MG Slash Zaku II Phantom

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It started as a regular ‘ol MG Zaku II 2.0 – my friend and I picked it up as sort of an impulse buy nearly two years ago (or more, I honestly can’t remember) at our local hobby shop while there was a big sale going on. It should be pretty obvious just by perusing the Gunpla catalogue on this site that I’m normally not a big Zeek guy – I’ve built Zakus before, but the only mono-eye suit in recent memory that I’ve put together is the MG Sinanju.

When I got it I didn’t really know what to do with it – should I straight-build it, custom paint, what? Turns out the answer didn’t really totally come together until quite some time later.

p1170369I’m pretty sure this kit holds the record for longest serving on my backlog. I’ve build maybe two dozen or more full kits while this Zaku rotted away, parts half-cut and runners half-crushed. It made for a good time killer by the time I got to college though, when I was just a bit too poor to afford new kits but wanted something to work on.

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Maybe half a year after I bought the kit I decided I wanted to customize it fairly heavily – but not into an original design. I decided to go with something subtly unique – based off an existing design but not following it to a T.

And so I went about collecting the necessary materials like a metal parts conversion set off eBay and a MG Unicorn Full Armor’s Hyper Javelin courtesy a kind member of a facebook Gunpla group.

p1170371The metal parts are interesting – totally aftermarket, but designed specifically for the MG 2.0 Zaku. There’s a handy little guide for where things go and numbered bags, but the instructions for how to remodel everything together was either written in a foreign language or not there at all (I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference).

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And because a genuine MG Unicorn beam gatling set would’ve been too expensive, I settled for some cheap Chinese knock off from eBay – it even comes with metal barrel tips and a metal chain!

p1170373I’ll be honest – I only recently (last two months) started chugging on this project and finished it up in two weeks, which included mostly just building the weapons and backpack from scratch. I don’t remember painting the actual suit itself at all, it was so long ago.

p1170859The entire frame was done in gunmetal as usual.

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I know I painted the white/black/navy parts more recently, because they’re done better. For some reason I guess I was being really stingy with the light blue paint, because a lot of the armor was coated unevenly and it even has hints of the original green plastic in some places.

I honestly can’t remember what I was thinking before when I did the painting, and I decided not to go back and correct it since by the time I noticed everything had been assembled.

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My buddy and I also picked up an emblem set when we got our kits all those moons ago, though ironically by project’s end I actually didn’t make use of any of these. Maybe they’ll come in handy for future projects.

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Two-seater cockpit with no pilot.

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Starting to throw some metal parts together – the mono-eye is probably the most straightforward – a direct replacement for the stock eye. It has a red reflective jewel-like look to it, which looks nice, but I would’ve preferred pink to red.

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I was dumb and decided not to just pin holes into the base of the hydraulic connectors and insisted on gluing the metal rods to the plastic instead.

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Needless to say this ended up being a delicate connection, and it doesn’t even look that fantastic with the contrasting metal to paint finishes.

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Went out of my way to paint the hydraulics inside the legs just because.

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Finally decided to stop being a cheap bastard and just went out and got myself a cheap hand drill set from the dollar store. I didn’t use it to attach the metal hydraulics to their bases though – no, it was too late for that. The metal rods were actually too thick to fit into the receivers (aftermarket fitment issues for ya) so the drills were used to widen the sockets.

p1170940I cried when I finished assembling the legs and discovered that all my effort was for naught. I never take the armors off any of my kits – I don’t actually care for displaying the inner frame.

I snapped the ankles and feet together and realized that all the work put into the hydraulics was pointless because it was all covered by armor – even bending the feet you wouldn’t be able to see anything unless you took the armor off. I would’ve been perfectly content leaving the original plastic pumps in place if I had known this beforehand. Mistakes were made.

p1170375Now for some really fun stuff – and I say that with the utmost sarcasm because part of my aversion to Zeon/Zeek styled suits was because the tubing is always such a PITA to clean. Bandai thinks it’s doing us a favor by including all the little couplers on the same runner as the tubes they’re supposed to slide over, but in reality it just makes it harder to clean the nubs up.

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Thankfully the metal parts include all the couplers as metal bits – a huge relief for me. There’s really no methodology given for assembling the system though – the parts are kind of just given and you’d have to infer how to put it all together. I’m sure there are probably guides online on how to do this, but it wasn’t rocket science-y enough for my to need help.

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You get a long slinky spring piece and a piece of wire (the same kind used to tie old toys down in their plastic packaging, think Transformers). The spring is for aesthetic and for getting the couplers to slide onto, the wire is slid inside the spring to hold its shape.

p1170933The original PVC parts that come with the kit have connectors on the ends to attach the tubing to the model. No such extra connector is given in the metal parts kit, so I assumed that the only way to get the metal parts onto the suit was to reuse the original connectors.

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I cut the connector and pinned a hole in it to fit the wire; took some trial and error to get the right width, especially since the hole made was so large it nearly tore the PVC of the connector.

p1170934Wire inserted, shaped, and glued. Now the spring just needs to be slid on and then the metal couplers afterwards.

The hardest part of the entire process was shaping the wires correctly since if you just let them run from the backpack into the front of the torso it would look strange without the proper bends. It was also a bit jarring in that the metal couplers are actually larger than the plastic ones a bit, and didn’t have the little cuts in them to facilitate bending along the tube, which means I had to omit a few here and there (i.e. there are supposed to be say 10 green couplers on the actual kit but when using the metal ones I ended up using 8 because they’re just larger with no indents).

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The leg tubes were thankfully the easiest – the original kit actually comes with springs for these so it was a relatively straight build made even easier because there’s no cutting or cleaning process involved with the couplers.

p1170947With the base suit done, it was time for the little extra bits that required a little more custom work. Starting with the Zaku Warrior shields I didn’t have because I didn’t own a scrap 1/100 Zaku Warrior.

p1170948They were just shields, so it should be pretty simple to make them out of pla-plate right? Just flat boards cut out in the proper shape, piece of cake.

p1170950Turns out not so. I’ve scratch-build parts before, but never anything this detailed and strangely curved. It looks simple at a glance, but when you actually take a closer look at the shield design it goes upwards and ridges at all the wrong places.

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Because I originally didn’t intend to get a Zaku Phantom just to cannabalize for parts to finish this kit, I bought the MS spikes for the shield instead.

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Test fitting with tape to see how they look.

p1170931The metal parts kit also came with some spikes that were originally meant for the Zaku II’s shoulder pauldron, but since there were only three I couldn’t really make use of them.

p1200085I started out with an appropriately sized paper template and got this far with my mock-ups. Eventually I decided it was too much work (especially to create two) and too many margins of error.

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The easy way out was to just throw money at a brand new 1/100 Zaku Phantom kit and take its shields. Unfortunately I didn’t have the same luck as I did with the MG Unicorn Hyper Javelin – nobody online had a scrap Zaku they wanted to donate to my cause.

p1200100Basically all the parts I needed from the Zaku Phantom. At least it’s more than just the shields, though I actually ended up not using the shoulders either.

Now why didn’t I just make an actual 1/100 Slash Zaku Phantom out of this Zaku Phantom since I went out of my way to buy it anyway? Well I still needed something to do with my MG Zaku II and the MG is just better than the 1/100 NG.

Does this mean I basically have a shield-less Zaku warrior laying around now? Yes.

p1200101Needed to do a little modification to the shoulder-shield attachments to get it to work with the Zaku II’s shoulders.

p1200103I initially considered sticking a polycap inside the housing to have it fit snug on the Zaku II’s shoulder ball joint connectors, but then realized that I didn’t even need to – I could just use the original hollow connectors given with the parts.

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I could’ve also used the original Zaku II’s shoulder connectors (they were identical even though it had a shield on one shoulder and a spiked pauldron on the other) but they seemed too small and not as filled out as the ones donated from the Zaku Phantom.

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Needed to mask the shields a bit since the middle interior sections are supposed to match the armor.

p1200118And then I realized that I needed to paint the beam mag mounting points too. At least the masking for this stuff is easy.

p1200107Now for the bit that’ll probably take the most custom work – the backpack.

I started with the Zaku Phantom’s two-piece backpack that’s actually a part of the Blaze wizard – it has a nice design that could easily be split into three sections, as I did with a heated knife to get through the thick layers of plastic.

p1200112Then those two parts were affixed to the sides of the original Zaku II’s dinky little backpack. The metal parts kit also actually included little metal thrusters for the original Zaku II, but I decided to forgo them in order to keep all the thrusters matched. The replacements are actually pulled from my scrapped HG AGE-1 – its backpack bits fit perfectly.

p1170936They look real cool, but I didn’t want to bother painting the red metal trim piece orange and have a super detailed metal thruster set in the wake of a bunch of plain plastic ones.

p1200113I cut some pla-plate to fill in the hollow areas left from cutting the Zaku Phantom’s backpack, then hunted around for a way to fill in the center area. It looked really off without something there, so I just dug around for a part that would fit, and lo and behold I actually really liked how one of the Blaze wizard’s opening flaps fit in the center.

It’s a bit unorthodox, but I actually took some inspiration from the Duel’s Assault Shroud’s backpack piece.

p1200114Putty’d up the messy seams made from the pla-plate inserts. I actually really like the design, as cobbled together as it is.

p1200115The only truly scratch built parts on this kit were the gatling-to-backpack connector arms. There really wasn’t anything in my spare parts pin that would fit the role perfectly, and it was easy enough to create from pla-plate so I just went ahead with it.

p1200116I re-used the same connectors that would’ve gone into the Blaze wizard’s pack and made some simple arms. Gets the job done.

p1200119Thrusters for the backpack – loving how clean these came out.

p1170945Now for the gatling assembly. The fit and finish on these pieces are basically ass – but I didn’t go into it expecting much from a cheap Chinese knock-off.

p1170946The barrels didn’t quite fit together so I had to cut their pegs off and glue the assembly instead. Also a big nasty seam running right along the gatling drum’s hull.

p1200086These are really meant to be hand-held/arm-mounted weapons for the Unicorn Gundam, so there are some frivolous pieces I had to get rid of to make them flow more naturally as backpack-mounted arsenal.

p1200117Metal barrel tips inserted. Like the hydraulic bits, the pegs on the metal pieces were actually too thick to fit into the gatling sockets, so those had to be widened. I debated on keeping them with the silver metal finish but eventually decided to do it in gunmetal instead since it might end up looking tacky.

p1200087The Full Armor Unicorn’s Hyper Beam Javelin was basically the closest thing I could find to the Slash Zaku Phantom’s pole arm beam axe. It’s also just a cool weapon so I wanted to make it work.

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I wanted to keep the look of the original weapon with the long red handle, but also didn’t want to do away with the mechanical looking hilt of the original beam javelin. As such, I decided to compromise by sticking a plastic pole into the original weapon. Clunky? Yes. Does it work? Enough.

p1200089I actually think one of the coolest parts of the original beam axe was the little scythe at the bottom, it rounds out the weapon’s look I think. I actually made it from the foot extensions taken from my old HG Aegis.

p1200090The original beam effects were a little too pale pink for my liking. As I didn’t have any spray clear pink, I decided to go at it with some clear enamel pink paint.

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As much as it successfully darkened the color, I also have very limited experience with enamel paints and it ended up showing quite a few brush strokes since the paint dries and clumps so easily. I smoothed it out as much as I could, but even my best efforts can’t hide it without sanding.

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The beam effect at the top of the weapon actually seemed a little too large to me – I didn’t like how it overpowered the axe beam effect, so I cut it down to size a bit.

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Then totally freehanded some cuts into the remaining effect part to give it some more jagged edges. I actually kept screwing up with the cuts being misaligned, which is why they ended up so deep. I ended up liking the final form though.

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Parts painted (clear effect parts also sprayed with some pearl white to mitigate the clear enamel brush strokes and to add some frosted glittery effects to the beams) and ready for final assembly.

p1200095I knew when I was putting the red rod into the hilt that it would make it basically unwieldable – it would be too heavy for the suit to swing around and too thick for the hands to get even a proper grip on it.

p1200096I decided on a makeshift solution in the form of some magnet wizardry. I happened to have the perfect sized magnets lying around and the Zaku’s hands already had some nice, easily expandable cavities within them.

p1200097It took a little tinkering to get the polarities matched up, but it was a simple matter to get the magnets into the hands and have them correspond with magnets attached to the pole of the beam axe.

p1200122And just because I could, I decided to cobble together some custom secondary weapons like the small beam axe. In true keeping with the theme of UC meets CE, I decided to cross-breed the weapons.

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The original Zaku II’s heat axe was converted into a beam axe (yes, I could’ve also just used the original beam axe but the design was different okay) and the original Zaku machine gun had its magazines switched out to become a beam rifle.

As cool as it was seeing the bullet detail in the drums for the Zaku II, they sadly weren’t used.

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Instead of trying to figure out some kind of complicated scratch-build folding-peg system for the beam rifle in order to get it to attach to the rear skirt, I decided to resort to the magic of magnets yet again.

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Two pieces were placed inside the rear skirt and two pieces inside the hollow housing of the gun, making for an easy no-peg connection.

p1200098And the last coup de grâce would be a set of Seed Destiny decals that I picked up at the same time as the Zaku Phantom. I actually almost decided to add Z.A.F.T. markings along with the original Zeon emblems I showed earlier, but ultimately decided to not confuse anyone and stuck with a single faction.

p1200120The awkward moment when decals don’t take well to matte-coated surfaces. I had to apply a little rubbing alcohol to dissolve some of the topcoat and reach a glossier surface to apply the decals with minimal silvering, then flat coated again on top of all that.

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I actually found it really cool that the decal sheet even included the specific model number for the Slash Zaku Phantom, since it’s such an underrated suit in the series.

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And done. T’was a long journey, for a kit that doesn’t even look that heavily customized. I like it though – I’ve actually always liked Yzak’s suits a lot from Seed and Seed Destiny – the Slash Zaku Phantom was really underrepresented, I think, so I thought it would be neat to do a unique what if it were a U.C. suit instead take on it. Sue me for cross-breeding the timelines, U.C. fanboys.

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The funniest thing is how generally immobile this kit ended up being. I’m so used to easily movable, unobstructed kits that can pull off all sorts of dynamic eye catches, but I guess this kit plays true to its U.C. roots by looking best just standing around.

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Of course, I say that, but have to admit that a big part of the problem is the clunky shields and the unwieldy beam axe. Like Sinanju, it’s a kit I’d prefer not to touch and mess around with too much.

p1200343The base Zaku’s range of movement is generally unobstructed and all there, but it doesn’t quite have the same dynamic aura as most Gundam frames I’m used to, thus making it more difficult to pose.

p1200332The magnet feature worked well – it’s just about the only reason it can still hold its weapon. While I installed several magnet points on the axe polearm, it’s only really effective in one area, since I doubled up the magnets there and had it oriented in a way that matched the right hand’s polarity.

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The smaller single magnets along the shaft work, but simply don’t have the strength to hold up the weight of the axe.

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Built some secondary weapons because why not. At first glance they look to be just the Zaku II’s standard equipment, but the heat hawk head was replaced with the Zaku Phantom’s beam axe emitter and the machine gun drum was switched to a beam magazine. Gotta keep the arsenal consistent.

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RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT

PEW PEW

p1200348I actually really like how the gun came out, with the two-toned gunmetal and flat black. I need to do this more often instead of the usual all-gunmetal weapons.

p1200345I almost got super crazy with the mini beam axe by cutting open the shields to fit the axe inside, as it’s portrayed in Seed Destiny, but eventually figured the modifications to pull something like that off wouldn’t be worth the return.

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I really like how the backpack and gatlings turned out. I didn’t particularly follow the original Slash Zaku Phantom’s specific backpack design – it was more of a improvised piece of just getting the guns over the shoulders.

p1200340Of course with weapons like these there’s only so much you can do to make it look like they’re in action or milk any cool poses out of them. I’m probably just not creative enough.

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Magnet magic! Just tap the beam rifle to the rear skirt and it’ll stick. It has the unintended effect of sometimes sticking to the metal leg hoses too though.

As long as this project took and as much as I like the final result, it’s by no means a perfect model. I submitted it recently for a local Gunpla competition and barely fell out of the top 5 in my category, despite going in with high hopes.

I was genuinely curious as to how I was critiqued, and unsurprisingly the judges I spoke to mentioned subtle imperfections like seam line residue and slight paint discolorations as the main factors holding me back.

p1200325 p1200327I expected to hear more about the kit concept (turning a Zaku II into an obscure C.E. design) and creativity than the model execution, but it’s no surprise that the quality of basic modeling techniques would be pointed out as most vital.

These were all mistakes and quirks I took note of as I built the kit, but was simply too lazy to go back and fix. Note how you can see a clear discrepancy between the light blue lower leg armor panels above. One of them was clearly coated more thoroughly, versus the faded panel that still has a little tint of the original green plastic showing through.

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I went in curious if the custom nature of the kit – scratch built parts, metal details, concept – would carry it and land itself as being more impressive than a traditional take on models in their stock forms (much like my All Gundam Project – clean fully painted stock models).

Many contestants at the competition had their kits built in such a way – it didn’t take mad creativity and crazy scratch building to win the judges – mastery of plamo trumped all. As such I think those who placed in the contest were well worthy; technique comes first, and if I want to improve my game I’ll need to focus on those instead of glossing over the basics and riding on the cool factor to carry it.

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As long as the project took and as underwhelming as its performance was at my first Gunpla contest, I actually really like how this kit turned out. Maybe because it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air after finally having a Zeek suit as a mainstay part of my current collection, or maybe because I simply enjoy the U.C./C.E. crossbreeding.

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