Gunpla Review: HG Leo (Space Type)

In the latest installment of a new Bit here, we’re reviewing Bandai’s gunpla, a model kit of a robot from the Gundam universe. It’s a little outside our usual coverage, and there might be some light spoilers for the anime. This week: Premium Bandai’s High Grade Leo Space Type

In the show

We’re taking a look this week at a P-Bandai kit, because sometimes I like to spend too much money. If you want to consider this a review of the normal Leo, you’re free to do so: the main difference is the color (it’s purple instead of green) and that it comes with a bunch of extra guns.

It’s another After Colony mobile suit, because here at Goonhammer we grew up on New Mobile Report Gundam Wing and refuse to advance. We’ve already been over the Tallgeese, and here is that robot’s tiny little failson.

The OZ-06MS Leo (there’s that 06 again) is the first and, until halfway through the show’s run, only, mass-produced mobile suit. It’s not named after a dude – this isn’t Arkhan Land – but after the Zodiac sign. The OZ in the name, is, in fact, an acronym, for Organization of the Zodiac. It’s not a good show, is what I mean.

The Leo is operated by the antagonist factions, which ends up referring to a lot different folks. There’s a rough sort of continuity of successor states that cycle through the series’ 50 episodes, starting with the United Earth Sphere Alliance, who get coup d’etat-ed by an OZ-led military junta, which then gets split in two, leading to the Rommefeller Foundation and the Treize faction of OZ Special hardliners. While the latter will stick with the Leo for some idiot reason, the former switch to Taurus and Virgo models of Mobile Doll, which is a boneless mobile suit (the driver is a computer instead of a person). Finally, the breakaway earth genocide idiot club called White Fang starts using whatever Leos are left over.

HG Leo (Space Type). Credit: Greg Chiasson

The main thing to know about the Leo is that it’s trash. It sucks so bad. I know it’s a common trope in mecha anime to have the faceless (literally, in this case) grunts exist purely as cannon fodder, but the Leo takes it to a whole new level. Thousands of these things explode and die during every single battle. One of the main knocks against Gundam Wing is that it uses a lot of recycled stock footage – there’s a shot of Heavyarms blasting its chaingun up and to the right, then firing a burst back to the left, that is used probably twice an episode, forever – and a frankly distasteful amount of this B-Roll is just shots of a dozen Leos violently exploding. I’m struggling to think of any robot that gets done so dirty. You start to feel bad for the thing, at some point.

Beam rifles can take out several at a time, beam swords will chop clean through one without slowing down, even projectile weapons shred them. It’s honestly a wonder that Oz ever took over the world, armed with these things. The thing will get grazed – what would be a flesh wound on a human – and summarily burst into flames. They have no offensive tools: their guns bounce off of every single target. And despite having zero armor worth mentioning, they’re somehow also slow and ungainly. Any time a group of Leos, it does not matter how many, fight even one of any other model, the Leos are all 100% going to die, and at no point does anyone feel threatened by them. I would kill for a Gundam The Origin style look back at the development process that led to this absolute heap of junk becoming the standard-issue mobile suit. How bad must its competitors have been, for this to be the one that the world standardized on? 

HG Leo (Space Type). The backpack is where the Space is stored. Credit: Greg Chiasson

Anyway, the Space Type is the one you use when you get sick of dying on earth and want to see what it’s like to die in space. It’s the same janky brittle suicide pod, but with a big spacesuit looking backpack (it’s a far less cool version of the Tallgeese’s, and has more in common with a dork from NASA in the 1980s shooting little gas puffs as they drift into the side of the space shuttle and bounce off the side) and a few more guns, none of which seem any more effective than the machine gun the ground type came equipped with.

All of that said, the Leo is cool, in a Senor Cardgage way: it’s just a different kind of cool. If the design brief was “make this look like it was built by the lowest bidder”, they nailed it. Weirdly enough, considering the no-frills look of the thing, it was designed by Hajime Katoki, better known for the bonkers designs from 0083 Stardust Memory and the Ver.Ka line of overdetailed Master Grades.

HG Leo (Space Type). Credit: Greg Chiasson

The model

This is an out-of-box build, with panel lining applied and not much else.

The Leo is frightfully underrepresented in GunPla. The original version was first released only a few years ago, with the P-Bandai variant seen here (along with another, the Flight Type) coming out around 2019. There are no other versions. It’s highly unlikely we ever see another one, even though there’s a generally well-regarded MG Tallgeese, and it wouldn’t be a huge reach to re-tool that into Big Leo.

What is cool about this though, despite the 15 year wait between when Wing aired and when this was released, is that it was part of Bandai’s Gunpla Evolution project (GEP), an experiment in pushing the envelope on GunPla. In this case, it meant re-organizing the parts on the runners, and using a new system of joints, experiments in making it easy to build and cheap to produce. It’s not terribly hard to see the leap from this to the Entry Grade line. The HGAC line of GunPla is frightfully late and still not complete, with a few of the main Gundams still not released, but it’s fair to say that the trade-off was getting some stunning kits.

HG Leo (Space Type). Credit: Greg Chiasson

The accessories are where this thing shines. In addition to getting the machine gun, shield, and beam sabers from the base kit, you get a bazooka, two beam rifles, and a pistol. It also has a new backpack, and a couple of new shoulder armor pieces, with some fairly weedy looking thrusters on them. It is a downer not to get any extra hands, just the two gun-holding ones, but the hands provided do the job adequately. You can, of course, choose to build this as a purple ground-type, if you want.

HG Leo (Space Type). Credit: Greg Chiasson

Articulation is an odd one to evaluate. Some of the GEP joints are very good – the knees and elbows are fantastic for a High Grade, or really by the standards of any grade – but the ankle ball-joints will pop off easily, and there’s no articulation in the neck at all: no rotation, no tilt, nothing. It’s fixed forward, straight and level. Some of this is just down to the design being what it is, but either way the construction is solid (no polycaps!) and it can move around pretty well. Not being able to turn the head makes posing it look weird as hell, but I can understand the ankles as well: weak bird bones would certainly explain why this thing gets crossed up and put on a poster by Gundams all the time.

HG Leo (Space Type). Credit: Greg Chiasson

Color accuracy is pretty good, with the caveat that that’s also not a high bar to clear, as the Leo is mostly just one color. I did appreciate that the striped bit around the back of the head is actually molded that way, not a sticker, and that there’s a clear part and reflective sticker for the, uh, “face”. That’s actually about it for stickers. Normally I’d complain about the lack of sight/sensor stickers for the guns, but the Leo simply uses iron sights (or, more accurately, simply fires blindly at nothing in particular), so there’s nothing missing there. Surface detail and panel lines are clear and molded well, but somewhat sparse. The box describes this as the “fine build system” and that’s about the size of it. It’s aggressively fine.

Should you buy it?

Well, you kind of can’t. It might go back into production at some point, or you can get lucky and find one second-hand, but for the most part, the Space Leo itself is extremely difficult to get ahold of. 

The regular Leo, though, is still around, and cheap enough that it’s worth a look. This isn’t the fanciest robot out there, but it’s a fun little diversion of a build and if you have any fondness in your heart for Gundam Wing re-runs on Toonami, you can certainly make room in your budget and display case for this.