If it’s one thing Bandai knows, it’s now to get people to buy model kits. One way of doing this is to must make awesome kits of things people want. Bandai figured this out with the first Gundam kits in the early ‘80s and really hasn’t looked back. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t constantly try to find new ways of sucking people into the nearly-inescapable world of Gundam models. Odd, it took them a while to latch onto the system that American toy companies figured out in the ‘80s; you make a cartoon to SELL a toy.
If you grew up in the ‘80s, then you know what I mean. Almost all big toys did it that way: Transformers, GI Joe, GoBots, My Little Pony, Jem, Air Raiders… Well, okay, not Air Raiders, and that’s likely why you’ve almost never heard of them. But that’s a separate story. It has long been accepted wisdom that to sell a toy to kids, it needs a show. That then spawns more toys, more shows, and everyone (except maybe parents who have to buy the toys) is happy. Bandai’s approach was a bit opposite; they made kits of the main mecha from a show, based on the popularity (or expected popularity) of said mecha. That’s changed a bit over the years, as Bandai and Sunrise have become one company, and I’m sure the model engineers and animators are all in on the designs from Day 1 now, but its’ still about kitting mecha from a show.
One of the reasons for this was likely because making a show about toys is easy; you imagine a scenario where the toys are “real” and go with it. Got a truck that turns into a robot? Make him an alien being! Got a toy tank? Get a bunch and some guys and imagine a real fighting force! Got a model kit? Um… well… watching people assemble kit is, quite literally, as much fun as watching paint dry for most of the world. For modellers, it’s a bit more interesting, but Bandai wants to draw in the casual fan, not the hardcore modeller who’s going to shell big bucks regardless.
So, Bandai, it seemed, had a problem. How DOES one make modelling exciting? The goal was to get people into modelling, not just into a given Gundam show. The answer was actually pretty impressive. Bandai decided to make a short OVA (Original Video Animation) about people who build Gundam kits and then fought with them. It was called “Gunpla Builders Beginning G”. There’s a lot of willing suspension of disbelief in seeing Gundam kits moving on their own, but there was some kind of in-universe explanation. Indeed, there had been a fairly obscure manga (comic) about this kind of thing in the ‘80s: “Plamo Kyoshiro”. In fact, this is where the Perfect Gundam comes from.
Beginning G was successful enough that Bandai decided to try a full TV series of similar form: Gundam Build Fighters. It was so successful that two more similar series, Build Fighters Try and Build Divers have succeeded it, and I believe another is on the way. Somehow, Bandai manages to make building Gundams into a dynamic sport. It sounds hokey and requires the aforementioned suspension of disbelieve in large quantities, but it is fun. The series are chock-full of in-jokes, references and Easter eggs, and for hardcore Gundam and modelling fans, it’s fun to see oddball and bizarre MSs on the screen, even for a few seconds. (Heck, it’s the ONLY time you’re going to see the G-Saviour properly animated!)
The various “Build” series are, of course, accompanied by a veritable deluge of kits. Here, though, the show exists to sell the kits, and the kits make you curious about the rest of the show. It’s marketing genius! However, such a potentially cynical approach only works, or at least keeps working, if the product is good. Being new-generation HG kits, all the “Build” kits are excellent. The best part is that some are mild reworkings of existing designs, some are custom-redesigns or improvements, and some are totally new! So, no matter what you like, the “Build” kits likely have you covered!
I, personally, love the “Build” series kits. This might be partially because I won a tonne of them, but I already had some of that series before my lucky strike! However, I approach “Build” kits in a different way than a lot of people. The current vogue (promoted shamelessly by Bandai) is to encourage people to emulate the various “Build Fighters” by customizing their kits. This means that people tend to view “straight from the box builds” as somehow lesser than customs. I personally don’t agree. I like, in many cases, just to build the kit as it comes. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have bought it. Of course, there are times I like to customize too, like Megatron and Predaking, but it can go either way.
One thing that a lot of hardcore fans don’t like about the “Build” kits is that they’re not canonical forms of the suits upon which they’re based. That, to me, is the fun part. My approach is to see if I can “canonize” the suits, make them fit in with those upon which they’re based, and write a story for them that makes sense. That’s how I like to use my imagination with Gundam Kits. (Note: A lot of people use the term “Gunpla” for Gundam Plastic Model Kits. Bandai promotes its use. I hate it. I WILL NOT use it past this explanation. EVER.) A perfect example for this is the Gyancelot from Build Fighters Try.
The Gyancelot is, like many of the “Try” kits, an MS loosely based on an existing model, but which has been so heavily modified as to really represent a totally new machine and design. You can think of it like how a Phantom is related to a Voodoo. The original F-4 grew out of the F-101 single seater, but through development, only some passing resemblance is left. However, there’s also no denying its provenance; there are definite traces of Voodoo “DNA” in the almighty Rhino! Like all “Build” kits, the Gyancelot is available as a 1/144 HG kit. It shares components with the HGUC Gyan (more later) and actually has a lot of spare Gyan parts in the box that don’t get used.
The box is typical of a new HGUC kit, with very striking artwork that is also a bit “busy”. The Gyancelot is presented in an “anime” style of drawing (vs. CG render or painting-style, like a Dragonar) looking suitably menacing and dynamic. It is brandishing the familiar Gyan-type shield and some kind of spear-thingy that has more points and edges than most Gundam weapons possess. Behind it are two other mecha, those of the other two team members. Watch Build Fighters Try for the full story.
Inside, the kit is typical HGUC. I don’t have to go much into it; suffice to say that there’s full colour moulding, lots of parts, a rack of polycaps and even several racks of transparent “beam” parts. The cape, head-dress and the Gyan’s traditional “fat” beam sabre are all in clear yellow. There are even a few parts in a highly yellow-gold, although these are mostly for the spear. All parts are crisp, clean and flash-free. Panel lines are exactly as on other HGUC kits, and the model oozes the comfortably familiar quality that any HGUC from the past 15 years exudes. The instructions are pictorial with some Japanese on them, but you don’t need to know Japanese to make it work. There are full colour pictures for paint referencing, too. All in all, it’s a spectacularly-affordable, quality-rich package as expected from a modern Gundam.
Building this kit is not difficult. I am not even going to go into it, because there were almost no pitfalls at all. Things go together as advertised, in the order recommended. Literally anyone can build this thing right out of the box, and there are foil stickers to help you with some of the gold trim. Bandai wants to make Gundam kits accessible to non-modellers; they’ve succeeded with this kit handily. If you are a modeller, the only things to watch out for are Bandai’s notoriously tight tolerances; once parts are painted, they’re hard to fit together because they’re optimized for non-painted fit.
My Take on the Gyancelot:
The Gyancelot is evolved from the YMS-15 Gyan, an MS from the original 1979 Gundam TV series. The original Gyan is a mech I quite dislike. Its pilot, M’Quve, is an affected and not-highly-likeable character, and the mech’s fanciful “knight” motif is rather at odds with the “real robot” genre that Gundam was trying to create. I also just don’t like the design very much, and the head has never appealed to me, as it reminds me of one of the Rock Lord GoBots. Reminding me of a toy rock is a bad way to get on my good side.
The Gyancelot, though, shows just how talented Bandai’s team is. They took the dorky Gyan and with some work, made it into something very much more attractive. Ironically, they made it even less realistic and more knight-like, but so much so that it actually works. Sure, it might look more at home on Escaflowne than Gundam, but it’s a good design with more solid proportions and a much more aggressive aesthetic. Sadly, it still has that dumb shield, which is one thing about the Gyan I hate most of all. Having your main missile armament in your shield seems utterly asinine. It would be like blocking an artillery strike by making a shelter out of armed tactical nukes.
Add to this that the background story of the Gyancelot and its builder is a bit weird and stretches even the much-relaxed credibility of the “Build” universe, and it’s really a mech I could do without. However, there was something about it I liked. I like the idea of a caped Gundam (they’re quite rare), and the design is solid. So, much to Bandai’s pleasure, I bought one, and left in on the shelf until I could figure out what to do with it. How can I work such an obviously (and quite honestly, ridiculously) ornamental Gundam into the UC continuity? It took a couple of years to figure it out, and then it hit me!
In the Gundam universe, most of the members of Zabi family that rules Zeon have a custom mech or their own forces and colours. However, the real puppet master, Ghiren Zabi, does not. What could be more perfect for him than something that was overtly symbolic and ornamental, yet potentially without significant obvious combat potential? Thus, the Gyan Crusader (as I call it now) was born! Of course, the blue and silver colours, so closely linked to the original Gyan had to go. What colours, though, would I do the Crusader in? What would suit its new role? I thought of the “White Rose of Capital Defence” colours from the “Plot to Assassinate Ghiren” game, but they were too plain.
Then, it all crystallized; if Ghiren had a mech, it would have to project the very soul of Zeon. Thus, it should be in the colours of Zeon. These are, unsurprisingly, the same as the colours of Germany before 1945: Red, White and Black. If you know Gundam, you know that Zeon is a (very) thinly veiled mix of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, with a bit of bias thrown in. Thus, I settled on this scheme for the Crusader, and decided to leave the gold trim. After all, what says “dude in charge” like some pimpin’ gold accents?
The only problem left was armament. I have some spare Zeon machine guns, but since this wasn’t a combat machine, I opted to go with the spear and shield. The spear is awesome, because in its “opened up” form, it is a representation of the Zeon crest. That’s a keeper. The shield is big, ugly, clunky and completely at odds with the rest of the mech. I needed a shield that was similar, but more refined. I found it in my old 1/144 Tallgeese III. That’s the only Gundam I’ve ever abandoned as unbuildable – it was a North American release, the moulds were tired and it sucked. However, it didn’t need the Tallgeese I shield, so I stole it. I adapted it to the Gyan’s shield bracket and all was ready to go!
I painted the Crusader with Model Master Acrylic (MMA) Guards Red, and my own Gundam White (a mix of Tamiya and Testors colours). The “black” is my own MMA Virsago Black, made from Aircraft Interior Black (AIB) and Gunship Grey, and the gold is MMA Brass augmented with Jacquard pigments and yellow food colouring. To add a more “parade” touch I used a couple of decals on the kit, something I rarely do on Gundams. I used a number and Zeon Crest on the shoulders, and a “Principality of Zeon” decal on the shield. These came from a couple of different Zeon sets of Gundamdecals.
The cape and head feathers are originally cast as clear yellow “beam” pieces. In the show, this made some sense (within limits) but doesn’t at all on the Crusader. There were no beam shields, etc. when the Crusader would have existed. So, I did what was logical and made them solid. I painted the feathers in a slightly different red, and matte coated them. I picked out the individual feathers with chalk pastel and gave them a just-off-matte finish that I call “Low Satin”. I did the same for the cape’s inside, painting the outside in AIB, and highlighting it with a very light purple-white pastel. One thing I found: the cape pieces reacted badly with the primer I used, and looked pitted when I was done. This is hard to see now, but take heed; if you’re going to prime Bandai’s beam plastic be ready for it to do a bit of crinkling and pitting.
I outlined the mech with a Sakura calligraphy pen and then gave it a matte coat with Delta Ceramcoat Indoor/Outdoor Satin Urethane Varnish. This was cut with Future to dry to a higher shine than the cape and feathers. This is a finish I call “High Satin” and I generally don’t use all that often, although on a “parade” or “dress” mech like this, it’s quite nice and appropriate. The Decals worked well, and are very thin. However, they seem to stand proud of the surface more than other decals that I’ve worked with. I found this on the Dra-G too. Final assembly was easy and the final product looked almost exactly as I envisioned it!
The Gyancelot treads the fine line between realistic mech and fanciful giant robot rather well. It has an interesting design that has clearly borrowed some elements from newer series, which makes it blend into the Gundam universe very well. As a kit, it is easy to build, and should be fun for just about anyone who tackles it. If you’re a true modeller, then you can do literally whatever you want to it, and being a Bandai, it will look great fully glued, sanded and painted. Just be aware that it is one of the most back-heavy Gundam kits I have. The cape is heavy, and without the Gyan Shield to balance it, the Gyancelot will want to end up on his butt!
I think the original kit needs a bit of work, design wise, and that’s why I changed the shield and colour scheme. A bit mild by “Build” standards, but plenty cool for me. Like almost all Gundam kits, I enjoyed this tremendously, and if you like it, you can go and pick one up for yourself. You won’t be sorry!
The Gyan Crusader – A Short History:
Because no mech is complete without a back story, here’s what I came up with for the Gyan Crusader: This is all fiction, of course. Actually, it’s fictional fiction; if you don’t like me messing with the established canon of the Universal Century, then don’t read on.
As the One Year War progressed, and Zeon’s fortunes began to reverse, it became apparent to those directly under Supreme Commander Ghiren Zabi that new measures would be needed to whip up national pride and reassure the populace of their supremacy and eventual victory. One troubling piece of information that had recently surfaced was that there was an increasing portion of the populace that had begun to question the courage of the Supreme Commander himself. All the other Zabi family members (save old man Deguin, who was too old for combat) were active in the military, on the various fronts of the war. Only Ghiren was “safe” in Zeon-proper. That his rhetoric and its delivery were full of pride and fury only served to make this disparity more obvious. When the youngest Zabi, Garma, was killed in combat in Africa, things came to a head.
Of course, none of his subordinates dared to question the courage of the Supreme Commander. It would have been wiser to swim in a shark tank wearing a bikini of freshly slaughtered steaks… However, something had to be done. They needed to portray Ghiren as just as soldierly as the well-loved Dozzle. Of course, Ghiren would have none of it; he was not going to dirty his hands in anything close to combat. That was a job for others. Then, one of the top people in the propaganda department had an idea: Every other Zabi family member had their own distinct MS. Why not give Ghiren one? (This overlooked that Kycilia didn’t ever seem to pilot an MS, but at least she lead MS forces and there were suits in ‘her’ colours.) It is reputed that one wag in the back of the strategy session simply blurted out: “Heck. He wants to be a hero? Give him a mech and let him prove it!” Clearly, this was sarcastic, but for the good of all involved in even hearing the otherwise punishable remark, the idea was polished until it seemed to be the best one available.
The idea was put to Ghiren who immediately dismissed it as insulting. However, a spokeswoman for the Propaganda Department, Mirha Farhnat, managed to use some convincing arguments (and, some speculate, strategically revealing clothing) to change his mind. She proposed using a mech that would represent the glory, the will, the might… the very essence of Zeon in physical form. She said that Ghiren would not have to “lower himself” to piloting it; rather, a “knight” would do it for him. The idea of such a magnificent sight as a custom MS being utterly subservient to his will was a definite attraction to Ghiren, and he authorized Ms. Farhnat to commission and complete the machine. He also stipulated the pilot must exude the “purest spirit of Zeon”. This was (correctly) assumed to mean it should be an attractive female; something very unusual within Zeon ranks, since most MS were piloted by men.
A base for the new suit had to be chosen. Zeon suits were not known for their onamentality, and the ‘businesslike’ appearance of the Zaku and Dom families of suits were not judged suitable for this new job. However, there were two additional prototypes of the YMS-15 Gyan still languishing in a hangar at Zimmad. The “chivalric” and fanciful design favoured by M’Quve had potential, and Zimmad was pleased to modify one of the remaining suits to perform the duty of being the personal mount of Ghiren’s “knight”. Modifications were extensive; a redesign was undertaken by several of the best artists from the Propaganda Department under the directive that they were to create a machine that embodied the “soul of Zeon”. The final mech was christened the YMS-15GC “Gyan Crusader”. The GC was also thought to stand for “Ghiren Custom”, but this was never officially approved.
The modifications took round-the-clock work to make, but a large crew completed them within 6 weeks. Included were new shoulder pauldrons, a new head, new lower legs and a new chest unit. This housed a considerably more powerful reactor than the original Gyan, and the suit was stressed to be able to fire the new beam rifles that were being made for the Gelgoog. In addition, the suit was given a fanciful “cape” to suit its regal duties. However, this could be jettisoned, and the “solid” parts at the top were really high-output maneuvering thrusters. The extra fuel for these was stored in a “tail” that bisected the cape. To complete the knightly appearance, “feathers” were fashioned for the command aerial on the head. This could also be jettisoned in combat, should the need arise.
The mech’s main weapon was the exceptionally large and heavy spear known as the “Lance of Zeon”. This was an unwieldy, largely ceremonial spear that could open to resemble the Zeon Crest, which is how it was to be displayed during rallies. A machine cannon was fitted to the end of this, giving it nominal combat capability. However, the spear had no cutting edges, and would have been useful only as a bludgeoning tool in a close-in fight. No heat hawk or beam sabre were fitted, although the Crusader could use any standard Zeon MS weapon. The pilot demanded a new sheild, and a simple laminated armour buckler was chosen. Emblazoned with a Zeon eagle and in all the national colours, it added a bit of protection without the weight of the traditional Gyan missile shield.
The pilot selected was a young, pretty, blonde recruit ostensibly named “Gailey Kneiser”. (The pilot’s real name has never been determined, but her registered name also doesn’t match any known records.) Kneiser had been identified as having considerable Newtype potential, and was sent to Earth to gain some combat experience while the Crusader was being finished. After all, if the pilot had no combat time, the whole exercise of proving Ghiren’s martial ability would have been seriously undermined. Apparently, Kneiser was a natural, destroying several Federation GMs in Europe using an outdated MS-05. That Kneiser was not available for her Newtype Corps greatly rankled Kycilia Zabi, apparently.
The finished Crusader was rolled out two months before the end of the war. As with the Zudah, the Crusader gave some problems in power management. These were ironed out and the machine then proved to be highly capable. Kneiser refused to pilot it, even on parade duty, unless it was up to full combat spec, and this delayed its deployment further. Thus, there is only one report of the Gyan Crusader actually being used in its intended role; it was present at a party rally/fancy dinner gathering at the Zabi mansion in Zum City two weeks before Ghiren was killed.
Just before Zeon surrendered and Federation forces secured Side 3, Kneiser and a few other aides and Propaganda people managed to sneak the Crusader out of Side 3 and secret it away. It is not known what happened to it thereafter, although some reports of a similar mech being seen during the First Neo Zeon Civil War have come to light. It is worth noting that both the paint scheme and some of the design is similar to the Sinanju Stein developed later in the first century UC, although whether this is coincidence or not is open to conjecture…