In the 90’s, Gunpla started to get a bit more complex. 1990 introduced the “grade” system, which is still used today. This era featured many kits that most people second-generation fans know from their childhoods.
High Grade: 1990-1991
Bandai launched the High Grade line in 1990 to update the four classic Gundams (RX-78, Zeta, Mk. II, Double Zeta) using their new “True system injection” technology-which featured parts that were actually molded out of several colors. This practice lasted only less than five years because of the adverse effects it had on the parts, and it made the parts very difficult to paint. The kits themselves looked questionable at best, and the first Transforming Zeta Gundam at this scale was infamous for its floppiness. The RX-78 is the only kit in the scale with a transformable Core Fighter, however this comes at the cost of an unmovable torso. The only worthwhile kit was the Double Zeta, which FINALLY got replaced by an HGUC kit. Aside from nostalgia value, they don’t have much worth these days.
Gundam F91/F90/Silhouette Formula 91: 1991-1993?
The Gundam F91 series spawned three different lines, all at 1/100 scale. Because of how short these designs were, they were produced at a larger scale because Bandai didn’t quite know how to do smaller kits that still had the level of poseability fans would have wanted. The F90 kits all featured interchangeable weapon parts, although the line only consisted of about 4 or 5 kits. The Silhouette Formula line was an MSV line of sorts for F91, with some very cool reimagined takes on some suits, like the G-Cannon Magna. The R-44 Guntank kit in the main line is known for being a very small kit, coming in shorter than an average 1/144 kit. There is also a 1/60 scale Gundam F91; basically a toy with some model kit armor.
Gundam 0083: 1991-1992
Remember how I said the Gundam 0080 line was one of the most beloved kit lines of its era? Well, the same couldn’t be said of the 0083 kits. Only five kits were released, only at 1/144 scale, and with one exception, it was nothing but Gundams. These were mediocre at best on average, with the GP02 being infamously bad. They’re unposeable and need tons of paint, with some very questionable looks and proportions. All have been replaced by superior HGUC kits except for the Gerbera Tetra, which remains the only passable kit in the line. Unless you REALLY like the Gerbera Tetra, stay away from this line.
Victory Gundam: 1993-1994
Bandai’s first really small 1/144 kits were an interesting site-all of them were based off the same frame, and they were essentially assembled by attaching the trees the parts were molded on, then with the frames slid into the limbs. The kits look rather nice, but are sadly known for falling apart. A lot came with neat extras like stands, backgrounds, and “bent” beam sabers that look like they’re “in action”. The 1/100s are similar to the F91-series kits. There is also a 1/60 scale, transforming/combining Victory Gundam that, while it executes its gimmick very well, is NOT very good looking, only extenuated by its ghastly yellow polycaps.
A series of all Gundams was a pretty wise marketing decision, because well, that’s what it was. All of the “hero” Gundams got released at 1/144 scale. These are decent kits that, like many other 1/144s to follow, needed lots of paint. The polycaps became more advanced, but still had issues with falling apart. The 1/100s were a huge step up in quality, also being the last model kits to feature True System injection. This started the weird tradition of only releasing a handful of hero mecha at this scale, giving everyone incomplete teams. Two 1/60 scale kits of the Shining Gundam and God Gundam were released, with light-up chests. A “Grade Up” set was produced for the 1/144 scale kits, adding more accessories to their arsenal, such as gold hands for Shining Gundam and a “bare chest” for Gundam Maxter. Of note are the 1/144 scale Devil Gundam, capable of transforming into the giant “head” mode, and the “Hyper Mode” kits-gold-plated versions of the 1/144 scale lineup and the 1/100 God and Shining Gundams.
Master Grade: 1995-now
Refer back to the “Guide to scales and Grades” for information on this line.
Gundam Wing: 1995-1996
The kits a lot of us grew up with! I’m sure most of you had a Wing kit for your first model. This line consisted of kits at 1/144, 1/100, and 1/60 scale-with the only 1/60 Scale kit being Wing Zero (who was, unfortunately, the last 1/60 kit released outside of the perfect grade line until 2002…). All of the Gundams got 1/144 kits, with the only OZ suits getting models being the Tallgeese, Tallgeese II, Mercurius, and Vayeate. The Tallgeese II is molded in only two colors-black and white, with all of the blue parts being stickers… The 1/100 line has the same problem as the G-Gundam line, with only a few Gundams getting kits. Later on, the 1/144 kits were reissued with 1/35 scale pilot figures. These are the easiest ones to find.
08th MS Team: 1995-1999
This line was widely considered to be the “precursor” to the HGUC line, starting off with a “Gundam Versus Zaku” two-pack, depicting a scene from one of the first episodes. The kits were released only at 1/144 scale, and like the OVA, took several years to come out. Of note are the Zaku, which later received a reissue with parts to make the classic F-type Zaku, and the GM Sniper, which came with a 1/1200 scale kit of the Apsulas III Mobile armor. Earlier kits used the same joint system as the Gundam Wing kits, and later ones used the joints from the Endless Waltz kits.