And now for something completely different:
What is Gunpla-Kun?
Gunpla-Kun at once both a mascot and an experiment.
He is the star of a series of Japanese advertisements (all of which you can watch on Youtube), presumably meant to spread the joy of Gunpla and teach the basics to kids. It does so through the use of characters like Gunpla-Kun and Zakupla-Kun:
And GMpla-kun and νpla-kun.
What’s interesting here is that while these characters kind of look like SD Gundams, none of them are. In fact, none of them are based on existing model kits. But they very clearly look like they could become kits, and sure enough, at least a few of them have (Naturally, Gunpla-kun was the first).
But they didn’t just make it like any old kit. Rather, they decided to make it out of a new material called Limex. It is a compound made from a mixture of plastics and limestone (but mostly limestone).
Long story short, Bandai (like many other toy companies, including Lego) are worried about how much plastic they use, and they’re trying all sorts of experiments to find new, eco-friendly materials that won’t compromise the quality of their products. Limex is one of the first (but probably not the last) thing they’re experimenting with, and I guess they thought that a small, simple kit like Gunpla Kun was a good testbed.
Does it Work?
How does Limex Look/Feel/etc?
I’m not super well versed in 3D printing, but Limex feels an awful lot like 3D printed plastic that’s been smoothed out. It has the same sense of lightness to it.
But in terms of how it looks, it’s a bit harder to describe. It’s very … chalky. In some cases I mean that literally. There are places here and there where you may notice a chalky residue, on account of all the limestone. This is especially true wherever there are nub marks.
Speaking of which, nub marks are extremely noticeable on Limex, and they don’t clean up very easily. In some cases I was able to scratch them away, but in other cases I actually had touch up the marks with a tiny bit of paint.
But overall I’d still describe it as looking very chalky. The colors are just a bit duller, and the finish just a bit too matte, in a way that reminds me of colored chalk.
I don’t hate it, but I also can’t say I love it. The nub marks in particular make it a dealbreaker; for that reason alone, I simply couldn’t see Limex as ever being the future of Gunpla.
Is it Strong and Sturdy?
I’m not sure.
I had three small parts break on me. But they’re so small that I’m pretty sure they might have broken even if they were made of regular plastic.
However, I’m going to lean towards judging it as not sturdy, on account of the fact that, in addition to breaking, the Limex is prone to chipping. If it’s a particularly thin edge, you might even be able to do so with just your fingernail and some pressure.
The good news is that Limex seems very amenable to super glue. The parts immediately began to adhere, and the bond seems pretty strong.
If you were to throw this model on a desk and leave it be, it’s probably not going to get damaged, so I don’t think this fragility a huge problem. But it certainly means you ought not to try and play with it too much, or try and transport it around.
Let’s get started with the build. Here are the runners:
I’m genuinely curious if most people can figure out it’s assembly just by looking at the parts. Some of them are pretty obvious (such as all the parts for the head), but others (like the parts for the arms and legs) are super tiny and unlike typical Gunpla parts.
And that’s to say nothing about that “A” Runner. We’ll get to that later.
Let’s start with the head. Here’s what the inside looks like:
So you got a red part layered on a yellow part to make the eyes, and then the kit’s one and only decal goes on top to create the blacks around the eyes.
From here we put on the white outer armor, and we’re done:
Except we’re not really done. Any black you see on here that’s not the black around the eyes had to be painted in.
Next, I tried using a red Gundam Marker to paint the camera sensor on the back, which was a very bad idea. I forgot how easily red paint bleeds into seamlines, and at one point the entire back of the head was stained red and pink. I had to take it apart and clean the paint out of the seam lines. Then I used some cement and sanded them down. It doesn’t look perfect, but it looks way better than it did:
I can’t be too upset considering how few people are going to view it from behind.
Moving on to the torso, the parts fit together in a fairly straightforward manner, though to my eye it looks vaguely like a stack of Lego bricks:
That little gap on the bottom is meant to be space for the tiny skirt armor:
The backpack is one white piece, and as you can see I did a bit of color correction:
This is where I broke off a part, specifically one of the beam sabers. But like I said, it glued right back on.
You may also notice that one of the beam sabers looks really dark. This is another flaw of Limex - paint seems to chip off very easily, but it also stains very easily. No amount of rubbing alcohol or magic eraser was enough to make that left beam saber look any brighter.
Moving on, each leg is made of two parts, while each arms is made of just one:
I did some panel lining on the legs, and some panel lining and color correction on the arms.
As you can imagine, these spindly little limbs only have one point of articulation where they connect to the body.
Lastly, we move on to the accessories. Here are all the weapons:
The shield is made of red plastic, the beam rifle out of a single piece of blue plastic, and the beam saber out of white plastic. I did some more simple color correction, just to make them feel a touch more authentic.
Now we get to the display accessories, of which there are several. The first is this little base:
This primarily serves to prop up and support Gunpla-kun himself, but it also has slots for storing and displaying all the weapons:
Then there is this little thing:
This may look like a runner, but it’s actually a display stand.
In the promotional videos, Gunpla-kun and friends each have a runner that sort of acts like their little home:
At will, they can disassemble and attach their body parts to the runner, and then pop them back out and reassemble when they want to come out and play. It’s a super cute little visual gag, and this runner/stand allows you to recreate it in real life.
But first things first - here is Gunpla-kun all assembled:
I feel like I a stupid little child saying this, but - he’s not quite as impressive in real life as he is in the commercials, and I’m not sure why I expected him to.
In the ads, Gunpla-kun has a somewhat shiny finish, as if he’s made of metal (or top coated plastic). The chalky look of Limex just doesn’t hit the same.
It also doesn’t help that, in the ads, Gunpla-kun is animated, meaning he can get away with moving his hands and joints. In real life that obviously can’t happen, so his expressiveness is greatly limited.
I still think he’s kind of cute, but overall I’m underwhelmed. Really, it’s the display stand that ultimately saves this model:
I think this is a really fun, really clever gimmick. It’s really what makes the kit.
Let’s just put it this way - this is a fun little experiment. I’ll give Bandai credit for trying something new with a new material. But at $15, it isn’t quite cheap enough to be a “throwaway” kit that you pick up for the heck of it.