When first I encountered this kit, I was probably still watching First Gundam and hadn't the slightest idea that the proto-emo ace Amuro Ray would end up piloting this striking mobile suit. As I learned more about the Universal Century, however, it wasn't long before I figured out where the Nu Gundam fit into the story, and in turn what the deal was with this variation thereon.
I was less than enthused with the original Nu Gundam in Char's Counterattack. While the Nu Gundam was appealing, it just didn't seem very special as a mobile suit: just another Gundam, with some half-finished fin funnels tacked on (and, of course, a psychoframe thrown in). This Hi-Nu variation, however, seemed to have the striking quality which makes it a worthy counterpart to Char's grand Sazabi, which has become one of my favorite suits of all. In a word, I think it's the distinctive paint scheme, the more outstanding mechanical design, and the complete, wing-like fin funnel system that set the Hi-Nu apart, as it should be set apart, as Amuro's ultimate gundam.
This is the first Master Grade model I've built since that fateful Zaku II ver. 2.0 which has been completely satisfying. There simply isn't much room for complaint, and even where I might lodge a grievance, most of the problem isn't with the model, but with the modeler.
The inner frame is fantastic, and all the articulation one could expect is readily available. I'm only sad I broke that piston mentioned above, which sort of prohibits bending the right knee very far (unless I want to take the leg off and open the armor to get the piston back in its housing afterward). After a bit of posing I've noticed the ball joints of the shoulders have a tendency to come apart a bit. This could be corrected with a bit of glue, no doubt. The point where those joints plug into the upper arm also gets loose during posing, since swiveling the arm kind of unscrews it, as it were. However, once set in a pose, the connection's fine.
While the fingers aren't as articulate as the ver. 2.0 Zaku's, they make up for it with the double-jointed wrist which in the other kits' case doesn't have as much range. The tabs on the hands hold all the weapons very well. The joint in the middle of the foot seemed a little cludgey at first, but has no trouble once everything's assembled.
Speaking of the weapons: The beam sabers are of course less remarkable than their storage compartments, which are quite impressive (and unlike the compartments on the Ez8's legs, work with no trouble at all). The little machinegun on the right forearm is a nice touch, especially because the protruding magazine aesthetically balances the shield's attach-point on the left arm, while simultaneously creating a nice asymmetry. As noted above, though, something like Gundam Alex's arm gatlings would have been better.
The beam rifle is handsome but not very remarkable, except for its high level of inner detail underneath the white panels. Even though it's constructed with that split halves design that I don't care for, it nonetheless works out well, using a nice single barrel piece as an endcap which holds the halves together.
The bazooka is (as usual) my favorite. While again its main body is comprised of two halves, they fit very closely together and are held snug by an end cap over the muzzle and the silver components toward the rear end. Detail is excellent all over. The most outstanding feature, however, is the simple addition of a swinging grip; that is, the handle is fitted into the body by an axle joint, giving it a range of motion which allows Hi-Nu to hold it at various angles. This allows the bazooka to be shouldered with ease, something I haven't managed to get other models like Hyaku Shiki to do yet. Even though the Zaku II can get its bazooka onto its shoulder, he can't very easily raise it to a level firing position. Hi-Nu, on the other hand, can do so with no trouble at all on account of this swinging handle.
The shield is simply and splendidly constructed. The white and purple (originally blue) parts interlock very well to create its unusual harlequin surface. It connects to the left arm via a parallel set of tabs which fit into the depressions on the left forearm's elbow protrusion. I like this method much more than any of the other shields I've run into so far, which have involved a comparatively flimsy polycap/plug connection. The fit isn't too tight (probably to avoid scratching) but holds well enough if it's not being jiggled. The shield does prove a litte heavy for the shoulder to support, if lifted too high.
All the armor plating is excellent. On the main body, I believe the head is the only instance of an extra seam occurring between the front and back halves (a seam which is often part of the design anyway, and looks fine just inked as if it's supposed to be there). The camera crest on top of the head is an entirely separate piece, which avoids the usual ugliness of having a seam down its middle. The two V-crest pieces were both molded with only a single clip point, which is hidden by the crest cap, so they are pristine. Incidentally, the V-crest parts were marked by a tab next to them on the runner which said, in Kanji, "Domestic use", that is, for use inside the country. Has anyone else built this model and had different runners? I wonder if they mold those parts with additional clip points if the kit's going to be shipped farther abroad.
The fin funnels, which initially met with my skepticism, ultimately proved themselves quite impressive. While building them I wondered what all the little internal bits were for, and indeed it wasn't clear until I set them up in attack mode. Each long part is on a sort of double-jointed hinge connecting it to the square part of the funnel. Depending on whether the funnel is being opened or folded up to stow on the wing racks, the double-joint can click forward or backward, which changes whether the back end of the long part will be flush with the front surface of the square part (as when they're deployed) or with the top edge of the square part (as when they're stowed). (Apologies for the convoluted description.) While I still think the little blue flame pieces, the transparent zappy windows which fit into each funnel and the clear rods used to suspend the deployed fin funnels are a bit campy, they do the trick pretty well and look as good as could be expected.
The wing racks are fairly simple, and do a good job housing the fin funnels while allowing for a good range of poseability. Their only drawback, as mentioned above, is that the wing racks themselves only swivel side-to-side, and not up-and-down. This is probably for stability and weight-bearing, however, and doesn't really detract from the model. Incidentally, aside from the one on the head, the wing racks are the only place with extra seams from the armor plates, and they don't stand out at all, at that.
Overall, a gorgeous model, truly worthy of the Master Grade name. I learned a good deal from this one, most importantly the value of taking the time to properly clean up clip marks. Even though they were mostly unobtrusive on this model, eliminating them completely brings it to a new level. This, of course, is just another thing which brings home what seems to be the first principle of modeling: the more care invested in the work, the better the result. An obvious thing, naturally, but something to which submission requires patience and will.
This kit was an excellent one to learn this lesson with, for despite its high level of articulation and detail, its design is elegant and simple, and comes together naturally and easily.
I'm very pleased with the choice of purple over the original blue, and Katherine has my thanks for prompting me to make that decision. I still somewhat wish I had been able to find the original Nu Gundam decals at Ximending, or even been able to actually use the alternate, grey "Amuro A" stickers I did find, but the Hi-Nu's unicorn emblems are good-looking in their own right. The dry-etch one applied to the left shoulder went on very well, and looks great. Unfortunately the big one on the shield was a sticker, rather than a dry-etch, and as such can't help but stick out a bit. Nevertheless, it gives the shield the necessary finishing touch.