Friday, May 23, 2014

Hobby Base Ultimate Joint Series EX Mechanical Hands (Angular) 1/144 Gray Part 1

Want to give me a hand? The more the better

Originally intended to be an extension to the unfinished review of High Grade 1/144 Genoace Custom, I later find this particular item to be unique and significant enough to give it its own review series. ^^

Looking at the arrangement of components that I have for this review, and work involved for the item's assembly, there are many aspects that aren't directly related to HG 1/144 Genoace Custom, and the overall review is going to be quite long as well, so giving it a separate review series is just appropriate I think. ^^

Released by Hobby Base in June 2011, this is the Mechanical Hands (Angular) series from the Premium Parts Collection Ultimate Joint Series EX (関節技EX). The name is quite a mouthful, since there are so many labels on the package card that seem to be related to the item. ^^ Also, I use the collective term 'series' to identify said item, because I have all four sets related to it. ^^ For HG 1/144 Genoace Custom, the 1/144 scale gray type is going to be used - the focus of this review series, but I do have the dark gray type in the scale, and both colors in 1/100 scale as well. As option parts to upgrade the hand articulation capabilities of model kits, the additional sets weren't purchased just for the sake of completing the while product set, but for a couple of old plamos that, like HG 1/144 Genoace Custom, deserve better hand units for their action poses and overall look. ^^

So, what is this Mechanical Hands series anyway? It's an option part set featuring a pair of hand units with pre-molded fingers that are fully articulated , and a pair of closed fists with nice sculptured details. Before the release of this option part set, Bandai Hobby Division's Real Grade series, which debuted with Gundam RX-78-2, also features similar articulated fingers for the kits' hand units, but not all the fingers. The 1/100 scale version of the option part set is pretty much the upsized version of the 1/144 scale set, and seems less impressive in comparison, as Bandai already designed and released kits with articulated fingers in that larger scale since June 1999 with Master Grade Dom, or before that, Master Grade Zeta Gundam in April 1996, even though that wasn't really well done in my opinion. ^^; In 1/144 scale, having hinges for all the fingers, pre-molded some more is quite a feat in engineering for Hobby Base. ^^

It was first unveiled at the 50th Shizuoka Hobby Show (May 12 to 15, 2011 at Twin Messe Shizuoka Convention Hall, Shizuoka) I believe. Prior to that event, I only know Hobby Base as the company that produces model covers (like this one), and replacement joints for model kits (example) and action figures (example). The Mechanical Hands series shown by the company at the 50th Shizuoka Hobby Show was truly amazing to me, amazing enough for me to draft a list of kits from my old collection that will receive upgrade from this option part once it's released. ^^ The price of 800 Yen per set (exclusive of tax) is also reasonable for a pair of versatile option hands in my opinion. ^^

More images of it on display at the event can be seen through: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3. Here's a video clip showing how the hand units work, taken when the option part was on display at the 50th Shizuoka Hobby Show:

Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

Even though having full articulated fingers is a huge boon to the model kits' posability, the hands are not all powerful. ^^; With multiple hinges on a small plastic stick that is smaller than a toothpick (^^;), it would be unreasonable to ask the option hands to hold any heavy weapons, or parts with their center of mass placed too far away from the hands themselves. Just the normal physics of it will guarantee that it's not going to work I suppose. XD Still, since they are of the same scale, the option hands can be used together with the default open fists to realize their specific purposes: the option hands for special gestures, and the default hands for holding the weapons. That's certainly my plan for Genoace Custom. ^^

Here are a few examples showing how the option hands look like, and how they can be applied on 1/144 scale model kits:

Images are from Wの悲劇.

The model kits involved are from the old 1/144 scale Gundam Wing series, which were fully painted and upgraded with extra decal details by modelers from G-Parts, a Japanese hobby store that specializes in selling tools, option parts, accessories, and other nifty add-ons for model kits. The option hands not only scaled accurately to the models, their details look really good as well. Having very simple-looking details as mentioned in the previous posting, I believe the option hands are going to give Genoace Custom additional details to improve its overall look, besides giving it the additional boost in posability set as the primary objective. ^^

A look at the 1/100 scale dark gray type from this option part series first: ^^

Front view of the small package.

Product labels on top of the package card.


Introduction of the mechanical hands' articulation design, and assembly options designed for them can be seen on the back of the package card.

Unlike the plamos produced by Bandai Hobby Division, the option parts are made in China.

With the content removed from the plastic package.

Assembly instruction on the lower half in front of the card.
The clear left and right split separating the assembly between the left and right hands is a very organized, and helpful design in my opinion. ^^

Small as they are, the images showing the various parts, and how they are supposed to be assembled are clear.

Three runners in total for the 1/100 type.

The most amazing feature of this option hand set: the finger parts with two pre-molded hinges each.
Looking at the runner alone, the fingers certainly don't look like they are articulated at all. ^^

Size comparison between the finger and an older type Malaysian 10-cent coin.

Molded labels on the runner.

There are all together four types of armor included for the two hand sets, with each set having two specific types.

(Left) Parts that form the hands' metacarpophalangeal joints, and wrist.
(Right) As tiny as they are, those metacarpophalangeal joints are responsible for two articulation points each. ^^

(Left) Parts for the closed fists.
(Right) Two types of thumbs for the each closed fist.

Very nice molded details for the palm area. ^^

The 1/100 scale gray type:

Besides the color, the content of the gray type is exactly the same as that of the dark gray version shown before it.

The 1/144 scale dark gray type:

Almost identical package design as the 1/100 scale type. The scale number is crucial to determine the appropriate set for the targeted model kit.

Introduction of the package on the back of the card.

The assembly instruction is identical to that of the 1/100 scale type as well, except the sections showing the articulated finger type are split in top and bottom halves instead of left and right.

Just two runners for the 1/144 scale type.

The content is exactly the same as the 1/100 scale type, except everything is made smaller according to the scale of course. ^^

The armor parts has undergate for one of the gates.
The gray type (to be used for Genoace Custom) is featured here as the lighter molded color makes it easier for the undergate to be seen.

Molded labels on the runner.

After the very long introduction above, it's time to get to work on a set of mechanical hands, targeted for High Grade 1/144 Genoace Custom. One set of 1/144 scale gray type, which was only partially shown in one of the images above, will be deployed for that purpose. ^^

Genoace Custom's hands are detached to be compared to the armor parts.

While there are a couple of aesthetic differences between the two, the flat type armor is chosen for both the fixed and articulated hands to be installed on the model. The minor differences in details should make it easier to swap between the default and new hands for action poses. ^^

The hand armors need to be painted white.

Markings are added behind the parts for identification purpose.

The parts are painted using Gundam Marker White.
At least three layers of paint are applied to cover up the molded color.

Just like the default hand units of Genoace Custom, tiny sunken spots near the wrist areas are painted gray using Gundam Marker.

Will give more time to the parts to completely dry before moving on with the final assembly of this mechanical hands set. ^^

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