Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kitsune - Build Diary

Greetings and salutations plamo nerds! GBWC Philippines 2017 is in the books, and it was one heck of a build-off! A ton of excellent work deployed to the battlefield this year, with last year's open category champion defending his title and taking the gold once again - a well deserved win for a monster of an entry! I didn't feel like my aging smartphone and photography skills would do justice to the winning entries, so here's a link to Gundam Philippines' page instead, I'm sure the official photos will be out soon. >> Gundam Philippines <<<

The Legend of Kitsune didn't make it into the top 3, but finished 5th place and was awarded a nice little consolation prize. This is the first time I participated in the GBWC, and I think I did quite well considering the level of competition this year. Now that she's back home, I get to do a proper photo shoot before she gets assigned to a permanent spot on my display shelf. Jump in if you want to learn more about the build, but be prepared for walls of text and a $h!tload of images!

Click on the Read More link for the rest of this post....

First, a bit of background on Project Kitsune. Contrary to popular belief, the design wasn't based on Anubis or some obscure Digimon character, but was actually inspired by Babymetal - a Japanese band that I enjoy listening to (their not so EDMish songs at least). I know a lot of you "hardcore" metal fans find "Kawai Metal" downright silly - but the Dream Theater level musicians fronted by Idol vocals is just too quirky and Japanese for me to resist. The band is into theatrics and fantasy lore, much like the iconic rock bands of yesteryear, and stay in character throughout a show and during interviews. Their costumes, choreography, production design, even their album art and promotional materials revolve around the idea that Babymetal is guided by the fox god "Kitsune", and they do it's prophetic bidding to bring about a music revolution that will save the world...or something like that.
If you'd like to know more about the band and the mythical powers that move them, I'll let you do the googling - but that is how I came up with the idea for project Kitsune.

"Babymetal fanart borrowed from google images, credit to the original artist" 

The Japanese word "kitsune" directly translates to fox. Any self-respecting weab (is that an oxymoron? lol) can tell you, the fox is prominent in Japanese culture and appears in a lot of anime in various forms. After a bit more research I was surprised to find that the fox had zero cameos in the Gundam multiverse - other than the Ez-SR Foxhound, which seems more like a Metal Gear reference than anything else. Armed with a solid and original concept, I got to work transforming the Lupus into my idea of Kitsune.

I didn't get to do any WIP posts on this build, so I'll walk through the mods and explain them as best as I can. The challenge was how one could make something that is supposed to be made of metal, look like a furry fox. I found the answer in Hashmal, which happens to be the Lupus' nemesis. The fate of these two must be intertwined!

First mod I worked on was the torso, to give the kit an overall leaner look. It's made of a leg frame and armor taken from an IBO kit. After some cutting and shaping, I managed to reattach the original torso joints, so it retains the original articulation. I had to trim the internal armor of the chest frame quite a bit to get the the new assembly to fit inside. I like that it looks a bit hunched over by default, so it can do the heroic pose with the pelvis pushed forward a lot easier. I ditched the hydraulics as almost all the waist extensions I've seen on IBO frames use it.

The head is about 80% Hashmal parts. There was a lot of plastic trimming/reshaping with hobby files, and some random parts added on to make the "snout" section. The "ears", also Hashmal bits, had to be filled to eliminate voids on the underside, with some magnets installed and matching ones in the head frame so they could easily be attached/detached for painting. The head is mounted on a PC joint grafted onto the original neck ball joint, and supported by more magnets on the back where the nape of the neck would be. It has some articulation to it but the shoulder armor contacts the spikes if you turn the head to either side too much. The Hashmal parts had a lot of seams that needed fixing, so I spent a good amount of time just working on the head spikes, restoring erased panel lines and sharpening some of the details.

The tail is 100% built from Hashmal wings. The design went through several iterations before I was satisfied with the look. I couldn't decide if it had to be functional, like house a bunch of thrusters, fuel tanks, weapons, or expand and be used like a whip. In the end I went with a cleaner look with a Hashmal claw hidden underneath, with it's function left to the viewer's imagination. I had to get the wing frame parts to fit on top of each other first, and this required quite a bit of drilling and cutting. There were also a lot of voids in the armor that needed filling. The tail mounts to the pelvis frame with a hook-like addition I made, plus some magnets to keep it secure. I was going for a bushy tail, and I think it turned out great.

The legs are mew-two inspired. I wanted Kitsune to appear nimble and light on her feet. The original thighs were armored over with knee segments sawed off of Lupus Rex legs. I had to make styrene railings so the added armor could slide over the stock ones. This also gives the legs double the diamond shaped bits on either side of the knee area, which I think goes well with the overall swept-back theme.

I wanted the shoulders to be big and round to balance out the thigh proportions. I used the white bits from Lupus Rex's shoulders and added the Lupus' red shoulder emblem armors over them. The emblems had to be erased because Kitsune is not a Tekkadan machine. Layers of pla-plate and putty were applied, filed and sanded back down to a smooth surface. The upper arm is also from the Rex but the lower arm is from Lupus because I found the Rex forearms too long. I used Rex's claw hands, reshaping and sharpening the claws to make them look like they can actually do damage.

The feet are actually the simplest mod in the build. I just ditched the heel bits and made rectangular cuts on the foot armor so the frame could move forward more, giving it that reverse-joint look. It can balance on the feet just fine, and with the tail on and touching the ground it stands more like a tripod so it's pretty stable. The sword handle is from an Astray but I made a shorter, broader blade for it to match the ninja theme of her opponent.

For paint, I primed with Mr. Surfacer 1200, based the frame in Koong's black, and everything else in Koong's white. A preshade of Mr. Color purple was applied to white, pink and blue parts. For frame colors, I used Gaia stainless steel for the body, letting the black show through in corners and edges, while the vents and claws were done in Mr Color gold.

The pink armors are done in Gaia bright red, applied in thin layers to create a transition from the purple preshade to the white base coat. The blues were done with Mr. Color in the same manner. Mr. Color gloss white was applied for highlights, before sealing the paint with Tamiya clear gloss. I used tamiya panel liner black for panel lines.

"late night session"

I designed and printed some custom decals for this build, to emphasize the name and reference the systems mentioned in the fan-fiction.  Finally, I applied some sponge chipping using dark brown enamel, and then highlighted the paint peeling effect around the larger rust spots by hand-painting acrylic pale orange and white edges. Everything except the frame and gold vents were then top-coated in Mr. Color flat clear before final assembly.

Saizo is just a scrap resin figure I found online from a game called kingdom death. There were a few parts missing but I just really needed a ninja looking guy and he fit the bill perfectly. I made a tiny Alaya Vijnana implant with pla plate and grafted them onto his back, before painting and cementing all the pieces together. He is mostly hand-painted in vallejo and mig acrylics.

The base is made of grey tile grout which I set in a box and then cracked into large chunks when it was dry. Some real rocks were added while the grout was still wet. The chunks were cleaned and mounted onto a cork board frame using liquid nails, and then painted with different mixes of black, grey, green and some white for highlights. For tall grass, I used bristles from a cheap brush, sprayed on a bit of green on them, and then stuffed them into little holes in the grout base using white glue. I cut open a green tea bag and used the contents as ground cover - a neat trick shared by GBWC champion Win Eiam Ong. I also added a few dried roots from real weeds I found in our yard, and some leaves made from a leaf puncher. Since the setting is supposed to be a mountain top that breaks through the clouds, I stuffed cotton around the base perimeter and fluffed it out to resemble mist, adding some wisps of cotton in some of the cracks in the ground for a more dramatic effect.

Kitsune was placed towards the back of the base, beckoning the warrior to prove himself worthy of her power, while Saizo was positioned near the front edge, running towards her with his sword drawn. Here's a link to the fanfiction I wrote that leads up to this scene:

Now for some roll-out pics! Click on the images to view in full size :)

"GBWC 2017 - Open Category Entry #61 - The Legend of Kitsune!" 

And of course, the mandatory post-event photo shoot. I didn't dare do this before the event, for fear of messing up the paint job! Click on the images to view them in full size.


I wrote a backstory for why Kitsune appears to be autonomous and self-aware, which I can share If there's enough interest in her origin.  Overall I think the kit and diorama turned out really nice. The color is really vibrant which I think helped it stand out against the field of heavily weathered entries. I got to apply a bunch of techniques and had so much fun just bringing the story I imagined to life.
If Bandai/Sunrise ever needs an idea for a sequel to Iron Blooded Orphans, I'm all for them using the Legend of Kitsune!

If there's anything I would have done differently, I think a smaller or round base would have kept negative space in the diorama to a minimum. Kitsune's action pose might have also been more dynamic, but the massive tail pretty much dictated how the kit could be posed, and I was also apprehensive of moving the joints too much and risk paint damage.

I had a blast at the event just chatting with fellow modelers and making new friends. I got to shake Mr. Kawaguchi's hand on stage, and must admit I was a bit starstruck and forgot to say domo arigato! At the end of the day, 5th place was more than I could hope for, and it gives me the confidence to strive for an even better finish next year. I might have to bail on all other events just to produce the same level of work that the champions put forward this year - but if that's what it takes to take home the gold trophy, then I'm all in.

"sieg zeon!"

"My GBP family!"

Until next time, keep building plamo!

*credits to Paul Domanais for the event photos

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