While we’re still reeling from the final episode of the first part of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, we’ve got another kit review from the show. (In case you missed it, we featured the Lfrith in November.) With its sculpted physique and intriguing extras, HG Gundam Aerial is just as attention-grabbing as its anime counterpart. In this review, Peter takes a close look at the 1/144 HG Gundam Aerial.
Gundam: The Witch From Mercury (G-Witch) is the latest mainline anime release in the long-running Gundam mecha franchise. I’ve been really enjoying the show’s mix of school drama and heavy war topics, and as the protagonist, Suletta Mercury has proven to be an awkwardly dorky breath of fresh air as compared to our typical oblivious or hopelessly edgy main leads of the past.
I picked up the High Grade (HG) model kit of the lead Gundam Aerial as a nice distraction from my grad school studies, and to see how far the HG hero Gundams have come since the HG Gundam Exia (from Gundam 00) I built years ago. This kit retails for about $16 USD (1430 yen) when in stock. The box art is very nice, with the white theme helping to show off the Gundam in all its glory, and I definitely appreciate the mix of Japanese and English in all the text descriptions. The HG Aerial has four main runners (1 multi-colored, 2 white, and 1 gray) along with smaller runners for the eyes, beam effects, and a really cool transparent panel with a pre-printed pattern. This pre-printed part is one of the main selling features of the new HG G-Witch kits, so I was very excited to build the model and see how it all looks completed!
Color and Design
As the lead Gundam in G-Witch, the XVX-016 Gundam Aerial is an awesome design that stands out among the series’ various mobile suit factions. There are four factions or houses in the series (Earth, Grassley, Peil, and Jeturk), and the mobile suits across each faction are designed by different designers in real life, giving them a distinct look and feel from each other. Gundam Aerial was designed by JNTHED, who is famous for his work on the Metal Gear series, Spriggan reboot anime, Billie Eilish MVs, and others.
Aerial to me stands out for her (given all of the theories about Aerial online I’m sticking with she/her pronouns) bulky yet elegant design. The vent detailing and lots of exposed frame elements remind me a lot of Barbatos and the Iron-Blooded Orphans designs and the clear elements and how they activate remind me of the aforementioned Exia Gundam, but Aerial brings it all together in a unique and fresh way. The GUND-BIT effect gimmick is the highlight to me both in the anime and in playing with the model. It is basically a bunch of “Fin Funnel” / DRAGOON-like beam weapons that either can combine to form a shield, separate and attach themselves to Aerial to provide greater strength and mobility, or even detach entirely to defeat opponents without Aerial (or Suletta) breaking much of a sweat. This power level is traditionally found on “upgrade” Gundams in prior series, so I am very excited to see what sort of weapons and powers Aerial’s successor might have!
I thought the HG model kit captured the design quite well, with a ton of intricate panel line detailing and great color separation for an HG to get it quite anime-accurate. The proportions are in line with the line art (no pun intended), and the amount of surface detailing and definition on the armor panels to me is on the level with even the older Master Grade releases. If I were to have one gripe with the kit design, it would be that the ankle and shoulder connectors have noticeable empty openings which give away its HG-ness. Filling and painting these gaps would give a nice life to the finish.
Aerial follows a traditional protagonist Gundam color scheme with white, blue, red, and yellow accents. The plastic is a nice finish right out of the box (semi-gloss on the white and yellow parts and a nice matte finish on the blue and red parts) and unlike the sticker-fests of older HGs, there are minimal color-correcting stickers for Aerial (with blue/white stickers for the shield being the only ones offered). I was very happy that they provide beam effect parts for the sabers instead of having the egregious white plastic “toothpicks” of HGs long past. The eyes and head cameras are also fully color separated which means you no longer need to fiddle around with the black “mask” stickers of older kits.
I built my Aerial using some Gundam markers to add additional gray/white panel lining where appropriate, and I found that painting in the frame bits on the feet and rear waist gray (they are originally white) provided the best aesthetic lift. If you want to further tweak the aesthetics and proportions on Aerial for your own build, there are a few YouTube builds (Itami Tech specifically) you can check out.
Given that this is an HG kit and has a fairly low runner count, Aerial was pretty easy to put together. I was able to get her assembled, panel lined, and painted in about 3-4 hours or so, using nippers to cut the parts out of the sprues and clean them up. There are a few parts with visible seams, mostly on the legs and shoulder armor, but that is a very good result as Bandai was able to hide the rest extremely well. The sprue nubs on the model are also mostly unnoticeable too, although the undergate technology from the latest Real Grades has not yet trickled to Aerial.
Articulation-wise, the HG Aerial is kind of a mixed bag for me as it feels a bit more limiting than I would have expected. I’ve been spoiled a lot by most of my recent RG (Sazabi, Nu Gundam) and HG builds (Moon Gundam and Beyond Global RX-78) which were super flexible and impressive so I’m measuring her against a high bar. In addition, I don’t have any Action Bases with me, which would have unlocked a whole new set of posing options.
Head, Shoulders, and Torso
This is where Aerial does well, especially in the shoulder design and articulation. The head has a double ball joint design which allows for some movement and a decent chin tuck/forward look for those cool dynamic poses, but is a bit limited by the design. The shoulders work great, with a ball joint design mounted on a swiveling socket from the torso that allows for a very wide range of motion. Aerial can grab her beam sabers from the backpack which is an impressive feat for an HG model. The shoulder armor is also pivoted, allowing it to lift up for more posing ability and to show off some cool inner frame detailing. The torso has a bit of crunch and tilt movement from a hidden ball joint as well as a swivel for the waist connection; this is in line with a lot of the HGs I’ve built, but does fall a bit flat compared with higher-grade models. There is also a mounting point on the back for backpacks and other accessories.
Arms and Hands
The arms and hands are a pretty standard HG setup with a single bend at the elbow and a 360-degree swivel at the shoulder connection. This means that you can’t get much more than a 90-degree bend at the elbow which limits some of the posing ability. On the hands, they are mounted via a single ball joint and can “press in” to make them more sturdy for holding up beam rifles and the such. You have two round mounting points on the forearms for shields, the GUND-Bits, and other accessories.
Waist, Hip, Legs, and Feet
Here’s where the Aerial’s design stood out for me in terms of limiting her posing ability. The basics are all there (moveable skirt armor, double-jointed knees, and a nice two-peg hip connection), but I find that the parts tend to interfere with each other when it comes to pulling off more dynamic stuff. I separated the front skirt armor for more flexible movement, which has helped a tad at least.
My complaints with the design here include:
- Aerial’s thighs interfere with the gray hip frame part so it can be difficult to pivot her legs outwards a lot in upright poses.
- Putting Aerial in the Bit-on form with the bits attached to her thighs will interfere with the skirt armor and can limit the movement.
- The knee armor can “catch” sometimes so you may need to adjust it after bending the knees for poses.
- The biggest one for me: the ankle is on a C-clip so there is only forward and backward movement; the front part of the foot is on a ball joint which helps somewhat but it limits any ankle rotation which helps make ground poses more interesting to look at and easier to work with.
That said, Aerial still has pretty good posing ability here in the context of being a HG model. You can get a really natural kneeling position which is often hard for HG models to do and the hip articulation forward and back is great, allowing Aerial to do wicked high kicks. It just takes a little bit of adjustment to get her into a pose that you’re satisfied with.
Extras (weapons, hands, effect parts)
Here, Aerial is both sparse and jam-packed with stuff, thanks to the GUND-Bit weapon set which adds a ton of possibilities. She only comes with a pair of open-fist hands (some spread-out palms and closed-fist hands would have been a great addition) and your basic weapon loadout of a beam rifle, two beam sabers (with clear effect parts yay!), and a GUND-Bit “shield”; however, the shield’s flexibility adds a ton of customization and replay value.
The shield is made up of 11 different GUND-BITs (see Suletta show them off in the first fight here) and a shield holder. You can combine them all together to make a massive, badass-looking shield, attach them to Aerial for extra “mobility and defensive abilities” (and badass points), or separate them altogether and use some extra stands/effect parts for some mobile funnel shooting action. This variation makes Aerial very fun to play with and pose, and I’m sure additional action bases would be great in helping her pull off poses like in the anime.
The beam rifle is a quite unique design with a lot of tetragonal shapes and it comes with a cool effect part that either looks like a rifle discharging a crazy beam or a slashing short sword (not exactly sure which is which). As mentioned before, you can also attach the gray GUND-BITs to the rifle to “enhance its accuracy and output,” and to lengthen the look like more traditional beam rifles.
Getting back to that transparent panel I mentioned earlier, it has been really impressive on the kit given how clear the printed effect is (representing when Aerial “powers up” and makes a stronger connection with Suletta). You also get another set of panels and two options for stickers for the clear parts (and shoulder) to build aerial in a “powered on” mode with the light effect or in a “powered off” with all black. I chose to build mine in the “powered on” mode because it looks cool, but this is a great area for a wicked lighting gimmick on future versions (MGEX Aerial maybe?).
For your classic “hero” kit in a new big Gundam series, the HG Gundam Aerial is great to introduce newcomers to Gundam and the Gunpla modeling hobby. She is easy to build, looks great even without much additional detail work, and has good posing ability and “play factor” for the size / price. After being spoiled by higher-end Gunpla, I wish for some better posing ability and a tweak to the proportions and detailing to bring out Aerial’s feminine traits, but that just gets me more excited to see what Bandai can do with Aerial on the Real Grade, Master Grade, and Perfect Grade lines. Hopefully, Witch from Mercury really takes off to justify that investment, but in the meantime, HG Aerial will sit proudly on my desk as one of the best examples of what an HG Gundam can be!
Ever since watching Gundam SEED on YTV’s late-night Bionix segment, Peter has been hooked on Gundam and all things mecha. His favorite Gundam series are SEED and Unicorn, and he has a soft spot for Full Metal Panic! (to him, FMP Fumoffu is still one of the best comedy anime of all time). As far as Gunpla goes, Peter built some vintage HG Wing, SEED, and 00 kits along with an MG Zeta Plus C1 years back before getting back into the hobby with some HG and RG builds. You can find Peter’s Gunpla (and other geeky)escapades) on Instagram at @kore.wa.gunpla.desu.