How to buy the right Gunpla and build your first model

On the hottest days of summer 2021, I was looking for a good hobby to pass the time in the great indoors, preferably something that didn’t require me to stare at another screen. I’d long been Gunpla (a portmanteau of “Gundam plastic model”) curious: I was a fan of many of the anime and manga on which the models are based. I love building Lego sets. I’d even bought a Gunpla kit right at the beginning of quarantine and promptly forgotten it in my closet. Gunpla looked like it was my destiny, but did I really enjoy it?

I opened up my RX-78 Gundam and was relieved to discover I didn’t need glue to hold it together. It was incredibly posable and looked almost like an action figure. The model was easy to assemble and colorful right from the box. It was also fun to make!

This was just over two months ago. Since then I’ve built Six SevenEight Gunpla and three displays stands were purchased. I also bought way more kits than I am willing to publicly admit. It’s a tactile, engaging hobby where you can use your hands to make cool things.

Gunpla are known for their rapid growth.

Table of contents

What’s a Gunpla?
Where can I purchase a Gunpla There’s so many!
OK, I’ve got a Gunpla. It’s a Gunpla. How can I make it work?

What’s a Gunpla?

Gunpla, action figure-sized plastic kit kits for building models are based upon the Gundam manga and giant robot anime. The term is also the trademarked name of Bandai’s line of models, though much like the word “Kleenex,” Gunpla as a descriptor has come to encompass products made by other companies including non-Gundam robots like Evangelion. Beyond Bandai’s Gunpla line, there are also non-robot plastic model kits for Dragonball Z characters and even a stunningly accurate Cup Noodle model kit.

What sets Gunpla apart from many plastic models is that they’re surprisingly articulated and highly posable. They’re much more like action figures than a statue. Gundams can transform into spaceplanes in anime. Gunpla come in many sizes, and can often hold more accessories than one figure. You can get beam sabers and bazookas as well as separate spacecraft.

A pink Gunpla flies through the air with the aid of a clear plastic stand, while another gunpla faces away from the camera.

You don’t need to know who Char Aznable is to appreciate his Zaku (but it doesn’t hurt).

Gunpla: What are the benefits?

Gunpla might be a good hobby for you if your interests include building Lego sets and playing games such as construction. Minecraft, or watching giant robot anime like … Gundam. Gunpla building is an enjoyable tactile experience. Because the majority of parts are specifically engineered to fit the model, they snap together easily. It’s also a relaxing indoor activity that’s quiet and slow paced but also gives you a genuine sense of accomplishment.

It’s practically meditative the way you go about locating pieces, preparing them for building, and snapping them together. Often I’ll put on a podcast or some chill music while I build, and pretty quickly any stresses or worries my mind couldn’t stop thinking about fade away. I’m in the Gunpla zone.

There’s a reason that Gunpla building videos have become their own genre on YouTube. The engineering on some of the more advanced kits is truly a marvel to behold, and if you don’t believe me here’s former MythbusterAdam Savage’s mind is blown while he constructs his first model. Gunpla kits look sick, they’re impressively intricate, and building them is just Have fun

They’re also affordable, with beginner level kits selling for around $10 to $20. They don’t require any glue to stay together, and the majority of Gunpla builders never paint their kits because they look great out of the box. If you’ve put together a Lego set or even an Ikea bed frame, then you can probably build a Gunpla. Even advanced kits aren’t necessarily that much harder. Advanced kits are more complicated and take more time.

Okay, let me get in Gunpla!

Wait! You first need to purchase a tool.

WHAT IS A TOOL?! You said that this is an easy hobby.

You can be sure it is! You can find it here. The technical aspect You can skip this step on your first kit. That’s what I did, because I also didn’t know I needed tools, but I could have easily broken a piece and it made my model messier than it had to be. You can also have more fun using the tool!

OK, what’s the tool?

Two hobby nippers that are made to extract the Gunpla from your runners. You can. Can twist these out with your fingers, but that’ll make your model look a lot rougher. If you take out tiny pieces from some kits, they can be easily broken. The nipper makes it easy to remove any plastic debris and avoid plastic stress marks. This is especially important for advanced kits.

A pair of hobby nippers sits on a grid.

To build Gunpla, you only need a hobby nipper.

You can use a pair below $10 to start your hobby. While there are many other tools that you can invest in, this one is essential. If you are looking for the best tools, this is it. It is really don’t want to invest in nippers before trying out the hobby, you can always use a pair of wirecutters on your first kit, but you’ll definitely want some hobby clippers eventually.

Tamiya Hobby Slicers

Price at publishing time.

This solid line of hobby nippers is perfect for Gunpla.

Wait, what’s a runner, why does it have a gate, and who’s stressing out all this plastic?

RunnersThese are the sheets of plastic that Gunpla pieces come in. Each kit comes with a couple of runners, in different colors. This is why Gunpla models really don’t need to be painted. But it also means you need to be a bit more careful with the bits, since you won’t be laying on paint to hide your mistakes. Typically, the larger or more expensive a kit is, the more runners and colors it’ll include. This results in greater color separation for Gunpla enthusiasts In loveFine detail and color separation in the model.

A photo with the word runner with lines indicating it as the name of the sheet of plastic containing Gunpla parts. Another line points out the pieces connecting the runner to the Gunpla parts are called gates.

The runner holds each piece by two narrow, plastic-covered branches. The very end of those branches is what’s called a Gate (or sometimes NubThis is the. This is the part that you’ll be clipping off to remove a piece from the runner. You can see the plastic. stressed and turns white if it’s not clipped correctly.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, at least a bit. You must first buy your Gunpla before you can start building.

Ok, I have some nippers. How do I get a Gunpla to buy? There’s so many!

If you’re a fan of a particular series, picking out a Gunpla should be pretty easy. Gunpla models will become easier to locate based upon Gundam series that were popular. Kits for older series Mobile Suit GundamAnd Gundam Build FightersAre widely available and also older series, like Gundam WingThe original Mobile Suit Gundam

If you’ve never seen a Gundam series before and aren’t willing to watch a few movies beforehand, you can always just pick whatever robot looks coolest to you. Gunpla are varied in style and color, so it shouldn’t be hard to find something that suits your vibe.

Grade and scale

It is important to understand the following things when you shop for Gunpla GradingAnd ScaleThe kit. Grades define the complexity and sometimes style of the kit, while scale describes its size compared to the size of the actual robot it’s based on. A kit of scale 1/100 is typically around eight inches in height and 100 times smaller then the real robot.

The grade acronym is usually found on the back of most boxes. Online stores categorize products by grades, making it easier for customers to find the right product. There may be other words listed under the grade such as Universal Century or a Gunpla with grade HGAC. This information is useful for those who are looking to find Gundam models in their favourite series. Universal Century is the timeline that the original series was created (as well many other series). HGAC stands for High Grade After Colony. Gundam WingIt is a timeline. There are several options. Lots of Gundam timelines, but you don’t need to know about these to get into Gunpla.

Here’s a quick description of the five most common grades.

High Grade (HG)

High Grade or HG kits typically come in 1/144 scale and are approximately 4-6 inches high. This grade is most commonly used and the place where beginners can start. While some more obscure series don’t have kits in the other grades, almost all of them have HG kits. The builds are usually simple and require very little (if any!) stickers and decals. The prices range between $10 and $40.

MG and Master Grade

Master Grade (MG) kits come in 1/100 scale and are approximately 7-9 inches high. They are much more complicated than HG, have finer details and better color separation. These kits also offer more articulation. Although these kits include lots of stickers, decals and labels, much of their enhanced color separation and detail is due to the intricate layering multiple colors of polymer. This makes it look impressive, and the process is even more enjoyable as you put them together. Prices start at $35 to $100.

The Wing Gundam Gunpla kit floats in the air, supported by a clear plastic stand.

Real Grade Wing Gundam may be the finest Gunpla kit available.

RG (Real Grade)Kits are approximately 4-6 inches high and are scaled to 1/144. RG kits will not be accurate in every way to anime and manga. That’s because “real grade” kits’ whole schtick is that they represent what the Gundam would look like in “real life”. This absurdity is a rule. It means more detail, color separation, moving parts, and this makes it ridiculous. The plastic is high-quality. Real grade kits are made with Master Grade details and come in High Grade sizes. The prices range between $30 and $100.

While RG kits are extremely cool, some of the first kits suffer from problems colloquially referred to as “early real grade syndrome.” The issues mostly relate to pieces being too loose, which can be annoying when you’re trying to pose your Gunpla. It’s especially bad when they’re small, easily lost pieces. If you’re concerned, you can always check what year RG kits were released.

SD, or Super Deformed kits don’t have a set scale because as the name suggests, these models intentionally warp the size and scale of Gundam’s with exaggerated body parts, typically in a “Chibi” style. They usually stand between 3 and 4 inches in height, but their complexity is more like master grades. The prices range between $10 and $30.

PG Grade or Perfect Grade

Perfect Grade or PG are scaled at 1/60 and stand approximately one foot high. They are the largest and most powerful Gunpla available. These Gunpla have incredible details, a wide range of colors, and truly impressive mechanisms. That’s why Perfect Grade kits start at $200 and only go up from there.

OK, I’ve got a Gunpla. It’s a Gunpla. How can I make it work?

A close up of a sheet of Gunpla parts, called a runner.

Find the piece you are looking for in the right runner.

Honesty is key. Each piece will be identified by both a number and a letter. The number is the part of the runner. Tip: To make it easier to locate parts, organize runners alphabetically.

A Gunpla piece removed from the runner, but with nubs still attached. A hobby nipper sits at the side.

Take a quarter-inch off the end of each piece you are removing.

Use your nipper to clip out the piece, but don’t nip it directly out of the runner. You should leave about 1/4 inch of the nub or gate attached to the piece. Then you can carefully clip the rest of the gate completely off once you’ve removed it from the runner.

A Gunpla piece with its nubs removed and sitting to the side. A hobby nipper sits to its right.

You can then carefully remove the remainder of the gate or nub.

More advanced builders might use a hobby knife to do this step, as nippers can still cause plastic stress marks, but that isn’t something to worry about as a beginner. It is best not to use kits that have a lot of dark colors at first, because these can easily cause stress marks.

As you build, you’ll notice some SignificanceThese will appear in the instruction manual. You’ll quickly internalize what these mean, but it’s important at first to go slowly and double check each one (they should be explained at the bottom of the instruction page they appear on). They explain when to do things like flip a piece over, or which tiny part of the nub you’re supposed to trim off, and which part stays.

A photo from an instruction manual depicting symbols and their explanations in English and Japanese.

These are the types of symbols you might see in Gunpla instructions, but they’re always explained in the first page or two.

Assembly can take anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, depending on your skill level and the model’s complexity, but it’s easy to break up the build over a couple of sessions because the instructions are divided by body part. It is possible to build the head and body one day, then the legs and arms another, before finishing up weapons and accessories the following night.

These instructions are clear enough that you should be able build your project without the need for additional assistance. But, YouTube has more in-depth building guides.

I’ve had a ton of fun building my first Gunpla, but now what?

If, like me, you are a nerd, you’ll probably enjoy displaying your Gunpla on the shelf. It’s easy to pose them into action scenes, and the included accessories give you lots of fun options. A display stand can be either a plastic pedestal, or an armoire that can provide you with a variety of dramatic poses. If you’re not content with merely having your Gunpla on display, you can always get into Gunpla photography!

A grey, black, and brown Gunpla marker sit on a grid.

Gunpla markers make it easy to personalize your Gunpla.

If you want to get more creative you don’t have to immediately jump to painting. Panel lining is an extra level of detail you can add to your Gunpla that’ll give it a little personal touch. Gunpla models feature grooves made in plastic to resemble metal panels. You can make the markers stand out with very fine tip markers. You can get amazing results with panel lining markers, which are very affordable. While there are more advanced techniques to panelline Gunplas using panel lining markers, they are easy to use and are quick and simple to remove and redo. (Check out my tutorial video for an example).

Gundam Panel Lining Markers (Black, Grey, Brown)

Price at publishing time.

Gunpla panel markers are a great starter set (black ink to mark dark or cool colors, brown for warm colors and grey for white).

A Moon Gundam Gunpla kit looks at the camera while aiming it’s energy rifle at the lens and holds a beam saver to its side.

This is one of the best examples of panel lining adding more detail to Gunpla.

The truth is that once you’ve built one Gunpla, you’ll probably either know it’s not the hobby for you, or you’ll become hopelessly sucked in. There’s definitely a strong collecting aspect to Gunpla, which is exacerbated by the way Bandai sells limited run special editions on its website. Collect enough models, and you’ll discover some of the universal connectors they share that allows you to mix Gunpla together, an activity known as kitbashing. YouTube has tons of how-to videos and reviews to keep you entertained while building.

Good luck pilots!

#Buy #Gunpla