F-15E Strike Eagle
Review by VF5SS
With the apparent death of the Muv-Luv Alternative Revoltech line, Kotobukiya has stepped in to fill the gap with more 1/144th scale model kits of Tactical Surface Fighters. While I am not normally a model kit builder, the selection of kits has begun to intrigue me with Kotobukiya's emphasis on TSF's from the Total Eclipse spinoff series like the F-15E Strike Eagle and also longtime fan favorites like the YF-23 Black Widow II.
So while perusing the dealer's room at Anime Boston 2013, I decided to pick up the recently released kit of the F-15E Strike Eagle. I previously reviewed both the A3 and TMC action figures made by Volks so I figured the Kotobukiya kit was a way for me to ease the pain of seeing the Revoltech Strike Eagle get quietly cancelled. I paid about 30 dollars for the kit which is roughly its 3000 yen MSRP and the dealer said a bunch of customers were really excited to get their hands Total Eclipse merchandise.
The contents of this kit is pretty standard modern mecha fair with color molded parts and snapfit construction which makes the Strike Eagle a good amount of plastic that mostly justifies its 3000 yen price tag. One of the more curious things is how one skirt armor piece is packed separately from the rest of the sprues.
The manual is full of fun facts about the machine in question. Again in the Muv-Luv world, all the fighter jets we're familiar with are now sweet robots. So the McDonell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is now the McDaell Doglam F-15E Strike Eagle. You see what they did there?
One thing a lot of old school mecha fans love about Muv-Luv is the obsessive details about all aspects of fictional military weapons.
The terminology they use to describe the standardized ammunition for TSF's assault cannons speaks of a real savvy for theoretical future weapons. Where else but Japanese sci-fi can you learn about 120mm armor-piercing sabot-discarding fin-stabilized (APSDFS) cannon rounds?
As mentioned in previous Strike Eagle reviews, the most notable F-15E pilot from Total Eclipse is the stellar Swedish sharpshooter, Stella Bremer. She is known for having a very laid back demeanor ( which means she says "ara ara" a lot) and cool head during combat. Koyobukiya had to point out there is no pilot figure included with this kit as their previous Super Robot Wars kits were known for doing that. I'm sure sales for this kit would have jumped 200% if there was a secret Stella within. The pack-in it does come with is much more sinister.
As Kotobukiya lacks Bandai's patented System Injection technology, they try to make up for it in others ways like pre-painting parts and tampo printing details on the kit. The shoulder pauldrons have both the serial number for Stella's TSF and the USAF roundel pre-applied. That separately packed skirt armor piece has a simple "US" marking printed on the front. Sadly the kit does not come with extra decals to compensate those who choose to paint their kit up. I'm not sure if there is a separate decal sheet available or if they expect buyers to use some from existing military aircraft kits because remember... Tactical Surface Fighters really are jets!
The other common Kotobukiya touch is painting small areas like eyes or a visor so the customer doesn't have too. The gold painted used on my kit looks ok considering it's being done on a face smaller than my thumbnail. More experienced builders will probably want to do their own painting.
Lacking proper modeling nippers, I enlisted the help of the Scarlet Twins and their Su-37UB. So if the kit looks a little nubs-y, blame lax Soviet training standards.
The finished Strike Eagle stands roughly five inches tall. Overall I found it to be a pleasant build with only the head being a really annoying part.
Kotobukiya is nearly every bit as good as Bandai when it comes to loading their kits with tiny details and the Strike Eagle is no exception. By looking at the upper body you can see many fine details such as small holes in the shoulder blocks tiny etched lines in the face. You even get a trio of clear yellow pieces to represent the sensors dotting the collar area.
Even things like the hands have finely molded detailing like the little dots and lines in the palms of the hands. You only get three hands with this kit: two for carrying the weapons and one splayed left hand. I was surprised to see that the weapon holding hands have inner detail on the palms even in the area normally covered by a gun or knife grip.
Now with the head, it's actually made of about six different parts which honestly seems excessive for something so small. As a result you will want to glue everything together before attaching it to the neck lest something like the chin pops off when you try to grab it. Also the main tab connecting the back of the head to the main part is a little thick and forces everything else out of alignment so try to sand it down before attaching. I did not do this at first and some strange combination of that tab and the force of the neck ball on the rest of the head made the whole thing try to explode at the slightest touch. On that note, I would also recommend using the hard plastic neck piece (G2 on the instructions) rather than the soft polycap one (PC 3). You get both kinds with this kit but the softer polycap piece has way too much friction in the socket to let the head turn smoothly. Again it's only the head that's a problem area on this kit as the rest is pretty easy build that results in a sturdy robot.
Without the power of System Injection, a straight build of the Strike Eagle can look rather plane as it lacks the orange and black highlights seen on the Volks toy. They don't even give you tiny foil stickers as meager reassurance for less kit builders. Since the base design is still pretty monochromatic, I think it looks alright like this. On a side note, it's interesting comparing the sculpts of both Strike Eagles as the Kotobukiya kit is a more hard edged rendition that embodies the CG models used in the Total Eclipse anime while the hand sculpted A3 toy looks more like the free form artwork used in the visual novels.
As an all plastic kit, this rendition of the Strike Eagle has no problems standing straight up with its jump units attached as they are appropriately hollow. For the upper back you get a pair of functional but non-moving mount pylons for carrying the guns. You only get a pair of guns for this figure. I definitely wish it came with a full gun sweeper loadout with four guns but alas you have to go to war with vicious aliens with the army you have.
After handling so many Muv-Luv toys with clicky joints, it's rather refreshing to have a Tactical Surface Fighter where everything moves smoothly.
Knees have always been a tricky area for TSF figures with the Revoltechs favoring a tacky looking cutout while the A3 figures feature an articulation destroying plug in piece to achieve a line art accurate look. The Kotobukiya kit looks far more normal than either of the latter but does have a clever trick to ensure good flexibility.
The upper gray part of the knees actually slides under the thigh to both preserve the look while at rest and give the whole area a double-joint while in use.
Each jump unit plugs into a non-moving bracket area that is separate from the skirt armor unlike with the Volks where they plug straight into the moving skirts.
The jump units articulate around via a couple of pegs and swivels. It's simple yet really effective and is done without the use of any polycaps.
Most of the polycaps used in the kit are pretty familiar to anyone who has ever built a Gundam kit, but there is one kind Kotobukiya likes to employ that seems quite strange at first. The shoulders, hips, and waist joint use was it essentially a soft plastic ball with a hole in it to create a very flexible ball-joint that allows for limbs to be pulled out for extra clearance when posing. This is their way of providing Bandai level engineering with some unconventional workarounds.
The waist uses the same ball shaped polycap set that works in conjunction with an upper body tilt to allow the Strike Eagle a great range of motion. And best of all, she can really shake her afterburners.
"Ara ara~ One two!"
"Oh my goodness~ Three! Four!"
As a whole package, the Strike Eagle possess an excellent range of motion and has good balance allowing for all kinds of poses.
One of the more quirky parts of its articulation is how the the ankles move. The side to side motion happens at the base of the foot while the front to back title occurs right at the ends of the shins. Functionally it provides about the same movement as a more typical ball-jointed ankle but it feels a little weird at first.
The shoulders on this kit are pretty great thanks to main ball-joint coupled with a pivoting inner block. The bicep swivel is a little limited due to how the black part on each arm overhands the joint but it's still quite workable. The elbows can move with a deep double-joint while the wrists rotate around a single peg. The hands can also tilt inwards towards the body for some reason. Also note that the guns have a removable underslung cannon that has to be taken off before you can thread the handle into the hands.
Like nearly all American TSF's, the Strike Eagle has its knives. The knives are meant to store in the knee blocks and with some creative photography you can sorta fake it. Strangely the knives themselves fit really snugly into the kit's hands to the point where they might need some sanding.
Brandishing knives without anything to fight is one lament of my Muv-Luv reviews. There really haven't been a lot of easily available figures of the BETA aliens these robots are meant to fight against. However, Kotobukiya has taken steps to rectify this with their model kit line.
Packed in with the first run of certain Muv-Luv kits are little rubbery BETA. The Strike Eagle comes with a set of three Tank-class BETA. Don't worry though, we should be safe as long as they don't break out of their-
OH MY GOD THEY'RE LOOSE! RUN! RUUUUUUUUUUN!
GETEMOFF! GETEMOFF! GETEMOFF! GETEMOFF!
The Tank-class (scientific name: Manderium: 'Ungulam crus "Equus pedis") are the most common BETA seen during an incursion. They're about 3 meters tall (watch out Scopedog) and are known for their powerful arms and incredibly strong jaws that allow them to bite and tear through even hardened super-carbon. Feared for their speed and jumping ability, they can latch onto slow moving vehicles or rip through damaged machines in order to messily devour the humans inside. The gargantuan Fortress-class BETA will often be carrying Tank-class inside them which can leave TSF off guard if they're not careful after downing the larger creature.
The Tank-class included with Kotobukiya kits are cast in a rubbery plastic is like a higher quality version of the kind used for vending machine toys. They need a little paint on their teeth and numerous black "eyes" on their head for finishing but are still quite cool and menacing even at a small size.
All Kotobukiya Muv-Luv kits are compatible with their Modelling Service Goods stands with some of the larger kits having a stand included. While I do not own one of these stands, I did find that the same 3 mm peg on a Di:Stage happily fits into hole on the Strike Eagle's behind. As a nice light model kit, the Strike Eagle takes to the skies with a lot more grace than the heavier A3 toy.
Getting these legged birds to fly is always something I enjoy doing.
The Kotobukiya Strike Eagle looks really dynamic in flight despite its less stylized design. I think there is just something inherent to Tactical Surface Fighter designs that just make them appear to belong in the air.
Most importantly of all, this Strike Eagle can do the kneeling firing pose that I use to judge all Muv-Luv figures by. It's what they were born to do.
Side by side with its larger A3 cousin, the Kotobukiya Strike Eagle looks a lot more natural in this pose.
As a replacement or companion piece to the Revoltech line, the Kotobukiya 1/144th kits fit in well enough. I was surprised to see just how close they are in size. It makes me wonder if the rumors that one was axed in favor of the other were true. Here the Strike Eagle stands on guard next to its McDaell Doglam little brother the Super Hornet.
For some scale party fun times you can place the F-15E Strike Eagle next to a popular Japanese robot. This RX-78 is an old build I did back when Target would sell Gundam kits. I'll let the audience decide which looks more like a 60 foot tall robotic military vehicle.
In the end the Kotobukiya F-15E Strike Eagle kit is a great kit at a somewhat premium price. While it does have more going on in its construction than your typical High Grade Gundam, all Kotobukiya kits come with bit of a "we're not Bandai" tax. As much as I am enthusiastic for this figure, I think the light load out of two guns and two knives could have been augmented by movable mount pylons like on the Revoltechs as its a bit of functionality I'm quite keen on. In my opinion just about everything else about the figure is definitely in line with what mecha modelers want out of their kits. The Strike Eagle kits are pretty easy to build and readily available at many retailers so it's a great gateway piece that isn't quite as quirky and stylized as a Revoltech nor is it as boutique and difficult to acquire like a Volks figure.
|Posted 3 July, 2013 - 13:34 by VF5SS|