When I was in Japan, I knew there were certain things I had to buy from Tokyo before leaving. Gundam model kits — or ‘Gunpla‘ (Gundam+plastic) as they are also called — were definitely on my list. Considering Gunpla kits are mostly ‘imported’ elsewhere and thus have a high mark-up, buying the kits from Japan makes it fairly ‘cheap’. This was going to be the first time I was attempting to make a Gundam model figure, so I stuck to the basics for now and bought HG (High Grade) sets. (More on HG, RG, MG, and PG below). And so I came back to India with three Gunpla sets in tow. One for myself and two others for my brothers.
This was my Gunpla set: the RX 78-2 Gundam HG model kit. It cost 751 yen (Rs. 385/$6/€5)
Inside the box are an instructional manual, the runners and stickers (if supplied). Next to that is a hobby knife I picked up from a 100 yen shop.
The runners are the sets which contain the various pieces that need to be cut out and pieced together to make various parts of the Gundam robot. The runners are also coded by alphabets.
So from left o right, that’s A (yellow-red-blue), B (white), C (grey) and the small runner named PE.
There’s no use showing you a close-up of the instruction manual…because it’s all in Japanese. But not to worry.
The instructions for assembling the individual pieces are easy enough to understand and use the ABCs and numbers.
I watched this video that explained what these symbols meant and I just wrote them down.
The hobby knife I was going to use was nothing fancy. Although I did see ones from Tamiya, they were kind of expensive, so I thought I’ve give these from Daiso a shot. After all, they were just 100 yen (Rs. 50). It looked sharp enough to me anyway.
Although I had laid everything out on my dining table, I was going to do all the cutting out of pieces on top of this hard cover brochure (and notebook underneath).
So let’s begin, shall we? The first piece I had to assemble was the thigh part of the Gundam’s leg. The first piece I cut was B29.
So take runner B, find the piece numbered 29.
There are two ways to cut. Some suggest cutting right in the middle of the connector and then slicing off the stubs. I on the hand decided to just cut close to the edge itself, but do it very carefully. By the way, I just placed the runner against the dark surface of my wooden table only for taking the above photo. I didn’t actually cut it on my table.
The PE runner comprises of parts that act as flexible joints. The material used is slightly more softer and when cutting them, it feels like you are cutting rubber. You don’t get the snap sound you usually get from the other plastic pieces.
Once you cut the respective pieces, it’s just a matter of piecing them together asp er the instruction diagrams. No glue required.
And voila! The first piece
And so you keep cutting and snapping the pieces together to form different parts of the robot’s body. If it appears to be a bit hard to cut to from one side, flip it over and cut it from behind.
Ta-da! I was really getting into it now :-)
An hour or so later (took a break in between too), it was all coming together
The final product!
Strike a pose! This Gunpla model comes with a bunch of weapons
Don’t be surprised if you are left with a few pieces on the runners. Mine came with an extra pair of hands and some joints.
It may not be clear but the book cover was stabbed quite a bit by the hobby knife
It took nearly 2 hours but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It’s been a long time since I assembled something like this. I used to play around with a lot of crafts when I was a school kid but such hobbies gave way to electronic entertainment (video games) and music as I grew older. So it felt good to create something with my own hands — even though the HG series of Gunpla kits are the “entry level” models.
Here is a photo I took the following morning. Placed it next to the PlayStation Dualshock 4 controller to give you a perspective on its size. The HG series are mostly 1/144 scale.
Buying Gunpla model kits are now a certainty for me, if and when I return to Japan. There are some deals to be found online but shipping costs to India make it a deal breaker for me.
I might move up the kit ladder and pick up an MG (Master Grade, 1/100 scale) or RG (Real Grade, 1/144 scale but better detail) next (size difference between 1/100 and 1/144 scale). Just for a little bit more challenge. For example, the RX-78-2 Gundam model that I bought has an RG variant that looks more detailed and is of better quality — but more than double the price. Then you have HG 1/60 which is High Grade but bigger in size and then ultimate — PG (Perfect Grade) — which looks amazing! There are some other special sizes too, baby size models from the SD (Seed Destiny) range, mega size specials and the really basic First Grade. There’s so much to choose from, but if you are just starting out, begin with the HG range.
Mind you, you can do a lot more to your Gunpla models after you have assembled it. You can paint them, buy accessories, and attach new parts to make your models look better and different. It’s amazing!
In fact, I realized why I saw so many paints and other art accessories sold right beside the model kits. It’s because if you get really good, you can customize or polish up your Gundam models to give it a finish or look like nothing else! Check out the works of some experienced Gunpla modellers at this sub-Reddit.
I’ll be beginning to write my Japan travel posts soon, and the first post will be about my visit to the amazing Yodobashi Camera store in Akihabara! :)
One thing I wouldn’t recommend is using a nail filer to smoothen the stubs once you have cut them. I found that it leaves scratch marks and the finish came off rough. Some suggest sanding paper or sticks.
It may seem intimidating at first but assembling the Gunpla pieces gets easy later. Anyway, I know I’ll get better at assembling Gunpla sets. I just hope this blog posts helps other first time assemblers. If it did, want to leave me tips or if I got something wrong, leave me a comment below!