PART 1    PART 2    PART 3    PART 4    PART 5    PART 6

This is another cropped portion of the photo that I found at Booska's ULTOPIA website.
This in-construction photo should be the definitive view of Beru Seijin's backpack... if only it were larger, sharper, and in color!


01/16/18- I've looked at lots of pictures of Beru Sejin's backpack thingie-- many from models and toys-- and judging from the variety, it looks like nobody really knows exactly what it looks like! Some are interpretations with features that appear to match those partially visible in the production photo above and screen caps of the show, and some take liberties that look cool but don't match anything from the show that I've seen... so in a sense, they're all approximations!

Everyone seems to agree that it's covered by a transparent plastic shell, with what look like insect wings at the bottom. Underneath that, there's an insect-like abdomen, and a thorax with a radial pattern: Vid captures from the show corroborate that. The part that's open to speculation is the top part, or "head": The show doesn't give any clear views of it. If it's a copy of parts from or the actual Gumonga puppet, it doesn't necessarily follow that it's meant to be Gumonga with parts decorated the same way (with eyes). [For what it's worth, the creature Gumonga that attacks the Ultra-Keibitai squad is human-sized, so would be flyspeck-sized when mounted on the giant sized Beru Seijin. In fact, the wings and lack of Gumonga's segmented legs suggests that it's supposed to be different. It's possible that they needed something to put there, and used the basic body shape of Gumonga because it was easier than constructing something new from scratch (I've done stuff like that before). They modified it with lights and who knows what else.

So what does this mean? For me, not much! I've already accepted that I'm making an approximation so I can embrace the notion of doing what I think looks good.

The obvious question is... what is it, and why does Beru Seijin have such a contraption stuck to its back? Only its designers know for sure, but I see it as a good place to hide electronics. Maybe the designers did too?

Hiding Electronics: For my purposes, the backpack needed to be hollow and lightweight so the electronics, battery, and wiring could be hidden inside. The battery needed to be fairly easy to access. The backpack should be removeable so I could work on it separately. It should be as lightweight as possible to avoid making the doll more top-heavy and so it could be securely held in place by a pair of neodymium magnets (I'd installed a matching pair of magnets in the suit).

As the design evolved, I decided that it should be just a cover for the circuit board, battery and wiring: Those components were all lightweight and could be safely dangled within the cover by the wiring. There wasn't any benefit in securing the components to the backpack shell. If the backpack were to separate from the back, the total weight pulling at the wires would be much greater than the components alone; there would be more "give" if the components were dangling inside. It also made the backpack shell a totally separate assembly that could be worked on by itself.

Two wires from the neck lights came from the shoulder of the body and terminated with an ultra-micro female socket; the male plug was soldered to pin 11 of the circuit board. Four thin wires came from the neck/head and were soldered to the Beetle circuit board (eyes- pin 9, cheeks- pin 10) to make the head w/circuit board separate from the body. An ultra-micro female socket was soldered to the circuit board to get power from a lightweight 3.7v 150mAh Lipo battery.

The Backpack Shell: There were a number of ways to make a lightweight shell. A slush-cast resin casting would have been the most detailed, but would also require a fair amount of work. I didn't have enough molding compound to do this (it's fairly large), so I chose an easier way: Worbla. The shell was designed to be four pieces: The baseplate (with magnets to secure to the back), the head, thorax, and abdomen. The center thorax would be glued to the baseplate, and the head and abdomen shells would slide into it, each secured by magnets to the thorax. The removeable upper/head shell would allow easy access to the circuit board and the removeable abdomen shell would allow easy access to the battery.

beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven

The sketch (top) is a to-size template for the baseplate. The polymer clay forms were sculpted using the baseplate for size and shape, then used to heat-shape the black Worbla. The thorax (midsection) disintegrated while removing it from the Worbla.

Polymer clay forms were made of the three parts and the Worbla was heat-shaped around them. I didn't spend much time sculpting details in polyclay-- Worbla captures even less detail than vacuforming styrene. I considered sculpting the details in epoxy putty on the shaped Worbla, knowing that this would make the shells heavier. However, I reasoned that it wasn't necessary since the shells would be covered by an outer transparent shell: Since the sculpted 3D effect would be obscured by the cover, details could be simulated through painting.

beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven

The LEDs are mounted on the inside of the shell, visible through drilled holes. They look like sharp points of light: I didn't diffuse them, although in retrospect, it probably would have looked better. At first, they were blindingly bright. I changed the resistor, but they were still too bright. Painting over them helped dim them a bit.

The backpack lights were relatively straightforward: four SMD LEDs wired in parallel with a resistor on an ultra micro plug set soldered to the battery power of the circuit board. The only difficulty was that three of the four were positioned in the thorax, but the fourth LED needed to be positioned in the head section. I could have used a separate plug with the LED installed in the head section, but that would have been a hassle. Since both sections would be covered by a transparent shell, I "cheated" and added a finger extension to the thorax, reaching over the head section.

beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven
beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven
beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven

I did a very basic chestnut paint job on the backpack. I liked the look of black Worbla, but most models/toys paint it a fleshy beige/brown color, so I followed their lead (it's loosely in the tradition of the Alien movies' chestburster, minus the gore).

The Transparent Shell: The transparent shell was a pain-in-the-ass to make. I had some transparent Worbla so I was determined to use that. First of all, transparent Worbla isn't like black Worbla at all. Besides the name, the only similarity is that they're both thermoplastics, bendy, and relatively tear resistant. However, it's nearly impossible to work, bare-handed. It requires a painfully high temperature to work, and it cools (and becomes unworkable) in a fraction of the time of black Worbla. I was totally unsuccessful in my attempts to form an acceptable transparent shell of the backpack by hand. The only part that was able to do was the lower wing; I'd cut a separate piece of transparent Worbla for it and only needed to form it with a curvature.

I then used my vacuformer to shape the head/thorax section. The entire head/thorax/abdomen was slightly too long for my vacuforming area, so I left out the abdomen, which would have needed a new form with wings anyway. Even with vacuforming, the clear Worbla shell wasn't quite what I'd hoped for. I may not have heated it enough, but it failed to pull under the edges as cleanly as styrene.

Nevertheless, it had captured the main contours and was usable (it didn't fit quite as well after I did some slight reshaping of the black Worbla for the lighting). I glued the wing section to the shell; unfortunately, the seam between the two pieces is obvious and probably would have been better vacuformed as as single piece with clear PET plastic.




Beru Seijin from Ultraseven, Home-made/custom, 30cm/12in/1:6 size

01/21/18- It's gratifying when I finally get to show staged pics of the completed project: It's taken 6 pages to get to where my other articles start on page 1! That proves it's much easier and faster to press the "Buy" button than it is to DIY (especially since I omit article updates about deciding whether to buy, waiting for the package to arrive, and unboxing pics).

The antenna were the last thing I installed and were one of many things that I couldn't figure out how to make to my satisfaction. The pics don't show it, but they're thin tubes of clear wire insulation filled with a coil of wire removed from the core of a guitar string. They were the only thing I could think of that had a repeating pattern that were tiny enough to fit inside. I wanted to fill the tubes with tiny spheres, but I didn't have any small enough to fit inside the tubes. Cylinders would have been even better, but same problem... and how would I adjust their positions within the tubes?

One of the great things about DIY is that there are usually many different ways to do things, including the obvious (painted rings on a clear tube) and solutions not yet though of (hey, I just remembered that I have some really, really tiny jewelry beads...). When you're doing it for yourself, it's not just about doing it the quickest, easiest, and most practical way. It's actually fun to think of different ways of doing stuff (even if it takes 6 pages)!

(Damn... I just noticed that I forgot to finish the ends of the wrap-around torso tubes. Once again showing that nothing I make is ever finished!)

beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven

beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven

beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven

beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven


beru seijin backpack, 30cm/12in/1:6 size, from Ultraseven

Recap: This has been an interesting project to work on! One of the most valuable revelations for me was learning about Arduino and electronics stuff-- I learned that a hobbyist could do programmed lighting and sound effects, and that it wasn't very difficult. I still consider it "frippery", but it's a fun addition to the dollmaker's toolkit, and super gratifying when you test it and it actually works! As I was learning about it, I thought of other places to apply it, like Medicom's Zetton & King Joe, and the Billiken Gomess kit. The Ultra-series creatures are a natural showcase for it, but it would be very cool to play sound samples in the Mass Effect FemShep doll...