Bandai HGUC 1/144 Gundam F-91

From the newsprinty pages of Protoculture Addicts to your shelf in just over 20 years! Well, it's not the fastest mech, but the F-91 is slick in this new, HGUC form!

From the newsprinty pages of Protoculture Addicts to your shelf in just over 20 years! Well, it’s not the fastest mech, but the F-91 is slick in this new, HGUC form!

I started to really get interested in anime in about 1993. I had grown up with Battle of the Planets (the butchered, English-language “Gatchaman”), Astro Boy and Robotech in the early 1980’s and I’d always felt there was something special about the shows. The art was different, and there was something about the shows that really spoke to me, compared to most American shows. However, I didn’t really know they were Japanese at the time, and when they left the airwaves in the mid-late ‘80s, I figured I’d just likely not see their ilk again.  Thankfully, though, anime fandom in North America was growing, and I’d started to see, through comics firstly, that there was a lot more out there of “that Robotech stuff”.

One of the first things I learned about was Gundam. Mobile Suit Gundam has been a staple in Japan since the original show in 1979. As I sought out more information about anime, I came across a pair of used Protoculture Addicts magazines in a local comic shop’s bargain bin. This was a Canadian Robotech Fanzine that eventually became a legitimate news magazine for all animes, not just Robotech related stuff. One of the magazines had an article on the “new” Gundam for the year, a movie called “Gundam Formula 91”. I was officially hooked. There were iffily reproduced line drawings of the main mecha and characters, and I knew at that point I wanted to see it, and if possible, build a model of the mecha from it. In 1993, I thought that building a model robot would be so cool! I knew they existed, but only had one, and it wasn’t a Gundam.

As it turns out, Gundam Formula 91 was supposed to be the pilot for a new series, but that’s not how it turned out, and F91 wasn’t that great a hit. Sure, it LOOKED awesome, but now, having seen it in both English and Japanese MULTIPLE times, I can say it’s confusing, convoluted and actually not all that good a movie. However, for MS eye candy, it surely rocks!

Eventually, I obtained a bunch of kits from F91, but not the F-91 Gundam itself. The early F91 kits were all 1/100, since the mecha were “downsized” and were considered too small in 1/144 to be marketable.  At the time, I didn’t care and, really, I still don’t now.  There was an original F-91 in 1/100, as well as a1/60 kit. When Master Grades came around, the F-91 got two MG incarnations. Much better than the original, the MGs are still 1/100. Bandai wasn’t biting on the 1/144 F-91 at that point. However, when they decided to kit ALL Gundams in 1/144 under the HGUC “All Gundam Project”, Bandai committed themselves to making the F-91 in previously unrealized small-scale.

What took so long? The F-91 does benefit from all the lessons learned in the HGUC line, so be glad Bandai took their time to get us one!

What took so long? The F-91 does benefit from all the lessons learned in the HGUC line, so be glad Bandai took their time to get us one!

The Kit:

The HGUC F-91 is a very, very nice, albeit small, kit. It has excellent colour and part separation, as expected from a newer HGUC, and there are likely more parts in this kit than the original 1/100, despite the size difference. The build order is nice, being well-thought out and avoiding buildaround in almost all cases. The mech goes together in a layered approach like an onion, especially on the chest pieces. There’s no internal frame like an MG or RG, but the way in which things bolt to each other clearly is inspired by those other kits’ methodologies.

There are clear beam sabres and a beam shield in green, which is an unusual colour for the HGUC line, but if you’ve built Wing, X or Silhouette Formula kits, will be familiar to you. The beam shield, always a selling point to me, is beautifully rendered, with nice, uneven “energy” edges and clearly pronounced “spikes” from the projector. The mega launcher (bazooka-looking weapon) is also nicely represented. Sadly, I’ve always found the F-91’s rifle kind of lame, and this kit didn’t manage to correct that. Like many of its Gundam F90, F91 and SF91 brethren, the F-91 has a lot of vents and verniers on it. The legs have large vents, there’s the chest which is all vent, and then there’s the F-91’s distinctive “pillbug” backpack. This curved array of thrusters looks like a curled up Pillbug (aka ‘ball-y bug’), and this model gets the look spot on!

See what I mean about being like a Pillbug? The F-91 has a lot of engines in a lump on its back. "It's NOT a Tumor!"

See what I mean about being like a Pillbug? The F-91 has a lot of engines in a lump on its back. “It’s NOT a Tumor!”

Building and Painting:

There’s not a lot to building this kit. Almost no workarounds were needed, and everything goes together well, so long as you get the paint scraped out of the way. There’s even a minimum of sanding, since the seams are mostly on panel lines. Thus, with a bit of etching, you can get away with almost no glue needing clean up anywhere!

I painted the F-91 completely by hand, using a Tamiya XF-2 Flat White-based paint for the white bits, a mixed Model Master Acrylic (MMA) blue for the chest and VSBRs (Variable Speed Beam Rifles – those guns on its back), and MMA Chevy Engine Block Red for the red. I wish I’d used Guards Red, but I was out at the time. On some kits of this age there is a tendency to use a bit too much yellow, like on the leg vents, for example. However, the original colour call outs for the leg vents is, in fact, a blackish colour.

I did the leg vents and other ‘venty’ areas, as well as the bazooka’s barrel details, in MMA Steel. The Pillbug Engine was painted MMA Jet Exhaust on the outside and a mixed MMA orange on the inside. To make them look more metallic, all the metal surfaces were given a wash of Citadel Baddab Black and Devlan Mud to bring out the detail and knock down the “new” shine. I did the panel lines with a Sakura calligraphy pen.

I used steel for the leg vents, to make them look more 'used' and 'venty'. Note the 'warning triangles' on the skirts. It's not an early '90s Gundam without them!

I used steel for the leg vents, to make them look more ‘used’ and ‘venty’. Note the ‘warning triangles’ on the knees. It’s not an early ’90s Gundam without them!

Theoretically, the VSBRs on the F-91’s back can be slid down under the arms, opened up and held for firing. However, the fit is so tight (again, due to the paint) that even moving them is impossible for my kit. If you don’t paint models, then I’m sure it will work fine, and this is a neat gimmick. I like them slicked back, though, so I’m still good. To save time and trouble, I glued the VSBRs in the ‘closed’ position. It made assembly and painting a lot easier. I also cut the ‘vented’ parts on the backs of the guns to be able to slip in afterwards; this is one of the few workarounds I mentioned before.

Here you can see the Orange/Jet Exhaust treatment on the Pillbug and Bazooka nozzle. The petals are done in steel for contrast.

Here you can see the Orange/Jet Exhaust treatment on the Pillbug and Bazooka nozzle. The petals are done in steel for contrast. I chose green for the Bazooka’s magazine ‘just because’.

“Beam Me Up!”

It used to be that I just left beam accessories as they were. As I learned better, though, I found that the proper treatment of the beam accessories can make the difference between great and “meh” on a model.  They key is to highlight where the energy would be “hottest”. To do this, I use my Badger 155 Anthem and Mr. White 1000 primer, to highlight the beam sabre and shield. I have found it’s best to turn the pressure on the airbrush down a bit for this kind of fine work; 12-15psi seems to be enough. (I normally run by brush at about 20psi, if that helps.)

For all “beamy bits”, I give them a very, VERY light dusting with the white. Why? It actually makes them a bit more opaque; you get a green translucent sabre blade and a less-transparent shield. This is good; since in Gundam the shields distort what’s behind them, but the clear plastic doesn’t really do that well. Then, I highlight the bottom of the sabre almost completely white, and then work my way up, pulling away swiftly to feather the white away. By the time I’m about 25% of the way up, I’m no longer spraying. The result on the blade is a “hot spot” at the bottom, which is white, and a fading up the blade to the almost purely green “cold end”.

You can see the "hot end" of the sabre from this angle; normally, the shield obscures it.

You can see the “hot end” of the sabre from this angle; normally, the shield obscures it.

For the shield, I spray the centre white and then radially paint the “main arms” of the shield. I allow some overspray beside the arms, to give them a fading appearance. Again, the arms would be the hottest parts. When the white is dry, I use a custom-made Future-based paint to “green up” the sabre and shield. The paint is Future, and some green and interference gold Jacquard pigments. These are sprayed on to give a pearlescent effect, as well as to turn the white somewhat green. After all, there would be a thin layer of “green energy” (No, not windmills!) over the hotspots, and that would tint those areas green.

This is sexy! Note how the "arms" are whiter, and thus "hotter" than the rest of the shield? A trick of light makes the very centres of the arms look green in this shot, and you know what, that looks even cooler!

This is sexy! Note how the “arms” are whiter, and thus “hotter” than the rest of the shield? A trick of light makes the very centres of the arms look green in this shot, and you know what, that looks even cooler!

Size Doesn’t Matter:

If the F-91 proves anything, it’s that size doesn’t matter, at least in Mobile Suits! The F-91 is one of the smallest MSs I have ever built in any scale, and it’s amazing how tiny it is compared to others on my shelf. However, the fact that it’s in scale to everything else makes its size more fun!  Back in the mid ‘90s, when I was building the original F91 kits, I saw a picture that stuck with me. In the instructions for at least one of the kits there was a “group photo” that showed how small all the MSs were. “Don’t you mean ‘how big’?” you ask? No. The reason I said “how small” was because everything was compared to a Jegan. Yes, everyone’s favourite pea-green cannon fodder from Unicorn was still serving in UC 123, when F91 takes place!

Compared to everything in F91, the Jegan was HUGE. However, since there was only a 1/144 Jegan, and only a 1/100 F-91, I could never see for myself the difference in their heights. However, thanks to Bandai’s hard work, I now FINALLY have a Jegan and F-91 in the same scale!  (Of course, if there was an MG Jegan I could have done this long ago… Bandai?? You listening?) Man, it’s a trip when you put the two of them side by side. The F-91 is beautifully proportioned and doesn’t really seem small when you’re building it, in isolation. However, up against a Jegan? Yikes!

Who's compensating? The sheer enormity of the Jegan is astounding, as demonstrated here.

Who’s compensating? The sheer enormity of the Jegan is astounding, as demonstrated here.

Conclusions:

This kit has been a long time coming. In fact, it’s taken us over 20 years to get an F-91 in the “normal” 1/144 scale most people think of for Gundams. Thankfully, the wait has been worth it. The F-91 is a stunning little kit of a sexy little mech. It isn’t going to take up a lot of room, and it’s going to look awesome sitting on a shelf, thanks to the cool weapons and beam accessories it carries.

Despite the smallness of the parts, it’s still not a hard kit to build, so I would say it’s a good kit for anyone interested in the subject. Even if you’re new to Gundam, don’t let the small parts and small size of the finished mech throw you off; you’ll like this one!

Even compared the the RX-78-1 Prototype Gundam that I made from the HGUC RX-78-2, the F-91 seems small. Well, compact, at least!

Even compared the the RX-78-1 Prototype Gundam that I made from the HGUC RX-78-2, the F-91 seems small. Well, compact, at least!

Sure, the anime might be lame and contrived, and sure we haven’t seen any other F91 mecha in this scale yet, but for now, the HGUC F-91 is a good standard-bearer for the rest of its now largely-forgotten brothers. Heck, it looks neat next to a Jegan, so what else do you want?! I loved building this kit, and I really do think it’s a good buy for any Gundam fan out there.

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