Allow me cut to the chase. The Hi-Resolution Model Astray is an astounding "meh."
The Hi-Resolution Gundam Astray Red Frame (first in what may be 1000x variants if they sell well enough) is my first from the HiRM lineup. I didn't pay much attention to the first two HiRM models due to a general disinterest in the design and avoidance (at the time) of After Colony kits. At some point I forgot that HiRM kits come with a pre assembled inner frame which Kotobukiya started, not very successfully at least at first, nearly a decade ago. It wasn't until I opened the box that I realized the Astray was in the same vein. Thankfully nothing is wrong with the inner frame, or the rest of the kit for that matter. For the most part it's a pretty stout, and posable, release. The very thing you'd want out of an Astray kit. What dampens my enjoyment is the design of the kit itself.
When I pre-ordered the Astray it was because the initial promotional photos looked great. Lots of metallic bits with dramatic lighting? It was hard not to fall in love. Unfortunately the kit isn't nearly as impressive in person. Aside from one or two pieces on the frame, and the sword, there are no metallic coated bits on this kit. Instead everything is just built from glossy plastic. There's great colour separation and detailing making the kit a closer match for the RG Astray than the MG. There's also a subtle herringbone pattern on the shoulders and arm armor. It's super impressive from a mold perspective, but totally lost unless you detail it or look closely.
What kills this kit for me are the design proportions. I can't explain it, but I just don't think it "works." It's like the MG Astray spent way too much time power training at the gym. The arms and legs are bulked up to a point it's almost silly looking. The feet are back to being the big blocky things of the original design with an articulating big toe that doesn't really add anything. It feels like, with the thousandth release of the Red Frame they're not quite sure how to mix things up. The MG is a great kit, as is the PG (and the RG is, well, a RG), so was a HiRM version needed? And in the same sense, what's the point of the HiRM line? Do people think pre-built frames are super cool? Is it geared toward casual builders? Sure you have to build less, but you still need those same building skills for the rest of the armor, so there's no real change in skill requirement. Sure it's the kind of kit you don't need to paint, and probably designed so you wouldn't even have to consider it, but even if you don't paint your kits isn't there something to be said for having the option? If you don't want to spend the time to put together a kit, just get the Metal Build Astray Red Frame which looks bad ass right out of the box.
At some point I decided to just put on some of the stickers. I don't see myself painting this kit and I really like the look of the cherry blossom markings. Sadly, it's probably my favorite part of the kit.
The inner frame, fun fact - made in China, is pretty solid. One of the concerns I kept hearing about the first two HiRM kits was a lack of stability. What the HiRM Red Frame lacks in design taste it makes up in core strength. Without the armor the frame can hold pretty much any pose you throw at it. Articulation is great and the frame tight enough to not worry about anything flopping around.
Things change a little bit when you add the armor. Poseability doesn't change that much, but the center of gravity moves a bit higher. This makes it a bit harder to balance even with the expanded footprint.
The Astray comes with five different pairs of hands in various poses as well as the traditional shield and beam rifle. What's nifty here is that you can remove the barrel extension and stock and get a SBR going which is a look I personally prefer over longer rifles with my kits. Also traditional to the Red Frame is the Gerbera Straight (not 100% sure the name applies to the kit sized sword, or the giant one that's like swinging a battleship around, whatever, don't @ me).
Along with the proportions of the rest of the kit, the Gerbera is dramatically different. Gone is the long, sleek, instrument of death and in its place a sword stubby that's more like an oversized wakizashi. In addition to its odd appearance the design calls for a downward sloping scabbard. Now, I'm no sword expert, but this seems like a really awkward draw that also places the sword in hand backward. Now the hard point for the scabbard has the ability to flip the thing down so it's facing the right way but that's not the draw depicted in the instruction manual. In addition flipping it down moves it further from the right hand, beyond what I think can be easily posed.
On the bright side the thicker format lends itself to colour detailing on the handle and a nice grip in the hand. While one of the MG's big weakness was the small peg system to hold the sword the HiRM hand unit holds things nice and steady.
Since I compared this to the MG I only thought it fair to compare the two in this review...
HiRM's Gerbera Straight on the top, MG's on the bottom.
Last but not, a family photo. Kai's still in the box.