2021 Gunpla Year in Review

HGUC Xi Gundam VS Penelope Funnel Missile Effect Set

This is our second Gunpla Year in Review that has taken place during a global pandemic—not a milestone I ever wanted us to reach! However, it’s been interesting to see how Gunpla distribution and building habits have changed along with our world. 

We’ve seen major supply chain issues for Gunpla, perhaps because they all originate from one place. We’ve also seen vendors fighting back (for example, by only selling September’s Hi-v Gundam to buyers who pronounce the Greek symbol correctly: Hi-Nu.) Luckily Bandai Hobby is planning a big Gunpla reissue push for this month, making some recent kits easier to find. 

We’ve also seen more virtual building competitions. In 2021 we were thrilled to publish a guide from award-winning Gunpla modeler Tex Merquise about building Gunpla for competitions, with a focus on how to photograph them for online competitions. 

2021 also marked lots of exciting Gundam franchise announcements for the year ahead! In 2022, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, the original character designer for Gundam himself, will be directing Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island—a movie based on the “lost episode” that I wrote about for Anime News Network. I’m also looking forward to The Witch From Mercury and anticipating new Gunpla models based on this original new show later this year. 

As usual, Gunpla 101 would not be able to function without its incredible contributors. Thanks again to Tex Merquise, and to Nerissa, Garlock, Megaplamo, Dallas, Emily. Thank you also to Milky and Tom Aznable, who didn’t publish anything this year, but who remain some of our most trusted advisors. And of course, thanks to readers like you for giving us a fantastic audience! 

By my count, we got 69 new Gunpla this year, which is fewer than in previous years but understandable considering the constraints of the global pandemic. As in previous years, kits can be found in order of both grade and release. Releases are listed from earliest to latest in the year whenever possible. I’ve made a few slight changes from last year: I listed the number of kits you will encounter per section, there’s no Perfect Grade section because we didn’t get a new one, and SD is split off from SDW since there were so many of them. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, and enjoy!

See also:

Table of Contents

Master Grade

Full Mechanics

Real Grade

High Grade

Entry Grade

SD

SDW

Haros

Master Grade (3)

MG Mobile Ginn

ZAFT’s all-purpose suit from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED finally makes it to Master Grade. With its thruster-filled “wings” and leg-mounted missiles, it has a more elegant silhouette than your average grunt suit. With so many variations, it’s ripe for painting and customization. 

MG Eclipse Gundam

The 20th anniversary of Gundam SEED has led to multiple new kits. This is a custom version of the ever-popular Astray mobile suit, featured in the manga Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Eclipse. Impressively, it transforms in three ways and includes everything you need to build the Striker, Silhouette, and Wizard pack equipment. 

MG 1/100 Gundam Virtue (pictured above)

Gundam 00’s bulkiest kit comes to the MG line. With an upgrade to a more complex grade you should expect a big gimmick and this suit delivers: you can detach the outer armor to reveal the Gundam Nadleeh underneath! 

Full Mechanics (1)

Full Mechanics Calamity Gundam (1/100) (pictured above)

This Gundam SEED kit joins the Full Mechanics line with a larger, more poseable version of this long-range fighter. It’s been 10 years since Calamity’s HG kit came out, so this modern version is sure to be a huge upgrade.

Real Grade (4)

RG Zeong

Mobile Suit Gundam’s famously legless behemoth gets a chance to shine in this Real Grade rendition. This is the first Zeong kit to come out since the MG 20 whole years ago! We’re looking forward to finding out what modelers think of its first modern Gunpla iteration. 

RG Mobile Suit Gundam Last Shooting Zeong Effect Set (pictured above)

For an extra $20 you can get the RG Zeong complete with clear highlighter-yellow plastic parts to emulate the Zeong’s appearance in the iconic “Last Shooting” scene from the Mobile Suit Gundam anime. A legless mecha never looked so badass. 

RG Wing Gundam

Heero Yuy’s mobile suit from Gundam Wing joins the Real Grade line. This kit’s bold coloring—and a new gimmick to spread out its wings—are designed to be TV accurate.

RG Hi-Nu Gundam

Amuro Ray’s iconic Gundam from Char’s Counterattack has finally joined the RG line. It’s an upgrade that has given it a more detailed endoskeleton and increased poseability. A custom version from Beltorchika’s Children, this is a bluer interpretation of the suit than usual. 

High Grade (12)

HGUC Xi Gundam (pictured above)

This may be an HG but this kit is HUGE. The Xi (sometimes written as Ξ) will e depicted as over 26 meters in Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash, which is out in the US on May 7, 2021. This design by mecha mastermind Hajime Katoki is all drama: huge shoulders and a massive frame. 

HGUC Xi Gundam VS Penelope Funnel Missile Effect Set (pictured at the top of this post)

There’s an even bigger Hathaway’s Flash kit for big spenders: everything you need to create a diorama standoff between the Xi and the Penelope, complete with a dozen clear gold missile effects for each suit—24 in all. Along with two display stands and a choice between foil stickers or waterslide decals, every detail has been accounted for. 

HGCE Dagger L

The Mobile Ginn isn’t the only mass-produced suit from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED to get a kit this month. The unremarkable Dagger L has never gotten its own kit until now. You can change up its look by swapping backpacks with the compatible Windam or Aile Strike.

HGAC Gundam Deathscythe

Duo Maxwell’s devilish suit from Gundam Wing gets a brand new High Grade with colors and poseability based on the suit’s TV appearance. The main update? The shoulder and knee armor slide out of the way to enable more natural stances. 

HGUC Nightingale 

July’s only new release makes it count! The Nightingale is an alternative interpretation of Char’s Sazabi. It comes from the 1988 novel Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack – Beltorchika’s Children and—here’s a fun fact—this story was Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino’s original, rejected script for the Char’s Counterattack movie! 

Just as the novel diverges from the script, this design has its own unique features separate from the Sazabi. Designed by Yutaka Izubuchi (who also designed the Sazabi, among many other Gundam mobile suits), the Nightingale stands out especially for its enormous wing-like shoulders and tail-like rear skirt armor, imitating the bird from which it gets its name. This is the first time it’s gotten an HG kit in the 33 years since it first appeared on the novel’s cover, so don’t miss this rare opportunity to get your hands on it! 

HG Gundam Gremory 

This scythe-wielding suit comes from the side-story manga Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans Gekko. This suit emphasizes its defensive capabilities, with its head concealed by an armored movable hood. Gundam Deathscythe fans should love it. 

HG Gundam Live Lance Heaven

As in, the opposite of Death Scythe Hell, get it? Some joker on the Gundam Breaker Battlogue team turned this dad joke into an entire mobile suit design. If the Deathscythe is a grim reaper, this white and gold foil opposite is the paladin of Gundam designs. 

HG Gundam Helios

Like its namesake, this mobile suit has a sunburst motif in the way its Destiny Gundam-inspired wings fan out behind it. It is a particularly iterative Gundam: the Gundam wiki lists inspirations spanning from components of Gundam X all the way to Gundam Unicorn. 

HG Gundam Barbataurus 

I think this is the wildest design to come out of the show so far. It’s a Barbatos centaur! Simply by virtue of having four legs, it looks completely different from anything to come before it, and perfectly captures the original Barbatos Gundam’s feral, demonic vibe. I want to build it because I bet the process it won’t feel like any kit I’ve built before.

HG Blazing Gundam 

A former Target exclusive, this kit is inspired by G-Gundam’s God Gundam, and has the bright colors and dynamic physique to match. But unlike “Shining Finger,” this kit has a glowing foot that implies a kick attack! 

HGUC Zaku II 

I’m more surprised that the Zaku II wasn’t in the HGUC series already! It looks a lot like previous iterations of the same suit; the real difference is in ease of build and poseability. 

HG Gundam Perfect Strike Freedom

This is technically an HGBB (Breaker Battlogue) kit, but I’ll take any excuse for the Perfect Strike Freedom to join the HG line. A piece of wire is what makes the suit’s iconic Schwert Gewehr weapon poseable. 

Entry Grade (3)

Entry Grade RX-78-2 Gundam 

Most High Grade kits have between 100 and 150 parts. This Entry Grade has just 74. It’s a great beginner kit for somebody just starting the hobby, or a casual speedy build for veterans. 

Entry Grade RX-78-2 Gundam (Full Weapon Set) (pictured above)

The Entry Grade is here to stay with an even more established version of Gunpla’s first mobile suit. 

Entry Grade Strike Gundam (Lite Package Ver.)

On the other side of the coin, there’s this bare-bones version of the Strike Gundam that’s made to be a quick build with minimal packaging. 

SD (32)

SD Cao Cao Wing Gundam

This dainty, detailed kit depicts the main character of SD Gundam World Sangoku Soketsuden, “the young CEO of Blue Wing Corporation,” since of course, these SD mecha are not piloted by anyone, they are autonomous beings, kind of like Transformers. 

SD Sun Jian Gundam Astray 

This character is the head of the distribution guild “Red Tiger,” so I guess there’s a color theme going on in this show. Its feathery golden flames and spiked toes remind me of a bird of prey. 

SD Dong Zhuo Providence Gundam 

This oddity has armor that looks like molten lava breaking through rocks. Its volcanic feel is only enhanced by its Dinosaur Form! I have no idea what’s going on here but I am super impressed.

SD Guan Yu Yun Chang Nu Gundam 

The delicate green and gold armor that gives this model its shape is deceptively flexible: it can transform into fin funnels reminiscent of the Nu Gundam or an elaborate giant spear. Each one of these kits is showier than the next!

SD Liu Bei Unicorn Gundam

Even though I’m unfamiliar with the source material, I can tell that SD Gundam World Sangoku Soketsuden must have a pretty devoted fanbase because these are real collector’s items. With clear parts and shimmery gold and tons of embellishment, no detail was spared here. 

SD Zhang Fei God Gundam (pictured above)

Take “this hand of mine is burning red!” turn it up to 11. This Sangoku iteration of the G-Gundam appears to be literally on fire. Combine his molten blade and shoulder flames with those of its ally Liu Bei Unicorn for an entirely new weapon! 

SD Trinity Bike

I have significantly misunderstood the premise of this show. I assumed since all the mecha are inspired by ancient Chinese warriors, it took place in an alternate version of ancient China. But they’re machines themselves, so. Wait, can’t they just transport themselves the way mecha do in other Gundam shows? I need to stop thinking so hard about this. 

SD Bug & Buduibing Set 

The grunt troops of the set. These come with four different faceplates to represent each of the four factions in the show. As fancy and eye-catching as the main character suits are, I guess these guys really are interchangeable!

SD Zhao Yun 00 Gundam & Blue Dragon Drive 

This character is a member of the Dragon’s Watch whose signature weapon is a spear. His armor is inspired by the titular suit of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 with plenty of metallic and clear embellishments. The kit also comes with its own motorcycle, the Blue Dragon. 

SD Lu Bu Sinanju & Red Hare

Clear purple effect parts encircle this red and gold kit inspired by Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn’s antagonist suit Sinanju. This one also comes with its own motorcycle, the Red Hare. One point of concern: is the world ready for a Sinanju with two eyes?

SD Diao Chan Kshatriya 

This character is described as a female mercenary, so this rendition of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn’s Kshatriya is decidedly feminine. Embellished shields enshroud this red, gold, and white kit with purple detailing. 

SD Zhuge Liang Freedom Gundam 

With what appears to be three sets of sparkling gold wings, this kit inspired by Mobile Suit Gundam SEED’s Freedom Gundam looks to me like the topper on a Christmas tree. 

SD Zhang Liao Sazabi (pictured above)

The suit from Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack is evident in this kit’s bright red base, but blue and gold accents give it a brilliant makeover. In this rendition, the Sazabi head is reimagined as a mask over a Gundam-type face. 

SD Sun Shangxiang Strike Rouge

There’s no way around it: this Gundam has boobs. Out of all the kits in this collection, this one seems to have the most human silhouette. She even has what seems to be a hairstyle!

SD Zhou Yu Akatsuki 

This one is almost entirely gold just like its namesake from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. The flaming shield can be reconfigured into a fiery backpack or even a flamethrower.

SD Sima Yi Destiny Gundam 

The shape of this kit’s five-pronged wings is what most resembles the original Destiny Gundam, in my opinion. Two eye modes—green and red—can be interchanged to up the intensity. Like other versions of the Destiny, this looks best posed on its included action base. 

SD Xun Yu Strike Noir

An elaborate headdress with a clear red visor differentiate this Strike Noir-inspired suit. Its twin weapons can be configured as either guns or blades. It looks pretty top heavy, so I would take advantage of the included action base in order to display it. 

SD Ma Chao Gundam Barbatos 

It’s a gilded Barbatos! This iteration recreates the iconic sword-mace in shimmery clear gold. 

SD Sun Quan Gundam Astray

The full-size Astray Red Frame already exudes samurai style; this version appears to be wearing head-to-toe Warring States Period armor. 

SD Huang Zhong Gundam Dynames

Clear orange plastic makes a feather on the head of this bearded iteration of Dynames. 

SD Zhang He Altron Gundam (pictured above)

See-through purple combines with the Altron’s standard hunter green for a striking, heavily-armored chibi version of the Mobile Suit Gundam Wing upgrade.

SD Xiahou Dun Tallgeese III

Speaking of Gundam Wing, here’s a stylized SD version of Zech’s suit, except with sheer purple elements to add mystery. Yes, the mask is removable. 

SD Xiahou Yuan Tallgeese

Another take on the Tallgeese; with orange and bronze accents, this one has the same vibe as the original. 

SD Sun Ce Gundam Astray

Sun Quan’s older brother in the show; this Astray has blue accents where the former has red. Calligraphy on the front (appears to say “Sun”) emphasizes the design’s Chinese influence. 

SD Taishi Ci Duel Gundam 

This kit’s shoulder-mounted weapon is its most striking attribute. With opaque black weapons on a blue-and-gold body, it makes for an unusual overall look.

SD Dian Wei Master Gundam

This character is a former bandit which explains his villainous look. His axe can be combined with his wings to create a massive sword with eye-catching clear purple and red parts. 

SD Xu Huang Gundam Deathscythe

This kit oozes style: its cutout purple wings and a slim outline of a scythe really express a macabre, skeletal feel. It’s like the haunted vibe of the original Deathscythe has been taken to its most dramatic possible conclusion.

SD Tian Ba Cao Cao Wing Gundam

Silver, gold, and clear turquoise points resemble nothing more than a crystalline formation. This battle-enhanced final form appears to be as beautiful as it is deadly. 

SD Gan Ning Crossbone Gundam

It’s clever that they picked a shipbuilding background for the most seaworthy suit of the Gundam canon. His ornate gold and ivory rifle can be combined with the flame chains on his back. 

SD Da Qiao Gundam Artemie/Xiao Qiao GN Archer

Gan Ning Crossbone has two daughters, and this kit allows you to build one of the two (but if you want to build both, you’ll need to buy two kits). What appears to be a musical instrument is actually a weapon, and can be transformed into either a gun or an axe. 

SD Long Xian Liu Bei Unicorn Gundam

This Unicorn-inspired suit’s final form swaps clear pink parts for green (like the original Unicorn) and white armor for metallic gold (not so much). It’s hugely bulky for an SD and I have no idea how it stands up on its own, which explains why it’s shown posed on an Action Base.

SD Gundam EX Standard Wing Gundam Zero

This one was tough to track down because it’s a variation of a kit with the same name that came out in 2016. The weapons are what set this iteration apart—especially the eyecatching twin buster rifle. 

SDW (13)

SDW Heroes Wukong Impulse Gundam

The protagonist of the current Crunchyroll simulcast SD World Gundam Heroes. He’s an amnesiac who unexpectedly meteor-drops into Captain City. I love the feline details, including fiery claws, whisker-like slashes on the faceplate, and a devilish tail.

SDW Heroes Nobunaga Gundam Epyon

Another main character from SD World Gundam Heroes. This is obviously not his everyday wear, but a battle-enhanced version of his armor. It’s clear from the product images that this giant gold headdress, which is all in one piece, looks way better with some panel-lining.

SDW Heroes Sergeant Verde Buster Gundam

This high-tech mecha has a traditional science-fiction look compared to the ancient Chinese fantasy appearances of some of his counterparts. This law enforcement mobile suit includes the Justice Lock and the EXT-Magnum.

SDW Heroes Benjamin V2 Gundam

This pirate mecha from SD Gundam World Heroes has the jaunty cap and cape of an 18th century buccaneer. Could that clear blue hook be some sort of sea monster tentacle weapon?

SDW Heroes Edward Second V

This character is also a pirate, the deputy captain and Benjamin’s right-hand man. Like the seafaring mecha he is, he naturally has a telescope and a large cannon like a ship’s. 

SDW Heroes Sasuke Delta Gundam

This black and gray model from SD Gundam World Heroes is a shinobi in the show, as you may have guessed by the ninja star on his head. The fox mask is an inspired touch. 

SDW Heroes War Horse

This versatile steed is sized for any kit in the SD Gundam World Heroes to ride on its back. Multiple ports are concealed in its armor so it can carry the Gundams’ accessories as well. 

SDW Heroes Cao Cao Wing Gundam Isei Style

SDW Heroes streamed weekly on Crunchyroll, and kits based on the show’s main characters came out simultaneously. This is a souped-up version of Cao Wing Gundam, reflecting the character’s evolution and growth in the story. 

SDW Heroes Wukong Impulse Gundam DX Set

Each one of the SDW kits is more over-the-top than the last. This one is no different, capable of a flashy transformation from fiery red to clear blue—and plenty of gold pizazz for both styles. Combine all the parts together for a red, white, blue, and gold final form. 

SDW Heroes Arsene Gundam X

Based on the legendary phantom thief Arsene Lupin, this Gunpla is wearing a top hat! (I almost said it’s the first to do this, but that would be Papa Guy.) Its cape monocle add further individuality and make it so you’d never confuse it for a straight Gundam X build!

SDW Heroes Sergeant Verde Buster Gundam DX Set

Also from the SD Gundam World Heroes TV show comes this model with some seriously heavy artillery. In-universe, this kit is an enforcer of sorts, and comes with handcuffs, a baton, and what appears to be a badge on its helmet. 

SDW Heroes Qiongqi Strike Freedom Gundam (pictured above)

Sometimes listed as Ryuki Strike Freedom Gundam. (I think it’s the Chinese and Japanese readings of the same kanji characters). Do you think this thing has enough weapons on it?

SDW Heroes Cleopatra Qubeley Dark Mask Ver.

The clear purple mask and Egyptian flair give this suit a regal feel worthy of its namesake. It’s so embellished that, other than the shoulders, I can barely see the influence of Qubeley here! 

Haros (1)

Haropla SD Sangoku Soketsuden Haro (pictured above)

Of course SD Gundam World Sangoku Soketsuden has its own Haro! It features the dragon logo from the show and a deadly-looking sword. Watch out, he’s more dangerous than he looks! 

Total Count of New Gunpla for 2021: 69

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