A few years after the three of us started playing Warhammer 40,000, the Japanese animated series Gundam Wing started airing on television in the USA. This was our first exposure to an animated show with a mature storyline, one with a long-form narrative that evolved over nearly 50 episodes. It was also our first real exposure to giant mechs (outside of a precursory knowledge of them in Warhammer 40,000 in the form of Titans). Gundam Wing is a science fiction war drama that sought to humanize the horrors of war, which is something that Games Workshop often misses with its focus on grimdark spectacle. Despite being very involved in building plastic models from Games Workshop, we never really got deep into assembling Gundam models (Gunpla), partially because the kits were not readily available where we lived. Our recent interview with the Polysmith, a master of creating cool mechs, got me to start thinking about trying my hand at building one of the Gundam kits, along with discovering a Gunpla-themed podcast called the Cutting Mat. A few years back I experimented with integrating scale model tanks into Warhammer 40k. These model kits are a lot different from Games Workshop kits, containing substantially more pieces, all rendered in very thin plastic, a feature that Gundam kits share. I ended up building a HG 1/144 scale MS-07B Gouf, a mobile suit I always liked from its appearance in the 08th MS Team.
|An assortment of colored plastic runners from the Gouf kit.|
Like other scale model kits, the Gouf came in a thin box, with an illustration on the cover, and no details on the bottom of the box. Inside was a large assortment of colored runners (sprues). Unlike GW models, which require painting, Gundam kits are designed so that paint is not necessary, hence the large number of different color runners. Many people, however, do paint them, to achieve a higher level of realism. For this kit, I decided against painting it, wanting to see what it would look like straight from the box. The attachment points of the pieces to the runners tend to be thinner than GW kits, making a good nippers go a long way towards speeding up the clean-up time. The Tamiya 74035 Sharp Pointed Side Cutter that I have used for years was perfect for the task. I did, however, use some Tamiya sanding sponges to clean up each piece, and was surprised that they didn't really discolor the plastic noticeably, provided you used a fine enough grit.
|Although primarily in Japanese, the instructions are easy to follow and clear.|
The actual assembly of the kit was very straight-forward and easy to follow, despite most of the text being in Japanese. I was very impressed that most of the pieces had very few moldlines, or ones that were covered up during the assembly. Furthermore, if ever two halves came together, creating a long seam, they were usually designed to look like two armored plates coming together with a natural gap (a panel line). Hobbyists will often fill these gaps with a wash/ink/paint, to give definition to each of the parts. All of the pieces were snap-fit, and did not require glue. Despite not needing it, I used Tamiya Extra Thin Cement to glue each piece. To allow posability, all major sub-assemblies, like the arms, legs, torso, and head snap together using poly-caps. These also make it easy to remove each section if you decide to paint them.
|The assembled MS-07B Gouf, with its eye painted and panel lines picked out.|
|The MS-07B Gouf with a Heat Saber.|
While I decided to not paint the model, the kit did contain a single sticker, a small pink circle for the model’s eye. I have never been a fan of using stickers on model kits, so I painted the eye. I considered adding some enamel and oil weathering to the model, as they can be removed with white spirits/odorless thinner, regardless of whether the rest of the model was painted. Towards this end, I used some Tamiya Panel liner, which is designed to darken the recesses between two pieces of armor where they come together. It is an enamel paint that can easily be applied via capillary action. This was really easy to do, and helped add some contrast to the model, making it look less like unpainted plastic. Unfortunately, after finishing this step, I noticed that the wrists of the model were starting to crack, due to the tension of the hands being held in place with a poly-cap/ball and socket. After looking around online, I discovered that the panel liner, and other enamel products and thinners, should not be used directly on the plastic, as it makes the plastic more brittle, and prone to breaking. One of the wrists completely cracked. I was largely able to repair it with Extra Thin Cement, but it is still noticeable, something that really can’t be minimized unless I was painting it. Because of this, I decided to not go ahead with weathering, since it would involve more enamels and thinners. I suspect if the model had been painted, before using the panel liner, it would have been fine, since the acrylic would have protected the underlying plastic.
|Although Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color did a great job picking out the panel lines, it also caused the plastic to become more brittle, leading to the plastic to crack.|
|The Gouf next to an Adeptus Mechanicus Warhound.|
Having spent so many years building Games Workshop models, it was fun building such a different type of model, one that is poseable and doesn’t require painting. It was satisfying to assemble and finish a model in a single day, something I could never accomplish with a Games Workshop model. With that said, with the next Gundam, I will likely try to paint the next, that way I should not have any issues with the plastic weakening due to the use of enamel paints and thinner. If any of you have experience assembling Gundam models, we would love to hear from you. Do you paint them, and if so what sort of paint do you use?