Series: Master Grade (MG) 1/100
Title: MSM-04 Acguy
Release Date: 07/2005
Suggested Price: ¥ 4000
No. of Parts: 15 runners + 4 screws + 1 spring + 1 sheet adhesive decals + 1 sheet wet-transfer decals Plastic colors: green, brown, gray, clear, tan Gimmicks: spring-loaded right-arm claws, collapsible arms and joints, display base and parts to support underwater poses
Contributor: tajisdurmin Date: August 14, 2007
After Bandai shotgunned three kits of Zeon's primary marine mobile suits onto the Master Grade market over the course of 2003, I looked into buying one as a representative of the group, but which one? While the MSM-03 Gogg is the iconic sea-monster design of the type with its vicious claws and imposing build, its lack of useful features (it, uh...scratches its armpits?) disqualified it immediately. The MSM-07 Z'Gok and Char's Z'Gok offered a far sleeker design in two appealing color schemes, but they too were plagued by the lack of features endemic to the MSM kits. Just when I'd given up hope, however, modeling sites announced an MG MSM-04 Acguy: a display base and several posing accessories plus not one but two operable weapons systems, all in a kit that blended the Gogg's old-school hulking presence with the more streamlined form of the Z'Gok. I bought one the month it came out.
The Acguy has what's easily the largest discernible head in all of MG Gundam, a monstrosity whose accordion-folded neck alone has a larger diameter than most 1/100 machines' torsos. Clean body lines leave the neck capable of a full 360-degree traverse, although its tilting range only runs forward to a navel-gazing angle. From a design perspective, the head itself possesses one of the more elaborate monoeye schemes Zeon ever fielded, one track running around the entire head while a second runs from front to back along its scalp; the monoeye can be moved along both tracks, although doing so effectively requires disassembly of the head. The dual-track arrangement seems much more practical than the Gogg or Z'Gok designs, covering a huge field of vision and allowing the monoeye to face forward during horizontal undersea cruises. Holes through both the plastic dome and the armor plates atop it afford the intimidating head cluster of four 105mm vulcans clear lines of fire.
Even as it's being built, the torso stands out as something special: not only does it skip the usual jointed chest-and-pelvis build in favor of a solid reinforced ovoid shape, it's also much larger, in keeping with the reputed presence of two Zaku powerplants aboard. Immense internal detail is presented here, but much of the construction work goes into collapsible shoulder and hip joints that pop inward as part of a space-saving fetal/storage position seen on the box; the hip joints don't quite seem capable of collapsing to their intended extent, but it's barely noticeable in the finished model. On the Acguy's back, a very simple two-nozzle jet pack appears to be responsible for what little thruster capability it has ashore. Added features include a sliding piece at the back of the waist that covers the attachment point for the Acguy's display stand, as well as an entire plate of belly armor that hinges downward 180 degrees, presenting a ladder up the inside of the plate to a two-seat, side-by-side cockpit. The latter isn't very elegant, but very few Bandai kits even have built-in boarding mechanisms; only the Feddie 08th MS Team machines come to mind as precedents.
As a marine mobile suit, a disproportionate amount of the Acguy's appeal is based on its arms and the built-in weapons that replace heavier artillery carried by more conventional designs. Bandai's done some good work here, with fully flexible shoulder joints and telescoping arms that can extend about two inches between collapsed and full length (the new HGUC version boasts greater extension but uses detachable pieces to achieve it), but the kit's main gimmick is flawed as designed. The Acguy's retractable right-arm claws are spring-loaded and meant to be deployed by pushing in the mega-particle cannon muzzle at the tip of the arm (good for practical jokes), but internal hooks meant to keep the claws retracted don't reliably engage. I was able to fix the problem by trimming down a 1/8th-inch compression spring from a local hardware store to fit sideways between the base of the tines on the offending piece, I-10 in the instructions; the spring puts outward pressure on the tines, which makes the hooks at their tips work as intended. My experience may be subjective, but I would advise against using the four metal screws that seal the right-arm unit shut until you trust the claw mechanism to work consistently.
Fortunately the left arm's rocket launcher is much easier to construct, its six removable rockets clustered around an internal “reload” piece that depicts six more (non-usable) rockets. On its own the rocket launcher is rather boring, but the kit's accessories include a brilliant addition: four transparent bubble/smoke plumes that plug in between a removed rocket and its tube to permit launch poses. One pair of plumes is shorter than the other, suggesting a ripple-fire sequence in progress when they're used together. It's a small touch, but a neat one that really makes the weapon work. Kitbashers will be pleased to know that the Acguy's arms and forearms are as interchangeable as the weapons loadout, so the arms can be readily swapped if you want a southpaw Acguy; if you buy two you can just as easily create an all-rocket or all-claw machine.
One look at the Acguy's short, stout legs is proof positive that it will never be a kickboxer, but they conceal some interesting features. Massive backward flexibility in the knees is the defining feature here which lets the legs bend through almost 180 degrees, in turn allowing both the stowed position and some surprisingly extreme gymnastics. The sole of each foot contains a turning propeller in lieu of a rocket thruster, a design decision that shifts their ball joints to the front of the feet and makes the trailing foot in a walking pose look like it's stepping out of a shoe. It's a weird place to put a ball joint but it works well for keeping the flat feet firmly on the ground, enabling some nice melee poses for such a heavy model.
Several accessories compensate for both the kit's lack of extra weaponry and 4000-yen price point, although some are definitely better than others. Chief among these is a display base mimicking part of a Jukon class submarine's deck, intended to show the Acguy in a submerged pose. It's fairly convincing when backed up by the plumes for the rocket launcher, as well as conical trails of disturbed water that snap on to the props in the machine's feet. The real surprise is how many human figures come with the kit: not just the standard internal pilot and standing scale figure (this one a maintenance crewman holding a case), but a diver on the display base swimming near the Acguy and even a plate with the three White Base kids to reprise the Jaburo scene where they unwittingly walk across an Acguy's head...in case, you know, you ever feel the need to.
Completely aside from the merits of the kit, the first question to ask yourself is whether the Acguy actually appeals to you. While this is a well-designed version of a mobile suit that's both a unique building experience and a unique display piece on your shelf, marine mobile suits have always been one of the more retro love-it-or-hate-it elements of First Gundam, and this kit probably won't convert you if you don't already love them. That said, I've had one visitor to my room promptly blurt “Aggai!” when he walked in, despite the MS-07 Gouf parked squarely in front of the machine on my crowded Gundam shelf; in the week since I put it on my desk to type this review two others have asked about its distinctive shape and what it does in the show. Like all the MSM kits it could use more moving parts, and I do have to assess a half-point demerit for the faulty gimmick since it's probably broken some kid's heart. On balance, however, the Acguy looks loaded for bear empty-handed and its parts allow a variety of cool action poses that sell the image of underwater combat; should you want something unique to build for your collection, it's well worth your time.