Fixing the HGUC Zaku

When the HGUC Zaku was first released, I was thrilled at the prospect of a new kit which would return the Zaku to its roots… abandoning the rigid definition and boxy shapes of the MG Zaku and adopting a look more in line with the original Zaku. However, over time, I became frustrated with the kit. I started to see it as a very dull rendition of the Zaku. Of the three I initially bought, one was built, one was used for experimentation and ultimately scrapped, and the third was sold off. I swore I’d never buy the kit again.

However, things change. In this case, I developed an interest in old MSV kits. MSV was a great line of kits, very classic stuff and closely tied to the original series, but just new enough to be significantly better than the original series of kits. Basically, though, they’re “fixer-uppers”. When contemplating how to deal with several different MSV Zaku kits with wildly divergent sculpts for common parts like the head or arms, that’s when the first revelation came to me: the HGUC Zaku actually does have some parts that are quite nice, particularly the arms – and there’s not another kit that provides that.

The other revelation came from looking at builds of various old kits, and planning out such builds myself.  If tearing up a 1:144 Zaku kit from 1980 to change proportions, angles, and rejoint the thing is a viable path to a good-looking model, why shouldn’t the same be true of the structurally simple HGUC? So despite my earlier decision to never get another HGUC Zaku…  I got another HGUC Zaku, with the aim of trying to make it look nicer.

The worst area, to me, is the lower leg. It strikes me as too long, too featureless. Its combination of bulk, length, and lack of distinct curvature makes it look bloated and ill-defined.

Working with the MSV Mine Layer Zaku kit, however, was a bit of an eye-opener. That kit was released in 1982, but at the time it was an all-new tooling of the Zaku: it didn’t reuse any parts from the 1:144 Zaku released in 1980. It actually had a totally different look from the original Zaku kit: boxier, bulkier, much more well-defined and more nicely proportioned. I feel that it’s the first really good-looking Zaku kit. It also seemed to me that it was similar enough to the HGUC that the HGUC could probably be turned into something similar. (Another option would have been a kitbash, between the HGUC and the Minelayer: but it seemed like a shame to scrap a Minelayer just to give decent legs to a HGUC…) Specifically, it looked like something as simple as shortening the lower legs might provide a nice improvement to the appearance of bulk and curvature.

Using photos of the HGUC Zaku and a photo editor, I tried experiments to see how the alteration would look. It seemed promising, the main challenge was figuring out exactly where the material should be cut out of the leg, in order to make the process of smoothing out the new surface as simple and error-free as possible. I did one test using a leg from my scrapped HGUC Zaku, and then finally tried it out for real on my newly-purchased HGUC.

I’d call that a success. It’s not a more or less “accurate” Zaku than it was before, but it looks better. I don’t know if I’d buy more HGUC Zakus and do the modification again, though: it may simply be too much work…

For comparison, here are the different 1:144 Zakus I’ve been working with lately:

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