Friday, September 28, 2012


Gunpla - the not-so-ancient Japanese art of Gundam plastic model kit building.

Around 35 years ago, I remember my dad and I (well, mostly my dad) putting together a largish plastic model kit of a Japanese mecha. Mecha are giant robots often piloted by kids and a staple of Japanese anime and manga stories. The mecha we built was Raydeen, a Shogun Warrior unit.

At the time, I remember being really impressed by this model. It was just under a foot high and had face armour that could move and a spring- (or rubberband-) powered bow that could sort of shoot arrows - though not very well. I even think the arms could move up and down (just about).

Well, fast forward to this year.

A few months ago, I had been thinking of doing something a little different as a hobby. I considered a couple of things but then remembered that Raydeen mecha I (my dad) had constructed years ago. So, I wondered, did Japan still produce plastic models of robots?

Stupid question. Of course they did!

(Yep, that's a life-sized Gundam)
Gundam models are probably the most prolific mecha modelling kits (though there are other types) and there are hundreds of them. They're based on a number of Gundam anime cartoons shown in Japan over the last 30 years or so. Sadly, they never really made much impact over here in the UK - though I suspect some episodes were shown on a satellite kids TV channel at some point.

Bandai's Gundam model kits come in many different sizes and complexitites - from small 1/144 scale models up to 1/48 scale. Some come with just a few pieces that have to be glued together and painted, whilst others have hundreds of parts constructed in differently coloured plastic which just snap together.

Anyway, I chose a 1/100 No Grade (technically a High Grade) kit of the Aile Strike Gundam. Apparently, it's a relatively easy kit to put together whilst still providing a good degree of articulation and moving parts. And it looks pretty cool. After forking out the princely sum of about £24 - including shipping from Taiwan, because getting hold of these kits in the UK is tricky - I received the kit full of multi-coloured plastic runners and went to work!

And here's the "finished" result:

My Aile Strike hasn't been painted at all nor panel lined to bring out the detail. That's just it straight out of the box after cutting the pieces from the runners, cutting off the excess 'nubs', and assembling it. There's no glue involved - although the pesky little red triangle on his head might require some to keep it in place. It's just like a geeky 3D jigsaw puzzle. Not helped by the fact that the Ikea-like instruction booklet is written mostly in Japanese!

The legs, arms, feet, hands, hand, etc all move. You can swap the beam rifle for a beam sabre (a.k.a. a lightsaber) or knife, remove the red booster backpack, articulate it into a number of poses and so on. This Strike Gundam has a lot more features and moving parts than that old Raydeen model.

Now all I have to do is find somewhere to put it. And decide what Gundam I'll get next. :)