Ma. K Modeling

Hey, Mac… what’s up with Ma.K?

Trying something new has always been a bit intimidating for me. It’s not that I’m scared of whatever it is that looms before me, but rather that I have so many questions. Will it hurt me? Is it squishy? Or if it is supposed to be squishy, is it not squishy? Has anyone been known to get a horrible disease from it? Does it contain photoetch? Important questions like that come to mind.

I recall when I was about 8 or 9 years old, we’d gone to dinner at my aunt’s house. We gathered around the table, and she set down a plate of… stuff. Some meat, with a very obvious bone in it. And it wasn’t chicken. It was, however, fried. I was not aware at that time of meats that were fried and NOT chicken. My aunt plopped a piece on my plate.

I stared at it. It stared at me. Neither one of us recognized the other. I knew I didn’t want any part of it, and it looked… well, it was  beyond caring. 

I obviously had the look that any kid of that age has when given food they don’t want to eat. My aunt looked at me, and then at my mom. My mom took notice. 

“Jon, eat your dinner.” She said it nice enough, but I knew the woman’s history. She meant it.

Of course, I was counting on the fact that we were at someone else’s house, which might mean some leniency when it came to consuming meats of mysterious origins.

“I don’t want to eat it!”

Mom’s tone changed. My finely tuned ear picked up on it immediately. This was dangerous ground I was treading.

“Jon, you will try some of your dinner.”

I was just about ready to start running across the minefield, stomping as hard as I could. A kid had his limits. Mysterious fried meats were the limit for me. Then something happened.

My uncle intervened. 

“Try it. You may like it.”

How Do You Spell Maschinen Krieger?

In the old days of my modeling life, the “B. G.” days (Before Gundam), I focused entirely on aircraft. Certainly I was aware of other genres, though mostly “traditional” military and automotive models. When I got burned out on aircraft, and built a few Gunpla kits, the fun I had with those led to more genre exploration. Star Wars, Warhammer 40K, and other scifi began appearing on my workbench. Before long, I was “discovering” new things continually, kits and manufacturers I’d never heard of.

Early in that process, I was introduced to a Youtube channel, Paint on Plastic by Lincoln Wright. After watching a few videos, I contacted Linc and got to know him. 

When you get to know Linc, you get to know modern Ma. K, in a sense. He worked in Japan for many, many years, building the studio models seen in print magazines, writing for the franchise, and much else. All the while, he was working alongside the man who started the Ma.K franchise.

Most scale model franchises develop based on a movie, book , or other published storyline. However, the Maschinen Krieger franchise’s history is a bit different. Famed Japanese artist Kow Yokoyama began to develop scratch built models, using existing kit parts and custom pieces, and those efforts resulted in a collaboration with Hiroshi Ichimura and Kunitaka Imai. Their work was published as serialized installments in Hobby Japan magazine from 1982 through 1985. The stories featured Yokoyama’s model designs, particularly armored fighting suits. The setting was on future 29th century Earth, after a cataclysmic nuclear war devastated the planet.

Despite later legal issues regarding the property, and changes in manufacturers for the kits, Maschinen Krieger is still going strong.

I started checking out Linc’s videos on weathering, both Ma. K and others. While I’d immediately taken to Gunpla, I’ll admit that the overall look of the Ma. K kits took a little warming up to. It’s not that I disliked them, by any means. I suppose the best way to describe it is that I didn’t “get” them. While I could certainly appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry that went into their building and finishing, the look just seemed a bit different. 

What began to grab my attention was the scale, oddly enough. Most of the armored fighting suit kits are produced in 1/20th scale. (There are some in 1/35th scale also.) That large sized scale meant that weathering would be quite different. The realities of trying to keep a sense of scale on a 1/48 scale aircraft, or 1/100 scale Gunpla, would be very different at 1/20th scale. That made me take a look with fresh eyes at the kits.

A studio produced model of the Wave 1/20th scale SAFS

Being rather cheap, my criteria for finding a kit was rather simple – it had to look cool, and not cost too much. After scouring the Internet of the online webs, I found one that met both criteria: Wave’s 1/20 SAFS kit.

A bit of reading revealed SAFS stood for “Super Armored Fighting Suit”. The simplicity of the design had a certain appeal to me. An acquaintance even said “it looks like a tadpole”, which, to be fair, it does. 🙂 

Still, I thought it looked cool. 

The kit is molded in black plastic, though there is one polycap type sprue molded in brown. The detail is very sharp, and all of the parts look very good. Parts breakdown is logical enough, and I was quite happy on first examining the contents. My thoughts regarding the scale looked to be valid, as the various panels, recesses, and other greeblies are large enough that a good job of weathering can really be applied, without the need for as much constraint due to scale.

The pilot’s head is included, as that is all that would be visible through the top hatch. The part is very nicely sculpted. The expression on the face gave me a bit of a smile, as he looks as if he just dropped the punchline on a corny joke. Very different from Warhammer, for instance, where everyone is angry and yelling.

The design is simple: a “tadpole” shaped upper body, two arms, two legs, and an engine type pack affixed to the back. One arm terminates in a hand, the other in a laser. While I do love a Gunpla with loads of accessories, I find the stark simplicity of this kit appealing.

A nice decal sheet is provided, with five markings options from the Ma. K lore provided. The printing on the sheet looks very good. If I had to equate them to something I’m more familiar with, they have a look and feel very similar to Tamiya decals. Not quite Cartograph, but still very good quality, and should work nicely.

The marking options are detailed, with five very cool patterns to pick from. Various stencils are also provided, to give the model the feel of a real piece of military equipment. Everything is in Japanese, of course. While I don’t mind using my phone’s Translate app to get a sense of what is being conveyed, it would be a bit cool to see it translated to more languages. The diagrams in the instructions are very plain and clear, so construction should not present a problem.

What is very appealing about this kit to me is the fact that coming up with your own “canon” seems like it would be quite fun. Certainly I could stick to a more traditional canon look, but I also have seen that it is quite acceptable to “go your own” way. My plan right now is to stick to a more traditional look in terms of colors, but I do want to strike off a bit on my own for the markings.

So What About The Mystery Meat?

I really respected my uncle. He was a Navy vet, and I was sure he was certainly heroic. He poured some gravy over his mystery meat, cut a piece off, and took a bite. He seemed to be enjoying it, and his health was not, at least visibly, suffering any harm.

“What is it?”, I asked.

“Son, that’s fried pork chops.”

Not wanting to be seen a coward in a Navy hero’s eyes, I poured some gravy over my mysterious “pork chop”, cut a small slice, and bit into it.

I immediately looked at my mom. How had she not made these for me before? Why had I been so deprived? More importantly, why had I only been given one?

I dug into it, cutting off more. This was wonderful! The meat was tender, the coating crispy, the gravy creamy and with a bit of pepper to it. It was as if my whole life had changed! 

I quickly devoured that fried pork chop, and asked for another. My aunt gladly dished out another, and a big ladle full of the gravy. I gave up on manners, and just picked it up with my hands and gnawed away, not wanting to leave any meat on the bone. Everyone at the table began laughing. Not me though… I was busy. I had a lifetime – short as it had been so far – to make up for missing out on fried pork chops.

Nine pork chops later, I stopped. Not because I was full. No, not at all, because I had NOT had enough. I stopped because my aunt had run out of pork chops.

This Maschinen Krieger certainly has a bit of a “pork chop” feel to it. Though I was a bit uncertain about it at first, as I’ve explored what is available, and read into the lore, it has taken on a certain appeal. Of course, I still have yet to build, paint, and weather the model… but I have every expectation that it will be fun. I’m quite excited to get get started.

Quite a few of my aircraft friends have watched me jump into Gunpla, and other genres, that were very much not something I would have been building even just a year ago. A few have questioned my sanity. (Though it may be for non-modeling reasons, to be fair… 😉 )

If I could encourage anything, it would be don’t miss out on the lessons exploration can bring. I’ve been challenged in many areas – new weathering ideas, products, techniques, and assembly methods, have all come along as I’ve branched out. And I think the overall net effect has been to make me a better modeler. Still learning – always learning – but seeing growth too. And that process is encouraging for me.

And I’m having fun. That is the main thing. Have fun.

If the “toy-like” stylings of the Gundam world don’t grab your attention, give a look at the Maschinen Krieger kits. They have a grittiness, a more real world military look, than other “robot suit” genres. Check out the builds online of these kits, and you’ll see a rich diversity of design and finish. 

And like the pork chops I was introduced to many years ago, you may find you want to have more than one. 

Just don’t get too much gravy on it. The Ma. K, I mean. Load up the pork chop. 😉

5 comments

    1. Hey Robert! Google has an app called “Translate” (clever enough, eh? 😉 ). It has a mode that lets you point your camera at some text, and it shows the translation. It’s quite cool. It’s not always perfect, but it lets you get enough context to figure out instructions. There are others, but as I’m an Android user, Google’s app as easy enough to install.

      HTH!

  1. Thanks Jon – great article! LOL re the pork chops.
    I have noticed Ma.K kits increasing in popularity here over the last few months. I really like the grungy 80’s alternate WW2 cross Anime type universe and the styling of the various kits. In my mind more interesting than most other sci-fi franchises.
    I have been looking at getting the Falke anti-gravity raider and perhaps a couple of smaller mechanic figures and maybe a SAFS suit/pilot for a diorama. The only setback is the price! Here, even the smaller suits are around $80-$90AU and the 1/20 scale tanks etc anywhere between $120-$230. Do you buy your stuff locally from the bricks and mortar, or order direct from Japan (Hobbylink?) It would appear that items can be obtained cheaper, even when including taxes and postage from Japan.
    Keep up the great work brother.

    1. Thanks Tom – glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

      Basically, I get them where I can find what I’m looking for at the cheapest price. Local shops, Ebay, Amazon, HLJ, or anywhere else – lowest price + shipping (and of course a general feel of reliability) wins the day.

      HLJ does have lower prices, generally, even with shipping, but now and again Amazon will have some low prices here.

      I’m hoping growing interest around the world, and the resulting increased demand, will encourage more of the kits to be released – and lower prices.

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