Experiment: Building Master Grade, IKU!

Narutaki and I are currently on a Gundam kick. We recently watch original Mobile Suit Gundam, the original Gundam movies, the Seed Gundam movies, and Gundam 00. I watched Turn A Gundam and Gundam X. We both plan to watch the original Gundam OAVs, Zeta Gundam, and Char’s Counter Attack as well. So with all this Gundam in our systems it is only logical that we also indulge in the other great pastime of Gundam fans.

No, not arguing about the finer details of the Gundam time line, discussing mobile suit specs, or trying to be Char.

We decided to build Gundam models. Narutaki has built about a dozen or so High Grade models and I had only done one high grade kit before our current experiment. After watching Turn A Gundam I decided to throw caution and purchase a Master Grade Turn A Gundam. At the same time I picked up a Master Grade version of Char’s Zaku II for Narutaki. Neither of us had decided to take the plunge for master grade kits but our Gundam mania could only be satisfied with a true challenge.

This venture was made even more memorable by it being interrupted by a mighty flood. We started our kits one evening and left everything as it was for the next day of building. Then it happened. I awoke at 7AM to find the boiler room with a couple of inches of water in it. This of course seeped into my apartment. At that point I don’t remember the details just frantic moving of things all over the place. There was then a large gap of time between the beginning of this project and the end. Amazingly no parts were lost. Though some of my work was ripped apart and had to be redone. Still we prevailed!

I picked the WD-M01 Turn A Gundam mostly because I felt it was undeservedly unpopular Gundam. It was designed by Syd Mead of Blade Runner fame to be a more realistic Gundam. Rather infamous for its mustache I think that it’s slightly silly but the practical design fits in with the overall feel of Turn A Gundam. But maybe that is because while I am a Gundam fan I don’t treat any of it like serious business.

I started off with the 1/144 version of the Turn A to get a feel of building a Gundam model kit before I tackled the more complex 1/100 Master Grade Gundam.

I am always up for building a Gundam model so when the Zaku II 1/100 Master Grade fell into my lap, how could I resist? Since we recently finished watching the original Gundam it also seemed like an appropriate piece for me to take the leap into Master Grades. However, that being said, I have never built anything Master or otherwise from the original series so I am unsure how it stacks up against other lower grades from the show.

But my experience did help me quite a bit from the get go with this kit. When I first did a kit many years ago, I picked it up at a con and knew zero going into it. So while this experience was different, some of the tips are the same.

The instructions work a bit like Legos, you don’t need to know Japanese to build these things. Also be sure there is plenty of light and a good hard surface to work on. Some tools I recommend having on hand are pliers, tweezers, nail clippers, and a file. With a Master Grade I recommend giving yourself at least 4 hours (it took me about 6) to complete it in or have a space you can leave a mess for a couple of days.

The Master Grade kits are undoubtedly more complex than the High Grades. This is an unquestionable fact. While this leads to a higher grade of detail this also means the instructions are twice as complex at points. It also takes about twice as long to build.

You still don’t really need to read Japanese to put the kits together but more mechanical aptitude and spatial relations make them easier. You can’t argue with the Master Grade Turn A Gundam being superior for one very important reason: it comes with a Gundam Hammer. The ideal situation would be that it came with two Gundam Hammers but such is sadly not the case.

From the get go it was obvious that there was going to be a lot more work involved looking at some of tiny pieces in the kit.

With the Zaku II we start from the head and basically work downwards. The head was where most of those tiny parts I mentioned came into play. Inside the head I had to build a small mechanism (complete with gears) in order to move the eye. You also have the option of using different antennas.

The most frustrating part found not only on the head but on the torso and legs were the pipes. They seemed overly complex as they consisted of a plastic bar, a spring-like tube, and tiny plastic washer-like pieces. The pipes popped off in our haste to move things during the flood. But even without that I had to continually reattach them because it was hard to get them quite right. They were so tiny I was using tweezers in order to fit them properly into place.

Most pieces after that were fairly mid-level difficulty so it was similar to a Heavy Grade. Its important to remember while the pieces are small they are fairly strong, you won’t snap things in half easily. Included in all this was a plethora of weapons (a good deal more than a Heavy Grade would usually contain) and a number of different hand options. Also include were two very tiny Chars, one inside the cockpit and one standing figure.

I found it interesting that they make you build in order of decreasing complexity.

For the Turn A, the first thing to build is the main body which was compromised of many steps and pieces. Then the arms which are only slight less complex. The legs, the head, and the weapons were simple for the most part. Part of me wants to think that I got better as time went on but the truth is too obvious for me to ignore.

I will admit there were times that I just has to sit and mull over how things went together. Also I was super paranoid about putting things in the wrong way and things not working later on. If you do something like that (which I did twice) it’s not impossible to undo things and correct your mistakes. You just have to be gentle when pulling things back part.

Color variety is a bit better than a Heavy Grade as are the stickers, though they are also a bit more difficult to put on. There were two different kinds of stickers, traditional and I don’t know what to call the others. You have to rub them on, but this wasn’t clear to us noobs. So there were some accidents with scratching them right off into oblivion. I had never seen these used in the Heavy Grade kits. But once I got the hang of them, I liked them quite a bit. They give really nice detail that looks painted.

The articulation is still pretty minimal with the Master which was a sticking point for me. I really wanted to pose the figure a little more dynamically. This Zaku II can’t go into a full crouch. And when I tried to get it somewhere in the vicinity of one, the pipes on the legs popped off.

I really like the Master Grade kits. They are more complex and more expensive but I feel the detail is worth it. Now that being said I would only buy Master Grade kits of mobile suits I really liked. The time and effort is worth it for suits you you are a keen interest in but I don’t have the patience or bank account for investment in minor Gundams or generic mobile suits. Unless of course it is a Master Grade kit for a RB-79 Ball.

I probably wouldn’t build another Master Grade Gundam unless the price was extremely good. There are certainly some extra details on a Master but it doesn’t seem worth killing yourself over. Also, since the articulation was not better, if I am going to pay a lot I would go with something possibly pre-built with better poseability. For the thrill of building something myself I will be sticking with the mid-level Heavy Grade 1/100 scale with decent detail, some color variety, atleast a couple of weapon options, and usually carries a $25-35 price tag. Speaking of, that Sazabi is looking quite delicious.

Top 5 Robots I want to build (currently)
5. King Kittan (Gurren Lagann)
4. Lancelot (Code Geass)
3. SD 00 (Gundam 00)
2. Fuego (Rideback)
1. Sazabi (Char’s Counterattack)

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