You don’t have to build Gunpla for very long to encounter “Grades”. Not school grades, but rather the grade of Gundam. These are classifications given by Bandai to assist Gunpla builders in their choice of kit.
I began to research this phenomenon soon after my Gundam journey began. Most sources were in agreement generally, but I began to see some variations, or in some instances, bits and pieces left out here and there from one to the other source, and a few gaps in information.
So initially, I came to some basic conclusions about what the different grades are. I may be a bit off, but hopefully this is close to reality. (Though my wife questions the firmness of my grip on said reality.)
High Grade (HG): These are smaller kits, with simpler engineering. They are generally 144th scale, but in a few cases they are in larger scales. (More on that…) They are a fun way to start building Gunpla. The cost is no more than burgers and fries for two, for the first kit, although after that, the desire to buy in bulk increases exponentially.
Master Grade (MG): These are in 1/100th scale. They have more detail than their High Grade cousins, and approximately 27 times more parts. The engineering is very good, and the range of articulation is wonderful. Of course, given the number of parts you’ll be denubbing, you’ll wonder why they didn’t call this “High” grade, because you’ll swear that’s what you must have been to step up from HG. Very affordable, considering, and priced about as much as a light dinner for two at a chain sit down restaurant.
Perfect Grade (PG): These are 1/60th scale, approximately the size of a suburban home, and generally contain the same number of parts as one year’s worth of High Grade kit production. The articulation is so realistic, oil and hydraulic fluid changes are required every 3,000 miles, or 300 poses. The cost is… well, financing is available.
Mega Size (MS): These are 1/48th scale, which works out to the size of a small apartment building. They contain roughly 7 parts, 1 foil sticker, and a pack of gum. (I think…) They cost less than PG, but more than MG, unless you can find them on the Amazon, in which case they range from US$5 to… well, financing is available. (But shipping is FREE!)
Further research showed that a relatively recent grade was introduced, Real Grade (RG). This was to satisfy the people who thought that while the Master Grade kits were great, the parts needed to be even smaller, to notch up the level of difficulty even more. So these were produced in 144th scale.
In response to this, many people requested something resembling a High Grade kit in complexity, but the size of the Master Grade kits. These were called Reborn 100. (RE/100, or RE.) Unfortunately this was also accompanied by a faction insisting they be called High Grade, only at 100th scale. The ensuing confusion caused a war in the food court of the Bandai Visitor’s Center. Well, less of a war, and more of a vigorous food fight. After all parties sat down at a mediation table, it was agreed to just leave things as they are and never speak of it again. And thus no one ever admits to building these kits, apparently.
There are also No Grade (NG) kits. These are kits of various scales who did not do well in school, because they insisted on hanging out behind the gym and skipping class. So they were expelled, and formed a gang. Well, less of a gang and more of a loose affiliation. They tried to be a gang, but because they were not as finely articulated as their graded cousins who did finish school, they had to get jobs lifting parking garage gates and working in those claw games at the grocery store. With no time to be gang-ish, they just get together and robot dance to vintage 80s hip-hop after work hours.
(Sharp-eyed blog reader George pointed out the First Grade (FG) Gundam, which apparently dropped out of school quite early, poor things, and never grew past 144th scale. George said they were “good for headaches and masking skills”, and also that they have “almost no posing options”, which is little surprise given their limited education.)
Finally, there are the Super Deformed (SD) kits, which are squashed down versions of the bigger kits. They were born out of an unfortunate timeline and universe collision, where some Gundam were interjected into a Warner Brothers cartoon. The Gundam tried to help the Coyote catch Road Runner, and we all know how that went. Various boulders were dropped on the Gundam, as well as an anvil or two, and they have not been the same since.
I do plan to continue further research into this. As I’m new to building Gunpla, I may have some of the facts and details a bit askew, so hopefully more light will be shed on the minor details in the coming days.