For a few years, starting with my first purchase of a Master Grade RX-178 MkII at Epcot Center, I was into building plastic models of the gigantic mechanical battlesuits from the various Japanese “Gundam” animated TV series.
I watched a few of the series, and they were fun, but I really enjoyed the models. The models are made by Bandai of Japan (which also brings us Power Rangers…), are incredibly detailed and very fun to build. With the Master Grade line of models, you started by building the suit’s internal “skeleton,” then attached the suit’s armor and weapons to the skeleton.
The models were relatively expensive – I think of the eight or 10 that I bought over the years, the cheapest was about $35, and the most expensive was an enormous red $90 beast called a Sazabi that I, sadly, never even built. I even received a gigantic model of an RX-178MkII during what is now called The Great Pity Christmas of 2001 from Bandai’s Perfect Grade line; that model even had fully-articulated fingers. It was amazing, but as with the Sazabi I sold it before I ever even got a chance to build it.
I haven’t bought a new Gundam model in years — probably since 2001 — but I still pay some attention to the new things Bandai releases in Japan and the add-on kits that are released to give the models new weapons or new armor or both. There are some pretty amazing things out there. I have subscribed to a newsletter from a company in California called HobbyFan for a few years now, and they’ll shoot me an e-mail every couple of weeks with samples of new product they’re receiving.
Today’s update had two Gundam items in it; an add-on kit for a suit called a Gundam Unicorn to convert it into a version called Full Armor, and a weapon addon kit for a suit called a Gundam Astray called a Lohengrin Launcher. Both are prime examples of why I loved building Gundam models.
The Lohengrin Launcher is a perfect “enormous, ridiculous and completely implausible weapon” that exists simply because it looks amazing and the animators can use it as a reason to draw gigantic laser beams and huge explosions.
The Unicorn is the same thing – a seemingly disorganized gigantic pile of cylinders and boxes smashed together and called a “backpack,” covered with thrusters, vents and cannons that would give the Death Star some gun envy. In each hand, double quad-barreled laser guns.
At it’s core, it’s just a silly game of mechanical one-uppery; two laser barrels isn’t enough to really kill the bad guys, so this guy will have 16. And I think it’s incredibly awesome. There’s no basis in reality; no concern for how it might actually work or fly; no thought given to realism whatsoever. Someone is just told, “Here’s a 60-foot-tall robot. Cover it with as much shit as you want. Your only goals is to make it look bad-ass.”
Seeing this kind of stuff makes me miss building the models; I’ve got a couple of unfinished kits in the basement that I still want to give some attention once our renovations down there are complete, and every few months HobbyFan’s newsletter tempts to pick up a new one. Fun stuff.