Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Gunpla Build Review: Master Grade RX-79 (G) Gundam Ground

It’s been nine months since my first Gunpla review. Since then, I’ve only had time to build one more model and it’s of the same Gundam suit. This time though, I built a Master Grade version of the RX-79 (G) Gundam. Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of The 08th MS Team series and it just seemed natural to me to seek out the main Gundam from that series to build as my first Gunpla kit. Why then would I buy a kit for the same Gundam as my second build? The answer is simple enough. I’m extremely new to Gunpla building and I wanted to build a kid that would help me differentiate between High Grade and Master Grade kits. It seemed to me like the best way of doing that was to build the same Gundam in both grades.

Even though I had recently built an RX-79, I got quite a bit of enjoyment out of the Master Grade version. I simply like this mobile suit, so building it is a treat on its own, but the real delight came in comparing the High Grade kit to the Master Grade. Best of all, I found the Master Grade to be superior in all areas which led to this build being more enjoyable than my first one. Part of that definitively has to do with me being familiar with the building process and knowing the basics. That helped me a lot this time around. 

The differences between Master Grade and High Grade were quickly apparent. It starts with the box. The box of the Master Great is twice the size of the box for the High Grade kit I built previously. Even crazier, the High Grade kit contained two models inside! The Master Grade model requires almost four times the runners of one High Grade kit. The different in size of the kit has to do with the number of pieces involved in each build. It’s stunning, really. The additionally pieces have a big influence on the quality of both scales of models. The most obvious differentiation based on number of pieces has to do with the amount of detail in the Master Grade, which is far superior to the High Grade kits. The Master Grade kits are also larger in size. Yet another difference between the two types of models has to do with the internal structure of the model. The High Grade was more or less hollow, the armour pieces connecting together to make the whole of the model. The Master Grade kit however, has an internal structure (called a frame) and the armour pieces connect to it to form the outer shell of the Gundam.

Yup, good articulation here.
The frame provides a few advantages. The Gundam is sturdier once the build is complete. Some parts of the frame didn’t simply click together like most pieces, they had to be screwed together. It adds a bit of weight and structure to the model that I found a bit lacking in the High Grades. The internal structure also allows for better articulation because of the way the armour pieces fit together on top. The armour pieces do not need to work as hard as they do on the High Grade. They’re not the only thing keeping the Gundam model together and so they do not have to work as hard. They can focus on being smaller and more detailed rather than being larger and more rigid pieces with the goal of supporting the Gundam’s frame. This added strength and flexibility made my Master Grade easier and more fun to pose than the High Grade RX-79 Gundam I built before.

Some of the additional details in the model include more movable parts. Overall, the joints are more efficient in the Master Grade. Some small parts, such as the cockpit hatch or fingers on the hand can also move. There is more panel lining details on the Gundam which make it look more realistic. Another difference between both types of kits has to do with the decorative stickers. The High Grade kit had stickers you would peel off and stick onto the kit. It’s very simple but the stickers have a glossy finish to them that clashes with the less reflective plastic pieces. The Master Grade had dry decals which need to be cut off the sheet, placed on the model, and rubbed on. It’s more challenging to do than applying the stickers. One of the challenges is keeping the decal in place while you rub it (a piece of clear tape helps with this). I made sure to look up a few tutorials online to make sure I did it right. A lot of people recommended using a coin to rub on the decal but that didn’t work for me. The best thing I’ve found so far is using my nail. It’s more work, but the result is worth the trouble because the decal isn’t reflective like the stickers are so it blends in with the plastic pieces, again, adding to the realism of the model. For some odd reason, the Master Grade still came with stickers in it instead of having just decals. I don’t know why.

(Edit: I figure out why. The stickers allow for a finer level of detail in the graphics they add to your model. Fine detail, like writing, works best as a sticker. I noticed this when applying dry rub decal that was a larger script than what is shown in the picture below, which is a sticker. I failed to add the dry rub script on the my model. It was a real challenge.)

I had to use the flash to show the difference between a dry decal
and a sticker. Can you tell which is which?

The differences between Master Grade and High Grade can be summed up with the goal of being more realistic and more accurate in the reproduction of the Gundam model being built. This is noticeable even in the colour of the pieces and the colours of the actual Gundam. When building the High Grade kit I noticed that some pieces on the torso, which are actually coloured yellow, red, or grey in the anime, were all blue to match the dominant colour of the torso. The Master Grade had those differently coloured parts as separate pieces to be added to the torso piece. It was impossible to have those pieces a different colour with the High Grade because of the size of the kit. Those pieces would have been too small to assemble or too small to produce using the injected plastic mold technique. It was feasible with the Master Grade due to the larger scale of the model and even then the pieces were very small (I even cut myself trimming the gate off one of the pieces).

As I mentioned briefly above, I had more fun posing my Maser Grade Gundam than I had with the High Grade. I think the main reason for that is that the articulation and the extras that came with the Master Grade offered more possibilities than those of the High Grade. More options are provided thanks to the design of the kit and the result is more possibilities for goofing around, making serious poses, and showing off my terrible photography skills. I actually have to apologize for that because some of these pictures look rather atrocious. They’d be significantly improved if I used proper lighting and my wife’s fancy camera as opposed to the camera on my phone. Still, I had a blast taking these pictures.

One of the nice surprised about this kit was that ability to disassemble the beam cannon and store it in the Gundam’s backpack. It affects the balance of the Gundam a little bit because of the extra weight on the back but it’s not a big difference. You can still get some pretty good poses. Besides, if you’re having any issues with it you can simply empty the backpack and pretend like it’s still in there. I won’t tell.

I really loved this about the kit. It's so practical.

Not everything is great about the Master Grade RX-79 Gundam. It’s got its share of problems. The most irritating to me is that the hands simply pop off. Almost every time I moved the kit into a pose (every single time it held a gun) the hand would simply fall off. Considering this model is made of plastic, I assume wear and tear will eventually make the hands useless as they start to fall off over time, but this is far too soon for that kind of scenario. It’s a real bummer. This could be a design issue or it could be a defect exclusive to my kit. Maybe I’m at fault and I trimmed too much plastic while taking it off the runner. I’ll have to be more careful with the next model.

It doesn’t end there. The hands also have a difficult time holding the guns. They kind of fell limp when I tried and put a gun in the Gundam’s hand. The beam sabers are fine, they’re light enough and the handle provides a good grip for the hand. The guns are just too heavy. You’ll notice that I liked posing with the cannon. Its larger size required the use of both hands or the use of a stand in order for the Gundam to use it properly. This gave the model some support while holding the weapon and it was more stable. The smaller guns simply looked terrible when held in one hand. I think the movement of the fingers, while a neat little gimmick, didn’t provide enough stability and strength to support the smaller beam rifles when used with a single hand.

Another problem I had with this kit was purely design related. The shield of the Master Grade is very similar to that of the High Grade model. The way the shield attaches to the arm sucks. It’s absolutely useless. It’s so touchy that it’s very difficult to secure the shield to the arm with any real confidence that it will stay on long. It too, like the hands, is prone to falling off. I was already disappointed with the shield on the High Grade and I was really hoping the Master Grade would fix the issue. It wasn’t the case and, like the small guns, I didn’t use it too much while posing the Gundam and when I did, it required a soft touch and a lot of patience.

The beam saber's handle is stored in the leg compartment.
It's just like in the anime. Very cool.

So casual. The pilot must be on break.

I like that I built the same model in two different scales. It allowed me to really compare between High Grade and Master Grade kits more effectively than if I had built two different Gundam models. Not only would it have been difficult to see the additional details of the Master Grade if it was different Gundam, but it would also have been difficult to truly appreciate the difference in scaling. Different Gundams from different series have different sizes. The Gundams from the Universal Century timeline and those of say, Gundam Wing, are different heights. Comparing two different models, one in HG and the other in MG at different ratios such as 1/100 and 1/144 won’t give you the same appreciation for the different sizes when compared to the same model in both scales.

My next step in Gunpla building will be to tackle another Master Grade kit. The problem is figuring out which one to build. This is a huge problem! There are way too many kits to choose from. Even if I limit myself to series I’ve already watched. Somehow that doesn’t narrow it down enough. I’m not sure of the exact age of the two kits I’ve built but I know they are older kits. I’m really looking forward to building a new kit and seeing the difference in design. I regularly read a couple of Gunpla blogs and some of the designs I’ve seen are rather interesting compared to the more basic kits I’ve built.

Let me know in the comments if you have any kit recommendations. I’d love to have some feedback so that I can choose a good kit to build next. I’ve also started to experiment with panel lining so look for that post in the future.

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