Bandai 1/144 Stargazer Gundam

 

Here is the Stargazer Gundam in all its glory, with the beam rings deployed and the "Voiture Lumiere" propulsion ring in the fully upright position.

Here is the Stargazer Gundam in all its glory, with the beam rings deployed and the “Voiture Lumiere” propulsion ring in the fully upright position. You can see the shimmering on the unique decals, too.

If there is one thing Bandai understands, it’s how to make the most of a popular and profitable franchise. Gundam SEED was no exception to this, and after the success of the original series and its sequel, SEED Destiny, some wondered what Bandai would do next. There were plenty of manga (comic book) side stories, but many figured there’d be no new animation. However, they were wrong.  The next story in the SEED universe to be given animated life was Gundam SEED CE 73: Stargazer.

However, this was an ONA (Original Net Animation), and a short one at that. With a total running time of only about 45 minutes, and serialized in three parts, Stargazer wasn’t exactly what people expected. Was it a big deal? Yes, it was. But with so few minutes of footage, what did the model-making arm of Bandai hope to achieve?  Well, the same as always of course: scale plastic domination!

Despite its short length, Stargazer Spawned many new kits, some of which were retooled or modified kits from SEED. However, there were a few brand new designs as well, including the DSSD Civilian Astray and the titular MS itself: the Stargazer Gundam. Unlike the Strike Noire, which received an MG incarnation, the Stargazer was only available in 1/144 as an HG kit.

The Stargazer is not like most other Gundams. Firstly, it is not red, white and blue. It is only white and grey, giving it a much more mature, majestic and unified appearance than most other Gundams. Also, the Stargazer is a CIVILIAN machine. The DSSD (Deep Space Survey and Development organization) developed the Stargazer to be an unmanned exploration machine, and as a result, it is UNARMED.  The Stargazer is also equipped with a prototype solar sail-like propulsion system, the “voiture lumiere”, which uses the sun’s rays as power for its distinctive, round propulsion disk.

As part of this system, the Stargazer has luminous patches all over its body that glow when the system is being powered up. This gives the Stargazer a very angelic look in the anime. The strangest manifestation of the Voiture Lumiere system, though, are three green “beam rings” that can be generated to act as a shield (or cutter), and which deploy all around the machine’s body.  All these features are pretty cool, and really make the Stargazer stand out in a long line of MS designs, but how does all that translate into a kit?

The Kit:

In short, it works out pretty darn well. The folks at Bandai can’t be accused of being lazy or phoning-it-in on this one.

Like most SEED HG kits, the Stargazer is a very nice, but not overly complicated kit. It is a completely new tool, too; no reuse of Strike, Buster or Dual bits, as in some of its contemporaries. The model comes moulded in white, light grey, dark grey/black, a tiny bit of yellow and red, and translucent greet. It also comes with standard peel-n-stick decals (which suck) and a sheet of not-so-standard stickers. These non-sucky stickers are a goldish reflective material that are somewhat holographic. They are placed all over the Stargazer’s body to simulate the shimmering energy conductor lines that glow when the Voiture Lumiere system is in operation.

Did you call for fancy stickers? The high quality, heavy duty holographic stickers that come with the Stargazer are the best stickers I've ever seen on a Bandai kit. See how the catch the light?

Did you call for fancy stickers? The high quality, heavy duty holographic stickers that come with the Stargazer are the best stickers I’ve ever seen on a Bandai kit. See how they catch the light? AWESOME!

If it’s one thing that Gundam kits have going for them its gimmicks. If giant robots just aren’t cool enough for you, there are almost always other giant robots that have extra weapons, cool shields, transformations, extra armour or something else to give it that “over the top” appeal. This used to be the case with only larger scale (like Master Grade) Gundams, but since the SEED days, it has begun to find its way to the 1/144 High Grade series. The Stargazer is no slouch when it comes to gimmicks, since this little kit reproduces not only the multi-positional Voiture Lumiere ring, but also the green beam rings that can be generated. Of course, the holographic stickers mentioned above are thrown into the mix for good measure too.

The beam rings are moulded in green clear material. Now, you might be thinking “How are they going to stick rings to a Gundam? Won’t that look dumb?” The answers in reverse order are a.) no, they look cool and b.) by using a custom stand, also included! The Stargazer can stand on its own two feet, its Voiture Lumiere ring, or in can “sit” on a special stand that also holds the three beam rings in place. This allows the rings to clear the mech on all sides, and really makes it look like the Stargazer is hovering in the middle of the three concentric beam loops.

Look ma... no hands! Here you can see the Stargazer "hovering" in the middle of the three concentric beam rings. Pretty cool effect, eh?

Look ma… no hands! Here you can see the Stargazer “hovering” in the middle of the three concentric beam rings. Pretty cool effect, eh? Note the black “joiners” between the rings behind the Gundam. These are moulded into the rings, and need to be carefully painted to get the most out of the gimmick.

Building the Stargazer is very straightforward; the instructions are clear and well laid out, and there aren’t any surprises or workarounds needed on this kit. This is a minor miracle, since there’s usually something that requires attention. Whether you’re a novice, a pro or somewhere in between, the Stargazer should be a simple and enjoyable build for you. Gotta love that!

Painting and Finishing:

Most of the Stargazer is white. The light grey was done using Model Master Acrylic (MMA) Light Ghost Grey. To make the frame components stand out, and to give this peacefully-purposed Gundam a dressier look, I decided to paint them with MMA steel. Using a Citadel Baddab Black wash on these parts really brought out the detail and gave the metal a slightly burnished look. Seriously, the difference between metallic colours raw and lightly washed is insane; I never cease to be amazed.

This closeup of the Stargazer's "inner" lower leg frame shows just how good a lightly washed metallic can look. It really gives a metal feel. Using Steel makes it stand out far better than just using grey.

This closeup of the Stargazer’s “inner” lower leg frame shows just how good a lightly washed metallic can look. It really gives a metal feel. Using Steel makes it stand out far better than just using grey.

As always the mech was outlined using a Sakura 0.20mm calligraphy pen, and then flat coated with Delta Ceramcoat Matte Indoor/Outdoor Urethane varnish. The Stargazer is actually quite flat, as opposed to the satiny finish I usually use. Why? It makes the glossy stickers and rings show up better. The mech doesn’t catch the light, but those parts of it do!

Painting the MS itself is not the hard part of finishing this kit. Just like the build, it’s pretty straightforward. The key is applying the stickers and getting the rings just right.  The stickers worried me; they were not the normal peel/stick kind, and they were much thicker than I’m used to. I was going to try to do my own “energy effect”, but it was going to be too hard. So, I decided that I’d give the stickers a shot.

Am I ever glad I did. They stuck down perfectly, despite their thickness, and they have STAYED stuck down now for 4 years (to the day). That’s way better than I expected, and they show no signs of lifting any time soon. I smoothed them down with a foam-tipped swab, to make sure they were securely on there, and it seems to have worked! When the sun hits the Stargazer, it really glows. Heck, even in the light of my bedroom the stickers shimmer all kinds of different colours!

The beam rings need a bit more work, though. Sure, you can use them as is, but if you do, they look like just some clear, green rings. Also, where they attach to each other (and the stand) is also green, so it looks like three rings held together by a green line. All in all, not too cool. First thing’s first, though: I wanted to get the rings “beamed” up properly. I sprayed a light dusting of Mr. Surfacer  1000 White over the rings, to make them slightly opaque. I then faded more white on at the back, where they “originate” from the stand, to give the same kind of effect as I get on a beam sabre. With the white on, I used some Jacquard pigments to make a goldy-green overspray. This tones down the white, and makes it look like it is inside a sheath of green energy.

From behind you can see the "whited" part of the beam rings, the "intense" part where they would be generated. Using an airbrush to fade this in is key for making beam accessories work. The complimentary overspray tones down the white and finishes the effect.

From behind you can see the “whited” part of the beam rings, the “intense” part where they would be generated. Using an airbrush to fade this in is key for making beam accessories work. The complimentary overspray tones down the white and finishes the effect.

The most important paint, though, on the beam rings is the black. Rather than have the inter-ring joiners stay whitish green, I chose to black them out. This matches the stand, and makes the rings look completely distinct. This may seem unnecessary, since it’s on the back side of the mech when you see it, but if you see it angle-off, it makes a huge difference!

From the side, you can easily see the black inter-ring spacers, as well as how the unique stand helps to support the whole thing.

From the side, you can easily see the black inter-ring spacers, as well as how the unique stand helps to support the whole thing.

What Makes THIS Gundam Special?

For me, the Stargazer is a very special and important Gundam. Firstly, it is the ONLY  MS I have that is unarmed. It is likely to stay that way, since I like robots with lots of guns and swords.

More importantly, there is a very personal story behind my Stargazer. My beloved Grandmother (Grans) was always a big fan of my modelling exploits, and over the years I have received numerous Gundams from her for Christmas and Birthday. She gave me the Stargazer on my birthday in 2009. She said she liked it because the rings were beautiful and she liked the look of the shiny decals. She had good taste, I must say. I started on the Stargazer right away, because she wasn’t in great health and I wanted to make sure it was done while she was healthy enough to see it.

Unfortunately, it seemed that I wasn’t fast enough, since she had to go into hospital in mid-August 2009. She was physically weak, but after a few days, seemed to stabilize a bit. The Doctors said that she’d likely be released on the 23rd.  I was relieved, and worked furiously to finish the Stargazer so that I could show it to her when she got home. I finished the Stargazer on the evening of August 21st. That night, about midnight, the hospital called. Grans had passed away.

Thus, not only is the Stargazer the last Gundam my Grandmother ever gave me, it’s the last ANYTHING she gave me while alive. It seems as fitting now as it did then that this final mech, so unique in having the shiny stickers, beam rings and no weapons, was completed on the same day as the life of the great woman who gave it to me. Isn’t this a bit morbid, you might ask? I don’t think so. I think the Stargazer is a great tribute to a wonderful Grandmother who loved me and my modelling, and would sit and listen to me for hours while I poured over models and looked at racks and described what I was planning for so many of my kits.

As an added bonus, the Stargazer also won the “Best Science Fiction” Award at the 2010 London Scale Model Show. This was a nice extra bit of tribute, and really meant a lot to me.

Conclusion:

The Stargazer is a nice, relatively straightforward kit of a little-known, but very neat, mech. Its colouring and detail are both excellent and complimentary, and the gimmicks in the kit make it well worth the money. It’s a shame there wasn’t a Master Grade of it, especially given that it is indeed the main mech in the Stargazer ONA.

The Stargazer is typical of Bandai’s HGUC line in that you can make it as hard or easy as you want to, and the kit will still turn out nicely. With the cool stickers and stand to back it up, the Stargazer is a great project even for someone not normally into Mobile Suits. I say pick it up without hesitation if you see it!

The almost "Atomic" nature of the Stargazer's beam rings is evident from the front. Note that all three are of different diameters, making positioning them around the mech a bit trickier than it may look.

The almost “Atomic” nature of the Stargazer’s beam rings is evident from the front. Note that all three are of different diameters, making positioning them around the mech a bit trickier than it may look.

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