A small disclaimer is in place for this one. This isn’t a plamo review. Shiranui Second Phase 3 model already has reviews of it on the ‘net from people who know a thing or two more about general modelling that me. However, the design is under review here and will be contrasted against the other Third generation Tactical Surface Fighters in Muv-Luv Alternative. The model used here was built in less than four hours, and is an extremely quick built with practically no paint on it. A model was needed to explore the dimensions more properly than what an image can convey. While it is completely possible to review a design like that, the hands down experience with the actual dimensions give better understanding.
All I say that it’s very generic Kotobukiya quality. Nothing fancy about it in any way, plastic is decent but there are some interesting and wholly weird engineering choices. Not much articulation, but that’s mainly fault of the design rather than the engineering.
But let’s get to it.
Shiranui 2nd Phase 3 doesn’t deviate itself from the usual TSF design. Large shoulders with weapons rack on them, stick thin waist that just invites a Grappler-Class to snap it in half, pelvis mounted jump packs and surprisingly well balanced legs.
This Unit No.02 Yui Takamura custom was chosen because of its colours. The Unit No.01 has Yuuya Bridges colours, which are more or less ace repaint of the actual unit, and I don’t see that as the standard colourisation. The Unit No.02 has colours that resemble the original Shiranui much more closely, and without a doubt could be the standard all Phase 3 units would share, if they got widely mass produced. As such, the white top on the blue-purple main colour works well enough. It doesn’t offend the eye and while it can be a bit plain to look at, it does convey a strong unified look. Nothing special, but cannon fodder colours rarely are.
The blue power colours follows the Shiranui tradition, even thou I do have a slight preference for the green light. However, Shiranui has cold blue power lights and that’s non-negotiable. I would have changed the colour too.
But let’s start form the top; the head.
One rule with the Phase 3 is that it doesn’t offer any surprises, but what it has is rather well done. The head is a good example of that, using the unique geometry we’ve accustomed from TSFs in that it has something that resembles part of the plane. While some TSFs take elements from the cockpit dome, the Phase 3 has no real life equivalent as such, and thus it just looks like a somewhat generic future plane. The rabbit ears are surprisingly back, and despite the thin nature of the middle part of the head, it all looks rather sturdy and aerodynamic with enough slopes and surface area. The chin is inherited from previous TSFs, and while not all people like these chins poking their eyes out, it fits well in with the rest of the somewhat pointy nature of the head. TSF designs have a tendency to make a < in the heads, where the main camera cluster resides at the point of the space and it’s well and alive here. Of course, there are exceptions. The only problem is that the white top looks like a hat its wearing, and perhaps it should be slightly smaller and less bulky. The Shiranui has a round top too, but seeing the rest of the unit has more flat surfaces, it could’ve used more unison in this sense. It would not need to be as flat as F-22A’s, but something less bulkier. Now I just want to make it a small pipe to smoke and play Popeye theme song. Nevertheless, the overall shape is mainly inherited from YF-23, one of the “parents” of the Phase 3.
Actually, the head itself, when separated, could almost work as a Yukikaze version of Mazinger Z’s Pilder. Now I just keep imagining Yui yelling Pilder On! Shiranui Go! when she sorties. Somebody needs to make a repaint.
The shoulders, as mentioned, are where the main bulk in the upper body is located. Compared to some other TSF designs, the shoulders are actually surprisingly complex in their outlook. The shoulders are almost one to one from the YF-23, but some points have seen changes. For one, the guard that resides just before the arms is no longer sharp in shape, but a square. There is also a flat guard under the vents on the sides, which more or less limit how much the arms can move to the side. The two vertical lights close to the main body connection points have been altered slightly with an additional level, but I don’t see how this benefits any. The juxtaposition between flats and angles in YF-23 is strong in Phase 3, which can split opinions. It’s just different enough from most of the other TSFs to feel unique, and Phase 3 lifts most of the good elements from it.
However, one of the things that could have been changed are the arms. The arms and their bulk is a problem to the design, even outside the model. Because of the additional guard at the end of the shoulder units, the arms’ bulk tends to hit against the guard when in motion. TSFs’ designs have always been problematic in this sense, where elements simply come out from the body and clash against each other to the extent of Total Eclipse animation having some of units clipping through themselves. While the arms look nice, they simply don’t work with the shoulders. They also added few panels near the wrists from the YF-23, which are a nice detail on the otherwise straight surfaces.
Much like the shoulders and arms, the rest of the body is lifted from YF-23. Well, they did use the body of one, but that’s beside the point. Thus far we’ve seen Phase 3 having redesign elements from the YF-23, from the torso down the redesigns pretty much stop outside two points. Three, if you count the lightshow line colours.
One eye catching detail on the torso is the white surface on the top. It does not circulate to the back, but it does create a duality. Most of the white is close to the centre of the body and used to circulate darker regions. The upper torso and head are exceptions, but the shape the two share is triangular, aimed to create at least some level of illusion of aerodynamic shape. The torso looks like it has a raptor face on it, an eagle or falcon. It just may be my preference towards winged pets over cats and dogs, but I do like it. For whatever reason I always expect TSF torsos to be bulkier, but the 2nd and 3rd generation TSFs tend to have a very lean built, mostly serving just as a hub to connect other pieces together. Less armour, more movement.
The back of the torso is rather uninteresting, offering some panels lines and nothing more. It’s a bit sad that no TSF has an interesting back, but that can be forgiven. After all, they have the weapons rack on the shoulders taking most of the interest away and those things need to have room to swing back and forth.
Waist is a thing and uninteresting.
However, when we get to the pelvis, we are treated with slight design on the intake from YF-23, the last actually redesigned bit. Unlike the angled intakes in YF-23, the Phase 3 opts for far more smother surfaces. The more curved, leaner surfaces don’t really mesh together with the rest of the design and it’s a redesign that could have been done better, or dropped altogether. While TFS often have intakes or other armoured elements on top of the legs, here they simply look like somebody glued them on. Granted, the YF-23 pelvis intakes share similar problem, but they fit far more to the angular geometry of the rest of the body. The groin guard has not changed to any extent, surprisingly.
The legs have been more or less the spot where TSFs see most curved surfaces. Same applies to the Phase 3, as the main part of the legs have smooth curves, the likes I could see someone going full Ryusei on. The knee guards are small and look like it meshes well with the overall dimensions, unlike with F-22A or F-16, which have knee guards that simply extrude themselves from the main silhouette a bit too much, but for a good effect. The cut surfaces on both sides of the upper shins manage to create a nice effect. The legs would look too bulky otherwise, and the cut surfaces simply look snappy.
The feet are much like with other TSFs, black rubber feet inside shoes. This has always been somewhat clear point of Neon Genesis Evangelion inspiration, as EVAs use shoes, and TSF feet design has pretty much always followed that idea with its own twist. The two blades are clearly for kicking and knife dancing, but sadly there’s not blade at the back of the feet for similar effect that the Su-47 Berkut has. Then again, I’ve always liked Berkut in real world, so I have a strong bias towards it.
Jump units use the standard Japanese Jump unit we all have seen at least since Fubuki. I would have loved to see a redesign here or at least some sort of influence left by the YF-23, but alas it was not meant to be. Funny thing, the model comes with bits and pieces of the Takemikazuchi that you never use because of this.
Overall, the Shiranui Second Phase 3 is a nice design, but it has all the problems that YF-23 units had while adding its own to the mix. Much like most TSFs, it does look nice just standing there, but in proper motion it could look even better. One thing Total Eclipse animation did right was to give the TSFs their range of motion more than what the VN sprite animations could hope for, and the Phase 3 could look pretty sweet in motion. However, some of the elements that I criticised, like the bulk in the arms, is simply not all too well thought out and looks painfully unpractical on a machine that’s supposed to be an agile jumping machine. This applies to other TSFs too, like the Fubuki and Shiranui, but it is an element that has been there and, to an extent, a recognizable design piece. The designers can’t be faulted to repeat elements that are more or less ingrained to the design doctrine, but at some point there needs to be a slight paradigm shift in order to advance the designs step forwards.
While some will always argue that TSF designs look the same and are just copypasted from each other, these arguments become moot when we remember that TSF units are meant to represent logical evolution of one type of machine from a common source. The units are not heroes or unique beings, but rather expendable ammos thrown at the enemy. There is no good reason to suddenly design something completely different for the same of it being different if it fights against the core design elements: Otherwise it would just look completely out of place. The Phase 3 fits pretty well into the tech tree it’s supposed to fall in, despite being a collection of different branches of it.