Review by Gunpla Rob
*Please note, this review was originally posted on the Newtype Asylum around June 3rd, 2003. Reprinted with permission
Colors: white, dark blue, gray, red, Deep gray, bright gray/white, translucent pink
Dendrobium: Everything moves, working claw arms (2), beam saber pods (2), multi missile pods (2), large tube missile units (2), reversible I Field Generator 'coin' and articulated trigger assembly for long rifle.
Stamen: multiple hands, collapsing cannon, shield, beam rifle and newly added hyper bazooka.
Bonus material: Gundam EVOLVE #4 DVD*
More than 27 days, 3855 minutes, 20 cans of soda, 10 starburst bags, 50 chewed pieces of gum and two sliced fingers later the HGUC Dendrobium Orchis has come to life. The Dendrobium marks my shop's 100th consecutive build and here it is. Thanks goes to Zak Hale for the Q/A and finally to my folks, for without them I'd probably have built something else.
This has to be done in an order of assembly, #99 the Stamen, and finally #100 the Orchis.
The GP-03S Stamen
The Head: Typical HGUC style construction, front half, back half and the face in between. The face is made up of two pieces the full portion and the chin piece. Usual add-ons are here, the v-fins with their lock piece and for character correctness, the double antenna for the side of the head (comes in one piece that fits on the back half of the head and fits through two outlets on the front half). My first GP-03 had a problem of the head crest lock piece popping off from excess press scrap on the back where it's hard to clean with an X-acto, but this one had it on there tighter than I thought it would be. So far the only shaking I've got on the head comes from the loose peg on the antenna piece, but it's held in there enough by the halves of the head. Overall detail of the head is good, when taking a gundam marker to the arch of the head I found some more finite stuff I never knew was there to begin with.
The Torso: Moving on down the line, or rather the body is the torso block. The GP-03's torso doesn't have as much panel work to do as the earlier 0083 mecha are concerned. Reason being is that this one doesn't have a coreblock to it, so there's no need for excessive detailing. The primary parts do however need some work. The mid section has the seam lines which need work that complements the simple construction. The upper body area just has a few points, more importantly the neck, that need little paint work.
Then there's the cockpit/collar block that attaches separately. Deep well work is needed for detailing the chest's eye (in the collar area above the cockpit). Only thing there that doesn't need work is the door piece. I think its kind of funny cause Katoki's FIX work and some of his other model works are so uber detailed, the least they could have done on the torso here is have a door hinge. At least something like the GP-01 and have a joint that needs painting on the door piece. Well jokes and comments aside, the torso is solid. The downside is that there are no articulated shoulders, just static pegs.
The Arms: Now the arms of my first GP-03 were a nightmare. Because of the complexity of the forearms, the bicep portions of the arms are different than the typical HGUCs. Instead of the shoulder piece going down through a sock and into a polycap joint at the elbow the arms are divided, and there's no peg to polycap union. Instead, we're left with duplicate runner style parts that are all plastic/plastic connection. In more detail the bicep is half/half style construction with the polycap for the shoulder to connect to the torso, but there's no peg extending down. Instead the halves of the arm are hollow and the elbow is in fact the peg. This by far is my biggest pet peeve ever conceived by Bandai. For the most part the peg is very loose, it will hang there and the weight on in the hand is reflected in the elbow, either the arm falls out or it just flaps around. However in the Dendrobium HGUC, these part peeves are somewhat corrected.
Waist: For an HGUC, the Stamen's waist is pretty well packed, it's got the basic parts and polycap hinges for the side skirts and the usual front and back skirt pieces. The difference here between most HGUCs is that the back skirt is hinged so the legs can go back more (layed out pose). Another feature for the back skirt is an arm bar that goes over the rear for the vernier binders. Those btw are nicely detailed on the engine portions, the binders themselves are pretty flat out with the outer sides detailed with the rised panel marks. As for the front skirts, they're pretty flat, just a notch out for the exhaust ports but that's about it. However, there is some Hobby Japan quick fix work that can be done here.
The Legs: I really can't say much for the legs on the Stamen no matter how hard I think about it. Good detail, that's about it. Unlike some of the other and later HGUC legs the Stamen's seem to be an upgraded style for early 1/144s (wing, etc.). They've got the good detail HGUC's are known for but lack in the assembly style with just half/half style work with polycaps at the joint regions. There is however the leg bar seen in the HGUC GP-01 and the knee 'sock' but sad to say this doesn't do much. One reason being is that there's still a feeling like the polycap and poly peg don't reach and they don't meet (my first one's legs feel out a few times). The feet are nice, with the ankle armor built onto them and with a good range of motion. For the most part the legs aren't as bad as you'd think they'd be [from my description].
Backunit: The back unit for the Stamen is really good for its size. It folds properly and is well built. The flaps open for the saber hilts but sadly they don't work (sabers that is). The detailing is consistent with the rest of the body and the parts are very accurate to the design. Good thing too for what I'm soon to talk about.
Accessories: The Stamen's accessories are pretty much the same as they were in the previous HGUC release; rifle, cannon, shield, saber and hands (x2 for holding cannon, x2 normal fist, x2 open palms). Only difference here is the added hyper bazooka (which comes molded into the same gray runner from the Orchis). The Stamen comes well equipped for a Gundam. Usually it's just a beam rifle, saber and shield, nothing else. The Stamen comes with its folding cannon, beam rifle, beam saber (activated of course), shield and the already mentioned bazooka. The best part about these weapons is that they're the first set of precise 1/144 weapons from the HGUC line. Believe it or not, most if not all HGUC weapons and models are a little over the 1/144 mark (compare the GP-01 and GP-03 rifles sometime, you'll see).
Here is the moment of truth #100. From the get go I knew this model was going to be something. The box size alone gave me the impression that not only would its size be an issue but storing it as well. For the longest time I had the box stored where the model would go, but then I cleared out a whole closet and found some space for it... sadly that took up all the space could clear up. Anyway, nuff bs.
The base: The base of the Orchis is where it all starts, literally. The base is cut to withstand both the Orchis' size and its weight. The design of it looks like a massive rolling launch platform on a track with the needed hydraulic assembly to hold it. Anyway, the base is very solid once completed, good detail to it to that can be visually achieved with a lot of patience.
The Main Body: Moving on up the base is where the bulk of the Orchis is. By this I mean the body; bare bones, no long rifle, no I-Field, no containers and no manipulators. The Body of the Orchis is for the most part built around itself within itself and onto itself. Sound confusing doesn't it? To clear things up, most of the Orchis' body is made up of subassemblies that then fit around a skeleton of parts. In the very center of the central piece (where the Stamen rests) is a solid steel spine that is then bolted to the outer shell, which is then attached to another shell which is then bolted together. Most of the early work in the central body revolves around the Stamen's resting place and the hinge points where the Stamen fits in at. For the most part, it feels like you really are building a ship's skeletal frame with two more steel plates on both sides which are then secured by the 'shoulder' of the manipulator arms.
To be honest, I thought this was going to be hardest region on the Orchis. In the long run it was tricky but it wasn't the hardest part (the painting was).
The Vernier binders: Even though they're an extension, or roughly 2/3 of the rear section the Verniers still count as an important region of discussion. These are what I consider the easiest, yet hardest part of the model. Ease in assembly, bitch of a time in painting. I checked around with previous Orchis alumni (Mr. Hale included) who said that they chose not to paint the verniers, but for the sake of character coloration, I went with my trusted Testors Model Master Acryl "Chevy Engine Red" in about three to four thin coats. The finished product, with some detailing work along the lines engraved, looks good. I'm sure that with some wash style detailing they'd look even better. The tail pieces themselves are an example of the shell style parts I mentioned in the Body section. The top set are in fact molded into the same piece as the rear section plate of the body which is a bit of ease so that the body doesn't rock and tilt and flex the parts.
Manipulators: The second most pain in the ass of the model in terms of articulation. By this I don't mean the claws. The overall assembly for the manipulators is based around the way they open up and lock back onto the body. In the main body there's the main piston assembly. The polycaps used in this area are extremely tight and with one false movement or one hard jolt could send five and a half pounds of ABS/PS and steel to the ground with a bone crushing explosion. Frailties aside the movement can be crisp or it could be obstructed by the rest of the body. You make the call. The claws themselves were a lot more simplistic than I thought and hoped. The claw arms open and extend via a built in track assembly and the beam saber pods are stored in a small cut out below the hinge. My only wish is that they'd have thrown in a spring assembly so that when the claw opens the saber pod gets pushed outward for easy using.
Long Rifle: Here's a BFG that will put my MG FAZZ to shame. With a barrel that goes for more than 16 inches and a block assembly for another 7 the long rifle is not something to be taken lightly for a 1/144 scale. The assembly of the barrel is simple and good. The barrel is segmented into two areas of half/half work with a key lock assembly for attaching the finished work onto the main block. Inside the main housing there's no serious articulation except for the sight piece which folds out of the way for the right container to open and the trigger assembly which opens up somewhat flawlessly (rattles around on its own, but is good and secure when the housing is done). The trigger also opens up in perfect range for the stamen to reach out and use (use the open palm on the Stamen for better visuals). The main block of the body of the rifle is flat out shell work and dare I say typical work with the subassemblies resulting in a miraculous creation of plastic.
I-Field Generator: Of all the work so far I still can't get over how EASY the generator was. Like I said in the rifle section there are some points on this model that go from near PG-MG work to typical and this was a typical location. Nothing negative of course, just surprisingly simple half/half subassembly with sections of outer armor secured to it. This is also one of the fun points for high detail fans. What I'm referring to of course is the I-Field Generator 'coin' as I like to call it. Heads it's the closed vent ring, tails it's the open coils/bolts etc. I personally liked doing the work on the open end because it put some of my masking work to use. Shop work: first I primed the open side of the coin for a day, then I came back and masked out the areas for the gold bolt and section and spray painted those. Minutes later I went back and removed my masking and detailed the silver coil areas with a gundammarker (GM-05).
Weapons Containers: Big, that's about it, they're big. Well maybe not just it but still they're big. The weapons containers for the model are somewhat the same thing only reflected but they hold different items for the Stamen. Assembly wise I had some fun here and had a pain in terms of paint work, but not as much as I did with the verniers. The weapons containers use virtually the same runners, only different parts; one set of parts for the left container and some for the right. The doors, outer shell, and back plate were individual parts on the same runner where as the inner frame work and pod parts shared parts. The outer area of the containers are built like a box, there's the top plate, the bottom, the rear and the front. The front is where most of the action is because it's where the doors are built onto the container as well as the locking mechanism and pop out pods. The front is also the last piece to fit into the box work for sake of the doors. The frontacks outward should I say, shift because there's no real push. The rack frames and rear plate are sandwiched between the top and bottom plates of the containers along with the triple sock piece. This piece is here so that the containers can be attached and removed from the finished Orchis body with ease. Again, the top and bottom assembly work is screw based with small caps that fit into the screw gaps to hide areas in a series of panel region.
Weapons Racks: As far as the weapons racks go parts are the same but at the same time don't seem so much the same. Each rack unit is made specifically for each weapon for the Stamen. On the runners there are a set of long rack arms and a set of shorter ones. The longer set is for the shield and the bazooka where as the shorter ones are for the rifle and the cannon. Container wise; the shield and bazooka are on the right and the cannon and rifle are on the left (why I don't know because usually Gundams hold their rifles in their right hands and their shields in the left). When inside the containers, the weapons fit flawlessly onto their respective rack and don't have any friction conflicts with the container when sliding in or out. Like I said before, the only problem with their movement is the lack of power from the spring pods. Finally there are the Orchis' weapon pods. Surely as anybody's seen 0083 will know that the Weapon pods from the Orchis are a large serid have been like that seen in the GP-03's Evolve video or at least have a set of missiles that opened in the same manner; hinged in the front and all three sides opened with the missiles on the inside sort of like a blossom effect. Case as is it was a good attempt at bringing the power of the Dendrobium to life, even if in small portions.
Overall: Overall I'm both pleased and disappointed with the Dendrobium. It's a magnificent, massive piece of work. Sure it came up short in terms of movement and display purposes (can't move, can't pose) but its still worth the time, money and effort. I agree with Nightingale (in his MSIA review) that there could have been more to the Orchis weapon arsenal like the demolition chain and with Zak Hale in how there could have been something done about how limited the arms could move. All in all, I'm still happy with this model. On a personal level and on a constructive level, my 100th build as well as it being the largest model I will ever built. Since some of the more recent reviews I've seen here lately have a score to them then I would have to give the Stamen an 8 out of 10 and the Orchis a 9 out of 10. Close to perfection but like they say, nobody's perfect.
|Posted 26 June, 2003 - 23:23 by Gunpla Rob|