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Bandai's 1/144 HG Mobile Suit Serpent Custom

By Mark "Vash" Davis - images & text © 2003

Scale: 1/144 - about 12 cm/4¾" tall when built
Parts: 3 plastic sprues & one polycap sprue
Instructions: Japanese (10 pages) & English (6 pages)
Decals: One small sheet of stickers
Molding Quality: 9
Detail: 7
Accuracy: Not rated
MSRP: ¥800 JPY (~$7.31 USD/ $9.71 CAN/ € 6.36 EUR) available from HobbyLink Japan
Overall Rating: 8 - simple, unadulterated fun.

[Click to enlarge]


^ Rear view


^ My, Gramma, what BIG guns you have!

{stare down]

^Staring contest


^Closer look at the back

This is my first Gundam, my first foreign kit and coincidentally the first review I've ever written for anything. With the disclaimer out of the way I'll talk first about why I brought this particular kit. It was when I was passing through the town up the road from me that I had decided to duck into the model shop for a look at the resin kits as I wanted to try something different to a UK modeler's standard diet of Airfix aircraft, Tamiya cars and the infamous AMT/Ertl Star Wars/Trek kits.

To cut a long story short I came across piles of old Gundam and assorted other franchise kits in the back of the shop. Now, I was into anime at the time but had never actually wanted to watch Gundam before (I'd somehow got the impression it was boring!). I remembered hearing about the associated models being held in high regard on various web sites but had never before seen them for sale in the UK.

Pushing all thoughts of cleaning and filing bits of resin to the back of my mind I decided there and then to try one of these instead, but which to choose? Not knowing anything about the series and individual mechas I decided to go for the best looking and cheapest one that was there. In the end it came down to either this one or a 1/100 Deathscythe custom. Eventually my wallet decided for me but I claimed the moral high ground by announcing to myself that I'd chosen it because it had big guns.

The price? Unfortunately disproportionately high. Not knowing anything at the time about yen to pound calculations I paid the £15 asking price and left. A couple of days later I discovered Hobby Link Japan and found I could've brought the same kit for £4.

Oh well -- at least I hadn't brought the £30 Deathscythe.

First Impressions

Obviously the first thing you see with most kits is its box, and this one proved to be no exception. My eye was immediately attracted by a piece of artwork rather than a shot of the finished model, as is the case with all the kits I've made before. It proved to be a refreshing change and I have been pleased to discover that is expected with Gundam kits.

The box is a small one by Gundam standards, about the size of a “Serves Four” frozen processed meat product packet. It contained not burgers but three plastic sprues, one sprue of those fantastic rubbery jointy things that I now know as polycaps, one small sheet of stickers, two instruction books and the obligatory adverts.

This is the Western release so it contains instructions in English as well as the original Japanese and the adverts for DVDs and action figures. One final thing to note about the packaging is that everything comes in individual plastic bags which is very welcome and a far cry from the “Bung it in box” standards that I'm used to.

The sprues themselves are very well molded and had no visible flash or mistakes. They are also cast in the correct colours for the mecha, although it isn't very clear with this one being as it is Grey on Grey with extra Grey for good measure. The only coloured parts are the 'eye' and the vent things on the shoulders which are all done with the supplied stickers.

The instructions are fantastic and completely blew me away compared to anything I'd seen before. The Japanese set is ten pages with the actual diagrammatic instructions on one side and loads of pictures of a finished model and shots/story line/characters from the anime it appeared in on the other side. Such a wealth of information would have proved far more useful if I could actually read Japanese Kanji (Ho Hum).

The English instructions are not so exciting as they are just the instructions with what little text there is on them translated, they don't have any of the additional information translated, which is a shame but not a major obstacle.


Having inspected all of the parts, I laid them out on my desk and fished out my cutters. I started with the English instructions, but it soon became apparent to me that the Japanese ones weren't exactly hard to interpret with a bit of common sense, and were more interesting to boot.

Construction starts with the legs, followed by the arms, and then the body/backpack, finishing up with weapons and accessories. The process took me longer than it might take most people as I kept double-checking the instructions - it seemed too easy and I became convinced I had made a mistake somewhere. Not to mention that every time I finished a section I sat and played with it, marvelling at how well and smoothly it all worked and how precise all the fits were.

A contradiction here: the majority of the kit parts' fit is so good you can't get them apart again. There is one flaw and that lies in the upper torso, where the two halves don't fit together flush, leaving a gap at the base. I fixed this by prising this section apart, cutting the pegs off one side of the lower torso and gluing the whole thing back together again.

Once I had finished building the robot I put the quite cheap but at the time satisfactory stickers on for the eye, red vents on the shoulders and the grey bands around the middle of the forearms. Finally I put together the guns deciding to glue them together for some extra strength.


Even with the rubber joints and moving parts putting this kit together proved to be far easier than I had imagined. By carefully following the incredibly easy-to-understand instructions I soon a model robot standing on my desk. I would have left it there were it not for the fact that it was such boring colours. I decided to take it all apart again, remove the stickers and repaint the whole thing in more “interesting” colours.

Or that was the plan. Actually getting the whole thing apart proved to be nigh on impossible. So I instead settled on stripping it down to it's subassemblies and then painting straight over the plastic as priming it would have jammed up the polycaps.

I had just received the first volume of Hellsing on DVD a few days prior to buying this kit and I was inspired by the main characters distinctly vampiric style. So armed only with a brush, a jam jar of water and some reasonably recent Games Workshop Acrylics, I repainted the pieces starting from the bottom and working my way up. I may not have know much about Gundam at the time, but one thing I did know is that most of them have red feet (or booties as my Mum keeps calling them). I started from there, alternating between the classic vampire colours of red and black, with details such as the shoulder vents and the barrels on the twin Vulcan in sliver. To finish, I painted the hands white to reflect the white gloves that nearly every character in Hellsing wears. I considered painting Alucard's pagan symbols on the sides but decided it was beyond my current skills range.

I decided that I didn't like the design of the beam cannon and so didn't bother painting it. The single Vulcan in his other hand came from the vast box of weapons and other assorted junk that I have from my time scratching Ork vehicles for Warhammer 40,000. It just happened to fit his hand, so he's held on to it.

Thus was Gundam Alucard born.

I later tried doing some panel lines with a black fine tip Bandai Gundam marker that I got with the first Gundam I ordered from HLJ. As Ringo Star used to say “But that's another story for another time”.

With this only being a 1/144 there isn't a lot of posability in the model, but what is there moves very nicely. One other thing that should be mentioned is that the twin Vulcan is so heavy that the Serpent can't actually hold it horizontal on it's own. As you can see from the photos the gun needs to be tucked just under the shoulder guard to keep it steady.


In closing, I'd like to say that every thing about this kit was just simple unadulterated fun. I had great fun buying it, building it, and repainting it in my own slightly unhinged paint scheme. I loved making this kit, as it was quick and simple. Had I not paid nearly four times what it was worth I would have brought loads more from that shop. Come to think of it that Deathscythe is still there.......

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the reviewer.
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This page copyright © 2003 Starship Modeler™. First posted on 5 November 2003.