By Paul Sudlow - text © 2003; images © 2003 Model Graphix
When Nitto's SF3D line of model kits arrived on the scene in the early to mid 1980s, they made quite a splash. A mixture of futuristic military walkers and armored fighting suits reminiscent of those described in Robert A. Heinlein's "Starship Troopers", these multimedia kits were light years ahead of the Star Trek, Star Wars and Robotech kits then crowding the shelves. Nestled among the crisply detailed high-injection plastic parts were plenty of greeblies-wire, photo-etched brass, rubber hoses, coiled springs, lighting systems, and more.
With a modest amount of skill, an average modeler could produce an attractive model resembling the sort of super-detailed professional models seen in movies and TV shows. Going the extra mile in super-detailing or kitbashing, as many modelers did both in Japan and the West, one could turn out truly amazing work.
There was, of course, an intriguing background story behind the kits involving a future war between neo-German and neo-US/UK/Australian colonial forces, but to non-Japanese fans, this all took a backseat to the fighting machines themselves. From the bulky Armored Fighting Suit Mark I and the elegant space-hardened Fireball, to the recon Fledermaus aircraft and the ground-shaking Kröte walker, they represented a fascinating and varied lot indeed. Drawn from WWII design sensibilities rather than those typical of anime, they possessed a functional style that sci-fi modelers of all stripes found appealing. The battlecraft of each side-those of the returned colonists and the occupying Shutoral Demokratische Republik-developed along two design continuums, each distinct from the other.
The SF3D line, as envisioned by a creative team consisting of designer and model maker Kow Yokoyama, background writer Hiroshi Ichimura, graphic designer Kunitaka Imai, and editors at Hobby Japan magazine, ran from 1982 until 1986. Fans pored over the team's photo essays and sketches in the magazine, and scanned the garage kit ads in the back, for, nestled between the resin anime girls and Blade Runner spinners, there were always a few fan-produced kits available.
A falling out among the designers and editors put the line on ice until 1999, when Nitto re-released the kits under the new Ma.K. ZbV3000 Maschinen Krieger logo. They've been going strong ever since, and last year marked the 20th anniversary of the SF3D/Ma.K universe.
To celebrate this milestone, publisher Dai Nippon Kaiga has launched a series of books presenting the entire line of kits-both mass-produced and custom-made-accompanied by numerous sketches, stats, and essays. The first installment, “Maschinen Krieger Chronicle and Encyclopedia, Vol 1”, is a 112 page hardback book with slipcover. Aside from an appendix section, it is entirely in color, and resembles in presentation if not in scope the deluxe books Lucasfilm has published to profile ILM's Star Wars models.
The first 20-odd pages present the Ma.K story, covering the 2882-2885 war and its players. Fortunately for those not fluent in Japanese, this section is amply stocked with photos of dioramas that set the mood.
The next 50 or so pages are devoted to the armored vehicles themselves. Models get one to four pages of description and comprehensive photo coverage, including many close-ups and angles for the benefit of modelers. The creators, clearly familiar with the numerous variant models of tanks and aircraft that emerge in any extended conflict, pepper several of the entries with models representing variants or new generations of the same vehicle.
The remainder of the book, some 27 pages, is devoted to archive material, including interviews with the creators, coverage of conventions and the garage kit scene, and the like. This section is in black and white.
“MA.K Chronicle & Encyclopedia” is a must-have resource for fans of Kow and his team's designs. For general fans of sci-fi modeling, it presents an amazing look into a long-running modeling subgenre, one providing numerous ideas for future projects.
The book is, of course, primarily in Japanese, a detail that places the text beyond most of us. Thankfully, the profusion of photographs, sketches, and line drawings go a long way toward overcoming this drawback. If you're really pressed for something to read, try the cover blurb written by Mark Parker, the president of Nike. Not many modeling books draw that kind of attention!
This page copyright © 2003 Starship Modeler. First posted on 19 November 2003.