Ever since coming back to the Philippines with a couple of RG Gunpla kits from Japan, I’ve been hooked on these toys. That was around three weeks ago and at the time of this writing, I have averaged two Gunpla kits a week. I have spent the weekends indoors and have ignored the call of the mountains for consecutive weeks already. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s way different from the usual hobbies you see posted here.
This isn’t actually a new hobby. I have periodically bought some sets when I was still in college and assembling them back then was just as fun. Here are a couple of SD Gundam kits from way back in 2012:
Gunpla has already been a part of my life. But now, as an adult with purchasing power that is mine alone, the call of the Gunpla has become irresistible. Seeing the Freedom Gundam and the Justice Gundam kits in Akihabara, it brought back a lot of memories from the series I watched as a kid and I bought them just for nostalgia’s sake. That opened the whole Pandora’s box and now I have almost completed all the Gundam from the Seed series.
I’m partial to the 1/144 scale models because I don’t want them to take up too much space. I am still in the process of konmari-ing my belongings, but damn, these Gunpla just spark so much joy when I look at them. This preference to scale limits me to the High Grade and Real Grade Gunpla kits and thankfully, most of the Gundam in the Seed series are available as High Grades. The only exception I made is for the Freedom Gundam, Justice Gundam, and the Aile Strike Gundam, whose designs are offered in Real Grade.
So I recently bought a few kits includeing an RG Strike Freedom Gundam from a friend who went to Japan. I thought it would be a good opportunity to take you through the Gunpla experience. Take note that I’m just a beginner, but I have found peace and serenity in spending my entire day just assembling these kits. They are just as valid a form of therapy as running, although less tiring and more expensive (debatable). Here we go.
I use a couple of tools for assembling my Gunpla, but most of them aren’t really necessary. The only one I would say is a requirement is the hobby knife. This lets you remove the pieces from the gates of the runners. I use the 1500 grit sandpaper for finishing off the nubs and the nipper for those extra hard gates. I bought the hobby knife as a set from a bookstore, while the rest are available at any hardware store.
So let’s get into the kit itself. Here is the box of the RG Strike Freedom, and as you can see, it’s full of Japanese writing that I sadly cannot understand.
But it’s not that important because you can check the wiki site for the complete details on the kit you bought. This is just for those like me who really dive into the lore of the anime, of course. I find that creating the parts by hand feel more rewarding when I know that they have a specific purpose. But, if you buy Gunpla just because they look good or you just want to make something with your hands, then that’s fine as well!
And when you remove the box, you are greeted with the following items:
The runners are the parts that make up the kit you will be assembling. They are bagged in plastic so just take that off and admire all the pieces that you will be using in a bit. Each runner has a corresponding letter and each piece will have a corresponding number. Take note of these as they will play a big part in the assembly.
The number of runners depend on the grade of the kit. As a rule of thumb, the higher the grade and the more complex the kit, the more runners are included. Take a look at the runners of the RG Strike Freedom compared to the HG GBN-Base Gundam. Aside from the runners, you will also get a page of decals and stickers, and sometimes a separate runner solely for the beam effects.
The other thing that will be in the box is the instruction manual. The instructions will be in Japanese, but don’t worry as they can be visually understood pretty easily. Bandai has made Gunpla pretty much for the worldwide audience and the pictures are okay no matter what language you speak. For some of the Japanese icons, they have been explained before in other Gundam blogs.
To start assembling the Gundam, I usually lay out all the runners alphabetically across my work area. This makes it easier to identify which one is which when looking for a specific piece. My work area is either my bed or the floor of my room. Like I said, I’m just a beginner and I don’t have a specific work area dedicated to Gunpla. In front of me would be the box of the kit (containing the hobby knife, nipper, and sandpaper) serving as my work basin, and the instruction manual. Here, I’m assembling the HG GBN Base Gundam.
Starting is as simple as following the instructions on the manual. For removing the pieces from the runners, I use the nipper to cut a few millimeters away from the gates. This reduces the chance of damaging the actual pieces. Then I use the hobby knife to slowly slice off the remaining pieces of plastic (nubs). Finally, I use a bit of sandpaper to make sure there are no more plastic bumps left. This can be a bit time consuming, but in my case it’s very relaxing.
And that’s about it! The important thing is to make sure you are following the instruction manual properly. Make sure you’re not skipping any step or not missing any piece. Just be gentle with the pieces when removing them from the runners. Real Grades and High Grades have very small pieces especially the parts making up the Gundam’s head. This is why use the kit’s box as a work basin so it catches all the pieces once they come off the runners.
It’s not a requirement to finish the kit in one sitting. Some people spend weeks building their Gundam. Real Grade kits are very complicated because of the details so they can take longer than the more simple High Grades. It’s fine to take a rest, just know where you last left off. Arrange the runners back into the box and close it well for the next session.
There is an optional step to make your Gundam look good and this is panel lining. Other people can explain this better, but it requires the use of paint or special Gundam Pens to outline the grooves in the armor. This makes the part separation stand out and overall gives the Gundam a cooler appearance. I’m still learning this step and my panel lining looks ugly, but don’t let that stop you! Anyway, I find that in an RG kit, the details are already enough for my taste.
For the decals, most kits come with the sticker type decals. I don’t want to spend extra for the water slide and dry rub decals, so I make do with these. The designation for the decals are also indicated in the instruction manual. For the RG Kits, the back page of the manual shows the sticker placement. I use the tip of my hobby knife to pull the teeny weeny stickers out of their backing sheet, carefully place them in the desired area, then once I get the right position I press firmly with my finger. You might still be able to adjust with the tip of your knife but be careful not to tear the decal. Once it’s in position, I make sure it’s attached firmly by pressing on it with a cotton bud.
After assembling the Gundam and putting on the decals, feel free to pose and play with your new toy! Try to admire the workmanship behind the parts and how they fit perfectly with each other. You can play around with the included accessories and make your Gundam do all the poses its articulation allows. Be creative and enjoy! I won’t tell you what to do with your Gunpla, but the more advanced builders use paint and other materials to make their Gundam unique. You do you!
So there you have it, a quick introduction into this hobby of mine. I’ve been spending my weekends like this and it has been very calming. I just pop some videos on Youtube for background noise and I get to work, usually only taking a rest for eating. Hours can pass by without me noticing, just like when I’m outside on the trails.
If all goes according to plan, I’m only completing a few more of these before I’m done with the Gundam Seed series. It’s close to my heart and I’m re-watching the whole anime on my commutes. Seeing the Gundam move on screen gives me more appreciation for the makers of these toys and how they made them so anime accurate. The sense of accomplishment on having created something with my own hands is just as addictive as working out.
Keep moving and keep creating!