In Progress Scifi Star Wars

Bandai’s 1/72 A-Wing Starfighter: An Unboxing, Or A Rant? Or Both….

After my experience with Bandai’s 1/48 Star Wars Snowspeeder kit, I knew I had to do another from that series. While the X-Wing and Y-Wing fighters are very cool, something about the simple shape of the A-Wing fighter has always caught my eye. When I saw the kit on Amazon for US$19, I thought that was a very reasonable price. One click, and it was on its way to me!

The Unboxing

If you’ve built any Bandai kit in the last few years, you won’t be surprised by anything in the box. The A sprue is the multicolored one, while all the others are single color. All are as flawless in their casting as I believe is humanly possible given the technology. These sprues show a company at the top of the heap. (More on that…) In Bandai’s world, flash is a character, not something on the sprue. Even the mold seams are minimal and easily dealt with. Ejector pin marks aren’t in places you don’t want them.

The cockpit is nicely detailed for the scale, with side consoles, an instrument panel, and a seat/rear bulkhead assembly. The external detail is gorgeous. Any “traditional” manufacturer would love to have this type of quality. (More on that…) Panel lines are appropriate for the scale, being sharp enough to have great definition, deep enough to accept panel line treatments, and yet not too wide.

The parts breakdown is very logical too. Because it follows the color of the studio model, everything is broken down along natural panel lines and major sub-assemblies. The kit can be built gear down for shelf display, gear up and displayed on the very nice base, or displayed either way- because it’s all snap fit- so you can swap the parts out as you desire. 

The kit comes with both high quality waterslides, and stickers. Meaning this is a model you can give your grandson to snap together in an afternoon together, or you can build it yourself and go to town on weathering and detailing. (Or vice versa!)

The display base itself is very nice, consisting of both a detailed surface to represent a nefarious Empire vessel, and a section with a full turret to connect for a more action like appearance. Right out of the box you can have a simple, static model, or a gorgeous diorama.

All snapped together and with no paint, if that’s what you want to do.

I’m quite excited about the prospects of building this one, to say the least. After the great experience with the Snowspeeder, I have every reason to believe this one will assemble equally as well.

The Rant

All of this Bandai goodness… not just this kit, but the dozen or so I’ve built in the last few months, makes me really examine a very serious question.

Why doesn’t every model company do it this way?

It’s not as if Bandai is charging unreasonably for all this to afford the quality. (This kit was US$19!) And the argument about their huge sales volume doesn’t hold water. Why? Simple.

They have a high sales volume because they’ve focused on quality, on buildability, on a broad audience, and on amazing fit. For decades. And it’s not as if they did this in a vacuum. Look at their kits from 20 or 30 years ago. They’ve grown tremendously. And as their focus on extreme quality is ongoing, they continue to sell more models.

It’s a simple formula: Provide a good product at a reasonable price, and people will buy it.

For decades.

Now, in the traditional model world, some people seem to “get’ this. Eduard is certainly one. Look at their kits from 25 years ago. They’ve made such progress that I believe you could make an argument that they are at the top of the genre. Airix has made tremendous strides over the last 12 years since Hornby took over, and I hope that continues. (Though certainly there is room for improvement still.)

But so much of the traditional modeling world simply plods along with low standard offerings. For all the things Special Hobby has done to try and produce better kits, it still seems as if every third sprue is designed and manufactured by a different company with different plans. Revell is just… I don’t know any other way to put it but lazy. Flashes of brilliance, yet every kit has something that makes you say “Oh, well, it is Revell.” And while Trumpeter/Hobbyboss make very buildable kits, the R&D they put into them is atrocious at times.

Now, certainly, not every kit from any manufacturer is bad. Some are better than others. And I get that they have to sell kits to make money to finance improvements. But if Bandai can produce a kit like this A-Wing fighter in 2018, that is so visibly improved over kits I have from their 1995 offerings, so can others. It just takes commitment and focus. (Again… Eduard is a perfect example.)

I think this is one of the reasons I stepped back from modeling aircraft exclusively. I simply grew tired of the fight. I either had to pay an arm and a leg to get really good quality, or I had to settle in some area or another. (And please, please don’t wade in to the discussion with the “modeling skills” argument. That’s like saying I should accept a poor quality car purchase and just apply “mechanic skills”. I can correct and fix and improve- but I should not have to.)

When I buy a modern Bandai kit, and it all fits. In fact, not only is the fit precise, it’s snap fit. (Don’t test fit them- you won’t get it apart! 🙂 )

Bandai has mastered the art of precision. They seem to be driven by it. Yet all the while being very customer and market focused.

And if they ever tackle the world of traditional models- historical planes, tanks, ships, and so forth, the rest of the industry should probably watch out.

In a way, I hope they don’t. I believe it would be pointless. The Idiots Preventing Modeling Sanity, US Branch, would obsess over nun’s hats and fixed flaps. They’ll never be satisfied with anything anyway. I suppose that’s why the Special Hobby and Revell and so many others can continue producing yawn inducing quality, year after year. People will buy them, criticize them, stick them in the stash, and shuffle off to check their blood sugar.  The audience for the traditional stuff is dying out anyway, truth be told. Get the revenue while the getting is good, I suppose, is how many manufacturers see it. (Please don’t send emails… I’m diabetic too.)

Meanwhile, Bandai will continue to produce ultra high quality kits that are affordable, and can be enjoyed by any age modeler at any skill level.

Roll on Bandai- good on you for rising to the challenge. And continuing to do so.

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