Ramba Ral taught me that a rotund, mustachioed man of middle age can still be an ace. In honor of my favorite pilot from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, here I chronicle the construction of the Great Blue Star's custom Zaku I unit.

Zaku I's inner dome-piece revealed. The silver highlights on the forearms are not canonical, but I'm pleased with the heightened detail they add. I ultimately decided to leave off the crest decal that goes on the left shoulder, as I felt that, had this suit been portrayed on-screen, that detail, like many marking decals that come with the model kits, would not have been animated.

While this model more or less has no inner frame in the limbs, the torso isn't half bad. While not nearly as well-designed and articulate as the ver. 2.0 Zaku II, this torso shows promise for being a single core body unit, rather than an upper body combined with a waist. The shoulders look to have a fair range of motion — more than the Ez8.

Char grows envious of his cerulean neighbor. The topcoat spattered a bit on the cockpit hatch, inadvertently giving the Zaku I a little more texture.

The Blue Giant rises. My biggest aesthetic complaint with this kit may clearly be seen in this picture: seam lines. While in some places these may have been unavoidable (without ver.-2.0-quality engineering, anyhow), others seem simply needless, as with the backs of the hands and the upper arms. The former could've been done as a single plate, and the latter as a sleeve, as was the case with the Ez8.

Rear detail.

Despite his earlier jealousy, Char has come around and welcomes his ally. (Char knows his booster backpack is better anyway.)

Meeting of the Zakus. Whatever else may be said, I must admit the panel detail on the Zaku I's upper legs is quite nice. Shame that it's marred by those HG-like seams. Same goes for the forearms.

Seeing that Ramba Ral's gear has yet to be assembled, Char offers his spare Zaku II machinegun in a gesture of good faith. (It's also much better-designed than the old version of the same gun which the Zaku I includes.)

The Blue Giant happily accepts the Red Comet's gift.

Zaku brigade, away!

Ramba Ral hears a loudspeaker cart. It's that way.

The Transporter?

Thoughts

In building this kit, I've discovered that I liked this mobile suit more than I thought. Unfortunately I'm not as enthused about the model itself, both in terms of what it gives one to work with, and how what I put into it turned out.

To address the first concern: Aside from the torso, and to a lesser extent, the head, which are fairly nicely constructed, the armor plates are marred by nasty seam lines, many of which could have been avoided by designing the armor to fit together to create the panel lines, as was done with Char's Zaku II and (rather admirably, now that I think about it) with the Ez8. The most baffling instance of this problem occurs in the model's hands. While the fixed option hands come with a single backhand plate, the semi-articulate hands are constructed without a palm separate from the back of the hand. The result is an unsightly seam down the middle of the backhand plate (not to mention blue palms). Since I lack the skill to hide these seams, all I can do is ink them to try to make it look like they're supposed to be there.

The weapons (yet unbuilt at the time I write) all suffer from the same problem. That is, the bodies — and worse, the barrels — of the weapons are split into two halves. It was for this very reason I didn't assemble the Ez8's bazooka. While that model's small arms were also designed the same way (split), they at least included whole pieces for the ends of the barrels, which made a fair difference. Of course, the ver. 2.0 Zaku II's guns were molded completely in whole parts, requiring only minimal cleanup to get rid of the slight mold lines. In any case, on account of this troublesome design, I intend only to build the Zaku I type machinegun, and leave the rest.

Another reason for giving this model the Zaku II machinegun from Char's armory is that the one included with the kit comes on the same runner as the bottoms of the feet and the kneecaps and whatnot — that is, molded in a nearly-black dark blue. This segues into my other big gripe with this kit: some parts molded in strange colors. I suspect this problem arises largely from sharing runners with the normal Zaku I kit, with which some of the oddly-colored parts may have made more sense. Regardless, however, the aforementioned machinegun, the hands, and some other parts would've done much better to have been molded in grey.

Finally, this model has little flexibility. The Ez8's no acrobat, but all its joints have a decent range of motion, and it can get into pretty good dynamic poses with minimal finagling. This Zaku I, on the other hand, unfortunately has a stiff feeling to it, and proves difficult to pose in anything but a fairly unexciting standing posture. The arm joints, in particular, permit very minimal articulation, even the shoulder, despite the fairly well-constructed joint mechanism. It proved nigh impossible to get both his hands on the machinegun in a firing pose. (Guess I'll just have to give him one in each hand.)

As for my own work in this case, all things considered, I feel my effort matched the degree of challenge inherent in the model. I didn't go to any especially great lengths to make up for it's shortcomings, but I tried to do more than just slap the thing together. Bits of metallic detailing added the most to the suit, making up for spots where the detail was a bit short. The decision to paint the torso a darker blue, rather than the original robin's-egg, proved to be the right one, though ultimately I should've gone with the slightly less dark blue, as the one I chose turned out to be more or less exactly the same color as the cockpit hatch and other parts of the same color. If there's a next time, I'll use a slightly lighter blue for the main color (the primary blue looks pretty good in the pictures, but is a little much) and a not-so-dark dark blue for the body, which will preserve the contrast between the torso color and the accent parts.

The normal Zaku I always struck me as a bit silly-looking (even for a Zaku), but this command-type appeals to me as a great variation on the Zaku theme, manifesting it in a symmetrical, less spiky way. As Bandai seems poised to continue re-releasing various MG Zaku kits in ver. 2.0, I wonder if this one may appear somewhere down the line. I would definitely welcome the chance to take another crack at this suit, having experimented a bit and gotten an idea of how it should be done. Moreover, it would be truly coolsome if thus redesigned.