Thursday, 4 November 2010

Buildup helmet and mask kit + Nightmare Arour Studio's mask

Hurray! I finally got my dirty British mitts on the Buildup Kerberos Panzer Cop mask and helmet kit! Boy oh boy oh boy am I glad I finally have it!

This mask, being the official kit made by the same folks who made the movie props, is, of course, 100% accurate to the masks used on screen (the dual filter masks, not the breathing hose version) and includes a helmet, the filter things, strap, buckles, lenses, balaclava and instructions on how to put it all together. Do note that the one I have has already had most of the excess vinyl trimmed off (why only that? guess the previous owner started but didn't have time to finish the mask).

The sculpting is smooth, clean and precise, with no obvious bubbles or blemishes, with (obviously) accurate proportions and symmetry. The fact this is rotocast in vinyl means it is thin, flexible but strong, perfect for use as a mask since it fits closely to and forms to your face giving it a more snug appearance than the unlicensed copies which are normally cast in resin 1/2 an inch or so thick.

Comparison of a customised fan-made mask of un-known origin (left) with un-built official mask by Buildup (right)

The box is simple enough: brown cardboard with black lettering and a black image of the mask and helmet set up with bright red eyes. Simple and to the point.

The kit includes a helmet, though there's no liner for it (none include it) but the helmet itself is strong heavy olive drab colour plastic. Better than all the toy helmets I've had before of this type (German Stanhelm) but of course the real thing is far superior (I have a Spanish war helmet which is actually more accurate as it is the type used in the movie as a stand in for the German Stanhelm) but any helmet of this style will do, most people cant tell the difference anyway.

Pic of the contents of the kit.

The kit also includes instructions, the red lenses, a thick strap to connect to the mask, buckles to fit it with, the two mask filters (is that what they are? or are they gas canisters? I don't know) and a black full face balaclava hood. Basically everything.
Everything is of very good quality, and can put all the newer masks made by prop builders and enthusiasts to shame, which is funny given that this kit is 20 years old!
All in all, this a definite must have! I just don't want to build it all up, as it took so long to get one, so I guess I'll have to make a copy to build and use and put the original somewhere safe.

Buildup official mask rating: 10/10

Now, onto the NAS mask:

Stray Dog version masks: Nightmare Armour Studio's (left) Buildup (right). note the Buildup mask hasn't yet been built up with filters, lenses etc, and the NAS mask is partway built up (no lenses or hose and large bolts for strap attachment).

Being the fanatic I am, I also own the Nightmare Armour Studio's version (its the unofficial one sold quite often on Ebay for 100 to 200 bucks). Mine is the unfinished model from Ebay, meaning I had to sand, fill, paint it etc etc to use it (I still haven't added lenses or lights yet, or breathing hose) but since it was the basic unfinished model I got it alot cheaper (30 quid) so I'm happy.

How is the mask??? well its made of thick hard resin, so wont fall apart any time soon, which makes it ideal for cosplay as it can take a bashing, but the drawback is there's no flexibility, so it doesn't hug to the face, giving it a very wide (fat face) look, so a normal Stanhelm helmet looks odd sitting on top, so either custom made larger helmets or the modern (incorrect) SWAT style helmets are needed to avoid the set up looking odd (in the banner image at the top of the page I'm using the modern SWAT style helmet).

The casting has lots of bubbles and holes, so a couple of hours of sanding and filling are necessary (not like the perfectly cast official version) in order to get it looking smooth. Another casting issue of note is that the casting is actually slightly warped (probably the master was warped) though it is barely visible, its not symmetrical.

Now, all the above isn't too much of a problem (easily fixed or barely noticeable) but where this mask (and pretty much every other unofficial mask) fails is the sculpt: it isn't accurate. The most obvious issue is the gas canister on the side of the mask, which is entirely the wrong shape, the lack of the line through the circular portion on the end of the mask, the lack of the chin pad, the incorrectly shaped brow plate, incorrect frames round the lenses, oversized portion of the mask near the ear area and missing screw details on the cheeks, among a couple other minor inaccuracies. All this means alot of work to reach a screen accurate mask, beginning with the chopping off of the gas canister and loads of re sculpting. More work than a fan really wants from a mask they dropped 100 or so bucks on.

However, if you aren't a hound for accuracy or just want a mask for general cosplay or display this works fine, just be aware of the issues before buying so you don't get disappointed. However, if like me you want accuracy, sell your car (or a kidney) and start looking to Japan to invest in the official mask. Good luck with that, you will need some to track one down, but Yahoo Japan Auctions occasionally have them (usually ending for about 50,000 yen), or Mandarake stores may get them in (usually between 35,000-50,000 yen) so take a look there too. In fact, look everywhere, you never know, you might score one cheap!

Group shot: from left: Nightmare Armour Studio's stray dog version mask, customised fan-made Stray Dog version mask of unknown origin, Alucard Wonder festival comic version mask, Buildup Stray Dog version mask and Jin Roh mask by YJA seller Kou Tomoda.

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