Wing Gundam Zero
|Name||Wing Gundam Zero|
|Character Design||Hajime Katoki|
Review by Gunpla Rob
It’s been a long time since I’ve built a model kit from the Gundam Wing universe.
For the novice, Gundam Wing was the first Gundam series to be released in the United States by Bandai for the Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” block, the network’s slated broadcast for action cartoons. Wing’s debut kicked off the ‘American Gundam Boom’ of the late 1990’ before its unfortunate slump in the early 2000s. Gundam Wing’s flashy, cadre of individual mobile suits were successful with an audience whose previous experience with Japanese anime was tagged with the marketable “Collect ‘Em All” attitude seen in Poke’Mon and even Dragon Ball Z. Also, Wing helped to revive the Giant Robot genre in America set by classics such as Robotech and Voltron. Following up on Gundam Wing’s success, Bandai opened the merchandising flood gates with their assortment of model kits based on the television series bringing the “Gun-Pla” Gundam model kit hobby trend to the Western Hemisphere.
In the months going into years to follow, Bandai would later release other chapters of the Gundam Legacy such as Mobile Fighter G-Gundam and the original Mobile Suit Gundam. With the release of the original, Bandai followed up with its collection of side stories and sequels: O8th MS Team, Gundam 0080, Gundam 0083, Zeta, Char’s Counterattack, and Gundam F-91. In the more recent years, Bandai has continued to release Gundam to the masses with the releases of the current serial: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny. Unfortunately, this rush for more recent material side lined the chances for other Gundam series such as Gundam ZZ (double Zeta), Turn-A, Gundam V, and Gundam X. However, even with this number of series made available to the American public, none have caught on where Gundam Wing was successful.
At the point of saturation, Gundam’s popularity began to falter, in some respects due to the content of releases following Wing were not as popular. The stories of the original series and its succession were directed for a more adult audience. Mobile Suit Gundam was a war story about heroes whose victories came with losses and moral dilemmas of why they pull the trigger, rather than showcasing the adventures of individuals in flashy mobile suits who always won with no damage (this difference could also be applied when comparing between Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny). Added complications would come with the slated television release for series such as Gundam 0080 and Gundam 0083 whose subject matter and content came under scrutiny after the September 11th tragedy. How? Well, in 0080 Zeon soldiers successfully infiltrate of a space colony with the intent to destroy a Federation military base and in 0083, a Former Zeon militia not only infiltrate a Federation army test base but succeed in stealing a prototype Gundam mobile suit armed with a Nuclear warhead. Wait! It gets better: they use the same mobile suit and its nuke to destroy a Federation naval outpost hosting the Federation’s annual naval review. This action not only crippled the Federation’s Space Force, but allowed this same Zeon militia’s follow up plan of dropping a space colony onto Earth with minimal resistance. I think that could constitute a ‘whoa…’
On a much lighter side of the argument, the biggest difficulty in establishing Mobile Suit Gundam after Gundam Wing came from audience’s plain lack of interest in older, more simplistic animation as opposed by the sharper, more detailed and varied style. In addition, there was a generalized lack of understanding in the differences in time tables: everybody knew the ‘After Colony’ time table, but they were utterly clueless about the ‘Universal Century.’ If Gundam were taught as a general history course, many would be able to list out the time table of the Colonies’ Liberation from AC 180 to AC 196 than discussing the pivotal events from the One Year War of UC 0079. You know what they say: One man’s Operation Meteor is another man’s Operation British. I’ll leave you folks at home to check that one out.
Then there were the models: Wing’s starting five mobile suits followed by its upgraded assortment in both 1/144 and 1/100 scale (except for some, IE Tallgeese, Sandrock and Heavyarms) outnumbered Mobile Suit Gundam’s one Gundam and bevy of Zeon mobile suits, no matter how many Char’s variants there are or how many times the RX-78-2 has been remodeled. If not the more direct cause in the decline, Gundam’s death in America could also be applied to gouging costs for most of the model kits. I myself will never live down the fact that I took the domestic route and paid 80$ USD for a model kit that I would have paid 45$ USD if I imported online. In retrospect, I think another nail in Gundam’s domestic coffin was the fact that not many American kids were interested in building model kits as opposed to buying pre-assembled action figures. I suppose now that the “What is Your Level” ad campaign had enough problems before I showed up with my 1/144 Dendrobium.
In light of such a tragic rise and fall of an iconic series, there is a sort of reluctance for being a Gundam fan. There is no more competition between domestic or imported releases so the models are relatively cheaper again through some online dealers. Bandai’s made collection releases of some of the series to distribute again but in the narrower channels so not to flood the market like so many other anime franchises with a more open domestic market have. Also, there’s plenty of parking in the giant robot parking lots again, so I don’t have to cheat by borrowing my grandmother’s handicapped tag anymore.
With my long winded history of Gundam out of the way, let me begin the long winded introduction to my model kit review. Starting with Gundam Wing’s trademarked introduction:
In the year After Colony 195…
…Tensions rose between the space colonies and Earth, igniting into a full scale Civil War. The Earth took the upper hand with their advanced development of mechanized war machines called Mobile Suits. In retaliation, five mobile suits were developed in secret and sent to Earth by the Colony Liberation Organization to eliminate the Earth's stranglehold on the orbiting Space Colonies and defeat the military organization of OZ (Organization of Zodiac) in a coup dubbed “Operation Meteor.” These five, specialized mobile suits were constructed using a rare space metal with extreme resilience for combat called ‘Gundanium’ and were known as “The Gundams.”
The mobile suits were produced and sent by each of the five main Lagrange colonies.
L1: XXX-WG01W “Wing Gundam” piloted by Heero Yui
L2: XXX-WG01D “Gundam Deathscythe” piloted by Duo Maxwell
L3: XXX-WG-01H “Gundam Heavyarms” piloted by Trowa Barton
L4: XXX-WG01SR “Gundam Sandrock” piloted by Quatre Reberba Winner
L5: XXX-WG01S “Gundam Shenlong” piloted by Wu Fei Chang
After a long tour of battles, each of the Gundams where given upgrades or superior modifications. The Wing and Sandrock suffered from fatiguing battles and were self detonated in order to complete their missions. In the time to follow, both machines were resurrected: the Wing Gundam received no modifications and disappeared after a while whereas the Sandrock received an extra machine gun. The Heavyarms suffered relatively no damage to require upgrades however it was later outfitted with a modified double barreled Gatling unit to keep up with the increasing firepower of its enemies. The units Deathscythe and Shenlong on the other hand were both completely destroyed and replaced with follow up units: XXX-GW01D2 “Deathscythe Hell” and XXX-GW01S2 “Altron.”
As the machines made their way across the Earth and into Space, another Gundam was discovered in the L1 colony. The prototype for which the others were produced outfitted with a powerful battle computer unit called “Zero System” emerged from space ultimately retiring the Wing Gundam due to their extreme similarities and its superior power: the XXX-WG00W0 “Wing Gundam Zero.”
New Gundam Look, Same Gundam Taste
The layout of the Gundam history you just read was based on Gundam Wing’s story, but not in the history of its mechanical designs. Now before I keep going, let me explain something. According to Myth, there were a series of short comics that explained the evolution between the sharp aesthetic difference between the television series of Gundam Wing and its follow up OAV ending Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz. The truth of the matter is that the designs between them are different was because there were two different lead designers: Kunio Ohkawara and Hajime Katoki.
Ohkawara was the original, the first man to design the Gundams dating back to the original Mobile Suit Gundam who designed the Wing machines for its television series. Katoki on the other hand was a rising star of the industry thanks to his more modern, realistic machines seen in the Gundam Sentinel novels and additional mechanical designs from series such as Gundam 0083 and his portfolio of artistic renders of past machines. During Wing, Katoki acted in an assistant designer’s position filling in some of OZ’s mobile suit ranks and also working on filling in his own “Gundam FIX” portfolio. With his career on the rise, Katoki was asked to design his interpretations of the Gundam Wing machines for an article in one of Japan’s leading model and art books. The ending results were sleek, sharper concepts to the already popular designs. Due to their popularity, Katoki was tagged to produce his own ‘Upgraded’ versions of the upgraded Gundams from Gundam Wing for its sequel Endless Waltz. Henceforth, the “Customs” where born.
Spread your Wings Zero
The Wing Gundam Zero Custom has been one of the most popular Gundam machines next to current fan favorites such as the Strike Freedom and super powered mobile suits of other generations. Its design was a sharp contrast in form and style to its alternately designed origin. It’s been so popular, that in model form it has received every model kit form Bandai has ever produced. At its release there were the standard grades: 1/144 (with a follow up limited clear injection/chrome version) and its 1/100 scale high grade (yet again followed by a chrome/clear limited version). As Wing crossed over seas, Bandai pulled out the stops and produced a Perfect Grade.
Unfortunately, the Perfect Grade wasn’t so perfect. Having built one I can honestly say why: construction was out of balance with the wings out weighing the body and the varying tension on the legs’ assembly making balance difficult, the electronics were hit or miss depending if the wires going to the front chest light didn’t get pinched under the cockpit assembly or arm sections, and finally how the armor plating didn’t stay in place very well. All in all, good form, bad follow through.
When Bandai opted to begin their “Version Ka” assortment of Master Grades, it was only a matter of time before this version of the Wing Zero would be realized in much better conditions.
Wing Version Ka to Wing Zero Custom
In all simplicity, the Wing Gundam Zero Master Grade model kit is a remold of a reinvention of another design with new parts and colors to make up the difference. The body is made almost entirely from the same runners used to produce the Wing Gundam Version Ka, but with the differences in color and in some minor assemblies such as the shoulder armor and the back unit where the wings attach. Another visible difference is in the colors: where the Version Ka used a yellow hinted white, the Wing Zero is solid. Also the Wing Zero is narrowed down on its color scheme to solid primaries: Blue, Red, White, with Gray for inner parts, and yellow in trim only. There are additional runners to make up for some of the Wing Zero’s more prominent features and the addition of a base stand (which would later be retooled for the Limited Editions of the Strike Freedom, Infinite Justice, and Destiny Gundam 1/100 scale models).
The Wing Zero’s assembly is relatively light without going too little or putting too much. In fact completed the model’s weight is surprising lighter than other kits of its size and level of assembly. The overall assembly is done remarkably in scale, although 1/100 scale, the machines from Wing are smaller in scale compared to other models to bear the Gundam name, including the short statured Gundam F-91.
The head is modeled in roughly 13 parts. The head itself is modeled in side split halves with the face consisting of the eyes, chin, and face plate built within and a ball socket polycap for the neck. The Wing Zero’s head fins are done in three parts on both sides of the head and finally there is the ‘V’ crest on the front of the head. The eyes are done with both the face’s eyes and also the forehead sensor eye. Unfortunately there was no physical way to incorporate the eye piece into the crest as it is designed as, so instead paint work is mandatory in that area. Overall construction is tight, although there are small parts such as the front tabs on the side fins which you might consider gluing so not to worry about losing them later on.
The torso construction combines some new elements with a few older ones too. The interior skeleton is built on the principle of a hinged midsection that then connects to a double ended ball joint which connects the waist and abdomen. The shoulder of course is built on a hinge so the arms can be swung forward at most 30 degrees and upwards to about 20. Within the construction, you also have the cockpit and neck swivel to assemble along with the base port for the back pack to connect to the body. The cockpit comes as a solid piece which sits dead center of the shoulder and upper body component and is also used as the base point for where the clear ‘Sensor globe’ fits on. The armoring of the Wing Zero’s torso is a multiple part affair due in part mostly to the past incarnation of these parts seen in the Wing Version Ka. In addition, the main armor of the torso is not recommended for removal. Thereby unfortunately, there is no refined door hatch like in other models of the Master Grade line. So opening the cockpit requires removing the cover piece over the sensor globe.
The Waist assembly is done in a combination of simplistic execution with some additional assembly. The waist is done in standard form, two halves split front and back with the polycap hinges set on the sides for the hips and the front and back blocks designed to hold in the main skirts. The skirts are an eleven part affair: roughly two parts each, with a shortcut by the rear two skirts being joined by a solid bar with two additional parts connected at the top. The reason for so many parts is due to the same reason with the torso. Although with fewer colors in its design, the Wing Zero still uses the same construction from Wing Version Ka.
One of the newest points of the Wing Zero that replaces parts from the Wing Version Ka is the backpack. While the Version Ka had only two wings to attach, the Version Zero has four wings. So for this, a new backpack was constructed, this time matching the Wing Zero’s design. Initial construction requires the construction of the ‘shoulder’ for which the wings’ extension arms can connect to. Although this kit makes many attempts to surpass the Perfect Grade, this area has more in common with the Wing Zero’s 1/100 scale High Grade. The construction differs by not requiring polycaps for the rear wing arms and the main back plate that covers the assembly and holds it in alignment. In addition to this extra assembly, Bandai also adapted this model be held by a base stand.
The arms are constructed in the more ergonomic structural interior for exterior design. This means that the inner assembly of the bicep is done so to shortcut costs but improve construction with the armor done as a sleeve. Construction is equally improved with the elbow being built into the bicep assembly and reinforced via polycaps. This is then joined into the forearm which is done in box plate construction so not parts are less cluttered but they hold themselves in place firmly. The Sensor blocks on the outside of the arms are done in the same “more pieces for one component” assembly from the Wing Version Ka, simplified for its design as the Wing Zero. The hands are done in Master Grade form 1.0. In which the middle, ring and pinky finger done in a solid piece with the index finger and thumb done separately. The main fingers are then fitted in the traditional hinge joint assembly with the thumb fitting to a ball joint groove with the hand halves joined by the back hand guard. Compared to previous MG 1.0 hands, the fingers are accented where they are bent at the joint and the overall construction is much tighter.
The shoulder armor assembly revolves around a sliding track which is then plated with the Wing Zero’s shoulder armor. This track assembly is used to fold the shoulder armor down in both the Wing Zero and Wing Version Ka for their ‘atmospheric’ modes. While the principle of the assembly remains the same, the Wing Zero uses a different front cover piece (which is designed into the Wing Version Ka, but is done with two separately colored pieces). The armor plating on the shoulders is done in front and back halves, with the top most section being a solid domed piece which attaches to the top of the completed assembly. When completed, the track assembly fits over the main shoulder peg connecting from the torso via a heavy grade ABS sleeve and reinforced by the shoulder from the arm. One of the biggest difficulties I’ve had with the shoulders is due in part to the track on which the armor rests. For the most part the armor simply rests on the track and floats freely against the arm so not to impede movement, but in some cases it just feels like the armor is too loose for its own good.
The Wing Zero’s legs use the more simplistic route of being joint assemblies from the thigh to the foot without any extra moving components short of the knee armor. When the Perfect Grade was first produced with the actuators combining the knee and thigh mimicking the quadriceps muscle, it had its flaws of flex range but when it was done again for other models in Master Grade form, they fixed those flaws. Unfortunately for the Wing Zero, this schematic was cut out all together and replaced with the more generic form: two halves combined over a knee block and a polycap ball socket for the hip. The knee assembly is remarkably minute but the construction is employed to the fullest, a flexed swing arm which then connects to the main knee armor and allows it to float freely from the leg. The main assembly for the lower leg is done in two halves with polycaps that are used for locking on the outer armor and a ball socket for the ankle. In standard form, the armor attaches in sections: the main front and back plates and side pieces in the upper region with the additional front ankle guard connecting via to a polycap hinge. There is also the ankle armor which attaches to a double ball stem piece similar to the one that joins the waist and torso, scaled to fit of course.
The feet are constructed in the modern fashion with a hinge assembly in the front section that bends the foot 90 degrees downward. Armor is in solid block and plate form here as to minimize construction. There is of course a polycap ball socket within the main ankle assembly to connect it to the leg.
The Wing Zero’s wings are by far the real shining difference between the multiple grades of construction and variations of this design. For the original, the Wing Zero’s wings were large vernier booms which opened for long distance and high speed flight. Also they were key elements in the Wing Zero’s “Neo-Bird Mode” in which it transformed into a form of fighter. With the complete redesign into its ‘Custom’ form, the Neo-Bird form was completely removed and the Wing Zero’s wings were now upgraded for a more symbolic look. According to design, the Wing Zero Custom’s wings are based in symbolism of the four winged angel (a Seraphim, the highest order of angel), so the follow up work gives the Wing Zero two large flight wings and two additional vernier binder wings.
First, we take a look at the Vernier binder wings. In the 1/100 scale, Bandai took the ‘optional’ route, making the wings hollow and adding a decorated plate to be set in place if builders decided to pose them in their open form. For the Perfect Grade, these wings were given an excellent action feature with the construction of catch springs and building the trigger within the Wings’ arm which runs into the backpack. By rotating the wing 90 degrees upward, the catch would release and the binders would open. For the Master Grade, Bandai took a less artistic route and made the vernier plate a basic component in the construction. Built from within, the vernier plate is built into the main hinge which connects the bottom housing and the overall wing assembly and helps to bind both sections together. By pulling on the lower cover, the binder opens like a fan and clicks to lock once it reaches its maximum level. Also unlike the PG, these wings can be opened even if they are not raised above a certain elevation.
In the original 1/100 scale, the larger wings were solid shell injection pieces, with the feather tips as solid strips held in place by polycaps. Although with simplified construction the wings couldn’t get out of the way or hold its place very well. For the Perfect Grade, the construction was fundamentally similar except for the addition of a “Wing Rib” which runs from where it connects to its swing arm down to the tip. The feathers were also different by being individually cut rubber strips with a metal strip running through it (think of a reinforced twist tie). In the end, the added weight made for a severe imbalance in the weight distribution. For the Master Grade, Bandai took the wings back to formula. With completely reinvented construction, the wings can now open into three paneled sections through joint, reactive sliding movement performed with the slightest of touch. The feather tips of the wings this time around are not plastic, but light grade rubber, which can easily flex and realign after long durations of being pressed against a surface. There are a total of seven feathers in all which are lined up in sequential order according to length. The wings are attached to the wings themselves via ball tipped hinge arms which fit into a groove cut on the sides of the main wing housing. The weight of the overall completed wing is remarkably light so this added amount of construction puts no imbalance on the overall build. Completed, the wings pose almost flawlessly, and can recreate some of the Wing Zero’s most defining poses, a feature missing completely from the Perfect Grade and the original 1/100 scale.
The Wing Gundam Zero comes with its common assortment of weapons and retains the value of said tools of destruction. First off, the easier of the set are the Wing Zero’s beam sabers. With absolutely no construction necessary, the Wing Zero’s sabers literally come off the runner and fit into the hands. For storage, the sabers rest in their docking grooves molded into the extension arms for the Binder Wings. The beams included for the sabers are clear green, which is a breath of relief considering the most of the Master Grade lineage is overpopulated with “Pink Sabers.” Also it is worth noting that these sabers are curved, almost like a Japanese sword instead of the linear almost European Fencing blades of the standard.
The next weapons included in the Wing Zero are its shoulder mounted vulcan guns. Unlike the common guns which are single barrels, the Wing Zero’s were four barreled gatling guns and fit into blocks on the shoulders. According to the Version Ohkawara, these blocks flipped around with the guns mounted underneath, but in the Version Katoki, these blocks were hinged covers with the guns mounted directly to them. Once open, the guns shift slightly forward and are visibile. For the MG version, Bandai uses a solid construction scheme which uses the guns themselves as the hinge point for the cover plate. Unfortunately, there are the design flaws that come from the Wing Zero’s more compact design. This includes that the hinge does not have as much range to open as one could hope, and that when fully open, the Wing Zero’s head can get in the way.
Also it is worth noting that the gatling barrels do not rotate.
Completing the Wing Zero’s arsenal is its famous double barreled buster rifle. Compared to traditional beam rifles which are designed for short, high output bursts, the Wing Zero’s Buster Rifle is designed for maximum output and maximum penetration. This is why when used it had the capacity to eliminate entire fleets of enemies and a space battle fortress with one shot. The Buster Rifles also had a tactical advantage compared to other rifles by being able to separate and become two distinctly powerful rifles as opposed to one massive gun.
For its MG treatment, Bandai used a complimentary method. This means it retains its simplistic, sleek look but uses smaller detail parts to complete construction that fits both design and form. Construction goes as though it were building two mirrored rifles, one for the left and one for the right. The main rifle body itself is constructed using two full body strips which make the left and right side of the single rifle. Building the rifles begin with a small hinged block which requires the double ended hinge part, fit between the block and its rear holding plate. This block has the ability to rotate to a combined 180 degrees to lock into the side of the rifle and down to hang freely. Included with the sub-assembled locking block are the gun’s triggers, a hinged locking tab and a detail point power cable. Lastly, there is the tip of the gun barrel and the weapon sight (a shortcut done in solid plastic that requires painting on the eye piece). The hinged tab is located in the back of the rifles and is used in combining both the completed rifles. The tabs are constructed facing back and facing forward as to lock together in grooves cut on the insides of either gun. The rotating block portion of the gun is also applied in combing the rifles and works as the main locking assembly.
When combined into its twin buster mode, the Wing Zero’s Buster Rifle can only be held in one hand due to the proximity of both triggers. So in order to be held, one of the triggers must be rotated out of the way (so it fits into the rear stock of its respective rifle). Unfortunately this is where one might find trouble. The combined weight of the rifle might not feel it, but it does put pressure on the MG version 1.0 hands of the kit. When posed upright, the hands tend to lose tension and the gun has a tendency to sag. However Bandai has concluded the construction of the rifles with a way to fix this. Seen at the absolute rear stock of the rifles are little protrusions that are designed to hook under the armor of the Wing Zero’s arms and chest plate (for copying its ‘final shot’ pose). This gives some extra reinforcement to the hands and redistributes the double buster rifle’s weight across a broader area.
As a last accessory Bandai included one of their all purpose display bases. In fact this was the first outing of the display base that would later be released in clear injection for the limited edition 1/100 scale Strike Freedom, Infinite Justice, and Destiny Gundams from the Gundam SEED Destiny line. The base is made up of a flat base followed by a half/half assembled holding block and the extended display arm. The display arm is designed with a groove cut through it and a locking tab at the same end so that the arm can be shifted forward and upward giving it two distinct display styles. For connecting it to the Wing Zero, one must remove a small ‘cut out block’ from the bottom of the Wing Zero’s backpack and connect it directly to the inner frame. This centralized area in the back was a connector for a low construction cost hinge originally designed in the Wing Version Ka to hold a swing arm that would flip/rotate the Wing’s backpack down for its Neo-Bird flight mode. Now that the Wing Zero lacks this feature, it makes for a perfect way to hold it up on display.
Needless to say this is one of the best incarnations of this design there are. Construction is simple enough for any common builder to enjoy, but it has all of the points that make it worthy of the Master Grade lineage. With such low construction and less necessity for paint than some kits, it can literally be built in one afternoon. In essence, Bandai did a really great job in giving us a reason to love Gundam Wing one more time. Now if only they could bring us a rendition of Version Ohkawara in MG form.
|Posted 11 July, 2007 - 07:05 by Gunpla Rob|