One friend of mine asked, "what is Gunpla? Is that different from Gundam models and kits?"
What indeed is GunPla? For the uninitiated, it means Gundam Plastic. Plastic being the material the models are made with. I'm doing an article about this said topic, so to keep you hanging, I'm going to withhold various info and get down to it, and not entertain you as much as I want. Why? Well, my research is not yet done and two, I have to polish it. Anyway without further ado and self-gratification, let's get on with the jump.
GunPla came around the same year the first Gundam series went out. The series? Mobile Suit Gundam. The grandest, grand-daddy of all Gundams. The show was a flop unlike today where it is celebrated all around by anime' fans and Gundam fans alike. So how do the producers try to solve that and generate interest? Why, you have to have merchandise! And what else can you sell to boys ranging from 7-20? TOYS!
So they did sell the first-ever Gundam model, that of the RX-78 in 1/144 scale, in the early 1980s. It wasn't exactly called a toy because it is simply far from being a toy. The models that BANDAI produced back then were only available in three colors: Blue, Red and White. So, the first builders had to really use paint to detail up their models and make them look like the ones they saw in TV. Also, in this age, cement is no longer needed to construct the models whereas those old kits need cement. Well, technically, we modellers still use cement to close seam lines, but unlike before where it was a must and must be used excessively to form the model. Articulation was a general issue too. To begin with, those ancient models DO NOT HAVE articulation!
But in the span of ten years from the 80s to the 90s, BANDAI made leaps and bounds in production technology. Soon enough, in the 90s, they released a new line of kits labeled High Grade. The plastic used are of a much more better quality than the ancient ones, dubbed first grade by some. The standard model size of a High Grade or HG, is 1/144. This line of HG was dubbed HGUC or High Grade Universal Century. It has branched off, to this day, into HGSEED for Gundam SEED, HGFC or High Grade Future Century for G Gundam, HGAW for Gundam X's timeline: After War, and HGEW or High Grade Endless Waltz for Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz kits.
When 1995 hit, BANDAI introduced a new line for Gundam kits: Master Grade. This new grade is far superior to their HG counterparts. It featured an extensive mecha skeleton dubbed "inner frame" on which the armor panels are added. Superb articulation and exquisite details are a trademark of this new grade. It is considerably priced higher than the HGs and are made of higher quality plastic. Scale of this line is 1/100.
In 1998, three years after BANDAI released the Master Grade line, they came up with another far better line of kits. This is the penultimate line so to speak: the Perfect Grade. Think of an MG, then scale it to 1/60, add more mechanisms and gimmicks, and bam! You got yourself a Perfect Grade. This line is not released monthly like the HGs and MGs. It takes a while to make a Perfect Grade. PG its are very countable unlike the HGs and MGs. So far, I can enumerate RX-78, Char's Zaku, Mass Production Zaku, Zeta Gundam, 00 Raiser, Strike Freedom, Strike Gundam, Wing Zero Custom, Skygrasper w/ Aile Striker Pack and Astray Red Frame (with the massive tactical arms if my sources are correct). Of course they have different Limited Edition versions as well, but the kits in the PG line are really few.
Well, those are but a few of the facts about GunPla. Stay tuned for the article featuring interviews from some of the top modellers from MAC and Zero-G.