I was immediately drawn in by the 08th MS Team OVA. It was the first series in the UC timeline I'd watched after the original Mobile Suit Gundam, which it easily blew away. It's gritty, on-the-ground depiction of the One Year War, where people you cared about get killed, Zakus are formidable opponents, and Gundams aren't invincible, brought the story home much more concretely.
My reaction when I first saw the Ez8 (online, before watching the series) was along the lines of 'what the hell is that?' Before long, however, I found it's unique design growing on me, and by the time Shiro's rebuilt ground-type Gundam appeared on screen, I was excited to see it in action. Perhaps its vague similarity to the Tallgeese (largely white, more of a chunky, mechanical feel than the usual streamlined gundam aesthetic) endeared it to me, but in any case, this suit has definitely seized the place of my top favorite gundam-type MS. It's sole pilot, Shiro Amada, also remains my favorite UC protagonist so far.
According to the show's realistic, grungy feel, I wanted to give this model that well-loved look. At first I was concerned painting would be difficult, since the sort of ivory off-white of most of the armor and the teal of the accents are both colors that probably would've had to be mixed. Imagine my pleasure to discover that all the parts in question were already molded in just the right colors. I decided I would sand the parts to make sure clip-marks were cleaned up, and ultimately apply some sort of aging coat over the whole thing when finished. Imagine my surprise to discover that Gundam Marker ink smears rather nicely on sanded plastic. Thus was born my ink-smudging technique, which allowed me to achieve just enough of a weathered look without a whole lot of experimentation or difficulty. Of course, the result isn't as impressive as really nicely done aging work, and in the end amounts to nothing more than marginally controlled sloppy inking. Still, I found the effect pleasing, and suitable to my time and resources. The model ends up looking not really damaged or heavily worn, but just grimy enough to remind one that it's not pristine.
As I anticipated, building a version 2.0 MG kit spoiled me thoroughly. While the MS-06S ver. 2.0 (MG no. 98, if I recall) was released only a few months ago at the time of writing, the RX-79[G]Ez-8, while certainly master grade quality, is of course relatively dated. (It was the 30-somethingth MG release.) By far the greatest disappointment with the kit are the hands, which are barely a step up from HG quality. In fact, the only difference is the thumb, attached to the palm by ball-and-socket joint. Other than that, the four fingers (or rather, the three fingers and the index finger) have no flexibility themselves, and none of the rotational poseability afforded by the ball-and-socket connections of the newer MG ver. 2.0 hands. The optional sets of fixed hands in open and clenched mode strike one as a lame attempt to make up for the weakness of the poseable hands. The worst part about this hand issue is the difficulty getting the model to hold onto his weapons in any kind of interesting pose. The little grip-tab innovation in the ver. 2.0 hands is really a breakthrough on this point.
In a word, this and any other problems with this kit are found at the points where it most resembles a High Grade model. The abundant use of polycaps, for instance, represents such a point. With the ver. 2.0 Zaku, in most cases the armor plates snapped or slid directly onto the inner frame, an elegant method of simply and strongly assembling the model. In the case of this Ez8, only the limbs used an inner frame, and most of the armor plates were sleeves which slid over the frame before further assembly. The plates on the legs, however, are held in place by relatively weak connections with polycaps built into the frame. Only a few pieces on the legs snap directly onto the skeleton. To be fair, this polycap-joint method may be necessary to accommodate the style of the Ez8's leg armor, which moves around a bit depending on the position of the leg. The old HG method of using polycaps for all major joints also prevails in this kit. I found the knees especially to have some trouble staying together. In the ver. 2.0 Zaku, on the other hand, elbows, knees, ankles, shoulders, and neck were all actually mechanically constructed as part of the inner frame.
That last joint — the neck — is where I encountered the worst trouble with the polycap-joint method. Whereas the ver. 2.0 Zaku and the kit Ben is in the middle of building (something from Gundam Seed) have an actual neck, the Ez8, like any HG model, only has a ball protruding from the top of the torso, onto which the head fits, connecting via a socket polycap built into the head. Unfortunately, when I first tried to attach the completed head, the little tabs inside in which the polycap socket is seated snapped off. Ultimately the only way to fix the whole mess was to glue the polycap down inside the head, which resulted in very limited range of motion.
On the other hand, this kit provided me quite a positive first experience with Bandai's dry-etch decals. In the case of the Zaku, I didn't want to use any of the marking decals, since none of them appear on the suit on-screen. In this case, though, I felt obliged to replicate the trademark '8' markings on the chest and shield. While in both instances the decals were slightly damaged in the transfer, nonetheless they went on cleanly and with relative ease. They're certainly a great deal easier to apply than water transfers, and look excellent.
Despite the issues above, I'm very happy with the model on the whole. It's certainly not as gymnastic as Char's Zaku, but it's a very good representation with excellent detail. While various difficulties cropped up in the process of construction, in the end it all came together to make the gundam I've grown so fond of.
It'd make my day if Bandai gave this kit the version 2.0 treatment. Moreover, the Ez8 strikes me as a real candidate for a new Perfect Grade model; alas, that hope no doubt is destined to go unfulfilled.