Gunpla Build - High Grade Gelgoog Jäger

I am kinda/sorta/not seriously trying to collect all of the mobile suits from 0080: War in the Pocket. I’ve come to like all of its mobile suit designs more and more over time, and because it’s a short OVA, there aren’t that many unique mecha (though there are more than you might think!) If ever you wanted to get a full set of Gunpla from a given Gundam show or film, this is about as easy as it’s going to get.

That being said, I don’t think I will literally collect them all - I don’t think, for example, that I necessarily need to have a Z’Gok E if I can get the standard version. My rule is more like “If a 0080 model is in stock, and I can afford it, I might as well grab it, but it’s not worth going on a wild goose chase (and/or breaking the bank) for any of them”.

As it turns out, one of these models did recently come back in stock, and I did have funds (in the form of reward points) to spend. So here now is the High Grade Gelgoog Jäger:

Part of me has really wanted this model for a long time, but apparently not quite enough to go ahead with getting it. I’ve seen it come in stock several times over the years, but every time I’ve passed it up in favor of getting some other kit. The basic problem is that it’s a good looking design, but the kit itself is severely lacking in accessories.

But we’ll talk about that more later. For now, let’s get into some background and history.

Too Many Gelgoogs?

The Gelgoog Jäger is one of a seemingly endless list of Zeon variant mobile suits that only realistically exists because real world executives at Bandai wanted an excuse to sell a new model kit.

I say this because within the lore of the Universal Century, the original Gelgoog was built as a foil/counter to the Gundam, which itself entered combat only within the last three months of the One Year War. In fact, if MAHQ is to be believed, the Gelgoog didn’t begin production until December.

If we accept that development and production of any given mobile suit design occurs at a faster pace in the UC than it would in real life - and if we also accept that maybe some of the Gelgoog’s design and engineering was done before the Gundam deployed, based on intel on its purported specs - then I can personally accept its introduction so late into the war.

Much harder to accept, though, is the idea that multiple Gelgoog variants would also show up by the war’s end in late December. That would mean that research, development, and production on these variants was completed in less than a month - which seems impossible - or that they were being designed and manufactured in parallel with the original model - which seems counterintuitive.

Variants and Canon

To be clear - this “problem” is not unique to the Gelgoog. It’s something that applies to a lot of mobile suit variants from both factions. The best thing you can do for your sanity as a fan is to not take this stuff too seriously. Over the years I’ve seen more than one person claim that:
  • Culturally, Japan doesn’t care about canonicity nearly as much as the West.
  • Bandai and Sunrise in particular don’t really care about making everything fit cleanly. A lot of the “official lore” surrounding the One Year War comes from bits of technical data written into Gunpla instruction manuals, and allegedly this stuff isn’t really checked and cross referenced for accuracy.
Even if these claims are only partially true, it would explain a lot.

But that’s exactly what is supposed to have happened. By the final day of the war, Zeon is said to have built and deployed at least a handful of units of each of these types:

(there’s also at least two other variants existing as part of the Mobile Suit Variations line of art books)

That’s a lot of different Gelgoogs. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what to do with (or how to feel about) this information. For now, let’s move on and talk about the particulars of the Jäger.

The OG Variant

Here’s one more thing that I think is worth pointing out ….

In the original Gundam anime, the standard Gelgoog and the Commander Type are the only variants we see. This lines up with Zeon’s typical approach to mobile suit design, where they make a standard unit, and a handful of slightly better Commander Units.

The Gelgoog Jäger was introduced in _War in the Pocket_ in 1989, making it the first true variant to show up in any Gundam story. The other variants - like the Marine and Ground Type - showed up years later.

I imagine that back in ‘89, it was much more plausible to accept that Zeon managed to squeeze out a handful of souped up units in the final week or two of the war, than to accept that they made multiple units of multiple different variant designs.

In other words, don’t blame the poor Jäger for the explosion of variants. It was the first variant, so it barely contributed to the problem.

About the Mobile Suit

I’m just going to insert the summary from the Gundam Wiki:

The Gelgoog Jäger is a product of Zeon's United Maintenance Plan. It is an upgraded, high-performance version of the already exceptional MS-14A Gelgoog, with its improved generator enabling it to carry heavier beam weapons. Its fire control system is equipped with the latest hardware and software, allowing it to be used for precision shooting missions. Its backpack is equipped with a laser communication unit and antenna, and a blade antenna on the head is also standard equipment.

The Gelgoog Jäger is also faster and more maneuverable than the standard Gelgoog, and can be equipped with external propellant tanks to greatly extend its operating range. When armed with its powerful and highly accurate beam machine gun, it becomes a very effective sniper.

On the surface that sounds like “just a better Gelgoog”, but if we drill down a bit we’ll find that it’s more interesting than that.

About the Beam Machine Gun

First, let’s address the elephant in the room - every online source claims that its primary gun is called a “Beam Machine Gun”, and that makes me feel really salty. I only very recently insinuated that the very first Beam Machine Gun debuted with the Gerbera Tetra. Yet here is a gun with the same name, and seemingly the same purpose.

So does that make me a liar? I guess that depends on whether you can lie unintentionally. At the very least it makes me a bad Gundam historian. I should have done more research, especially considering I’ve watched War in the Pocket more times than any other Gundam show.

In any case, it’s worth noting that this isn’t quite the same Beam Machine Gun as the Gerbera Tetra’s:

  • The Gerbera Tetra’s gun is meant for true, fully automatic fire. It can let rip for as long as it has coolant.
  • The Gerbera Tetra’s gun is described as being able to fire “Mega Particle” grade shots, which are much more powerful than the output of a standard Beam Rifle. If true, then that means it packs a far greater punch than other mobile suit-sized firearms.
  • The Jäger’s gun has a scope on it, which goes along with its identity as a sniper unit.

It seems clear that the two guns had different purposes. The Gerbera Tetra’s gun was meant to cause sweeping, widespread destruction with rapid fire, high powered rounds, while the Jäger’s was meant more for precision firing and long range sniping. In my mind, at least, the Gerbera’s is more akin to what I think of when someone says “machine gun”.

PS - I haven’t seen any lore that states that the Jäger’s gun is in any way an official predecessor to the Gerbera Tetra’s, but I suppose it is possible.

Gun Noises

Here is more proof that Bandai and Sunrise don't take canon seriously - if you watch War in the Pocket and listen closely, you will discover that the Beam Machine Gun makes the same kinds of sounds that a tradtional ballistic weapon would. It also produces a muzzle flash, and no notable energy trail that you'd expect to see from a beam weapon.

That certainly implies that when it was originally designed and animated, no one considered it to be a beam weapon, and that that designation came later as some sort of retcon.

About the Beam Spot Guns

These are wrist mounted beam weapons that seem to fire weaker, rapid fire volleys of beam energy. In my mind, they’re essentially a fancier version of vulcan cannons, meant to take out any target that tries to get in close (though the Jäger also has vulcans).

Once again I feel compelled to make a comparison to the Gerbera Tetra, which has wrist mounted 110mm cannons. This leads to an interesting question - why did Zeon go “backward” from using a beam-based solution to a ballistic one? The Gundam Wiki alleges that the Beam Spot Guns were an experimental concept, which means it is possible that they ended up being a failed experiment. Maybe they weren’t powerful enough, or used too much energy, or were unreliable. Whatever the case, I would (again) advise not reading too much into it.

About the Beam Sabers

The Gundam Wiki claims that the Jäger has a beam saber among its standard armaments. This is notable for two reasons:

  • The original Gelgoog instead has a Beam Naginata, which is by far one of the coolest weapons in all of Gundam
  • In War in the Pocket - which is by far the most canonical and notable appearance of the mobile suit - we never actually see one use a beam saber. Indeed, the only time we see one fight up close, it ends up slamming into a GM and shooting directly into its torso:

That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s never equipped with one. I mean, here’s an image from a manga:

However, it seems that it may not be one of its standard issue armaments.

That’s quite an intriguing prospect - a mobile suit without any melee weapon. It’s not unique, but it does feel rare. And I think that in this case, it suggest something about the true purpose of the mobile suit.

Speaking of which …

About the (lack of) Shield

Most Gelgoog variants have some sort of shield. The OG Gelgoog has a hand held shield, and the Marine type has a shoulder shield.

But then there is the Jäger, which has no shield.

While some creatives at Bandai and Sunrise may not care about lore or canon, in my experience mecha designers are not so free wheeling. If they omit a shield, there’s usually a reason. For example:

  • There’s no easy way to store or carry it (think amphibious designs)
  • The mobile suit is meant to be fast, and a heavy shield would weight it down
  • The suit is so heavily armored that it doesn’t need one
  • It doesn’t have one so it can make room for weapons
  • The suit was designed in the Zeta Gundam era, when beam weaponry was so commonplace (and destructive) that most mobile suits sacrificed armor for lightness and speed, knowing that any direct hit was going to be fatal anyway

Once again, the fact that the Jäger is missing this very common piece of mobile suit equipment seems meaningful. We know that it’s fast, so it probably ditched the shield for the purposes of weight reduction. But we also know that it can act as a sniper unit, and I think that’s something worth zooming in on. In fact, let’s take a look at the model’s instruction booklet ….

Interesting. The manual flat out describes it as a sniper unit. That’s not to say that it isn’t also a high performance variant, but it seems to have a very specific role as a long range attack sharpshooter that can use it’s speed to quickly relocate (or just dodge). Personally, I think that’s a much more interesting justifiation than simply saying it’s “a better Gelgoog”.

More Similarities to the Gerbera Tetra

The more I think about it, the more I realize just how similar this mobile suit is to the Gerbera Tetra:
  • They both have guns in their wrists
  • They both have some kind of Beam Machine Gun
  • They both lack a shield
  • They both have propellant tanks
  • They have similar color schemes
Is it coincidence? Probably. But part of me thinks that one may have eventually inspried the development of the other.

About the Visual Design

I doubt I’m the only person who finds the original Gelgoog design to be unflattering:

It has no true skirt armor, it’s wide torso makes it look chubby, and its snout-like face feels more goofy than menacing.

Pretty much all the different variant designs fix this problem to some extent, though I think the Jäger does the best job. To my eye, it retools the design to make it look more reminiscent of the Neo Zeon mobile suit designs that showed up in Char’s Counterattack the year before the release of War in the Pocket. It has longer, more traditional-looking skirt armor, its shoulders are more angular, and its waist is slimmer. Most importantly, the head finally looks intimidating.

Toss in the long rifle and the propellant tanks, and it has an overall look that is mean, but surprisingly lean (at least for a Gelgoog). I wouldn’t quite say it looks muscular, but it definitely looks less “chubby” than other variants.

Then there’s the paint job. It’s definitely the same as - or close enough to - Char Aznable’s “custom” salmon and red color scheme. There’s no obvious explanation why they gave it this paint job, though it does seem to have become more common/less Char exclusive over time.

Here’s one more fun fact - this mobile suit has an insane number of thrusters - and this kit has all of them:

There are at least 21 by my count. Overkill much? Perhaps, but it certainly looks cool.

About the Model Kit

One of the unfortunate consequences of the Jäger’s design is that without a shield or beam sabers, the Beam Machine Gun is its only accessory. That makes it feel far more slight or limited than other High Grades. The question on my mind right now is whether or not the gun is versatile enough - and the model’s articulation good enough - to work well in a variety of different action poses. If so, then it won’t really matter in the long run.

(and of course, if you have almost any other High Grade model kit, you probably have some beam sabers lying around to use in poses. I plan on doing exactly that, as well as borrowing the Beam Naginata from my Dijeh model).