While I'm fairly opinionated about many things, including Gunpla, I always wondered what the general consensus was about the best and worst kits of the line. I can answer pretty easily for MG and PG kits, but because I've decided to focus my collection with those grades I can't say much about HG while most of my RG thoughts are all second hand. Thus became the impetus behind the Great Gunpla Census of 2018. While planning things out I decided to add a few more questions to get a general idea of what the franchise fan base was thinking. After a few weeks of being called out on r/Gunpla and r/Gundam the census was completed as best possible by 839 fans. While parsing numbers and fixed answer questions is easy, trying to produce simple takeaways from open ended questions not so much, so I didn't want to go crazy and find myself with a 15,000 collection of answers to sort through.
Below is the results of the census, interpreted as best I can. It was a fun exercise, thank you to everyone who participated. I think it'd be fun to do another in a year or two, with more questions and options for more precise answers. Feel free to share any comments below, from thoughts on the results to questions that should be asked next time. Comments such as "you don't do math good" will also be accepted.
Oh, and a reference point as I forgot to fill out my own survey... North America, 30-40, +150 kits. Favorite series? Gonna say G Gundam. Least favorite? SEED. Favorite line? MG. Best PG is the Strike (followed closely by the Exia). Best MG is the Zaku II 2.0. Favorite kit overall is the MG Unicorn, least favorite kit is either the MG Crossbone Full Cloth or the RX-78-2 3.0.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond, the members of the Discord who helped me fine tune some of the questions, and Stroud for letting me share it prominently.
Let's be clear, my knowledge of statistics stops shortly after knowing how to spell it correctly. This census exercise is just me throwing shit at Excel and hoping it gives me right/meaningful numbers. At the very least I'm better at dicking around in Excel than I am at analyzing numbers. If you'd like to double check anything be my guest. The raw results from the census can be found here.
Who partook? Well the census was primarily shared with folks on r/Gunpla and r/Gundam. While geared toward Gunpla fans, there were quite a few franchise questions and the census was shared on both subreddits. Fans of Gundam don't always enjoy Gunpla, and Gunpla fans don't always enjoy the franchise, as evident in part by the subscriber count on each subreddit. r/Gunpla has an amazing 51,208 subscribers, while r/Gundam only has 37,253 (at the time I'm writing this). This is in part due to the nature of the hobby (some people just like building model kits), and the nature of the franchise (lots of Gunpla for everyone, while we're in an animation drought with nothing for sustenance besides Gundam Build Drivers and memes). For the next census I'll have to throw in some questions to find more about this subscriber defecit.
Where's Everyone At?
Not unsurprisingly 73% of folks who participated reported as being from North America. This was shared with Reddit of course. Despite this there is participation from nearly every other part of the globe, except Africa. In the next census I'm going to get a lot more detailed with location options, I was too vague... and forgot about Australia...
Young and Old-ish
Other than 3 folks who're over 40 years of age, the demographics are pretty reasonably balanced.
How many kits?
Simply put, the majority have 10-20 kits with a good balance for everyone else ranging between 1 and 50 kits. And, since this was generally geared toward the Gunpla side of the house, only 10 people responded as having zero kits.
Does age play a part in the number of kits folks have?
My take away here is that, no, age doesn't have a big impact. Across all four main age groups (sorry +40ers, they's only 3 of you so I'm dropping you off this chat) 10-20 kits is the norm. Folks in the 19-25 age range have a higher average number of kits though, from which you could probably make a few assumptions the entry of folks into the hobby and general age appeal.
With a larger sample size it would be interesting to see how the average compares between those who build Gunpla, and those fans of the franchise who don't.
When asked their favorite series, participants ranked Iron-Blooded Orphans and Gundam 00 far and above the rest of the field. IBO eeked out the win by just two more votes, while Victory Gundam got an astounding goose egg.
Now, what if I chart favorite series cross referenced by age group? For the most part the 19-25 age group reports the highest across the board, but Gundam Wing, 08th MS Team, and Gundam 0083 tend to be more popular with the 25-30 age range. While there's not a lot of data here to be of real statistical significance, one could speculate that the effects of being introduced to Gundam on Cartoon Network are still with us today. That or I'm completely misinterpreting the data, I did mention I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing, right?
Least Favorite Series
When asked about their least favorite series, Gundam SEED & SEED Destiny came in first with a resounding 187 votes. It's followed by Recongustia in G (this is why we won't ever see MG kits from the series, thanks for nothing) with another drop off to our third place loser, Gundam AGE.
As with the favorite series, is there a correlation between age group and least favorite series? Perhaps because this category is so heavily weighted toward SEED & SEED Destiny there doesn't seem to be a conclusion to be drawn...
Favorite Gunpla Model Line
44% of respondents selected Master Grade kits as their favorite, followed by High Grade kits at 31% and Real Grade kits at 18%.
What's Most Important in a Kit?
Probably the most aloof question in the whole of the census is this multiple choice answer. While this question is definitely going to need some refinement before the next survey, it's clear that the general look of the kit is the most important thing to builders. That shouldn't be surprising to anyone. Outside of the general look poseability was also highly favorited while it's a pretty even race between complexity, detail, and gimmicks.
What Are the Best and Worst Kits???
As free form questions, I don't have any fun and fancy graphs. Just lots of text answers and various ways of writing down the same kit name. To try and parse the data I entered it in various tools that do work and phrase counts, eventually using Online-Utility.org as it provides word and phrase counts all together. Not as fancy as some of the Excel calculations I was doing, but it serves to give a quick glimpse on what's been shared. Word clouds are via JasonDavies.com.
Best Prefect Grade Kit
When it comes to Perfect Grade kits, the PG Exia Gundam ("Exia. Any other answer is a joke.") was voted as best by nearly 3x as many votes than the runner up, the PG Unicorn/Banshee. Though not everyone agrees, one respondent answering, "Any that aren't based on a Unicorn." Third place goes to the Strike Gundam (which IMHO should be in 2nd despite it's relative age and lack of gimmicks). Zeta, Wing, and Strike Freedom are at the bottom of list getting only 2, 4, and 5 votes respectively.
Best Master Grade Kit
While I'm somewhat surprised, if only because the extent of the memes, but ver Ka kits got called out time and time again in this section. It shouldn't be surprising though, through its highs and lows (cough Crossbone, Victory) the ver Ka line has had some of the highest levels of details and (if not always welcomed) gimmicks. Top of the line, based on the census, is the Sazabi ver Ka. Quite a lot of love for the Nu ver Ka as well.
Outside the ver Ka group there's a lot of love for various grunt suits from the Zaku II 2.0 to the GM Sniper II (and related kits, "GM Sniper Custom was a pleasure to build.") and even the Jesta got called out multiple times. From a protag level it looks like the Freedom 2.0 got the most mentions (outside the aforementioned Nu of course), "GM Sniper Custom was a pleasure to build." Quite a few mentions of the RX-78-2 Origin version as well. "The best high grade kits are the ones that update an old design to be more articulate while still retaining a classic style. The best Mg kits would be the GM Sniper and Rx-78 origin version"
There definitely seems to be some cross over between "what's the best kit" and "what's your favorite kit." For example, the MG Unicorn got mentioned 9 times, and as much as I love the kit, I would never place it upon a 'best kits' list. You can see this with MG Wing kits as well. Sandrock, Tallgeese, Heavyarms, and various versions of Wing got mentioned. While I'm not under the impression that these are bad kits, but I wouldn't rank them above many other that got nominated.
Best High Grade Kit
As the largest line of kits to pull from there's quite a wide range of kits represented. Two main kits pop up over and over, the HG RX-78-2 Revive ("RX-78 Revive, it comes with plenty of option parts and is a perfect gateway drug into buying other kits.") and The Origin Char's Zaku II. There's a lot of love for the IBO series as well, namely various forms of the Barbatos, but a lot of people grouped the whole line together. In a similar way lots of folks recommended the HG Origin line as a whole. "The Origin Zaku's beat out pretty much every other HG, IBO HG's are decent as well."
Over all it's a varied list and worth browsing through the raw data if you want to see what everyone put in. Good on you, folks who entered the HG Mack Knife and Elf Bullock.
Of course, the big boys of the group got a mention or two, "HG Dendrobium" "Neo Zeong. Just for the pure ambition."
Best Real Grade Kit
When it comes to the best RG kit out there, the RG Unicorn is by far the number one. And that's not just my Unicorn fandom speaking, the kit took first by a margin of over 100 points over 2nd place, the MK-II. The MK-II got some great praise, "The Mark II is a lovely kit that's almost flawless." "Mk. II still holds the crown I think, but the Unicorn is fantastic too. Destiny gets my underdog vote," and "Tie between the RG Unicorn and the RG Gundam MK-II."
Seeing as this poll started before the recent release of the RG Sazabi, I think we'll see it rise quite a bit in the ranks during the next census.
The key takeaway for anyone looking to pick up their first RG? Skip the ones with a backpack. "Anything without a heavy backpack!" "Non-backpack heavy ones such as the RG Rx-178 MkII"
Best Kit Outside of the Four Main Lines
This question was a catch-all for the grades I didn't want to specifically call out... an attempt to keep the number of questions down. Hard Graph, SD, Mega Size, etc. Even Non-Grade kits ("1/100 Tieren Ground Type is the perfect no-grade kit.").
Skimming through the list it looks like the 1/100 non-grade Iron-Blooded Orphans line, and the 1/100 Full Mechanics Barbatos, get singled out the most. "The No Grade IBO kits or thr RE/100 (any of them)." There's also a lot of love for the RE line, most noticeably the GP04, "The RE/100 GP04 deserves far more love than it gets, awesome kit," which I agree with 100%.
It's nice to see some old kits on there too, like the gold plated 1/100 Sumo, 1/60 F91, and NG Vent Saviour. Someone also entered "........." which I can only presume is a Bandai insider secretly letting us know about an upcoming Hi-Resolution Ball. Someone else said "A basketball" which I can only presume is yet another Bandai insider letting us know about an upcoming Mega Size Ball set.
What's your favorite Gunpla?
I suppose when I put this question in the census I was thinking that, from my perpsective at least, my favorite kit and what I consider the best kits aren't always the same. The census however seems to show that people's favorite kits also tend to be what they consider the best kits. Responses are littered with the favorites from the prior categorizes... Sazabi ver Ka, Nu ver Ka, Zaku IIs, Freedom 2.0, GM Sniper, Barbatos, etc. This time I feel the MG Unicorn is a totally valid answer, "Would have to pick FA Unicorn Gundam (Green Psychoframe), really like all the weapons you get with it and the green looks really nice. Plus it was overall pretty easy to put together. Plus just panel lining it can give you all the detail you need."
What's most interesting is that there seems to be a much wider variety of one-offs not represented in the prior questions. Several different forms of the RX-78-2, most notcably the 3.0, grace the list. Though I agree this guy got it right, "MG RX-78-2 2.0 (yep, even more than the 3.0 and Origin)." The HG Asshimar, HG Leopard da Vinci, etc. Even the HG G-Self Perfect Pack gets a mention, while one of the franchise's best designs, is one of the worst kits to ever attempt painting (just ask GoodGuyDan).
A couple other great comments...
- "amazed by MG strike+ISWP, find myself always posing HGBF GM GM."
- "I think my MG Titan's Mk. II 2.0 holds that title, really satisfying build, lots going on, looks great detailed up."
- "Right now? RG Z'Gok. It's so weird and fun."
- "MG GM Sniper II! Great articulation, good detail without being overwhelming, and an amazing build experience."
- "RG Zeta, b/c it still makes Stroud mad."
Over all it's a fun list to look through and see what folks love. There's a lot of diversity which speaks well to the scope of the fan base.
What's the worst Gunpla you've built?
If you skim through one column of the raw results, let this be the one. The answers are so all over the place I'm not sure where to begin.
MG Gouf Custom, MG Quebley, MG Detal Plus, HG Airmaster, MG Re-GZ, MG Exia, "Ball" (your guess on grade, maybe that's from my Secret Santa recipient last year?), MG Victory, MG RX-78-2 3.0 (high five), MG S Gundam, and so forth.
But the real winner, err loser, is the MG Unicorn and all such variations. It got the most marks on much varied list. It's not all that surprising though. Between the saturation of MG Unicorns and the popular of the series, a lot of people have had the fun of building and working with the complex transformation gimmick. RG Sinanju looks to have snagged second place.
Some great comments from the census...
- "The worst I ever had to build sadly was the RG Zeta Gundam, it looks really good now that it’s together. But man was it a pain to put together, and I still can’t move it around much without it possibly losing a piece."
- "None, all my kits were researched ahead of time"
- "NA, try to stay away from bad kits"
- "1/100 cutecute woundwort (third party kit, beautiful looking terrible to build)" (Not sure this counts, being a third party kit, but holy hell it was a POS kit.)
- "PG Exia. that waist is a bitch to deal with. I found the RG Sinanju to be better"
- "fucking stupid ass gundam age kit that i blew up after finishing"
- "MG Phenex (My favorite kit just because how much of a shelf presence it has. It is ridiculously gaudy and that's why I like it. It's the worst kit I've built due to the tedious touch-up needed, due to the lack of undergating)."
- "RG GP01 Full Burnern. Too fragile in the waist and shoulder joints but is a beauty to behold."
- "Maybe a bit controversial but I didn’t like the Sazabi ver ka build"
- "1/144 NG strike, cus it's got fuck all articulation"
Federation or Zeon?
The question many hated to answer, but it had to be asked. When forced to pick a side, 60% of you aligned with the Feddies.
Best PGs? Exia, Unicorn, and Strike.
Best MG? Sazabi ver Ka, Nu ver Ka, Zaku 2.0 and GM Sniper II.
Best HG? RX-78-2 Revive, and Origin Char's Zaku II. Couldn't have gone wrong with a IBO kit either.
Best RG? Unicorn.
Worst kit? MG Unicorn.
Best kit? Whatever you love, because Gunpla is freedom.
For me, the key takeaway is that there's an interesting mix diversity and agreement across the board. There's enough folks in the group to present a wider range of best/worst/favorite kits than I would've expected, but at the same time enough have found a reason to echo what I generally hear being discussed at tops in those categories. Feel strongly about the PG Exia or the MG Unicorn? There's at least some out there with the exact opposite opinion.