Strike Noir Gundam
Review by Gunpla Rob
Building a Better Mobile Suit, one series at a time.
In Gundam SEED, there was one mobile suit that got things going. No I don’t mean Freedom, I mean the Strike. Like the RX-78-2, the original Gundam, the GAT-X105 Strike Gundam reset the bar for standardized mobile suits, with optional weapon packs, a sleek exterior, the introduction of Phase Shift Armor, and for laughs I’m sure it had a cup holder in the cockpit. While the RX-78 brought us the friendly Federation cannon fodder GM (Gundam Mass produced), the Strike gave birth to a generation of not so friendly forces.
When it comes to mobile suit warfare, whoever has the best wins, or rather when not going against the main characters, in which case they win. In the long run, ZAFT had the mobile suit technology, and with enhanced physical and mental capacities of the Coordinators (biologically ‘superior’ humans) were able to operate them to their fullest potential. Along with the technology came the variety of suits: ranging from the mass produced Ginns, leader type Cigues, aquatic Goohns, aerial assault type Dinns and the quadruped, animal like Bacues for terrestrial warfare. The Alliance, on the other hand, whose armed forces comprised of Naturals (normal, unaltered humans) developed Mobile Armors, enhanced armored crafts like their Mistrals and Moebius class. While ZAFT built for elegance and strength, the Earth Alliance built for shear numbers and firepower with the development of the GAT series, starting with the mobile suits Duel, Buster, Aegis, Blitz and Strike.
My Gun’s better than Your Gun…
. When ZAFT stole them and developed their new dominating machines, the Freedom, Justice, and Providence, the Alliance built their own new models, the Raider, Calamity and Forbidden. However these were your out of standardized machines. While the limited series machines were impressive in battle, not everyone had a mobile suit. With the GAT-X105 Strike as the base model, the Alliance later developed their own mass production MS series, the Daggers. Unlike ZAFT mobile suits, the Daggers were not built for looks; no trim work, no fancy crown, not even a cup holder, however in the tradition of the Strike were capable of using a wide series weapon packs for any given situation.
Going into SEED Destiny, ZAFT extended their mobile suit arsenal with the ZAKU Warrior (a new incarnation of the classic MS-06 Zaku from the Universal Century) and the GOUF-Ignited (again, based on the UC classic MS-07 Gouf), and an array of new Gundam types; the Chaos, Gaia, Abyss, Impulse, Destiny, and Legend. The Alliance seemed pretty fit with the Dagger however a new variety of weapon packs would emerge like the Doppelhorn double barreled cannon. As response to ZAFT’s new artillery, the Alliance rolled out the Windam, a more dynamic looking but equally powerful machine that was a vast improvement on the Dagger concept.
…but what about Strike Gundam?
In the final episodes of Gundam SEED, the Strike Gundam was destroyed in a blaze of glory. Also casualties of the final episodes were GAT series Buster and Duel, although reparably damaged, they were finished. Sadly because going into Destiny, neither the Duel nor the Buster made a come back and the only Strike Gundam to be seen was the ‘Rouge’, personal machine of Cagali Atha. As a fan-pop, the original Strike did make a three minute cameo when the Rouge was commandeered by Kira Yamato so he could claim the Strike Freedom. Hence, the fate of the Strike was then left to the MSV department, being the basis for future ideas and concepts.
“Starlight, Star bright. First Stargazer MS Tonight”
With the SEED Destiny television series over, a new chapter of Side-Stories for the Cosmic Era would reintroduce the Strike. In the new micro-series, Gundam SEED CE-73 Stargazer, new incarnations of the Strike, Duel, and Buster have emerged. In this review, I look at the first, the GAT-X105E Strike Noir Gundam.
“A Black Gundam?!?” “Why not!? It worked in Blazing Saddles…”
The term noir is defined as the prototypical attitude, a shadow of mystery and the color black. That translates perfectly for this design and model. The Strike Noir comes as the first model of the new SEED serial. From their work in the SEED MSV line, it’s good to see that this machine comes in a high grade form rather than the static low grade form or an action figure assortment.
While called the Strike, this kit shares very little in common with its namesake. The torso is visually identical, shoulders have some common looks and the head’s shape is almost close. Considering this is a much darker, more advanced version of the classic machine, I’m not surprised how different this kit is. Also noted, is that while it is a new Strike, it does not recycle any parts of the original Strike HG kit.
Out of the box, the part come molded in their basic colors, black, yellow, red, gray, light gray, and dark gray. The yellow parts are almost a bright orange, nearly neon, so for sake of creativity, I painted gold (over a base coat of Yellow Zinc Chromate). There are several parts that come molded in one piece but need more than three tones, such as the shoulders front skirt, v-crest, and the face. The crest needs to be gray, yellow, and black but comes molded in the yellow plastic. An example of paint needs would include the shoulders: molded in black and needing to be red, dark gray, and yellow.
Moving onto the assembly; assembly for the head is the standard for SEED HG 1/144 kits, you have six parts; the crest, crest lock, face, chin, and helmet front and helmet back. As stated, the face needs paint and so does the crest. The face has a very deep cut to it, making the details much sharper and almost easier to paint. I explained to some friends wanting some help, that it’s smarter to work from the nose up. With the red paint done first, you can come back in and black out the eye areas with a detail pen and do a fine tipped touch up on the eyes last. The V-crest also has some touch up points such as micro tabs on the back side of the tips that you have the option of cutting off, I cut mine off and the crest looks measurably better because of that. The overall assembly of the head is much better than anything I’ve seen out of the SEE HG line in a while. The head is done in the scale without too much compression, keeping an even scale between the helmet and face.
The torso assembly is really something I could have expected from a 1/100 scale kit. The part count is well around thirteen, ten if you discount the polycaps. The part count includes the four parts for the basic body, two shoulder joints, and four more for the vent pieces and the gray frame pieces on the front. The shoulder points inside the upper chest are for the new ball socket shoulder pieces. The chest block’s cutout for the polycap neck is considerably wider than normal, giving the head a more dynamic range of motion, able to go forward or backwards much further. The vent pieces and the frame parts really surprised me about this kit, much like the other yellow parts that fit areas I had expected to need paint. Next to the chin, these vents are the smallest parts in the kit, dangerously small. Cutting them free from the runner I almost lost one in the confusion. Luckily it got stuck in my beard so no worries.
The arms of the Noir show signs of the original Strike but with some major modifications: a newly sculpted bicep, new forearm, and the extended fins on the shoulders. The forearm’s joint assembly is made for an extended flex range, making the fists nearly able to come up to the top of the shoulder at a full flex. As mentioned before, the arms connect to the torso via a ball socket, but unlike previous ball socket assemblies, the joining part for the arms and torso is a double ball stem. Having the ball socket on both ends, gives a really new feel to the arms. According to the Dalong resource site, the same assembly has been used in the ORB-01 Akatsuki model kit.
Paint is really required for the shoulder pieces. While the basic Frame points need a touch of gray, the extensions off the end need a serious paint job. The paint work is as followed: red on the underside, and yellow in these indentations on the sides. Since the part is molded in black, a base coat is needed for either work. For the red, I used the same gray I used to match the plastic was a flat coat, it made the red area easier to paint and without over coating. The yellow could work in the same fashion, but since I went with gold for the yellow areas, a splash of dull yellow worked even well.
The model comes with three pairs of hands and two sets of back guards. This comes as two closed fists, two gun hands, and two open palms. While the open hands have back guards permanently attached, the two weapon hand sets share one set of guards. It’s a short cut for part production and makes sense if you change hands for different weapons anyway. While the hands fit tight in the sockets of the forearm, they hold weapons very loosely. Considering the Strike Noir’s arsenal of pistols and sabers, this isn’t very good.
The waist is an entirely retooled idea of the original Strike and sets the standard for the new series. The skirts are sharper but identical to the Strike, but the side skirts are not compartments for folding daggers. Instead they are plates with docking crevices for the Noir’s pistols. The new waist has a swivel block for the legs to turn 30 degrees forward and backwards. This new assembly also has a detachable plate, this allows for the base stand included with the kit to hold the Noir via an insert peg.
A new stunt to kick of the Stargazer series in the Strike Noir is the front skirts. Fans of 1/144 High Grades will know that skirts come attached to one another. Normally front skirts come in single parts joined by a shaft that runs through the central block on the crotch. With some High Grade Universal Century and some of the SEED kits in 1/144 scale, Bandai has come up with a solution for advanced builders to take advantage of and make articulated skirts such as a thin wedge running along the midsection of the skirt shaft. With a skill saw and by cutting down the center, this wedge prevents the skirts from falling out and allows for articulated skirts. However none of that is here. Instead something new, already detached, ball tipped front skirts. The ball tipped neck for them to attach allows for dynamic adjustments when the legs are pushing the skirts out.
The legs of the Strike Noir show nothing in common with the Strike. With an entirely new design, the legs are sharper, more sturdy and dynamic in shape. The legs almost look identical to the legs of the Strike Dagger series. The lower legs have a good bit of assembly, the frame portions go down from the knee to the ankle and then the body armor attaches from the front, sides and rear. The amount of assembly adds weight and stability for the body. The feet are new, five part assemblies with the common three layer feet but with the new parts for detailing the ankle.
Weapons; no mobile suit or car is complete without an array of guns, blades spikes and other gadgets to make a body good. The Strike Noir’s back pack is a full arsenal pack. Almost like the Tactical Arms pack from the Astray Blue Frame Second L. The back pack is comprised of a set of wing blocks that rotate freely and can be turned up right and out to make something like the Mobile Suit Variation system called the IWSP. The IWSP was a popular concept of adding all of the Strike Gundam’s arsenal packs: Sword Striker, Launcher Striker, and Aile Striker into one. The Strike Noir’s tactical pack minimizes the features from all three into a more permanent assembly.
The first weapons in the tactical pack are the new short swords. These swords are on outer side of the pack and have rotating grips that look like little laser barrels. They detach by sliding up and popping out, also they come with short beam blades that can be attached to small ports on the edges for an activated mode. On the insides of the pack, there are two cannons. These guns swing around to the top of the wing housing for flight mode via a swing arm assembly. These cannons have remarkably small but detailed assemblies, to make its swing arms and outer casing. Like the vents on the chest, there are micro sized tabs that fit on the outside and smaller barrels that fit inside. The main bodies of each cannon unit have paint work to be done. With a red tab that needs color and a black fin. Word of caution however; while the cannon is mounted on swing arms, these swing arms are delicate and almost fragile due to the tight part on part friction.
The last bits of the Strike Noir’s arsenal include its pistols and anchor. The pistols are simple shell assemblies and make two guns. These pistols are simple but remind me of the “Lawgiver 2” from Judge Dredd. They fit into the gun hands loosely and fall out at the slightest shift, or they can dock into the hip skirts. The last part of the anchor is almost forgettable due to its size and use. It comes with a small stretch of double bound wire and fits into ports located on the open palm hands, ankles, toes, and back pack.
The last addition to the Stargazer collection is a base stand. While not fancy like the Limited Edition units sold with the SEED Destiny 1/100 scale line, these base stands are packaged with the Stargazer kits already. The stand comes with two display blocks, for high and low arrangements. Displaying the model requires you to remove the tab plate on the bottom of the waist.
Overall this was a breath of fresh air for the 1/144 scale high grade lineup. The Strike Noir uses some tricks and bits from the HGUC line while improving a great design from the SEED garage. With its abundance of small, almost microscopic parts the Strike Noir isn’t something for the novice, but it’s a great start to a new line up.
|Posted 18 December, 2006 - 15:22 by Gunpla Rob|