Bandai model kits are written entirely in Japanese, but you don’t need to be able to read the language in order to enjoy Gunpla.
In fact, the language of Gunpla is nearly universal. Instructions are told through detailed images, numbered steps, and symbols.
The symbols are pictograms in their own right and you might be able to figure them out on your own. But if you’d like the definitive English translation, we’ve put it together here. Follow the numbers to figure out the corresponding symbol meaning:
1. Decal number. The rectangle with a flapped corner does resemble a sticker, doesn’t it? The (1) next to it indicates that the stickers in this kit are numbered, and in this case we’d use Sticker 1. Sometimes stickers are lettered A, B, C…
2. Symmetrical parts to be installed. Like most humanoids, Gunpla are symmetrical. When you see this symbol, you know that there is a corresponding similar part to the one you are currently working with, to be installed on the opposite side.
3. Pay attention! This means the part you are working with may have some subtle definition that will mean its orientation and direction upon installation are very important. Look at the corresponding picture of the part very carefully.
4. Repeat this step two times. Because of Gunpla symmetry, they tend to have two arms, two legs, etc. If you’re building an arm and see this symbol, you can rest assured that another arm is on its way, assembled with identical steps to the ones you’re following now.
5. Connect this part last. Sometimes it’s much easier to install Gunpla parts in a certain order due to their shape once connected. When you see this symbol, it means you’ll get the best result if you attach this part as the last step of the task.
6. Your choice. Sometimes kits come with a lot of accessories, more than the Gunpla can hold. This means there are multiple options for which of the parts you want to install. You’ll often see this on a Gunpla that comes with multiple hand orientations (designed to hold different kinds of weapons).
7. Opposite side will move in the same direction. Not sure if you accidentally swapped the feet for the left and right legs? If you see this symbol, don’t worry! It means the part will behave the same no matter which side it’s on.
Thanks to Mech9, which we referenced for some of the trickier translations!