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Getting into Gundam / Gunpla

Gundam is for people who enjoy Manga and can’t build proper models. Well, that’s what I thought for years. But I was recently shown that they can be more than toys and gave one a go. I’m now hooked. So here’s what happened.

One image was all it took

My worldview on all things Gundam was shifted by two events in close succession.

The first was my completion of a Revell 1:241 Millenium Falcon build. I loved the sci-fi aesthetic, the panel lines, the grime and wear, and the creative freedom building something that wasn’t a period vehicle gave me. 

The second event was when I saw this image…

To the Gundam Shop!

Or more accurately to Amazon. Because model shops were still closed and I knew Hobby Craft didn’t sell this sort of thing.

I picked out my perfect first Gunpla, a Bandai Hobby HGUC 1/144 ZAKU II Mobile Suit Gundam Model Kit. Gunplan stands for GUNdam PLAstic model – who knew right? Well, I only just learned this.

There was only one problem. It was going to take until mid- to late-July to arrive. Therefore, I had no other option …

Back to the Gundam Shop!

This time I purchased a Bandai Hobby HGBF 1/144 GM Build Fighters Mobile Suit Gundam Model Kit.

*Doorbell noises*

It arrived even faster than expected. I sensibly put it to one side to finish up some ongoing projects first. After all I’m an adult and not a child. I can control my urges and desires.

I then quickly realised I was rushing my other projects to get to it. This was resulting in sloppy work and stupid mistakes – so I parked those instead.

*Package opening noises*

Inside the box were multi-coloured sprues without a hint of flashing. A manual in Japanese and English that was clear and colourful.

A set of flush cutters, a small model file, and nail file were all I need to be quickly assembling the model.

*Snipping plastic noises*

I made a short time-lapse of part of the assembly (because that’s the sort of thing I do). So take a moment to enjoy the simple process of snipping, filing away nubs and clipping neatly fitting pieces of plastic together.

No glue, no filler, no messy sanding. Just small nubs and a couple mould lines to quickly tidy.

*Audible gasp*

OK, enough now. I’ll stop with the noises as headings.

But behold. Look at how cool he / it / they is / are?

Neatly fitting, fully articulated, shiny and detailed. A few hours to assemble, and the work is done…

Now, the fun part!

By which I mean an even funner part. Weathering and detailing.

First I liberally applied a panel line wash to the model with a Vallejo Paints Black Wash. This was then mostly removed from the model with a wet cue tip. This left the panel lines and recesses dark and knocked back the plastic shine a little. Giving it a slightly grimy and less plastic feel.

Destructive tendencies

Out came the small file again and a sharp hobby knife to create some battle damage.  This almost felt wrong, but I also got a perverse pleasure from physically damaging a model I’d just carefully made.

A fine brush was used to paint on chips and rust. Again I used Vallejo paints to do this. Sometimes applying it quickly thickly and deliberately. Other times watered down to create streaks and washes.

Snap happy

Making and weathering the model then opens you up to a yet another kind of fun. Posed action photography with the model.

Gunpla photography is a big part of the appeal. I’ve loved playing with and posing the model. As you can see when combined with some heavy editing and filters you can get really exciting results.

It’s also hard not to make the gun and sword noises when you pose them in cool ways.

Wrapping up

They may look like toys but they are some of the best quality models I’ve encountered. A real joy to assemble and finish. I wish I’d discovered them sooner.

If you’ve never tried one, go pick out the first one that you like the look of and give it a go.

Next steps

I can’t wait to start my next build and have tumbled well and truly down the rabbit whole. The Zaku II will arrive soon and get the full paint treatment with a Maschinen Krieger inspired finish (inspired by Lincoln Wright). I also need to make the wear more 1/144 scale appropriate next time. Easy to forget the scale without something to reference against.

More on that to come and in the mean time you can get updates on any progress my following me on Instagram.