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 Real Grade RX-178 Gundam MkII (AEUG version)
In the show
So there are actually two of these, and I’m not sure this is the right one. The “original” color scheme is the navy blue Titans colors, but this is almost immediately replaced with the more traditional, if in somewhat muted tones, Gundam colors (blue on white, with red and yellow accents). The latter colors are how it’s depicted once you get past the opening episodes, but fear not: a palette-swapped version of this kit exists if you want the Titans version. I think I prefer that one, but this is what I got, and I don’t regret it.
The RX-178 Gundam Mk II is the sort-of-immediate followup to the classic RX-78. I have to waffle there because it initially was the second Gundam, hence the two, when Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam came out. But in the years since, Sunrise and Bandai have filled in that 8 year time skip with a bewildering number of other Gundams. In addition to all the variations and prototypes kicking around during the One Year War itself (there were as many as six or seven unique prototypes across all the side stories and video games, plus the limited-production Ground Type), and we also have the RX-78-NT1 “Alex” from 0080 War in The Pocket, the entire Gundam Project line from 0083 Stardust Memory, and the varying level of canonicity that is Gundam Thunderbolt.
As originally envisaged, before the franchise got complicated, this was the result of the newly-paranoid Titans division of the EFSF and their program to finally put Tem Ray out to pasture and build something that could surpass his original. It worked, for what that’s worth: the Mk II can easily keep up with the newest models until well into the Grypps War. Developed by the Zeon-remnant-hunting Titans taskforce, the Mk II is both a symbol of the new harder-edged version of the EFSF’s special forces, and a capable war machine. Never intended as a mass-production unit, it builds on the lineage of the RX-78 in two ways: as a high-powered Ace unit that can swing a battle, and as a propaganda machine, to throw the fear of god into any remaining Zeonic OYW veterans that were traumatized by Amuro (sidenote: the Federation is not a big fan of Newtypes here in 0087, and Amuro himself is on house arrest and not allowed to go into space or pilot a mobile suit).
If there’s a drawback to the MK II, it’s that it can’t transform into a jet. This is really only a problem in Zeta, since everything else in the entire show ends up having a flight form, and it’s only partly mitigated here by strapping a huge booster pack, which of course has a giant gun on it, to the back. The Titans ended up building three of these – some background material implies a fourth, but on-screen there are three – and they got off to an inauspicious start: the first time we see a Mk II, it walks up, promptly crashes into a hospital, and then gets stolen.
The thief in question is one Kamille Bidan, who you may remember as the eventual pilot of the Zeta Gundam. When we first meet him, he’s in jail after punching a cop in the face because, and this is as good a cassus belli as any, the guy said that Kamille is a girl’s name. After being sprung, his first action is to hijack the big robot, and his second is to defect to a terrorist insurgency. Kamille rocks, basically.
Zeta is where the factions first pull an about-face, which ended up becoming a common trope in Gundam, but here it was novel. Remember, this was before all the back-filling of the timeline. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was the immediate successor to MSG, literally the second entry in the entire franches. The last time we checked in with the Universal Century, the EFSF were our heroes, fighting a war of survival against Space Nazis. We come back and suddenly they’ve become the bad guys. Our new heroes are the Anti-Earth Union Group, who aren’t technically aligned with either faction but end up rocking with Amuro Ray and Char Aznable on their team. This was a huge creative swing, and is why Zeta still rates so highly to me: they could have done what almost every other UC Gundam has done since, and had Yet Another Zeon Remnant crop up as the antagonist to some questionably noble iteration of the Earth Federation, but they didn’t. They shook up the entire narrative, and the result is one of the all-time great entries in the Gundam multiverse.
Your options for catching up are not great. The original show has 50 episodes, which is a tall order, but the alternative is 3 edited-down and partially re-animated movies, which honestly aren’t worth it. The new animation is great, but jarring when it cuts back scene-by-scene to the old 1980’s material, and the movies butcher the story so badly that it becomes borderline incomprehensible. Carve out 25 hours to binge the original series.
This is an out-of-box build, with stickers (hoo boy there were a lot) and panel lining applied.
We’re taking a step back to glory days of 2012 here, and looking at another early Real Grade. I thought it would be interesting to peek at the RX-178, because I like the robot and I (spoiler) love the kit, but mostly I think it’s interesting
as a counterpoint to the mess that was the RG Zeta. This is from the same show, and the kit came out around the same time – it’s number 8 in the RG line, where the Zeta was 10 – but that’s about all they have in common.
The differences are night and day: this is an extremely early Real Grade, but to my mind it still holds up. It still uses the Advanced Joint frame, but it works perfectly fine here. I say that because the frame from this kit is also used, with some extension pieces to make it more imposing, by the RG Sinanju, and it straight up does not work in that kit. For the intended purpose though, it’s great: the inner frame is molded with the joints and articulation on one runner, so there’s no fiddling around with elbow parts, you just whack a couple of decorative mechanical parts on and then put the armor over the top. Everything is very solid, and it makes for an easy and fun model to play with.
The only odd bit of the build, which is otherwise pretty standard, is the pipes. The backs of the knees and the upper vents on the backpack have a little pipe going through them, which is accomplished here via a flexible wire covered in a type of woven tubing. If you’ve ever built the MG Thunderbolt kits, this has none of the problems of the trash bag joints, but it’s still a weird little gimmick. The tubing and wire are provided as one large chunk, and have to be cut to fit. Sprue nippers work best on the wire, and a good sharp knife on the tubing. It’s a weird thing to include: not a ton of work, but also not all that impactful. It’s the back of the knee, when are you ever going to see it?
The sticker sheet is enormous. This is full-on RG, if not Ver.Ka, levels of detailing. Warning labels, decorative pin stripes, AEUG logos, metallic details, all are here in abundance. The end result is extremely detailed, to the point of maybe being a bit too busy, which is a complaint I don’t think I’ve ever leveled at a GunPla before.
Accessories are plentiful, and all absolutely amazing. You get the wonky RG posable hands – they come on the Advanced Joint runner, and are effectively “free” – but also some fixed ones for actually being useful. As usual, it’s a pair of fists, a right hand trigger finger, and an open left hand. I’d really like to see more left-handed Gundams, but I guess that’s what the poseable hands are for. It’s just too bad they don’t work better.
The bazooka, shield, and rifle are full of great detail. My favorite bits are the sliding/extending movement on the shield, and the vulcan pod on the head. The Mk II doesn’t have the usual built-in gatling guns on the temples, and instead has a sensor and gun pod that wraps around the back of the head. It looks very cool, and attaches solidly. If you’re willing to give up a bit of posing range, it’s possible to attach the kit’s entire loadout – including the extra magazine for the bazooka (on the hip) and two extra magazines for the rifle (on the shield)v- to it at once, which I will gladly point out every time – it’s an unnaturally important part of my scoring rubric.
This is just a really nice little kit, solidly constructed and covered in rich mechanical detail. Not too flashy, but that’s the Mk II for you.
Should you buy it?
I want to say yes, absolutely: I adore this little guy. But I can’t say for sure that it’s a necessity. I think it might not even be the best version of the Mk II: there’s a perfectly fine Master Grade, and a Perfect Grade that’s both huge and great for the money, but for me the ideal RX-178 is one you can’t buy. There was a Gundam Base exclusive variant, the 21st Century Real Color Type, that is the one I’d want to have. It’s only a High Grade, but the color scheme, my god, check this out, it’s got me feeling a certain type of way:
The RG RX-178 is an early Real Grade that manages not to feel like an early Real Grade. In fact, this might have been the first truly great entry in the line. Looking at the other releases from that time period, everything else is either fiddly out of the box, or becomes fiddly after the Advanced Joints start their inevitable loosening. This one isn’t just great as an artifact of its time, it could have come out today and would still be one of the best. No, it’s definitely not on the level of the Nu or the Sazabi, and is probably not even comparable to the Unicorn (all of which we’ll be looking at eventually), but it’s hard to find fault with it. It’s a good all-rounder, which is fitting given the subject matter.