as many sprues as you would expect to work with for your average High Grade (a simpler and smaller form of Gundam model). The Hi-Resolution skeleton, a fully articulated inner frame which would normally take five hours to construct, took up the rest of the space.
Sprue A was the most elaborate of the parts this kit came with, including glossy black and red armor to make up the most visible pieces of the torso. Assembling the armor was about as complex as the armor step on any Master Grade kit. My biggest complaint about the kit was the way many pieces were attached to the sprue. The connectors joined at something of an angle so I had to make two different cuts to free the piece instead of one. (If you'd like more detail on how I cut parts out of the sprue, check my previous review of the Io Frame Shiden.)
Little details make this kit worth it. I liked how the feet have a moveable big toe. This doesn't just mimic split-toe ninja shoes, but make Astray a lot more steady on its feet.
I didn't use all the stickers that came with the kit, but I just had to apply the cherry blossom decals. Larger and more detailed than the other stickers, they make a major impact. As usual, I used tweezers to avoid getting the oil from my fingertips on the stickers and shortening their lifespan, since the natural oil your fingers produce can make stickers less sticky.
Astray Red Frame came with the components for three main accessories: a samurai sword and sheath, a body shield, and a gun that could be configured with a short or long barrel. It also came with two clear pink beams to attach to the handles that normally make up its backpack.
The weapons can all be attached at once for posing. Here's the Astray wielding its shield…
… And here it is with the gun attached to its waist.
The clear centerpiece is the sword, which features the only gold foil parts in the kit. One neat detail is the sword's hilt engraving, which makes up a major plot point in the manga. You can't even see it when the kit is assembled, and it's an example of this kit's hidden detail.
I found it impossible to remove the gold foil pieces from the sprue without leaving marks revealing the dark gray plastic underneath the gold, as shown in the photo.
Fortunately, there's a solution. After sanding down the mark, I used a Gunpla foil paint marker directly on the part to conceal it.
Astray Red Frame is one of the most recognizable kits with gold foil, so it's no surprise that there's a picture of that Gunpla front-and-center on the metallic marker kit.
The HIRM skeleton had astounding flexibility and lost very little of that when I began attaching armor to it. This led to an unusual posing problem, in that I needed to make sure that the arms and legs weren't unnaturally hyperextended.
Since the kit can articulate so much, it runs the risk of looking somewhat uncanny valley if you aren't careful with posing. As always, I suggest looking at the example poses in the instructions (or usually, on the box) for reference.
Since this kit is 1/100, it is compatible with any 1/100 Master Grade stand, not included. The dark red piece between its legs allows it to connect to the stand.
Investing in the HIRM Gundam Astray Red Frame is a personal trade-off. Do you want to spend more money on a kit, or more time? Your answer will determine whether this kit is worth it for you.
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