Master Grade MBF-P02 Gundam Astray Red Frame
Review by Rob
I accept that I’ll go down in Gunpla history for being one of the biggest hypocrites when it comes to discussing the “Gundam SEED” universe. I hated much of the television series because of its main characters, recycled plot, stock footage, recap episodes of stock footage, and don’t even get me started on what I thought was wrong with “Destiny!”
All the while, I liked the early Mobile Suit designs before they became bloated and grandiose even though I have built a majority of the
scale kits, the 1:144 High Grade METEOR and a few of the Master Grade models.
What halts my hatred for the Cosmic Era from being absolute, is my liking of the series’ side-story manga “Gundam SEED: Astray” and its lead Mobile Suits which I have built four times in 1:100 scale.
The Master Grade MBF-P02 Astray Red Frame marks my fifth Astray model and is easily my favorite version of the design to date.
“Red Vs Blue Vs Everybody”
To the old folks at home, a Side-Story is a manga (or a video game) that runs parallel to the events of a television series or movie, dealing with the consequences from the main story.
In this case, the Side-Story manga of “Gundam SEED: ASTRAY,” began during the opening episodes of the ‘Gundam SEED’ television series, and like the title word implies, it deviates from the path of the animated story and in my opinion a better direction.
The story revolves around the prototype MBF-series “Astray” Mobile Suits which were created by the Morgenroete Company at the space colony Heliopolis. The Astrays were part of a secret side-project by Morgenroete for their home country of Orb when they were building the “G-Project,” Gundam Mobile Suits for the Earth Alliance.
When the colony was destroyed during the ZAFT military’s raid on the colony to steal the Gundams, two of the original three Astray Mobile Suits were abandoned. Because they were developed in secret, Morgenroete sent for the neutral faction of the Junk Guild to salvage the remaining prototypes, while another party ordered the mercenary group “Serpent Tail” to destroy them.
After a brief collision between both groups, the MBF-P02 “Red Frame” was taken by Junk Tech Lowe Guele after he lost the MBF-P03 “Blue Frame” to the Serpent Tail’s leader, Gai Murakumo.
“Astray” has since continued its own course through the Cosmic Era and beyond with its own spin-offs and sequels introducing new Astray Mobile Suits along the way.
In 2009, Bandai began making models for “Gundam SEED VS Astray,” a photo novel series published in Dengeki Hobby magazine; continuing the adventure of Lowe Guele and Gai Murakumo in their newest conflict against “Librarian Works,” a shadowy organization with an army of carbon-human clones and over powered Gundams that set their sights on the Red and Blue Frames.
At first, Bandai only produced 1:100 scale Non-Grade kits of the Librarian Works’ Gundams by recycling the original SEED model kits into their odd, heavily equipped variations. The first Master Grade model for the series was the MBF-P03R Blue Frame Second ‘Revise,’ an improved version of the Blue Frame based on the “Second L” configuration.
By 2010, Bandai turned their attention to Lowe’s Red Frame with the Master Grade MBF-P02Kai Red Frame ‘Kai’ and again in 2014 as a Premium Online Exclusive based on its original unmodified form.
For now, this review will focus on the initial Master Grade model kit but most of my pictures will reflect the work I did on it during my Red Frame’s 2014 “upgrade.”
The Astray Red Frame is one of my all-time favorite Mobile Suit designs, rivalling my first favorite, the GP01.
The Astrays, as well as the other Gundams of the Cosmic Era, were designed by Junichi Akutsu, more renown as “Bee-Craft,” the designer for just about every Master Grade model kit produced alongside Hajime Katoki.
As such, Akutsu’s stunningly detailed design of the Red Frame is practically flawless in its transition from illustration to plastic model, setting the bar for Bandai’s SEED “Version RM (Remastered)” collection from 2012.
The MBF-P02Kai Astray Red Frame Kai marked the 129th Master Grade model kit.
At the time of its release, it was the first new model to be produced during Bandai’s “30th Anniversary of Gunpla” celebration where it included a duplicate runner of the model’s white parts molded in clear plastic for showing off sections of the inner moveable frame.
When I first got the model, it was only available with the clear parts but the Red Frame Kai has since been reissued without them. Building this kit, I chose to not use them and put the runner on display in my model cabinet instead.
Out of the box, the Red Frame is comprised of 28 runners.
The Astray’s body is molded in red plastic with the necessary white, light gray and dark gray plastics for the outer armor.
The model uses a pair of PC-204 polycap runners for its stress points that have been molded in red material in order to better match the Astray’s inner frame.
The Master Grade Red Frame Kai is mostly recycled from the previous Blue Frame model with changes made to its primary colors and new parts runners dedicated to making the Red Frame’s head, feet, shoulders and its customized Tactical Arms.
When completed, there are still plenty of leftover parts from the “Second L” model to complete the original Tactical Arms.
The Red Frame’s katanas are molded with a gold-flake injection plastic for the pummels, cross guards, and scabbard chapes while the sword blades are vacuum molded with chrome plating.
Red Frame is also packaged with an SB6 beam-saber part set and an “Action Base 2” molded in red plastic.
The model comes only with the bare necessity of clear parts for the Red Frame’s eyes and forehead sensor.
Unlike those in other Master Grades which are colorless, the clear parts for the Astray are molded in light green hinted plastic.
Building mine, I painted over these parts with a much sharper, Testors Model Master Acryl brand, “Clear Green” and coated the back of the parts with silver enamel to help the details shine in the light.
While realistically Bandai only retooled the existing Blue Frame model, the idea behind the Astray Red Frame Kai represents an underlying theme in the “Astray” story where the Mobile Suits are always being improved to face the even greater threat.
In this upgraded form, the Junk Guild’s resident Gundam incorporates components from all of the other factions gone astray who have teamed up with Lowe at some point in their own conflicts.
The Tactical Arms was first created by Lowe for one of Gai’s many different weapon sets for the Blue Frame, but this version of it is dedicated to his Red Astray.
It is equipped with a separate engine to power the “Voiture Lumiere;” energy propulsion system for interplanetary travel that can also be used to generate an energy shield, features taken from the Mars based MMF-JG73L Turn Delta and GSF-YAM01 Delta Astray Gundams. The pincer claw at the center of the Tactical Arms is able to use the same “energy absorption” technology of Red Frame’s more vicious relative, the MBF-P01 Astray Gold Frame Amatsu, enabling it to drain the power from an opponent simply through physical contact.
Completing Red Frame’s upgrade is its second katana, the “Tiger Pierce” taken from Un’No, the legendary master sword smith who trained Lowe in the art while restoring Red Frame’s signature weapon; the “Gerbera Straight.”
The Astray is an amazing build from start to finish, but there are two difficulties novice builders will face that come from its mold injection process and surface detailing.
The Red Frame model uses Bandai’s “Under-Gate” injection process where the sprue from the runner attaches to the back side of the model part in order to preserve the detailing on the edges. This makes for doubling the work in cleaning away the excess plastic. If any slag is forgotten during the assembly, it can cause parts to not fit together properly.
As Wallas has shown with his build, the Red Frame looks stunning even when built straight out of the box.
Building my model, I gave it the full detailing with paint, my Rapidoliner, and traditional Gundammarkers. Detailing the Red Frame was one of the most time consuming points in building this model and was one of the reasons I put off building it for so long.
Red Frame’s engraved surface details are out of bounds in both quality and quantity!
The collar behind Red Frame’s neck has “MBF-ASTRAY” and “ORB” (Morgenroete’s country of origin) in raised lettering that is already legible to the naked eye that looks even better with some ink to fill in the gaps.
Painting the Red Frame is virtually optional thanks to its semi-monochromatic color scheme, but there are plenty of ways to accent its base color with extra paint. While I admit that I intentionally brought some of this on myself, I think my finished work looks really cool.
When I first started building my Red Frame, I painted where the white and red plastic parts connect with a mixture of Testors Model Master Acryl paints; “Guards Red,” “Insignia Red,” and “Chevy Engine Red.”
I call this recipe “Red Comet Red” because I’m using it in another large scale project and also because it coats on smoothly ‘three times faster’ than normal. The end result softens the transition between the parts and helps make the two color plastics blend more seamlessly.
One of my only grievances with painting the Red Frame is something I am no stranger to hating: white paint on red plastic and red paint on dark plastic. A good painting technique to make this problem less of a burden and more of a casual nuisance is starting with a primer coat and applying the final paint color in thin coats.
The Red Frame’s cockpit is molded into the red plastic of the inner frame, so naturally I repainted it with “Engine Gray” for the interior space and “Leather” for the control seat.
Since the Red Frame is one of my favorite Mobile Suits and characters in all of ‘Gundam’ history, I painted both of the 1:100 scale figures of its owner Lowe Guele which were molded in white plastic.
There have been three different character designs for Lowe. The one for the Master Grade model kit is based on his one and only animated appearance in the “Gundam SEED MSV” OAV short film.
-Courtesy of Gundam.info –
Now that I think about it, the model does not include Lowe’s trusty friend, 8 unfortunately.
The Red Frame Kai came with two sheets of clear back and dry transfer decals done in the same loud and distracting style that would be common among the “SEED” Master Grades. However, there were two decals that it would be a crime to leave off!
In the “Astray R” manga, Lowe’s crewmate Liam Garfield applied the Junk Guild symbol onto the Red Frame’s shoulder to affirm the Suit’s allegiance with the group, which Lowe immediately spray-painted his name across to let everyone know the Mobile Suit belonged to him.
These were two separate dry-transfer decals that I was able to apply on top of each other without ripping them.
I have since replaced my Kai’s markings with new ones in their original colors from the Bandai Premium Exclusive Red Frame.
Fully built, the Red Frame stands just under the standard 1:100 scale height of 7 inches tall from heel to V-crest.
One of the standout features of Akutsu’s work is the Red Frame’s slender proportions and sleek design that is an amazing contrast to any of the previous Astray model kits.
The finished model has a very angular and toned look about it.
The Red Frame features a highly detailed and equally articulated inner frame that has become the standard of excellence for the Master Grade “SEED” collection.
(… and who’d have thought I would use the words ‘excellence’ and ‘SEED’ together in the same sentence…)
The model is built with a multi-jointed spine hidden within its midsection that subtly unfolds with each movement, giving more flexibility to Red Frame’s midsection.
The exposed ‘spine’ on the Red Frame’s back is a design feature inherent to the Astrays that allows the original backpack to fold down against its waist so the Mobile Suit can dock with a number of attachments ranging from something as simple as a Flight Unit or Lowe’s custom built equipment such as the colossal “Power Loader.”
For the Kai model kit, it provides structural support for holding the Tactical Arms without putting the weight solely on the Red Frame’s upper back.
While the model’s outer armor can be removed, the aesthetic theme of the Astray Mobile Suits as bare prototypes allow their inner frames to literally shine through the gaps in the plating without having to strip the model back down.
The Red Frame has an impressive floating plate design with its armor that fluidly moves with the connecting point of articulation on the inner frame. Each movement exposes the mechanical components underneath.
The Red Frame is built with a unique variation of skirt armor design where the front and hip mounted plates are attached to a bracket connected on the back of the waist to keep the armor out of the way of the legs’ range of motion.
While the Red Frame is extremely articulated, its mobility is limited when the Tactical Arms is attached. The model can hold the weight of the Tactical Arms in its feet fairly well but…
…trying to put it in a more dynamic pose, it becomes difficult for the model to stand unaided.
This is one of the reasons why the model comes with an Action Base 2 and an adapter for a scale appropriate Action Base 1.
Originally designed for 1:144 scale kits, Bandai often includes these bases with 1:100 scale models when they possess accessories that outweigh the primary kit.
The base included with the Red Frame features an extended, telescoping arm to place the Tactical Arms at arm level with the Astray so it can be handled as a free floating weapon.
Its best use however is for helping the completed model hold its balance.
While the Astray’s default equipment has been swapped for the multifaceted Tactical Arms II-L, the Red Frame carries its katana as always!
In the manga, Lowe chose the Gerbera Straight as the Red Frame’s primary weapon as an alternative for reducing the Astray’s power consumption and limit any collateral damage from using traditional beam weaponry.
According to the original story, the Tiger Pierce was a wakizashi, with a shorter blade than the Gerbera Straight but the weapon was changed in “VS Astray” to make it an equal length sword.
While the Tiger Pierce and Gerbera Straight may look identical, their names are etched in the tangs!
It’s just one more area of the model’s amazing detail.
Unlike the original 1:100 and 1:144 scale kits, the sword sheaths of the Master Grade Red Frame clip onto brackets that mount onto the ball and socket connections on the thighs rather than pegging into the hip skirts.
This provides some much welcome flexibility to better allow the swords to move in concert with the legs and avoid constantly colliding with the Tactical Arms.
The sheaths can also be held in the Red Frame’s hands for even more dramatic poses using the tab on the palm and the grooves where they clip onto the hip brackets.
The Tactical Arms II-L is a kit in itself and has a number of arrangements that are unique to its design for the Red Frame.
Unlike the unit carried by the Blue Frame, Red Frame’s Tactical Arms II-L is intended more as a tool than a weapon with new parts that make it more suitable for the often non-lethal Astray.
Its Gatling gun has been replaced with the energy-absorbing pincer claw and the combination trigger-sword grip mechanism has been removed.
Replacing the weapon is a detachable “Beam Torch” welding gun which doubles as a short range beam rifle.
When docked with the Red Frame, the Tactical Arms is set in the “V Form” with the blade panels folded and facing upward.
This makes it better suited for deploying the Tactical Arms in the “Delta Form” which activates its “Voiture Lumiere.”
There is a second mounting bracket on the Tactical Arms’ back for the unit’s new functions.
The bracket connects to the Astray’s backpack spine to transform into its “Flight Form,” breaking the Red Frame’s dependence on the Flight Unit taken from the mass produced M-1 Astray.
For combat use, the Tactical Arms transforms into “Arrow Mode” where the bracket becomes the handle.
This is where the model has you use the beam effect part, which can be plugged into the barrel of the torch as well!
Although there is no means of really connecting them, flipping the Tactical Arms around onto the Red Frame’s forearm converts it into its “Work Form” where the large sword panels become a claw which works in concert with the Beam Torch for Lowe’s general occupation.
Red Frame’s Tactical Arms retains some of the original weapon’s abilities such as being able to transform into the massive Anti-Ship Sword!
A second port on the middle of the mounting cradle allows the Red Frame to carry the Tactical Arms in its sword mode for extra badassitude.
While the MBF-P02 Astray Red Frame is one of my all-time favorite Mobile Suits, I feel like the Tactical Arms II-L is where it suffers as a Master Grade model.
The first problem I have is with how it moves, where some parts such as the pincer claw need to be removed and reset to rotate 90 degrees.
The construction manual even suggests doing this for the large sword panels even though they can move freely while attached.
The biggest flaw is how it interacts with the Red Frame model kit. Its size makes it more cumbersome to the primary model, whether handling the Tactical Arms as a weapon or mounted to the Astray’s back.
With its weight as a major factor, the Red Frame’s articulated hands cannot hold their grip on the massive weapon, thus further necessitating the Action Base.
In all honesty, I just feel the Tactical Arms is ultimately unnecessary and the MBF-P02Kai model kit come off as though Bandai just wanted to recycle the entire Blue Frame kit albeit with the proper parts for the original Astrays’ design.
Even though it represents a canon upgrade of the Astray, I could think of a few different sets of equipment that Bandai could have gone with for Red Frame’s Master Grade debut.
To me, the Red Frame was at its best in its original form.
As it happened in 2014, Bandai finally made the downgraded form of the Red Frame as an exclusive through their Premium Online store which was also made available through some Domestic US retailers.
Available for a premium price, this is!
Unless you pre-ordered it through a store offering a steep discount, the Exclusive Red Frame can cost nearly twice the price of the original Kai model. If one already has the Red Frame Kai, this exclusive version could easily become one of the most expensive downgrade/expansion set for a model outside of a B-Club resin kit.
Price and availability aside, this was the version of the Red Frame that I always wanted.
The Bandai Premium Online Exclusive Red Frame is packaged in a smaller box than the MBF-P02Kai and comes with a single newly crafted parts runner to make the Mobile Suit’s beam rifle, shield, beam sabers, and backpack.
One of the niceties about the Exclusive Red Frame is the construction manual and how its layout genuinely feels like this was the model Bandai was making in the first place.
The steps to construct the new assemblies have been drawn into their respective stages, a striking difference from Bandai’s usual series of Exclusive models that just reprint the original model manuals and include a standalone page that focus on the modified steps.
Completing the downgrade from the Kai, the previous model’s runners that shared parts between the Red Frame and the Tactical Arms have been reduced in order to remove the weapon and any of the leftover parts from the Blue Frame.
The surprise additions with this Red Frame are the clasp and sleeve to mount the Gerbera Straight’s sheath onto the Red Frame’s hip.
These parts are molded onto the existing runner for the sheaths and are easily reversible in order for the model to carry both swords at the same time.
However since this is the ‘classic’ Red Frame, it only needs the Gerbera Straight!
Instead of using the sword I had previously built, I constructed the Gerbera Straight from this kit and painted its grip in order for it to stand out from the Kai’s.
My Red Frame can carry the two extra swords from the Kai model as well!
The new assemblies for the Red Frame are molded with the same level of surface detailing as the original Master Grade, which makes them more worth the time and effort to properly paint and detail.
Because all I was building from this kit were the parts missing from my existing Red Frame, I decided to give the complete model a more detailed paint job by accentuating the inner frame color on the outer armor!
Despite being molded into the new runner, the parts for Red Frame’s shield are modeled from the same molds used for the Strike and Duel Gundams from the SEED “Version RM” collection.
The shield features a hinged mounting plate that fits to the back of the Astray’s forearm that folds around to the side of the arm.
There is a handle that simply pegs into the back of the shield that the Red Frame can wrap its hand around. I found it much easier to leave it flush against the shield and relied only on the elbow bracket.
The new backpack is built with a hinge at its mounting point to compensate for the limited movement of the connector on the end of the spine.
This allows it to fold down flush against the Astray’s rear skirt armor.
Now if only Bandai would make the 1:100 scale M1 Flight Unit for the gaping connection point on the Astray’s back.
The Astray’s original rifle is a powerful weapon in its own right, but a burden to its power supply.
Keeping with the Master Grade’s level of surface detail, even the targeting sight of the rifle has a reticle etched into it. Similar to the Red Frame’s sensors it is also molded in clear green plastic as opposed to being a decal.
The rifle features a fold out tab designed to dock on the back of Red Frame’s waist and a swiveling forward grip for the Astray to balance the rifle with both hands.
The Red Frame’s beam sabers are sharply detailed, and have their own special style of beam blade similar to those from the original 1:100 scale Non-Grade.
Overall, I have to say that the Master Grade Astray Red Frame is one of the best models I have ever built and cements its place as one of my all time favorite Mobile Suits. Despite my opinion of the Tactical Arms of the Kai, and Bandai’s decision to make the original design I wanted as an online exclusive, there is no faulting the base model. It was just that awesome!
Now... how about that Powered Red, Bandai?
I want to thank Wallas for allowing me to use his photos and letting me take over on reviewing the Red Frame!
As for what I've done with the remaining kit from the “Exclusive” version, I put that away for a future project…
|Posted 2 January, 2015 - 23:30 by Rob|