Sunday, May 17, 2009

MG Astraea Coming As Well?

Like I said the other day, it's great to see that Bandai displayed the runners for the upcoming MG Exia at Shizuoka Hobby Show 2009. They give us a preview of how well the color distribution is for this Exia and the details on all the parts.

If you dig more, you get to foresee if MG Astraea is under planning as well. ^^

For me, yes, it's definitely going to be released. There are two other variations: Astraea Type F, and Exia R2, but based on my observation, Astraea is the one I'm most certain about. Although it's easy to say that Bandai just needs to change a part or two to release the other two, but it's not obvious from the runners shown at the event, so I can't say that for sure.

As you know, Bandai plans out the design of the runners well ahead of each release, so that the changes needed for the runners can be minimal for the release of its variation.

The best example would be MG Zaku II Ver. 2.0, There's a whole line of variation that can be produced using the existing frame. The inner frame for Zaku II MS-06J, MS-06S Char's Zaku II, MS-06R-1A, MS-06R-2 High Mobility Type, and MS-06K Zaku Cannon are all the same, with changes made to specific parts on the runners, and parts that are not required do not need to be repeated.

The upcoming Gouf Ver. 2.0 uses part of the inner frame as well, and if Gouf Custom Ver. 2.0, Zaku I Ver. 2.0 and its variations are coming, you know they can use a lot of the same runners from Zaku II Ver. 2.0 as well.

The least number of 'X's you see on the runner's list, the better the part separation was planned in the first place. ^^

Best example:

HG 1/144 Ahead (Mass Productive Type)

HG 1/144 Mr. Bushido's Customized Ahead

HG 1/144 Ahead Smultron

Can you see the similarities and differences in them? ^^

All three Ahead variations have different Runner A, but B and C are pretty much the same, with add-on of some different parts only. You see no 'X's on any of Runner A, B, and C. ^^ The only drawback is the usage of quite a lot of foil stickers to cover up some colors that are not being molded. But overall, this is a very good design, as no resource is being wasted, be it redundant parts, or additional runners for just one or two parts.

This design can be seen in other Gunplas as well, like HG 1/144 Tierens, Gadessa and Garazzo, HGUC Jadg Doga, Geara Doga, the many 1/72 transformable VF-25s variations and plenty more. Just have a look at the runners you have, you'll see plenty of hints here and there. Can be quite fun as well. :D

Another example: why does the pair of beam pistols are included for HG GN Arms Type D + Dynames, but not for the Trans-Am Mode released later on? The answer lies in the runner distribution of the two as well:

Being molded together with the cannon turrets of GN Arms Type D, separating them onto another runner would not be cost effective at all for Bandai.

As you know, an all new runner means an all new mold as well, which can cost up to a few million yen each (see this previous posting). That's why saving cost is important.

Else, we as the customer will need to bear the extra cost as well, like in this worst example:

1/100 Exia

1/100 Astraea

1/100 Avalanche Exia

So many 'X's on Astraea and Avalanche Exia's runner lists show how poorly the parts are planned in the first place. :( My guess is that since Astraea and Avalanche Exia were announced after the Gundam Double O Season 1 started airing, Bandai probably didn't have plan for these two variations, so the design for Exia's Gunpla was only meant for that Gundam only. When the popularity for Astraea and Avalanche Exia soared, the only option to avoid even higher cost of re-designing the parts into new metal molds, was to just add in new ones for the additional parts.

That's why there are so many redundant parts.

Exia is 2,300 Yen, Astraea - 2,800 Yen and Avalanche Exia, 3,200 Yen (exclusive of tax). I often wondered if the parts were planned well for the three, maybe the price would be lower.

It pains me to say that because I have all three of them ^^;

Also, it's a very long way to explain this posting of mine actually, why MG Astraea is obvious while Astraea Type F and Exia R2 are not.

Quite a bit of information is revealed in the two runners on display above ^^

Gap between the parts on the blue runner. The parts in the middle of the runner are for Exia, most notably the shield for GN Sword and the shoulder armor. The earlier is absent for Astraea, and the shoulder armors for Astraea are very different as well. The other two sections, especially the bottom one, featuring parts for the shield and backpack, can be recolored and used on Astraea.

I'm guessing the top section of the blue runner is for the shoulder joint, but I'm sure about it.

The white runner shown beside Exia are all parts for Exia as well. As compared to Astraea, they are better distributed.

Front skirt armor, part to attach the secondary V Fin on the chest, parts for the GN Drive on the back are all different between Exia and Astraea.

The white parts for Exia's shield with GN Sword, parts for GN Short and Long Blades are not available for Astraea.
The helmets are very different as well.

The connector at the bottom of the upper arms which are supposed to be in gray has the color omitted. Since Astraea does not have GN Stripe for the upper arm, I'm guessing a different design for the part in Bandai's planning.

Part A is usually the "wild card" for the runner list. While some parts are seemingly the same, like the shoes and forearm, maybe there will be some changes to further separate the two.

We have not seen the runners for the leg armor, but as with the inner frame, that's fine. They are quite similar between Exia and Astraea.

I expected the inner frame to include the GN Condenser on the legs as well, but it seems that it's going to be excluded instead. The GN Condenser is going to be sitting inside the big round parts under the red ones shown in Runner A above, which doesn't show any place for the inner frame to come in.

So, although Astraea doesn't have the same GN Condenser design as Exia, it doesn't hinder it from using the same inner frame from Exia, since the difference between the two parts doesn't affect the inner frame design.

My prediction about the treatment for the possible MG Astraea would be a complete change in Runner A (the multicolored runner shown above) and the white one above. Most, if not all the parts from the inner frame are going to be inherited from Exia.

Astraea Type F has a different face design - the clear black mask to be exact, as well as the ability to convert to Type F2, with a different head - V-Fin to be exact, plus some identical parts from Exia. So we'll have to wait for the runner for Astraea to come out before we can predict if Type F is coming. If we can see some openings on Astraea's runners, we can have a better picture. ^^

As for Exia R2, the major differences include the different shoulder armor, additional thrusters on the calf, plus a few others. For the first two, it's quite hard to see from the images shown so far - the side of the shoulder armor on the blue runner is blocked in the picture above, and we're missing the picture for the legs' armors to see if there's any opening for the extra leg thrusters to be in. Thus, I'm not going to predict on that either.

But MG Astraea, yes, Bandai is definitely planning it. The question now is when it's going to be released, and how much.

Images from MG Exia are from The Gundam Base Side One. Images of the runners are from Hobby Search.