Long before Hobby Hovel, before my Flickr account, and probably before I could speak English properly, the 13-year-old Chag made his first website – a Gundam Wing fansite. Hosted on Geocities, there was nothing on the site other than reposted official art, screencaps and animated .gif files, but of course, my silly younger self didn’t think anything of it and worked eagerly on it through his dial-up internet connection. A part of me wishes that Geocities hadn’t gone down the path of the dinosaurs, but another part of me is thankful that my little clusterfuck of .gif files will never see the light of day again.
Of the few things I still remember of my Gundam Wing fansite was this picture, which I used for my title page image. No prizes for guessing who my favourite character was.
New Mobile Report Gundam Wing is a child of the 90s Gundam boom along with G Gundam, Gundam X, Victory Gundam, and 0083, F91 & 08th MS Team if you’re counting the movies and OVAs. There was a fuckload of V-finned giant robots during this decade, and naturally the staff at Sunrise wanted to experiment with the Gundam formula. Whereas Wing’s predecessor G Gundam did this by injecting a heavy dose of the super robot genre into Gundam’s real robot conventions, the people behind Wing tried to venture into territory that is absolutely foreign to the franchise: the female demographic – and what better way to rein in the fangirls with some BL undertones?
THIS was my childhood? No wonder I turned out the way I am!
As I barely remember anything with regards to the story of Gundam Wing, I was probably too young /illiterate/stupid to wrap my head around the plot, let alone THE GAY. Now that I look back at some of these official illustrations, all I can do is shake my head. I wonder how much they actually reflect content of the show itself. I should really give it a re-watch one of these days.
My favourite of the 5 gundam pilots was Chang Wufei. This is probably only because he and I both share a Chinese background. I have completely forgotten what his character is about, but in all of his crossover video game appearances (SD Gundam G Generation, Super Robot Wars, Another Century’s Episode), he comes off as a guy with a lot of misdirected frustrations – the type of guy who would come home every night to beat his wife. His mobile suit, the Shenlong (which means “divine dragon”) also carries some Chinese favour in its design, which made it a favourite in my book. I remember getting action figure of the Shenlong for my birthday and playing with it until the arm joints were completely lose, then taping up the joints to give them more traction, then wearing them out again.
However, this particular model I’m about to review isn’t the Shenlong that I knew and loved – rather, it’s based on the redesign by Hajime Katoki, the man responsible for the design of the OZ suits and all the mechs in the Endless Waltz OVA. The redesigns of the 5 original gundams have been floating about for a long time, but recently they’ve been dredged up to be used in the manga New Mobile Report Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz: Glory of the Defeated (CHRIST that’s a long name). Do I like Katoki’s redesign? Sure I do – the lens on my nostalgia goggles aren’t think enough make me blind to a good design. Do I like the model based on the redesign? Well, hit the jump the find out!
The first thing I noticed about the MG Shenlong Gundam was its legs. Like any other Katoki gundam design, they are long, particular below the knee. The legs and feet are also disproportionally large; even though the MG Shenlong is small (measuring only 16.5 cm tall), its legs and feet are just as bulky (if not more so) than the rest of MG gundams I’ve built. In addition, when the Shenlong’s small shoulder armour and basic backpack unit is taken into account, the suit looks pretty bottom-heavy. I don’t particularly mind this distinctive appearance, because the compact profile and the beefy legs do give the Shenlong a sturdy look.
As I just mentioned, the MG Shenlong is small. This is because all of the Wing MS designs are smaller than standard early UC sizes. While I would never fault the model’s engineers for staying faithful to the specifications of the original design, the price of the kit does leave something to be desired. At 3800 yen, the MG Shenlong costs the same as the MG Gouf and MG Exia, both of which are a head taller. The size is not the only thing lacking for the pricetag, as I will elaborate later on.
As far as details go, the MG shenlong doesn’t have too much going on for it, partly because of all the flat white surfaces on it. This is not to say it doesn’t have any detail, though. I really like way the cheek vents and head vulcans are a part of the gray interior pieces, hence they look accurate right out of the box.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for every detail, as the back skirt armour, ankle guards, and the flaps on the side of the Dragon Fang all require paint to look accurate. If this were an older and/or cheaper kit, I wouldn’t really mind these minor touch-ups, but when the MG Exia has freaking laser-etched markings on its clear parts for exactly the same price, I couldn’t help but to feel a little short-changed as I struggled to paint within the lines. Did I mention that my hands are as steady as a jackhammer? Yeah, not fun.
On a positive note, I really like the fang motif in the Shenlong’s design. You can see a pair of little fangs under the face vents and on the sides and back of the legs. I miss the unique v-fin from the original design, but I’m glad to see that the red chest armour is mostly unchanged. As per the norm, the cockpit hatch opens to reveal the pilot sitting inside.
The most notable alteration from the original design is the Dragon Fang. Kunio Okawara’s Shenlong Gundam has a collapsible right arm, and when deployed, the arm extends and the forearm-mounted weapon system folds into position, granting the Shenlong a fierce dragon-like appendage that is not only capable of piercing/crushing hapless OZ grunts with its bladed teeth, but also capable of roasting them with its integrated flamethrower. It sounds cool on paper, but now that I look back, I find it to be an extremely silly design, even by Wing’s standards. The long, thin extendable arm looks very fragile, and it seem like it has neither the weight nor the force to do any real damage.
By contrast, the Katoki’s Dragon Fang is a big, heavy-looking motherfucker. When deployed, it only extends slightly at the base. The thin claws of the original are replaced by a set of rugged and jagged teeth. Make no mistake, it’s still a ridiculous design – it’s a dragon’s head mounted to the arm of a giant robot, for crying out loud – but the sheer bulk of Katoki’s Dragon Fang makes it seem like it can do a lot of damage. Katoki’s Shenlong is definitely a top contender for the “most powerful pimp-slap” award along with the Zeong’s might beam-shooting wire-linked arms and the God Gundam’s God Finger.
Shenlong’s other weapon is the beam trident, which is also pretty silly. Personally, I prefer the simpler beam glaive of the original design over the exaggerated three-pronged head of the beam trident because I’ve never had a taste for melee beam weapons that bend. I can usually tolerate slight curvatures (like Deathscythe’s scythe), but the side blades on the bream trident actually bends twice – inward at the base and outward at the time. I suppose the curves on the trident may make sense in the context of Wing’s universe, where style is always valued over practicality, but to a UC fan like me, the beam trident has all the awkwardness of a contrived design with none of the bad-ass factor.
Of course, this is all a matter of personal taste. The actual beam part looks really detailed and clips onto the shaft securely. When not deployed, the shaft can be stored on the Shenlong’s back via a small swappable part that fits into the backpack.
The real problem related to the beam trident is not the weapon itself, but rather the hands that hold it. The only articulated fingers on the MG Shenlong are the thumbs, the rest of the finger come in the form of 4 pairs of swappable parts: closed fist, splayed fingers, and 2 pairs of trident-grippers – one with tabs inside and one without. Here’s where my well-documented frustrations at gunpla hands come in: the trident is a thrusting weapon, yet without the properly angled hands, a trusting pose is impossible to pull off. The wrists on the MG Shenlong are slightly more flexible than the average MG, but not nearly good enough to compensate for the lack of a forward-pointing grip.
Furthermore, because the fingers on the Shenlong are fixed, they rely on the tab on the palm to hold the weapon. The problem is that the 2 slots on the shaft of the beam trident are both on the same side, so that means you can’t rotate the shaft to the angle of your liking if you want a secure grip. All this makes coming up with the trident poses for this review a real challenge.
On a bright side, I really like the shield on Katoki’s Shenlong. The array of yellow parts arranged around the shield gives it a really technical look. The design also seems like some sort of impact-absorbing mechanism. The only downside to the shield is that its large size conflicts with the shoulder armour when I bend the elbow too far, thus inhibiting articulation. But I can’t complain too much when it looks so nifty.
There’s not much to say about the articulation on the MG Shenlong, as everything is pretty standard. I’ll let the picture to the talking, but here are a couple of quick highlights:
- The waist can rotate left and right without much obstruction. The rear armour gets in the way after around 40 degrees, but that that should be enough for most purposes.
- The blue parts on the side skirt armour have a nasty habit of popping off when I try to pose the model.
- Surprisingly, the arms can only bend around 110 degrees up. This is plenty of movement to work with, but I find it a little strange, since the hands of most modern MG models are able to touch the shoulders.
- Speaking of the shoulders, they can swing forward really far – very nice to use in conjunction with the Dragon Fang
- The two upper teeth of the Dragon Fang each have 3 points of articulation – two in the middle and one in the base. They fold together very nicely.
The MG Shenlong Gundam (Endless Waltz ver.) isn’t a spectacular model. It doesn’t feature any design innovations that would blow the pants off of anyone who’s been following gunpla for a while. But not being spectacular is okay, because if ever model is “spectacular”, the label would be meaningless. But though I am easy to forgive the Shenlong for not making me jump out the window while singings its praises, I am not as willing to overlook its 3800 yen price tag.
One of the things I love the most about gunpla is that the prices feel fair. Sure, the prices of newer models have been slowly increasing over the years, but that seems to be justified by the addition of newer of and better standards of engineering. The MG Shenlong does not have this. There aren’t any spiffy new joints, there aren’t any light-up parts, and there certainly aren’t any of those much needed wrist improvements or alternate hands to be found. Instead, we have a model that’s smaller than the standard but costs just as much (if not more) than its superiors, and that bugs me.
This isn’t to say that I dislike the model – on the contrary, I like it a lot. Not only does the Shenlong Gundam carry a lot of sentimental value from my childhood, but the redesign bodes very well with my matured tastes. I’m just not sure how much appeal this kit would have towards people who aren’t familiar with the series. If a non-gundam fan asked me for a recommendation on a gunpla kit, the MG Shenlong would not be on the list.
So that’s what it boils down to: if you are a Wing fan who digs Hajime Katoki’s redesign, go grab this kit, because its flaws really are mild at most. If you prefer the Nataku (the upgraded version of the Shenlong Gundam), you should wait a little longer, because a MG Nataku is due in the very near future – the layout of the MG Shenlong’s runners is a dead giveaway. If the words “Chang Wufei” and “Operation Meteor” mean nothing to you, then keep walking – there are better kits to be had.
- The new Dragon Fang is cool as hell
- A very neat and detailed shield
- The lack of appropriate hands makes posing with the beam trident difficult
- Requires paint for colour accuracy
- Slightly pricey for such a simple and small MG model