A bit of a ball out of left field – normally when I post random 1/100 kits like these it’s because they’re not my kits. I’m very stringent about maintaining a consistent collection – I can’t buy one kit out of a series without getting the entire lineup (which is probably bad practice – better to get what you want rather than constrain yourself to collectable lineups, but that’s just how I’ve always been).
That being said, this 1/100 Full Mechanics Gundam Bael is totally my kit – and I have zero intention of getting any of the other Iron Blooded Orphans 1/100 models to go along with it. It was a bit of a spur of the moment purchase spurred on by the climax of the Iron Blooded Orphans series, because we all know the Bael was the coolest Gundam out of that show.
I believe this 1/100 release came out right around the end of the animated series – I always liked the Bael’s clean design language ever since it was introduced and McGillis was one of my favorite characters from the show, so I thought it only appropriate to pay tribute to
him going out like a bitch his valor and cunning by picking up this suit.
I’m sad that Bandai seems to be skimping out on real Master Grades recently for many of the recent series. Iron Blooded Orphan’s Full Mechanics lineup seems to be a “close enough” approximate, in that they’re all still very detailed 1/100 models with full inner frames and armor-off detail.
I got this kit so soon after release that I was only able to get the (what I assume to be) first edition batch that came with an action base and extra Gjallarhorn sigil stickers.
We even get a little multi-language pamphlet on the basics of how to build Gunpla. Good on Bandai for going the extra mile to put in the effort for foreign builders. Looks like plamo is finally becoming standardized for the western market again.
The entire manual is basically English translated – a very nice touch that led to this neat bit of trivia. “Unbreakable swords” indeed.
This is when I think Bandai’s just being silly for pushing the inner frame gimmick so hard on these Iron Blooded Orphans suits. Never before, even on Perfect Grades and Master Grades, have I seen the instruction manuals actually tell you to build the whole inner frame skeleton alone first.
The par for course is to just build the kit – usually there’s armor or inner frame parts that can’t come together until all the pieces are mounted anyway, so for Bandai to go out of its way to make us build the inner frame first just to show us how cool the skeleton is (and then later on in the manual when it instructs you to build the actual armor it has you take apart parts of the inner frame again to do it) is what I’d call pushing the gimmick too hard.
Granted, I’m only mentioning this because I’ve never been super fond of inner frame skeletons; I know a lot of Guntokas think it’s the coolest thing ever to see all the detail exposed, but I’m a conservative armor-up kind of person myself.
Bandai’s staying true to the in-series lore of the Gundams all sharing similar frames. Extra parts from the Barbatos are here, including a subtly different head.
Impressive that these are the only Barbatos-exclusive frame pieces, meaning Bael really does use 90% of the same skeleton as the series lead suit.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the first edition release of the kit, so it comes with a super duper special Action Base 1, complete with a pearl white plastic finish.
And of course, a set of Gjallarhorn insignias. The manual and box actually don’t give clear instructions on where to place these – they actually say to use them at your own discresion, so I assume it’s most likely to be used on the included action base. Unfortunately they’re just stickers with a rather thick clear border, instead of decals.
I liked the Bael’s original color scheme a lot since I thought it looked extremely clean, so I decided to stick with that for this build rather then attempt to come up with some crazy custom. The inner frame parts were all done in a mix of metallic black and gunmetal.
I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to add such subtle inner frame details like the gold trim that some parts of these IBO kits are supposed to have, but since Bandai clearly wants us to appreciate the inner frame so badly on this kit I thought I might as well put in the extra effort.
Of course stickers are included for bits of color correction like some missing blue on the legs, but quite a bit of gold foil stickers were also given for the aforementioned inner frame detail. Instead of just using them though, they actually made good masking stickers, since I was painting everything anyway.
…or so I thought. They covered the edges all right, but unfortunately when I peeled the stickers off they took a good bit of the gold paint I laid down with it. I think this is more the fault of the paint not going on a properly primed surface though, rather than the stickers being too sticky.
Not a difficult fix with a gold paint pen. In retrospect I should’ve just used the gold pen from the get-go instead of doing any fancy masking.
Kudos to Bandai for bothering with parts separation for the recessed details like these markings on the arms. I almost expected them to just make us paint it in on our own because they were too small.
This actually came as a large surprise – I really thought they’d just give the Gjallarhorn emblem that’s supposed to be on the left shoulder as a straight-up decal or sticker. I was even looking forward to just leaving it off and having both shoulders symmetrical if that were the case, but I got thrown a curve ball when it turns out that it’s actually a two-piece fill in.
These are the only parts on the kit that require extra color correction. The v-fin has blue at the tips, the back of the knees need some blue at the bottom, and the back of the heels need to be gunmetal or metallic black.
Overall easy things to mask.
Almost surprisingly, the armor count isn’t very vast – probably because most of it is made up of large chunky pieces.
The idea for the inner frame was for most of it to be metallic black, with gunmetal for the pipes and hoses to break it up a bit. It’s a super subtle effect that likely wouldn’t be noticed unless I pointed it out, but I like this better than using high-contrast flashy colors, like metallic red or green.
The giant gold piece in the center of the chest is a bit jarring, but hey apparently it’s lore-accurate.
Metallic red used for the eyes.
I went ahead and just pooled some of my paint pen and used a brush to fill in the smaller frame details that had to be gold.
Probably my favorite part of this suit – though a little underwhelming on this kit because they were made to be OSHA compliant, without dangerously sharp and slim tips.
Some light sanding brought the edges out.
To get rid of the sanding marks and the swirls in the original gold plastic, the blades were painted over in gold enamel, though to add a bit more flair I also sprayed a light coat of Pearl White to lighten the tone and give it a sparkly effect.
All the armor is painted and flat coated, but I unfortunately ran into some issues with a few select pieces. For whatever reason the paint on some of them started cracking and creating a gnarly texture as soon as the flat coat went on.
I’ve had this phenomenon happen before, but to this day I still don’t understand why. I tried light coats, thick coats, etc., but for whatever reason even with the higher-end Tamiya flat clear it still gave me some bad texturing.
Instead of sanding all the bad paint off and risk losing panel detail that way, I decided to finally pull out the gallon of Purple Power automotive degreaser that I only ever used once or twice in the past for stripping paint.
This stuff came on recommendation from a Gunpla senpai at my local hobby shop, who swore it stripped even the toughest enamels, meaning it should make short work of lacquer and acrylics. The few other times I used it I got mixed results – sometimes it stripped all the paint and sometimes it didn’t do anything. For this application I was willing to give it another go.
I decided to try for maximum power by filling a spare jar with the stuff and just letting the pieces soak inside for over 24 hours. A few hours in and I could already see chunks of white paint flaking off the pieces and floating around.
After a day and a half I dumped the Purple Power and took the pieces out. I then took a bristle brush and went to town scrubbing off the flakey, gooey leftover paint. End result: the plastic looks good as new. I’d say 95% came off without a hitch.
The one exception was this leg armor – for whatever reason there was just a chunk of paint that bonded exceptionally well to the ankle area, and thus was dissolving but never really came off completely. For such a small bit I just took some sandpaper to it and grinded it off; there weren’t any panel details in that area anyway.
The Bael had very little yellow on the original suit, so I decided to attempt a more regal look by replacing it all with gold.
Back of the feet were originally all white; the gunmetal/metallic black was masked and painted.
I could’ve just left it like this, but then I realized it would be jarring to see the masking marks and bits of metallic black bleeding over on the back of the feet, so I later painted the insides of that armor gray.
After I finished the head I realized that there was actually one more leftover piece of Barbatos that I forgot to include above – apparently Bael doesn’t share the v-fin frame.
Matte coated and panel lined.
I didn’t realize that there would be a big ugly seam down each shoulder because of their assembly in halves until I was already doing final assembly. Normally I would’ve just said screw it I’m already done, but this was a gnarly case that would be hard to ignore. As such, I went in with Tamiya putty to fill the line.
Sand it, mask the surrounding area, and repaint it with a fresh coat of white. It ended up working out well, since there were easy sections to divide on the shoulders for repainting.
And finally, as for the super duper special edition action base…I gave a half-hearted attempt at painting it gloss black and applying one of the Gjallarhorn stickers after I had cut around it to remove the clear border, but decided that I didn’t like the final look so the entire thing is going back in the box, never to see the light of day again.
For the first time, I’ll actually be showing some finished shots of the entire inner frame, since I actually cared enough to put in some effort for this one.
I took these photos before I actually finished the kit, since I wasn’t about to assemble and then take off the armor. It’ll never be this scandalous again.
Articulation is basically infinite, as you’d expect with such a thin skeleton and modern Gunpla design.
The manual calls for this to be the official look of the inner frame, but it’s jarring to say the least with the gigantic feet that are still in full-armor. There’s a slight frame for the feet, but likely not enough to allow the suit to stand, which is why I suspect Bandai has you build it this way.
I’m sure I could’ve worked harder to add detail here, but the metallic black look doesn’t offend me and I didn’t get this kit for the frame after all.
Armor up is where it’s really at. The bright white/blue/gold look speaks to my soul.
Pleasantly enough, limb movement isn’t significantly more restricted with armor on. The Bael and Barbatos both have significant armor gaps for their joints, meaning playability isn’t compromised despite how clunky it may look.
The one strange thing with movement is that the shoulders don’t move the way they do in a traditional Gundam. The protruding white triangle-like pieces that make up the sides of the chest are actually the units that you have to move if you want to move the arms up or down, rather than have the shoulder units themselves move.
It’s a strange feature that makes moving the arms a little harder and makes the Bael look weirder than normal when it has its arms raised, but otherwise it’s not a significant detriment to the kit design.
This is one of those suits that only really look amazing from certain angles and in very dynamic poses – unfortunately it’s not of the looks fantastic no matter what it’s doing variety.
The suit’s animation style from the show was what really drew me to liking the design – unfortunately no version of the kit is quite as streamlined and sleek as it appears in the anime. Stylized shots like this are what really sold me – and yet to my despair it was virtually impossible to recreate such a crazy perspective shot.
Part of the impossibility of recreating that shot was due to the Bael’s outdated use of mounting method for the Action Base 1. For whatever reason Bandai designed it to use the old fashioned claw prongs that go between the hip joints, rather than the slimmer and more versatile peg holders that have been the staple of modern kits.
Due to this limitation of having the gigantic claw in the crotch, Bael can’t really close its legs while on the action base, and moving the claw back and out of the way will constantly pop the rear skirt off. Sure, you could subvert these posing problems with an aftermarket action base that has a more versatile torso-holding connection, but it seems remiss of Bandai to design their kit around their own action base so poorly.
Of course, the sword sheaths are a neat feature in that they articulate a bit, but not as much as I’d like. They swing out and pivot on a ball joint, but I wish they had a function that allowed them to come forward so Bael could reach them a bit easier.
Still, the fit for the blades is snug and they have a greater chance of falling out of the hands than the scabbards.
You’ll notice that most of the Bael’s shots are in the air. It has wings, it’s not meant to fight on the ground like a peasant. It’s also difficult to make it look dynamic and interesting without the legs spread out and afloat.
Speaking of the wings, they’re nice if a bit underwhelming when compared to the usual wing’d Gundam suits like the Freedom and of course, the Wing. They do have the feature of moving the thin tips and the thruster-like gray bits, but I find that it generally makes the suit look worse, since they have so little area and are so thin. Better to just keep the wings down.
Better than all other standard 1/100 kits before it and yet not quite a Master Grade, the IBO Full Mechanics line seems to be the best iteration of these suits we can get. The High Grade Bael looks to be lacking significant detail and sharpness; this 1/100 model gives it the size it needs to look crisp and solid.