6 Lessons I Learned While Building SD Gunpla For The First Time


SD week isn’t over yet! Building three SD Gunpla (including his first SD ever), has left Mario with plenty of thoughts. Here are the six lessons he learned during SD Week, and why he thinks SD kits are perfect for beginners especially.  

1) SD Kits are Good for Your Wallet

One of the big draws for SD grade Gunpla kits is that they’re inexpensive. SD kits as the smallest of all grades and they have a lower price that matches their size. SD kits are also popular with people new to the hobby and younger builders so you can consider it something akin to an entry level cost. Without providing specific examples, since there are many factors that could affect the cost of your Gunpla, it’s common to find SD models around the $6 mark. However, like all of the other grades, SD kits come in different sizes and with extra weapons, etc. and it’s not unheard of to see the price for a single kit reach $15 or more. But when you can find kits for less than $10, it’s easy to buy and try guilt-free.


2) SD Kits are Occasionally Frustrating

After assembling my first SD, I realized pretty quickly that the low price point and miniature size comes at a cost. SD kits aren’t as detailed as their HG or MG grade counterparts. That detail isn’t limited to panel lines and the details on the armor, etc. It also includes the amount of colour separation of the pieces. Color separation can be a little tricky to describe, but what it really comes down to is the number of different shades and colors included on the kit. When different colored pieces are used to break up the model and help details stand out, you’ve got a kit with good color separation. For the most part, SD kits suffer from this as they usually come with a limited color palette. The result is a finished kit that doesn’t look entirely like the side of the box because some pieces are colored differently.

To provide a concrete example, the beam rifle on the Build Strike Gundam Full Package is white and green in the anime. The SD kit didn’t come with a white runner not did it come with a green one. Instead, the rifle is red. Bright red! If you want to build a kit that looks just like the one from the anime without any customization or painting, you’re out of luck. It’s frustrating; especially for builders just starting out as you might not have developed the skills necessary to make your kit look as good as it does on the box art.

Other things about the SD line that can be frustrating is some models make the jump to the Super Deformed grade more successfully than others. Some models are too bulky and simply look ridiculous as an SD. Others look good, but suffer from such poor articulation that you won’t get to enjoy posing your model. Some of these criticisms are justified while others are simply the trade-off for having cute and shrunken down versions of your favorite Gundams.


3) SD Kits are Varied and Versatile

You might think their small size and deformed proportions would limit the amount of variety to be found in SD models. I admit I thought this was probably true, but I was wrong. The core idea of the SD grade kits is NOT to intentionally produce models that are of lesser quality than models in other grades. The criticism I listed above are usually targeted at individual kits, not at the entire line. My participation to SD Week is a clear indicator that I love these little models.

Just like my criticisms can’t be applied to the entire line, the entire line doesn’t produce kits that are indicative of the entire SD grade. Some SD kits come with an insane amount of extras (see a certain recent review of mine). Others rival the average HG kits in size and bulk. Still others still are so cute that you can’t help but love them. It’s hard to clearly define what makes a kit an SD kit other than its squishy proportions. Even then, some kits are more deformed than others. The SDEX-Standard line is a good example of models that are more realistically proportioned than most other SD models.

4) Some SD Kits are Impressive Enough to Rival the HG Grade

Milky reviewed one of the prime examples of this with the SD Neo Zeong. Another great example is the SD Star Winning Gundam (which is actually an SD and an HG). Some kits are transformable. I don’t have much more to add here other than encouraging you to explore the SD grade as much as your explore the HG, RG, or MG grades. There are plenty of really awesome kits to find. I even have a couple extra boxes waiting patiently for me to discover their hidden joys and rad gimmicks. Which bring me to my next lesson…

Mobile armor with Nendoroid heads, via.

Neo Zeong Mobile armor with Nendoroid heads.

5) SD Kits are Full of Fun Gimmicks

Where do I even begin? Maybe these little models feel inadequate and want to prove their worth to us. Whatever the reasons, every single SD kit I built for SD Week came with gimmicks that I wasn’t expecting. Each one had its own special gimmick and some were shared by other models. The SD Build Strike Full Package had a build booster transformation and was designed to swap parts with other SD kits. The SDEX RX-78-2 could swap its weapons with its HG version and its weapons could combine into what the manual called “super weapon”. The SD Sinanju came with lots of weapons which could also combined into super weapons and it could transform into four other shapes. The Strike Gundam Striker Weapon System came with a total of three weapons systems and there are easily dozens of combinations you could do with those. Milky pointed out an unintended gimmick of the Neo Zeong which allows it to be worn and piloted by Nendoroid figures. That’s hilarious and, in my opinion, ties into the philosophy of the SD grade.

You could argue that none of these gimmicks are truly genius ideas, but you can’t deny that they’re fun. They add another element to the kit beyond building and posing. More bang for your buck, is how I see it. Younger builders probably love this and if nothing else, it helps them develop their skills and interest in customization later as they gain more experience and confidence in their hobby. Besides, I’d rather have a harmless gimmick that doesn’t radically improve a kit than no gimmick at all. By harmless gimmick I mean something that adds a bit more value to the kit without taking anything away from it. You might not like the idea of combining a beam saber and a V-fin with your Gunpla’s beam rifle and that’s OK, nobody is forcing you to do it. But for someone who does like that idea, it’s pretty great to have it available to you straight out of the box.


6) SD Kits Are an Invitation to be a Fan and Participate

I have to admit that I had some prejudice against the SD grade. It seemed childish, needlessly cute (who wants a cute Gundam? Turns out: me and a lot of other builders), and needlessly indulgent. I was wrong on all of these points. They’re not childish, they’re inviting. They’re not cute, they’re super deformed-ly cute. They are indulgent (those gimmicks!), but lovingly so. The more I built these little kits the more I discovered reasons to like them. They embody a particular philosophy Gunpla and then go beyond that to invite you to take part of it. They proved to be charming little models that you can easily build in a fraction of the time it takes you to build a kit from another grade. You can dote on them with as much care and attention as you do on your larger models or you can use them a quick stress reliever between more complicated builds. Keep it simple or make it as complex as you dare, the choice is really yours.

SD kits are a literal invitation to take part in the hobby and develop your skills. All of the limitations I’ve mentioned in this article and my SD reviews can be answered by you, the builder. All you need is to improve your skills and learn new ones in order to overcome any perceived limitation that the kits have. There are some exceptions to this, like articulation, but even that can be overcome in some cases (skirt armor modifications are some of the most basic customizations that can improve the movement of legs hindered by skirt armor).

Smaller kits means the act of customizing is proportionally smaller than on a larger kit. After you finish building an SD you feel energized, rather than tired. It’s not quite a tease since you end up with a completed model after a short build session, but it doesn’t drain your energy levels either. My very first SD model opened my eyes and I made a decision then that whenever I begin to customize Gunpla, that it’d be my very first kit. I want to keep it simple and just paint it. It’s going to be a while since I have an SD human at home (read: baby) and my free time is a now a rare commodity, but I’m excited for the day I give it a try.

There you have it, six really good reasons to build an SD model if you haven’t already done so. Don’t stop there: buy a kit for your little sister or your uncle (the one who only builds models of WWII bomber planes—maybe get him an MG, actually). I can’t think of a better way to introduce someone to the hobby or to remind yourself why Gunpla it’s so fun.

P.S. Be sure to check out Mario’s SD Week reviews:

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  • The next SD kits I have my eyes on are the SDG-R1 Snibal, SDG-R2 Dragonagel, and the SDG-R3 Gircanon and combine them into their Snibal-Drago-Gria form

    • Mario Lebel
      June 27, 2016 9:03 am

      Good choice! I’ve had my eye on that one too, but I’ve got other kits to build so I haven’t bought it . . . yet?

  • I just bought my first two sets, one being an SD.. the RX-0 and an HG R-GYAGYA. Built the RX-0 under the light of my computer monitor while my lil one slept. I’m addicted. I can’t wait to find the time to build the HG one. My only complaint with the SD guy is how flimsy he feels.. which I mean for 5 bucks I wasn’t expecting the world but just moving the arm almost takes off his head half the time. :S Otherwise I will certainly be buying more of these guys, I really need to work on my sticker game tho.. big hands are pretty terrible when trying to use an exacto knife to align tiny stickers. :/

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