Gunpla: You need more Gundam in your life

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Building Gundam models or “Gunpla” is a worldwide hobby that millions have done at some point. For the uninitiated the world of Gunpla can be a bit too foreign of a concept for the average person to open up to, so here are a few reasons this may be the hobby for you. Do any of the following apply?

  1. You’re a huge nerd and watch cartoons with giant robots.
  2. You like to build things and hands on activities
  3. You need to chill out.

So for the most obvious target audience let’s go with number 1, you are a mecha dork. You like Transformers, you like Pacific Rim, you like outer-spacey robot junk. You may already even be a fan of Gundam anime. Since the original series in the late 1970’s a variety of Gundam series and video games have popped up over the decades. The iconic brand has built fans around the world; from those fascinated by the story, those fascinated by the pseudo technology, and those fascinated by screaming slap battles involving kids inside giant metal suits. I’ve never met two Gundam fans who agree with each other on the best Gundam series so I’ll just simplify it and say noobs should watch one of the most recent series like “Iron Blooded Orphans” and if that works for you then go back to the beginning and stick with the Universal Century canon of stories. Now, congrats, you are a Gundam fan… now what? Now you’ve got to make Gundam in real life! Get a Gundam model kit of your favorite space robot and start building your collection.

Full Sized Gundam in Tokyo

On toward reason 2, “you like hands on activities,” which could also be read as, “I like to put together stuff from IKEA.” Most all Gunpla kits are snap together and usually don’t require any glue. Anyone who has put together a model plane or model car in the past would feel right at home, except prepare for the complexity of Gunpla to far exceed old model plane kits. All Gunpla are graded by quality and difficulty –  and price fluctuates accordingly. A simple HG High Grade kit may run you $10 and be a quick hour or two to put together. If you want to get into PG Perfect Grade territory then you’ll be sailing to the over $100 mark and can expect to lose a few weeks of your life putting together your masterpiece. Kits will have clear directions with illustrations and in many cases a small pair of scissors may be the only tool you need. For many it is like building your own Transformers toy from the ground up and the finished product can be modified however you feel like it.

And… since you made it this far, let’s say you just don’t get any of this stuff. Many Gunpla model builders don’t even have any particular interest in sci-fi anime or watching the Gundam movies, many just like having a cathartic interesting hobby to help them relax. Gunpla is a step past the current hipster trend of adult coloring books. Seriously? You want to sit around and fill in a coloring book? Grow up. Make model kit robots like a real adult. Gunpla hits a sweet spot for many enthusiasts in that it is not “difficult” in the manner of saying it is hard to do. The difficulty comes from being able to follow complex directions, or in carefully manipulating a tiny part, or in general being able to be focused and patient. This is not a hobby you can absentmindedly do, you’ll skip a step or accidentally break a piece if that is the case. Having something that calms you as well as takes focus is the hallmark of a good hobby. For the over-stressed person a century ago this may have meant building a model of ship in a bottle… nowadays we are much more civilized than that and zen meditation can be achieved by building weird outer space robots.

Check Out Some Gunpla Basics


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J Paige has two decades of experience in the nerd culture of New England through convention, event, and retail management. He is co-owner of NeonBomb at 260 Mammoth Road in Manchester (neonbomb.com). Do you have an event coming up? Do you have a nerdish hobby you are looking to connect with fellow nerds on? Interesting input that you would like to get the word out on? Send it over to thejpaige@neonbomb.com, subject line: Nerd Alert.