The History of the Gunpla part 1: The 80s

By Loran

While I take a small break from GM Cannon articles to get some painting done, I figured I should go over another important topic-the many lines kits come from. Gunpla has evolved considerably over the past thirty years, grades and scales aside. So let’s take a look:

Mobile Suit Gundam: 1980-1982/3

The first kits in the line were… well, a product of their time. Very simple construction, no polycaps, and almost all kits were molded in just one color. Every Mobile Suit from the series was released in both 1/144 and 1/100 scales, including four amphibious Mobile Suits that weren’t seen in the animation (Agg, Juagg, Agguguy, Zogok). The line also included battleships, aircraft, and Mobile Armors, and one tank, in varying scales-most Mobile Armors were in 1/550 scale, with the aircraft and tank coming in at 1/144 scale, and the ships coming in at 1/1200 or 1/2400 scale. These secondary mecha are all really nice and the 1/144 scale ones look nice alongside modern kits. Also in the line are a handful of 1/60 scale kits that actually had polycaps, and some Zeon suits had light-up eyes.

There was also a series of four “diorama” kits released in 1/250 scale. They’re fix-posed, but really neat and are actually kind of uncommon these days.

Mobile Suit Variations: 1983-84

The MSV line is probably my favorite line, consisting of new designs based on ones fans made up. These were all, as the name suggests, variations on pre-existing suits from the original series. This includes suits like prototype versions, full armor versions, cannon toting versions, whatever-all sorts of cool suits that make for excellent kitbash fodder to be used with newer kits. Some of my favorite designs are the High Mobility Zakus, the Guncannon II, and the Full Armor Gundam. However, I’d suggest only using the parts for kitbashes, because the models have the same style of construction as the first series of Gundam kits. Some manuals depict other designs that don’t have kits, and could be made using parts from that kit or whatever. These kits came mainly at 1/144 scale, with a few at 1/100 scale, and only a few at 1/60 scale. The 1/60 scale kits had polycaps, like the previous series.

Of interesting note is the 1/144 Perfect Gundam kit-the first kit in its scale to include polycaps.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: 1985-1986

The Zeta Gundam kits were the first to include polycaps on all scales. The construction, while not much improved over MSV, had a bit more poseability and stability. This was also the first case of a line being based on a TV series where some kits did not receive models, some only getting little 1/220 snap-together kits. Most other suits received 1/144 and 1/100 scale treatments, with a transforming 1/60 scale kit of the Zeta Gundam that looked… rather questionable. Of note are a handful of reissued MSV kits in new color schemes to coincide with their brief appearances in the series, models of the Psyco Gundam and Psyco Gundam MK. II at 1/300 scale, and limited-editions of the Hyaku Shiki at both scales in gold chrome.

Also of note are two suits that did not really get kits-Paptimus Scirocco’s The-O did not receive any kit and Haman Khan’s Quebeley only got a 1/220 scale kit. Pretty strange that the two “final boss” mecha barely received models…

Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ: 1986-1987

The Double Zeta line was essentially the same as the Zeta line in terms of construction. However, the 1/100 scale kits were almost nonexistent, with the only kit in that scale being a transforming Double Zeta Gundam. Once again, some suits went without kits, such as the Mass Production-type Qubeley, Quin Mantha, and Geymalk. I think the early kits from this series didn’t sell very well, because some of the last kits released in the line were modified from MSV and Zeta kits, such as the ReGelg, Desert Zaku, EWAC-Zack, and Gazu R/L. Shows how much toy sales affect these shows, doesn’t it…

Some of these designs don’t have modern equivalents-in fact, a LOT don’t. If you really like the design, I’d say go for them if you like a challenge. Otherwise, hold out for an HGUC.

Gundam Sentinel: 1987

A small line consisting of only 5 kits at 1/144 scale, Gundam Sentinel was the first line based on a side-story instead of a TV series or “off-screen” designs. These kits were partially snap-together and still required some glue for stability. The Zetaplus C1 is a very noteworthy kit because it was the first small-scale transforming kit, and has actually aged pretty well. This line is also the only way to get a 1/144 scale kit of the Full Armor Double Zeta Gundam, at least until Bandai gives us an HGUC…

Char’s Counterattack: 1987-1988

Yes, of course, the big theatrical movie needed its own kit line. This kit was also the first fully snap-together line, although they still required screws for stability. This line also introduced “system injection” (Or was that Sentinel? I can’t recall right now…), which meant several colors of parts were on the same tree. Bandai actually has this system patented. These kits were mainly released at 1/144 scale, with a (very nice) 1/100 scale kit of the Nu Gundam and a 1/550 scale kit of the Alpha Azieru. One thing of note is the Sazabi model-it’s molded in two completely different shades of red!

Gundam 0080: 1989-1990

The first (and best, in my opinion) line for an OVA got some of the most popular kits for years to come. All of the kits with the exception of the Gundam Alex feature translucent monoeyes and visors. They’re fairly nice-looking kits, although the polycaps tend to have issues, specifically in the hips. These kits are entirely snap-together-no screws or anything. All of these kits have been replaced by HGUC kits at this point, and have unfortunately lost their relevance these days. These kits were only released at 1/144 scale.

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One comment

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