The First Zaku

A while back I saw a video on Youtube that really inspired me: it was a slideshow (set to The Village People’s “Macho Man”) of a build-up of the original 1:144 Zaku kit from 1980. The end result was a pretty funky-looking Zaku, and an interesting direction taken with a kit that can be hard to love.
Zaku Plamo PV by avudabi
The build inspired me, and so I decided to do one of my own. I’m not following avudabi’s build exactly, but I’m taking a lot of cues from it.

I think not a lot of Gundam fans appreciate this kit. It was the very first Zaku kit, released in 1980, shortly after the Gundam kits. It’s got kind of an awkward look, in my opinion – the broad, untapered chest right over the “tight miniskirt”, the fat head and kind of cheap-looking spike armor, the massive arms with tiny wrists… It’s got some appeal because of its similarity to the anime look, but I don’t think it pulls it off particularly well. However, one thing that’s pretty unique about the kit is the shape of the lower leg. It’s probably got the least bulky lower leg of any Zaku kit. The legs of almost all Zaku kits from the MSV line onward are massive by comparison. Even the legs of the 1:100 Zaku are a little bit bulkier due to asymmetry. But the 1:144 Zaku has sleek, symmetrical lower legs – fairly skinny (for a Zaku) but also kind of stumpy-looking – a look very typical of the anime. I think it could be fun to do a true straight build of this kit, but at present I’m more interested in tweaking it, trying to improve its look without changing it too much.

Leg Work

Much of my work on the legs follows avudabi’s example. The feet were made a couple millimeter narrower and shorter so they wouldn’t overwhelm the lower legs so much. The upper leg was made a couple millimeters wider (but not thicker, front-to-back, as in avudabi’s build). I want my build to be suitable for animation, so I also added a polycap joint system in the ankles, knees, and hips. The knee joints were parts that I created and recast in resin.

Chest Work

As in avudabi’s build I tapered the chest, to make it narrower at the top. This is often a good effect on older kits: taking the axis of the shoulder pegs off the horizontal axis can be a nice improvement. However, the broad-chested look of the kit is also very typical of the anime, so I had considered possibly keeping it. I may do that on another build… For this one I felt it’d be better to go with the taper. I tried to keep the change fairly minor: I don’t really want it to be too overt of a change.

Head Work

Avudabi’s build took a totally different direction with the head than mine is: in his, the eye visor was made taller in front, like he was giving it a force-perspective effect of looking up at the underside of the top edge of the visor when you’re seeing it straight-on… Or like the Zaku is just really worried. I decided instead to get rid of an aspect of the look of the head that was bothering me. The head on this kit is, discounting the snout, about as wide as it is long. It has a somewhat circular footprint, as opposed to the more egg-shaped footprint of more recent Zaku heads. From the front I feel like the face overwhelms the snout, so I took somewhere between 1-2mm of width out of the head to see the effect. I think it worked out rather well.

I’ve also been working on the skirt armors: with the added width of the legs, and the fact that I want the legs to be able to move, the hips had to be a fair bit wider. The skirts were also widened in avudabi’s build but for more purely aesthetic reasons, I think. Since I’m going for mobility here, I needed to make the skirts movable, which also means I had to add some structural support: in the kit, the skirt armors are the only think that connects the chest to the hips.

One of the frustrating things I’ve experienced working with this kit is breakage. Parts crack, it happens a lot actually. I think the parts are just a bit thin in places or something. I’ve found super glue to be very valuable in dealing with this problem.

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