Bandai releases the Mobile Suit Gundam model kits in several different series. While these series are relatively easy to pick from when they are in your hand at a hobby shop if you are like most then you need to use the internet to get the best selection. This makes the sheer number of series quite overwhelming for the novice. Even the experienced builder may overlook some very nice kits in a series they feel to be inferior to their experience. Fear not, for it is time to explain these series.
Let’s start with the SD kits. SD stands for Super Deformed. These are very small and unusually scaled models that build up as caricatures of the Mobile Suits. These are quite popular around the world and can be quite interesting when built. Due to their simple manufacture they do require more paint and detail work to look complete or accurate. If you want a collection of cute little Gundams or want to add a unique spin of your favorite Mobile Suit to your existing collection, give one a try.
There are a few 1/200 scale First Grade kits that are little more than vending machine fodder. They feature a hand full of pre-painted parts and very simple assembly. They come in either foil bags or small cardboard boxes. These kits are, for all intents and purposes, a thing of the past. They really brought nothing new to the table and sold so slowly that if you can still find them anywhere they will probably be quite cheap.
The 1/144 scale is represented by 3 different levels. You have the Quick Model Series, ungraded 1/144 scale kits, and the High Grade kits. The Quick Model Series is a limited and relatively new series that features very few pre-painted parts and very simple assembly. Even the instruction manual is a single sheet of double sided paper. They are great little displays, but sadly lack the sense of pride and accomplishment that one gets from the rest of the options. The High Grades are the new standard in the scale and are quite impressive. They feature poly caps for the joints, individual molded colors to allow for little to no paint requirement, and a modular construction similar to the 1/100 scale series. There are some non-grade 1/144 scale kits out there, but have become scarcer. These kits are simpler kits and as such are molded in fewer colors. Some of these, most notably the Gundam Wing series, come with large areas of color represented with foil stickers instead of separate molding. Most 1/144 scale kits require some amount of paint to match the box art, but for the most part can be assembled as is to decent results. Due to their price and assortment this is one of the best starting points for the novice.
It used to be that the 1/100 scale was separated into three distinct levels, but the border between the first two levels is now almost nonexistent. For this reason you can really spit the scale into two groups, Master Grade and everything else. Let’s discuss the everything else assortment for a while. They feature assembly similar to the 1/144 scale kits. This means that at the simple end of the scale they can appear more toy like when completed without any paint. There are some impressive kits in this arena however. The Gundam Seed Astray series for example is amazing and gets a stellar treatment even in their non-Master Grade presentations. For the beginner this is probably the best place to get your feet wet.
For the experienced modeler or someone who has tasted the Gundam fruit a few times and doesn’t quite understand why there is so much dedication to this series of kits there exist the Master Grades. Molded in 1/100 scale and descended from a Bandai factory in a suburb of heaven, these kits are without a doubt the bread and butter of the addiction. They only live to accomplish one goal, to become a premium display piece. Master Grades want to be the center of a display shelf when they grow up. These kits are assembled from hundreds of parts. They sometimes require assembly using screws, extremely small parts, and dry transfer decals. These are not for the faint of heart, or in some cases, the light of wallet. With more than 100 MG kits spanning every series in the Gundam universe there is something for everyone. These kits take many hours to assemble and look great with no paint at all, complete custom airbrush work, or any amount of detail in between. They will thrill and frustrate you in ways that most other plastic models can’t imagine. This is where you should spend your time if you want to build the largest most detailed collection available. This should be it, right? Wrong!
There are actually two scales left. Let’s look at them in the wrong order. There is now a huge scale 1/48 series out there. You read that right, 1/48 scale. The first in this series is the venerable RX-78 from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. While quite massive and covered with intricate panel detail lacking on all the other kits, this kit is actually quite simple in construction. It is, sad to say, similar in assembly to a 1/100 scale High Grade kit. This could have been, and may still become, a new wallet breaker and quality level. For now, though, if you wish to play in a big scale the recommendation is to hang out in a slightly smaller place.
The last scale of note is 1/60. There are 3 levels of kits in this series. There are ungraded kits that are basically huge foot tall up scaled versions of their 1/100 scale brothers. Due to this they may require a little paint work and appear a little heavy on the proportions and molding. There exists a series called the Glorious Series. These kits are highly detailed, feature parts counts approaching the thousands, and have an amazing amount of lighting detail. There are LED bulbs in every vent, window, camera, port, and wingtip Bandai could muster. These kits are more misadventures in wiring and display than anything else. Impressive when complete, but a very limited selection, a huge price tag, and limited availability move this series to the background of the true champ.
It’s time to introduce the champion. Now entering this corner weighing in at over $150 USD and over one thousand parts is the 1/60 scale Perfect Grade. There isn’t much to say about this series that the name doesn’t already cover. They are perfect. They are perfect in scale and molding. They feature plastic, and usually, metal parts. They sometimes feature lighting effects and are detailed down to every single knuckle on each finger being movable. These kits take many, many hours of assembly time and a great deal of patience. If you have the room, experience, skill, and budget to try the Perfect Grades you will not be disappointed.