Kits on the Block

As far as model kits go, competitors to Bandai's iron-fisted rule remain few and far between. Yes, pockets of resistance exist to wrest market share from Bandai from time to time, but no single corporation has truly mastered or replicated Bandai's System Injection technology. Bandai model kits are one of the few toys in the modern age that are not "Made in China".

But that hasn't stopped enterprising individuals from trying. Various third-party kits have emerged over the years,with some exhibiting impressive re-imaginations of classic kits, while others are there just to capitalise on the market demand. However, attempting to construct third-party kits will enable you to better appreciate Bandai's unshakable emphasis on quality and precision.

In this page, I will go through the various brands/manufacturers of model kits that are most common and most readily available.

Bandai
HG OO 1/144 OO Gundam Seven Sword/G
The undisputed king of the hill. Bandai kits boast precision-molded snap-fit parts that pair with each other in only one way (most of the time anyway), excellent quality control that cuts flashing (excess plastic from the molding process left on completed parts) to almost non-existence, near-accurate colour reproduction on even basic models as well as an abundance of kits to choose from across every grade. 

Bandai kits can be found in all toy stores, but they also operate a Premium Bandai Online Store and a Hobby Pro Shop to sell exclusive, limited edition kits, usually recolours or palette swaps of existing, market-available models. The store also sells accessories and decals for released kits. These are difficult to obtain and are often very pricey, but the bragging rights granted from getting them makes it worthwhile. Sorta.

Daban (大班)
Da Ban MG 1/100 OO Gundam Seven Sword/G
The closest competitor (if you even consider it competition) Bandai has is Chinese company Daban. Although essentially a copycat of Bandai's model kits, the quality of the material and the final product are surprisingly close. For the untrained eye, it can pass off as a Bandai original, but seasoned hobbyists would be able to tell them apart from the less-radiant colours, glossier finishing, heavy flashing on certain parts as well as the visibly lower quality of the plastic used, especially evident on the underside. 

A single Daban kit costs only a third or lesser of its Bandai counterpart. However, the parts are not molded with Bandai-level precision and engineering expertise, but still manage to fit well, albeit with assistance from heavy tools (pliers) as well as raw brute force. Once properly painted and treated however, Da Ban kits can look almost identical to the original. Modelers usually get Daban kits for kitbashing, weapons salvaging or simply to repair their Bandai model kits. 

Gao Gao (高高)
Gao Gao HG 1/144 Destiny Gundam
A "shameless rip-off" if you will, Gao Gao replicates and mass produces Bandai kits with clearly more inferior material and technology. Parts will take more effort to fit and colour reproduction varies from kit to kit. 

In the case of a GG MG 1/100 Unicorn Gundam Ver. Ka, the armor plates cannot fully cover the psychoframe in Unicorn Mode, resulting in a Unicorn stuck in transformation limbo. GG kits come (dirt) cheap, you can get one for about 1/4 (or lower) of its Bandai counterpart.

MC Model (MC模魂真悟)
MCM 1/144 RX-93-2 Hi-Nu Gundam
MC Model is a small Chinese company that only manufactures a certain number of HG-scale model kits, primarily the RX-93 Nu Gundam (printed as Gundoom on the box due to copyright issues). However, it is a completely enhanced design of the original RX-93, boasting a larger size than most Bandai HGs, impressive detailing in the armor, more realistically-sized weapons, a refined look as well as a more "tactical" (read: dull) colour scheme. 

The company also releases the RX-93 in three other variants: the RX-93[G] (a ground-combat variant), the RX-93 HWS (a freakishly-armed heavy assault type) and the remarkable RX-93-2 Hi-Nu Gundam. The refined Hi-Nu kits are actually superior to the puny Bandai version and come with six fully-removable fin funnels instead of the measly two from the HGUC. The company has also since released a monster-sized HG RX-104 Xi Gundam with the Penelope soon joining its ranks.

Although parts take a little bit more effort to put together and the edges are not for the thin-skinned, the finished product out-of-the-box is truly a sight to behold. Furthermore, it doesn't cost you an arm and a leg to get one.

Dragon Momoko (九头龙桃子)
DM HG 1/144 AGE-1R Gundam AGE-1 Razor
Another company that focuses on redesigns and reimaginations of existing kits is Dragon Momoko. This Taiwanese company is known for its line of HG-scale model kits from the Gundam Age series, with truly sharp V-fins. Apart from upgrades to the standard AGE-1 Normal, AGE-1 Spallow and AGE-1 Titus, Momoko also features the AGE-1R Razor in coloured parts, something that is missing in the Japanese version that came with a hobby magazine. It also has the AGE-1 Spallow Enhanced, as I call it, an upgraded variant of the Spallow that is literally armed to the teeth with a Shiguru Sword, Shiguru Claw, twin knives, a rocket anchor and of course its Shiguru short sword. The latest offering is the AGE-1 Titus Cannon, a recoloured Titus that features twin backpack-mounted cannons, a la the Guncannon. 

Apart from the AGE series, Momoko also rolls out HG kits of Gundam Wing side story mobile suits and a Gerbera Tetra, amongst others. Its MG Freedom Gundam features a better-looking mold than the Bandai version, correcting the goofy head to a more badass and fearsome one, among other improvements.

BTF (Butterfly)
BTF RG 1/144 FXA-00 Flying Armor
A Japanese company that almost exclusively manufactures add-ons for existing kits, including the GN Sword IV for the MG 1/100 Qan[T] and the Caletvwich weapon for the MG 1/100 Gundam Astray Red Frame and Blue Frame. It is characterised by its no-frills packaging of its products: simple, plain-coloured (usually white) boxes with minimalist illustrations and text on the topside. 

However, the quality of the parts and products are on-par with Bandai, with almost-exact colour reproduction and proportions. The company also produces RG-level models, down to the realistic decals.

The first fully-fledged model kit released by BTF is the 1/100 ZZ Gundam (Slim Ver.), a reimagination of the titular mobile suit from ZZ Gundam.

M.S.G Kotobukiya
MSG 1/100 (HG 1/144) Frame Arms with Sniper Cannon and Beam Carbines
Although not exactly a model kit producing company per se, M.S.G creates weapons for the Frame Arms series that can be used by Bandai's 1/144 and/or 1/100 kits. Featuring a large variety of weapons and armaments ranging from daggers to GN Swords to beam sabers and giant sniper cannons, these weaponry fit into existing Bandai hands well with little modification, although the bigger hands of older HG kits would have lesser trouble wielding the nicely-molded and highly-detailed weapons.