A lighter shade of brown

So for my “Zaku Project” that I’m working on I’m building various Zaku kits- with the exception of the Super Deformed Zaku I’m building, they’re 1:144 scale. I’m going for a sort of sampling of the different (OYW) Zakus out there… The variety of different designs and kits, but all of them very much “Zakus” at heart.

Anyway, it was inevitable that there would be a Zaku Kai in this lineup. In 1:144 scale that left me two options: the first is the old kit from 1989, which is somewhat close to the mark but with enough errors to make it look generally bloated and with much of the impact of the original design lost. The second is the HGUC kit released a couple years ago. The HGUC seems to have the opposite problem. Instead of being too chunky, it’s too thin. Instead of everything being flattened out by bloat, it’s just plain flattened out. Typical of Bandai’s cowardly approach to kit design these days. On the other hand, though – what the legs lack in bulk they make up for in style. I decided to see what I could do with the HGUC: whether I could make a few simple tweaks and make the HGUC capture a little more of the spirit of the original design.

So out-of-box, the kit looks kind of like this:

I have my own ideas of how the Zaku kai should look, of course – my efforts were not focused on turning the HGUC into a scaled-down version of my 1:100 version, but rather to try and correct issues that stuck out in the hope that I could end up with something that had the feel of the Zaku Kai – but perhaps its own style. So I tried to focus on the way the shapes flowed. In particular, I wanted to get the skirts a little bit wider, so the slope of the chest block would flow into the skirts. I changed the angle of the backpack and got rid of the weird tapering of the chest block sides, replaced the shoulder armor with one from the 1989 kit, and rearranged the waist cables so they would hook to the backpack instead of the rear skirt and flex when the Zaku pivots at the waist. So I got to about this point:

At this point, I got very frustrated with the project. The skirt mods didn’t have the impact I was after, and vigorous scrubbing has so far failed to wash the ugly away. I’m pretty certain now that I can’t be satisfied with this kit. It’s just too far from what I feel the Zaku Kai should look like. So I’m ditching the HGUC build and building the 1989 one instead.

A few simple mods and Yuji Kitano made this sockmonkey kit look pretty mean. I considered following his formula verbatim – but I decided to use my design plans from the 1:100 build as a guide instead…

I find working with the old kit a lot more enjoyable than dealing with the HGUC. It has its share of problems but at its core I think it’s a lot closer to how I think the Zaku Kai should look. I feel like a lot of Bandai kits are disappointing in the same way the HGUC Zaku Kai is – they start with some beautifully funky design and release a kit version that’s watered-down garbage. I think we should expect better from them.

My previous post about this project was all about the FG Char’s Zaku – I’m trying to wrap up construction on that project now and get it ready for paint. The biggest piece of work left for me at this point is the monoeye. It was important to me to get this model to be more poseable but I didn’t want the modifications to get too complicated… Anyway, I think what I came up with for the hips will work pretty nicely:

Basically, I used a polycap in front of the hips to give the legs a way to swing forward and out of the way of the skirts… Then a Kotobukiya T-polycap for the hip joint itself, and a ball-shape joint on each leg to handle pivot and lateral extension. While I was rejointing things I also replaced the ankle joints I made before – I couldn’t get the old ones out of the feet so I had to steal feet from another FG Zaku kit…. The old joint was just a regular ball joint, it didn’t really do much because there was no clearance for the foot to move around. The new joint is similar to what’s in the MG Zaku F2, or to the various recent HG Zakus (F2, FZ, etc.) – the ankle ball joint is connected to another joint in the middle of the foot – this extra joint allows the ankle joint to swing upward out of the foot, providing more clearance for the foot to move around. Between these two mods, it’s now very easy to get the legs into various useful poses.

Been doing a few other things with the kit lately – I made a better shield for it (from a HG Zaku), I set up leg cables, and I finished mounting the thrusters in the lower legs:

6 Comment(s)

  1. Do you happen to have a scan/translation of the guide for Yuji Kitano’s FZ? I’m thinking I’ll get an NG FZ and either try to replicate Kitano’s version or try to cannibalize it with the HGUC kit.

    attemborough | 2020-02-17 | Reply

  2. I’m afraid not. I don’t really scan my books these days (I damaged some of them rather badly trying to get good scans of them) and, having the books, I haven’t felt a need to track down scans online. Before I had the book, I had seen a few pictures from Kitano’s build before, but not a complete scan.

    As far as translations go, I think most of the build is pretty self-explanatory, as the work includes some good illustrations showing the modifications that were done. (A lot of that info is included in my post already, actually…)

    The book I pictured is “Gundam Weapons 0080” – I think this is actually the first book in Hobby Japan’s “Gundam Weapons” line. (The first four books in the series predate the Master Grade line, so it’s actually kind of an interesting collection of old kit work and some scratch builds from the late 1980s and early 1990s. But I don’t think those first four Gundam Weapons titles have been reissued within the last 10 years.) So you could try to track that down. Alternately, you could buy the issue of Hobby Japan in which the build first appeared. I’m not sure at the moment which issue it was, though, or if I have that one.

    tetsujin | 2020-02-17 | Reply

  3. Dude, i was thinking of getting the zaku FZ NG recently, do you think you can upload more photos about how you made the leg stuff? im srsly looking what i should do to give the legs more movement considering the waist armor doenst move at all and its only 1 piece, so i thougt about giving the leg joints more height, but i dont know what i should use. (i have some polycaps from an tryon 3 and other bootleg figures( dont have any way to get koto parts, so if you can give me a tip without using parts from somewhere else it would be much appreciated)

    Tobe | 2020-05-03 | Reply

  4. If you’re talking about the leg mods on the First Grade Zaku… There’s not really much else to show. The ball-shaped joint at the top of the leg is an aftermarket part – I think it was “Hobby Base Ball-Shape Joint” (that’s literally what it’s called)

    Then the two ball-shape joints are joined together with a Kotobukiya Poly Unit T joint, which plugs into a clear polycap that’s mounted near the front of the skirt. I think the clear polycap was from Hobby Base as well, but really any polycap would work there. Bandai kits used to include a fair number of spare polycaps and you could just hold on to the extras to use for things like this… These days not so much, so you need to buy them aftermarket. Kotobukiya’s “Rolling Joint” is a pretty good one.

    Using those aftermarket parts is pretty convenient sometimes – but if that’s not a possibility for you, the alternative is basically more scratch-building of joint structures. For instance, if you can’t get the “ball-shaped joints” or the Koto T joints, you could use a T-shaped piece of a model kit runner in place of the T-joint polycap, and use spare polycaps and styrene plate to make a hip joint structure in place of the ball-shape joint. (That style of joint is called a “universal joint” – basically three-axis hinges combined to make a joint that can turn to any orientation)

    If you have other questions I can try to help you out. One of the big things with joint mods like these is clearance. If your joint doesn’t have clearance to move around, then it doesn’t matter how many polycaps you add to it, there’ll simply be nowhere for it to go. That’s important in the hip joint mod I did here: the reason there’s that joint at the front of the skirt is that, by extending that joint, the legs swing downward and can clear the skirts. It looks a little strange sometimes but it gets you that mobility. So always think about the best place to put a joint in order to not only get the motion you want, but the clearance you need as well.

    And one final bit of advice: Sometimes joint mods aren’t worth the effort. That is, there’s basically two benefits to a good joint mod: You get a better-looking pose if you can move the model the way you want, and you can change the pose later on. If you’re OK with getting just the first of those two benefits, rather than both – it makes things a lot easier. For instance rather than thinking about how to replace all the polycap joints, you might wind up instead just stringing things together with armature wire, giving you near-total freedom to choose a pose with very little effort.

    Anyway, let me know if you have other questions. Don’t know that I’m necessarily going to have photos to help you along but I’ll take a crack at helping you out.

    tetsujin | 2020-05-03 | Reply

  5. Good news! I just got my hands on a NG FZ kit. It’s my first NG kit so do you have any tips for working with it? I’m planning to paint the kit as well as possibly kitbash it with the HG.

    attemborough | 2020-06-01 | Reply

  6. Hm, you’re talking about the old 1989 kit? I think the pages I provided from Gundam Weapons 0080 are a good starting point. I think some basic bits of work like better power cables and better-detailed monoeye can make a pretty big difference for almost any Zaku kit. I also think replacing the hands is pretty important on most of these kits: the hands on the HGUC and the old 1:144 Zaku FZ are both kind of large, and it sort of throws off the look of the arms. If you can find some smaller hands (preferably ones that are still compatible with the weapons!) I think it can improve the look of the kits quite a lot. I built a HGUC FZ a few years back where I used an old set of B-Club hands that had been made for the First Grade Zaku, I think they were a much better fit aesthetically. I think the size of the hands is a pretty significant issue with the HGUC personally, the arms are properly sleek but the hands are big and doofy which blows the whole look. It’s less of an issue on the 1989 kit since the arms have a little more bulk to them, but that kit still needs better hands, almost all Gundam kits do…

    Current off-the-shelf replacement hands (like Bandai Builders Parts, Kotobukiya hands, etc.) are all too big in my opinion. Unfortunately I don’t know of a good, currently-available option. You might consider sculpting a set of hands yourself… It takes practice but it is doable.

    Other than that – there’s some basic stuff, like the old 1989 kit has all those exposed polycaps and it’s nice to cover them up, and there’s soft detail you can sharpen, and hollow parts you can fill in – I dunno, whole lot of possibilities really.

    tetsujin | 2020-06-02 | Reply

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