Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kit Insight: HGGT 1/144 FA-78 Full Armor Gundam [Thunderbolt Ver.] (Straight Build)

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the very first Kit Insight of Gunplanerd!

Before we dive into the Insight proper, it is best if we establish some parameters and format to make the most out of the review piece. 

Generally, I will go over four main elements of the kit:
  • Construction: the ease of building, how great or tedious the building process it
  • Detail: the level of intrinsic detail before the modeler's touch
  • Articulation: how well the kit can pose and how well it can hold that pose
  • Extras: what gimmicks/extra weapons/parts are provided with the kit
I will also add in details of my own modifications and enhancements to the kit, if any, as well as tell you how I achieved the desired effect using which tools and which methods.

So without further ado, let me introduce the inaugural model kit review right now:

You can never have too many weapons.



Overview


The FA-78 is a really solid kit. 

It's stocky, sturdy and comes in a tactical colour scheme, more militarily-realistic and practical than its famous primary-coloured predecessor. This kit holds the distinction of being one of the few units that I consider completed, with all enhancements and modifications finished.

In the side story that is Gundam Thunderbolt, the FA-78 sees action in a shoal zone of destroyed battleships and colonies, causing lightning to jump between debris, hence the name thunderbolt. In accordance to this setting, all mobile suits stemming from this series feature enhancements and modifications to existing One Year War designs in order to adapt to and circumvent the harsh environment of the Thunderbolt Sector. The most obvious upgrade is the addition of many, many thrusters and verniers to navigate the debris-ridden theater of operations. Another ostensible addition is the protective, rubber-like layer covering all the exposed joints of the Thunderbolt mobile suits. In the original series and its successors, most mobile suits don't really armor their joints, or even cover them up for that matter. The HGGT kit delivers this through joints molded in the rubbery protective covering, a leg up over standard HGUC mobile suit joints.

Construction


Make no mistake: the FA-78 is not an easy kit. It comes with a voluminous amount of parts, with a plate count of around 10 if I recall correctly. As with most modern HGUC kits, the parts are gated with minimum contact to the sprues, ensuring clean cuts with minimal sanding (I didn't sand) required. I found myself enjoying the building process, with the wealth of thruster units adding a whole depth of realism to the construction. 

The FA-78's head is also the first Gundam-type head I have ever detailed. Seriously, I was impressed with how well I managed to pull it off, considering that it was my first time doing it and was done completely on impulse. Using a Gundam Panel Marker, I filled in the lines on the mouthplate, the "vents" by the side of the head and also dotted the vulcan barrels. Going forward, all Gundam-type heads will undergo the same treatment.

In addition, I also added blacks to the parts which needed to be blacked (might as well since I was doing the head). These include the white areas flanking the neck, the thighs, the thrusters at its soles and parts on the front and back skirt armors. These little touches really went a long way in beautifying the kit, even if they are basic and simple to do.

Detail


I guess as technology gets better, so will the quality of model kits. The FA-78 has innate details that can rival older MGs. Plenty of lines and markings crisscross the armor of the FA-78, its backpack and weapons also contain plenty of potential for heavy modification.

To bring out even more detail, the FA-78 comes armed with a foil sticker sheet with MANY stickers as well as a RG-style realistic decal sheet. I think its a good move for Bandai to provide these in HG kits, as these tiny-ass decals serve to highlight the more grounded, more realistic look and feel of the Thunderbolt Sector. As for the stickers, well, they are just to give blacks to reds and vice-versa. If you have the time and expertise to paint them, do so, otherwise the stickers will serve you just fine.

Articulation


Now, the FA-78 and all its Thunderbolt Sector brethren come with stands to better suit their spacefaring operational back story. Without the stand (standard HG peg), the FA-78 tends to fall on its back due to its huge backpack. Even so, when posed properly, the FA-78 will be able to stand on its own, although posing will be severely limited. 

The two shields held on the back pack manipulators have a very limited degree of articulation. Don't be fooled by the segmented look, it really is just one piece. Nonetheless, the manipulators will hold those shields in your preferred positions, but do push them in every once in a while to make sure the polycap is in contact with the base end of the manipulator.

Main body-wise, the FA-78 has admirable poseability for a HG, much better than the HG RX-78-2. It can do the Aile Strike's classic pose, to the Last Shooting scene with little difficulty, but the backpack has to be off for it to execute the more dynamic poses.

Extras


How many kits out there contain so many extra goodies? 

The FA-78 comes armed with four shields, a backpack-mounted mega beam cannon, a backpack-mounted multi-missile launcher, a double beam rifle, missile pods and beam sabers, which are longer than usual HGUC beam sabers. It also contains two pistol-grips for both its handheld weapons, although they are not required for the armaments to be wielded. 

The kit also provides two trigger hands, a bonus for any kit, as well as the standard saber hands. Sadly, no closed fists are provided, but the polycaps can accept hands from other kits. 

I replaced the left saber hand with a "stabbing hand" designed for the HG 1/144 Astray Red Frame (Flight Unit) contained in the HG 1/144 Caletvwich set from a hobby magazine, in order to replicate the cover art from the first issue of the manga series. The hand fits like a glove (pun intended), and the FA-78's beam saber sits snugly in the palm.

Conclusion


Although this kit is a little pricier than other contemporaries, I feel it's a great kit that really showcases what HG-scale kits can bring to the table. Many hobbyists are now RG purists, with good reason as RG kits combine the very best of Bandai model kit technology across all Grades into one complete package. With the improvement of HG molding technology, HG kits still have a place in the universal scale of things, for their simplicity, affordability and the wide variety of mobile suits available.

So if you want a kit that can't be put together in a couple of hours, get the FA-78.

Happy building!