Sunday, December 14, 2008

This Weekend's Project: Building a Gundam Airmaster

This weekend was spent exploring the world of GUNDAM models. I selected the GUNDAM Airmaster for the experiment due to the interesting premise of an alternate aircraft mode. Some basic facts:

Model made by BanDai in 1996, High Grade (which means not made of crap, but still worth a decent week of fun)
1/100 scale (which means 18 cm tall)
Cost: $24.99 at local toy shop (base, no paints or panel markers)
Uses rubber parts in the joint construction to assist posability
Snap together, no glue required
No paint required, comes with stickers (which are the coward's way out!)

Before I delve into my first experience making a GUNDAM model (by now, you might wonder why GUNDAM is all in caps. It's apparently an acronym that differs from each GUNDAM series and refers to the mechanical unit's military designation. Great Ubiquitous Narcoleptic Despot Achieving Mechanicalization. Geriatric Underwear Nicking Delinquents Assaulting Minors. You can take your pick.), I'll show the final result.

Well, "Final" is a tentative term, as I somewhat half-assed it so I could play with it. I'll redo and improve it later. The kit is designed for minimal after-assembly decoration (paint and the forbidden stickers, more on that in a second), with different colored plastics removing the need of painting individual parts the correct color. Perfect, as I paint like a drunken child with ADD. The only significant thing you need to do is decorate all the panel lines: all the black lines all over the model that you see/can't see. You can use specially designed GUNDAM markers to draw the lines, or you can do what I did and wash all the parts with thinned black enamel and let it seep into the cracks and wash off the excess. However, not doing that properly (like I did) leaves you with a dirty/weathered look or looking like a dirty 1980's toy. Not that it's a bad thing.

Now, about the stickers... I hate stickers. They look tacky, they're too shiny compared to the rest of the model, and I can never place them right. I'll always hate how they're slightly off, and they'll always peel off over time, making them terrible means of adding detail to something. Plus, they're not waterproof. I practically ignored the sticker sheet and decided to paint the details instead. You also can't access the panel lines using stickers, making your model look even more half-assed.

For scale, here's Hotaru with the Airmaster. There's a lot of moving parts on this model, but it unfortunately leaves the Airmaster top heavy. The knees are insufficient in preventing him from falling backwards, and his hips are not compatible with BanDai's GUNDAM Action Bases. I can't display the Mech or Aircraft mode in any dynamic action poses. Speaking of the Aircraft mode, this is the Airmaster's Aerial mode.

As you can see, I'm using a laboratory beaker as a display stand. Nothing I can really do about it. Aside from a few design flaws, it's a nice aircraft. The Airmaster's golden chest vents act as air scoops. I presume propulsion is from the rocket thrusters in his feet, and not from these random air vents angled upwards on his back. The legs get angled oddly in aircraft mode, which doesn't help the non-aerodynamic flow of the GUNDAM's boxy arms and stuff hanging off the side. Overall, the red trim helps make the model look a bit nicer.

For $24.99, it's an ok model. My friend tells me that more recent models come with endoskeletons for support, instead of using these rubber "polycaps" as they call it. It would greatly make this model from "ok" to "great" if the joints could hold better. It would be even better if there was a way to display it in aircraft mode at all.

If you ever come across this model, kindly do yourself a favor and pick something more recent. 1996 wasn't a kind year to the Airmaster. It certainly hasn't gotten better over time.

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