You’re watching mecha shows, hooray! Now time to start a new hobby.
Gundam has been one of the very vocal and easily visible part of the whole Mecha fandom with a global fanbase and a foundation of numerous shows and nearly thousands of collectible varieties to choose from. Out of these collectible varieties, one stands tall as it managed to propel the franchise into stardom after its initial, well, failure, on Japanese TV and that is Gunpla.
Of course, some of you might have already known what Gunpla is and what the heck it’s all about but for the sake of those who are starting to get into the franchise, possibly because they read our last week’s Mecha Fridays feature, or through a recommendation of a friend to help ease the boredom of being in quarantine, this will be a quick primer on how you can get into the hobby that everyone, or at least most of your friends and colleagues are talking about.
What in the world is Gundam?
Gundam is a multimedia sci-fi franchise created by Yoshiyuki Tomino back in 1979. First started as a mecha-themed manga, Gundam became revolutionary for kickstarting the “Real Robot” genre of anime which, in contrast to the superheroic tropes of the Super Robot genre, is more grounded in reality in terms of technology and character development. While it may have flopped in Japan during its initial Anime release, the show found success once it made its appearance in the Western markets and has since expanded into other forms of Media that now include Movies, more Manga and Comics and even Video Games.
Now, what in the heck is Gunpla?
Gunpla or Gundam Plastic Model Kits have since become the trademark and signature Gundam product in terms of Merchandising and is largely considered as a huge part of the show and the franchise’s continued success. In contrast to the common variety of robot toys and collectibles available in the market, Gunpla kits, just like traditional model kits, require a lot of assembly, and are highly customizable, with options to mix and match different parts from different kits available to the creative (and patient) mind
Where do I start?
Pretty much like any other collectible, Gunplas come in different categories denoted mainly by their size and scale or Grades. From small ones that can fit the palm of your hand to big ones that require their own stands and sizeable shelf spaces, each category also comes with their own added gimmicks and variety in quality. Each category also comes with their own subvariants, however, not all subvariants may be readily available in retail stores so, just for the sake of kickstarting your soon to develop Gunpla addiction, be sure to stick with the common ones first.
For starters, the HG or 1/144 scale High Grade would be the preferred entry route as it contains the most in terms of lineup and variety from the various shows of the franchise. In addition to that, the scale itself is relatively easy to handle and build while at the same time could serve as a test of skill once you venture beyond from snap building. If you want to get a little adventurous then there’s the 1/444 Real Grade, which shares a similarity in terms of size with the High Grade kit but comes with new add-ons in terms of parts and gimmicks, most common would be the additional articulation and detail. If you’re looking to take on the big boys right away, then the 1/100 Master Grade lineup would be a nice challenge to tackle, although be prepared for a lot of cutting and assembly as kits (obviously) as, even though the parts may be bigger, the number of gimmicks plus the fact that kits from this line come with internal frames or “skeletons”. The 1/60 Perfect Grade is an absolute dream for any Gunpla collector and is best reserved when you have proven yourself to be an experienced builder. If you have young ones, maybe siblings or even children that you also want to take part in the hobby, then you might want to introduce them to the Super Deformed lineup, which not only comes with a good variety of kits to choose from but is also quick to build and enjoy.
The tools you need
So you have your choice of kit, hooray! Now the next thing to hunt would be your starter kit for tools. The majority of official Gunpla kits have their parts attached to runners which would require you to cut them off of, so the very first thing to consider would be a parts cutter and perhaps a craft knife. While not essentially recommended, a wirecutter, if sharp enough would be a good early substitute for a parts cutter, however, we would recommend that you invest in good tools early on as to not compromise your build process. Now cutting parts from runners easily leave nasty nubs on your build and if you’re not a huge fan of them then a good set of sanding files or even sanding paper is always recommended. Of course for starters, snap building is still a good way to enjoy the hobby, although seeing how clean other people’s builds are and realizing how much customization you can do with your own would really easily sway you towards learning and developing your sanding, and even painting skills, and yes, you can paint your kits!
So where do I get all of these?
Gunplas and as well as the tools needed to build them are available in almost every major toy retailer brand such as Toy Kingdom, and Toys R Us. In addition, numerous online retailers are also available and are the common resort for those who are looking for kits that are not readily available through store retailers. Various online shops also offer additional services such as Cash On Delivery options and some of them still operate even during this time of quarantine with delivery coursed through providers such as Grab and Lalamove (plus they can easily be searched on Facebook).