Bandai 1/100 Gundam Astrea F

 

What's red and maroon and  angry all over? Right! It's the Astrea F from the Gundam 00 Universe!  Despite not being a Master Grade, the HG Astrea F is a nice kit that builds up well.

What’s red and maroon and angry all over? Right! It’s the Astrea F from the Gundam 00 Universe! Despite not being a Master Grade, the HG Astrea F is a nice kit that builds up well.

As with so many other Gundam series, Gundam 00 is more than just an anime. There are also several “side stories” to Gundam 00, including Gundam 00P and Gundam 00F, the first of which is a graphic story for Degenki Hobby and the second of which is a manga (comic book). These side stories tell of events within the Gundam 00 universe, but use different mecha  and characters from the “main line” Gundam 00 show.

Nominally, this practice is followed to flesh out the Gundam 00 universe. However, as I’m sure you can expect, there is a commercial side to this too. There are often kits made of the mecha from these side stories, and Gundam 00 has one of the most prolific selection of these of any Gundam series.

One of the main mecha from the Gundam 00 side stories is the Astrea-F, a prototype Gundam that eventually leads to the development of the Exia, the “star” of Gundam 00. Despite its age, the Astrea shows up throughout the 00 sidestory universe, proving to be particularly durable useful, undergoing several modifications, and even having to go “incognito” so as not to be recognized as a Gundam!

Given the importance of the Astrea-F, it isn’t surprising that there are kits of it. In fact, there are two choices: one in 1/100 the other in 1/144. The 1/100 kit is a High Grade (HG), not a Master Grade (MG), and came out before the 1/144 kit.

The Kit:

 One of the first things that strikes you about the Astrea-F is that it is red. This is very unusual for a Gundam, save the Virsago from Gundam X and the Casval’s Gundam Perfect Grade. Upon opening the box, you are treated to a good number of parts cast in various shades of red, reddish-brown, dark grey and clear. There are a couple of yellow parts as well, and pink transparent beam sabres.

He's red everywhere! This rear view shows the lack of GN Drive and the nice breaking up effect of painting thrusters adn mechanical bits in a different colour!

He’s red everywhere! This rear view shows the lack of GN Drive and the nice breaking up effect of painting thrusters adn mechanical bits in a different colour! The Green “GN Windows” make a nice visual contrast, too!

The oddest part about the kit is the rubber band-like rack. This is whitish-purple, and has several pieces of very flexible rubber strips on it. These rubber pieces are trademarks of the Gundams from Gundam 00; it’s some kind of GN Particle conductor cable, or some such thing. Bandai simulates this using very flexible rubber, which, at first, seems like a good plan. However, the rubber gets dirty easily and can’t be painted. It’s too flexible, and any paint will flake right off.

The plastic parts are all well-formed with no flash of any kind. The instructions are very clear and easy to understand, as always, and there are a lot of good views of the machine from all angles. This is important on a machine as unconventionally coloured as the Astrea-F.

Unlike Master Grades, there is no full internal frame, but I don’t mind that at all. The kit is designed such that there is a ‘core’ to the legs to which all the armour bolts, so it’s like a semi MG in that respect.

 Building the Astrea-F:

For the most part, the kit is very well designed and fits together nicely. Most of the assembly work is straightforward, although the rubber strands cause a problem. They have to be put in the machine before the parts go together, but they’re so floppy that handling them may prove to be difficult. Also, I don’t know how the rubber takes to liquid cement, but if they melt due to it, you’re going to be in a bind; they are all near seams!

To avoid any late-build heartache, I simply decided to replace the rubber with styrene. I traced the rubber parts onto some thin sheet styrene, cut the new parts out and painted them a light purple. I flat coated the parts and got them all “final product ready” and found I could instert some of them after the work was done. This wasn’t possible with the floppy rubber bits, though, because they were insufficiently rigid.

The top row is the rubber that comes with the Astrea kit. The bottom rows are my sheet styrene replicas. Easier to paint and install than the originals, the styrene parts also hold up better and show less dirt!

The top row is the rubber that comes with the Astrea kit. The bottom rows are my sheet styrene replicas. Easier to paint and install than the originals, the styrene parts also hold up better and show less dirt!

There are a lot of weapons to choose from on the Astrea-F. You get a machine gun, a bazooka-like beam cannon, two sabre hilts (which can be full swords or short “beam daggers”), a shield and an Exia-like under-arm flick out blade (which looks terrible). The problem is, like so many 00 weapons, most of them look lame. They are too chunky and clunky for the Astrea-F, which is really quite a lean mech. Also, the gun bolts into the forearm power socket, but this is again too bulky to look cool.  I chose to just go with the shield and a sabre; the lighter load compliments the lines of the mech much better.

This view shows off not only the Astrea's lean proportions, but also the "power socket" in the forearm. This hardpoint is occupied by the shield on the left arm, but is open on the right. It's a clunky interface and tends to make the weapons more unweildy than they could otherwise be.

This view shows off not only the Astrea’s lean proportions, but also the “power socket” in the forearm. This hardpoint is occupied by the shield on the left arm, but is open on the right. It’s a clunky interface and tends to make the weapons more unwieldy than they could otherwise be.

There are two versions of the Astrea that you can build, the –F or the –F2. There are differences in the head and skirts, as well as the chest vents. I chose to build a hybrid, and thus you could say I have an Astrea-F1.5. I chose to do the Astrea with the face shield removed, making it more obviously a Gundam. However, the face had no chevron-shaped breather lines on it. I hate “bald-faced” Gundams, so I etched in the  “missing” lines. I also changed the head wings a bit, painting them more conventionally, adding to the “Gundamishness” of the final product.

Painting and Finishing:

 I like the colour scheme on the Astrea-F quite a bit, but there’s a brownish colour they use for the frame that I don’t like. I replaced it with a darkened Gunship Grey, and it makes the mech look much nicer, and far less dirty. I also decided to use brass for some of the accents, including the chest vents. I didn’t want the contrast of yellow, but I didn’t like the brown, either.

I used mixes of various Polyscale and Testors Model Master acrylics to make the red and the maroon. No straight colour gave me what I wanted, but the new colours were great. I used a Jacquard pigment and Future-based paint for the metallic green in the GN windows, and painted the windows on the inside, so there’s no chance of chipping. I did it in reverse; first the paint, and then the primer behind it, to make sure it was opaque. Worked like a charm.

I did the outlining with my usual calligraphy pen, and then flat coated it all with Delta Ceramcoat Matte varnish. I adjusted the mix to get a slightly satiny finish that looked better than the pure flat I was going to do the Astrea. All the internal bits were washed with Citadel Baddab Black, thinned with a bit of water, to make them flow a bit better into the cracks.

This "worm's eye" view shows of the brass chest vents and the white on the beam sabre very well. You can also just see the mauve "GN Cable" through the side of the waist.

This “worm’s eye” view shows of the brass chest vents and the white on the beam sabre very well. You can also just see the mauve “GN Cable” through the side of the waist. Note the nice effect of the Baddab Black wash, too.

I airbrushed the base of the sabre with Mr. Surfacer White, to make it look hot, and then oversprayed it with Jacquard Interference Violet, to give it a ‘glowing’ look.

Conclusions:

The HG Astrea-F is a largely straightforward kit that goes together well and looks awesome. It is a very stable machine, and the joints are all nice and tight, although they don’t bind up  at all. It is also quite poseable, since there isn’t much extra armour on it.

One supposed selling point of the kit is that it has “mechanical detail”, like a mini-MG. Well, it’s really unnecessary. There’s a bit of detail under the shoulder armour’s upper plates, and there’s a bit of detail in the gun. Thing is, it’s all covered up when you build the kit anyway, so it’s kind of pointless. It’s not like the frame and skirt internals on an MG, where you can still see some of it when all’s done.

Not an MG-level detail, to be sure, the exposed part of the frame on the leg does add a nice touch. I put the brass on there to accentuate it.

Not an MG-level detail, to be sure, the exposed part of the frame on the leg does add a nice touch. I put the brass on there to accentuate it.

Since it’s not an MG, the Astrea-F is much simpler and has fewer parts to cut off  and sand. It is, however, a kit that needs paint; the original colours are a bit off, I find.

The Astrea-F is a nice kit that builds well and can be finished pretty quickly. I would toss the rubber parts, but other than that, I think it is a great kit for anyone who likes the style of the mech.

This side view shows off some of the brass work in the arm, as well as the two big green GN Windows. Painting them on the inside is imperative; there's no room on the outside once you instlall the domes.

This side view shows off some of the brass work in the arm, as well as the two big green GN Windows. Painting them on the inside is imperative; there’s no room on the outside once you install the domes.

Here, you can see the GN cord in the upper leg, as well as the one on the waist. This is  a fun mech to build, save those rubber bits. Replacing them is a great idea!

Here, you can see the GN cord in the upper leg, as well as the one on the waist. This is a fun mech to build, save those rubber bits. Replacing them is a great idea! Note, too the “Gundam Vents” in the faceplate; that’s my own addition. Every Gundam needs breathers!

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