Why We Need Low Tier & High Tier High Grades
Before we deep dive into this subject, allow me to define Low Tier and High Tier in regards to High Grade model kits. Low Tier doesn’t necessarily mean bad, just basic or older. As an example, we can look at either the HG Leo or most of the build fighters/divers kits. There are going to be a lot more in this category as compared to the High Tier. These types of HG’s don’t push the boundaries of what a High Grade can do, just a standard kit.
High Tier doesn’t inherently mean great but something that pushes the current boundaries of the High Grade line. The most recent instance of this would be the HG Moon Gundam. Before that we had the Iron Blooded Orphans line, and even before that we had the 00 line updating everything. New levels of detail, articulation, accessories, and plastic texture help redefine what the High Grade line is capable of.
The HG Leo’s simple construction and design make it not only an easy build but also helps to bring the price down. As the build fighters/divers kits are based on older molds, they aren’t typically bringing any major articulation differences to the table, allowing these kits to be pretty reasonable in price. A great example from Build Divers is the HG Age 2 Magnum. The Age 2 design holds up well with updates, but it also doesn’t fall too far behind current standards for articulation. The mold is a little basic and lacks a lot of panel lining opportunities, but it’s still a solid kit.
Although this type of simplicity can have it’s problems, IE the HG Tristan, it is for the best. This also ties into kits such as the HG Phenex that entirely reuse parts from nearly a decade ago with just a new coat of paint. Things like this aren’t the best from a consumer’s perspective, but it’s a smart move on Bandai’s part. The HG Phenex has had three different versions now and they didn’t have to make a whole new kit. That’s cash money for Bandai. Anyone that bought it paid a price they thought it was worth.
The Moon Gundam really helped push the boundaries of what a High Grade could be. The new level of engineering that was put into a kit like this pushes the price to Real Grade territory, however it paves the way for more kits to be like the Moon Gundam. This also applies to the 1/60th Arm Slaves from Full Metal Panic and the “HG” Mazinger line. Even with the scaling differences, both of these lines are carrying on what the newer generation of High Grades started. If we look into the past, we see the Iron Blooded Orphans line bring more inner frames into the mix. Something that up until that point was reserved for Master Grades and Real Grades.
Not only that, but we also saw a new level of customization that was incredibly well thought out, even becoming a major selling point for the line. 00 and Age brought a lot of new, fresh articulation not before seen in the HGUC line. The update to the hips and shoulders blew any HGUC or HGCE kit out of the water at the time. Instead of static ball jointed hips we started to get rocking, twisting hips to make our Gunpla pull Shakira-level moves. They had to make Kira more Shakira like with the HGCE remasters. Bandai picks up on what they learn from one successful venture and applies it to most of their future designs.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “why can’t all kits just be up to the same standards as these innovative designs?” It all comes down to risk assessment. It is a lot more expensive to come up with new, more detailed molds and more advanced engineering. From Bandai’s point of view it isn’t worth the risk of putting all that money into every kit to have it not sell what they need it to. Taking advantage of older molds and new simple designs really helps keep the ball rolling. Every High Tier kit Bandai invests in is more of an art project. Of course, as a business, they have projections in regards to sales figures, but the risk on something like the Moon Gundam is much higher than the Age 2 Magnum.
The same can be said for most of the P Bandai stock. Some consumers feel that Bandai is price gouging for something that is generally just a repaint with a few new accessories, however it just goes back to risk management. The more obscure the root source, the less likely it is to sell high numbers. Producing limited numbers leads to higher pricing. The cost of production can’t be spread out over as many units, thus the price is generally going to be higher.
As a fan base, we can choose to be either incensed by something like the HGUC Tristan, or we can accept it and know that Bandai is just making a business decision. Not only do the Low Tier High Grades minimize the financial risk for Bandai, but they keep prices down. It also helps us get kits we couldn’t hope to have otherwise. With the Tristan example, had they not used the old HGUC Alex Gundam, we wouldn’t have seen a kit at all. We’d all like to have a dated kit rather than no kit. Even if you couldn’t care less about something like the Tristan, keep in mind that there are people out there who do. All in all, Bandai keep doing you. All you lovely people reading this, keep doing you. And I’ll keep on keepin’ on.
*this OpEd does not reflect any of the opinions/views of the Gunpla Network Admin/Moderator/YouTube/Instagram teams