If you haven’t heard of Advance of Zeta by now, it’s a parallel story to Zeta Gundam, this time told from the side of the Titans Test Team. Featured in this manga/photonovel are numerous experimental variations of the Titans’ mobile suits, most prominent of which is the Gundam TR-1 “Hazel” series derived from the RGM-79Q GM Quel. Kenki Fujioka also decided to turn his attention to the high-performance ORX-005 Gaplant for two of AoZs units, the massive “Fiver” and the moderately upgraded “Hrairoo.” Probably due to the high cost of the base Gaplant kit itself, Bandai released the “Hrairoo” as its 76th HGUC model kit and it’s on inspection today.
Next to around 80% of Gunpla, the Gaplant head is almost totally immobile. There’s a small degree of vertical motion, and even less side-to-side. The Hrairoo modifies the Gaplant’s wedge-shaped head. It is now larger to accommodate the new sensor unit and the Zeta-style blade antennae, which you can swap out for a folded pair for MA mode. Still, as the Hrairoo kit carries a lot of Gaplant parts you can construct a Gaplant head if you wish. The location of the monoeye on the old Gaplant is now where the center camera is located, which holds the antennae in place.
From an engineering stance, the upper torso is the main talking point of this kit. Basically it’s the same fragile deal as the old Gaplant. To facilitate the transformation, it’s made in four distinct parts. In MS mode it shares basic construction appearance with the Zeta Gundam, but the three parts in front swing and flatten into an eccentric compressed Z for MA mode. This “Z” is held together by latches, notches and a polycap. This means it is not only fragile, but you can also forget about waist articulation as there just isn’t any.
The rearmost part of the torso is by far the flimsiest. The whole thing is held via a single small ABS piece that won’t be easy to repair or replace when it breaks. My suggestion then is to fix this kit in one mode, although I appreciate how well-thought-out the torso is for MA mode and transformation isn’t so bad when you get used to it.
Moving downward, the lower torso is made up of core Gaplant parts but with extra parts sledded on, much like the Hazel series or the STARGAZER kits. The front skirts get longer, the side skirts sprout Hazel-style blockiness and the rear skirt becomes a whole lot bulkier. As a result, poseability suffers a bit due to the bulk.
The lower torso is also where the multi-arm unit is located as a “tail.” This three-piece arm is the Hrairoo’s sole concession to the limbs-akimbo mechanical weirdness that is Advance of Zeta, and it seems to work well as mounting point for the long blade rifle.
Here, the Gaplant survives largely intact, complete with the signature shield binder beam cannons hanging off the elbows and the “armpit” joint pieces that are removed and set aside for MA mode. Range of motion is quite limited due to the design. The main additions to the Hrairoo are found on the shoulders: the Hrududu II’s claw unit on the right, and generator unit on the left. The former functions as a hardpoint for the long blade rifle, while the latter is purely decorative. Both units are attached to thin wing-like attitude binders and drum frames that double as mount points for the multi-arm unit mentioned earlier. Often these aren’t an issue but they may get in the way of posing. An extra pair of finger parts in a trigger pose is provided to mount the long blade rifle/spread beam gun. You remove the fists from the external hand plates and slide the gun-grip finger parts in, much like the HGUC Rick Dias.
This is 100% Gaplant hardware, and is very similar in construction to the HGUC Rick Dias. There is an ABS inner structure in the lower leg where the verniers and thrusters are attached, and over these the “bell-bottom” lower leg armors are mounted. The Gaplant being the Gaplant, it has long feet that fold over for MA mode, but posing and stability isn’t actually all that great, just average. I actually ran into a few fitment problems with the external armor as one leg on my Hrairoo has a large seam line running down the back—nothing plastic cement can’t fix, I guess, but this was unexpected on a 2006 kit.
Shield binder beam cannons- The Gaplant’s signature weapons survive intact. There are swing-out grips for the hands, but it can be hard gripping them without the hands popping out of the arm polycaps themselves.
Beam sabers- Rather cheaply, these are molded as one dark-blue plastic piece each. Hey, at least they aren’t molded into a hand like that on the HGUC Zeta Gundam.
Beam pistol/long blade rifle- By itself, the beam pistol is a 1/144 UC 0087 version of the beam spray gun found on GMs. It looks slightly out of place on a Gaplant, so Bandai threw in a lot of parts to turn this humble weapon into a “long blade rifle.” And by “long,” this 1/144-scale weapon is just about as long as the MG Wing Gundam Ver.Ka’s 1/100-scale buster rifle. The gray underside is supposed to double as a melee-use heat blade, while there is a stabilizer on the rear that looks like a rifle’s stock. My main gripe with this thing is it’s hard to mount it on the hands as it’s too long at the rear, but at least the stabilizer unit rotates to ease this. The long blade rifle seems to work best when mounted on the shoulder or on the multi-arm unit.
Display stand- It’s essentially the same static stand that comes with many an HG or HGUC model nowadays, which is fine. Come to think of it, I think it was the original Gaplant kit that pioneered this trend. That kit had two stands, the shorter one for the rocket booster not used here. Anyway, in MS mode the arm connects to a polycap between the legs, while MA mode will be discussed below.
Mobile armor mode- Unlike the HGUC Zeta, where waverider mode was achieved by ripping off limbs, swapping torsos and rebuilding the whole thing, all the Gaplant/Hrairoo needs is removal of the arms. The armpit joint pieces go away, the shoulder units are reconfigured, the binders are extended and pointed the other way, then they go back on. The rest of the body can be transformed without removing any other parts, although as I said, the kit needs extra attention due to the size and the inherent fragility of the design.
On the Hrairoo, the multi-arm unit wraps around the legs and joins the long blade rifle as it is installed underneath the whole Hrairoo MA. A couple extra ABS pieces are needed to hook the rifle to the polycap between the legs, and to connect the whole MA to the display stand; I found it a little confusing to install at first. When finished, the MA is slightly flimsy around the leg area (no locking tabs or mechanisms there) but overall it’s well done…as long as you always keep in mind that this thing is fragile.
Okay, so the Gaplant by itself is a mild disappointment for poseability nuts. It’s also rather fragile so it’s not exactly a great toy. However, from all the mecha of Advance of Zeta, the Gaplant seems to lend itself the best to the pseudo-Gundam Sentinel treatment that Kenki Fujioka indulges in. Despite the added bulk, the Hrairoo still looks sleek and actually improves upon the original Gaplant design (not something I can say of all the Hazel units), even at the cost of some poseability. Unexpected fitment problems and sub par poseability aside, this is a rather good kit.