By Sal Bravo - images & text © 2004
Image: Leg detail
Image: Scabbard abd head detail
Image: size 100 boot
Image: Armor detail
Image: Katana detail
^ Instructions booklet
Image: Paint guide
Gundam Astray (Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Astray) is a manga side story from the currently airing series Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and the Red Frame is one of the main mechas of this series. Although this manga follows along with the main SEED story, it also features its own original story and characters.
The Gundam Astray series focus on the exploits of two Gundam pilots - Lowe Gule and Gai Murakumo. Both discover Gundams developed in secret by Orb on the space colony Heliopolis, and both encounter various parties trying to get their hands on the advanced technology of the Astrays.
Lowe Gule pilots the Red Frame (Orb model #MBF-P02), one of three secret prototype mobile suits developed by the Orb Union - an island nation in the southern Pacific Ocean which possesses considerable industrial and military power - using data and technology borrowed (ie. stolen) from the Earth Alliance's GAT-X series (like the Strike, Aegis or Buster Gundams). However, the Astray developers were unable to duplicate the Earth Alliance's Phase Shift Armor, so they instead designed the Astray for light weight and high maneuverability. The Red Frame's OS allows the mobile suit to be operated efficiently by regular humans.
The Red Frame is equipped with standard armaments such as a beam rifle and beam sabers. However, Lowe Gule's weapon of choice is the 'Gerbera Straight' katana. This standard sword is not an energy weapon and thus doesn't drain power from the Red Frame's ultra-compact energy battery.
What You Get
In the box you'll find 8 styrene sprues full of parts molded in color, a sprue of polycaps, a 1/20 PVC figure of Lowe Gule, the instructions booklet and a small sheet of self-adhesive stickers.
At first glance it looks like this kit will assemble easily and smoothly, and though this is supposed to be a snap-fit kit, painting it will most definitely improve the appearance of the finished model.
Typical of today's Bandai models there is no visible flash on the parts, with crisp and above average detail for a High Grade kit. In addition of being a very poseable model, it comes with a large removable katana blade with a hip mounted scabbard for action poses, as well as the standard beam rifle and shield, and two beam swords. As for accuracy, all I can say is that it looks like a ubber kewl mobile suit to me.
The instruction booklet has the regular exploded-view assembly pictures, and 4 pages of color reference pictures, including the painting guide. The text is all in Japanese but it should not present a problem. Both the box art and the pictures from the instructions can be used as painting references. The stickers provided are 2 symbols that appear to be Lowe Gule's crest/logo, one for the shield and the other for the mecha's left shoulder armor. I might use the stickers if they're thin enough to be sealable using clear coat, otherwise I'll scan them and try my luck at printing custom waterslide decals.
Assembly and Finish
From what I've test-fitted so far, this should be an easy-to-build kit for both beginners and pros. Since this kit “features snap-fit assembly for ease in building,” it looks like there's almost no need for glue, however I still recommend gluing most of the parts together for sturdiness. Thanks to some slick engineering by Bandai, there's very little need for seam filling. A lot of the armor pieces snap on top of seams, making them invisible, and fit of the all parts appears to be good overall.
I plan to paint mine as I build it. A black 0.5mm marker will be used to bring out the detail and very little weathering will be applied as this is supposed to be a space mobile suit. As with most of this type of kits, subassemblies are the way to go.
So far I've done most of the upper torso, the pelvis (which requires gluing) and the 'backpack,' with the legs, head, weapons and arms being built next. On hind-sight maybe I should have painted everything while on the sprues and then touch up where needed after building... Oh well. Masking, if any required, should not be too bad as long as I continue to build/paint using sub-assemblies.
For a kit that's not master grade it has quite the amount of detail and the reference pictures show that it'll be wonderfully poseable. My only complaint, which is the same for almost every Bandai Gundam kit, is the lack of waterslide decals. I guess the reason for the stickers is that it's a snap-fit kit aimed primarily to kids. I just wish Bandai would also include a set of waterslides for the rest of us older kids.
All in all, it is a nice kit. I liked it from the moment I saw it and the price is not too steep for a 1/100 Gundam model kit. It should make a nice project to work on when you need a break from the real world. Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Sal's wallet for providing the review sample. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized on a site averaging 3500+ readers a day? Contact us!
This page copyright © 2004 Starship Modeler. First posted on 28 July 2004. Last updated on 30 September 2004.