With fewer new figures coming out recently, I've actually had a chance to catch up on some of the items that I've had
sitting around for a while. And at the bottom of that pile of overlooked goodies I found something that I had all but
forgotten about, the Perfect Grade Skygrasper and Aile Striker kit from Bandai. In case you don't know what a Skygrasper
is, in the Gundam SEED anime series, the Skygrasper was a jet plane that was used both as a fighter and a means of delivering
the weapon packs used by the Strike Gundam. This is a follow up to the previous Strike Gundam kit which includes the
Skygrasper jet from the series as well as the Aile Striker back pack accessory.
Packaging - 7/10The Skygrasper and Aile Striker come in a shirt box style box. But unlike most Perfect Grade kits, this one is much more decorative. The front panel has a large illustration of a Skygrasper with the Aile Striker pack attached along with another Skygrasper and the Archangel in the background. The same image is recycled for the side panels while the bottom panel shows the kit combined with the Strike Gundam kit and the top panel shows some of the details of the completed kit. Inside you'll find all of the parts trees and the instruction manual. Given that this is a Perfect grade kit, I'm a bit surprised that they deviated from the much simpler graphical design used on the Strike Gundam kit's box by using the illustrated front panel. But it does look good so I'm not going to complain. Leaving the back blank seems like a bit of a waste of space though.
Sculpting - 9/10They call this a perfect grade kit, emphasis on perfect. When it comes to the amount of detail, it really doesn't get much better than this. Both the interior and exterior are rendered in extreme detail. There are two things that keep this kit from getting a perfect score. The first is that unlike the perfect grade kits of the actual mobile suits like the Strike Gundam, the Skygrasper isn't really set up to allow you the option of displaying it with the exterior panels removed so that you can see the interior detail. I've never chosen to display my perfect grade kits that way. But if you were in the habit of doing so, this set isn't going to give you that option. The other issue is the stand that is included with the set. It is designed so that it can work with either the Skygrasper plane or with the Strike Gundam kit. If you are putting the Strike on it, particularly the Strike with the Aile Striker pack, it looks pretty good. But for just the Skygrasper it is too large. It is also rather plain. Again, that isn't a problem when used with the Strike. But if you only have this kit, it looks like overkill.
Paint & decals - 4/10I've bought and assembled everyone of the Perfect Grade Gundam kits released so far as well as several of the Glorious Series kits. And I have never really thought any of them needed paint to look good, until now. The Aile Striker back pack isn't bad. But it has a lot of large areas of uniform color. The Skygrasper is where a little paint could make a big difference. Part of that is just the result of certain inherent differences between a jet and a mobile suit. With a clear canopy and less bulk around it, the cockpit is far more visible on the Skygrasper than it has been on any of the mobile suits. So a plain white pilot figure sticks out more. And since you can actually see the controls, I'm tempted to try to paint them too. (Now if only I had any painting skills. Or patience.) While part of the issues I have with the set are mostly the result of the design of the Skygrasper itself, assembling the landing gear for the plane was the first time that I felt that Bandai cut corners. Both the landing gear and the rims of the tires should be chrome plated. But they were cast in black plastic instead. It may not seem like a big deal, particularly if you weren't going to display it with the landing gear down in the first place. But on a kit like this, cutting any corners should not be acceptable.
Articulation - 8/10If you have ever dealt with a Perfect Grade kit, you know to expect extreme levels of articulation. The Skygrasper and Aile Striker set are fully articulated. It just isn't as impressive as the dozens upon dozens of joints you would find in a PG mobile suit. If they really wanted to impress, they should have designed a set of landing gear that could be retracted into the Skygrasper instead of having to be removed entirely.
Accessories - if you have the Strike Gundam set 8/10, otherwise 2/10It is a bit hard to define what is an accessory in this set given that the entire set is essentially an accessory to the Strike Gundam kit. But assuming that the Skygrasper and Aile Striker are the main selling points to the set, there are a few added extras. There are two beam sabers with removable blades of course. They are nice, but not terribly impressive. The main accessory is the display stand. It can be used with just the Skygrasper, the Skygrasper with the Aile pack or with the Strike Gundam as well. Unfortunately it is much larger than it needed to be for just the Skygrasper and the Aile Striker. So unless you have the Strike Gundam, you probably won't want to use it. There are also clips that can attach either to the Skygrasper or the display base to hold the beam rifle and shield from the Strike Gundam set. But of course once again, if you don't have that kit they are pretty worthless.
Special NotesAssembling a Perfect Grade kit isn't terribly difficult, but it isn't an appropriate place to start if you have never assembled a gundam kit before. The Skygrasper / Aile Striker set is easier than most PG kits though. There are only a little over thirty steps to the assembly process which I was able to complete in a single evening. Of course the instructions are all in Japanese. But the parts are labeled clearly in regular numbers and letters. And there is enough detail to the drawings that you should be able to follow the directions without needing a translation. (To see the step by step assembly process, check out the link below.)
Value - 3/10 (5/10 if you have the Strike Gundam kit)The Skygrasper and Aile Striker set retails for 5,000 Yen or about $45. But by the time you pay for shipping or import prices, you are going to be looking at a price of at least $60 or more. While that makes it the cheapest Perfect Grade kit by far, that is still a steep price for what you are getting. While the Skygrasper is nice, it lacks the impressive complexity that most of the PG kits have even when you add the Aile Striker pack to it. So on its own, there isn't much reason to buy this kit. The real value of the set only comes out when it is combined with the Strike Gundam set. But with a total price that will top $200, it doesn't pack the value of previous sets such as the Gundam GP01/Fb set. As I wrote in my review of the Strike Gundam set, ideally I would have liked to see the Strike set come with the Aile pack and then the Skygrasper come with both the Sword and Launcher sets. As it stands now, it feels like you have to buy the Skygrasper set just to fill in what was missing from the first set.
Happy Hunting:Bandai doesn't sell the Perfect Grade kits in the United States. But there are plenty of stores that sell them as imports. My set came from Big Bad Toy Store some time ago as a gift. Unfortunately they are now sold out there. Hobby Link Japan has the set listed to be restocked this month and there prices and service are tough to beat. If you don't already have the Strike Gundam kit, that is due back this month as well. If you don't want to wait, a quick internet search should pull up plenty of other smaller import sites that carry it as well.