Gunpla review: Real Grade Tallgeese

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: Bandai’s Real Grade Tallgeese, from Gundam Wing.

In the show

Bandai’s Real Grade Tallgeese. Credit: Greg Chiasson

In Gundam Wing’s After Colony timeline, the Tallgeese is the first mobile suit, the prototype that inspired every Gundam and mass-production model in the setting. It doesn’t actually show up until a few episodes in, because it was mothballed after killing a bunch of test pilots, which it continues to do after being restored to combat specifications.

There’s two distinct lineages from the Tallgeese, each trying to fix the core problem with the design, which is the gigantic rocket boosters strapped to the back being extremely brutal. Anyone short of a trained ace pilot could easily wild out hard enough in the thing to make themselves die. 

The original inventors decided that this was cool, and their follow-up act was to design another one with the sole overriding goal of making something even more insane. They succeeded, with the Wing Zero, and then refused to build it because they succeeded so dang hard. The five of them made a copy of the plans, dipped out, and each created one of the five main Gundams that we see in the show. That’s one branch.

The other descendants of the Tallgeese went the opposite direction, and cranked the big dial that said “Pilot Murder” down. This resulted in the mainstay grunt suits, developed by cowards. The Leo that explodes hundreds of times in the show is essentially a cheaper Tallgeese, the Tallgeese we have at home. It has a less cool helmet, weaker armor, and lower mobility, though it can mount most of the same weaponry. From the Leo, we get all the other OZ models – the Ares, Taurus, etc. These still kill just as many of their pilots, but in the normal way acceptable to army bureaucrats: by being trash, not through sick high-G maneuvering.

Bandai’s Real Grade Tallgeese. Credit: Greg Chiasson

Regardless of which branch of its own family tree it fought, the Tallgeese, in the hands of masked idiot Zechs Merquise, came out of retirement to stunt on all of them. Eventually though, even old granddad, the GOAT, was left to rust again, before coming back for one last score (being melted by a gigantic laser cannon). A second one is built from spare parts, is creatively branded the Tallgeese II, and squares up against a state-of-the art Gundam, fighting it to a standstill. 100% commitment to not screwing around, you gotta respect it. There’s a third one – you guessed it, it’s the Tallgeese III – which has a cool whip and an even bigger cannon.

Other than the in-universe pedigree, the main reason the Tallgeese is so popular is that the design is an all-timer. With a lean silhouette covered in rocket engines and one very large cannon, in a clean glossy white, it’s a stunning machine that looks as good as anything out there. A helmet and shield inspired by classical hoplites complete the ensemble. It’s normal for a mobile suit to look mean, and this one does, but the thing it also accomplishes is looking fast. It can be standing perfectly still and somehow look like it’s ready to haul ass to Mars.

I have no idea where the name “Tallgeese” comes from, and I don’t know how something so stupid in concept ends up sounding so cool.

The model

This is mostly an out-of-box build, including all of the sticker-decals. I did panel line it, but there aren’t a ton of panel lines. Otherwise I made no extra effort – usually a matte varnish is a good idea, to make the plastic look less like plastic, but with the armor on the Tallgeese it was better to leave it glossy.

Bandai’s Real Grade Tallgeese. Credit: Greg Chiasson

The version we’re looking at here is the “Tallgeese EW”, which means it’s the Endless Waltz variant. Note that this is not the same as the Tallgeese that actually appears in Endless Waltz, which is the Tallgeese III. What happened is that Hajime Katoki made “EW” variations of the main mobile suits, even if those never appear. It’s confusing. 

For example: Gundam Wing features a Gundam Deathscythe, which is upgraded mid-series to the Deathscythe Hell, which gets a visual redesign that appears in Endless Waltz, and is referred to as the Deathscythe Hell Custom, to differentiate it from the TV version. However, it’s retroactively intended to be the same unit, that it was what the thing always looked like, and so the Deathscythe EW is the back-ported version of what the original Deathscythe always was, before it became the Deathscythe Hell Custom. So there’s four versions of everything, only three of which ever existed on screen. The EW versions aren’t actually in Gundam Wing or in Endless Waltz, and appear only in gunpla form. 

The short version of all that is that this isn’t color-accurate to what’s in the TV show: much of the black or grey detailing has been replaced with yellow. The form is the same, just the coloration has been tweaked (for the better, in my estimation).

In terms of the build, this went quicker than most Real Grades, but with no loss of detail, just a simplification of the internals. Getting the sliding and opening panels on the boosters lined up was the trickiest part, and even that was only minimally painful. When it’s all built, the joints are impressively solid, and the model can be picked up and shaken vigorously without anything coming loose. 

Bandai’s Real Grade Tallgeese. Credit: Greg Chiasson

The articulation is good, with the exception of a limited ankle pivot side-to-side, but if you put it on a flying stand, which you should, that’s less of an issue. It tends to be a bit back-heavy, and will fall over standing unless the gun is used to shift some weight forward, but I defy anyone to look at the Tallgeese and tell me it belongs on the ground in the first place. The neck is actually surprisingly good, in that I’m surprised there’s any neck movement at all – the design of the Tallgeese, and the Leo it devolved into, doesn’t normally allow for a moving head, but they managed it here. The most impressive articulation is probably on the little armature connecting the gun or shield to the shoulders. It’s a little chain about an inch long that has five different swivel and ball joints in it, and it does an astonishingly good job putting things into the right position and holding them there

This being a later-era RG, it uses the swappable-finger style of hands, which provide a much better grip and more expressive poses compared to the old fully-articulated ones. It’s a solid step up, and I didn’t realize how annoying and fiddly the old hands were until they went away. Good riddance.

There’s also a latch on the small of the back that can be locked to prevent the boosters/guns from sagging the waist and yanking the torso around, but it only mostly works (that is: I managed to break it while taking pictures for this article). The opening and closing on the vernier pods is slick and very fun to play around with, but it would have been nice to see a similar locking gimmick on the skirting armor thrusters that open up – it’s easy to knock them closed if you aren’t careful. Each shoulder has an articulated arm for the shield or Dober gun, and these are very good: easy to get into just about any place you need them, and hold position perfectly.

Bandai’s Real Grade Tallgeese. Credit: Greg Chiasson

Accessories are minimal: one shield, one gun, two beam sabers, and an Action Base adaptor. The silver lining is that this gives it one of my favorite features that a gunpla can have, which is the ability to store all of the equipment on the model at the same time. 

The RG Tallgeese should be generally available for around $25, but some P-Bandai variants are out there if you want a spicier version. I briefly had the Titanium Coating version, which I gave away in a Secret Santa a couple of years ago before instantly and ironically receiving the normal version in a different Secret Santa. There are Tallgeese II and III RGs as well, which are mostly color swaps, though the II comes with a different head and one extra hand, and the III has all that plus completely different weapons. Finally, a TV version exists, if you don’t like the EW colors, which is mechanically the same as this one. Personally I prefer the EW version, I think the yellow makes the design pop, but the monochrome one is out there if you want it (or you can just paint this one and not deal with P-Bandai). All these variations are expensive and hard to find.

Bandai’s Real Grade Tallgeese. Credit: Greg Chiasson

Should you buy it?

Unqualified yes. This is a classic design and the kit has only minimal changes from what appeared on screen. It’s a fun build and looks great on the shelf. As one of the first of the new breed of RGs, it has almost a full MG-style inner frame: there are only a handful of Advanced MS Joint pre-molded parts, and no polycaps. Other than being a little back-heavy, which again can be resolved via Action Base, there’s really nothing bad to say about it.