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Gunpla-logo

Gunpla Logo

Gundam Plastic models, Gundam Plamo, or Gunpla (ガンプラ, Ganpura) are model kits depicting the mecha, machinery, and characters of the fictional Gundam multiverse. These kits have become popular among mecha anime fans and model enthusiasts in Japan and in other nearby Asian countries since the 1980s. Gundam modeling spread in the 1990s with North America and Europe being exposed to Gundam through television, video and manga.

History[]

Gal 05

Display showing various Gunpla.[1]

Gunpla are manufactured by Bandai in Japan, or China, which has an exclusive license in manufacturing and marketing the kits around the world. The first Gunpla kits were sold in 1980 in Japan.

Gunpla kits consist of several trays of parts or "runners" that either snap-fit (most post-1990 models) or require glue (older models prior to 1990) to put together. The cover image on the box, or box art, is usually done by an illustrator with a picture illustration of the subject mecha design in action. All Gunpla are supplied with stickers and sometimes decals to apply extra colors and markings as seen in the show, movies, manga or video games. Smaller or lower grade kits often require paint to give the model a finished appearance.

The kits range in different scales with the most popular scales being: 1:144 (approx 13 cm tall), 1:100 (approx 16–19 cm tall) and 1:60 (approx 30 cm tall). Other scales include 1:200, 1:48, and the SD series.

Since the first Gunpla release, there has been a constant improvement in quality design, material and manufacturing technique by Bandai. The basic kits of the late 1980s (routinely re-released by Bandai, with some exceptions) require cement and paint. These kits when completed, have very limited range of motion which renders them almost not poseable. These models are retrospectively called FG (First Grade).

Building Gunpla[]

Each Gunpla kit consists of a box containing several "runners", a manual, and often one or more sticker/decal sheets. The runners include all of the kit's parts inside of a tree-like mold. Each runner and part is labeled individually. By following the manual the builder can cut out the appropriate parts from the runner using side cutters, also known as hobby nippers. The builder then assembles the kit, either by attaching the pieces together using molded holes and pegs, a process known as "snap-fitting", or gluing the pieces. If the kit includes them, the builder is instructed to apply stickers and decals throughout the assembly process. Most High Grade kits will include a color-correcting sticker sheet for color details that were not molded, while Real Grade, Master Grade, Perfect Grade, and others, will include decal sheets for additional detailing. Decal sheets come as stickers, dry-rub decals, or waterslide decals, depending on the kit.

While these steps are all that is necessary to complete a kit, there are additional steps that are recommended or commonly used:

  • Nub Removal - When removing pieces from the runner it is best practice to not cut directly next to the piece, as this can damage it, but instead leave a small nub remaining which must then be removed. Nub removal is usually done with a hobby knife and then sanded flat using sandpaper or a file. This process often leaves behind a small amount of damage or discoloration.
  • Panel Lining - This process involves applying a very thin paint to the surface detail of parts. You Common prepackaged panel lining paints include Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color, Mr. Hobby Pour-Type Gundam Markers, and Citadel Shades.
  • Mold Line Removal - Due to the way the injection-molding works, a small line of excess plastic will often be left on parts. This can be removed to clean up the model, most often with a hobby knife, but specialized tools exist as well.
  • Seam Line Removal - An advanced technique, this process involves joining two parts together to make them appear as one. The most common method to do so involves adjoining the pieces using a plastic glue, such as Tamiya Plastic Cement, filling in any remaining gaps using a hobby putty, and painting the putty to match.
  • Priming - Some builders may choose to prime their model kit in preparation for paint. A primer will help the paint stick to the surface of the plastic and provide an even base color for the paint that is applied on top. Primers can be applied by hand but are most commonly applied through an airbrush or spray can.
  • Painting - There are varying levels of painting. Most builders will not do any painting, or may only paint color details that are missing from the model, while others will fully repaint a kit using advanced techniques such as shading and weathering. Painting can be done by hand using traditional paintbrushes, with spray cans, or through the use of an airbrush. Mr. Hobby produces paint colors that are designed specifically for usage with Gunpla.
  • Topcoating - The final step for a kit will be to apply a topcoat. This will help seal-in and protect any paint that has been applied to the model, as well as giving it an consistent sheen. This is usually applied via a spray can or an airbrush, and comes in varying levels of glossiness.

Grades[]

High Grade (HG)[]

The High Grade line of model kits was originally released in 1990, consolidating the improvements made in previous Non-Grade Gunpla, such as snap-fit assembly, increased color separation, and poly-cap-based joints into one line. The majority of model kits in this line are 1/144 scale, however some are 1/100 or 1/550 scale. The High Grade moniker has had many iterations and sub-lines since it's introduction, including model kits for non-Gundam media. The most numerous and oldest active line of High Grade kits is High Grade Universal Century (HGUC), which also contains sub-lines for many of the Alternate Universe timelines of Gundam. High Grade kits are recommended for inexperienced builders, due to their simplicity and affordable prices. Despite this, the line is also popular with enthusiasts as it offers the widest variety of Mobile Suit designs, and the ability to easily create custom Mobile Suits by "kitbashing", as parts are often designed to be compatible between kits. High Grade lines include:

Universal Century Timeline[]

Future Century Timeline[]

After Colony Timeline[]

After War Timeline[]

Cosmic Era Timeline[]

Build Series[]

Other Timelines[]

Real Grade (RG)[]

Bandai introduced the 1/144 scale Real Grade line in 2010, as part of the "Gundam 30th Anniversary". As the name suggests, this line focuses on achieving a realistic look, inspired by the life-size RX-78-2 Gundam statue erected in Shizuoka in 2009, as well as the mechanical designs of Hajime Katoki. Real Grade kits utilize Bandai's most advanced molding technology, allowing single parts to be pre-molded in multiple colors, and including elements not traditionally found in 1/144 scale kits, such as inner frames, hatch-opening gimmicks, and marking decal sheets. These kits are recommended for intermediate builders, due to an increased complexity but affordable prices.

Master Grade (MG)[]

Introduced in 1995, Master Grade kits are 1/100 scale models. Intended as a step up from High Grade, Master Grade kits are known for featuring improved surface detail, and details such as opening cockpits and full inner frames. In recent years the production of new Master Grade kits has slowed dramatically, with the majority of those coming out belonging to sub-lines such as Master Grade Extreme (MGEX) or ver. Ka, which features the design work of Hajime Katoki. These kits are recommended for experienced builders due to an increased level of complexity, longer build times, and higher prices.

Perfect Grade (PG)[]

Perfect Grade has the highest complexity of the Grades. Introduced in 1997 with a non-Gundam release, this line received it's first Gundam kit in 1998. These 1/60 scale models are made of high quality plastic and often include metal components. Perfect Grade kits feature a full inner frame as well as numerous gimmicks such as LEDs, openable cockpits, vents, and hatches, and transformations. In 2020, Bandai released a new version of the RX-78-2 Gundam under the Perfect Grade Unleashed moniker. These kits are recommended for expert builders due to their high complexity and price.

Entry Grade (EG)[]

Entry Grade, is a line of 1/144 scale model kits. Originally introduced in 2011 and made in China, the line was marketed to emerging markets in Asia. The first wave of Entry Grade kits contain no polycaps, are molded in only three colors, and can be assembled without hobby nippers. In 2020, Bandai rebooted the Entry Grade line. The new Entry Grade line features color separation, articulation, and proportions equivalent to modern High Grade kits, while retaining the ability to remove parts from the runner by hand. Costs are kept low by featuring more hollow parts and less accessories than their High Grade counterparts. Entry Grade kits are designed and recommended for beginner builders.

First Grade (FG)[]

A now defunct line, First Grade was created as part of the Gundam 20th Anniversary "Big Bang Project" in 1999. Intended as a remake of the original 1980 1/144 scale kits, they are molded in one color and contain no polycaps, but featur a snap-fit assembly, and can be assembled without hobby nippers. The three kits in this line used designs based on their Perfect Grade counterparts. The First Grade moniker was shortly revived in 2007 for a series of four kits based on the lead Gundams from the first season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00. These kits are similar in concept, but come in multiple colors of plastic.

Advanced Grade (AG)[]

The short-lived Advanced Grade line was released in 2011-2012, featuring Mobile Suits from the Mobile Suit Gundam AGE series. These kits have snap-fit assembly, multiple colors of plastic, and can be assembled without hobby nippers, but have very limited articulation. The kits are most notable for coming with a microchip for use with the Gage-ing Battle Base arcade game.

Non-Grade (NG)[]

The term Non-Grade is a catch-all term for Gunpla lines that don't fit into other categories. The majority of Non-Grade kits are from the 1980s and 1990s, before the Grade system was introduced. Non-Grade kits include many non-Mobile Suit designs, and come in a variety of scales, from 1/2200 for large spaceships to 1/20 for character models. Many of these kits require glue to build, and only come in 1-3 colors of plastic. Non-Grade lines include:

Other Lines[]

Reborn-One Hundred (RE/100)[]

The Reborn-One Hundred line was introduced in 2014. This 1/100 scale line features only Mobile Suits from the Universal Century timeline, and was created so that Bandai could produce 1/100 scale models for Mobile Suits that were too large or obscure to justify the production costs associated with Master Grade kits. RE/100 kits feature the build complexity of a contemporary High Grade, but with a scale and surface detail that allows them not to look out of place next to Master Grade kits.

Full Mechanics (FM)[]

Partially introduced in 2016 as a rebranding of the 1/100 IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS line to coincide with the second season of Mobile Suit Gundam IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS, the current iteration of Full Mechanics started production in 2021. Full Mechanics embodies the same concept as the Reborn-One Hundred line, but features Mobile Suits from Gundam's many Alternate Universes.

Super-Deformed[]

Also offered is an expanding line of small plastic kits labelled SD Gundam (Super-Deformed Gundam) which are not presented in a particular scale. "SD" Gundams are comedic renditions of the various Gundam mecha designs featuring a disproportionately large "head." These kits are often much easier to construct but offer very limited possibility and require paint and detailing to truly "finish" the kit. The most famous line is the BB Senshi (known as SD GUNDAM BB Warriors in Bandai's English page). Depending on popularity of series, SD units may also be sold in separate product line (e.g.: Superior Defender Gundam Force).

Real Detail[]

Produced for Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and SEED Destiny, these 1/60 scale kits are simplistic in design. The levels of detail and articulation are comparable to High Grade kits, but thanks to the large size, some models are able to feature gimmicks such as LEDs and opening cockpits.

EX Model[]

The EX Model line is split between non-Mobile Suit vehicles in 1/144 scale, and a number of space vessels in 1/1700 scale. EX Model kits are similar to older Non-Grade kits, requiring glue and paint to properly assemble, and as such are recommended for experienced builders. The line also features models from non-Gundam media.

U.C. Hard Graph[]

Launching in 2006, this 1/35 scale line features non-Mobile Suit vehicles and accompanying soldiers from the One Year War of Gundam's Universal Century timeline.

Speed Grade Collection[]

Launched in 2007, this line consists of pre-painted kits molded in 1/200 scale.

Mega Size Model[]

One of the largest Gunpla lines regularly available, this 1/48 scale series was introduced in 2010 as part of Gundam's 30th Anniversary. As with many larger kits, they feature engineering similar to a High Grade kit.

Gundam Factory Yokohama Model Series[]

In 2020, Bandai Spirits announced a series of model kits based on the design of the 1/1 scale walking RX-78-2 Gundam, located in the Port of Yokohama, Japan. These models are not assigned any grade, are in varying scales and have a detail level similar to High Grade kits.

Hyper Hybrid Model (HY2M)[]

Released beginning in 2001, this line consists of higher-end Gunpla kits of larger scales. This includes 1/24 and 1/12 scale kits intended for in-store displays, 1/60 scale kits with LED light gimmicks, as well as upgrade kits for the Master Grade line.

Gundam Artifact[]

Starting in 2021, Gundam Artifact kits are small non-scale kits that stand at 5.5 centimeters tall. These kits are highly detailed in terms of surface detail, but are molded in one color, a tan color meant to resemble resin "garage kits". They also include a packet of soda-flavored gum.

Special Editions & Exclusives[]

Over the years, Bandai released special limited edition variants of various kits. These are handed out or sold as promotional items for events such as conventions, trade shows, and competitions. Bandai also releases a number of exclusives, through their limited number of stores. In 2009 Bandai also launched a web-store service called Premium Bandai (P-Bandai) that also sells exclusive kits. The majority of special editions and exclusives are basic color or finish variants, molded in clear plastic or having a metal or pearlescent coating. Exclusive kits also include Mobile Suits and variants that appear in official Gundam media, that Bandai believes would not be profitable to give a full release. Since the launch of P-Bandai, an increasing number of in-universe Mobile Suits have been released this way through the service, rather than receiving a traditional release. Due to the costs associated with limited production runs, special editions and exclusives are more expensive than their release counterparts.

Non-Plastic Gundam Model Kits[]

Bandai has also released a number of Gundam garage kits under their subsidiary, B-Club. These models are composed of unpainted resin, include no additional materials like decals, and often require modification by the modeler due to issues common with resin printing. These kits are produced in small numbers and are significantly more expensive than their plastic counterparts, but offer a level of detail that is greater than what is possible with plastic injection-molding. Resin kits are recommended for only for the most advanced builders, due to their high price, high complexity, and the health hazards associated with resin.

Model kits made of sheets of die-cut steel have also been produced, under license from Bandai, by US-based company, Fascinations. These are marketed under its Metal Earth brand. Metal Earth Gundam kits are recommended for ages 14+.

Bootleg and Third-Party Model Kits[]

Due to the popularity of Gunpla and the Gundam franchise throughout Asia, many companies have created illegal counterfeit versions of official Bandai releases. These are often marketed towards southeast Asian countries where official Gunpla is unaffordable, due to high import taxes or wealth disparity. Bootleg Gunpla companies include Daban, TT Hongli, Model GD, Elyn Hobbie, and Dragon Momoko.

In addition to bootlegs, a number of companies also produce entirely original model kits based-off designs of various Mobile Suits. Third-party kits are usually made of resin or plastic. Conversion kits are another common third-party product. Meant to be used with an official Bandai model, these are often produced using 3D-printing methods, or distributed as file to be 3D-printed at home, in addition to more traditional methods. Conversion kits are used for niche or obscure Mobile Suits variants or to add additional detail to an existing design. The legality of non-bootleg third-party kits varies depending on jurisdiction.

Comparison[]

The following pictures show a comparison between many of the Gunpla lines/Grades, using the MS-06 Zaku II as an example,[1]

Trivia[]

  • A modified version of the Gunpla logo is also used for Sprukits, Bandai's other model kit line marketed in the United States.
  • Some Gunpla are made of recycled plastic under Bandai's ECOPLA Project.[2]

See also[]

External links[]

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