A Short Guide to Gundam Models

Steve Sutcliffe asked me to produce a short guide to models from the Gundam and Macross science fiction anime series, as quite a few members have expressed interest in these subjects. I should note that I’ve only rediscovered these series and modelling in the last couple of years, so I can’t claim this will be complete. As there’s quite a bit to cover, I’ll split the posts into this one on Gundam and a separate one on Macross. I know we’ve got quite a few Gundam/Macross fans on the forum, so please add any additional information and links that you think would be useful!
Mobile Suit Gundam and Super Dimension Fortress Macross are both examples, if not the founders, of the “Real Robot” genre of anime. Both are space-based war dramas, the “Robots” (also known as “Mecha”) being piloted armoured fighting vehicles with a humanoid form. The “Real” reflects the abilities of the robots being explained by futuristic engineering rather than superpowers. Whilst Gundam and Macross are the most well known titles, and consequently have the most model kits available, many other anime and video game series feature mecha. Kits are usually available of these subjects, but in lower volumes and sometimes only as garage kits.
What is Gundam? 

Gundam is a Japanese science fiction franchise that began in 1979 with the animated TV series Mobile Suit Gundam. Set in the year 0079 of a future Universal Century, the One Year War has erupted between the space colonies of the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation.
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The conflict has directly affected every continent on earth, also nearly every space colony and lunar settlement. Zeon, though smaller, has the tactical upper hand through their use of Mobile Suits, a new type of 18m tall humanoid weapon. After half of all humanity perishes in the conflict, the war settles into a bitter stalemate lasting over 8 months.
The story begins with a newly deployed Federation warship, the White Base, arriving at a secret research base located at the Side 7 colony to pick up the Federation’s newest weapon. However, they are closely followed by Zeon forces commanded by Mobile Suit ace Char Aznable. A Zeon reconnaissance team member disobeys mission orders and attacks the colony, killing most of the Federation crew and civilians in the process. Out of desperation, citizen boy Amuro Ray accidentally finds the Federation’s new mobile suit — the RX-78-2 “Gundam”, and neutralizes the situation. Scrambling everything they can, the White Base sets out with her newly formed crew of civilian recruits and refugees in her journey to survive.
The series wasn’t actually that popular when it first aired, but this changed when Bandai obtained the license to produce model kits of the RX-78-2 Gundam, MS-06 Zaku and other Mobile Suits from the show. These 1/144 and 1/100 kits sold very well, creating new interest in the TV series which was also acclaimed for the characters and story. Such was the popularity that the TV series was adapted into a movie trilogy, and many sequels followed, set in both the Universal Century (Gundam 0083Zeta GundamGundam Unicorn) and completely different timelines (Gundam WingGundam SEEDGundam 00). As well as anime series and movies, the Gundam franchise expanded to include manga (comics/graphic novels) and video games
Kits of the new mobile suit designs continued the popularity of building what became known as Gunpla - a portmanteau word for “Gundam Plastic Model”. Bandai also developed the quality and sophistication of the kits from fixed pose models with minimal detail to the modern “Graded” lines featuring full articulation, finely detailed parts molded in colour, snap fit and even LED lighting. If you’re interested in the history of how Gunpla developed, a very good series is available here:
Demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between Gundam and Gunpla, one of the most recent Gundam anime series has a plot involving building Gunpla to fight with others in a virtual reality game
Despite the crazy premise it’s rather fun and very much a homage to and gentle parody of the Gundam series and Gunpla modelers. Naturally, you can get kits of the heavily customised models featured in the show…
Gundam Model Kits
Since acquiring the license to Gundam in 1979, Bandai have remained the major manufacturer of injection model kits of Mobile Suits. Resin and injection garage kits are also produced by individuals and small companies in the Far East, though in far lower volumes.
Bandai - Mobile Suit Kits
Bandai produce several hundred injection kits across scales of 1/144, 1/100, 1/60 and 1/48. With Mobile Suits standing 16-22m tall, this translates to average model heights of 14-40cm and A6-A3 “footprints”. Common features across all kits include parts molded in colour, push/snap fit assembly, polycaps or ABS joints to provide articulation and stickers or dry transfers for markings (though waterslides are provided in some cases, and as aftermarket items). Instructions are naturally in Japanese, but are generally very easy to follow without knowing the language! A few recurring symbols are used to represent common techniques, and in these cases the Mech9 site is a great resource for translations:
Paint callouts use mixes of Mr Color/Hobby, with Mech9 again having a fairly comprehensive set of translations:
Note that at the time of writing (January 2015), Mech9 is migrating to a new
server, so some links may be missing. A great overview of building gundam kits
with plenty of tips and tricks is on Michael Fichtenmeyer’s site:
Other than scale, Bandai divides kits into different “Grades” that indicate the number of parts, level of detail and degree of articulation. Both detail and articulation have improved over time for all grades, so in general newer kits will be better in these aspects. Though a quick overview of the main features of each grade are given below, the two best resources for exploring more about these kits are Dalong’s site and HobbyLink Japan’s What is X Grade Gundam? series of YouTube videos (links below). When choosing a kit, Dalong is a great place to start as it contains build reviews of every single High, Master and Perfect Grade, plus box contents, parts breakdown and scanned manuals! Though it’s mostly in Korean, the site has english menus for each section, and links to these (and the HLJ videos) are provided below.
In looking at Bandai’s different Grades, it’s useful to divide them into two types based on how the Mobile Suit is assembled
  1. Armour parts are clipped together and connected together with frame parts for the visible joints (knees, elbows) only.
  2. A partial/full internal mechanical frame/skeleton is built, onto which the armour parts are fixed.
In the first case, there are four grades:
1/144-1/60 No Grade
  • Essentially every kit that doesn’t have an official Grade
  • Basic or no articulation, limited detail
  • Some unique subjects at lower cost
  • “What is No Grade Gundam?”: 
1/144 High Grade
1/100 Reborn One Hundred
  • Very new line that appears intended for lesser known or larger Mobile Suits
  • Only two kits released with two more announced at this time (January 2015)
  • Pretty much a larger scale High Grade with more/finer surface detail
  • Price range likely to be 4000-8000yen
1/48 Mega Size
  • Simple construction and articulation, but great armour detail
  • Only five kits available though!
  • 8000-9000yen
and in the second there are three Grades:
1/144 Real Grade
  • Highly detailed armour
  • “Advanced MS” inner frame with articulation molded in on the runner
  • Around 100-200 parts
  • 2500-3000yen
  • Dalong’s List:
  • “What is Real Grade Gundam?”: 
1/100 Master Grade
  • Well detailed armour and great mechanical detail on inner frame
  • “Ver Ka.” kits by noted mechanical designer Hajime Katoki (, very detailed and come with waterslides!
  • Some kits have provision for LED lighting
  • 200-700 parts
  • 2000-16000yen
  • Dalong’s List:
  • “What is Master Grade Gundam?”: 
  • “Version Ka Master Grade Kits”: 
1/60 Perfect Grade
  • Highly detailed inner frame with exceptional articulation
  • Armour detail similar to Master Grades, plus multiple opening panels and hatches
  • Supplied with, or provision for, LED lighting kit
  • 700-1000 parts
  • Price between 12000-25000yen
  • Dalong’s List:
  • “What is Perfect Grade Gundam?”: 
New kits are usually released every month, though less frequently for the higher grades. One can usually expect a couple of new High Grades per month, a new Master Grade every 1-2 months and a new Real Grade every 3-4 months. Perfect Grades happen when they happen! A couple of useful websites for keeping track of new kit announcements are
These aggregate and translate news from many of the Far Eastern modelling sites so are usually the best English language source. They also display some stunning builds by modellers from all over the world, so are great sources of inspiration and ideas!
Once Bandai have released a graded kit, it’s re-produced on a semi-regular basis with a cycle based on the age and popularity. You’ll see this on retailer’s sites when a kit is listed as “backordered” or “waiting list”. As such, Bandai’s entire back catalogue is still in production, but you may have to wait anything from a month to a year to get the kit you’re after.
Bandai - EX and Hard Graph Kits
Mobile Suits are naturally the most popular models from the Gundam series, but there’s also a huge cast of other vehicles such as spacecraft (Mobile Suit Carriers and Battleships) and ground forces. Bandai do produce a limited range of both under the lines

EX Model
  • 1/100 to 1/1700 kits of aircraft, vehicles and spacecraft
  • Traditional glue and paint builds
  • Very nicely detailed for the size and scale
  • Dalong’s list:
UC Hard Graph
  • 1/35 Zeon/Earth Federation subjects from the Zeon invasion of Earth during the One Year War
  • Traditional glue and paint builds
  • As EX Models, very nicely detailed
  • Often long periods between re-releases.
  • Dalong’s list (scroll down to find the UCHG section):
Garage Kits
Though a big company, Bandai do (or did) have their own garage kit line under the B-Club name. Both full Mobile Suit kits, conversion sets for High/Master Grade kits and weapons/parts sets have been produced. With very limited production, and the line seemingly dead at this time, these are now only available second hand or via recasts.
The main names to look for in Garage Kits are NeoGrade, G-System and SMS. Many other companies or individuals are out there, but will take more research and tracking down. As with all garage kits, there are varying degrees of quality in both originals and recasts so it pays to research the history of the kit and vendor. Most kits will either be fixed pose or have very limited articulation. The benefit of course is getting a kit of a rarer Mobile Suit or subject from the Gundam universe and often in a large scale (Even to 1/35 for Mobile Suits!). Many designers also add their own touches to the suit designs, giving a very unique model of even something as standard as the RX-78-2. Garage kits are an area I’m learning about, so let me know of any further info or links and I can add them here!
Gundam Aftermarket Supplies and Resources
Like other subjects, a good range of aftermarket decals and parts for detailing Gundam kits are available. These tend to be generic rather than specific to a particular suit or kit, but give you great freedom to detail your model in the way you want. With many vendors in Japan and China, I recommend using the Google Chrome browser to explore the links below - the automatic translation can be a boon!
As noted above, Bandai don’t supply waterslide decals other than with the Ver Ka Master Grades. Bandai’s own “Gundam Decal” range of waterslides somewhat fills this gap, though these aren’t produced that often and not all kits are covered. However, they are generally nice and work well though in some cases greys may show an obvious halftone pattern. Decal sets for specific Mobile Suits are available from third party vendors, one of the main names being Samuel Decal ( Generic decals for caution and tactical markings are available from companies like Wave and HiqParts.
Aftermarket detailing parts in styrene, ABS and metal are produced by many manufacturers. Bandai themselves provide the Builder’s Parts and System Weapon series in styrene for 1/100 and 1/144 scales. Other companies such as
provide more generic detailing parts such as bolts/rivets, vents, verniers and piping.
Decals and plastic parts are usually available on a semi-regular basis from the retailers listed later. Photoetch for Gundam kits can be a little tricky to find, the main names being 
However, these only appear to be easily available through Ebay sellers. A recent resource for listing aftermarket parts and Ebay retailers is:
Though the decals/parts listed above are specific for Gundam and SciFi modelling, you can of course adapt other detailing sets from armour and aircraft.
Together with parts, a wide variety of online and book references are available for researching Gundam, Mobile Suits and modelling projects. In addition to those mentioned earlier, I’ve also found the following useful
  • Comprehensive wiki-based guide to the Gundam franchise
  • Excellent reference on Mobile Suit designs, color schemes and variations
Gundam Forums
  • Online fora covering both Gundam and Gunpla
Gundam Weapons Books by Hobby Japan
  • Collections of articles from Hobby Japan magazine on building/modifying kits of a specific mobile suit or suits from a given series.
  • Though in Japanese, guides are relatively easy to follow and if nothing else are a great source of inspiration and ideas.
Gundam Archive Books by Model Graphix

Dengeki Hobby Magazine and Books
This of course only scratches the surface of what’s out there! 
Where to Buy
This list is naturally limited to those I have used or have heard good things about. If you have any others, let me know and I’ll add them, especially for garage kits!
As with all overseas purchases, it’s worth shopping around and allowing for shipping costs, import taxes/charges to your country and any handling charges in calculating overall costs. For example, it may be cheaper to order from the Far East, even allowing for shipping and import charges.
Far East
HobbyLink Japan:
  • The easiest to use, though can occasionally be low on stock
  • May not always have best discounts
  • Interface, especially for payment is a bit clunky, but reliable service.
  • Often has stock when HLJ doesn’t, especially for aftermarket parts.
  • Usually has better discounts, though shipping may be more expensive 
  • No Import VAT if ordering from another EU country!
United States
  • As always with Ebay, caveat emptor, especially on shipping charges!
  • Not so good for Bandai Gundam kits as discounts generally aren’t as high.
  • Some Hong Kong garage kit retailers do have stores on the site.
  • Also good for some aftermarket parts and sets.
I hope this quick guide has been useful [smile]. As noted at the start, if you have any other useful tips or resources on Gundam modelling, please post them below!