This isn’t the first Perfect Grade I’ve ever built, but it certainly will now be the first to be featured here. Last year at Anime Expo 2015, my buddies and I went into the Exhibit Hall with the clear and single-minded goal of picking up some of the highest-tier Gunpla we could get. While my friend got himself the latest and greatest PG Unicorn, I decided to finally cash in on an old dream kit.
I remember I spent anywhere from a few months to almost an entire year working on this thing. With massive kits like these that take a long time to plow through, it’s not uncommon for me to simply put it off for a few weeks or months at a time before finally getting back to it.
I’ve always coveted this kit. It’s not that I couldn’t buy it because I lacked the funds before or that I felt as though I wasn’t prepared to build it – I’ve built the PG Gundam Mk. II twice over (once for the A.E.U.G. version and once for the Titans) and that kit was arguably harder because of its age and less builder-friendliness.
A year ago, I would’ve wanted to just do a straight build of this kit and call it a day. Now, after doing so many custom projects, I couldn’t bear to leave the kit stock, even if I actually really do like Strike’s original colors. I could’ve done a stock repaint too, but I wanted to do something different just for the sake of being different.
As much as I realize that a lot of the appeal for these Perfect Grade kits lie in their sophisticated inner frames, I honestly knew I would never be displaying this kit with the armor open or off. As such, I went with the basic route and just painted the entire frame gunmetal. No fancy detailing for the molded pipes and wires or anything, since they’d all be covered up anyway.
Clear parts are given for the cockpit innards and sensors. The head sensors and rifle scope are given in a very light clear blue, which were easy to paint over in clear green.
I normally wouldn’t bother with the little cockpit and pilot figures, but 1/60 scale is large enough that I figure I might as well bother with them this time. I’ll never fathom how some people paint the absolutely microscopic 1/100 pilot figures.
The cockpit assembly feature is actually really cool. As you pull the chest block forward, the entire assembly slides down and forward, with the screen in front of the pilot also lifting up in the process.
Like every Strike ever, even the Perfect Grade includes the Armor Schneider combat knives as a stock gray. I sanded them down a bit and painted them silver; thankfully the blades can easily be removed from their hilts, despite coming attached together on the runners.
Fine details on the head like the “mouth” vents and individual vulcan barrels are all molded in. The kit originally came with a small ember LED for the eyes, but I stopped by Radio Shack and picked up an emerald one instead. The eyes came as clear plastic with the black bands around them colored in for you; I went ahead and painted them clear green so it would have a little life even with the lights turned off.
The shield assembly has a clear piece for the little window at the top, with an additional sliding mechanism that lets you “close” it. This sort of thing I’m pretty sure was never featured anywhere else, including the anime, but is thrown in here because Perfect Grade.
So, I originally had very big plans for this build. It was just supposed to be a custom paint job yes, but it was supposed to be more than just a white-out. Unfortunately I got very lazy and skimped; I still decided to mask a blood-red “K” on the shield though. It’s kind of inspired by a bunch of things – the red Wolf symbol from Woolf Enneacle‘s mobile suits, the “K” from Stargazer’s Ginn Insurgent Type that apparently stood for “Kill” (I forgot where I read this, but I can’t find anything to corroborate it now, sadly), and just as a reference to the unit pilot, Kira.
I ordered an entire water slide decal sheet from an aftermarket eBay seller a while ago, and only when I finally got around to using them on the kit did I realize that their quality wasn’t necessarily up to par with Bandai’s decals.
It actually turned out that the water slide sheet didn’t have enough to just cover the basics on the Strike, so I actually had to resort to using some of the peel-off clear stickers that I absolutely abhor on some less easily seen areas, like the feet.
The only way I was going to use those clear stickers was by cutting them super close to their edges to minimize the ugly clear borders that marked them so easily as stickers. They’re normally on giant rectangles that would also be prone to peeling. The irony is that while I hated using these, the print quality was way better than the aftermarket water slides. I ended up with not-so-good-looking water slides on key areas of the suit but crisp stickers on out-of-the-way portions.
I find it kind of amusing that this more dated version of the Strike looks almost kind of squat at the torso because we’re so used to the long and lean proportions of the recent HG and MG Remastered Strikes.
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, Perfect Grades are kinda famed for their big armor-opening gimmicks. While a good amount of stuff opens, it isn’t as much as I used to think.
There’s a lot of cool detail to be sure, especially with the chrome plated pistons standing out, but I feel like to really show everything off you need to have a dedicated open-armor build. In my case, I never intended to remove any of the armor again after putting it on.
I really like how the little pilot figure came out. I should’ve cleaned up the bottom of the feet a bit more, but the red/black/green combo for the pilot suit worked out surprisingly well.
The red inside the thrusters and rear skirts were painted in by hand. There are also two neat tabs that could fold down on the rear; the top one is for storing the beam rifle and the bottom one is for (presumably) connecting the Archangel’s power wires to.
I’m pretty sure no such accessory was ever made for the Perfect Grade though; you’d have to buy the PG Skygrasper just to get the base, and if memory serves that bit doesn’t actually come with a wire.
Articulation is (surprise) just about perfect. And complex. Just bending the knees means a whole bunch of armor shifts along the leg, and you’d think the calf and lower leg would be just about stationary, but they actually are capable of shifting sideways.
There are die-cast parts in each leg, meaning the kit as a whole becomes quite hefty and weighty. It generally doesn’t have any issues maintaining its balance – keep in mind the Strike is actually a very basic mobile suit without the giant Aile Pack tacked on, so it stays flexible.
The manipulators are easily one of the most entertaining parts of this kit. Each knuckle is individually articulated, so Strike can make just about any hand gestures an actual human can.
Look familiar? I was really racking my brain during this photoshoot on what I could have the suit do bare-handed, and had a eureka moment when I realized Build Fighters was the perfect reference for hand-to-hand Gundam combat (barring G-Gundam).
So, about the paintjob that was supposed to be but never was that I mentioned above – Strike is actually painted here in a two-tone white color scheme, similar to its original plastic colors, which also came with two-tone whites.
I had a hell of a time during the build trying to figure out which armor plates would be pure white and what would be sprayed (literally) “off white.” The end result is actually fairly stark, even if the photos don’t do it a super amount of justice (the contrast is there, I promise).
So, I originally wanted to go with an all-white build no matter what, but it wasn’t supposed to stay this way.
One day while I was at my local mechanic to get some bits done to my car, I caught a glimpse of a really cool-looking FR-S in their garage that was having some work done. I only saw the rear end, but from what I could tell it was a white Scion with some crazy black/red/gray livery. I did a quick Google search and as best as I could remember it looked something like this. With that in mind, I went out and bought cans of black, red, and dark gray paint along with some more kickass Tamiya masking tape with the intention of livery-ing out the Strike with the same crazy awesome stripes/patterns.
But then I put all the painted white armor together and realized that masking around all the little inner frame bits to attempt a consistent multi-color pattern would be a little more difficult than I originally thought.
So, taking the lazy way out, I just decided that this would basically be the Strike version of Asemu’s AGE-2 Normal SP Custom – all white, green sensors, red insignia on the shield. I figured it made a typically-colored lead Gundam like the AGE-2 look badass, so it would have a similar effect on Strike. I ended up not being totally wrong, I think, but it still doesn’t look as cool as the AGE-2’s white-out effect.
As I mentioned above during the build portion, the Armor Schneiders unfortunately came in all-gray, so the silver-painted blades really do help add some much-needed contrast.
It would be cool if there were some spring-loaded mechanism that popped the knives out of the side skirts (the kind of little gimmick I imagine modern PG’s like the 00 Raiser and Strike Freedom would have) but alas they’re not far off from the simple open-and-go that’s been around since the first Master Grade version of this suit.
The super-articulated hands means you can actually get some really cool poses out of these tiny light-weight weapons.
So while this Perfect Grade kit is one of the few Gunpla versions of the Strike that doesn’t come with an Aile Pack, it doesn’t mean it skimps entirely on the armaments that are usually associated with that equipment.
The shield is unique in how it attaches to the underside of the arms – Strike’s “rails” on its elbows open up and allow for the pegging mechanism to attach, after which the opened sections close again to clamp down on the shield connector.
The awkward thing is that the thick Gunmetal paint actually made it impossible to articulate the shield connector piece, so in short the suit can only hold the shield under-arm now, rather than the more traditional side-arm mount.
It sucks not being able to pose the suit as I’d like to with the shield now, but the thing is obscenely large anyway, so it gets in the way during posing more often than not. I’m pretty sure if I tried I could make it a surfboard.
The beam rifle should really be a big ‘ol hunk of Gunmetal with a clear green scope, but I decided to paint the upper casing in white to have it match the rest of the suit a bit more. The irony comes from the fact that this is very similar to how the RG Aile Strike did its rifle stock, but on that particular kit I painted the rifle away so it was all-gray instead.
The only light-up function for this kit comes from a single LED installed in the head. A battery must be purchased separately, and to turn it on the rear head armor has to be removed to flick the switch.
And finally, because a beam rifle and shield are simply too boring despite being Strike’s canonical basic weapons, a little extra flair was added in the form of a giant Grand Slam sword.
Strike never used this weapon in-series, nor was there any indication that it actually existed within the SEED universe. The only time it was ever featured was during Strike’s Gundam Evolve short movie appearance, which I’m pretty sure was basically an animated commercial for this very kit.
All the same, it’s a very cool weapon – the name is a little silly (Grand Slam totally sounds like a giant basketball weapon or something) but it comes in all of its chrome glory and thanks to its no-nonsense design is extremely easy for Strike to wield. The thing is kind of stupid giant and pointy being in 1/60 scale though – I could use it as an actual human-sized plastic dagger.
Sadly, despite being a dream kit, Strike was sold off soon after the build was complete. I liked the kit a lot – the level of detail and articulation range is really deserving of the Perfect name. Despite that though, I think the MG Strike Remaster does a good job of updating the suit’s iconic look with modern detail, proportions, and kit quality.
The kit is large and hunky and would definitely make a domineering display piece in any collection, but I don’t think Perfect Grades are really my cup of tea. Other than being more difficult to customize, the sheer length of work involved to really do them justice is simply exhausting. Despite being a fairly old kit by now though, I do think this PG has held up well to modern-day compared to some of the original monsters like the Mk. II and RX-78-2.