What the heck is a "Ver. Ka," anyway? You might have seen the label on some model kits which look like slight variants of pre-existing designs. "Why are the shoulders of this Gundam different from the original design? Why is the chest broader? Why does it look so cool?"
Or maybe you've read posts on the Gundam Builders' Association Facebook group commenting on how the ver. Ka Bandai master-grades come with so many freaking decals how are you supposed to even fit them I mean come on seriously guys what the
Well "Ka" is actually a guy, Hajime Katoki, and ver. Ka means "Version Katoki;" it's a descriptor for a popular gundam design which was re-designed by Katoki in his very specific style. Katoki designs are usually more detailed and "realistic-looking" than their cartoonish original counterparts. They've been re-proportioned and detailed in a way that seems more believable and is much more aesthetically interesting. Here are some classic Katoki re-designs side-by-side with their classic looks:
RX-78-2, original (designed by Kunio Okawara) and ver Ka
Wing Gundam, original (designed by Kunio Okawara ) and ver Ka (these are quite different!)
Zaku FZ, original (designed by Izubuchi Yutaka) and ver Ka lineart
And Wing Zero, original (designed by Kunio Okawara) and ver Ka
Hey, wait a minute! We've seen that version of Wing Zero before, haven't we? That's right; Hajime Katoki did all of the mech designs for the Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz miniseries! Pretty cool.
I'm a huge fan of Katoki designs, but I really only build 1/144 models. But Katoki designs are usually exclusively made into Master Grades (the ver. Ka ZZ just came out!) which left me out-of-luck. And then I found out about this Jishang kit of the RX-78-2 Ver. Ka:
This kit gained some popularity because it was given away for free along with an issue of Model Kit World Magazine, which did an exposé on the kit. That version came with some metal beam sabers and thruster parts, but the one I ended up with did not have those add-ons. Not a big deal for me. The box shows a full inner-frame, which is a pretty neat gimmick.
Now, I know I've made mention in previous articles about how third-party kits have the potential to surpass Bandai kits because they're more willing to push the envelope and because they have so much extra development capital because they're ripping off Bandai-exclusive intellectual property. But you're always taking a risk; sometimes they're great, and sometimes they're absolutely terrible trash that don't even deserve to exist.
This kit falls into the latter category.
Everything about this kit was terribly executed by Jishang. The joints are made of a polycap-like material, but they may as well have been made of regular plastic since they break. This leaves the frame (especially in the chest area) wobbly and prone to just falling apart!
The panel lines look washed-out. Like their molds weren't cut deep enough. The hands are MASSIVE, way over-scaled to the kit. And the weapons are wobbly and poorly-detailed. So much wrong, it's like I may as well have converted a Bandai ver Ka. myself. Ugh.
So I fixed all that stuff.
TORSO JOINT REPAIR
First I went to work on the torso. The inner-frame is segmented and is attached by two ball-joints. But there's a problem. The original sockets were made of terrible non-polycap polycap material and so they immediately tore, which made the upper and lower torso prone to disconnecting with the slightest movement. This was a total pain to try to work on. And on top of that, the proportions were all wrong! The chest was too squat for my taste, so I set out to solve both of these problems at the same time by modifying both joints.
(These pictures also show the vent replacements. I swapped out the four terrible chest vents with some high-detail parts from Kotobukiya. They look much better than the poorly-cast blobby parts it came with!)
The first picture shows the new proportions after I lifted the chest about 3mm. Much better looking. And in the second picture you can see the Bandai Ballden Arms ball-joint I spliced in to tighten up that connection. It works way better now!
DETAILING THE FOREARMS
Another problem I ran into is how terrible the forearms looked on this kit. I like to have a few dividing lines visible on forearms like that, as well as some plausible mechanical detail at the elbow joints. So my solution was to carve up the stock forearms into a more believable shape. You can also see the hobby base hands I previously reviewed in the pictures below (I had to replace the ball joints to get them to fit because, surprise surprise, the Jishang balls were a non-standard size!).
Before and after:
I really liked how some Katoki designs had extra beam sabers on the rear skirt armor. I wanted to replicate this look but the only extra beam sabers I had which were long enough to pass for Katoki designs were from an old GM Sniper kit, and were molded in clear pink. Welp, I'll just have to make them work! (the gaps in the rear leg armor are really visible in this picture. Not sure what I'm going to do with those quite yet--might turn them into vertical panel lines, since I need to be able to remove that armor for easy painting).
I planned to make this kit into a G-3 model, but I always liked the look of the head-mounted Vulcan pod on the gundam MKII. I had an extra RG vulcan pod laying around from another project so I thought, "why not?"
I carved some little notches into the sides of the head so that the RG vulcan pod could snap on. The finished WIP is below!
I'm happy with the progress I'm making on this thing. I think i just have a few more modifications to make before I can prime, do final part finishing, and choose my color scheme (I'm still leaning towards G3, but does anyone else have any suggestions? The vulcan pod makes me want to try Titans colors!).