Oct 14
Robodaz

Available from Hobbylink Japan – http://www.hlj.com/product/BAN72574/Gun

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(original MS Variation kit art)

Many folks associate the totality of the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise with its ‘wunderkind’ patriarch, Tomino Yoshiyuki. However, there have been dozens of capable writers, designers, artists and other folks who have contributed to the ongoing success of the series, right to the present day – from HAL Mikimoto, who gave life to the gentle reality of the ‘0080: War in the Pocket’ OAVs, to Nagano Mamoru, whose work (though greatly tempered in the final version) brought a sense of elegance of the World of ‘Zeta Gundam’.

Yet, even among the greats who have given life to the ‘Gundam Generations’, one name – though often neglected by far too many – stands above all, and perhaps even above that of Tomino himself: Okawara Kunio, the man who gave us the Mobiles Suits we know and love today.

A graduate of Tokyo Zokei University, Okawara followed a rather unusual path to mechanical designs in animation by jumping ship from a fashion design company (for which he specialized in background art) to the famous anime house, Tatsunoko. Here, under the tutelage of Nakamura Mitsuki, Okawara was put in charge of the enemy forces for the seminal series, ‘Science Ninja Team Gatchaman’. So well received were his designs that his mechanical talents were requested by other productions in Tatsunoko, prompting Nakamura to create an entire department – named ‘Mechaman’ – around Okawara, from which he provided mecha designs to some of the most important series of the 1970s.

Hurricane Polymar, Tekkaman, Gowappā 5 Godam, and Time Bokkan all had Okawara’s stamp on them before he eventually upped sticks from Tatsunoko to find his own way, free from what he saw as the constraints of producers who did not quite grasp his work. After a little time as an independent, he came to the notice of Nippon Sunrise, and the director/writer Tomino Yoshiyuki, who had a need for practical mechanical designs for an upcoming animated series: Mobile Suit Gundam.

Taking cues from Tomino, though limited in some ways by needs to ‘sell’ designs to an audience inured to the ‘super robot’ aesthetic, Okawara created dozens of iconic designs for the series – including the signature RX 78 Gundam suit itself.

However, for many fans, as wonderful as the Gundam, Gun Cannon, Guntank and GM are, it seems to be the threatening, almost mythical mecha designs for the Zeon Principality which hold greatest attention.

And of all those unique forms – from the demonic Z’Gok, the outlandish Big Zam, to the menacing Gelgoog – the undoubted king is the first Mobile Suit revealed in this series: the MS 06 Zaku II.

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With its Cyclopean visage, Germanic styling and practical menace, it is not surprising that the Zaku (and its derivatives) loom so large in the imaginations of Gundam art/modeling fans down through the ages – especially after Okawara convinced Bandai to release a range of ‘variant’ Mobile Suit models not featured in the Gundam series, many of which were based around mission-specific versions of the beloved Zaku.

Including this kit – the MS 06R 1A High Mobility Zaku II.

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I have always been attracted to the Zaku and jumped at the chance to have a go at a rather unique version of the High Mobility Zaku II (as an attempt to build an ‘all Gundam’ army list for Warhammer 40K – don’t ask…).

It also gave me the opportunity to try out a new airbrush, as well as my recently-acquired Staedtler lining pens and some nice rusting compounds.

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I’m generally happy with this build, and though I’ve obviously a good deal to practice with regard to blending out seams, I am getting increasingly confident with the new airbrush (a Mr. Hobby 0.2) and all the blending/shading possibilities which they bring.

Comments

  1. Excellent essay–and nice work on the Zaku MG. It amazes me that people still don’t give Okawara the credit he deserves in regards to GUNDAM. He also was responsible for so many great designs during the “Real Robot” era, including the Dougram and the Combat Armors, the mecha from SPT LAYZNER, and my favorite, the Scopedog from VOTOMS.

    • Thank you.
      It certainly surprises me that he is such a quiet chap, even in the face of fans/press who – all too often – credit Tomino himself with the design works (though, the Old Man did do initial sketches, to be sure).

      Still, those who know, KNOW… If you get what I mean.

      There’s no mistaking Okawara’s touch on a series, even decades later.

      He’ll always be – if not the Grandfather, or Father of the ‘Robot’ genres – the Big Boss, to me at least.

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