[50kUNICORN] HGUC Unicorn Gundam Unit 02 Banshee

I didn't think I'd make it this far! My motivation to work on Gunpla has been pretty weak this year with the Hobby Zaku II and the RX-78-2 Head Display being my only significant work, all in the early months of 2017. Nevetheless, here I am, at the end of ZakuAurelius' 50k Unicorn Contest with something to show! If you have the time, please stay awhile and listen (actually, you're going to need to read it. Maybe I'll read it out sometime).

The year is 2015. Summer comes to a close and my brother is nearing the end of his time at home. We decide to finally break out the massive HGUC dual kit from Gundam Front Tokyo. I'll spare the details here, since you can read (a lot more) about it in the "Special Review" we did. The point is, as I am reviewing the "Strikes Odaiba" Banshee Norn, I had a thought -- can I make the novel version of the Banshee? Ever since I saw GoodGuyDan's 1/48 Banshee Head Ver. Ka Final Battle, I've always wanted to find a way to make this version of the Banshee (without breaking the bank on the actual kit). Since I had a Banshee with a green Psychoframe, I decided to try it out.

Modified "Strikes Odaiba" Banshee Norn
Unfotunately, the Banshee Norn does not include all the parts to make up the novel version -- it would require parts from the Strikes Odaiba FA Unicorn kit in order to complete the look. I reverted the kit back to the Banshee Norn and stopped thinking about it.
A year or so later, I started gaining interest in doing a custom job using a regular production Banshee. After doing some research (on dalong.net, of course), I come to find that the original HGUC Banshee (Destroy Mode) actually includes all the pieces I need to create what I am looking for. If I was too lazy, I could throw a pretty penny at the FA Unicorn for the green Psychoframe, or I could paint the existing gold for the look I wanted. I purchased the HGUC Banshee kit and threw it in the sea of backlogged projects.
That is until August 2017, when ZakuAurelius announced the contest. Rather than trying to think of a new project specifically for the contest, I took this opportunity to just get one of my backlogged projects done.

I am currently in the middle of reading the translated novels on baka-tsuki (it's been a struggle to strain my eyes on a regular screen), but I am not at a point where I have enough knowledge to say anything about the Banshee and how the novel differs from the OVA. However, there are some key differences in the suit design that can be easily pointed out.

Scans from baka-tsuki (link above)
In the novel, the Banshee was simply a second Unicorn Gundam, colored black with a different V-fin. There was no gold collar, no Banshee Norn, no Armed Armor VN, BS, or DE. Simply a Black Unicorn with the Beam Magnum and standard shield.

Scans from baka-tsuki (link above)
The suit is the second Unicorn Gundam unit built along side the original. As it was stationed at the Augusta Research Lab on earth, the Banshee was optimized for atmospheric combat. Without spoiling too much of the story the suit is eventually assigned to Riddhe Marcenas, where, through a series of struggles with Banagher Links, awakens his (true) Newtype powers and turns the Banshee's psycho frame green (okay, that might be a little too simplistic).

Quick Review
Like all Destroy Mode variants, the build feels flimsy with certain parts that come off effortlessly, the ankles feel weak, and the neck joint is loose. Despite these issues, the main attraction is the stunning exposed psychoframe scattered throughout the kit. Unfortunately, the gold psychoframed Banshee is not clear like Unicorn's red and green frames -- this leaves the non-final battle version Banshees not very desirable in my eyes. It's a good thing I prefer the Unicorn Mode over Destroy Mode.
For more detailed opinions about Destroy Mode, please check out the "Strikes Odaiba" review!

"Mid-transformation" posted on Instagram
One aspect of the straight build I was happy to experience was mixing parts between a friend's Unicorn Mode with my Destroy Mode. Through this I was able to compare which parts were compatible, and which were not. A part of me was hoping most, if not all, outer armor pieces were the same -- the only difference would be the psycho frame, expanding the inner frame to "explode" the Unicorn Mode. Unfortunately, that was not the case (if that were the case, this kit would be some engineering genius). At least the joints used were all the same -- I ended up using the gray joints of the Unicorn mode instead of the gold polycaps included in Destroy Mode. That way, the joints would not be as distracting when the psycho frame was painted green.

Contest Build
Because this was a relatively straight forward paint job, with little customization, even in the paint job itself, I disassembled each part and painted pieces according to their color in plastic. The major exception was the gold psycho frame which would eventually be green. Other than the psycho frame, the other major colors were dark blue, gray, and black. Each of these were painted Tamiya's Dark Mica Blue, Tamiya Gunmetal, and Rustoleum Gloss Black (with a coat of Tamiya Clear Pearl) respectively. Both Gloss Black and Dark Mica Blue were sprayed on via spray cans and the Gunmetal was applied using a brush. For the green psycho frame, I attempted to spray Gloss Black, Silver with spray cans and eventually spray clear green with an air brush, but there were two issues: The spray cans leave quite a thick coat which was no good for psycho frame pieces that required a certain clearance for regular armor pieces to attach over. The other issue was the lack of air brush -- I was also unable to borrow a friend's air brush setup, so I ended up hand painting the clear green, leaving an even thicker coat of paint on these pieces.

After weeks of meticulously planning out the painting process, I scapped the plan and painted like I've done in the past.
I ended up ditching the spray silver and gloss black and opted for lightly priming followed by hand painted silver. This gave me more control over how much paint I was putting on these parts, giving me results closer to my desired results. I think I will need to purchase an airbrush soon -- in order to get the results I want, I'm going to need to upgrade my tools.
Once the pieces were painted to a satisfactory level, I re-assembled the parts, painted in certain extra details, applied decals, and moved on. Of all the details I struggled the most on was the gold detailing in the legs. Each leg has eight parts that are supposed to be detailed with gold foil stickers. On the "Strikes Odaiba" Banshee Norn, I painted all gold detailing with clear yellow backed with silver. This time, in order to save time, I used Tamiya's Gold Leaf to paint in these details. All red detailing also use Gold Leaf before the Tamiya Clear Red is added.

I was originally going to use silver for the piping, but I wanted something that would pop more as an accent color.
While the beginning of the build I treated the painting process with care, September (and October) ended up being some of the busiest days -- a majority of the paint job was done in the last two weeks, rushing the process. Fortunately, I was not met with any major muck-ups with the spray cans.

Normally I don't talk much about my photography -- I just shot with a Canon point and shoot with a few lamps and a light box made from cardboard and tracing paper (referencing an online tutorial). More recently, I upgraded to a DSLR (second hand Nikon D3100 with a 35mm f/1.8 prime lens). Shooting with it for a year, I am still learning a lot of the functions, tapping into the full potential this entry level DSLR has to offer.
One of those learning points I only recently came upon recently is shooting in RAW (and editing with Adobe Lightroom). Photos were pretty good while shooting in JPEG (the above photos), but the amount of control in post with RAW is ridiculous! I don't know how I've been able to allow myself to shoot with JPEG for over a year before switching. I'm not sure I could ever go back!

These past eight weeks (in between all the chaos and busy-ness of work and other responsibilities) has been a fun process, fumbling with paint, learning more about photography, and just diving head-first into two of my favorite hobbies. Now that this project is finished, I should probably go back and finish Persona 5 (definitely before Monster Hunter World releases...).

That's it from me. Thanks for reading this far (at least skipping through the pretty pictures). Until next time, may your cuts be clean and sandpaper rough! Best of luck in your next endeavor.

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