Gundam In Progress Mecha

Bandai’s Full Frame Mechanics 1/100 Gundam Bael: The Calm Before The Grime

It’s only been a few years – 2017 to be exact – that I’ve pivoted to focusing on scifi. Bandai’s Gunpla caught my eye, then their Star Wars kits. Warhammer was added to the mix, and then Maschinen Krieger, and before long, I was fully immersed in scifi, the past decade of aircraft building quickly receding to background projects.

Early on I was fascinated with the whole Mobile Suit Gundam (MSG) universe. Having known almost nothing about it previously, I started watching the various anime series that were available online. A few took me a while to figure out. Others were a bit easier to get into.

The one that grabbed my attention early on was a series called Iron Blooded Orphans (IBO). The MSG universe has various “timelines”… essentially story arcs with a common history. Thus, one series may take place in one “reality”, while another takes place in some other place in time in a different “universe”. (All are based in our solar system though.)

IBO takes place on Mars and Earth, and is about a distant future where Mars has been colonized, and orphans are used for labor and military tasks on the red planet. As with all of the MSG franchise, the characters are basically angsty teens, fighting against a war and evil and hate, but somehow always betting caught up in it. It’s a bit convoluted if you’re new to the genre, but after while the “rhythm” of how they all progress starts making sense.

All About The Design

While I really liked the overall animation of the series, and the storyline too, I must admit that the various mobile suit designs didn’t do much for me. Unlike most of the other designs in the MSG series, the IBO aesthetic seemed a bit harsh to me. The suits seemed more skeletal like, with a sinister look.

Almost all featured a very “high-heeled” look to the foot, as if they were a 70s glam band. Whereas the Gundam franchise title suit, the RX-78-2 Gundam, had a noble, almost samurai look to it, IBO Gundam seemed more like the kids who hung out behind the school between classes so the teacher didn’t catch them smoking. They displayed a “slouch” to them that mimicked the teen orphans of the series itself. (Which I guess was by design.)

Still, the more I watched it, the more I began to warm up to the aesthetic of the designs. Of course, this lead to me building a couple of the models. I very much enjoyed both the 1/100 Gundam Barbatos and Schwalbe Graze.

It’s The Kit

What hooked me on the 1/100 IBO kits ultimately was not the design of the mobile suits themselves. In any other MSG series, I will see a design that just screams “build me”. For example, I have a great fondness for GM grunt suits, and any of their derivatives. The look really grabs me. Even if the kit is only so-so, the final outcomes really pleases my eye.

But with the IBO kits, I fell in love with the model kits. While most Master Grade designs in this scale feature a full inner frame, they are often very complicated to get together. The detail cast into them can be hit or miss. Some, like the Sniper II, are full of greeblies to paint and detail. Others, such as the Jegan, are a bit plain in my view.

The 1/100 scale IBO kits have a full internal frame, like a Master Grade kit. Yet the parts count and overall feel is much like their RE/100 line. Many of the series suits use the same basic internal frame, too. They are packed full of detail – hoses, pipes, pistons, and all manner of lumpiness abound. And the outer armor arrangement is generally such that quite a bit of this detail can actually be seen.

So while the designs really wouldn’t make my “Top 10” in terms of looks, the kits themselves are at the top of my list of favorite Gunpla, simply because I believe they get so much right when it comes to build satisfaction.

Painting The Bael

Part 2 of a Patreon Exclusive Video Series for the 1/100 Bael covers in detail all the steps of painting, panel lining, and seam filling. Please consider supporting my work today! Thanks! 

When I’d painted the inner frame for this Gundam Bael kit, it had been with a very deliberate notion in mind. I wanted all of the color that went into the frame to be visible, a dark yet colorful contrast to the great swathes of white outer armor. With a goal of being fairly close to canon for the project, an element of color would add to the visual interest not present on the exterior.

To help carry the “dark inside” idea further, I started by painting all of the interior areas of the armor pieces in a dark gray color, opting for Mr. Color’s Gundam Color Zeon MS Gray. It’s very similar to to Tamiya’s XF-63 German Gray, being somewhere about halfway between neutral gray and black.

By using that color, it ticked the boxes of allowing greater contrast with the outer frame, and seeming to be a more organic part of the inner frame pieces.

Two Colors…. Mostly

The bulk of the Bael is white on the outside. Again choosing a Gundam Color paint, MS White was used. It’s a wonderful color for just about any scifi project. While it generally “reads” white alongside other colors, it’s actually just a touch toward the cool gray side. This will allow for pure white highlights to be added, which I think actually sells a bright white better than if it had simply been painted that color all over. 

Using the Mr. Color paints also has other benefits. First, No primer coat is needed, as they adhere better than the acrylic primers I normally use. They go one very smooth – so much so that it is hard to detect if a part has been painted or not. And they are far more durable. While any paint can be scraped off, I’ve been impressed with how well lacquers hold up under the handling of a build, where sometimes acrylics give way.

The blue parts were treated to Gundam Color MS Blue. It’s just a bit darker than the canon color the kit is molded in. However, I am a fan of “out of the bottle” use where possible, as this makes later touchups quite easy. The few red and yellow elements were also Gundam color, with MS Yellow and MS Red put to use.

That Color Separation… And The Seams

One of the best features of this kit is the splendid color separation. The Gallerhorn logo on the left shoulder armor, and the red/yellow/white/blue elements on the outside of each section of shoulder armor are great examples. Bandai really packed it into this one, which made painting and assembly even easier.

Seams are always a bit of a pain to deal with. Some parts can be assembled and sanded before attaching to a Gunpla. But often the seams are in areas that require other parts to be added before the seam can be treated. While this is not a big problem – some masking gymnastics usually resolves it – it can be a pain. In this regard, Bandai did a pretty good job on the Bael.

While there are a few seams, the primary ones – along the top of the shoulder armor – can be addressed easily after assembly. I simply converted the smaller sections on the far ends of the seam panel lines, and then sanded and filled the section that tuns through the shoulder. A quick mask job and paint application had everything sorted out.

Pulling It all Together

As with virtually all Gunpla kits, assembly was easy. The IBO kits are nice because 95% of the armor is basically “tacked on” to the internal frame, with only the feet requiring some integration with the frame and armor post-painting. I wish all Gunpla were like this two be honest. It’s nice because it almost feels as if you get two kits in one.

Painting the inner parts of the armor gray worked out quite nice in my estimation. It did exactly what I’d hoped. The outer armor “shines” quite brightly, and a stark contrast is created with the inner armor. Additionally, all of the brightly colored bits stand out from within the darker interior areas, giving nice “pops” of color around the entire design, adding interest to what would otherwise be a fairly plain scheme.

Take A Good Look

Of course, this isn’t the end of the build. The weathering is still to come. In the Iron Blooded Orphans story, the Bael didn’t get weathered in a dusty, dirty, chipped and beat up way. However, all that white armor just begs for some abuse. So the final finish will be a bit non-canon. Thus, these photos may be thought of as the “before” look. 🙂

I can highly recommend the 1/100 scale Iron Blooded Orphans kits.  Even if they are not your favorite form, the quality of the models’ design and engineering make them really shine. And they are quite often some of the least expensive kits in the scale.

Give one a try – the bottomline is they are immensely fun!

2 comments

  1. So lots of red dust to come?

    That’s actually quite a nice looking kit – nicely styled. You’ve done a very nice job of it, very crisp.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *