There was a time in my Gunpla collecting career when I bought bootlegs and collected them. After seeing a lot of blog post about how bootleg Gunpla kits is ruining the hobby, I decided to dust off my old Gunpla vault and unearth some long forgotten items of an era gone by. Nearly fifteen years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Gunpla, and although I never gave it much thought at first, the fact that an anime show has a full line of toy models of its mobile suits piqued my curiosity. And before I knew it, me and my friends were scouring nearby towns searching for Gunpla kits. During that time, Bandai was just another toy brand I’ve often heard of from TV commercials of the Power Rangers toy line, unknown to me is that Bandai was the sole proprietor of the Gundam toy line as well. In my point of view any Gundam plastic model kit is as good as any other toys out there, and that was a misconception that will later haunt me. Before the wide search for Gunpla kits with my friend, I did a little experimenting of my own, I went looking for Gunpla kits in nearby toy shops by myself to see if they were as good as my friend say they are. One good coincidence at the time was the town fiesta where I live is going to be held in a few weeks, and of course along with the celebration, roaming merchants set up shop at the town plaza. While mindlessly browsing at the shops one evening, a peculiar looking box caught my eye. Lo and behold! It was a Gunpla kit from the lesser known Gundam Wing side story manga most often referred to as the G-Unit Gundams. One of the very first kits that I bought is the Gundam Geminass 01.
The kit was made by the now defunct ‘Ben Di’ knockoff brand. Ben Di is easily recognized with its red diamond shaped logo which is supposed to be the Bandai logo rotated to 45 degrees with some minor changes to the letters and PRESTO!
At first look, the plastic quality is fair and the craftsmanship is also ‘so-so’ in quality. Snap-fit parts lock quite nicely, although one big noticeable problem is the missing details in some areas, especially the face. One thing that the Ben Di K.O. was able to pull off almost perfectly is the sticker markings. Compared to other K.O. Gunpla kits I have bought much later, none ever came close to the Ben Di stickers that came with the GW G-Unit kits. After realizing this rather odd shift in quality, it made me believe that Ben Di was just one of Bandai’s branch companies (me and my innocence).
I used to think that I would be fine just collecting bootlegs, that is until a few years later that the realization that I just wasted my hard-earned money on inferior knock-offs.
The white parts used to be a white-grey-ish color, but now it’s all dirty yellow and it’s all over the model.
The articulation is typical of a 90’s Bandai HG 1/144 kit. The knees and elbows can only bend 90 degrees, the hands are made of polycaps, the head can be rotated 360 degrees, the feet has limited articulation though. The armor parts can be interchanged from the regular Geminass armor to the space armor, the kit also comes with a beam rifle, a shield and two beam swords, the beam rifle can be tucked on the back side of the shield for storage.
It’s pretty much a blatant copy of the original except that this one has a lot of uneven seams as seen on the pics below.
And the main reason why I never put the space armor on this kit is because the shoulder armors are mismatched. They were both armor for the left shoulder. For some reason, the bootlegger didn’t even bother to check if they recasted the same piece just as long as they can reproduce the kit and make tons of money off of it, and they did! After a few years Bandai stopped production of the G-Unit kits and they only decided to reissue them in 2013, after the bootleggers sold tons of their inferior copies. The reason why I didn’t put a yellow paint on it is because I was thinking that in the future I might gain enough mad modeling skills that will enable me to fix this error in the bootleg, unfortunately I grew a lot lazier instead.
One more thing that I didn’t like about this poor copy is that it’s missing a LOT of details on its face.
The original condition of this knock-off is that its face is just a smooth piece of plastic. Now mind you, back then I was just a novice modeler and I have never modified any kit let alone put details of its face. After hours of carving and sanding, I managed to make it look like the one pictured in the manual. Unfortunately, there are no details for the eyes, so I created the eyes out of pieces of paper. The only redeeming perk of this bootleg (for me) is the sticker markings. The extra clear sticker was something I have never seen in other bootlegs at the time, and even now.
A decade ago bootleggers have the audacity to just copy the legit product and sell them, unlike bootleggers of today that they even photoshop the original images on the box and even rearrange the contents of the manuals. But this one, other than erasing the Bandai logo, they pretty much copied the whole thing, even the Japanese texts of the original assembly manual. Below are the higher resolution scans I made of the manual that came with the bootleg.
When I first bought this thing, I thought that it will last a long time. But to my dismay, it only lasted a few years. Just a few months after I bought the Geminass kit, it already shown some signs of yellowing and after more than a decade in storage it turned in to this yellowish monstrosity. Most of the bootlegs I owned are slowly falling apart and only a few handful survived the years and this is one of them.
The road to Gunpla is indeed treacherous and with nobody to properly guide you, you may end up starting at the wrong path like I did. I’d often ask the store clerk about where I could buy Gundam paints, what tools I should use in Gunpla building, but nobody was able to give me a clear answer, it took me a full nine years before I truly learned the art of Gunpla building. Back when I started collecting Gunpla nobody even gave a hoot about Gundams, so no one told me what I should buy or what I should avoid. It was not till much later when I saw my cousin’s authentic Bandai Gunpla Wing Gundam kit that I realized that I was buying the wrong stuff.
The lesson, AVOID BOOTLEGS!! They may be cheap, but they won’t last in the long run. Plus bootlegs are just bad copies of the original, they are difficult to put together, they are frustratingly bad.
Although I vowed not to buy bootlegs anymore, but recently there is a bootlegger that is making waves in the Gunpla community and even Bandai felt threatened by it. What’s this notorious bootlegger? It’s the Dragon Momoko brand.
I have yet to see a bootleg that is as good as Bandai, but with this kit (brand) modelers claim that it is 99.99% on par with Bandai and because of it I broke my vow… Was it worth it, or will it be just another Ben Di kit that will turn yellow after a few years? Either way, it is something worth looking at, but I will not post a review on it not till I get my hands on a legit Bandai Geminass kit.