This post was updated with new information on September 3, 2019.
Gunpla is most enjoyable when you pick one that meshes with your skill level. Fortunately, it’s easy to find the perfect model for you since Gunpla categorization is something of a science.
Bandai, the company that manufactures all Gunpla models, categorizes them in two ways—by grade and by scale.
Grade refers not only to the level of mastery you will need in order to complete your Gundam, but the accuracy of the individual parts. A Gundam of a very detailed grade will be most true to life, er, true to the way it looks on the show. However, it’ll also be the trickiest to assemble. Here’s a list of the most common grades and scales you will encounter:
Or “SD” for short. Made to look like tiny, cutified robots, these models have the fewest parts and smallest stature of them all.
Super Deformed EX Standard
Launched in 2015, this line is a type of SD kit that has more poseability and slightly more realistic proportions. Its accessories are large enough that they can be used interchangeably with High Grade models.
Super Deformed Cross Silhouette
Released in 2018, this line of SD kits features inner frame technology similar to Real Grade. As a result, these kits can be built on one of two proportions of inner frame—an 8.5 cm “SD” Frame similar to the classic SD line, or a taller 9.5 cm “CS” frame. Many kits in this grade come with both frames included, but they are also sold separately.
The next step up. Believe it or not, the name originates from the fact that Bandai started releasing these in 1990 as the most complex and intricate models they offered. When they found out there was a demand for even greater accuracy, they began releasing more and more complex grades of models. Today, these are not considered complex and make great beginner Gundams.
Announced in 2014, the Reborn 100 Gundam grade also has its scale in the name. Usually written as RE/100 for short, this grade has the level of complexity of a High Grade made easier by the fact that all the parts are larger, leading to a larger scale finished product.
A grade launched in 2010, it includes an internal skeleton underneath plate-like top parts. The insides make it more posable, while the typical 1:144 scale makes it more intricate. These are about as difficult to put together as Master Grade models. Today, builders prize the complexity and detail combined with the smaller scale of Real Grade, and these often sell out quickly.
Released in 1995, these models are intricate without being excessively expensive. In our opinion, these frequently larger (1/100 scale, usually) kits have seen the biggest improvement over time. The more recent the model, the easier it is to create a good-looking Master Grade with less time and less skill. However, as the name implies, it’s best to have completed a few other models before undertaking one of these.
You can’t get any more accurate than this. Or any more expensive! These are the largest, most detailed models of all. If you don’t think building one of these is a challenge, you should sign up for the Gundpla Builders World Cup right now!
See also: Perfect Grade Unicorn Gundam: Photoshoot
Next, let’s move on to scale. Gunpla kits generally come in several scales, based on how the model would measure up to an actual Gundam. There are several models that defy this scale, but they’re fewer and farther between. Here are the most common scales you’ll see in the world of Gunpla:
- 1/144: The smallest scale available. I was surprised when I made my first Gundam in this size and its face was only the size of my thumbnail. It looked a lot bigger on the box. Keep in mind that just because a 1/144 is the smallest size doesn’t mean it is always the least detailed. Real Grade and High Grade models are available in this scale.
- 1/100: The next size up. I’ve got my eye on a few models that come in this size. Master Grade models come in this scale, as do Reborn-One Hundreds.
- 1/60: You can get less detailed with High Grade or go all the way with Perfect Grade, but nobody’s going to miss something of this size sitting on your shelf.
- 1/48: This is commonly known as Mega Size. It’s huge but there are only a select few available kits (here’s one of RX-78-2!), so you don’t see it very often.
- 1/12: These are usually used for display at hobby shops. Every now and then one goes on the market to the tune of $3,400 or so!
- 1/1: All right, you can’t actually make one of these, but you can go see it in Japan!
- Nonscale: Anything that isn’t scaled in relation to the specifications from the show. SD Gunpla almost always fit into this categorization.
Let’s take a look at some of these grades and scales lined up next to one another:
So quiz yourself: Which of the Gundams pictured was the hardest to build? It was NOT Victory Gundam (High Grade 1/60). It’s easy to make this misconception because the hardest Gundam models on the market—Perfect Grades—are almost always 1/60 scale.
But as we know now, scale has nothing to do with difficulty. The grade will always determine how many pieces make up a model, and therefore how hard it is to build.
The real toughie of the bunch is Crossbone Gundam (Master Grade 1/100). As a Master Grade, it has the most parts, and these parts have been manufactured with the finest quality. For example? Crossbone has working fingers that can grasp weapons just like a real hand.
Note also that Crossbone is smaller than many Master Grades might be, because in the Crossbone Gundam manga, it was an especially small Gundam.
Below, I’ve lined up several High Grade Gunpla, 1/144 scale. Each of these is the exact same scale, but they’re all different sizes, because the Gundams in the show were different sizes! You can tell here that G Gundam mechas were way tinier than Gundam Unicorn ones. It also looks like Gundams have just gotten bigger over time!
So to summarize: always look at Gunpla grade before scale. Grade determines difficulty and accuracy (not to mention price!) and you’ll have a miserable time as a beginner if you make your first model a Master Grade or higher.
Have you built a Gunpla recently? Be sure to share it with us!
What are those 2 models on the second photo next to the granddaddy gundam? i do not recognize them.
@Milky, those are Crossbone Gundam, Ver. Ka and Real Grade Char’s Custom Zaku II. I also put links to where you can buy them in the article. Hope that helps!
Ah, i actully ment the female looking model to the right of the Rx 78, and the one to the left of him as well. those two i do not reconize, though i do see the green unicorn.
The female looking one is Nobell Gundam. The one to the left is Zeta.
first of all i do not own the image below.
I’m not sure of agreeing with your categorization, MG have a far better inner frame work, RG have it almost done in comparison, and for some ppl size is a thing, but if it’s not, in my case is not, and the image is for what i will say next, the detail level of a RG is done to make it look “real” and thats why real grade in my opinion for exposition propouse is better even if smaller. I own 3 MG and I will be glad of bandai doing “Real master grades” but IMO, I think in terms of quality of the model RG is better, in terms of work, MG have more to do, in terms of dificulty MG have more work to do but for the size, it’s more easy to me at least to build at 1/100
i’d definitely have to agree on this one. RG’s are even sometimes more intircate and more complicated to build than MG’s coz yes, of the size at 1/144. mutlitple color panels also bring out more detail compared to older MGs. Some RGs even look like miniature Perfect Grades. Here’s a couple of my RGs….. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f097f93f31abeabac4f9cd479706da9329529a3faca538e4b2bf897995343c7d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cfd5e88baf787c2599adb1d5c8512c46c29ea69a1450f17aa6ab6c6f7b1c4b41.jpg
[…] If you want to compare sizes, here is a size comparison chart by Gunpla 101: […]
[…] The differences between Gunpla kit grades […]
This one is a Gunpla too. Although smaller than a regular HG, this gashapon figure of the MSM-07E Z’Gok Experimental (part of the Gundam Universal Unit standalone release) from the 0080:WitP anime can be considered a Gundam Plastic model due to three obvious reasons: 1. It is an MS from the UC timeline. 2. It is made of hard PP plastic and the parts are in sprues. 3. It has to be assembled just like a regular Gunpla kit..
I modified this figure a little: drilled a 3mm hole beneath the groin area to mount it on the GP Base and added a launched rocket by attaching the rocket with a clear sprue section from the GP Base and a little superglue to permanently bond the two together. Wrapped the clear part between the rocket exhaust and the launcher barrel with a piece of cotton to simulate the smoke at the instant the rocket motor engine ignites the propellant. I’m planning to add warning decals, apply Tamiya Weathering Master pastels and panel lining on the figure later.. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1f6a73a92fa2105c7fd260810281f734d9c88cdbd69037a4874ddc34f6d7f593.jpg
Sometimes, when I encounter a kit with very good articulation quality, I try kitbashing that kit with another kit in the same scale or grade and end up with somewhat unique Gunpla model. Here’s what I’ve done when I kitbashed a Gunpla Mafia’s GM with a GM Sniper II. Added some Kotobukiya MSG weapons in, omitted the backpack, modified the Sniper’s antenna and added a scratch built whip antenna as well. The end result is a GM Unit designation of RGM-79GSC GM Gunslinger Custom. The images shown are taken during the test fitting process. I still have to do the panel lining and detailing process for https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7e3adbb1bb19838899ae2ee3e5253d939aa1cf3ceaa33540f7fdf77c0de690b8.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/493ba67f55625d100eb3d8ca4d9a3f17db9763fd505701b4d674a6e733a3ec76.jpg this kitbashed Gunpla. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d1b8a002fb4beb754897d05b5603f0f095117ba33f322f345416aa2a154b0db3.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6304a670c373bcc6cd39a666bad070519ed49f63b004f3a775f16094ea995b46.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/405e9f3577a83054be9e52f941f3e081932382f61dbfd55ad33b0781900c46c3.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7a7e8da30f4e7483666a2f8037a1c1732277f3f425428ea836bb2f5863283261.jpg