Bandai 1/144 AMX-014 Dovenwolf (ZZ’ed Unicorn Ver.)

 

Sure, Bandai may hate ZZ Gundam, but if they can sell a kit, they'll make one! This is the Sleeves version of the Dovenwolf all "ZZed" up. I was too impatient to wait for the release of the "legit" ZZ version, so shoot me.

Sure, Bandai may hate ZZ Gundam, but if they can sell a kit, they’ll make one! This is the Sleeves version of the Dovenwolf all “ZZed” up. I was too impatient to wait for the release of the “legit” ZZ version, so shoot me.

Bandai and Sunrise don’t like ZZ Gundam. Of course, most Gundam fans don’t like it either, given its uneven, goofy pacing in the first half of the series. (I, however, will rock the boat and say that once it’s going, ZZ is far better than Zeta Gundam for story, action and characters. Start throwing internet tomatoes now, folks!) Because of this, Bandai actually took to writing ZZ out of existence when they made the three Zeta movies. Given this, most people are forgiven for thinking that the HGUC lineup is unlikely to see a lot of ZZ mecha beyond what’s already been made.

That’s what I thought when I got a hold of the 1/144 Dovenwolf (Unicorn Ver.). This MS never appears in the Unicorn anime, since it’s an MSV (Mobile Suit Variation). However, it is kitted as a Sleeves machine, complete with the odd scrolling on the cuffs that identifies the Neo-Neo(-Neo?) Zeon forces. Other than the scrolling on the cuffs and chest, though, the rest of the kit looks like the Dovenwolf from ZZ. Since ZZ is so unpopular, I wasn’t sure that Bandai would make a “normal” version.

Thus, I decided that I wanted to build my new Dovenwolf as a standard Neo Zeon machine. Of course, by the time I was half done, I heard Bandai WAS going to bring out a normal version. Gah! Regardless of which version you buy or how you build it, though, the Dovenwolf family  are all going to turn out well. This is a nice kit that has all the finest engineering Bandai can throw at it built right in.

The Kit:

If you want full details on what the kit looks like in the box, take a look at  the Out of Box Review for this guy. In short, it’s a beautiful kit that’s light years ahead of the old Dovenwolf kit released in the mid-1980’s. The moulding and fit are excellent, and the kit has a lot of neat little “extras” on it, like removable forearms and INCOM units.

Building the Dovenwolf:

The new Dovenwolf kit is a pretty easy build, for the most part. All the pieces fit together well, but there are a few places where there is some build around. Chief among these is the upper body. The two halves of the green part (on my kit) are supposed to be built around the halves of the black part. However, this would make painting, sanding and finishing very difficult. A simple cure is to cut the post receivers on the black part back, and do a bit of internal chopping on the attachment pegs of the green/black interface, to ensure that you can “pop” the green part on afterwards. I did this, and it made life much, much easier.

The large “towers” on the Dovenwolf’s back are another area that require some careful planning. The rocket bay doors, rockets and thin thruster arm all get built into the main tower. This means that either you have to be super careful building everything, or you figure out a way around it. I simply scribed the seams on the towers into panel lines, and outlined them in black during assembly. This is a bit more work, but doesn’t look out of place and makes it so you can finish all the parts first. Because I chose this path, I could insert the door, rockets and thruster arm all at final assembly.

I did the same thing with the parts of the backpack that hold the INCOM units. I scribed panel lines on the seams so I could install the “back plate” after everything was done, and not have it look out of place. This made it easier to ensure the inside of the INCOM bays  were completely greyed-out inside.

The rocket bays and retracting INCOMs are nice features, but they require some careful planning during the build to minimize frustration. It's all well worth the effort, though!

The opening rocket bays and retracting INCOMs are nice features, but they require some careful planning during the build to minimize frustration. It’s all well worth the effort, though!

The only other major modification to the kit required is the assembly sequence of the beam rifle/cannon. This has a sliding barrel and stock, folding handles and opening/closing panels on the front of the gun. The key is to be able to assemble the gun’s body and then stick all this stuff into it. This requires the part that has the two posts on it to be modified. These posts allow the gun to plug into the Dovenwolf’s torso for more power, converting the beam rifle to a mega beam launcher. This is a cool gimmick, and looks neat installed, but causes a lot of problems. While you’re at it, make sure to cut the locator pin stops off the main barrel, too. This will allow you to insert the barrel into the gun body when all is said and done, which is a major advantage when it comes to painting and outlining.

Other than those areas, the kit goes together great. I chose to sand off the “sleevery” on my  mech, so that it would resemble an old ZZ-era machine. Technically,  you should also sand off the piping on the chest, but I just outlined it, and painted the centre embellishment yellow. Sure, it’s not the same as the original Neo Zeon emblem, but it’s close enough for me.

Sleeves = Lame. To correct this, I just sanded the “sleeves” parts off. It didn’t affect the fit or function of anything else, and now the kit looks like a proper ZZ machine

Painting and Finishing:

I wanted my Dovenwolf to resemble the old ZZ Gundam anime suits used near the end of the series in the Neo Zeon Civil War. I have a Myashimare Zaku III, and I thought they’d make a neat set. However, I find the colour of the anime version TOO loud and obnoxious. It’s a very, very bright green, like Kup from Transformers but amped way, way up. However, in the old Dovenwolf kit instructions, there’s a watercolour painting of a Dovenwolf that is a bit more subdued. I went with this approach. I also used this picture as a guide for the main cannon; that’s why it’s so colourful, as opposed to being all black or all body-coloured (like in the anime).

This close up of the "business end" of the Dovenwolfs beam cannon gives an idea of the number of colours on this gun. At least it wasnt boring to paint!

This close up of the “business end” of the Dovenwolf’s beam cannon gives an idea of the number of colours on this gun. At least it wasn’t boring to paint!

To create the green colour, I used a number of Testors Model Master Gaming Colours (their labels were long gone, so I don’t know the names). The green was the same as that used on the Wagtail Custom, which was called Verdigris. This was a bit too bright, so some blue, yellow, white and light grey were added as well. The end result was a bright, but slightly muted, green colour that is very anime-like in tint. It’s surprisingly muted without looking dirty; I was very happy with the result, since it matched the watercolour almost exactly.

The black was done with Virsago Black (my own mix of black, brown and Gunship Grey), and the red is a modified version of Chevy Engine Block Red. Normally, I hand paint my mecha, but this thing is so large that I decided to put down an airbrushed coat of paint first, to act as a coloured primer. This worked well; the Testors paint adhered to my Colourplace Grey Primer very strongly, and I only had to hand brush on two or three coats of paint thereafter. I still like painting, so I wanted to do the final finish by hand.

While still vibrant, the green I made up for the Dovenwolf is at least a bit more subdued than the anime. Despite this, the red, green and black combo is pretty loud.

While still vibrant, the green I made up for the Dovenwolf is at least a bit more subdued than the anime. Despite this, the red, green and black combo is pretty loud. Look again at that colourful main cannon!

The Dovenwolf, despite its size and weight, is a high-performance, high-mobility mech. In order for this to be realizable, the machine is covered in verniers and boosters. As is my wont, I did them all with MMA International Orange insides and Jet Exhaust outsides. They were given a wash with Citadel Baddab Black and Devlan Mud for tinting. Using washes on bare metal shades is STILL one of the most simple and dramatic ways to improve their appearance! Washing engines may be my most looked-forward-to painting job! One thing I hate, though, is when the verniers on a mech are painted body colour. I can’t stand it.

Engines, engines and more engines! The Dovenwolf has boosters out the proverbial wazoo, and they're all over the place. Picking them out in metal/orange adds another dimension to the model.

Engines, engines and more engines! The Dovenwolf has boosters out the proverbial wazoo, and they’re all over the place. Picking them out in metal/orange adds another dimension to the model.

Well, the Dovenwolf has a giant engine built into its shoulder armour. Now, is it armour with an engine in it, or is it an engine supplanting the armour? To me, it’s the latter. Thus, while the  upward-pointing chunk of the shoulder armor is traditionally painted green on a ZZ Dovenwolf, on mine, it’s painted jet exhaust. This can be quite a bone of contention, depending who you ask. However, I think it looks good, myself. It changes the entire appearance of the kit, and in my view it makes the shoulders less dramatic and better in tune with the rest of the mech’s design aesthetic.

Here's a side view of the shoulder engine. To me, it looks better as an engine, and it makes the mech look less ridiculously pointy. It's more in keeping with the Silver Bullet's shoulders too, if you consider the engine as just an addition.

Here’s a side view of the shoulder engine. To me, it looks better as an engine, and it makes the mech look less ridiculously pointy. It’s more in keeping with the Silver Bullet’s shoulders too, if you consider the engine as just an addition. You can really see the “whiting” on the beam sabre as well from this angle. One other thing: Note the bare metal blast plate around the hip engine.

The kit was glossed with Future, outlined with a Sakura calligraphy pen, and then flatted with a semi-gloss version mix of Future and Delta Ceramcoat Matte Urethane Varnish. As always, on newer mecha at least, the final assembly was a pain; the tolerances are so tight that all pegs have to be scraped in order for things to fit properly. A few layers of paint will be enough to prevent proper fit! This was made bountifully apparent when I tried to attach the head. The small amount of paint on the neck’s ball joint made it almost impossible to fit the head on. Given that it is festooned with so many delicate aerials, finding a place to grip it to give it the required attachment force was extremely interesting…

From the back, there's still a lot going on colour-wise. You can see that the head is well and truly buried between those shoulder cannons, but it has to be put on AFTER they are, other wise you'll snap off the aerials!

From the back, there’s still a lot going on colour-wise. You can see that the head is well and truly buried between those shoulder cannons, but it has to be put on AFTER they are, other wise you’ll snap off the aerials!

Conclusions:

The Dovenwolf is one of those mecha that really, really needed a nice new incarnation. Sure, it’s not a hugely major player in the Gundam ZZ anime, but it was in there about as much as the Zaku III, which was kitted ages ago (for reasons no one knows). This kit does not disappoint, and anyone who is a fan of the Dovenwolf or Gundam ZZ’s design aesthetic in general.

The kit has lots of mobility for its size, and it’s nice to be able to tilt the towers forward for their beam cannon mode. The kit also comes with two large anti-ship missiles, but I didn’t bolt them on, since they get in the way of the head when the towers are forwards.

I recommend this kit for anyone. It’s well-designed enough that someone who’s never built a Gundam will be able to get it together no sweat. For advanced and experienced builders, this kit is a lot of fun and not too much work. It’s one of those rare kits that’s fun for everyone! Just be careful putting that head on!

 

 

 

 

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