Welcome to the 5th edition of Gunpla 101’s Gunpla Year in Review!
As the new year approaches, this year-long list gives us a moment to reflect on all the amazing models that came out in the past calendar year and revisit the ones we might have missed before.
In 2018, we watched Gundam Build Divers from beginning to end and tuned in each week for Tom Aznable’s always eye-opening Deep Dive series. We learned about the still-in-progress Gundam Narrative project and its many variations on familiar suits originally found in Gundam Unicorn. Now 2019 promises to be a banner year for the franchise: after all, it is the greatly anticipated 40-year anniversary of Gundam.
On the personal front, John and I moved to a new house and ended up spending more time packing up and then reassembling our Gunpla collection than adding much to it. We gave Gunpla 101 panels at Anime Boston, Anime NEXT, and Otakon. We didn’t blog here very much but we hope to soon reveal some exciting new posts and projects in 2019.
But before we move on just yet, it’s time to look one last time at this year’s amazing lineup. As usual, kits are listed in order of both grade and release (kits are listed from oldest to newest in each section). There are also some new sections this year—Beargguys and Haros, High Resolution, and Cross Silhouette—to reflect these new or growing Gunpla kit types. And as always, please enjoy and let me know if you have any questions or comments.
- 2017 Gunpla Year in Review
- 2016 Gunpla Year in Review
- 2015 Gunpla Year in Review
- 2014 Gunpla Year in Review
Table of Contents
I wasn’t sure if we were going to get a PG model this year, and then one appeared at the last minute. This is an odd one: a variation that only appears in a Gundam 00 side story. Its angled shoulder pads mark it as a Celestial Being creation.
This lighting kit is technically an accessory, but only works for a PG kit so I’m placing it in this section. Much like the LED Unit for PG Gundam Unicorn, this is customized specifically for making 2017’s only Perfect Grade release light up.
This is one massive mech, with a price tag to match. For $200, the Deep Striker is here to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Gundam Sentinel. Like the Neo Zeong, it’s not so much a mecha as it is a gigantic suit for an MG kit (the included S Gundam) to wear.
I’m always excited when Hajime Katoki re-designs a Gundam model into his own Version Ka understanding. This version replicates how the Banshee looked in the novel long before it became the animated version of the Banshee that we know from the Gundam Unicorn OVA.
F91 is getting spoiled this summer. This new version gives the Master Grade a much-needed update that uses the latest in Bandai’s PlaMo technology. It also comes with two expanding railguns, multiple heads, and can be fitted with an optional LED unit to make it glow inside.
At last, one of the most popular grunt suits ever gets its own Master Grade. This Char’s Counterattack suit has an interior skeleton for improved poseability. It also comes with a sturdy stand so you can position it in flying poses.
Clearly based on the QAN[T] from Gundam 00, this is another manga spinoff kit, this time from Mobile Suit Gundam 00V: Battlefield Record. It retains the original QAN[T]’s elegant form but beefs up its offense with two blades that can combine into the “GN Gunblade Twin Edge.”
Re/100 continues to bring us never-before-made kits. This is the Guncannon Detector as it appeared in Episode 4 of the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn OVA.
I love how RE/100 is bringing us kits too elaborate to be properly rendered in HG. This aristocratic commander type reminds me that while Mobile Suit Gundam F91 was a little out there, Cecily Fairchild’s taste in mobile suits was just the right kind of fancy.
The best contribution of the RE/100 line has been bringing us multiple forms of the Jagd Doga. This latest one, from Char’s Counterattack, features a unique hawk mask and heaps of accessory weapons, including six dynamic funnels rendered mid-launch.
This mass-production model is pretty much the GM of the Victory Gundam universe. Smooth and sparsely decorated, it’s a surprising addition to the enlarged, embellished RE/100 line.
On the heels of the RG Unicorn comes the RG Banshee Norn, a crisply detailed and tightly edited version of the Banshee Norn High Grade kit.
Same thing, but in a premium box that shows the kit in its “Unicorn Mode.” If you’re a box art collector, you might care about that sort of thing.
A variant of the Unicorn Gundam from the “Bande Dessinee” manga adaptation. Not much is different except that it includes an elaborate mode-changing shield.
The latest entry into the Real Grade series is a Gundam Wing favorite. EW Tallgeese’s massive Dober Gun attaches firmly so the suit can pose with it one-handed.
Char’s iconic red suit from Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack finally comes to the Real Grade line. This detailed representation should be one of the most poseable iterations of the classic kit yet.
An elaborate take on the Unicorn fully loaded with armaments and massive propellant tanks. It will probably take longer to build the accessories on this kit than the Unicorn itself!
The only Hi-Resolution of 2018! Year after year, Astray is one of Bandai’s top sellers in the west despite the fact that its manga has been out of print in English for over a decade. This is one of the suit’s most elaborate iterations yet, a 1/100 with a cherry red pre-assembled frame.
To make this section a little more navigable this time, I’ve divided it into general HG and two subsections: Universal Century (HGUC) and the Build series (HGBF and HGBD). As always, these are all in order of release.
You’ve seen the Zaku I model done up in Kycillia’s colors. Now here’s the MS-11 Action Zaku, Act for short. Great for the completionist who wants to have all the Gundam: The Origin models.
Straight from Gundam Wing, this grunt unit has gotten its first 1/144 kit, and its early appearance in Gundam Build Divers meant I probably should have expected that.
This suit comes from the manga Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin MSD: Cucuruz Doan’s Island. Its Gatling Gun is made out of softer plastic so it’s flexible. Here FSD stands for “Full-Scale Development” and refers to its additional armaments over the North American Type.
This GM variant comes from Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Mobile Suit Discovery (or MSD for short). It’s part of a mecha design series that ran in Gundam Ace magazine. Highlights include a full-length shield and a clear visor that can lower or lift over the model’s eye area.
Hailing from the the MSV-R line, this is an alternate version of the GM Sniper Custom designed for space combat. It’s characterized mainly by its lavender color scheme.
High Grade – Universal Century
After we got Blue Destiny Unit 1 and Unit 2, you knew this one was coming. In the manga, this was the least celebrated of the three, made to provide spare parts for the other two! It’s also the one that differs the most; without the blue color scheme of the other two, it has a unique look.
The asymmetry on the chest gives this suit away as one of the most iconic grunt types in Gundam. It gets down on one knee to recreate its pose as seen in the 08th MS Team intro.
Galbaldy Beta hasn’t had a Gunpla release in 33 years! The last one, which came out in 1985 shortly after Zeta Gundam did, was only one color and didn’t snap together—you had to use glue. Meanwhile, this one is extremely poseable with a sliding shield gimmick.
I don’t know enough about Narrative yet to be all that excited, but this gorgeous golden Phenex version makes me think if they put the same amount of detail into the anime, it’ll be great.
Take one look at this Zeta Gundam classic and you’ll be saying, “That sure was made in the ‘80s.” With red and yellow highlights on a spiky frame, it has a retro super-robot look. These are some of the least humanoid proportions I’ve seen on a Gundam mech.
Take one look at this kit’s crescent-shaped “Psycho plate” and you’ll know why they call it Moon Gundam. This is the titular kit of the Gundam Ace manga Mobile Suit Moon Gundam, which takes place in the Universal Century and explains the kit’s conventional silhouette.
A beautiful new version of the golden Phenex to commemorate Gundam’s latest entry, the Gundam Narrative film. This movie will be in theaters on November 30, 2018, so if you happen to be in Japan, that’s the first day you can watch it!
The Dijeh Amuro Ray used in Zeta Gundam has insectoid wings and a vintage “movie-monster” appeal. Want a bigger one? There’s also the RE/100 Dijeh that came out a few years ago.
High Grade – Build Fighters and Build Divers
You’ve seen this one in Gundam Build Fighters Battlogue Episode 4. Three different GN-X types think they have what it takes to defeat the Meijin, and with this mech’s bulky armor and long range, they might just have a chance.
A pretty wild looking riff on the Build Strike from Gundam Battlogue Episode 5. Use this link to go watch the toy commercial, er, show.
Everyone’s favorite Hot Mom of the Gundam universe gets her own plastic model. Rinko is based on the Archangel from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, which is a bit of a nod to the fact that she and Archangel captain Murrue Ramius share the same voice actress.
HGBD stands for “High Grade Build Divers,” so expect to see a lot of this sub-grade moving forward. The Magnum is based on Gundam AGE’s Age-2 Normal and is first seen in the prologue. I’m certain we’ll see its pilot, Kyoya Kujo, again soon!
I hope you’re enjoying Gundam Build Divers because you’re going to be seeing a lot of it in this year’s monthly Gunpla Buying Guide. This custom take on the Gundam Reconguista in G mobile suit belongs to Rommel the Weasel, yes that’s a character.
I didn’t realize that in Japanese, the GM is pronounced “Jim” until Build Divers. This suit belongs to Riku’s sidekick Yukki and is inspired by the GM III that appears in Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ and once again in Char’s Counterattack (though this is the first time it appears in orange).
And here’s the star of the show, at least until Riku builds a new one in episode 7: the Gundam Build Divers main model! It’s a very clear homage to 00 Gundam and moves like it, too—don’t expect to get too much articulation from those shoulders, early reviewers are saying.
I never thought Kapool looked like a penguin before, but Momo has changed my mind about that. My guess is that Bandai wants this simple, cutesy kit to be the next Beargguy.
Inspired by the Gn-X IV first seen in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 The Movie: Awakening of the Trailblazer, the Ogre has a red paint job that screams “I’m used by an antagonist who might become your ally later on!” The modular Ogre Sword is pretty cool.
Don’t think you can build this one as well as its fictional creator Shahryar, who is said to be the most talented builder in the Build Divers universe. Bulky yet sleek, the coolest part of this kit is that it can transform its arms and legs, giving it a totally different look.
Stick the prehensile tail on this Gundam’s butt, or put it in its hand as a whip. Having just watched Gundam AGE, I appreciate this contrast-color take on Zeheart’s suit in part two. No word yet on whether this kit cries real tears like it does in Gundam Build Divers episode 9.
This kit doesn’t look as plain as the official art of this suit. Still, it’s just as simple as the Gundam Wing version was. Great for minimalists, or as a base for more elaborate customization.
Tigerwolf’s dragon-like mobile suit is inspired by Wufei’s Altron from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. The bright yellow and green combined with wolf and tiger custom parts make it feel almost bizarre enough to fit into the G-Gundam universe.
In the Gundam Build Divers universe, this mashup was invented by the resident Gunpla expert Koichi. As fitting to his character, this detailed suit is all about function over form. Comes with a massive medieval weapon, as you’d expect for an Iron-Blooded Orphans throwback.
And here’s Riku’s third (of surely many!) Gunpla kit from Gundam Build Divers. It includes bonus clear red and green runners that can be used to make an alternate head.
Riku’s latest Gunpla from Gundam Build Divers, this model has exaggerated shoulders from incorporating the Destiny Gundam’s wing unit into its design. As a Protagonist Gunpla, it’s pretty standard but comes with a lot of weapons and interchangeable parts.
And here’s another version of the same kit with bright turquoise details and clear plastic accent parts. Definitely the prettier of the two.
Tsukasa Shiba is the closest thing Gundam Build Divers has to a villain, and this is expressed through his edgy mobile suit. The most stylistically interesting part of the kit is its tattered, cloak-like shield that can also transform into a winged backpack.
Gundam Build Divers is over, but a few of its later models were coming out as recently as October. This is essentially the Impulse Gundam from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, but with a prettier color scheme and a massive accessory rifle.
Another Divers suit inspired by the Impulse Gundam, only this one is candy-colored and specialized in aquatic combat. Both the Arc and Lancier can swap their upper bodies in the show, and it looks like that remains true for the Gunpla kits, too.
This is Yuki’s final kit in Gundam Build Divers, a Jegan created in his trademark orange. The Blast Master was designed to fit his new fighting style as he transitioned from a front-line fighter to a support sniper over the course of the show.
I made a slightly controversial tweet about this magenta stunner last month. It’s a slightly customized Strike Freedom kit with Deathscythe’s weapon. I thought they could have taken more risks with a suit for the illustrious Magee, but they did give it a pretty cool finishing move (scroll down to the part where Tom talks about the Love Love Finish).
This is a basic patrol unit used to keep the peace in the Build Divers universe. Choose between blue or black transparent parts.
Sarah didn’t want Riku to go into Trans-Am for ages—probably so they could end the series with one final awesome-looking Gunpla kit. The purple plastic lightly shimmers and the whole thing comes with its own base, which is rare for High Grade models.
HGBD Gundam Shining Break
Once you build this Build Divers side story custom, you can swap between flight mode and mobile suit mode in a matter of minutes.
What do you think of Sarah’s new look? This model kit comes with two faces—a human face and one that looks robotic. One thing’s for sure: it won’t be mistaken for a bishoujo figure.
The Champ’s final form in Build Divers. Here, AGE-2 Gundam’s high-speed flight form is upgraded into Phoenix Mode, which fits the MO of its skillful pilot.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Gundam Sangokuden, this kit has its instructions written trilingually—in Japanese, English, and Chinese.
Another special Gundam Sangokuden variant, This one comes with a horse-drawn chariot!
This Zaku captain variant comes with three Zaku grunt soldiers.
Clear armor parts make this variant suit a little more special.
Metallic purple detailing makes this variant look downright royal.
Two generals, two grunt soldiers, and a tank make this kit more like a diorama.
Like a Gouf but with elaborate Chinese detailing motifs, plus a seriously large katana.
This kit was previously exclusive to the Blu-ray edition of SD Gundam Sangokuden Brave Battle Warriors. This is the first time you can get it again.
This more realistically proportioned take on the SD grade first arrived in 2018.
The following kits are a new innovation on the SD line. The Cross Silhouette is a taller, leaner take on the cutesy super-deformed norm. Keep in mind: this looks just like a regular SD kit, but the parts are compatible with the new Cross Silhouette inner frame (not included).
This kit allows builders to choose which frame they want to use. It comes with a more classic SD inner skeleton and the Cross Silhouette inner skeleton. The aforementioned kit just lets you build an SD kit; this one lets you build it on either a regular SD or Cross Silhouette frame.
Another kit coming to the brand new line. Once again, this looks just like a regular SD kit, but the parts are compatible with the new Cross Silhouette inner frame (not included).
For the third time: if you build this kit, it’s going to be a newer-looking but pretty standard SD kit. It will not take on the Cross Silhouette form unless you also buy the inner frame!
… What inner frame, you ask? This one! Includes a GM head because why not.
You can build a leaner, more poseable Zaku II using this new SD skeleton (not included). Or, you can use a standard SD inner frame (included) to make it look like a cuter, more exaggerated SD kit.
And here’s the skeleton you use to turn the Cross Silhouette outer parts into the dynamic looking new take on the SD series. This can work for any of the previously released Silhouette kits.
Here’s a Cross Silhouette that comes with both inner frames, so you can make Ayame’s mobile suit look cute or action-ready, depending on your preference. This kit also includes Ayame’s birdlike flying support mecha, so there’s a lot going on here.
Another classic joins the Cross Silhouette line. Keep in mind that this comes with the SD inner skeleton and the interchangeable parts, but you need to buy the Cross Silhouette frame separately. I wish it just came with each of these!
The 00 Diver Ace comes with parts that can be configured as a standard SD suit, or as the longer, leaner Cross Silhouette version. Remember, as with most CS kits, the actual silhouette frame comes separately.
There is nothing “real robot” about this minified and metallic, sparkling take on Narrative’s flashiest mobile suit. Its boldness is why we love it.
Bearguys and Haros
Petitgguys aren’t going away. Now completionists have more than 20 to buy and build if they want to collect them all.
I do not need another Petitgguy but I like this guy’s swimming pool blue coloring. Also, you can make that sign say anything, so start thinking up your Gundam witticisms now.
Just like Momo’s first Build Divers avatar, this Haro is pink with cat ears. I’m not above thinking it’s freaking adorable. At $6, it probably isn’t very large or complex.
Momo is cute and all but as a character, she is less developed than China or Rinko Iori, or even Fumina or Gyanko. I wanted to get to know her a little better before I bought her Petitgguy.
Ayame loves Beargguys so much, it’s only natural that she would become one! She’s got her mask on like a good ninja.
Another Haro color! The low price should be a big hint at just how tiny these are. I’m seeing them as the new replacement for the Petit Beargguy line.
This does not seem to be poseable at all. It has three different looks that come from how many pieces are attached to the default round Haro ball. It’s very tiny like a Petitgguy, but perhaps more like a figure than a Gunpla model.
Awww, look how cute Haro is… watch out! He’s got a gun! Ball Haro gives one of Mobile Suit Gundam’s iconic grunt suits a cute new face. This is a very basic, easy, and tiny kit.
It wouldn’t be a Build Fighters kit without an optional add-on backpack! Add this to any HGBF kit to make it look like it’s covered in wings.
You can get a Changeling Rifle as part of the GM III Beam Master kit, but if you want a second one, there’s always this add-on kit so the Beam Master can dual-wield.
A stand for displaying and posing your kits from Gundam Build Divers.
To get the most out of Gundam 00 Diver, there’s this add-on kit with a cool-looking backpack and four additional swords. I wish they were just included in the model kit.
Allegedly this helicopter backpack works with any HG Build Divers kit, but its color scheme most closely matches that of Rommel’s Grimoire Red Beret. This is certainly more exciting than the average set of extra parts, which is usually hands and swords and stuff.
I really like this concept: take the Ptolemaios from Gundam 00 and turn it into a rehashed accessory. It can also stand on its own as a mini version of the ship it is based on.
Another versatile accessory from the Divers universe: a weapon with three modes.
Use these parts to create a dual-sided blade, shield, or gun. Or combine every part in the kit to create one massive rifle. Can be paired with any HG Gunpla.
This is the first of two aesthetic styles when it comes to Gunpla hands for custom kitbashes. The “Kaku” type hands are more angular and mechanical-looking.
Meanwhile, the “Maru” or “round” type hands are softer around the edges. Choose closed fists or open palms to add expressive gestures to your Gundam Build Divers kits.
These Wing Zero-looking feathers are meant to attach to Riku’s Gundam 00 Sky, but imagine the possibilities for kitbashing! You could make any kit look positively angelic.
My first thought was, “Why didn’t this rifle just come with the Gundam Astray No Name?” Still, it’s true that
This is armor for the Narrative Gundam to wear—an accessory so large it makes the HG Narrative Gundam look tiny. A-Packs has twin beam sabers, a massive missile launcher, and more.