The Powered Suit (Starship Troopers Studio Nue/DAICON III)
Review by Prometheum5
Starship Troopers is a cornerstone of modern science fiction. VF5SS wrote an excellent history of Japan's love of Starship Troopers and the origin of the Studio Nue powered suit design in his Revoltech review, so I won't bore you with that same information again. I am here today to discuss further another pillar of Japanese sci-fi, the garage kit. In 1982, Yasuhiro Takeda and Toshio Okada, of landmark Japanese anime studio Gainax fame, opened a hobby store under the label 'General Products'. General Products produced numerous so-called garage kits, made by hand in limited quantities from low-volume production materials like resin and soft vinyl. Their releases included both Tsuburaya and Toho licensed items, Gatchaman, and eventually Evangelion.
The most interesting General Products release to me, however, is The Powered Suit. Likely released in either 1981 or 1982, The Powered Suit is no mere soft vinyl mecha kit. The design is familiar, but there is not a lick of Starship Troopers licensing on the box.
Instead, The Powered Suit appears to be a far more obscure piece of anime and otaku history. Way back, in 1981, a group of upstart amateur animators presented an opening animation for the now legendary DAICON III convention. The animation from both DAICON III and IV are free to view on Youtube and well worth the few minutes to watch:
Notice anything familiar? The schoolgirl star of the DAICON III Opening Animation is pursued throughout the film by the Studio Nue Starship Troopers powered suit. The last piece of the equation is that the DAICON opening films were animated by Hideaki Anno, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Hiroyuki Yamaga, Takami Akai, Toshio Okada, Yasuhiro Takeda, and Shinji Higuchi, who would go on to form Gainax. No big deal.
So, General Products released their own 1/8 scale Powered Suit kit as depicted in the DAICON III Opening Animation. Sneaky. This kit is not only a gorgeous example of early garage kit design, but also a fascinating piece of anime history.
The manual is fantastic, filled with gorgeous hand-drawn instructions and artwork. I have hi-res scans of the whole thing, and will be looking into getting the big text and comic pages translated.
This kid is my idol.
So, the kit is historically interesting and of an iconic design, but what is actually in the box? A lot of big parts, actually. 1/8 scale is pretty big (1/12 scale is 6", and 1/6 scale is 12", so think 9: humans for 1/8), and the kit is not made from very many parts. Most major areas like the torso and those long, luscious legs are single moldings. The vinyl parts are molded in a lovely shade of army green. White metal cast parts are included for the hands, and some sort of helmet opening hinge part that is not shown in the directions.
I walked through the process of assembling a soft vinyl model kit briefly in my B-Club Zaku II FZ review, and that all holds the same here. Once everything was trimmed, I did a dry-fit of the kit to see what I was dealing with and what areas would need further work.
I had to replace the pinky on the left hand with a putty construct. At some point in this kit's long life in the box, the finger must have gotten knocked off and lost. White metal adds a nice weight and sharp detail, but can often be brittle.
I made one small modification to the kit, choosing to replace the flap on the shoulder gun with a plastic sheet part, rather than trying to trim the flat vinyl piece in the kit to shape.
I ended up having to putty a couple of small air bubbles and one major gap under the helmet, but that was more my fault for not being careful when trimming the part.
The other problem area on the kit was under the shoulder sponsons. The ribbed panels came molded onto big blocks that had to be trimmed, and there was not a lot of material to glue into the cavity on the shoulder sponsons. The ribbed panel ended up requiring some putty and ingenuity to assemble. I ended up making a plasticard support to hold the ribbed panel in place and maintain the curve while the glue dried.
Above are the small parts that I did not assemble at first. The hip grenades were painted separately and attached later. The green flap is the part I did not use on the gun. I think the metal part is supposed to be use to make the helmet able to flip open, but there are no directions for how to accomplish that.
Painting was a long and complicated process befitting such an important and fun kit. The Mobile Infantry takes pretty good care of their equipment, so I did not want to go crazy with weathering that wouldn't make sense. It is easy to paint a model in solid olive drab and end up with a very boring model, however, so I had to walk a fine line between too much and not enough weathering.
The first thing I did to the model was paint any area that I wanted to look like glass with Monster Kolor silver, covered by MK clear colors. These parts were then given a heavy gloss coat and masked with tape for the rest of the painting process.
The next step after applying a black undercoat over everything including the masked bits was to paint the green parts green. I used Monster Kolor army green for this, starting with a darker mixed shade and working my way up through two layers of highlights. Instead of just smoothly highlighting everything as if from an overhead light source, I mottled the shades a bit to begin to add interest and variation to the green color.
From there, I blocked in the not-green bits, added decals, and proceeded with weathering, which I was not able to document because it is a very organic and slapdash process. I used a variety of washes, tints, and oil paints to add wear, tear, and surface color variation that tells a story. MI keep their equipment in top shape, but they see a lot of action so their suits are not going to be shiny brand new shiny green.
All of these steps combine to make a very subtle and varied finish.
The completed suit stands around ten inches tall, not including the shoulder gun.
The Powered Suit is articulated at the shoulders and elbows, the shoulder gun, the booster nozzles, and the wrists if you are careful.
The kit did not come with any decals, so I used a variety of spares from my stash to spruce up the kit without veering too far from the hard and professional sci-fi image of the Mobile Infantry. Things like rank and kill markings seemed appropriate, and I added a few splashes of personalization with the pin-up and the gun logo.
The trick to incorporating high-gloss metallic pearly finish glass areas is not to be afraid to let them get weathered in the final steps. They are still mostly shiny, but have some dirt and grime buildup that ties them to the rest of the kit.
The hand flamer is traditionally depicted in bright colors, notably baby blue on the Revoltech figure. I opted for something a bit more subtle with a dark blue metallic finish and some heat weathering on the barrel. It still stands out from the suit, but not so much as to be gaudy.
While I did not want to go crazy with dirt and dust buildup, I still figured that fighting on the bounce must kick up a lot of mud and dust. I dirtied my figure up with a number of layers of earth tone paints and weathering pigments. Lighted colors were applied higher up to indicate older, dried mud, while darker tones were added lower down. A more reddish dark tone was mixed with gloss varnish and splattered on the feet to depict fresh mud spatter from a big landing.
The last step of the weathering process was to add all the exhaust buildup to the various nozzles and exhaust ports throughout the kit. All of the carbon buildup was painted with a mix of black acrylic paint and matte acrylic varnish shot through my airbrush.
I had a blast working on this kit, and love it both for being a gorgeous rendition of an important mecha design and an interesting piece of anime history. There do not seem to be many examples of this kit on the market today, and I paid about $200 for mine including middleman fees to get it from Japan. There is another one available on the open market that I plan on picking up in the near future, but past that I would be surprised to see many turn up. I would love to find pictures of some vintage build-ups of this kit, but there does not seem to be much info out there.
|Posted 4 October, 2012 - 05:13 by Prometheum5|