Welcome to our little guide on getting started with Gundam model kits. This is by no means exhaustive but should be enough to tell you what you need to know to get started with the hobby and hopefully answer a few common questions along the way. Enjoy!
Before the write up, check out a quick video we made showing what’s in a Gunpla Box and the very basics of building.
Table of Contents
What is Gunpla?
The word Gunpla is simply a combination of the words ‘Gundam’ and ‘Plastic’ and refers to a line of model kits created by Bandai. In a kit you get a bunch of molded plastic pieces which you can cut out and combine to create a scale model of a Mobile Suit from the Gundam universe.
Gunpla kits are popular because unlike traditional model kits, there is no need for glue or paint as the plastic is already the correct colour and the pieces simply snap together. Gunpla models aren’t just static either, they can be posed just like an action figure.
If the term ‘Gundam’ is lost on you then don’t worry too much. You can mentally exchange the word for ‘awesome looking Japanese style giant robot’. The Mobile Suit Gundam franchise has been around for 40+ years and is extremely popular in Japan and worldwide. Outside of Gunpla, you’re most likely to encounter Gundam in the various anime series released over the years. You can watch a lot of the anime for free over on the official Gundam Info YouTube Channel:
Gundam became popular in Japan during a time where audiences were growing tired of super robot themed anime and manga series. The difference between a super robot and a Gundam is that Gundam are piloted by humans and are used as weapons, hence why they are mostly referred to as Mobile Suits rather than robots.
Grade and Scale
Bandai, the manufacturer of Gunpla models categorizes the kits by grade and scale. Scale is how large a kit is and grade refers to the level of detail.
The scale refers to how small the Gundam is compared to what its real life counterpart would be. A full size giant Gundam could be 18m tall so a Gunpla model of this size would be 1/1 scale. You can even go and see a full size walking Gundam in Japan!
Super Deformed EX Standard
Super Deformed Cross Silhouette
MGs are the most sought after kits in our experience. Bandai has recently expanded this line with the MG EX line but there is currently only one kit released. The EX stands for Extreme and in the most recent case meant the inclusion of a brand new LED lighting system!
Check out our build of the Master Grade Barbatos here
There are no hard rules when it comes to building Gunpla but as a beginner, we recommended you start with a High Grade kit before moving on to something more intricate.
A good general rule is that the newer a kit is, the better it is. Better in this case means nicer quality plastic, easier to understand manuals and generally a better overall build quality. A kit from 2015 onwards will more often than not give a better experience than a kit released earlier. We will get to the best sources for finding out about builds a bit later on.
A Gunpla kit contains at bare minimum a set of plastic runners and a manual. Most kits will include other bits and bobs like a sheet of stickers / decals or metallic parts.
What tools will you need?
The idea of needing tools can put some people off but you don’t actually need a lot to just get started. A collection of Gunpla tools is something you would build up over time and there are lots of affordable kits with everything you could need and more.
These are super cheap to pick up and so are any replacement blades for them. A no brainer if you’re picking up a set of nippers anyway. Expect to pay between £5 – £15.
Here are a few useful places you can go to find some great info or inspiration when it comes to all things Gunpla.
UK Gunpla Modellers – Facebook Group
Sumimasen Designs is a talented UK based CG and 3D artist who has started producing / selling custom Gunpla parts. These are highly detailed expansion parts for existing kits. These are aimed at experienced builders as they will require painting.
JL Gunpla is well known in the UK community for their exceptional builds and also their excellent shop which provides hard to find unofficial kits and custom parts. If you need resin conversion parts, LEDs or extra decals they have you covered. They also have a great YouTube channel:
Neolaplace a UK based up and coming YouTube channel with kit reviews and some nice timelapse builds:
Miniaturite is an accomplished builder who also creates great content. A particular highlight is a 4 video series chronicling the build of their custom MG Barbatos which won the Grand Prize at the Gundam Online Expo 2020:
Gunpla_Noob_UK has some great unboxing and kit review videos as well as informative videos like this panel lining video comparing a Gundam Marker with a regular Sharpie:
Thew Adams channel (NSFW) is mostly focused on Transformers figures but the few times he has delved into Gunpla have been a joy to watch. In this video Thew casually builds an RX-78-2 and captures the experience of a first time builder who hasn’t built a kit but is so happy to give it a go perfectly: