Dorvack +++ 1:24 PA-58N "Halk" Powered Armor suit with Bazookas and stick grenades (Whif/modified Aoshima kit)
Some (real) background:
Special Armored Battalion Dorvack (特装機兵ドルバック; Tokusō Kihei Dorubakku) is/was an anime series with 36 episodes, aired from 1983 to 1984 in Japan and Hong Kong, roughly at the same time.
The year is 1999. The Idelians, whose colony-ship has been wandering in space for tens of thousands of years, are nearing exhaustion. Their sole hope is to settle on the nearest habitable planet: Earth. Soon after their arrival in orbit, they launch an invasion, landing a large attack force in the Alps.
The Earth Defense Forces valiantly fight in their powered armor against the enemy, but with little success. Only a single unit is able to inflict significant damage, the so-called “Special Armored Battalion Dorvack”.
Under the command of Colonel Takagi, Masato Mugen, Pierre Bonaparte and Louise Oberon fight to defeat the invaders. They are equipped with special variable mecha, able to convert from rugged all-terrain vehicles to humanoid forms – one of the first cases of “transformer” style robots. Furthermore, Powered Armors (so-called PAs for short) – looking much like deep sea diving suits – are common tactical ground equipment of Earth’s forces and available in a wide range of designs.
The show was essentially a showcase for the respective toy line released by Takatoku. The mecha designs were created by Katsumi Itabashi and Nobuyoshi Habara, while the IP mecha models were made by the model company Gunze Sangyo. The plot was kept simple but filled with high levels of animation and action. As a “real robot” series of the Eighties, it centered around quite realistic military action and plots, much like the contemporary series Gundam, Macross or Dougram – Fang of the Sun. It was no success, though, and is today mostly unknown, but some of the vintage kits (and their re-releases) are still around and have IMHO serious creative potential.
The kit and its assembly:
This build is an almost OOB PA-58N “Halk” Powered Armor from the Eighties’ animated TV series “Dorvack”. It was inspired by a PAC-48 model picture on one of the small catalogue leaflets that typically came with the original Gunze-Sangyo kits: it depicts a very colorful PA in all-orange(!) with bright markings in yellow and blue and with a white arm-weapon. This livery was AFAIK never offered as an option in one of the official model kits, and I have never seen such a PA in the TV series, either. However, I found pictures of other PA models in a similar livery in a Hobby Japan Special from the Eighties, and decided to build a PA in a similar, bright livery, too.
The basis was a PA-58N "Halk", the "bread and butter" infantry piece of Earth's Defence Forces in the TV series, and the PA-58N is the lightest and smallest Powered Armor model. The kit is a 2008 Aoshima re-boxing, which unfortunately comes with heavy, two-handed weapons instead of the light single-handed weaponry from the original Gunze Sangyo kits. As a consequence, I had to improvise a little.
The PA-58N was built right out of the box, the only modifications I made are scratched louvre blades in the jump jet’s exhaust on the back, hiding the ugly, vertical seam inside, and I modified the hip joints for a wider range of movement, allowing more dynamic leg positions – normally, the legs remain rather “straight forward”, what looks quite stiff and awkward. Unfortunately, the thighs have an oval diameter and are rather small/short, so that modifying them would have been a messy affair. So, I rather tried my luck with the internal joints, and this worked sufficiently well.
The lack of light armament was compensated with an “M.S.G. (= Modeler Supply Goods)” set from Kotobukiya, namely set #38. It features some light SF infantry weapons in the form of a pair of RPG bazookas and a pair of large stick grenades, both with a dedicated German WWII look. Additionally, the set comes with a pair of hands that can perfectly hold these weapons, and there are mounts to attach the weapons onto a mecha hull. I think the set was originally intended for 1:144 scale Gundam models, especially Zaku manned robots. However, the size of the stuff, especially of the hands, turned out to be just perfect for the relatively small PA-58N. So, I decided to integrate the stuff into my model.
The hands from the aftermarket set were taken OOB, I just had to replace their adapters with something with a slightly smaller diameter to match the PA’s vinyl cap joints in the lower arms. Simple, tailored styrene pins were the solution of choice.
The weapons themselves were taken OOB and I successfully integrated all four of them onto the model: after some trials I cut the twin holders from the M.S.G. set in halves and glued them to the PA’s back – one on each flank and a pair on the back, on each side of the jump jet fairing. This way, all four weapons can be carried at once, and there’s also the option to put a bazooka and a stick grenade into the model’s hands (after all, it’s a kind of action figure!), while there’s also a pair of open/empty hands from the model kit to replace them, depending on the configuration. Turned out better than expected.
Painting and markings:
As mentioned above, it’s the paint scheme that’s actually this model’s focus, and since it was only vaguely inspired by uncertain sources I consider it fictional/non-canonical, even though the basic layout remained close to the PA-58N’s blue/black standard livery.
The basic orange (ModelMaster 2022, a bright and rather reddish tone) was applied to the hull and both the lower arms and the legs. The helmet section became very dark reddish brown (Humbrol 178) for some good contrast, and the upper arms and legs were painted in a “cold” light grey (Humbrol 64) as a neutral counterpart to the bright orange.
The ball joints were painted in a dark metallic tone (Revell 91), and yellow (Humbrol 69) was used for the trim on the legs and the circular fairing on top of the helmet. The “chest box”, hiding an emergency release to literally blow away the armor and release the pilot, as well as the fairing for the visor unit, became white. The visor unit itself became black with a bright green background. Yes, this is VERY colorful, but works IMHO and matches the original PA designs from the TV series well.
The whole kit received a black ink wash and some post-shading treatment. Then the decals were applied, taken from the OOB sheet – the yellow emblems and tactical codes are a nice supplement to the yellow trim, and, thanks to the rich orange tone, there’s still enough contrast that they stand out well. Some light dry-brushing with sand, light grey and silver was done next, for a slightly worn look, and soot stains were added with graphite to the exhaust of the jump booster on the back, too. The optics were laid out with silver and translucent light blue paint. In a final step, the whole model received a matt acrylic varnish coat, except for the metallic joints, which were coated with a semi-gloss varnish.
The result is a very colorful PA model, but its toy-like appearance is countered by the weathering effects, which add a certain grittiness to the model for a slightly confusing overall impression. And while the bright livery is not canonical, I think that it blends well into the range of variegated, authentic mecha liveries from the TV series. For instance, one of the transformable jeeps is painted in yellow and orange, despite being a military vehicle! The weapons from the Kotobukiya “M.S.G.” set also match well, and while the parts were originally designed for very different mecha models, the resulting equipment package for this PA-58N looks very plausible. Earmarked for another PA-58N, but then most probably in a more military guise.