Why to Choose New Gunpla: An Io Frame Shiden Review

posted on by Lauren Orsini

When people ask me, “Which Gunpla should I build first?” my temptation is to tell everyone to build a kit that matches their favorite Gundam from anime, end of story. However, the more Gunpla I build, the less I can deny that quality has increased a lot in recent years. Today's Gunpla are more accurate, more articulate, and often much easier to put together. That's why I tell beginners to pick a kit from 2015 or later to be their first.

In order to explain, I'm going to walk you through my latest build. Bluefin sent me an Io Frame Shiden to review, but I couldn't critique it in a vacuum. Bandai has spent a lot of time reviving older models and refining their molding process and you can really tell. Let's go through the steps and I'll show you the ways this model benefits from being so recent.

Here's the runners right out of the box. I want you to look at the lower right-hand corner, where there's two large, identical gray pieces with rectangular holes in them. Eventually, this is going to be the model's shin bone. While watching Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, I had no idea how they were going to model these mecha with holes in their legs and figured it was going to be pretty rough on the builder. But apparently, it's all one piece.

We still haven't started, but I want to direct your attention to this runner labeled PC. That stands for “polycaps.” In every Gunpla kit there is at least one of these, and they consist entirely of connector pieces. That means they're all function and no flair and can be used interchangeably between certain kits. Notice how in the instructions, some pieces are X'd out. In order to make Gunpla manufacture faster and more efficient, a lot of kits come with the same PC runner and simply make use of different parts of it.

PC runners are also really flexible: they're made of polyethylene, a different, softer kind of plastic than the rest of the kit.

That's ancient history, but what's new is how flexible the runners for the rest of this kit are. They're made out of polystyrene, an extremely light plastic. Older Gunpla are not only heavier, but you can't bend the runners. Be careful not to bend them too much on new kits and warp the pieces, though.

Time to get started! I use my nippers to cut the pieces out, leaving a small nub, like the one I'm pointing to in the photo. If I try to cut the piece out without leaving a nub, I can never get the right angle and end up getting it close but not quite.

So what I do now is shave the piece down with an X-Acto knife until it's nothing.

This is what my work space looks like after doing this for a while!

So what does this have to do with the kit being new? Beginning in 2015, Bandai began manufacturing runners with a new molding method they call the “wedge gate system.” I don't know what that means exactly, but Bandai claims that it makes the nub marks less noticeable on your finished Gunpla with a lot less work.

That was true for most of my kit, but I had trouble with the red armor, like seen here on the feet. You can see that for the right nub mark, it's sort of pink and very noticeable. What happened here?

Here we go—see that vein of plain white? That comes from stressing the plastic through cutting. The closer you cut to the piece, the more likely a piece of stressed, white plastic will appear. So the best strategy is to opt for what I did on the left and leave a very small nub remaining…

And then, instead of cutting it, shave it down with auto sandpaper, the kind you use on cars. Apparently. I don't claim to know anything about cars.

After a little sanding, you can see that the right looks better (though still white), and the left, which I caught before I cut, is barely noticeable! There are some scuff marks from the sandpaper, and typically I'd spray a clear, matte paint over it to hide that.

Finally, Io Frame Shiden lives! You can tell I did some panel lining, where I colored in the details on the ivory chest piece (gray marker) and the red shoulders (brown marker). I used subtle colors only a little darker than the pieces themselves to define them a bit.

He came with a rifle, a mace called a “Partizan,” and my favorite accessory: this massive riot shield. Since the plastic is so light, he doesn't have any trouble standing even with the shield attached. With older kits, you have to be careful that big accessories don't topple your pose.

Here's that foot again, but look up at the leg. I just think this piece with the hole in it is really cool and extremely accurate to the anime. And since they were able to mold it all as one piece, there wasn't any chance for me to flub it!

Thanks for checking out this beautiful kit with me. Even if Iron-Blooded Orphans isn't your favorite entry in the Gundam canon, you have to admit that by the virtue of being new, its kits are some of the easiest there are to build.

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