Other Renditions of the Zaku Kai

Obviously, I'm not the first to build a model (or other representation) of the Zaku Kai. In designing my model, I've relied mainly upon the lineart, but I've also examined other renditions of the design (or elements of it) in an attempt to identify how particular parts were done well or why particular parts went badly.

Original Lineart (by Izubuchi Yutaka)

This is the definitive rendition of the Zaku Kai, drawn by Yutaka Izubuchi for use in the Gundam 0080 anime. I've never quite learned how to draw this design properly - and for a long time I felt that learning to do that would be the first step to understanding the design well enough to reproduce it as a model. Back then, I mostly tried to redraw it by observation. This time around, I'm content to start by copying the image and then altering and refining it to come up with a workable design for the parts. One of the problems with using this lineart as a reference is that, as far as I can tell, it is not self-consistent. (Unless there's some weird perspective thing going on I can't understand.) For instance, the lengths of the lower legs and the relative positions of different parts of the lower legs are different on the right leg vs. the left leg. However, if this illustration has flaws in terms of how rigorously it defines a 3-D shape, it more than makes up for them with the strength of its design. It is that design which I want to reproduce. My design work and the final product will be gauged against this standard.

Early on I was frustrated by my inability to draw this design myself. I felt that the ability to draw the design would be indicative of an understanding of the design. There's something in this drawing which I find hard to reproduce except by trial, comparison, and repeated adjustment. But it is those bits of data which make the difference, to me, between a good Zaku Kai and a poor one. It is for this reason that I use the lineart as a standard rather than merely as a source of ideas.

"Suku Suku Scratch" model (by Misaki Mitsuaki)

This model, which appeared in the Suku Suku Scratch article and the Gundam Scratchbuild Manual, is the best model of the Zaku Kai I've seen. There are a few areas I think could have been done differently: I feel like the shoulder armor is a bit small and the chest doesn't quite convey the heft I want to see in the design. However, I feel that the end result here is a fantastic model - I aim to surpass this work, but I'd be happy enough to simply match it.

I followed this build in the original Suku Suku Scratch articles back when I was just getting started in Gundam modeling: I found the work done on this model quite impressive and inspirational. A little intimidating, too, as the modeler not only built all the parts, but built many of them three or four times using different methods, and the results in each case matched each other. So while my progress on the project has been slow, it's exciting to be at the stage where I feel I can match that feat.

Hobby Japan "Gundam Weapons 0080" version (by Oseya Hiroshi)

This model was a scratchbuilt conversion featured in Hobby Japan, based on the MG Zaku and MG Gouf. I see this model as an example of what can go wrong when your starting point is a set of existing parts rather than a set of plans. By trying to work with what you've got on hand, your end result is much more arbitrary than if you were to decide exactly the shape you want to build, and build that.

It's interesting to see the similarity between this model and Misaki's model: arms, shoulders, and chest are all fairly similar. Is the difference in effect just a result of the legs, head, and skirt of this model? It's hard to say.

I feel like this model is a reasonable attempt, and it even looks pretty good from certain camera angles, but there are a number of specific areas that I feel are too far off-target and overall it doesn't quite deliver the "Zaku Kai" effect. In this regard it reminds me of a lot of the video game versions of the Zaku Kai - most of the easily quantifiable aspects of the design are present, but overall it comes across as a half-hearted attempt.

B-Club Zaku Kai conversion set (for MG Zaku F2)

After the Gelgoog Jager kit I had high hopes for this conversion when I heard about it. It turned out to be a huge disappointment. It's built on the MG Zaku-F2, which itself has a number of problems. (Had the MG F2 been a faithful interpretation of the F2 design, I think that a number of parts from the MG kit could have been useful in building a Zaku Kai.) With the amount of resin in this conversion set they probably could have made this a fairly good Zaku Kai, but for whatever reason it didn't work out that way.

The overall form of this kit could be pretty good, perhaps, if not for a few specific, prominent details that simply don't fit the Zaku Kai design - the narrow skirt armors, the bloated-looking leg pods, the excessively-wide center section of the chest, and the half-hearted attempt that was made to redress the MG F2 feet as Zaku Kai feet. At B-Club's typically high prices I wouldn't touch this kit. At recast prices I might actually consider it, if I felt it actually gave me something useful to work with. I'm sure it's possible to turn this into a good-looking Zaku Kai but I don't think it's worth the effort or cost.

Bandai 1:144 Zaku Kai

Bandai produced an injection-molded version of the Zaku Kai back in 1989 or so. It's a reasonably good kit but features like the oversized head make it look reminiscent of the original Zaku kits produced in the early 1980's.

I see this kit as an example of how minor errors in the design can spoil the effect. The kit is improved significantly with just a little tweaking to a few parts. The chest block, for instance: I think the bulk of it is about right but the angles are so rectangular that it lends the area a very drab look. By angling those parts a bit the bulk of the chest looks much more natural. There are certainly a lot of ways this kit could be improved, but with the exception of its few serious problems I think it's a decent representation of the design.

Hajime Katoki's MS-06FZ "Master Grade" lineart

At some point in a discussion on COM someone told me about the existence of this piece of lineart, contained in the Gundam MG Data Book. Apparently at the time the MG Zaku F2 was being designed, there was some speculation into the idea of creating other MG Zaku kits (standard Zaku, Zaku Kai) sharing some of the same parts. So, having heard that there was, in existence, a piece of lineart for an as-yet unproduced MG Zaku Kai, naturally I had to get my hands on it.

At times I wonder if this wasn't a totally serious effort on Katoki's part: in some regards it shows a lot of care in getting specific elements of the Zaku Kai design right: the flares where the upper and lower leg meet the knee, for instance. But on the other hand, there are areas of this drawing that strike me as incredibly sloppy, and I feel like the drawing as a whole fails to get the right effect - whether this is because of an attempt to make the design capable of sharing parts with the MG F2 kit, or intentional changes to the design, or just the result of a drawing that may not have been meant to be production-quality anyway, I'm not sure.

There's a lot I could nitpick about in this design, but there are two features which I feel are overwhelmingly out-of-place. The skirts and feet on the Zaku Kai design are very large. I feel these traits are important because of how they help to balance out the design: big legs look more balanced with big feet, and the big skirts help to keep the bulky chest from looking out-of-place. This design has very small skirts, and fairly small feet as well. It's pretty common for Master Grade designs to have small feet (look at the new MG Zaku v2.0, for instance) and I think that in some regards decisions like that can do good things for toys and models: improving posability, giving the model a more consistent look in various poses, etc. - but the lower legs here are simply massive, as they should be, but they're hanging over these miniature feet. If not for those two decisions, I think this lineart could be a fairly good design.

At this point, it's hard to say how much relevance this design has. The MG Zaku v2.0 was produced and didn't use the Katoki lineart as its basis - nor did it reuse MG Zaku F2 parts, as far as I know - so it seems likely that if a MG Zaku FZ were released, it would be an all-new design adaptation. Still, I always cite this image as the reason why I have no faith in Bandai's ability to create a good rendition of the Zaku Kai.

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