It's RED

The idea behind this one last blast of Gunpla in Taibei started bubbling up when I watched the first season of Gundam 00 recently. Though the show struck me as pretty bad at best, it was nevertheless entertaining and technically well-done, and all in all enjoyable even for a stodgy old UC fan like myself. I got the notion into my head that perhaps it'd be fun for Ben and I each to get one of the recent non-grade Gundam 00 kits and build them in one go, in the spirit of the leisurely one-afternoon construction of old HG kits which characterized our earliest experiences with Gundam models. As soon as this thought occurred to me, I also immediately decided it'd be best to do this modeling binge while drinking, and thus the Hyper-Hammer'd Gundam 00 Modeling Challenge was born.

I knew even before watching 00 that I didn't like any of the mecha designs enough to want to build them, even though I found the new-fangled style of Celestial Being's Gundams intriguing. I began to notice the Gundam Astraea, however, among the models available, and quickly it became my favorite machine in the new lineup (despite not appearing in the animation). Being the Char fan I am, I of course couldn't resist the distinctive red Type F.

We went to Ximending yesterday (2008.08.02) afternoon to fetch our kits, and returned around 3:30 or so. After spending some time on painting preparation, we went to dinner. Well-fed, we got back to the legendary CATS Booze Club around 7:00, and got down to work. A good many cups of fine sake later, two mobile suits were built and partially equipped before we hit the hay around 3:30 AM.

The scene of the crime as we left it late last night.

Astraea, not yet weathered, defends the bar from the encroachment of the HRL.

A handsome suit, though certainly not what I'm used to.

Ben's (surprisingly flexible) Tieren Ground Type ponders the empty Exia helmet assembled from Astraea's spare parts.

Front view, after finishing the work with a little shadowing today. Unfortunately I ran out of topcoat, so I'll have to touch it up a bit and give it a better coat sometime in the future.

This 1/100 Astraea kit comes with parts for two versions of the Gundam: the normal Type F, and the kai version (Type F2), which is even closer to the Exia. Unconcerned for accuracy in this instance, I choose the parts I liked best. I also repainted the frame parts with Tamiya's lovely "Gun Metal," rather than use the sort of champagne color they came in.

Rear view.

The only thing I don't like about Astraea is that it's got that three-pronged array on its back, rather than a neat conical GN drive. I was pleased to discover that this kit included the parts used for that component on Exia, but unfortunately they weren't readily swappable.

Started by an incredibly annoying noise, the reddest Gundam ever reaches for it's pair of beam sabers.

The draw. Two short and two long beam blades are included.

The offending loudspeaker cart escapes the Gundam's initial strike, leading Astraea to leap in pursuit.

Simple but good-looking GN beam rifle. Also included is a tremendously oversized gun which looks like it came out of Gundam Virtue's arsenal. I declined to construct it.

Guardedly taking aim.

I'm quite fond of Astraea's shield. Simply constructed, but I like the look of it, and it connects to the arm very solidly while retaining excellent poseability.

… But let's not screw around. Everybody knows Gundam 00 is about one weapon: …

… The GN sword.

I thought it was silly of Exia to be carrying this kind of weapon in addition to beam sabers (never mind about how many of each Gundam Seven Swords is packing), but regardless it's grown on me.

Thoughts

I'm quite pleased with this kit, and coming from a Master Grade snob like me, that's saying something. This model far surpasses my previous (albeit limited) experiences with High Grade kits, and in some respects is really only short of being comparable to a MG in terms of mechanical internals.

Like the HG kits I've built, and older MGs as well, this one relies heavily on polycaps for all joints. On the other hand, it's inherited some tricks from contemporary MG engineering, notably a simplified version of the double-jointed hip balls. Parts come together well, with very few extraneous seams. Panel detail isn't as high as some MG models', but I think that has more to do with the style of the mechanical design. (Ben's Tieren is positively covered with fine detail all over, while this Gundam just is more streamlined.) Range of movement is good in limbs, neck, ankles, even the waist. Overall poseability is high, though the polycap joints can be a little loose.

Several parts on the kit are not molded separately in their own colors, and are supposed to be covered with decals, another spot where this model falls behind contemporary MG offerings. In this particular case, the few of those spots there are don't stand out, and/or can be easily detailed in other colors (for instance, the silver tabs on the skirt armor).

Weapons included are good (though I think the huge cannon thingy is silly), and even feature some partial internals. Everything attaches very nicely by plugging into slots on the forearms (the giant gun plugs into one of the shoulder fins' sockets instead).

All in all, very enjoyable and surprisingly well-engineered kit.