The History of Gunpla comes to a conclusion in the modern era, when Bandai placed most of their money in the HGUC and MG lines, with lines just for the two Alternate Universe series occupying most other slots.
First Grade: 1999
A 20th Anniversary special line, of sorts, consisting of 3 1/144 scale kits-the Gundam, Zaku, and Char’s Zaku at 1/144 scale. All of them have the proportions and details of their Perfect Grade counterparts, but they lack polycaps, and instead, are constructed like the original kits from the 80’s. As such, you get three very inexpensive, nice-looking kits that, unfortunately, break easily.
High Grade Mechanics: 2001-2002
A small line consisting of the three mobile armors from Gundam 0083. These were all produced at 1/550 scale and included similar scaled mobile suits from the series. However, the GP03 Dendrobium is out-of-scale, coming in MUCH larger than the Neue Ziel by comparison.
EX Model: 2001-2009
Basically, Limited Model redux. However, instead of doing mobile suits, this takes on support mecha and battleships. Like the LM kits, the prices are ENORMOUS-for example, the first kit in the line was the trailer the Gundam was transported on in the first episode. This kit was priced at 3000 yen-that’s over $30! The kits are all very nicely detailed, but I wouldn’t recommend them unless you’re a serious enthusiast or REALLY like the designs. However, if you can find them for at least half price, they’re worthwhile.
Gundam SEED: 2002-present
Because there have been so many SEED sublines, I’m going to cover them all there in this, going by what each of the scales/grades do for them:
A term retroactively added a few years back, these are the “cheapo” kits in the SEED and SEED Destiny lines. They are VERY simple, with the only articulation at the neck, shoulders, ankles, and hips. However, this is the only way to get some grunts, and some upgrade packs for the Strike and Impulse Gundams.
All lines except the current Frame Astrays line have these-these are the HGUC-equivalent 1/144 scale kits. They’re fairly decent quality, although some of the earlier ones suffer from the “saber molded in hand” like the contemporary HGUC kits. Not many grunts got released, just some GINN variants, one or two Daggers, the CGUE, and the three UC tribute suits. Some kits even come with stands, for “action poses”. Of note are some of the Stargazer kits, which actually have double balljoints in their shoulders.
The massive Meteor unit also received a release, coming with a slightly redesigned Freedom Gundam to operate it, with extra pieces to make the Justice Gundam compatible.
The 1/100 scale kits, appearing in all lines save for the MSV and Stargazer ones. These are like the 1/100s from X and Wing, but a little more advanced. Overall, not much better than their High Grade counterparts. The SEED Frame Astrays line which is currently going on consists of redesigned Gundams in… rather bizarre ways. Mostly a way to make more money. However, some kits are very cool, like the basic Gundam Astray kit, specifically, the Gold Frame Amatsu. It’s the only way to get this design, and it’s a very nice kit to boot.
1/60 scale kits:
Only a handful of these were released, and just of the hero mecha. Once again, they’re basically upscaled High Grades, although one version of the Strike includes all the weapon packs. Of note is the Strike Freedom, which has a lighting gimmick that allows all of its silly, tacky, gold joints to light up. Others like the Force Impulse feature light piping gimmicks in the eyes.
Gundam 00: 2007-present
00’s lines were a similar case to SEED.
The first kits to officially use the FG label since 1999. These are a huge step up from the ones in SEED, having polycaps and joints similar to those of the Wing-era kits. However, the only kits released in this line are the four main Gundams from the first season.
Thanks to the grunt-heavy action in 00, the curse of most alternate universe model lines was turned around in this case. Many of the grunts got kits in this line, like all of the Tieren and Flag variants. Transforming gimmicks were abound, and the “combining” gimmick of the Seravee and Seraphim Gundams was able to be accurately recreated at this scale. All Gundams seen on-screen as well as many grunts got released, along with two versions of the huge GN Arms platform, one for Exia, and one for Dynames. Some “Trans-am” kits were released, representing the “hyper mode” seen on the series, replacing the colors of the heroes’ Gundams plus the Susanowo and Reborns Gundam with sparkly pink plastic. Fabulous.
Again, the same case as the SEED kits, but this line actually received two grunts, but an incomplete lineup of Gundams. Of note are the Virtue and Seravee kits, which both include the “inner” Gundams and really neat combining gimmicks. Only Exia received the Trans-Am treatment here, but all of the second season Gundams got reissues in “Designer’s colors”-which are just more muted tones with extra decals.
One lone kit was released at this scale-the Gundam Exia. There isn’t much worth mentioning about it, aside from the nice decals inside the GN drives. Like the other 1/60 kits, it’s more toy-like than anything else.
And so, that decade comes to a close, and so does the current lineup of Gunpla. Of course, there will always be more, and this will remain incomplete, especially with the Gunpla-centric series in the works. But hey, adding more stuff just makes things more fun.
Also, you may have noticed that I left out the SD Gundam lines. I consider them to be their own entity unto themselves, and to be honest, finding information on and release dates for them is a crapshoot, especially with some of the earlier ones. Maybe some other time!