What is the Difference Between Gunpla and Gundam?

Gundam is a popular franchise that encompasses a wide range of media, including TV shows, manga, and video games, centered around giant robots known as mobile suits. On the other hand, Gunpla, short for Gundam Plastic Model, refers specifically to the plastic model kits based on the mobile suits from the Gundam series. These kits have become a beloved hobby for many fans who enjoy assembling and customizing their models.

The difference between Gundam and Gunpla can be seen in their use. Gundam represents the story and characters found in various media, such as animation and comics. Gunpla, however, allows fans to physically interact with the franchise by building detailed models of their favorite robots. This hands-on aspect adds a whole new layer to the fandom experience, blending creativity with a passion for the series.

Gunpla kits come in different grades, each offering varying levels of detail and complexity. High Grade (HG), Master Grade (MG), Real Grade (RG), and Perfect Grade (PG) cater to different skill levels and preferences. This variety ensures that both beginners and experienced modelers can enjoy creating their own miniature Gundam.

Exploring the Gundam Universe

The Gundam universe spans various media forms, including anime series, manga, and films. It features diverse timelines and characters, each portraying different aspects of this iconic franchise.

Gundam serpentine logo

Origin and Evolution of Gundam Series

The Gundam series began with “Mobile Suit Gundam” in 1979. Created by Yoshiyuki Tomino, it introduced the concept of mobile suits — large robotic exoskeletons piloted by humans.

Set in the Universal Century timeline, this series launched an entire franchise. Gundam evolved into different timelines like After Colony, Future Century, and Cosmic Era.

Each added its unique elements and characters. Over the years, “Gundam” has continued to expand with new installments, such as Witch from Mercury, reflecting modern themes and technological advancements.

The Critical Role of Mobile Suits

Mobile suits are central to the Gundam universe. These mechas serve various functions in warfare and exploration. Notably, the Gundams are a type of mobile suit, often featuring advanced technology and piloted by main characters. They symbolize the struggle between factions and ideologies within the series.

Mobile suits come in diverse forms and models, adapting to different needs and environments. This variety adds depth to the stories, blending science fiction with personal narratives.

Gundam in Media: Anime, Manga, and Films

Gundam’s influence extends beyond television. The franchise has produced numerous anime series like Zeta Gundam, focusing on different aspects of its universe. It also includes manga adaptations, which offer deeper exploration of characters and storylines. Films, both animated and live-action, broaden the scope, bringing Gundam to new audiences.

Each medium complements the others, creating a rich, interconnected tapestry. This comprehensive approach allows fans to engage with Gundam in varied and meaningful ways.

Understanding Gunpla: The Hobby

Gunpla, a fascinating hobby, combines creativity and precision. It has grown into a popular activity among various age groups and cultures. Here’s a look at its unique elements.

Gunpla as a Portmanteau

Gunpla is a blend of the words “Gundam” and “plastic model.” The term captures the essence of what these model kits represent. These models are based on the mobile suits from the Gundam franchise. Building Gunpla involves assembling plastic parts that form detailed replicas of these iconic suits.

Gunpla kits come in various levels of complexity, appealing to beginners and seasoned hobbyists alike. Bandai, the company behind Gunpla, ensures that each kit is packaged with care, making it accessible for all age groups.

The Birth and Growth of Gunpla Culture

Gunpla culture began in Japan in the early 1980s, shortly after the introduction of the Gundam series. Bandai released the first Gunpla kits in 1980, capturing the imagination of many Gundam enthusiasts. The hobby quickly grew beyond Japan, reaching enthusiasts in Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world.

Events, competitions, and conventions dedicated to Gunpla have played a significant role in its growth. These gatherings bring together hobbyists to showcase their builds, exchange tips, and celebrate their passion for Gundam models.

Gunpla: More Than Just Models

Gunpla transcends being just a simple model-building activity. For some, it is a meditative process that offers a sense of accomplishment. Hobbyists from various backgrounds and ages find joy in the meticulous assembly of these plastic kits.

Gunpla also fosters a sense of community. Online forums and groups allow enthusiasts from around the world to connect, share their works, and offer advice.

Moreover, the customization aspect of Gunpla adds another dimension to the hobby. Builders often modify their kits, painting and detailing them to create unique versions of the classic Gundam suits. The creativity and skill involved make Gunpla a deeply rewarding hobby.

Distinguishing Gundam and Gunpla

Gundam and Gunpla are two different concepts in the same franchise. Gundam refers to the fictional universe and its creations, while Gunpla are the plastic models based on those creations.

Conceptual Distinctions

Gundam is a term that denotes the entire franchise, including TV shows, manga, video games, and novels. It features highly detailed mobile suits that are central to its stories. The mobile suits are essentially giant robots piloted by characters, often in complex, futuristic settings.

Gunpla, short for Gundam Plastic Model, refers to the plastic model kits made by Bandai. These kits allow fans to build and recreate the mobile suits seen in the Gundam series. Gunpla has various grades, such as High Grade (HG), Real Grade (RG), Master Grade (MG), and Perfect Grade (PG), each with different levels of detail and complexity.

Practical Differences

Gundam media can be consumed in various ways, including watching anime, reading manga, or playing games. They are forms of storytelling and entertainment. Fans of Gundam engage with the lore and plot through these mediums.

Gunpla involves hands-on building and customization. It’s a hobby that lets fans create their own detailed models of the Gundam suits. Gunpla kits range in price and complexity, from simple Entry Grade (EG) kits to intricate Perfect Grade (PG) kits. They don’t require glue or paint, making them accessible to beginners, while experienced modelers can add their own touches for additional detail.

Gunpla can be displayed, modified, and customized, providing a tangible connection to the Gundam universe.

Gunpla Grades Explained

Gunpla models come in various grades, each designed to cater to different skill levels, detail preferences, and model scales. Understanding these grades can help you choose the right kit for your needs and skill level.

Entry Grade and First Grade

Entry Grade (EG): Entry Grade kits are designed for beginners, with fewer parts and simple assembly. They require no tools or paint, and parts snap together easily. These models are generally at the 1/144 scale and offer basic articulation and detail.

First Grade (FG): Similar to Entry Grade, First Grade kits are also aimed at beginners. They have minimal parts and detail, making them easy and quick to assemble. FG kits are often used as introductory models for new hobbyists. These kits may also come in 1/144 scale, focusing on ease of construction rather than advanced features.

High Grade and Real Grade

High Grade (HG): High Grade kits are very popular and suitable for both beginners and experienced modelers. They feature better detail and articulation compared to EG and FG kits. HG models are typically 1/144 scale, making them compact but detailed.

Real Grade (RG): Real Grade kits combine the size of HG kits with the complexity and inner frame of Master Grade kits. They offer high levels of detail, color separation, and articulation. RG kits are also 1/144 scale but are more intricate, requiring more skill to assemble compared to HG kits.

Master Grade and Perfect Grade

Master Grade (MG): Master Grade kits provide excellent detail, articulation, and durability. They often feature an inner frame that supports the model, making them more realistic and poseable. MG kits are usually at 1/100 scale, allowing for greater detail and sophistication.

Perfect Grade (PG): Perfect Grade kits are the pinnacle of Gunpla models in terms of detail and complexity. These kits are highly detailed, usually at 1/60 scale, making them larger and more intricate. PG kits often include numerous parts, inner frames, lights, and other advanced features, requiring significant time and skill to complete.

Super Deformed and Advanced Grade

Super Deformed (SD): SD kits are characterized by their unique, exaggerated chibi style. These models have large heads and small bodies, making them very distinct from other grades. While they are not as detailed as other grades, SD kits are fun and easy to assemble, perfect for collectors or younger hobbyists.

Advanced Grade (AG): Advanced Grade models focus on ease of assembly and are often used by beginners to familiarize themselves with Gunpla building. These kits are less detailed but offer basic articulation and are typically 1/144 scale. They are designed to be quick to build, providing an introduction to the hobby without overwhelming complexity.

Master Grade Extreme and Other Variants

Master Grade Extreme (MGEX): MGEX kits elevate the Master Grade experience by incorporating advanced technologies and superior detailing. They include enhanced lighting, improved mechanics, and more intricate parts. These models are meant for experienced builders looking for a challenging and rewarding build.

Other Variants: Besides the main grades, there are other variants like No Grade (NG), which fall between HG and MG in terms of detail and complexity. NG kits are often 1/100 scale and offer a middle ground for modelers who seek more detail than HG but less complexity than MG.

Each Gunpla grade offers unique features suited to different skill levels and preferences, making it easier to find the perfect model for your collection.

The Gunpla Experience

Gundam Model Photo

Creating a Gunpla model brings joy and a sense of accomplishment. From building your first kit to learning advanced customization, this experience grows with your skills and creativity.

Building Your First Gunpla Kit

Starting with Gunpla can be easy and fun. Beginner kits like the Entry Grade or BB Senshi series are good choices. These kits have fewer parts and are easier to assemble. Each kit comes with a manual, which includes step-by-step instructions.

To build, you’ll need basic tools like nippers for cutting parts off the sprue, a hobby knife for trimming, and a cutter for precise cuts. Most kits don’t need glue as parts snap together. Panel lining enhances details using markers or thin paint. Stickers and decals add the finishing touches.

Tools and Techniques for Gunpla Assembly

Building Gunpla requires specific tools. Good nippers are essential for cutting parts cleanly from the sprues. A hobby knife helps in removing leftover plastic. Use sanding sticks or files to smooth out rough edges, known as nub marks.

For detailed work, tweezers are useful for applying small stickers or decals. Panel lining involves using lining markers or wash to highlight panel lines and details. This adds depth and realism to the model. While beginners might rely on stickers, advanced builders often prefer water slide decals.

Customization and Advanced Gunpla Modeling

Advanced Gunpla modeling allows for greater creativity. Painters like Hajime Katoki inspire fans to create unique designs. Customization begins with painting. Use acrylic or enamel paints to color your model. Always use a primer first for smooth, even coats.

Consider airbrushing for a professional finish. Articulation of parts allows for dynamic poses, making your display more impressive. Adding custom decals and stickers can further personalize your Gunpla. For intricate details, try dry brushing or adding weathering effects.

These steps transform a simple kit into a unique masterpiece.

The Global Gunpla Community

The worldwide Gunpla community is a vibrant network that connects enthusiasts through various events and the growing availability of model kits across the globe.

Networking and Community Events

Enthusiasts of Gunpla often come together in countless community events. These events include conventions, model-building contests, and local meet-ups. The Gunpla Builders World Cup is a prime example, featuring entries from multiple countries, showcasing skill and creativity.

Workshops are common, offering hands-on experiences that help hobbyists, including children, improve their techniques. Also, online forums and social media groups provide platforms for fans to share tips, showcase their builds, and discuss Gundam series.

Since Bandai supports these activities by sponsoring events and providing exclusive Premium Bandai kits, the community continues to expand.

Gunpla’s Popularity and Availability Worldwide

Gunpla’s popularity extends far beyond its origin in Japan. In Asia, especially in China, these model kits are very popular. Stores stock a wide range of kits, from beginner-friendly High Grade kits to the intricate Perfect Grade models.

In Europe, dedicated shops and online stores offer various Gundam kits. Technology has played a key role, with advances in materials making the models more detailed and easier to assemble.

Prices of kits vary, ranging from affordable basic models to high-end collectors’ items. The online availability has made it easier for fans in many countries to access these kits, contributing to the worldwide spread of Gunpla culture.

Future of Gunpla and Gundam

The future of Gunpla and Gundam sees exciting developments, with new series and innovative designs driving interest and expanding the market scope globally.

Upcoming Gundam Series and Releases

Several new Gundam series are set to launch. In the Universal Century timeline, new stories will continue to explore themes of war and peace. The Future Century and Cosmic Era timelines will also introduce fresh series, appealing to both new and long-time fans.

Notable releases include “Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury” and follow-ups in the popular “Hathaway’s Flash” series. Each series brings intricate plots and compelling characters, fueling the excitement in both anime and Gunpla communities.

Innovations in Gunpla Manufacturing and Design

Technology advances are revolutionizing Gunpla manufacturing. Injection molding methods are now highly precise, producing more detailed and articulated model kits. Hajime Katoki, a renowned mecha designer, is pushing the boundaries with new, complex designs that improve assembly experience.

3D printing is also making its mark, allowing for more customization options. Special edition kits with enhanced poseability and durability are becoming more common, meeting the demands of builders seeking realistic mobile suits.

The Expansion of Gunpla into New Markets

Gunpla is expanding into new markets, especially in China, where interest in both anime and model kits is soaring. Companies are focusing on enhancing localization efforts to cater to diverse preferences.

Partnerships and exclusive events are being held worldwide to engage fans. The U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia are also seeing increased Gunpla presence. These expansions are not only growing sales but also building global communities of passionate builders.

Gunpla’s international reach and ever-evolving designs ensure it remains a beloved hobby for many around the world.