7.11.2014

Review: HGTB Zaku I Gundam Thunderbolt Ver.

For full set of stock images, click here!

Preamble
I was somewhat confused by the High Grade Gundam Thunderbolt series of kits. If other kits from manga series such as Advance of Zeta, or Seed Astray exist, then why does Thunderbolt get its own special line of kits despite it being set in the Universal Century? I quickly come to find that the detail in these kits compared to the normal High Grade is much higher, and it is not the manga that separates these kits, but the attention to detail, color separation, and overall complexity of these kits that separate them from the normal HGUC line. Will this series be all that it was hyped up to be, or will it be just another HG kit? All is revealed in the following review of the sixth kit in the High Grade Gundam Thunderbolt line: MS-05 Zaku I Gundam Thunderbolt Ver.

Unbox
In the Thunderbolt Sector, the Zaku I is one of many grunt suits being used by Zeon's Living Dead division. The only pilot with a name is the story's main character of the Zeonic forces, Daryl Lorenz (at this point, what has he not piloted?). Wielding a Big Gun, Daryl faces the Full Armor Gundam at one point in Volume 1, and that is about all I know about this mobile suit.

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt, Vol. 01 Ch. 07
Looking at the box, I am very impressed by the illustration by Yasuo Ohtagaki, one of the artists for the Thunderbolt manga. The change of pace from the rendered CG work to manga-style art creates a distinct look for the Thunderbolt line. I might have to eventually obtain all the Thunderbolt kits just for the box art.

Flipping the lid, I am met with 5 bags with multiple runners in each and the instruction manual. The runners have a large variety of color for a High Grade: Orange, Mustard Yellow, and four different shades of gray. Already I am impressed by this color separation.
There are two small sticker sheets the clear stickers look like a great enhancement, but the sticker sheet for the tiny thrusters and sight lenses look like it would make the kit look pretty cheap. Overall, I will probably avoid using most of the stickers.

Runners
Opening the bags, I find that runners 'A' through 'D' have a second runner that duplicates a section of the first. on top of that, I am given a runner labeled 'E2.' I assume it was 'E2' for a previous Thunderbolt Zaku. The final runner, 'F,' has no duplicate.



The polycap runner, labeled PC-001 looks like many of the modern polycap runners I worked with: Nothing new there.

Parts
Removing the pieces off the runners felt amazing. Maybe it is because I have been recently assembling older kits, or maybe its the new file set I recently obtained. Either way, it felt so much better! Assembly felt pretty normal relative to other High Grade kits, though color separation and part complexity is definitely a step higher.
What I have been enjoying throughout assembling the Zaku I is the sharp edges that accompany the round. Usually, Zeon suits are majorly round with no real sharp edges, other than spikes. With the Thunderbolt series, hard corners and flat surfaces were added. Two sections that really stand out on this motif of hard corners is the torso and the skirt armor.



The little details of rivets and thrusters, on top of the space insulation, are the staple of the Thunderbolt series. The Zaku I is no exception. All over the legs, torso, and backpack are little thruster details which really add to the panel details on the kit. However, in previous kits, this was not a selling point for me: large backpacks filled with tanks, thrusters, weapons, and little arms, really bothered me. The Zaku I meets this nice middle point of detail and simplicity which I have grown fond of.


There seems to be an abundant supply of weapons in the Thunderbolt Sector. Every suit has such a plethora of explosives that Kira's Strike Freedom may have a hard time not killing the pilot. The Zaku I is no exception: it carries with him two types of bazookas, a typical Zeon machine gun, two crackers (grenades),  and a heat hawk. My complaint is that the Zaku I cannot hold all of these weapons easily. Sure each weapon has its own spot, but certain weapons end up pushing other weapons out of the way. With the Heat Hawk and Cracker holsters being already pretty loose, the problems become that much more apparent. Luckily I am not one to over-equip any one suit. So I personally do not run into this problem.



All Together
When put together, the ensemble of colors really pops out over other kits. The mustard yellow and orange over the three different shades of gray really stands out almost like a construction vehicle in robot form. The contrast between hard corners, round edges, and the cloth-like space insulation gives this suit a renewed look over previous Zaku I's. Overall a great looking suit.


Articulation, relative to the 'Old Zaku' is vastly improved. Various joints have been modified to imitate the new style of joints such as the rotating 'pelvis' piece and improved upper foot joints. Still, the torso's articulation is little to none.


Attaching the weapons to the back involves plastic clips. I do not want to keep removing and attaching the weapons in fear that the clips will break. With all the weapons attached, there was only a slight bit of weight problems, though I only had it fall over once. As I mentioned before, the heat hawk and cracker holsters on the side skirts are very loose: the orange pieces that attach to the skirts barely fit and the way the weapons attach to those orange pieces is mediocre at best.


The only stickers I added as of writing this article were the pink sight lenses on the suit and the weapons. The stickers used for the thruster details around the kit do not seem necessary after a little touch up with some Gundam Markers. I was considering putting the caution lines on the skirt armor edges, but in the end I decided against it. It will definitely enhance the kit, but I want to find a way to cleanly paint it on.

In Closing
This kit was a very enjoyable build: nothing was annoying to assemble, with the exception of maybe the twelve thrusters on the back, and the finished product, with little modification, is pure eye candy. The complex-yet-simple look to this kit really makes it one of my personal favorite 1/144 scale kits. I hope you pick this up if you have the chance. I think it would be well worth your money!
In closing, with the thoughts of this post in mind, I give the HGTB Zaku I Gundam Thunderbolt Ver. the Yellow Seal of Approval.




The Future
There is no way I can leave this kit the way it is. It is a great kit out of the box, but I feel like I will not get my full money's worth unless I paint it up. Bringing up the 'construction vehicle in robot form' idea, I was thinking of grabbing the official Caterpillar Yellow paint (used on their construction vehichles and Diesel generators) and painting the mustard yellow with it. I would have to think of what I would paint the grays and orange though.
To continue the construction motif, I would cover the feet with dust, and scratch build a shovel. Maybe if I can get some Caterpillar decals, I could use it on this kit. Nevertheless, this idea would be far in the future. I have no supplies to accomplish this right now.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, comments, critiques, or you just want to tell me how much you hate my guts, leave it in the comments here or on reddit. Until next time, this is Gundariumsmith, bidding you a good day!