Step 1: Always remember that “Gunpla is freedom.” Step 2: Repeat step 1.
A few months ago, Knulp Calf posted up an article about how to get into Gunpla. It’s a very solid read and I highly encourage you to check it out first before reading further.
However, Gunpla (a portmanteau of Gundam and Plastic Model) is more than just buying and building a kit. It can also be an opportunity to really stretch your creativity and build some interesting customs! However, making a custom gunpla can be a bit intimidating, especially when you see some really nice customs...
intimidating beautiful intimidatingly beautiful.
Anyway, I decided to write up a series of posts to discuss how I approached making my own custom gunpla.
(Actual) Step 1A: Get a kit.
Gunpla come in many different grades, which in turn have their own sizes. Knulp’s link to Lauren Orsini’s grade guide is great. If you’re just starting out to do modeling (i.e. you have no model kit experience) I would recommend getting an HG kit - they’re (relatively) cheaper than the others while still a decent size. Also there are a lot of different suits available, much more than MG kits.
The most important thing is to get a kit you like. You don’t need to have seen the show to buy a kit, the cashier isn’t going to test your Gundam knowledge. If you like a design, consider just picking it up!
Word of caution: HG kits have come a long way. Older kits have less articulation and more issues than newer kits - as such it’s best to get a kit made after 2010, ideally even after 2015 when the HG revives started coming out (remakes of old HG kits). Except the HG Tristan. Avoid the HG Tristan.
(Actual) Step 1B: Figure out which kit to buy.
For my own custom, I really wanted to make a custom Gunpla inspired by Pearl, a character from Steven Universe. Thankfully, Pearl had an episode where she made a mech to do battle with. Pearl herself had a unique suit she wore when piloting it too.
Pearl herself is a lithe character that also has a rounded aesthetic, aside from her nose/hair. This was reflected in her mech, which has quite thin, exposed arms and legs and lacks a lot of sharp edges.
As a result, I wanted to make a custom that had, at least, a couple of these aesthetic designs. After a long period of looking, I settled on the HG Lunagazer Gundam.
I chose the Lunagazer for a few reasons. 1) it had some exposed “robot frame” at the legs and arms. 2) the gold areas reminded me of the yellow lining on Pearl’s space suit 3) that sharp Gundam chin was pretty much Pearl’s nose.
Unfortunately, the Lunagazer also has a lot of sharp edges, which isn’t quite Pearl’s aesthetic. Thankfully, when checking out reviews for the Lunagazer I found out that it had a lot of spare parts because it was based off another HG kit (HG Hyaku Shiki ver. Revive) and Bandai decided not to get rid of those parts in the box.
As a result, it was a matter of picking and choosing what parts to replace, as well as making adjustments to other areas to match the aesthetic I wanted.
Next time (tomorrow): model kit surgery! [Hippo, if you’re reading this, there: name drop]