I’ve built a few of Bandai’s recent kits lately and have begun to call them either ‘semi-finished’ or ‘multi-level’, yet neither of these designators seem to adequately describe the matter.
In brief, from the Re:100 series (the newer HGs and the better MGs) Bandai seems to have gone over hook, line, and sinker to the idea that a given model kits should be open to fans of almost every level.
This is certainly true.
These days one might buy almost any kit and slap it together without cement and still do a fine job, whilst those with more skill can really work their art and produce masterpieces.
This seems to the the case with the new line of Star Wars models especially.
The Dark Lord
One of the most iconic villains in film history, Darth Vader looms large in the imaginations of all Star Wars fans, not only because of his immediately imposing stature and look, but for the fact that – even from the outset – his character was not a simple one-dimensional bad guy…
Even in the very beginnings when George Lucas was working with the artist Ralph McQuarrie on a concept for an SF medieval foil for his heroes in the first Star Wars movie, the brief was always on something more profound than a standard pulp villain.
Before his relationship with Luke, before the idea of ‘the prophecy’ and even before that ruddy nest of Gundarks, there was the vision that Lucas had lifted from his narrative icon, Kurosawa Akira that an antagonist must always have both a sound reason for their position and a potential for redemption – as well as a visual impact that communicated this ideal.
Lucas, working on a Japanese aesthetic, was inspired especially when mediated through McQuarrie’s unique sense of style.
Here we have an icon of the reborn space opera. A far future, deep past, samurai demon lord.
It was perfect.
The irony seems to be that the Darth Vader we know was originally meant to have been more like the ‘Death Star Gunners’ that we see in the climax of A New Hope, as his mask was simply planned as being part of his pilot suit.
However, cooler heads prevailed in the design team, not least because Brian Muir, who created Vader’s final outfit, seems to not have been made aware of the plan, or felt that a single costume would be easier to realize at Pinewood.
Though the character, and his relationships to the rest of the cast would evolve almost continually as filming progressed on the first three films, the visual and general criteria were there: the dark lord of the Sith. The anti-hero who would dominate our thinking for decades.
As we saw in the unboxing, the level of detail and surface finish on Darth Vader is just as precise as it was on C-3PO, and the construction itself just as simple.
If one is being lazy, the only area that needs any real paint detail is the back of the Dark Lord’s scorched head and mask. The stickers/decals provided cover all the other areas, but the head still needs some moderate attention, and this caused a little issue.
In order to preserve the shine of the plastic on the mask, I was required to mask off the read of the head before undercoating, though this was not a major issue, as you can imagine.
As you can see, the plain plastic finish itself is excellent, and I wanted to try and maintain that in the build, as I doubted that I could reproduce such a glossy shine with the varnishes at my disposal.
As with Threepio, the body is built onto an endoframe of sorts, and in this case it includes an ingenious system for the cloak, which levers out the material as required.
The Belt unit is presented very well indeed, and supplied with all the decals/stickers necessary, though in this case I elected to paint the details in.
NOTE: On some of the joints, the material is, possibly due to the small nature of the parts, rather weak and must be carefully handled.
I myself managed to break one of the shoulder joints through applying a little too much force. Caution is certainly needed.
However, it is these smaller joints that give life to the model, and each one masks the actual articulation of the limbs in question and makes posing far more realistic.
This one, for example, sits in the place of the knee. When standing, the joint is hidden, but when the leg is bent, it disguises the joint perfectly.
As you can see, there is very little evidence of the level of articulation on display on the back of the knee.
The very same is true for the arms, though limited here by the need to have a greater range of motion represented in them. Great care and attention have been expended in design of their rage of movement.
My only gripe is in the nature of the hands. At 1/12 scale, they would of course be too small for articulation.
Now comes the question of how to paint the thing… Though the model has clearly been made with the idea of displaying it as it is, I felt that the fabric of the life support suit could – nay should – be a little matter. I took the decision to repaint the whole thing, using Tamiya Black surface primer.
This gave the right ‘look’ to the suit, but required a little more work on some areas – the helm, shoulder armour, controls, and back of the head again.
However, with a little wash and some gloss varnish, I think I was able to lift the helm and mantle back to the shine they are supposed to have.
Bandai has pulled out all the stops on this series of very reasonably-priced, yet detailed model kits. Figures, ships, mechs and possibly even capital vessels soon.
Though Vader, just like the other figures in this series, has been rather streamlined in construction to allow for greater flexibility in posing, I cannot see this as a bad thing, for it turns the models into wonderful hybrids of toys and kits.
Add to that the very reasonable price point, and we certainly have a winner.
The Force is strong with this one!
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