In the latest installment of a new Bit here, we’re reviewing Bandai’s gunpla, a model kit of a robot from the Gundam universe. It’s a little outside our usual coverage, and there might be some light spoilers for the anime. This week: Bandai’s Master Grade 2.0 Gelgoog
In the show
I love this robot. My favorite mobile suit of all time is actually a variant, the Gelgoog Jaeger, that is slightly more angular and has a way huger gun. It appears on screen in one scene, in 0080, but it wastes an entire platoon of GMs. The regular Gegloog isn’t quite that cool, but it’s still a good design, basically being a bigger and meaner Zaku.
The after-action report for the Gelgoog is, to be polite, a mixed bag. The pinnacle of Zeon’s mobile suit development program during the One Year War, it finally gave them something on par with the Gundam. As the first Zeonic design that could equip beam weaponry, it had the firepower to deal with the federation RGM models that they’d been drowning in after a failed attempt to blow up the factory, which a Dom or a Zaku couldn’t do much too outside of a lucky bazooka hit or getting in close with a heat saber. So they had this giant robot, with guns that were finally on par with what the Feddies were using, and it just completely did not matter. This was a mass-production model that was the equal, by any metric, of the EFSF’s one-off prototype. It was an absolute monster, and all else being equal would have clobbered anything it ran into. It should have been a game-changer, and yet.
The first problem was that Gelgoogs didn’t start rolling out until after Zeon had been not just kicked off Earth, but kicked off of most of their own asteroid bases. Without that sort of resource and manufacturing capability, they were going to be hard-pressed to build enough of anything to matter. They put together maybe a hundred of them, while the feddies were churning out GMs. Their other problem was that by this point, in the waning weeks of a losing war, most of their ace pilots had already gotten murdered by Amuro Ray. The ones that were left were either raw recruits, or total fuckups that had been previously kept away from the frontlines for what is presumably a good reason. The federation had no equivalent boogeyman to worry about, since Char at this point was off hunting Zabis, and was churning out aces at an alarming rate. The quality of the machine didn’t matter as much when no one knew how to drive it.
So the Gelgoog, in a vacuum, was a high-powered design that finally gave Zeon what they needed. In anime reality, it was both too little and too late. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because the OYW is just a cartoon version of World War 2. Replace “Gelgoog” with “ME-262” or something and you get the gist. It’s a cool robot.
Finally, a kit I put some work into. I applied all the stickers and dry-transfers in the box, panel-lined, and (depending on whether I had the right color in a spray can or not) either matte varnished or full-on painted this thing. A few metallic or other details were picked out with a paint brush.
This is where, finally, I have to address the 2.0. There actually already was a MG Gelgoog already, in the late 1990s, that isn’t really bad so much as out of date. Back in the 90s, when Master Grade was first getting started, Bandai did what they always do, which is kick off the grade with whatever the most popular mobile suit of the time was. These days, that means that GunPla lines like Real Grade or Entry Grade, or action figures like Gundam Universe (a non-scale line of pre-assembled soft plastic Gundam figurines), are always going to start with the venerable RX-78-2, the Unicorn, and the Strike. In History, where we’re going, they’d basically ripped through the usual suspects at the time, and eventually the technology had gotten to a point where those original MGs – back-ported to being “1.0” after their replacement – were roughly on par with the detail that you could get in a modern High Grade at the time. They didn’t even have full inner frames, or much in the way of detail. You can tell you’re dealing with one of these because the photos on the box will be heavily airbrushed to hide the faults in the kit. It didn’t reflect well on what was, and to an extent still is, their flagship line of GunPla, so they started re-tooling older suits to meet the new state of the art.
I’m genuinely shocked that the Gelgoog got itself an upgrade. Grunt suits, especially antagonist grunt suits, almost never get MGs to start with – this is the realm of RE/100 or Full Mechanics – and other than the Dom 1.5 (long story, but it’s basically a few new runners and a few of the originals – hopefully we review it here some day), I can’t think of another. They’ve made up to a 3.0 of the RX78, as well as a Gundam The Origin version, a Ver.Ka, and a few others. The Unicorn and the Strike get new variations seemingly twice a year, but why the Gelgoog?
My guess is that this happened because there was a Char Aznable version of the Gelgoog (the MS-14S), and people love Char. From there, it was easy enough to re-color some plastic and sell it as the mass production version. This was also 2007, when Bandai was going hard on the Master Grade line, and the Gundam franchise was a lot smaller.
I’m not going to act surprised that G Gundam hasn’t gotten an update, but the Gundam 0083 Stardust Memory MG 1.0s are still kicking around, and frankly it’s not fair that those Katoki designs that look so good in the anime are still so lacking in their plastic form. Whatever the cause, we got a 2.0 of the Gelgoog, which is what we have here.
So, the actual model. There aren’t a lot of accessories, but they are nice, at least. The gun itself is a very cool design, it looks modern and practical. There’s a clear part for the sight and, it can be accessorized with a bipod and a grenade launcher. The effects parts for the sword are interesting, making more of a beam naginata out of it, though parts are provided for a huge double-sided beam saber if you prefer. The shield is nice enough on its own, but the real power move here is that it comes on a big articulated arm which is – barely – flexible enough for the arm to reach back and grab it off the backpack. It holds on by wrapping the fingers around the handle, and it clips on to the back of the hand, which would probably be enough if the thing weren’t so heavy.
Unfortunately this isn’t new enough to have the new swappable hands. They have a ball-jointed thumb, and hinges on two spots on each other finger. The fingers come as a separate trigger finger and three conjoined fingers, but it’s easy enough to split them and have a fully poseable hand. These hands are not good. It seems like they should be! I get it, you can move the fingers around however you want! The actual reality is that the fingers fall off all the time. They end up being less expressive than multiple fixed-pose hands would have been, because they don’t bend far enough, and going the other direction, can’t be straightened out all the way either. These aren’t the Perfect Grade hands, which actually deliver on that promise, they’re just kind of bad. They don’t even hold the weapons very well – the small tab in the palm that slots into the weapons never seems to work very well. This is not, to be clear, not a problem unique to this kit. Every Master Grade of this vintage has these style of hand. None of them are good.
Articulation otherwise is not great. The legs would be fine if the armor didn’t get in the way, but the ankles aren’t helping. The torso has a nice arch to the back and crunch to the abs, but the rotation is blocked by some of the side skirting. Arms are good, though. The construction is solid, though: it might not get into too many poses, but when it does find one that works, it will tend to stay put.
I feel conflicted about this: I just ran through a list of reasons that this kit isn’t very good, which doesn’t seem to align at all with how much I like having it on my shelf. Some of that is probably that I did put a little extra work into it, but the rest, paradoxically, is what you can’t see looking at it. The inner frame detail is great, look at this:
Should you buy it?
I think so. If you want a Gelgoog, this is absolutely the one to get. What I can’t really say is whether you want a Gelgoog in the first place. I don’t imagine it’s a popular mobile suit – I know I love it, but I’d be hard-pressed to explain why that is. It’s not a great kit, to be clear, just a middle-tier Master Grade, but it is the best one the Gelgoog has gotten, or is likely to ever get. It’s big and chunky and has great shelf presence. It doesn’t do a whole lot, but I still like it, other than those god-awful hands.