The Model and the Means…
It seems that since its foundation Bandai, has been pushing new levels of excellence into the marketplace, with range after range of plastic kits and toys…
Even in my own life, I have seen the company (as well as other such enterprises, such as Tamiya, Revell, Airfix, etc.) claim the arrival of the ‘ultimate’ in model making, only to be frumped a few years later as the technology improves. Not that I mind, of course… However, in 1995 Bandai unleashed the Master Grade kits onto the market as part of the Gundam 15th Anniversary celebrations (The RX-78-2 1/100). With their internal frames, moving parts, correct color moldings, and general ‘reality,’ it seemed that Bandai really had found the final frontier…
However, the Master Grade still stands tall as the best, all-round Bandai model kits on the market, and not just for Gundam, as the company has branched out into other series from time to time, as popularity has demanded. They demonstrate just how far injection molding has come in the years since styrene moldings were first turned over to the manufacture of kits.
The very first model ‘kits’ made in the 1920s and 30s were not aimed at the consumer market, however. They were created by companies such as Frog with an eye to selling pre-made ship and architectural (and later, plane) models to shipping lines, hotels, and resorts to further enhance the sales offices associated with the tourism trade, replacing more labor-intensive wooden, metal, resin, or scratch-carved models which large companies, such as Thomas Cooks, wanted to showcase in their offices.
Vickers Viscount aluminum molding in British Midland livery
Without media in which to sell the wonders of their ships, planes, and resorts, such models proved an able way of enticing and exciting clients, even though they were costly to make in more mundane materials. However, when Frog and other companies began molding lightweight models in cellulose acetate (and later polystyrene), assembling and painting them, they found a ready market – and not just among business clients.
By 1935, Frog was receiving so many requests for the sale of the pre-made models to the public – they tested the water with a few kits in 1936 with a new sister company, Frog Penguin*, which made plastic models, as both kits and in pre-built forms.
- The name is rather interesting in that Frog had previously made band powered flying models with their name meaning ‘Flies Right Off the Ground.’ As the new kits were designed only for display, the company was named ‘Penguin’ to gently mock this idea. An extensive history and explanation of Frog’s operations can be found here:
An early, non-scale version of Frog Penguin’s Blackburn Shark – circa 1937
As more companies began to take to the model/toy market following the Second World War the world began to see the development of the industry as we now know it. Companies and nations began selling licenses for their planes and ships, paint companies began developing colors to match the needs of these new ‘modelers,’ and toys shops had to face the idea of catering to older, often adult clients, paving the way for the specialty retail market we have today.
1/100 MG MS-06S Char’s Zaku II Ver. 2.0 Build
I’ve often taken to using clear undercoats with modern models, as the quality of plastic and color these days is pretty spot-on in MG kits. Bandai has been very keen, since the ’90s, of making sure its kits are doable by all levels of ability – from simple snap fit/stickers, through lining and weathering pens to full workups from scratch. On this occassion, I opted for a full build/paint for a couple of reasons. First, Char’s Zaku, as featured in the original series, frankly looks a little on the tentative side for me. Now that Origin has emerged and the MS-06-S has been retconned to a more bloody red, I felt this build called for an appropriate response.
Also, when entering a model for this year’s Gunpla World Cup (a Zeta Gundam, Quattro themed Nightingale), I was informed by the Bandai judge who cut it from the regional event that ‘Char’s mechs are *always* glossy,’ hence the need for some decent varnish over good paint.
Pretty sweet, and I think it was a little rough to cut it, considering I had to buy Alcad metal paint AND an entire MG Hyaku Shiki to get the decals.
A1 Sauce is an essential modeling aid. Actually serious, but in a joking way.
Back in 1999, I needed something to bulk up some home made washes, which I used to give depth to block paint. I used both malt vinegar and brown sauce in some very interesting mixtures.
Thank God paint companies began developing thick washes, or my whole model collection might smell of stale pizza!
Though Master Grades can readily be assembled as they are, being colored correctly out of the box, I wanted a darker, moodier shade of red for this build.
Undercoating each sprue with Tamiya Surface Primer L White, and after running round the edges with black for under shading, I went over each piece with a thinned (50/50) mix of X20A thinner and XF-7 Flat Red. It took 4 coats to build up a good finish and still leave enough shading to make the final look solid.
The MG line always has some interesting interiors. The RX-78, of course has the Core Fighter and the Zaku emulates the side-shifting cockpit (the central beam being hardened armor to defend the pilot more, I imagine).
This level of internal detail is why I like the MGs so much, which is incredible considering the price point has remained much the same for the same mechs over the years.
And here we have one of the most ingenious aspects of the mk 2.0 version of the Zaku. In a two-shot mold, polystyrene is cast over poly prop, so that the build parts can be slid off and onto the correct parts in an easy way. No more lost cable armor!
Painting as You Go
Though the main red was laid down on the sprue, it needed a little tweaking, washing, and covering of sprue marks when being assembled. A little fiddly, but still a better way than post-painting for me.
As the grey plastic was left as is, by this time, the clear undercoat was out again (Mr. Hobby Clear Coat, Flat) and with a little dry brush to lift the edges, it works as well as ever.
I pained all the interior surfaces Tamiya X10 Gunmetal, washed over with X19 Smoke.
The God of Gundam markers demands its due. Who am I to deny it!?
I go on about these, like a broken record, but I love these things…
Be sure to let your paint dry totally before using them ,though, and if they do clog up, it takes a little rubbing on course board to liven them up.
Ironically, I have discovered that if one crushes the tip of the fine markers, one gets a better flow, and if one is careful it does not ruin the pen.
Upper torso, with base coat, lining, and some edging in X8 Lemon Yellow.
Master Grades have always been known for flexibility. This hip unit helps explain this. All the armor points are multi jointed, or ball/socket arrangements allow for the legs to move as freely as one might like.
Going together very well, with just a few little touches needed to mask the slips in painting.
More flexibility in the feet, and all the jointing one could wish.
And now we see it… A little early maybe, but some Tamiya X-22 gloss airbrushed over the base red looks like the parts are already tearing ass about the model room…
I’ve never been keen on rub down decals, though these worked out quite nicely – if you forget the big placement goof up. Still, once varnished they look very nice.
The heat hawk could have come out better, and I have only myself to blame as, by this point, I had sat on my own airbrush…
However, one does not care to acknowledge the mistakes of one’s arse, because it is time to let the Red Comet roll!
Three Times the Speed, Thirty Times the Cool
Though they might seem a little out of fashion these days, the old One Year War Mobile Suits still ooze charm and power.
I like that Bandai has not simply sat on their laurels and update their MGs from time to time, and this 2.0 Zaku hits all the right marks.
I just hope that Origin proves popular enough for us to be treated to some more updated kits at this level, and not just the (albeit nice) 1/144 HG versions.