Model Number: bEXM-15
Designation: Byron Army Mass Production 3rd Generation General Purpose EXAMAC System
This is no Zaku, boy!
Bandai's 30 Minutes Missions (30MM) line of customisable 1/144 scale model kits has been putting out the hits since release, with the Allied Earth Forces' eEXM-17 Alto and its Close Quarters Combat as well as Long Range Combat configurations receiving generally positive reviews for the low cost, easy build and almost endless customisation potential. More Option Sets as well as colour variants for the basic Alto are in the pipeline.
As the adversary of the Allied Earth Forces, the Byron Army fields its own Extended Armament & Module Assemble & Combine (EXAMAC) system: the bEXM-15 Portanova. According to the brief official lore on the 30MM series, the EXAMAC system was developed as a game-changer on the battlefields of the 30MM universe, changing the military balance in the blink of an eye.
Amidst the petty squabbles of the world's warring nations, a star gate appears in Earth's orbit, serving as an interstellar conduit for the Byron Army to mount its invasion. Hailing from the Earth-like planet Byron, the Portanova EXAMAC deployed to Earth is very similar in shape and structure to the Allied Earth Forces' Alto, adopting a versatile bipedal design with hardpoints all over the frame to mount specialised equipment. The Byron Army even has its own version of the Researcher-Observer-Yaeger (Roy-Roy) support drone, one shaped like a flying saucer on spider legs.
Similar to the Alto, the Portanova comes in a standard slim HG-ish box with the EXAMAC proudly reproduced on the box art. Right from the start, you can tell that this particular EXAMAC design bears more than a few similarities to the venerable MS-06 Zaku II. Although other colour variants exist, the Green version of the Portanova simply screams "Grunt" and "Mass Production" and "Zaku" over and over.
Part & Colour Separation
Laid out in exactly the same format as the Alto, the Portanova kit consists of three main runners for the outer armour, frame and accessories along with a polycap runner. The Portanova is built in the same intuitive way as the Alto, with all parts associated with a particular assemblage all clustered together. After the first few Portanovas, you can probably build subsequent ones without looking at the instructions.
The Green Portanova is done up in a very delightful tactical green, accentuating its mass produced feel. While there is only one shade of green, the inclusion of dark grey and light grey parts serve to break up the swamp - so to speak - and add some variety to an otherwise plain frame. The colours work very well together, blending seamlessly with one another to create an imposing visage. The only gripe I have is the relatively-large size and colour of the clear monoeye part, although the latter (and even the former) is an easy fix.
For the most part, the Portanova's nub marks are all cleverly hidden/ masked although they still exist. Taking some time to file/ shave off the nubs will render this point moot, but it will definitely take more than 30 minutes to complete assembly.
The Portanova builds EXACTLY like the Alto, save for minor differences such as additional parts in the shoulder armour. The ankle armour on the Portanova also sports a cleaner design that gels with the rest of the foot, as compared to the Alto's whereby the ankle armor seems tacked on as an afterthought.
The legs of the Portanova are easily the best parts of this kit, with the overtly mechanical design complete with pistons and other mechanical detail. The large flat feet also help in posing, securely anchoring the Portanova to the ground.
Bandai's model kit engineering expertise really shows in the 30MM line, with amazing articulation granted just by three runners of parts. Some Master Grade model kits can only dream of such poseability and flexibility. The Portanova is able to strike and hold any pose you can think of, be it just standing tall, aiming with a long range weapon, flexing with a close combat weapon or all of the above. The swinging joints in the shoulders allow the Portanova to dual-hand weapons, adding to the military realism of the machine.
It might just be my set but the torso on my Portanova pops off quite often when posing, but a little super glue can easily fix that.
The Portanova comes with basic equipment: a backpack with four 3mm hardpoints, a nicely-designed rifle, a knuckle that is really just a blade-less sword hilt as well as the Roy-Roy support drone. The rifle deserves a special mention: made up of 5 parts, the unique curved design of the weapon gives it a somewhat alien yet familiar look, with the length of the weapon giving the Portanova an imposing look when equipped. The multiple 3mm hardpoints on the weapon also allows for immense customisation and storage options. Like the Alto's submachine gun, the Portanova's rifle can be stored in its backpack in the exact same method.
One of the first things I did with the Portanova was to have it wield a Zaku machine gun and boy, did it deliver! While the Zaku machine gun is still best-wielded with a trigger hand, the Portanova is able to grip the weapon just below the trigger and tuck the shoulder stock under its armpit, making for a very believable firing stance.
As with the Alto, the Portanova is compatible with most HG 1/144 weapons, equipment and accessories. The wealth of 3mm hardpoints give you plenty of options but I would have liked some hardpoints on the leg units as well.
I thought the Alto was pretty darn good but the Portanova just blows it out of the water. The design, build and articulation of the Portanova is really rad, especially with its low price point. I can see myself picking up more of these to customise, perhaps into a crimson-hued commander type!