When I was growing up, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing was by far my favorite anime when it was introduced to me by western TV on Toonami. Also when I was a child, there was a period of time when I enjoyed toys that involved building from scratch, including a Tamiya Mini 4WD that I built and played with everyday. Put those two together, and even now I wonder why it wasn’t until 20 years later that I built my first plastic Gundam model (gunpla).
Why this gunpla kit
Given that there are hundreds of gunpla kits out there, it was quite difficult to pick a single one for my first build. Even within the Gundam Wing franchise, there were many kits and variations of each Gundam, many of which also had several grades (HG, MG, PG, etc.) to choose from. However, I wanted something relatively low quality so that I wouldn’t invest too much time or effort into it, since I was bound to make mistakes along the way. Unfortunately, after I purchased the Wing Zero EW Custom 1/144 HGFA Kit from Plaza Japan for about $13 plus shipping, I read numerous reviews about how this was an old kit and how it hadn’t aged well. At least my expectations were low going in….
As tough as it was at times, I thoroughly enjoyed building my first gunpla. Would I have enjoyed it more if it was higher quality? Absolutely, since I’m working on another HG now and it’s so much better. My lack of experience also made it frustrating at times; no matter how many guides I read beforehand, it took first-hand experience to really understand how to remove the nubs cleanly and effectively. I worked with the Tamiya Basic Tool Kit that had most of the tools I needed, but it was definitely a mistake to use the file that came with the tools since it was too rough and scratched many of the surfaces. It wasn’t until after I was finished building this kit that I realized that different grades of sandpaper was absolutely necessary (for me, at least) to make the surfaces look clean after removing the nubs.
That said, I did remove the nubs completely; it was just that there were many white stress marks on the plastic where the nub used to be, especially on the darker-colored pieces. However, this made assembling the kit easy. Everything fit perfectly, and although some connections were too loose and others were too tight (see below), after about 4 hours of work, I had a finished rough version of the HGFA Wing Zero EW.
Another part of the building process that was very difficult in this build was the sticker application. I’ve read about waterslide and dry transfer decals, but I had no such luck in this 20-year-old kit; it was all stickers. Applying the eyes sticker to the head was difficult due to the tiny size of the sticker, but that was nothing compared to some of the other “folding” stickers that needed to be applied on non-flat surfaces. For example, the sticker that covered the Wing Zero’s chin was a single red piece that folded three ways around the bottom of the head. This was incredibly difficult to apply correctly, and by the time I had moved it around several times, the adhesive was weak and a few of the many edges were not tightly sealed anymore.
It’s easy to understand what the reviews were saying when they said that this Wing Zero kit has not aged well. A lot of the pieces felt flimsy, and I actually broke one of the wing connections when trying to pose the kit. Fortunately, it wasn’t anything a little superglue couldn’t fix. Many of the joints were too loose, and this caused many frustrations when posing (see below), especially given how heavy the twin buster rifles and the wings are relative to the rest of the kit.
At this point, I was committed to this new hobby, so I decided to invest a little more time and money experimenting on this kit. First, I bought three thin-tipped Gundam markers (black, gray, and brown) to panel line the kit. I used black for the gray parts, gray for the white parts, and brown for the brightly colored parts. This was much harder than I thought, since I don’t have the steadiest hands and I was constantly using my eraser to fix gratuitous errors, especially on the wings, which had a dozens of panel lines. The buster rifles were also a nightmare, as you can see above.
It didn’t help, however, that my attempt at top coating also smeared my panel lines. This was surprising given that the Krylon Matte Finish I bought had many reviews saying how it worked fine with Gundam markers. However, I’m not actually sure if I applied the right amount of top coat, but it was a challenge to find a warm, not humid, and not windy day in Chicago in January/February to apply even coats. I did the best I could and was pretty disappointed by the result, but I’m hoping that some of my failures can be attributed to the kit and that with the weather warming up, I’ll have better luck with my future kits.
The articulation on the Wing Zero EW HG was pretty disappointing. The legs couldn’t split farther than the picture above and was hindered by the blue hip pieces. The arms couldn’t raise above the shoulders due to the huge pauldrons; this was somewhat remedied by the inclusion of an extra torso piece that allowed for the arms to move inward to hold the buster rifles together. Given that this is an HG, the hands were unarticulated, but the kit came with the standard hand types (holding, open, closed, etc.). Lastly, the head couldn’t quite turn 180 degrees (definitely not 360) and could tilt up and down somewhat.
Fortunately, this Wing Zero kit lived up to its name and had well articulated wings for such an old HG. The four wings could move pretty much anywhere, and the two large wings could even fold forward to cover the front of the gundam. However, it was sometimes difficult to maneuver these around the huge shoulders, especially if they were pulled back due to the arms being up.
Posing this figure was a huge pain. I actually purchased Bandai’s clear Action Base 1, which is supposedly compatible which HGs, but apparently that doesn’t include this old kit. The smallest connector barely fit into the Wing Zero’s crotch area and this limited the legs’ articulation even further. However, a stand is absolutely necessary, since the number of poses that the Wing Zero can perform without one is severely limited due to its awkward weight distribution. The wings are quite heavy and the buster rifles also add to the center of gravity imbalance.
Even with the stand though, there were issues posing this kit. The buster rifles were far too heavy for the loose wrist connection between the holding hands and the arms. This caused saggy buster rifles that could never quite point straight. The beam saber (which comes in all white and I didn’t bother painting it) is a little too thin to fit in the holding hand snugly and would often slip out. Lastly, the Wing Zero’s iconic dual buster rifle firing pose (last picture below) was ruined by a small miscalculation in the kit’s design. The buster rifles fit together with notches that connect the two guns in the front and back; however, when connected, the two handles (for the holding hands) are a little too close together, so the two hands can’t quite fit next to each other without separating the buster rifles slightly.
Although frustrating at times, the Wing Zero EW HG from 1998 was a great learning experience for my future gunpla kits. I would not recommend it though, even as a first kit, as there are better kits for beginners with similar prices listed on the gunpla subreddit.
I think I did my best though for a first attempt! So please enjoy some more pictures I took of the Wing Zero EW HG gunpla kit: