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A ranking of every Gundam I own by how hard it was to build...
+ a novel that best represents them
I’ve somehow fallen into a niche interest which is building Gundam models. I did this for the first time years and years ago and it was fun, but didn’t hit me the way it’s hitting me today. Mostly it’s pretty relaxing to focus on one task and listen to a podcast in the background. It’s an extra pleasure that, once you’ve finished, you get something a little cute to look at.
For the record, I’ve only seen 3 episodes of any Gundam anime. I really don’t have any allegiance to the media around Gundam, I just like building tiny little robots. But, now that I have officially run out of space to display them I thought it would be a great break from the depressing and whiney musings I post weekly just to rank all of my Gundam in terms of how difficult they were to build.
I’ll be counting down in terms of difficulty, with one being the most difficult to build and 13 being the easiest. Additionally, to make things more literary, I’ll pair them with a book I think best represents them, based solely on vibes.
1. Bandai Gundam Seed Destiny MSIA MBF-02 Strike Rouge
A super simple build because a friend actually got this for me and it’s not really a model kit, just an action figure!
Book of choice: American Heiress | Jeffrey Toobin
Recommending a Toobin book in 2023 might be a huge yikes but in my defense I read this book years ago. I picked this one because, to me, the Strike Rouge Gundam and Patty Herst share some similar vibes: cute and innocent but willing to join a liberation front at a moment’s notice. The large print version juxtaposes against this Gundam’s tiny and delicate frame.
The Witch of Mercury Gundam BEGUIR-BEU
A rule of thumb for me is that the pointer a Gundam is, the harder it’s going to be to build. However, for this one, that’s not the case. While it is a particularly pointy Gundam, it has very few parts, probably the least number of parts of any other Gundam I’ve built. The major downside to this model is that it comes with a stand to help display the floating ball weapons however you can really only place one on the stand…
Book of choice: Severance | Ling Ma
Severance is the story of an unfulfilled woman surviving after the fallout of an incurable infection destroys most of civilization. Granted I have not seen more than three episodes of Witch from Mercury but, to me, this Gundam gives off strong vibes of nostalgia and intimacy with hints of violent fury, similar to Severance.
The Witch from Mercury - XVX-016 Gundam Aerial
Aerial is a pretty basic build, I don’t have many complaints about building this one. The hardest part was probably getting the stickers on just right, but that’s also because I have giant fingers, and using tweezers to put on stickers never really works the way I want it to.
Book of choice: This One Summer | Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer is a coming-of-age story set in a small beach town that tells the story of two young girls discovering their sexuality while surrounded by their tense family dynamics and mental illness. It’s a perfect companion for our canonically gay Gundam pilot who is also discovering her sexuality while piloting the mech.
Gundam Barbatos Lupus
Another easier build. This one does have a lot of pointy ends and some particularly difficult flourishes, but overall it’s a standard build. I like the big sword, having recently converted from my prior stance of hating big swords, a change mostly sparked by reading Berserk.
Book of choice: The Princess Bride | William Goldman
I might come back to this later after more thought but The Princess Bride works well. A classic tale of romance and high adventure fit for a Gundam which radiates adventure and danger, the glamour of spectacle juxtaposed against a big giant robot sword.
Hi-V (Hi-Nu) Gundam
Usually, when a Gundam has wings I get super nervous. The spikier a gundam is in general seems to directly correlate to how fucking hard it’s going to be. In this case, the wings are pretty bulky and require less of a delicate touch. This is one of the ones I have sitting on my monitor stand. It’s a nice compliment to the other pink Gundam that’s on the other side.
Book of choice: The Great Gatsby | F. Scott Fitzgerald
I struggled a bit with what book to assign to this Gundam but ultimately landed on The Great Gatsby. I like this blue guy a lot, but he’s also kind of generic-looking, so he has to be associated with a generic classic. I could have chosen something a bit more war-like and masculine, but let’s be a bit honest that all Gundam are a bit fruity, and somehow The Great Gatsby is also just a bit fruity itself. This Gundam definitely stares off into the distance searching for his one true love.
Gundam Livelance Heaven
I can’t remember when I made this, so hedging my bets here and saying that it was probably difficult at the time but not as difficult as some of the others.
Book of choice: Invisible Cities | Italo Calvino
An exploration of form and style makes Calvino’s collection of magical and mystical cities a classic. To me, this book is a treasure, a refugee, one of the first things I read that made me fall in love with writing and reading. It deserves to be watched over by a scythe-wielding space robot; an angelic figure that is a little broken from age and the oldest Gundam in my collection.
Unicorn Gundamn Destroy mode
Ultimately pretty easy though there were some see-through pieces that were hard to match to the instructions, definitely had a few moments of being like “Which way does this part go?” But that’s more on me and my bad eyesight..
Book of choice: Skippy Dies | Paul Murray
It’s been a long while since I’ve read Skippy Dies, but I was trying to find a story that felt almost glitchy and full of existential rage that seems to radiate from the Unicorn Gundam: Destroy Mode. To represent a Gundam like this it should be both standard and fantastical, broad and scope, and written with a deadly precision. I think Murray’s tragicomedy about a young kid who dies in a donut-eating contest really fits the bill.
Gundam Astray Gold FrameAmatsu Mina
Again: spikey = hard. This one threw me for a loop for a few days so had to angrily put it down and come back to it. It’s hard sometimes when the Gundam are made with internal frames for my thick fingers to position things just right.
Book of choice: Dracula | Bram Stoker
Come on, he looks like a Dracula! Brooding, pointy, and willing to do anything to quelch his thirst for blood. But, also the Broadview edition of Dracula complete with extra material discussing the legacy and impact of Dracula and placing it historically. Why? Because he’s also a sophisticated guy, a true literary spirit.
V2 AssaultBuster Gundam
Ultimately this wasn’t that hard, but I made a rule that the Gundam kits that keep falling apart have to go above the ones that don’t and this one frequently falls apart. This had some difficulty because the parts, when all put together, were a little bulky. Additionally, the cannon it has on its arm and over its shoulder is cumbersome and it easily falls off and apart. I’ve probably had to put this one back together several times.
Book of choice: 1Q84, Haruaki Murakami
Another harder choice. This Gundam has a military presence, a clearly defined firepower that, when aimed appropriately can decimate an enemy. It’s also big and bulky in its construction but slim and delicate in its final form. 1Q84 probably fits best, a representation of Murakami at his highest form or a jumbled slog of a story—depending on who you ask.
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Gundam Char's Counterattack
This tanky one actually wasn’t super hard to build. It’s only listed as hard because the arms fall off literally every other day. I think that’s because I didn’t orient the shoulder holes the right way, but I’m not going back to fix that anytime soon…
Book of choice: Dune | Frank Herbert
I will never finish Dune, even if I want to. Which is different from this Gundam, which I did finish because I want to. Probably the biggest thing they have in common is the crimson red on the spine of this book (maybe the book jacket, though I lost that ages ago) and the rich red color of this Gundam. Equally, Dune is a powerhouse of a science fiction novel, predicated on a brutal war between clashing ideologies. This dude could probably drop down pretty earnestly and fit right in.
Perfect Strike Freedom
This Gundam was actually easier to build, however midway through the process I accidentally broke the shoe/ankle mechanism so it’s missing a foot. And, if a Gundam is missing a part it has to go up in difficulty, per my internal rules.
Book of choice: Angels in America | Tony Kushner
A true Gundam angel, soaring into the heavens to protect us all from our inevitable sins. This Gundam is absolutely the type to say something like: “We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The World only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins” before blasting down a whole army of troops.
I have no photo found because this one fell apart so drastically in so many ways that I eventually had to just toss it. Not sure why this one gave me so much trouble, but nothing was working, the backpack was too heavy causing it to constantly fall over, and it was overall just a mess for me.
Book of choice: The Norton Anthology of American Lit
A bulky book that’s full of a bunch of stuff you probably won’t read that’s separated into two volumes is probably a good fit for this Gundam that is trying to do too many things at once while also being a fundamental Gundam model for collectors.
Wing Gundam Zero
Another one that has been so destroyed I no longer have it. This is solely hard for one feature: the wings. The model kit uses these individual feathers to build the wings, which looks really cool but just does not work. I tried for thirty minutes to align and snap each individual feather only for them to fall out anytime the Gundam was standing up.
Book of choice: A Little Life | Hanya Yanagihara
If Gundam have to go up in difficulty based on parts falling apart, broken Gundams should be paired with books I want to read but haven’t. I’ve gotten halfway through this and want to finish it but just can’t. It’s a dense book sure to break me, just like the Wing Gundam Zero.