Sunday, July 21, 2019

[Kit Insight] Bandai 30MM 1/144 eEXM-17 Alto (Blue) - Straight Build


Model Number: xEXM-17
Designation: Allied Earth Forces Mass Production 3rd Generation General Purpose EXAMAC System

This is Bandai's latest attempt at wrestling market share from the Frame Arms franchise, and it just might work.
It might be a little counter-intuitive to be doing a Kit Insight on the Bandai 30 Minutes Missions (30MM) 1/144 eEXM-17 Alto model kit only now after completing two customised builds (Long Range Combat & Close Quarters Combat), but the model kit is just a refreshing, delightful build that warrants its own review post.

Package



The Alto comes in a small box, the size of standard Bandai HGIBO 1/144 model kit boxes with a pretty neat cover illustration. The box art of the Blue Alto differs from the White and the Yellow versions (you can check those up in the respective links in the previous paragraph) but apart from that, information and details on the kit's gimmicks are largely congruent. 

Part & Colour Separation 



Coming in at only three runners of parts, it's quite amazing for the Alto to achieve the level of detail and articulation found in the end result. The parts are arranged in a very intuitive way: from the head to the feet, resulting in a logical construction flow that actually comes across as fun. The layout is also reminiscent of the HGAC 1/144 OZ-MS16 Leo, with the same top-to-bottom part arrangement and with components clustered close to one another. 




The Blue Alto is moulded in two shades of blue, a dark, almost navy blue and a very light one that is akin to baby blue. A light orange clear part functions as the sensor unit for the Alto but a monoeye-type sensor is moulded into the head unit, although this is obscured once the clear part goes on. A dark gray frame runner follows the lead of the main coloured runner, arranging the frame's components in order of the build. A light gray runner rounds out the Alto's parts, providing its backpack and weapons. While the Alto doesn't rely heavily on polycaps to achieve articulation, you do need to use a few of the provided ball-type polycaps to complete the build. You also get a sheet of number stickers to make your Altos into statistics.






Build Quality



As per its namesake, the Alto can indeed be finished in under 30 minutes, provided that you don't shave down the nub marks. While the nub marks are generally well hidden, there are a number that can be quite glaring, such as the ones on both sides of the back thighs, the sides of the head unit, the tops of the ankle guards as well as both sides of the feet. These are however an easy fix if you can expend the time and small effort to shave/file down the nubs.





A pair of nippers and a hobby knife can get you all done in less than half an hour, with the smooth layout and simple construction structure making it a breeze. The build is so simple that after the first one, you can build subsequent Altos without looking at the manual. It is THAT easy to pick up. 



Don't let the relatively simplistic build divert attention away from the quality however, the finished product looks amazing. The fantastic part and colour separation shows up nicely in the completed Alto, the two shades of blue working well together to provide a decent degree of depth. A generous amount of mechanical detailing and panel lines adorn the Alto from head to toe, making it hard to believe that this thing came from a combination of just three runners.

Articulation



The Alto is incredibly nimble and dexterous, its simplistic construction allowing the kit to pull off dynamic and intense poses. The stock tightness of the joints also work to give the Alto great stability, allowing it to strike insane poses, including a perfect kneel, the holy grail of poses for 1/144 scale model kits.











Accessories



A lightweight, lightly-priced package, the Alto is still packed with quite a bit of stuff. You get the standard-issue submachine gun which can be stored in the backpack with the standard twin pegs found in modern HG 1/144 model kits, an incomplete knife which Bandai wants you to believe that it's actually fighting knuckles when it's really just the hilt of a knife without a blade. You also get a Roy-Roy mechanical support unit, which is basically the 30MM version of a Mobile Worker from the IBO universe. Heck, it's sized and styled like a Mobile Worker as well, albeit in a more detailed package but with significantly less overt weaponry.





The Roy-Roy comes with a standard 3mm peg at the back and a hole at the top, allowing it to take weapons and equipment. It can also be stored on any of the ports found on the Alto, although the one on the back waist armour seems to be the most logical.



Compatibility



The main selling point of the 30MM series is its ability to be customised to ridiculous degrees, not only within its own line but with Bandai's entire portfolio and universe of HG 1/144 model kits. Standard 3mm sockets are located all over the Alto to take equipment, while the supplied hand units can hold all kinds of weaponry that do not require use of a trigger hand (which is almost every weapon released in recent HGs).












The Alto only comes with the standard holding hands, but the S-type hand units from the HGBC 1/144 Jigen Build Knuckles or the more recent HGBC 1/144 Build Hands work very nicely on the Alto. It is interesting to note that the hands from standard HG 1/144 model kits don't really fit into the sockets of the Alto's hands: while they do connect, they flop around limply and you can't really do much with them. Therefore, using the HGBC hands will give your Altos the most hand options to pull off even more outrageous poses.








Size Comparison
Although it is marketed as a 1/144 scale model kit, the Alto is actually shorter than regular-sized HG 1/144 model kits (excluding the tiny beings from F91 and Crossbone and Victory). HGUC 1/144 model kits tower over the Alto, especially the gigantic Gustav Karl, its small stature giving the Alto a very mass production, foot soldier vibe.








Conclusion
Overall, the Alto is a great model kit for the low price tag (S$16), build quality and playability. The almost endless customisation options will no doubt result in crazy builds and kitbashes, exacerbated by the sheer volume of 1/144 accessories already in circulation. I look forward to more of these!

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