The saintly hermit, midway through his prayers stopped suddenly, and raised his eyes to witness the unbelievable: for there before him stood the legendary creature, startling white, that had approached, soundlessly, pleading with his eyes.</p> The legs, so delicately shaped, balanced a body wrought of finest ivory. And as he moved, his coat shone like reflected moonlight. High on his forehead rose the magic horn, the sign of his uniqueness: a tower held upright by his alert, yet gentle, timid gait.</p> The mouth of softest tints of rose and grey, when opened slightly, revealed his gleaming teeth, whiter than snow. The nostrils quivered faintly: he sought to quench his thirst, to rest and find repose. His eyes looked far beyond the saint's enclosure, reflecting vistas and events long vanished, and closed the circle of this ancient mystic legend.
Rilke, "The Unicorn"
The work begins again...

After a too-long hiatus, the work begins again.

Disassembled torso

Had to disassemble the torso a couple of times to trim down some flash on the internal bits that was preventing the armor from fitting together properly. Even after that, the fit isn't perfect. There are so many complex internal pieces on account of the transformation mechanism that everything fits a lot more closely than the usual unseen internal stuff.

Moral of the story: trim all your parts carefully!

Hidden skirt booster

Every single piece of this thing transforms.

Unfortunately after almost three years sitting unused, my Gundam Markers have grown a bit stale. Two of my silver ones were just dead, but fortunately I had the foresight to buy a backup before leaving Taiwan. That unopened one is still good. The gold one still works, but seems to have lost some of its luster.

Unicorn torso & waist

Completed torso and waist units, fruits of the first weekend's labors. You can see the slightly open fit of the panels on the right side of the chest.

So far the suit has relatively minimal panel detail. Instead, the armor features a good deal of angular, convex edges. I'm using the gunmetal shade from one of the Tamiya weathering kits to highlight these details.

Unicorn feet

Easily the most complex mobile suit feet I've built to date. And yes, there's some psychoframe in there, even in the feet.

The ankles are extremely articulate. They feature joints at top and bottom that rotate both front to back and side to side for a great range of motion while remaining exceedingly stable. From the look of it, this baby will carry its weight very well.

Leg internals 1

Even before the addition of the armor, the knee has an unusually limited range of movement. Although the armor in this OVA. ver. was modified from the original ver. Ka. (see below), the knee joint itself evidently was not, and never allowed for much bend to begin with.

Leg internals 2 - psychoframe

Most of the leg internals are devoted to accommodating the psychoframe and the transformation mechanism.

Leg armor comparison

Comparison of the leg armor from the original Unicorn Gundam ver. Ka (left) and the OVA ver. (right). All of the protruding plates have been somewhat reduced, but most especially that directly below the back of the knee (top left of each piece).

Unicorn legs

Left: Pretty good flex in the foot itself, but the armor design really painfully limits the knee's range. No excuses for that, really. Don't know why Katoki didn't design it otherwise.

Right: Despite the highly articulate mechanism, the cuff armor limits the sideways range of motion at the ankle.

Unicorn splits

Unlike the knee and ankle, the hips have excellent range of motion. The skirt armor doesn't get too much in the way.

Attempted kneeling

Because of the limited bend in the knee, kneeling is something of an awkward option.

Arm internals

As with the legs, internal detail in the arms is minimal. Everything under the armor is functional mechanism for the transformation. This component, which folds down onto the outer side of the forearm, houses one of Unicorn's four beam sabers. Presumably the clever mechanism seen here allows that saber to be deployed in a forearm-mounted configuration, which the model's documentation calls 'beam tonfa.' A little background reading reveals that this feature, otherwise unknown in earlier mobile suit design, is inherited from the Sinanju.

Unicorn arm bend

Unicorn's arm, fully flexed. The elbow joint flexes at two points at either end of the elbow drum itself. In another odd choice of design, the shape of the armor around the elbow allows the joint to bend only if the lower flex point (at the top of the forearm) bends first. If the upper flex point (at the bottom of the upper arm) bends without the lower point, the armor's edges catch on each other. As with the limited range of the knee, this small sticking point strikes me as one that could easily have been avoided in the design process.

Topcoated arms drying

The arms, topcoated, drying atop a couple of my files stuck into a pizza box. Going forward, I'm going to need barbecue skewers to replace the files, but the principle will remain the same. The odd, alternated positioning of the fingers is to ensure each one gets coated.

Incidentally, the pizza box is from a place across the street, appropriately called Zeeks. Seattle-based Spacenoids' pizza joint of choice.

Unicorn arm range

That's about the complete range of this thing's arms. Unlike the ver. 2.0 Zakus or other relatively new MG gundams I've built, this Unicorn doesn't have any internal mechanism to give the shoulders flexibility back and forth or up and down (once again, on account of the transformation mechanism). As such, the range of motion at the shoulder is limited to what the joint at the top of the arm can do, and further obstructed by the shoulder armor. Even so, it looks like he'll at least be able to reach for one of his back-mounted beam sabers when the time comes. Nevertheless, once again it's pretty disappointing how much the flexibility of the model is compromised for oddities of design and for the transformation gimmick.

Speaking of which, you'll note the particularly evident gap in the right shoulder armor. The numerous moving bits of armor which are supposed to fit snugly together in Unicorn mode are not always so snug. It's quite possible that's just on account of my error or sloppiness in fitting them together, but I get the impression that the movability of those parts might be costing the model some fit.

Unicorn backpack detail 1

The backpack features some nice touches of detail, though it's actually pretty minimalistic on the whole.

Interestingly, the backpack is quite large compared to the surface of the suit's back. It's connected to the upper back, and hangs down behind the rear of the waist.

Unicorn backpack detail 2

Nice low angle of the two rocket nozzles visible in Unicorn mode. In Destroy mode, there are eight total.

Reflecting on that, it occurred to me that the Unicorn actually has very few boosters for a mobile suit of its time. Consider the abundance of maneuvering thrusters on other suits of the UC 0090s — the Sazabi, the Jegan family, and especially the Unicorn's evil elder brother, the Sinanju — and note the absence of any but the main thrusters' nozzles on the Unicorn. Where does it get the crazy maneuverability to keep up with booster-laden high-performance machines like Sinanju and Kshatriya?

Also take note of how dull the gold insides of the nozzles are. I've got a fresh gold pen on order to make sure the v-fin will be good and shiny.

Unicorn hand

As has become my standard procedure, I've cut apart the three fingers that come as a single piece for individually articulated fingers. Makes for a much more expressive hand.

Unicorn faceplate

It's… IT'S A GUNDAM!!

Unicorn cranium comparison

The cranium piece of the head has also been updated to reflect the presence of the classic head-mounted vulcan guns on the Unicorn in the OVA. The vulcan barrels, visible on the OVA ver. piece in the foreground are absent from the original ver. Ka. piece in the background.

Unicorn vulcan detail

Those vulcans were very tough to detail, by the way.

I've been using a garden variety 0.5 mm mechanical pencil to detail the panel lining on the white parts of this model, after my experience inking the ver. 2.0 Gundam led me to conclude inking white parts in black produces too strong a line. It's turned out fairly well, though as you can see on this piece, the pencil has a hard time getting into the smaller grooves. A Gundam Marker would have the same problem, but the nib would be malleable enough to fit in and get the groove covered. A 0.3 mm pencil might fit into some places, but still would be too large for others.

Aside from that, though, the pencil looks fine.

A mon seul desir

Quite a noble visage.

Unlike the rest of this model, the neck has the best range of motion I've encountered so far. My only complaint about the head is that light shines through the openings on the sides and creates a pink glow through the psychoframe inside, as can be seen above.

Unicorn Gundam front view

Front view, Unicorn mode. The angle of this shot distorts the proportions of the suit somewhat. It's very leggy.

Unicorn Gundam side view

Side view, Unicorn mode. Note how far out from the back the backpack juts.

Unicorn Gundam rear view

Rear view, Unicorn mode. The large, narrow panels on the back of the legs make an odd contrast with the many small interlocking plates most everywhere else on the suit.

Note the rear main camera at the back of the crest on the head (that green bit). There's of course also the main camera on the forehead… entirely obscured by the horn, at least in Unicorn mode. Presumably the eyes can see out from inside the head (that's where they actually are; two faces, one pair of eyes), but even so, how does this thing have a 360-degree cockpit display without more cameras? Maybe there are tiny ones placed elsewhere on the body. I suppose mobile suit optical technology is probably pretty refined by UC 0096.

Unicorn special double high roundhouse Heaven-breaker

The knee and ankle joints are a bit loose and wiggly, but I nevertheless managed to finagle the Unicorn into giving us an impressive high kick.

Preparing for transformation

While the transformation to Destroy mode happens in a few moments in the animation, with this model it's rather more involved. First off, the manual recommends breaking the model down into its major components.

Torso transformation back tab

This tab on the lower back locks the internal slides for the parts of the waist and chest that move to transform the torso. When the tab is lifted, these sections of the body slide open pretty easily. Closing the tab locks them open.

Beam tonfa

Transforming the arms is a simple matter of sliding the cuff down toward the hand, then pulling the beam saber storage assembly up away from the forearm. Thus raised, the saber is able to deploy forward in the 'beam tonfa' mode.

Destroy mode shoulder

Coming to the shoulder: the top part of the armor slides upward, then a bit of tricky rotation realigns the small armor plate at the corner of the shoulder. Unfortunately nothing secures it in position, so that little piece has a tendency to swivel askew.

Hip joint lock

Pulling the middle part of the rear of the waist unlocks the hip joints…

Destroy mode hips

… Allowing the hip joints to deploy out an extra bit.

Destroy mode side & rear skirt armor

The side skirt armor panels simply slide down, while the rear ones open to reveal two of those six extra vernier boosters.

Destroy mode front skirt armor

The panels on the front skirt armor are actually mounted on tiny hinges. They swing up and out, then lock back down. Finally, the crotch reconfigures to display a protuberant psychoframe codpiece. Like I said, every part of this thing transforms.

Destroy mode thigh 1

Flipping the inner thigh armor panel up slides the panel on the other side up as well…

Destroy mode thigh 2

… Then it flips back down and locks in place.

Destroy mode ankle

The tabs above the ankles lock the shin armor in place, as it turns out. They lift, allowing the ankle to extend downward, then lock back in place.

Destroy mode knee

The transformation process for the knee would've required several pictures to describe. Suffice it to say it's easily the most complicated and frustrating part of the whole process. In particular, getting the external knee mechanism to seat itself in this tiny joint (on a piece of psychoframe that just wants to slide back into the leg) is a tremendous pain in the ass. Or the knee.

Destroy mode foot

To wrap up the leg transformation, all the overcomplicated ankle armor spins around into a different configuration, and the Unicorns feet crank around into high heel mode.

Incidentally, these are probably the worst clip marks on the model. Paint your kits, kids!

Destroy mode backpack 1

For the packpack, the beam sabers swing up…

Destroy mode backpack 2

… Then swivel around into the classic back-mounted beam saber positions. The sides of the backpack itself pop out for more extra boosters, and that little bit on top also opens up for a little extra psychoframe.

Head transformation 1

The exceedingly clever transformation of the dome piece begins by removing the sides of the head…

Head transformation 2

… Swinging the cranium up, and the gundam face out from behind the Unicorn mode faceplate…

Head transformation 3

… Which swings back into the head as the gundam face slides forward.

Head transformation 4

The sides of the head are then replaced after a 180-degree rotation. (One of them is slightly askew above.)

It's a gundam

And last of all, the single horn splits into Unicorn's considerable v-fin. One improvement of the OVA ver. kit is the inclusion of a one-piece v-fin in addition to the delicate two-part folding horn included with the original ver. Ka. Those parts are of course also included with this version of the model, but I opted for the sturdier part swapping option.

Destroy mode front view

Front view, Destroy mode. You'll notice the small plates at the corners of the shoulder armor are askew, and the right side chest plate isn't folded all the way down. All these tiny moving parts do not easily stay in place. Posing will be a matter of many small adjustments.

Destroy mode side view

Side view, Destroy mode. The main waist joint has a good range of motion both side to side and back and forth, but seems to be pretty loose in the back and forth direction, hence Unicorn's backward lean here.

Destroy mode rear view

Rear view, Destroy mode.

Beam saber reach test

Despite the limited bend in elbow and shoulder, the Unicorn does an admirable job of reaching for one of the back-mounted beam sabers — though he can't make the full reach.

Day of the Unicorn

I don't understand why this model comes with blue beam sabers (and is depicted wielding the same on the box) when the suit is clearly equipped with the classic pink ones. Fortunately the Unicorn's grandpa (great grandpa?) was able to provide one in the correct color.

Unicorn chop!

Action poses are relatively limited, particularly on account of the shoulder range (or lack thereof).

Waist rotation

The neck and waist both have excellent range of rotation, on the other hand. However, the waist's back and forth flex is very loose in Destroy mode, so whether the model leans forward or backward depends largely on gravity.

Unicorn dash!

Unicorn dash!

Not only do the knees not bend very far to begin with, but of course in a pose like this the joints don't support the weight of the lower legs. I also can't sufficiently emphasize how frustrating it is to pose the legs without upsetting the sliding bit of psychoframe in the knee.

Destroy mode shield

The shield is quite handsome and cleverly constructed. The transformation is simple. Neglected to mask the psychoframe fins, so they have a frosty look from the matte topcoat.

The three-part hinged connector for mounting the shield to the forearm is probably the best I've seen yet. The piece to which it's joined on the back of the shield also slides up and down, allowing for more flexibility is positioning.

My only complaints about the shield are that when it's collapsed into its normal form the psychoframe is rather incongruously visible around the edges of the shield (see below) unless you're looking at it dead on, and that it doesn't slide open lengthwise as we see it do onscreen when Banagher uses the built-in I-field generator.

Sleeping Unicorn

Exhausted from all that Destroy mode finagling, Unicorn reverts sleepily to its normal configuration.

Reversing the transformation sequence is marginally less troublesome than the other way around. Frustratingly, the armor panels don't come back together perfectly flush. Nevertheless, I greatly prefer the model in this form.

Hyper bazooka collapsed

The RX-0 hyper bazooka, in its compact collapsed form for stowage. While the barrel is made of nice, solid parts, the body is made of two halves without much in the way of parts to lock over the seam. The construction isn't bad, but to make this perfect some work would be necessary to seal up the seam in the body. As is painfully obvious in this picture, the magazine is also made of two halves snapped around the five rockets.

Hyper bazooka magazine

The action at the rear slides open to receive the magazine, while the barrel extends forward above the grip.

Hyper bazooka extended

The bazooka, extended and loaded. The fit of the magazine isn't snug, but it stays in place. The moving parts make it a littler shakier than other MG weapons I've built. The forward-angled grip makes this bazooka considerably easier to aim while shouldered than other designs. The grooved secondary handle also allows for the MG hands' tabbed palms to do their thing and get a substantial two-handed grip.

Unicorn Gundam with hyper bazooka

Nap time's over.

Hyper bazooka business end

The business end of this thing has quite a lot of detail. Must've spent at least half an hour on that ridged part.

Beam magnum clip and energy caps

The beam magnum's clips are comprised of five individual energy caps, plus the end piece, which incorporates a little handle and tabs so the whole affair can be attached to the rear skirt armor.

Beam magnum unloaded

The rifle itself incorporates a sliding action to receive the clip…

Loading beam magnum
Beam magnum loaded

… Then slides back to lock the clip in place.

Like the bazooka, the beam magnum's body is made of two halves, and although the central seam is much less obtrusive than in older MG weapons, it's still visible, and results in a less solid-feeling piece than full-body construction. Even in this beam magnum's case, it would've been possible to design the forward and rear components of the body and still accommodate the sliding action.

Beam magnum with extended clip

The sixteen energy caps included can all be fitted together into a single clip, rather than three five-shot clips (leaving one extra cap). Too bad the Earth Federation government has outlawed high-capacity magazines.

Unicorn Gundam with hyper bazooka 2

Banagher is just minding his own business when suddenly…

Unicorn Gundam with hyper bazooka 3

… The horrible noise of a loudspeaker cart?!

More guns

This calls for the big guns. (I'm amused that in the case of the Unicorn, the bazooka is a pea-shooter compared to the smaller beam rifle.)

Lock and load

Locked and loaded.

End of line

Alright, maybe there aren't really loudspeaker carts in Seattle, but the pain of that memory burns forever.

Shoop-da-whoop

The extra clips for the beam magnum attach to the rear skirt armor. The bazooka magazine can also be stowed in the same way. Either of the weapons themselves or the shield can be fixed onto that slot on the backpack.

To battle

Thoughts

In short, this is a fine model and in its way an even more remarkable feat of Master Grade engineering than any other I've built on account of its complex transformation mechanism. However, that extensive gimmick definitely takes its toll on the other aspects of the model's quality. Considering that even the original ver. Ka. kit was released back in 2007 (well within the early bounds of the golden age of MG engineering we continue to enjoy), this Unicorn is lacking in basic flexibility, poseability, and fit on account of the extravagant transformation.

As I've already griped, the knees are the worst off in terms of limited flexibility, though in their case the issue has less to do with the transformation mechanism than with the design itself. Even with the much-touted increase in bend of this OVA ver. the range of the knee is uncharacteristically small for an MG of this vintage. This shortcoming is particularly irksome in light of the fact that a more recent so-called 'action version' of one of the many Unicorn Gundam figures clearly solved the limited knee bend issue.

The sum of a model's flexibility more or less directly corresponds to its poseability. While this one features a few outstandingly flexible joints (notably the ankles, hips, waist, and neck), the design of armor in some cases (ankles, shoulders) and looseness in others (waist, knees) detracts considerably. These issues combined with the overall limitations on flexibility in key limb joints (shoulders, elbows, knees) sadly restrict the poses of a suit that ought to be displayed in dramatic action.

Finally, because of all the moving parts necessary for the transformation to work, the model is prone to wiggling around both in Unicorn and Destroy modes. I don't doubt more skillful builders can make small adjustments to the parts' fit to mitigate this issue, but out of the box it's difficult to pose the suit in either mode without something going askew. If you want the fit of the parts to be perfect, I imagine it'd be best to pick one mode or the other and glue the moving pieces down for a fixed fit.

Despite my complaints and the frustrations that attended building this kit, I did of course enjoy building it nevertheless. While not itself one of my favorite suits, the Unicorn occupies a special place as the gundam that's bringing about a renaissance for the Universal Century franchise, as well as the model that's revitalized my own hobby. I accept it on its own terms as a very peculiar beast that fits into the mold of a gundam type mobile suit neither in terms of visual and mechanical design nor in regard to Gunpla engineering. Despite its unusual characteristics, it's endearing for its uniqueness and inspiring for the gestalt of associations it carries from its portrayal in the animation.

It's appropriate to reiterate in closing that though I've criticized it according to the criteria with which I usually assess all Gunpla, those criteria are to a certain extent simply misplaced in being applied to this model. If you build this Unicorn, don't expect the usual Master Grade experience. This definitely is not the usual Master Grade model.