Gunpla: breathing life into plastic models

Aqilah Rahman

Gunpla, which stands for Gundam Plastic Model, is an extremely popular line of robot model kits produced by Bandai. More than 500 million Gunpla figures have been sold since it debuted 40 years ago.

Depending on the Gunpla grade and the builder’s preferences, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several months to complete a Gunpla kit. Builders can paint and modify their kits however they like, or they can just snap the pieces together straight out of the box.

GRADES

There are many types of Gunpla, but the most popular are High Grade (HG), Master Grade (MG), Perfect Grade (PG), Real Grade (RG), and Super Deformed Grade (SG).

A lot of Gunpla builders start with HG kits. These kits have fewer parts to assemble and are easy to build, so are often recommended for beginners. After getting comfortable with HG, people typically move on to the more detailed MG kits.

In terms of quality and detail, PG kits are arguably the best and the most challenging to build. They’re also available in 1/60 scale, making details stand out even more. The downside? Their triple-digit price tags.

ABOVE & BELOW: Photos of Gunpla builds by local Gunpla builders Daze and SS. PHOTOS: DAZE & SS

If you want to get your hands on a highly detailed kit without breaking the bank, then RG kits are the way to go. RG kits are designed to look realistic and are available in 1/144 scale.

As for SG kits, their most noticeable trait is that they have comical proportions compared resulting in a cute appearance. They are the smallest at about eight centimetres tall.

Generally speaking, SG kits are the easiest to build; even easier than HG. They’re popular among beginners and anyone looking for a quick fun build.

GUNPLA ENTHUSIASTS IN BRUNEI

Daze, a Gunpla builder I chatted with, was introduced to Gunpla by his classmates back in the early ‘90s. “There was a department store called Yaohan back then. We would buy some that fit our budget,” Daze said.

In those days, he would build his kits out of the box without painting. Now, he paints his kits, too.

On the skills and techniques to build Gunpla kits, such as handpainting, spray painting and airbrushing, Daze said each has its own advantages. For him, hand painting can be easily used for fine details, while spray painting is more versatile.

“The build itself tells a story as it shows my progression. I may look at it and say I could do better. Or I could try something else,” he said.

It isn’t just Daze who’s into Gunpla – his daughter built some kits too. “She saw me building some kits and thought that she wanted to do it. She does basic snap builds,” he said, having posted some of his daughter’s work on his Instagram page (@daze.of.one).

Another Gunpla builder I talked with was SS, who began dabbling in Gunpla in 2015, after being impressed with the customised works of other builders.

However, it wasn’t easy to find hobby supplies in the country at the time, so he quit at the end of 2015. He got back into the Gunpla scene last year and got his supplies from Miri. Nowadays, there are more hobby shops in Brunei, so he sources his supplies locally.

“The greatest thing about hobbies is the community,” he said, sharing that he regularly posts his work on his Instagram page (@koleksi_ss). Most of his followers and friends are from overseas, and they often share tips.

In terms of skills and techniques, SS learns from tutorials as well as trial and error.

A Gunpla veteran friend encouraged him to take up airbrushing, and since then, SS has been polishing his skills. “I wanted to make my model as real as possible. That was my goal from the start,” he said.

SS recently completed a commission to build the highly complex PG 1/60 Strike Freedom Gundam. He said he was hesitant at first because he might damage or lose some parts, but he accepted the challenge. “It was an achievement,” he said.

He also left a message for the Gunpla and plastic modelling community in Brunei, “Don’t be afraid to try. At the end of the day, it’s your build. You will love it and others will, too!”