It’s the holidays and you’re looking for something for the Gundam fan in your life, or you’ve received a gunpla kit as a gift and don’t know where to go from there. Well, in this series, we’ll take you from beginner builder to Gunpla god, but every journey has to start somewhere! So for this first piece, let’s focus on choosing your first kit and explaining what these “grade” things mean.
We’ll begin with the smallest and cheapest line, the SD kits. These little guys are chibi in appearance and can be a good gateway into the hobby, if you don’t mind some compromises. These kits usually have some heavy drawbacks to offset the price, and the biggest one is color separation. Color separation is when parts are molded to be different colors to reduce the need for paint and color-correcting stickers. This is usually saved for more detailed and expensive kits, but some cheaper ones have excellent separation. So, with that in mind, these little guys almost always require paint to look half as good as they do on the box, and that’s a shame, as these kits can have some wild, over-the-top designs that I have a soft spot for. Compare this kit I built, as it comes straight out of the box, to the stock photos:
It’s a world of difference! They are always easy and straightforward builds with no tools required, and may be good for kids that don’t care about color accuracy and painting, who just want to build something that isn’t Lego. Children are definitely the target audience, as a majority of the kits are based on the more kid-friendly SD Gundam anime series. With the lack of detail however, I can’t recommend these for beginners who want detail and accuracy.
Entry Grade Kits
Up next we have the Entry Grade (EG) line. These kits have simple articulation (if they have any at all), don’t need even the most basic of tools that the other kits do, and come out of the box looking pretty good. Entry Grade kits aren’t exclusive to Gundam either, as there’s plenty of series represented in this line from My Hero Academia and Kirby to Dragon Ball Z and Kamen Rider. These are a great place to start if you don’t mind potentially missing out on articulation. The RX-78-2 is a fun and simple build in a cheap beginner’s kit that looks good for the price. Overall, EGs are highly recommended for beginners.
High Grade Kits
Here’s where we get to the good gunpla stuff! High Grades are the kits you’ve probably seen the most of, and this line has the widest variety of mobile suits and franchises available. They’re the perfect middle ground of affordability and visual appeal. The builds are not too complicated and the finished products look great without much extra work, in most cases. There may be some color-correcting stickers, but modern kits from Bandai have seen far less of them. For kits like the HG Sakura Wars mechs, you’re looking at a lot of color correction if you want it to be accurate. These are perfect for builders young and old, new and experienced — as well as those who may be looking for things outside of the Gundam series. Highly recommended for beginners.
Real and Master Grade Kits
Next is Real Grade and Master Grade gunpla. These are where you’ll begin to spend a bit more time and money, but the end result is absolutely worth it if you want the most detailed models, with in-depth builds. There’s some variation between the two, but RGs are basically smaller scale MG kits. They both share an inner frame, undergating to help hide those nub marks, much more intricate and segmented pieces to accurately show color separation (which helps whittle down the need for those color-correcting stickers), and decals are often included. Master Grades are bigger kits and come in at about 7-8 inches, while RGs are just a little bit smaller than HGs. The builds being so complex mean the time it takes will be about double or more that of an HG, but that extra time really shines through on the finished product. Some glue may be required for smaller kits, however, especially with the RG line. Great for intermediate builders.
Perfect Grade Kits
Finally, there’s the biggest, baddest gunpla line: Perfect Grade. These monster kits are the most expensive and most complex to build and clock in at about a foot tall. They command attention, effort, and shelf space. They also have a very limited selection of kits. As of current writing, there are only 19 kits in this line, with the only series represented being the original Gundam, Seed, 00, and Unicorn. The price doesn’t come without justification though, because these kits are some of the most visually impressive, even without their full outer armor. The mold work and attention to detail are legitimate works of art and some even come with LEDs to make some astounding light effects. These are only for expert builders with the most space, time, patience and money.
So with all that explained, I highly recommend starting with the HG line. It’s the biggest part of my personal collection and it’s great for just a single build night when I want to sit back and watch something come together. My personal favorites from this line are the Spiricle Striker Mugens from Sakura Wars, the Gundam Ez8, and the Penelope. HGs are big enough to look nice, pose well, and the massive range of mobile suits available on the line means your favorite has the highest chance of being a kit here. So, go find the one you want and get building!
In the next article we will discuss what tools you need, some general gunpla building tips, and how to make your Gundam models pop with a technique called panel lining.