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What is the difference between “Gunpla” and “Gundam”?

What is the difference between “Gunpla” and “Gundam”?

What is the difference between “Gunpla” and “Gundam”?

What is the difference between “Gunpla” and “Gundam”?

Let’s begin back when Gundam was first born. Gundam is a Japanese science fiction media franchise that began in 1979 with the anime series "Mobile Suit Gundam." Created by Yoshiyuki Tomino, the fictional series was set in a future where humanity had colonized space and was engaged in a war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. The series introduced the concept of giant humanoid robots called mobile suits, which were piloted by humans and used in combat.

Image. Yoshiyuki Tomino

The series was groundbreaking in its realistic portrayal of war and its focus on character development, political intrigue, and social commentary. It was also notable for its use of mecha designs that were based on actual engineering principles, adding a sense of realism to the futuristic setting.

The specific suits, vehicles, and weapons vary between different series and timelines within the Gundam universe.

Bandai as a part of its merchandising strategy in the 80s began manufacturing Gundam model kits featuring different characters from the numerous Gundam anime series and storylines. And this strategy has proven to be fundamental in the long term success of Gundam.

GEA 1980 Gunpla Model Kit RX-78

 Image. Vintage Gundam RX-78 Gunpla 

What does “Gunpla” mean?

You'll often see the term "Gunpla" being used out in the community. The term Gunpla is formed by shortening the words Gundam Plastic Model. In Japan, it's common for words to be combined and shortened. Plamo is short for Plamodel. Plamodel means plastic model. The technical term for this type of abbreviation is "portmanteau." A portmanteau is a word that is formed by combining two or more words and their meanings.

Bandai Namco has gone on to create and release well over 2000 different Gunpla for millions of builders worldwide. The variety is amazing and there are several different grades of Gunpla to choose from. Each Gunpla grade varies in design & complexity. Each of the grades offers a different level of challenge for each builder.  including first grade (FG), entry grade (EG), super deformed (SD), super deformed cross silhouette (SDCS), high grade (HG), master grade (MG), real grade (RG), perfect grade (PG), mega grade (MEGA)

As of 2021, Japan has the biggest market share with 68% followed by the remainder of Asia at 22% and a combined USA & Europe at 10%.


What does “Gundam” mean?

Gundam is the name given to a Japanese military science fiction-themed anime created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise (now Bandai Namco). Tomino was honoured in 2023 for personal cultural merit by the Japanese government.

Born in 1941 in Odawara, Tomino went on to college and studied art. He's widely recognized as a talented anime creator, animator, director, screenwriter, songwriter, and novelist. His first known work dates back to 1963 when he worked on writing and developing the storyboards and screenplay of the first-ever Japanese tv anime Astro Boy. Yoshiyuki Tomino has worked on several other anime series including Aura Battler Dunbine, Heavy Metal L-Gaim, Space Runaway Ideon & Overman King Gainer. But it is undoubtedly his 1979 work titled Mobile Suit Gundam that he is famously recognized for.

Here's a list of Yoshiyuki Torino’s most popular work: -

  • Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-81 novels)
  • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985-86 novels)
  • Mobile Suit Char’s Counterattack High Streamer (1987 novel)
  • Mobile Suit Char’s Counterattack Beltorchika’s Children (1988 novel)
  • Turn A Gundam (1999 screenplay & director)
  • Gundam Recognista in G (2014 screenplay & director)

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Mobile Suit Gundam series which rated poorly in Japan and met its end after episode 43. It wasn’t until 3 movies based on the original series were released in 1981-82, that Mobile Suit Gundam was given a new lease on life. Numerous sequels followed and momentum grew along with merchandise including Gunpla. Today, Gundam is one of the world’s most popular, influential, and longest-running anime in history.


What does GUNDAM stand for?

The word "Gundam" is an acronym with various meanings across different Gundam timelines. These meanings were never mentioned during any of the anime and were usually derived after the fact. Often the lead character within the anime carries the name Gundam. In the recent series Witch from Mercury, the lead character is named Gundam Aerial.

Examples of what GUNDAM stands for in some of the Gundam universes are: -

Future Century - Gamma UNificational Dimalium Amalgam Mobile-suit or Govern of Universe Nation Decide Advanced Mobile-suit

After Colony - Genetic on Universal Neutraly Different Alloy-nium Mobile suit

Cosmic Era - General Unilateral Neuro-link Dispersive Autonomic Maneuver System or Generation Unsubdued Nuclear Drive Assault Module complex or Generation Unrestricted Network Drive Assault Module.

(Source: Gundam Wiki)


So What is the Difference? 

The difference is quite simple. Gundam is the name of the overarching franchise that includes TV shows, manga, games, novels, etc. whereas Gunpla is the term for the plastic model kits based on the franchise. 

Gundam Express is the home of all things Gundam & Gunpla. Check out our Gundam Article Hub for more information or browse our incredible range of Gundam model kits online.