First, a forewarning: THIS REVIEW IS LONG!
Ok now that that's out of the way...
I have a special review for you all today. If you were not already aware, Gunpla reviews typically stay within the realm of Bandai, as they are the official manufacturer of the model kit line. Their success has spawned the inevitable "bootleggers" or those who make 3rd party model kits (and even effect parts, and accessories). I won't go in too deep about the ethics or even the practice, as I am not knowledgeable enough in that area.
What I do know, is that many bootleg Gunpla companies release interesting Mobile Suits, that Bandai maybe have not yet touched in a specific line. Often, these are niche designs that appeal to a smaller fanbase, or have been relegated to the "Premium" line, and therefore are less accessible to those of us in other countries.
Prior to picking up this kit, I had been very tempted to get the Dragon Momoko Tallgeese III. General consensus for that kit turned me off, however, and I ended up pre-ordering the P-Bandai release almost a year later.
After a few more months, (estimated), I had heard of this release, the Dragon Momoko Akatsuki. The Akatsuki has long been one of my favorite designs. I'll admit this controversial statement here: I liked Gundam SEED Destiny when it first came out. I was a teenager jumping from the hype of watching Gundam SEED, and I really loved the suit designs. The hard part was getting my hands on a good model kit of the Akatsuki.
If you didn't know, the HG Akatsuki was released as two kits, one with the Oowashi Pack and one with the Shiranui Pack. At my estimations, at about $23-25 a kit, you'd be paying close to $40-50 to get both packs. This isn't too much of a cost, but keep in mind the age of those HGs and the fact that they rely on stickers for color separation. This was a tempting venture, that I never saw come to fruition.
The other option was the very limited 1/100 Akatsuki which came with both packs. The 1/100 line was pretty interesting for Gundam SEED/Destiny. However, since this kit is fairly rare now, you're going to have to pay a premium to get it. In my opinion, not worth it.
Finally we come to the bootleg, the Dragon Momoko 1/100 MG Akatsuki. At the time, I could only find it on eBay for over $60, a price too steep for a kit such as this. It seemed my dreams would be crushed, until finally some folks at r/gunpla had posted news that a store was taking pre-orders for a reprint of this kit, for just over $50 shipped!
Now you may be asking yourself, $50 for a bootleg Master Grade kit from a company that isn't Bandai seems a little risky! You are absolutely right. I hope that this review helps to inform you a little bit more about this kit in particular. Let my loss be your gain, but also let my gain be your gain!
Finally a disclaimer: Many bootleg kits have very inconsistent quality assurance, that is to say the issues with my kit may in fact not be present in yours at all. The one you get may even have different issues, or no issues whatsoever! I am in no way endorsing Dragon Momoko through this review, but word on the street is that their bootleg kits are improving in quality overall.
Since this kit is not from Bandai, and the design is also not from Bandai, I feel the need to really look into the design and aesthetics of this kit, as compared to Bandai, and anime.
On the left you will see DM's design, in the middle you will see Bandai's 1/100 kit, and on the right is the anime design. Some initial impressions are that, while I do like the muted flat gold (similar to the Hyaku Shiki 2.0, but lower quality), it seems as though the shiny gold is almost a necessity for this kit. While an obvious design choice, the glossy gold also is functional, as the "Yata-no-Kagami" mirror coating acts to reflect beams. Leaving it out is a little disappointing.
The other thing I noticed was the fact that it has pretty big eyes. This makes me think a little bit of Medabots, but it looks as though these are actually fairly accurate to design as well.
Interestingly, the DM kit opts for some more color separation where the Bandai model does not. Is it too much to say that this is Bandai utilizing the full on glossy metallic gold to save some money in including some actual color separation? Probably. The official images of the Akatsuki from the anime actually do not have color separation as the DM shows, and while it is a nice touch, it is actually not accurate.
I want to talk about the fact that this is actually a bootlegged kit, not just an original Dragon Momoko kit design of the Akatsuki.
What makes it a bootleg is the fact that the inner frame of this kit is actually a casting of the MG Strike Gundam RM. Having built that kit fairly recently, the build was fresh in my mind. And while this is a bootleg of that kit, you can definitely feel and see the similarities. It even includes similar attachment points for connecting the kit to the launch pad action base that the Strike comes with. Much of the armor is also recolored armor from the Strike.
One thing to note is the fact that each piece is a little bulkier in terms of the snap-fit pegs.
I am further speculating the design as it seems as if the Oowashi and Shiranui Packs are modified castings of the 1/100 kits backpacks. This suspicion is further compounded by the fact that it requires stickers for color separation whereas typical Master Grade kits would not. I checked out Dalong.net to see the instructions for the 1/100 kit, and they were actually pretty similar.
I don't have any other Dragon Momoko kits to compare sizes with, but since this is bootlegged off of the Strike RM, I figured that would be a good comparison for size. (duh)
They are actually fairly similar in size, with the Akatsuki extending out in width with the shoulders, and also having larger feet. The difference in size is minuscule.
Weapons and Manipulators
This kit comes with a total of 10 hands (5 pairs)
Trigger fingers, fists, holding hands, open palms, and the gimmicky full range of motion hands. (I have no idea what to call them)
These hands, in my case, did not hold the weapons very well. They attach in unstable ways, and because of how they are molded, do not hold the weapons well. To fix this, I had to cut a part of the palm at an angle with a modeling knife, so that the handle could actually fit in the hand. This alleviated the problem.
It also comes with 7 beam effects for the beam saber which is two handles that can combine into one, one rifle, and one shield.
I actually forgot that Dragon Momoko was playing around with this gimmick and including them with their latest kits. Unfortunately, they were pretty disappointing. They are covered with flash marks, and very fragile. As you can see, I accidentally snapped the pinky off of the right hand. I probably won't be using this unless I feel like being sassy and having my Akatsuki flipping people off from my display...
And of course you have the Oowashi and Shiranui Packs
The Oowashi Pack transforms into flight mode, and has two section wings, where the back flap can bend, much like the Aile Striker Pack on the Strike RM. It also has two cannons which can rotate under the Akatsuki's arms and allow it to grab the handles for nice poses.
The Shiranui Pack comes with 7 remote weapons (basically funnels) which are removable. However, it does not have any adapters or stands to recreate poses with them.
The shoulder armor of this kit is separate from the arm, so you can move them freely of each other. The shoulder armor is so big though, you might have some issues moving it around and not knocking the giant V-Fin, or the pack when it is connected. The arms are fairly stiff, but have good range of motion, and can bend very well on the elbow joint.
The legs also bend fairly well, with the knee joint. The waist skirts do get in the way, however.
The feet are on a double ball joint, so you will have some good range of motion on the ankle. The toe also bends on the foot, though I haven't tested to see if it has the same range as the Strike...
This is probably the most disappointing. Most of the images I have seen of the Akatsuki from DM, show the kit to have a strong profile view, where it is looking left or right. The head does not turn all the way in that direction.
Color and Quality
I've touched on the color already, and I think while it isn't anime accurate, the muted flat gold is still a subjective like or dislike. Maybe it's your thing, I don't know!
In terms of quality, this is where things get interesting, and if you are anything like me, this is the most important part.
The quality of the plastic of this kit is actually quite alarming. There were times when I was cutting the gold armor pieces off the runner that I was actually shocked at how soft the plastic was at the nub. It felt as though the paint or mold they used softened the plastic. It was like nipping a rubberband.
Over all, the kit didn't have a lot of flash, that you might be afraid of in these types of kits. However, I noticed that on the gold pieces of the packs, there was dust/residue that seemed to be painted over in the manufacturing process. Think of when you are airbrushing or painting, and your kit gets some dirt or dust on it, and instead of cleaning it off first, you decide to just paint over it. There is also no way to clean this off, unless you sand it all down and paint it over again.
This kit is also undergated for the most part, that is to say for the gold pieces, the nubs are on areas that you will not see, namely under the piece. However, the quality of these undergates sometimes leaves nubs still on the surface, and also inconsistent design choices also have some areas with nubs directly on the middle of the piece. Don't ask me, this one is on DM...
If there is one word to describe the fit, the word would be FRICTION. For good and for bad, but mostly for bad, this kit has a lot of friction. Friction results primarily from the fact that the pegs are fairly large, much larger than Bandai's. This leaves for a suspect fit of parts. Some simple modifications will help, but damn do I appreciate how well Bandai engineers their kits now to have that good fit. Friction is why these pieces don't fit perfectly, as you can see above, seamlines become atrocious as two pieces that should come together completely, instead leave a very noticeable gap.
Friction also accounts for how tight the joints are. At times you may feel like you are forcing movement because of how tightly some areas are fitted together. (Again this is because of the huge pegs).
Finally, this kit seems to be over reliant on friction in very questionable ways. These thrusters on the legs are literally only held by two small points of friction and probably a prayer (though my prayers have not yet been answered, as they have fallen off dozens of times for who knows what reason).
This kit also has the gall to utilize stickers to create some color separation! STICKERS! Preposterous! Actually they weren't that bad, but honestly if you're going to make an MG, this is a no no. I did like that the stickers on the sheet were already oriented in the correct fashion for placing on the kit. That was a plus!
This kit is DAMN HEAVY. I can't even begin to describe. As you can see if this image, I lowered the center of gravity by bringing the action base all the way down. I am using the typical crotch adapter for this. With the packs on, the kit still leans backwards, even with the action base! I tried to tighten the screw, but it was useless, still leans! If you can't tell from this image, I had to tilt the kit forward, as well as the pack, to find that sweet spot to pose it without falling over.
The wrists are also fairly weak, and pop out of the hands whenever I try to switch them. They also droop when trying to hold the beam rifle.
I haven't tried out the decals for this kit, so unfortunately I cannot speak to those.
Pros and Cons
This kit has some beautiful effect parts. I didn't feature the other parts, as it was a really frustrating to take all these pictures as is, but they look really cool as well. The beam effects for the sabers are probably my favorite part of this kit.
Another aspect that I really like is that it comes with both packs, without costing an arm and a leg. Definitely a great bundle.
The design is fresh, and unique without completely ripping off Bandai's model of the Akatsuki. There are enough differences that DM makes it their own! (while of course being a bootleg).
Also, I have to mention this, as my first impression opening the box was that all the runners were in these baggies that you could easily open. They're sealed with some adhesive, so you can just peel it open instead of having to cut through all those bags, definitely a plus.
However, this kit still struggles from a ton of quality issues, ranging from how parts fit together, how it holds its weapons, plastic quality, stickers, weight, pieces falling off, etc. This is all very daunting and taking it all into consideration, I cannot readily say this is a good model.
All in all, this was an interesting build that left my hands very sore. I had to stop after the first night just because my hands hurt. From the nightmare stories I've heard about other kits from DM, I have to say this shows a lot of improvement, and makes me optimistic for the future. Where it is right now, I would hazard against getting any of these kits without being well-informed first. Know what you are getting into before you dive in! Also remember, even though at times you'll find yourself seeing Bandai in the build, remind yourself that its not. You really have to manage your expectations here, or you will find yourself very frustrated.
Overall, I cannot say I recommend this kit. It looks great, but the build was just frustrating in many ways. Maybe you're a much better builder than me and are ready to modify and tackle any and all issues that this kit presents. For your regular average gunpla builder, maybe this isn't for you.
I was really looking forward to the new DM MG Strike Noir design too.....
Until next time...
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!
BONUS: Funny Chinese Instruction Translations!
Uh, I'm pretty sure that's a leg...
I don't even know what that means! (no one knows what it means, but it's provocative, gets the people GOING!)
This one isn't so bad, but still pretty fun.
So close. Yet so far.