Available from Hobbylink Japan: http://hlj.com/product/HSG65830/Sci
Nue Kids on the Block
Mecha… Whenever was that not a *thing*?
Certainly one can point to a number of key Japanese series and creators in the 1950s and ’60s who delved into mechanical concepts and design in those years, bringing us some real gems. For example, Tezuka Osamu, though not the first to go into the field, did give us one of the most defining characters in ‘Astro Boy,’ and Yokoyama Mitsuteru rather set something of a standard on what ‘mecha’ itself should be in Japanese popular culture through his robot and ship creations.
Indeed, Yokoyama Mitsuteru once commented to me about this developing sense of technical awareness: “[My peers and I] were attempting to imagine the future with only reference to the past, to imagination and magic. As a young artist, I had no way to represent [Tetsujin 28] other than as I did. Not as some people think because the children of the age would not accept something grander, but simply because I lacked the ability to realize the future properly.” [or words to that effect… Memory may fail, as this was a long while ago: Robo]
The Future is Now
Yokoyama’s point is fascinating…
How one imagines the future rather depends upon the starting point for one’s thoughts, and it is clear that for a century, European and Japanese popular media designers firmly had one foot planted in the past as much as they had the other planted in the future.
For some, such as Fritz Lang, this was a deliberate approach, in that the styling of his masterwork, ‘Metropolis‘ was intended to evoke a primal, ancient civilization in the throes of cult-like demagoguery.
This film and the imagery which it projected to the world influenced several generations of creators who helped develop the chrome-plated, sleek view of future technology that persisted through the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s on the back of both high concept film and low budget ‘matinee serials.’
Indeed, it is in this last category that we directly find the main influence on Japan’s developing SF technology in the ’50s and ’60s, thanks to the way in which companies like Universal Studios and Republic Pictures cranked out massive numbers of cheap, popular serials for consumption across the globe.
Matinee Serials were episodic films (usually with over a dozen installments) with rather simplistic plots, designed to appeal to young audiences and shown, in collections in the early afternoon at cinemas on the weekends (and later on television). Each episode offered a cliffhanger ending, which encouraged the audience to return for the next episode, and each one sported the sort of drama for which children have a seemingly insatiable desire.
They also had a reputation for reusing props and costumes from better productions, which is where the whole tech story comes into its own…
Most of the technology presented in this cheap, magnificent pulp film series was not devised for Flash Gordon, however…
The majority of these sets and props were taken from earlier productions to save on budget (which ran to only about 400,000 USD for all 12 episodes). For example, the main sets and shots of the space came from the film The Invisible Ray (1936), whilst the actual spaceship models and props were actually made for the 1930 futurist comic musical Just Imagine.
Yet, for all the imagination, these were little more than the fables of old given a shining form. However, they were popular all over the world and especially in Japan in the postwar years.
The super robots and ships of the Golden Age age borrowed heavily from these serials. Lots of style, lots of chrome and sweeping curves, but as the ’60s turned into the ’70s a new generation was absorbing different sources of information and wondering what the next step should be.
Mazinger Z, Atragon, Ultraman, Godzilla, and Tetsujin 28 (among others) simply could not hold onto the attention of children in an age in which the technology of the day (and especially of war) was increasingly ‘on display’ to the masses, as both sides in the Cold War showcased their assets (in a controlled fashion) at every possible opportunity.
During WWII and the years thereafter, most children’s conceptions of fantastic mechanical design were bound by the imagination, in that very few ever came into close contact with the tech itself.
However, by the time Apollo 11 touched down on the lunar surface, a generation of children around the world was having its expectations of technology expanded massively, as the Eagle and the Bear both strove to proclaim to the world just what had been (and by extension what *could be*) achieved through the force of their respective social wills.
Into this post Star Trek, post (almost) Vietnam War world stepped an interesting bunch of young guns, who felt that the worlds which their imaginations inhabited demanded forms of technology which were both more ‘real’ (or more realistic) than the ones on display in their youth and conversely grander in scope and magnitude than the rather simplistic devices which were the stuff of the transition years of 1966-74.
As the wonder of television brought us napalm strikes on Vietnamese villages, jets launching from US carriers, and all the glories of the shrinking world, inventive minds in Tokyo were coming to the same conclusion: the future was to be rooted in the present if it was to have any worth.
Gone were the days of ships of the imagination, and in came a series of machines drawn as much from life as from myth, led by the wunderkinden who formed the now legendary Studio Nue: Naoyuki Kato, Kenichi Matsuzaki, Haruka Takachiho and, of greatest importance to us today, Kazutaka Miyatake (for more detailed info on Master Miyatake, please see my earlier review of the Tokamak Dunbine).
These young creators had come together, first as ‘Studio Crystal’ on the back of the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, convinced that the very down-to-earth and practical ‘clunkiness’ of the technology presented in the film did more to establish the authenticity of its narrative than could any number of sleek silver ships of old. Further, they were all, it seems, fans of the aesthetic of the British modelers (such as Derek Meddings, Brian Johnson, and Martin Bower) who worked on series such as UFO, Captain Scarlett, and Space 1999 (all Gerry Anderson series), as well as high profile films such as The Empire Strikes Back.* It was with this pedigree in mind that Nue created a series of designs which were ever more distant from the sleek aesthetics of the past.
* Indeed, it is suggested by Master Miyatake that a glimpse of a ‘chicken legged’ AT-ST scout walker in one scene of this film became the inspiration for the reverse articulation of VF series Valkyrie’s remarkable GERWALK configuration (though elsewhere he also suggests that Nue had the idea first and was rather crestfallen that ILM had beaten them to the punch… 😉 ).
Miyatake and Co. began moving their work towards the ‘now’, and rooting their tecnology in materials which they knew audiences would recognize, and therefore recognize as plausible. Indeed, it could be argued that before Studio Nue, the very concept of ‘mechanical designer’ for Japanese media did not really exist, whereas today, the men and women who craft the technology for anime/games/whatever are as much the stars as anyone else.
Initially (and much as T-Rex today) the Nue team began life as technical designers on a series of toys, injecting new life into the marketplace with increasingly complex and realistic offerings. However, it did not take long for them to get into television, as their work attracted the attention of advertising company Big West. Liking the Nue approach, in 1977 Big West helped them get funding for a more realistic mech series to challenge the might of the seemingly all powerful Mobile Suit Gundam, and to that end, Miyatake was asked to come up with some concepts for a ship around which the base this ‘Megaroad’ (or megaload) concept.
As Miyatake himself states in an interview in a recently published papercraft version of the SDF-1, the idea quickly mutated from a serious SF drama into an almost high-school love-triangle, and the whole thing was to be based on a giant, transforming ship because… It was a strange idea!
Actually, that’s not all: Star Trek had the advantage of both moving from location to location, whilst maintaining a habitat which allowed for a settled cast of characters to develop their own narratives.
It just seemed logical (well, anything can seem logical when you are young, talented, and full of sugar) that if a 1200m ship with a city inside it could transform and fight its own battles alongside a compliment of variable fighters and pop singers then all would be well.
LOL… If it were legal here, I’d ask for a pound of what the Nue folks were blazing back then and I’d be as happy as Larry.
Macross – The Build
I’d like to say this was a dream build, as I loved the old SDF-1 of my youth, but I cannot, for it is possessed of some niggling little errors (or compromises).
I do know that cutting new molds can be expensive, but I had hoped that this kit would be more than a modded version of the movie SDF-1 molds, with added turrets, shoulders, and ships replacing the ARMD platforms…
The underside of the bow-spit is incorrectly shaped, and the main fuselage just does not look ‘right’… Its close, buuuuuut, as you can see from this image, close is not close enough. 😉
I understand the reasoning, in that Hasegawa was attempting keep things as cheap as possible, but for me, the Imai kit here is the SDF-1 for all time…
That being said though… I still love it, and it still represents a grand kit, especially as Macross Classic capital ships have been getting so little love of late (and why, oh why no Zenty love?).
However… Oh boy. Look at those Destroid Monsters. 😀
Each one barely 8mm in length.
Here you can see part of the bugbear… The bow is clearly in the TV mode. No trouble.
However, under the boom, on the left, the profile is not concave as it should be… /IMPOTENT RAGE
The build is simple, and though not snap-fit, very tight on most seams.
Detail is likewise as good as one could hope, with very fine panel lines and no fuzziness.
The Prometheus and Daedalus are especially well made, as are the replacement verniers and gun turrets which add to the TV aesthetic.
All together and looking better… The ‘shoulders’ are spot on for the TV version – a thing I did not note before, but the city/engineering/leg sections still look off, and one can also see that the main hull lacks the slope it should have towards the fore… #obsessedmodeler
Also… Though being cast in ‘mostly correct’ colors, I still felt that the ship needed a full paint job.
Basic Tamiya Grey overall, followed by some pre-shading as always. These photos did not come out well however, and have been excluded from the review.
You can, however, see the effects of the pre-shading here. I know there is some debate as to whether this is better (more accurate?) than over-weathering, but I certainly find it easier.
Glee! look at dem mini valks! Less than 5mm each – Super Valks, too!
So… I poured a little hate on this for not being an accurate TV version of the SDF-1.
That’s a little unfair, I suppose. It really does look better then I thought it would.
Final weathering, as always these days with Tamiya Eye-Shadow master… 😉
Rust brown at the bow, and a variety of browns, whites, and silvers across the whole body as required to highlight or subdue detail.
Also, though it is not strictly correct, I chose to pick out the turret gun housings in stark white to help break up the ship visually. The ship as a whole is meant to be white/blue, but I’m too much of a tanker to allow even a spaceship such as the SDF-1 get away with being all shiny-n-stuff. It had to be a tad grimy, so the turret touches help lift the final look.
I did possibly go overboard with the liner pens this time…
Dem feels… All dem feels!
The greatest city in space. The finest example of Master Miyatake’s Marvelous Mind.
A simple kit all told, and not perfect by any imagination, but to have this stood by the side of my movie version is wonderful.
I trust that sales of this will be strong enough to justify Hasegawa having a look at the Storm Attacker version of this venerable old ship.
Once again Master Miyatake… Thank you!
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