Review by Modcineaste
1/144 Gundam RX-78
Review and Model by Leonardo Flores
Every so often a product is produced and released that unexpectedly changes the direction of popular culture in a way that we cannot deny its impact on the world. Bandai’s 1980 release of their magnificent 1/144 kit of Gundam RX-78 is one such product that not only redirected and reenergized the originally unpopular Mobile Suit Gundam anime, but changed how model kit buyers and producers perceive how an anime model kit should look, be engineered and marketed to the masses. The results of this Bandai’s release and the accompanying model kit line it came from, Best Mecha Collection, would forever change the hobby industry in Japan and worldwide.
It is hard to believe this little kit could be responsible for so many changes but in the 1970’s the world of anime and tokusatsu model kits was a very different place from what it is today. Far from its screen accurate, multi colored and high articulation features that we know of today, 1970’s anime model kits were little more than toys that needed to be put together. Such gimmicks as wind up engines, pull back friction engines, shooting missiles, string pulleys amongst many others were the order of the day in the 1970’s.
Unfortunately these gimmicks changed the dimensions of the model kit, usually producing an ungainly vehicle or robot that looked nothing like the box art illustrations, anime or TV show it was trying to represent. So many times I was disappointed in the 1980’s to open a box only to get one of these 1970’s kits that were still being produced through the 1980’s. Although today some of these 1970’s kits have their own charm about them, in the 1980’s in was only a disappointment.
The Mobile Suit Gundam story also had its own twist and turns when it first aired in 1979. When the series originally aired, Mobile Suit Gundam had rather low ratings. To make matters worse, the toys that toy manufacture Clover produced for Mobile Suit Gundam, which were tooled from an early inaccurate prototype drawing of Gundam, completely missed the mark of the rather new genre of Real Robot that Gundam would pioneer. Instead of the tank like and sleek modern look of the Gundam RX-78, Clover produced an ungainly Gundam toy that seemed more schooled in the world of Super Robots rather than burgeoning world of Real Robot. Things were not looking good for Amuro and Company.
Then something marvelous happened. While Clover was licensed to produce the toys for Mobile Suit Gundam, another toy company, Bandai, was responsible for making model kits for the series. It appears that somebody at Bandai had the perceptive idea of producing model kits that were screen accurate of the mecha in a standard scale and as they appeared in anime series rather than produce inaccurate and gimmick filled buildable toys, which was the industry standard at the time for anime and tokusatsu model kits. When these Gundam kits, now named Best Mecha Collection, were finally released during the end of the first run of Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979 it would spark a Gundam and Gunpla mania whose repercussions are still felt to this day in 2014.
It appears there was many multiply intersecting events that would that would save Gundam and Gunpla from obscurity and make it a cultural phenomenon as it is today. While Bandai Released a 1/100 scale and 1/60 kit of the RX-78, due to the original ¥200 price point of this 1/144 RX-78 kit and the fact that the RX-78 was the flagship mecha of the series, I believe this model kit was the driving force behind the gunplay frenzy of 1979-80 for Gundam fans of all ages. Heck, even I built one back in the 1980s! 35 years later I ask, “Does this Gundam stand up against all the other Gundam kits?” Read below on my opinions on this still wonderful kit.
1/144 Gundam RX-78 comes boxed with: 1x Instruction, 3x off white sprue, and originals with a packet of glue. No decals are included.
As with many of these early kits, the build begins with the legs and arms. These need to be built out before the rest of the work on the kit can be completed. No real issues arise here during this part of the construction and its very straightforward.
The head is also assembled at this time. The instructions ask you to build out the head and put it on when the body is assembled. The issue that arises it will be near impossible to paint the head and body after everything is assembled. When building these vintage kits one should be mindful of how it is going to be painted in the end. Older kits do not have the luxury of assembling all the limbs to the body after the kit is painted. I decided to trim down the disc the attaches to the head so I can attach it after I am finished painting the body. Take notice that in going this route one can easily crack the body when snapping the head into the body. Just be careful how you trim the head and snap it into the body.
Since the arms can be assembled into the body when finished and the head can be modified to attach later, the only limbs that need to the attached into the body are the legs. These older kits can look very boring when standing if you just attach the legs to the body. I created an easy to do modification to make the kit stand more dynamic. Get the two-part prong that attaches the legs to the body and hold the part that attaches the left leg to the body over a hot candle with holders. Then slightly bend back and up the prong for the left leg. Do not go overboard with bending the part. What one inadvertently does is you tweak the leg wider from the other leg and slightly to the right. This is simple modification that goes a long way to improve the look of these older model kits. Once the legs are set inside the body, clean up the seam around the body and set it aside for paint.
One of the great aspects of this kit are the weapons that are provided. This includes the beam rifle, four beam sabers and the Gundam Shield. The Beam Rifle is very straight forward, just cut it off the sprue, clean and paint. Four Beam Sabers are included. Two are meant to be cut down and inserted into the backpack while other two are meant to be built out and painted and can be inserted into the hands. They appear very stubby, but in my book it is part of the charm of this kit. The shield just needs to have its eyehole cut out, which is easily done with a Dremel tool. I opted to put some laser blasts into the shield for some variation.
The final sub assembles before paint will be body with legs, arms, head, shield, weapons and backpack.
When I built this kit three years ago I was going from a change from Testors to Tamiya paints and finally to Gunze paints. While I have since learned that Tamiya is great for tanks and similar type mecha, today I would have used Gunze to paint this kit as their semi-gloss paints really capture that anime look better than an ultra flat paint like Tamiya. Also, I built this kit before I had a better grasp of pre and post shading. Make sure you have a roll of modeling tape as one is going to need a lot of time and tape to properly paint this kit.
For the Body I painted white first, then red and yellow and ended with blue. The yellow on the skirt was hand painted with Andrea paint’s yellow. The area is just too small to paint with masks. The red in the feet is easily taped and painted red. The arms also need to be taped off so the fists can be painted.
Another difficult part to paint besides the body is the shield; I started with the white, and then painted the yellow portion. I taped off the yellow and painted the red. Taping off the yellow is very time consuming and glad today that portion is usually represented as a separate part. When finished, some smaller paint portions needed to be painted by hand. This includes the red and yellow flash on the waist, the yellow skirt boxes and some of the face details. After spraying a flat coat I assemble the kit.
One of the best features of this kit is that I can attach the arms to the kit after I am finished painting and finishing the kit. This is a feature that unfortunately is not on all the kits from the series, but thankful that this is one of the kits that it is on, due to the complexity of painting the bust portion of this kit. Assembly includes attaching the arms to the kit, carefully attaching the modified head into the body and attaching the backpack. Note that the backpack does not come with any jet nozzles; they could easily be scratched built and attached to this kit before painting.
Now that the Gundam has been assembled it is time for my usual weathering of brown and black oil paints. Overall this step came very nice and really cut down on the brightness of Tamiya White.
Standing back this is still one beautiful model kit and a surprisingly screen accurate depiction of the RX-78 Gundam. Although a very basic budget kit that is 35 years old, Bandai’s 1/144 Gundam RX-78 has all you need to build a screen accurate Gundam in comparison to the original 1979 TV series. Having built one of these in the 1980’s it was nice to complete a second one all these years later. Due to the age of the mold, the details today are a bit soft compared to my original kit but overall I believe every Gunpla modeler should have one of these in their collection to represent the opening salvo of Gunpla. It is still a fun kit to build and highly recommended to all.
©2014 Review and Photos Leonardo Flores & CollectionDX
|Posted 29 January, 2014 - 13:21 by Modcineaste|