Updated: Jul 13, 2022
As the pandemic is still going strong with no end in sight, many are responsibly staying indoors and finding new ways to keep entertained. Whether it be watching more Netflix or chipping away at that gaming backlog, we've all got more time on our hands. But what if you've done all that? What if it's time for something new and interesting? If you're looking for a different kind of hobby to focus on that's fun and relaxing, I've got just the thing: building Gundam model kits, also known as Gunpla.
"But I only remember watching bits and pieces of Gundam Wing, maybe G Gundam when I was young."
That's okay! The best part about building Gunpla is you don't need to have any investment in the franchise to begin with. I myself have built more kits than I've seen shows. In fact, you may gain a new interest in watching the various series after finishing a few kits yourself.
"But it looks hard and confusing, I'm not sure where to even begin."
It's easy to feel overwhelmed, but getting started is actually much easier than you'd think. The first thing to know are grades, and no I don't mean the ones you get in school. Gunpla grades refer to the size and complexity of the kit in question. There are various types, but the main one I recommend you start with is the High Grade line (HG for short). HG Kits are the most common, being cheap and easy to assemble with very clear instructions. They're perfect for anyone interested in trying the hobby out.
"Okay, I'll get an HG kit, but which one? There are hundreds to choose from!"
My recommendation is to start with something simple and classic. That's why the HG RX-78-2 Gundam Revive version is the best choice for beginners. The RX-78-2 might look familiar to some of you and that's because it is the original Gundam from the very first series, Mobile Suit Gundam. As such, the HG Revive kit is very well designed making it a joy to build. It'll teach you the ins and outs of putting together Gunpla.
"Right, I bought the kit. Now how do I built it? Guess I'll take the parts off the-"
WAIT! Stop right there! When you build Gunpla, you never want to take parts directly off the runner, which is the plastic frame everything is attached to. This can result in broken parts or stress marks along the plastic. To properly remove pieces, you'll need a pair of nippers. Thankfully a decent pair can be bought for less than $10 online. Once you've got those, you're almost ready to go. There are just a few things to keep in mind.
As you begin snipping pieces off the runner, it's best to avoid cutting directly beside the part you're after. If you're not careful you can damage parts in the process, which is why cutting higher up on the gate is important. For those unaware, the gate is the small piece of plastic connecting the parts to the runner. You can cut further down the gate if you're adventurous and in a hurry, but I recommend taking it easy. Once a part has been separated, you can easily file or trim down the excess plastic nub with an X-Acto knife.
"Cool, I think I've got the handle of this. But my kit is nearly complete, is there anything else I need to do?"
That all depends on what you want out of your kits. Many kits will look absolutely fine straight built with no extra flourish. Most people simply finish their builds using any included stickers to add details, but you can go further if you want it to stand out more. I personally use Gundam Markers (a special type of paint based marker) to fill in panel lines on my builds, adding some realism and bringing the details out nicely. Others go all the way and paint each component to create custom creations. It may seem difficult at first, but you can make some extraordinary looking Gunpla with enough practice.
"Sounds good! I think I want to look into more kits and build even more!"
That's the spirit! It can become addicting to build Gunpla so just take your time and don't worry about making mistakes. Once you feel comfortable, you can start looking into other Grades like Master Grade, which are bigger than HG kits and offer lots more detail and engineering put into them. However if you prefer the small stature of HGs, Real Grades bring in the same level of detail as MGs at the same scale as the HGs. And if you're unsure of what kits to buy, just browse online and look up reviews. You'll find the perfect kit in no time.
So crack open those instructions, turn on some tunes, and relax while building cool looking robots!