“You can’t please everyone!”
How many times have you heard that? It’s generally true, but it seems to me that it’s often said, if not as an excuse for failure, then at least as a salve for the conscience or ego of the person saying it. Just because you likely CAN’T doesn’t mean you shouldn’t TRY, right? That goes for big businesses too. A catastrophic loss of market share, perhaps even collapse, is usually the outcome of mismanagement, poor market analysis and, in many cases, corporate arrogance. (See the North American or British auto industries for details.) As a business, you can’t just hope to ignore your customers (i.e. not try to please everyone) and offer products that you want to make. That’s where this other axiom is very useful, and very true:
“Give the people what they want!”
Be it bread and circuses, compact cars or home electronics, the above holds true. The buying public have a long list of demands, and the failure of a company to satisfy those demands can be exceptionally costly. This, as most modellers know, is no less true of the modelling industry. Model builders have long, often mutually exclusive, lists of what kits they want to see. Of course, when it comes to deciding on which subjects to actually kit, a model maker has to consider not only the many and varied suggestions put forth by the small but vocal contingent of online builders, but the greater building (and buying) public as well.
Thus, it becomes a balancing act; where is the line between satisfying demand and making a profit? This can be a tough choice for most kit makers. The Japanese giant Bandai, however, has a bit of an advantage in a situation like this. Mobile Suit kits (indeed, all mecha) are inherently scalable, not only in terms of actual size, but also complexity. This is far more the case than it is for airplanes, cars or any other subject. In most cases, when a kit is offered in a larger scale, people expect more detail; compare a Matchbox 1/32 with a Zoukei Mura 1/32 and you’ll see what I mean. However, Bandai’s experience showed otherwise; there used to be plenty of simple 1/100 kits that sold quite well. The question became: could that work again?
For most builders of Gundam kits, a 1/100 kit automatically means it’s a Master Grade (MG) kit. This isn’t actually quite legitimate, but it’s close, especially in recent times. Master Grades have become extremely complex (too much so in my opinion) models in the last decade. With full internal frames, lots of armour subframe components and more detail-you-never-see than you can shake a stick at, MGs are a building experience for sure. However, if, like me, you don’t display them opened up, then all those parts, all that cost and all that expense on Bandai’s part is actually wasted.
What Bandai wanted to do was satisfy public demand for more esoteric subjects without breaking the bank. They wanted to have a kit that looked like a Master Grade when it was done, but without all the complication and cost. This would allow them to make lower numbers of a cheaper kit and still turn a profit. In this way, they’d almost literally be able to please everyone! Since this kind of kit didn’t exist, they simply made it up! The result was the Re/100 series, or “Reborn 1/100” to give it its full name. These kits are more like scaled up HGUC kits than MGs, but they are MG-sized and are just as externally detailed. PEREFECT!
Bandai wasted no time in making use of this new class of kit, and has been releasing several new ones each year. What’s truly surprising about the line is that almost no one can guess what’s going to be coming next! Bandai has made trying to guess the next RE/100 an almost unwinnable game by producing kits of subjects straight out of left field. Some have been from games, some novels and some from animes. However, they all have one thing in common; they’re esoteric oddballs all!
One of these “left fielders” is the MS-08TX(Exam) Efreet Custom from, I believe, the UC-set Gundam Blue Destiny side story! While the Efreet had made a small, almost cameo, appearance in Unicorn, Bandai chose to deploy this variant in plastic first. Why? Who knows? That’s how the Re/100 series rolls, so to speak. However, whether you know much about the mech or not, there’s no denying that it’s a cool looking machine, and I was very anxious to get my hands on one.
I was so excited to get started on this one that I didn’t even take any pictures of the unbuilt kit! However, I’m sure you can find that elsewhere on the net. Like here:
Opening the very nicely illustrated box, you’re met with a large number of parts, on twelve separate racks, plus a rack of polycaps. Now, while the Re/100s might be “cut rate MG” kits, there’s really nothing “cut rate” about them. Like their smaller HGUC counterparts, they still come moulded in multiple colours and have excellent part and colour separation. The Efreet comes finely moulded in medium greyish-blue, black, white, dark grey, yellow and orange-red styrene, with a clear pink mono-eye and two clear orange heat sabres. This is no “no grade”, one-colour kit. For anyone used to the quality of a Bandai Gundam kit, the Efreet does not disappoint.
The surface detail of the kit is excellent, and may actually be better than on a lot of MGs, simply because the parts are larger and fewer, meaning that there’s more chance to put in small details without them getting lost in the “puzzle work” of separate armour pieces. There are plenty of little details like shoulder sights, verniers and vents. The typical Zeon hoses are also nicely rendered, and the clear components are perfectly clear.
Like all Gundams, test-fitting is a tricky proposition. Because of the “snap fit” nature of the kit, getting assemblies apart can be difficult. However, the fit of the parts is excellent, and other than the numerous sprue gates, the amount of sanding on this kit is kept to a minimum. One of the shortcomings of the kit, though, is the hands. There are hands for holding the heat sabres, and there are closed hands. Sadly, the closed hands don’t look very good. There’s a clearly rectangular “fill in” in the middle, and it looks little-better than the old “blocky-‘80s-robot-fist” of kits from the original line of Gundam kits in 1982! For some, this could be a problem; there’s a “hand mafia” that really places an emphasis on nice-looking and expressive manipulators. I’m not one of them. To cure the problem, I just make sure the hands are busy holding weapons.
In fact, weaponry is the only other possible weakness in this kit. The Efreet only has two heat sabres and the ridiculously large missile pods on its “rocket pants”. Compared to some MG kits this does, admittedly, feel a bit skimpy. Still, if you’ve got a spares box or an imagination, this should pose little difficulty. Also, it is CORRECT, even if it isn’t overwhelmingly impressive.
Can’t Just Leave Well Enough Alone:
One of the great things about building non-Gundams in the Gundam universe is that the general-purpose suits are usually very customizable. You can do almost anything you want to a Zeon suit, or a GM, and call it a “custom” and you’re okay. I like this. However, it can lead to an almost literal paralysis by choice. There are sooooooo many possibilities for a Zeon suit like this. Black Tristars? Okay. What about doing it in an ace’s paint, like Johnny Ridden? Sure. What about cammo? Still works. A custom paint of your own choosing? Absolutely!
Thus, for me, the hardest part of the kit was figuring out what to do with it. Then, one day, it hit me. The suit that is most like the Efreet is actually the Gouf. They’re both equipped with heat sabres, have symmetrically-spiked shoulders and have similar leg and waist geometries. When I realized this, I had to think of Gouf paints. Of course, Ranba Ral came to mind, but that’s way too clichéd. Then I remembered one of my favourite Zeon aces; Norris Packard from 8th MS Team! Despite being older and a bit, um, round, about the middle (clearly both are prerequisites for Gouf pilots), he was able to kick arse on a whole raft of Feddie suits while covering the Kergueren’s launch. That’s one of the most dramatic MS fights I can think of and it seemed natural to paint the Efreet in his colours.
Unfortunately, one of Packard’s main weapons is the large multi-barrel autocannon that mounts to the Gouf’s shield. Now, they do make an MG Gouf like that, with the shield, but then I have to buy another kit, and I am running out of space. Instead, I went “shopping” in my MG stack. Was there something I had that could do the job, and that I didn’t need for another project? Digging around, I found my MG Lukas’ Strike E from Seed Astrays. I bought that kit for the IWSP and its giant autocannon shield! ”Oh yeah!” went the Kool-Aid man in my head. I figured it would work perfectly.
It did, actually, and much better than I thought. I only had to make slight modifications to the cannon shield to make it fit on the Efreet. Because the Efreet doesn’t have an arm-mount for such a shield, and I wanted to keep the Efreet’s arms unmodified, I had to find a way to “hang the shield on there. I did this by adapting the arm-mount for the Strike, such that it was reoriented and bent around to clip in behind the Efreet’s elbow. This gives rear-end support while the cannon’s hand grip provides support at the front. I had to bend and twist the handle a bit to get it into a position in which the Efreet could hold it. I actually cracked the handle in a few places, resetting it with glue and then sanding it all smooth, so that it was properly angled and contoured to fit the Efreet’s larger, thicker hand. The only other mod was to leave off the dumb beam boomerang thing (God I hate those in Seed…). This kept the lines of the shield much lower.
The other issue was the “rocket pants”. Like Hammer Pants, they are big, billowy and really just not in style. The missile pods look goofily oversized, and the pants themselves just don’t fit the design of the mech. I wanted just to leave them off. However, they mount to the Efreet through a hole in the leg. This meant a lot of filling and sanding. Or did it? It turns out there’s a P-Bandai version of the 1/100 Efreet done as the Efreet Schneid. Of course, this doesn’t have the dumb pants, and comes with two small plugs for the holes in the legs. To my great relief the normal Efreet also came with these, so “fixing” this issue was, really, a non-issue! I just popped in the plugs (like on the insides of the legs) and it was “problem solved”!
Deciding on a scheme was one thing, but figuring out exactly what colours to put where was something else. I have a tendency to print off a copy of the line art for a mech I’m custom painting, and then colouring it in with pencil crayons. This allows me to test various schemes at “no cost” to the kit. After a few tweaks, I got a division of colours that I liked, and I stuck the drawing up on the wall as a paint guide.
Just as an aside, I use a 3M Scotch Repositionable Craft Stick for this. This is a glue stick that, almost magically, makes any piece of paper a Post-It Note! You apply the glue, and let it dry for a couple of minutes. Then, instead of being dried out, it becomes that removable adhesive we all love! This means I can stick the paint plan to any surface (painted wall, wood, etc.) without risk of any damage to the surface when I pull it off. Just a little trick you might not know about…
I mixed up all the colours for the Efreet from scratch. The light blue started as a colour that was already a mix of Model Master Acrylic (MMA) GM Engine Blue, Flat White and Light Grey. I tweaked it a bit more and got it where I wanted it. I used GM Engine Blue as the base for the darker blue, too, and added Gunship Grey and Light Ghost Grey to darken/grey it up. The “black” is actually Virsago Black, a colour made from Gunship Grey and Aircraft Interior Black.
The entire kit was primed with Paint It! grey primer from Walmart. This is pretty good paint, but it’s no longer available. I guess it was being sold too cheaply, so Walmart got rid of it. Now a can of Rustoleum Primer (which is better, but not THAT much better) sets me back more than double. Huh… nice savings Walmart… Anyway… I digress… The colours were all painted by hand, since that’s my favourite part of building a mech.
The orange on the thrusters was just MMA International Orange, but the light yellow-orange on the chest door came from an ancient mix of I-don’t-know-what. One of the most fun parts of a mech for me is the metallic parts. Thrusters and hoses and vents (and in this case gun barrels) all help to break up the colour of a mech, and to me add a lot of realism. I used MMA Steel for the hoses and Jet Exhaust for the thrusters. On the cannon barrels, I used Jet Exhaust with a very heavy Citadel Nuln Oil wash to add a “greasy, fired” look. I also blued them with a special concoction I have for simulating heat bluing of bare metal. It’s a mix of Future and Jacquard Pigment “True Blue”, which actually has some purple in it. I did the collar around the barrel in Steel, for contrast.
The entire kit was first Futured, then outlined with a Sakura Calligraphy Pen. It was then flat coated with Delta Ceramcoat Indoor/Outdoor Matte Urethane Varnish. This looked a bit too stark, so I added a “Low Satin” coat (just a tiny bit off-flat) made from the same material, just cut with some Future. The end result was a nice finish that was a bit deeper and “livelier” than dead-flat, but still militaristic looking. I use this same approach on most of my Gundams, and it really does work well.
As mentioned earlier, the Efreet comes with two heat sabres. These are moulded in the most perfect clear orange I’ve ever seen; not a bubble, not a mark, nothing. However, sadly, they’re also totally inappropriate. After all these are “heat” weapons, not “beam” weapons. Clear is only applicable for a beam sabre, not a heat blade. Or is it?
I thought about how I could make the sabre look “lit” without looking “beamy”. I normally apply a light coat of Mr. Surfacer White to beam sabres to make them a bit more translucent (vs. transparent), and then I overcoat them with a pigment-based “beam” coating. I modified this a bit for the heat sabre. I started by applying a heavier, uniform coat of Mr. Surfacer White over the entire blade. I did this until I had a whitish orange blade that, when held up to the light, still “glowed” from within. I then oversprayed this with Tamiya Clear Orange. This gave me back the “orange”-ness of a lit heat blade while also giving it some “glow” from within. The surface wasn’t perfectly smooth, but that’s just fine; a heat blade is just a big plank of super-heated metal anyway! I doubt it’d be smooth in real life!
For the other sabre, the one stored on the Efreet’s back, I just sprayed it with Krylon Silver and then gave it a light wash. The “grainy” texture of the metallic steel responded well to a light Nuln Oil wash, and with a couple coats of Future to lock it all in, it was done. Thus, the inactive heat sabre is metal-coloured, and the live one is glowing orange! This really works well, and it’s probably my favourite part of the kit. The clear blades just look wrong, especially stowed on the Efreet’s back. The painted sabres are far more convincing.
Overall, the Re/100 Efreet achieves exactly what Bandai was going for; it is a high-quality looking and feeling kit, MG-sized but with far reduced complexity. I loved every second of building it. I liked NOT having to waste time and trouble on the internal frame. It meant less chopping, sanding and wasting paint washing the darn thing. It also made assembly much easier with painted parts, and it made things a lot faster. I am very, very impressed with the Efreet. I’m sure that all of the Re/100 kits are going to be this good (the Gerbera was, but that’s another story); I have several more, so I hope they are!
There’s absolutely nothing not to like about this kit. It’s a big, sturdy Zeon MS (my first 1/100 Zeon suit, actually), it’s stable, posable, well-detailed and looks just like an MG on display. It has good heft, too, and stays stable even when holding the autocannon shield! I honestly expected it would tip over, but it doesn’t complain at all. The joints are all stable and solid, too; there was no cheapening out on the polycaps, like I was worried there might be. The parts all fit really well, and there was never a sense of “second best” when building this kit.
This is a great kit for anyone who likes the design. Beginner, moderate or advanced; everyone can get in on the action with this guy! The Re/100 kits are, quite possibly, the perfect Gundam kits for everyone. They’re big and impressive, they’re of interesting (if not downright bizarre) subject matter and they go together well. With large parts, and fewer of them, they’re great even for younger hands, but old-hands (and eyes!) will appreciate them as well.
I am very, very pleased with this kit, and how it turned out. I love having a kit that is clearly Norris Packard’s, and that will make people pause and go “Wait, what?” and do a double-take The scheme looks positively amazing on the Efreet, and the ability to build it without the dumb rocket pants is very, very welcome.
I would recommend this kit to everyone, everywhere, always. This and the other Re/100s won’t let you down. Grab one (or more) and see for yourself. With this kit, Bandai really does manage to give everyone what they wanted, and it should please everyone, all of the time!