Ever since the Dragon Momoko (DM) Tallgeese III (along with I and II) was announced, people have been raving about how good it looks, how DM did a number on Bandai by releasing a III before it did, and that the DM TG III is an "original" (more about that later). This review will cover the comparison between the Bandai and DM TG II, on the technical aspect, to keep it as objective as possible, since there is no Bandai MG TGIII to compare with DM's. I, for one was impressed with the early images of the TG III, and was looking forward to it.
First off, a review about copyright and copyright infringement. I've mentioned this a few times here, and at Facebook several times. The terms "Gundam" and "Gunpla" are trademarks of Bandai and Sunrise as a "brand." After the "court battle" between Bandai and TT Hongli, bootlegs stopped having "Gundam" on their boxes. Consequently, TTH resurfaced as "GaoGao" or GoGo (making Bandai's effort futile, if you think about it) and continues to produce substandard products. Also, though the Bandai Tallgeese is not a "Gundam" per se, it is Gunpla nevertheless. Bootlegs ARE NOT brands, that's why they're called bootlegs to begin with, because they COPY or knock off an actual brand.
(Update: This is a statement from Katsumi Kawaguchi of Bandai, verbatim, with regards to bootlegs not being "gunpla."
I say clearly.
I do not have approved of a friend who has been posting pirated model kit on FB.
Model kit does not have the name "BANDAI" is not a GUNPLA.
Sorry some people are uploading without knowing's pirated, but I will be the same correspondence.
That's coming straight from the horse's mouth. I'll post a separate article about this, since he said a lot of things in that FB post.)
I'm familiar with the "rumors" going about that DM claims to be a Bandai sub-licensee, and I've even speculated that DM may be a Bandai subcompany (others have speculated this as well), but, until either of those are confirmed, DM is a bootlegger and their products are all bootlegs (not that it matters in the long run for bootleg "collectors").
Unlike other earlier bootlegs, I consider the DM TGs "nextgen" bootlegs, primarily because instead of simply remolding an existing runner, they may actually have produced their molds from scratch. DM hit 3 birds with one stone, since the TGs after all only have minor variations across the 3 variants.
Here's a shot and a close up of one of the main runners of DM and Bandai
This actually didn't give it away while I was inspecting the TG II at the shop, since I didn't have a Bandai TG II to refer to, but I suppose, the Daban TG II is a runner mold of Bandai's. What I noticed right away though, were the additional armor details that are not present in the Bandai TG II.
DM has placed additional detail on some of the armor parts, making it look "unique" as compared to its Bandai counterpart. Because of its material, though, DM's details are "softer" than that of Bandai's.
Based on the manual, all the runners, except for the clear parts (PS) and the polycaps (PE), are made of ABS, but soft, unlike Bandai's ABS which ranges from stiff to hard. Bandai's PS plastics are stiff and glasslike, but sturdy, DM's "ABS" plastics are soft, and if you try bending or twisting a runner stem, it'll take a while for it to break (an advantage? Maybe). Bandai's runner breaks with a "snap" while DM's is barey audible. Cutting through a DM runner will produce a low "crunch," like snapping a soft cookie in two, while cutting through a Bandai runner sounds like a cracker.
Bandai's white PS has a bluish tinge, while DM's white ABS is slightly grayish yellow (which indicates it's recycled plastic). The polycaps can be an issue, since they are rather stiff and has an odd texture, and similar to old generation Bandai PCs which crack later on (this posed a problem during the build and fitting).
This was something I kinda hope DM would have solved, since, as mentioned earlier, they might have produced their molds from scratch. Since they have control over the production, they could have at least minimized the fitting problems, but I guess, this issue is still because of the quality of the plastic they've used. If they indeed used (recycled) ABS plastics instead of PS (the quality of PS degrades severely during recycling), therein lies the problem. ABS shrinks or bloats far more than PS. Even with Bandai plastics, some of their ABS frames have fitting issues mainly because of the ABS shrinking improperly.
Off the bat, I tried fitting the thigh armor parts sans the frame, and I've already encountered issues since the pegs won't fit without due force. The knee armor doesn't fit snugly over its side braces and pops off rather easily, the same with the ankle brace, which simply won't stay in place during fitting (despite the leg armor it attaches to has a significantly larger connection"notch." The toe section, both the frame and armor keeps popping out, and its articulation has become useless. I've encountered several problem spots, just on the leg alone. Even the polycaps have fitting issues, I had to trim off the edges of a knee joint part so I can insert it in a polycap. The knee even has limited articulation; whereas Bandai's TG II's knee can bend fully, the DM's cannot.
Dispelling the 99% Myth
Over the course of bootleg releases, I've heard of people randomly saying that a certain bootleg is 70%, 80%, 90% close to Bandai quality (if not by detail alone). The DM TGs, especially the TG III, for obvious reasons, so far has gotten a good reception from the bootleg enthusiasts (and some Bandai-only collectors), mainly because it has exceeded previous bootlegs in terms of production and detail.
But 99%? Hardly. No bootleg will reach that percentage of closeness, since even Bandai's kits only have 95-99 percent production accuracy during molding (95 being really bad and usually goes to the recycling bin). We must realize that production accuracy is not just about detail alone since material quality is also important. The main reason why bootleggers choose substandard plastic is because of cost considerations, otherwise, why bootleg at all? And from there, quality cascades down.
Even with DM producing their own molds, they don't even come close to 80% of Bandai's overall quality. In fact, I believe that in their effort to produce their own molds and probably to avoid a Bandai lawsuit, they've actually decreased in production accuracy because they've "thrown away" Bandai's original mold in the process (hence, the fitting issues). Think of it as Adidas making shoes; no two pairs of authentic Adidas Red Crosstrainers will exactly be alike regardless, what more an Adidas Red Crosstrainer made from scratch by a bootlegger?
So, is it a bootleg or not?
Dragon Momoko may have taken steps in improving their production, even coming up with "new" box and manual designs instead of simply ripping off a Bandai box, but, they could have gone further by actually producing ALL of the content themselves (as Model Comprehend has done with some of their stuff). Instead, they simply scanned most of the Bandai TG II's manual, adding to it the instructions for the extra stuff. And if you ask what that "Copyright 2014 Dragon Momoko" is about? Well it's simple, as they did do the boxes and manuals differently, photo shoot, layout and all, they can claim copyright over that portion at least. And since they made their own molds, they can claim they did not bootleg a Bandai product.
But, is in no way an indication that they made an original product. What they did is known as pre-emptive bootlegging.
Take note of my first statement above. The Tallgeese is a BANDAI product. I've seen comments all over that the DM Tallgeese III is an original; it is not. Dragon Momoko, however they did it, was able to produce their own molds, but that doesn't make their TG III an original, even if they came out with it first. They've pre-empted Bandai with a bootleg, making the phrase "original bootleg" more oxymoronic than anything (than ever before). It's the same case as a bootlegger recording a concert and selling CDs of that concert, before the production can. It's a bootleg through and through, especially if one considers that, despite how nice it looks at first glance, it still suffers as a bootleg does.
I've also seen comments like "you don't own a bootleg so you don't know anything." Tell me, do I need to do drugs to know that it's bad? I recall my adventure at Divisoria a year ago, when I came back to a shop 3 times, swooning over a Daban DSH custom, with the price going down each time I came back. From 600 pesos, the shopkeeper finally relented and offered it to me for 400, but when I finally opened the box and checked the item up close, I decided to keep my money and buy Bosny paints instead.
Regardless, for this review, to keep my objectivity, I bought each of the DM TGs. Sure, I was impressed with how clean the moldings are. I was even impressed that they used new molds, and maybe DM has a future in producing their own originals. Being a graphic designer, I'm even impressed with their relatively new box and manual designs.
But is it worth shelling money out for? I'm a practical person. I believe some Bandai kits are a waste of money and are not worth it. Some people practice with bootlegs, but to me, that's tantamount to practicing on a Sarao Jeep to make a Ferarri. Sure, the Sarao can look like a Ferarri, but, it's still a Sarao. (Practicing with bootlegs is okay, especially for students who don't have a ready budget for kits, but, you won't be a student forever, right? As for those who want to have a hobby, but "can't afford" Bandai, maybe you need a hobby that you can afford [to those asking what this means, it means exactly as I said it. If you don't have bootlegs as an "alternative," get another hobby]). I practice on Bandai scraps, that's why I'm always on the hunt for built kits which I would mangle later on, but hey, that's just me.
I consider Gunpla an investment, and I cannot, despite my evil, consider this an investment. This hobby is expensive, as such, I always try to set my priorities straight. Before I set my sights on that shiny new MG Sazabi ver Ka, I made sure I have food on the table. And since these kits are investment in themselves, I can sell them later on to augment my finances. Never will I prioritize a hobby because I needed one, nor would I settle for a bootleg just because I needed a hobby.
Are they worth it? Maybe this will answer that question.
I've sold partially built DM TG I, an unbuilt DM TG I, and a DM TG III AT A LOSS.
Addendum: See my note above? I don't allow anonymous comments (even with assumed names with no backtracking links). But, since the idiotic comments I received have become humorously relevant, I'll share it with you as to how truly IGNORANT some people are about bootlegs.
Comment 1: "Okra pa mamen nasobrahan ka sa mga imported stuffs.. next time sa japan kana tumira with all your para wala ka nang hinanakit sa BL's "
Comment 2: "yung bang sibuyas na ginagamit nyo pang-gisa eh sibuyas tagalog o sibuyas tsina?"1. Bootlegs, in this case, plastic "fighter" kits, come mostly from China. China is the premier bootlegger nation, bootlegging everything from CDs to toys to even milk. The bootlegs available in the market today are produced mostly by China. They "export" it worldwide. The bootleg sellers here import dem fighter kits from China. Last time I looked, China is still a FOREIGN country, so any product we get from there is imported.
Comment 3: "I'm so glad bootlegs exists. Bandai will have something to compete with. So they will strive to make their kits look better and more accessible and cheap. Judging Bandai 's history., I don't want to see them gaining monopoly"
So, to assume that only Japan Bandai kits are imported is not only ignorant, but downright stupid. Bandai also has a production facility in China, and soon, here in the Philippines (though the latter is said will produce capsule toys). What's more, most bootlegs you're getting are SMUGGLED into the country, with very few exceptions.
2. Bootlegged onions. That's new. See, when making analogies, do try to look up what an analogy is, and how analogies are applied. For commenter #2, since China is a hotspot for bootlegs, everything that comes from there is a bootleg. Even onions.
3. The comment was actually posted in the "Kawaguchi" post, but, I'd tackle that here.
First things first: Bandai OWNS Gundam and Gunpla. There is no monopoly when it comes to Gunpla. If they come after bootlegs OF THEIR KITS and stop their production, they have ALL the right to do so.
Bandai, however, does not have a monopoly on toys and plastic kits. If they did, we wouldn't have Tomy, Kotobukiya, Hasegawa, Tamiya, etc.
Please, people, oh bootleg people, KNOW the facts before you spit.
Sheesh. The internet indeed has made some people dumb, and dumb people dumber. Or at least, simply revealed who the dumb people are. To these people, truth are relative, and facts are optional. The internet has made cowards feel as if they are 10 feet tall, but in real life wouldn't be able to stand up to anyone and say what they say online to ANYONE's face (Yes. I am challenging you to come up to me and tell that to my face).
A word of advise to would-be anonymous trolls; when trolling someone, make sure you're smarter, or at least, MORE articulate.