SD Gundam originated from a contributed illustration of a junior high school student from Nagoya by the name of Koji Yokoi to the "Model News" magazine that Bandai was issuing in the 1980s. The illustration is of a Gundam but with an unusual proportion where the overall height of the Gundam is equal to twice that of its head. This illustration interested the chief editor and so leading to Koji Yokoi serializing SD Gundam in 4 frame comics in "Model News".
The super deformed design was suitable for capsule toys and so SD Gundam started merchandising with the Gashapon series "SD Gundam World" in 1985. Although at first SD Gundam started out as a parody of the Gundam series by the 1990s SD Gundam spawned many spin-off series, SD Sengokuden (Musha Gundam) which has a Sengoku setting, SD Gundam Gaiden (Knight Gundam) which has a fantasy medieval setting and SD Command Chronicles which has a modern military style to name a few.
With its popularity, SD Gundam merchandise expanded to include manga, trading cards, anime and video games.
While regular Gundam model lines strive for realism by introducing High Grade, Master Grade, and Perfect Grade models, SD Gundam models are designed for (and sometimes by) the customization crowd. Many SD Gundam models are designed such that variations of the stock models, as seen by SD Gundam comics, can be made by using parts from other SD Gundam kits. Modifying SD models is very popular in Japan, more so than the full-sized counterparts. In addition to made-up robots contributed to SD Gundam comics, Bandai also held monthly contests for custom Gundam (usually Musha-based) models.
The model kit series is called "SD Gundam BB Senshi". 2007 saw the release of the 300th kit in the series. Forming the bulk of the series are Musha Gundam kits; the Musha kits have standard gimmicks like detachable armour and others, such as combination and compatibility of parts between kits. In recent years the G Generation kits have introduced a new proportion and enhanced poseability.
Scale is often inconsistent, especially in older kits where many characters from the same storyline are out of scale with one another. However, as the line continued these issues have mostly been addressed and sometimes been intentional. Dai-Shogun characters have often seen their final form released as a much larger figure (in some cases, this is included in the storyline by the character growing to giant size to combat an equally large foe).
Another model kit series called Ganso SD Gundam, though discontinued in the 1990s, covered all the SD Gundam series but mainly focus on Knight Gundam kits. These kits are made from more durable plastic and are bigger than the BB Senshi kits. They can be found at auction sites, usually with high prices.
Century number releases (100, 200, 300, etc) are often marked as special occasions. 2007 saw the release of the 300th BB Senshi kit in official numbering. However, the previous kit had been BB 295. Bandai retroactively filled in the missing five kits alongside releases of kits with the 300+ numbering. These retroactive kits were of units from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, many being recolours of existing kits. Additionally, popular SD Gundam kits have been re-released in waves at around the same time as new kits. These re-releases are broken down by series (Musha, Knight, Command, G-Generation). The popularity of these older kits is such that many have been included in later re-release waves.
A limited subline titled Chi-Bi Senshi (a pun on the mainline's 'BB' and 'chibi', meaning small) consisted of thirteen kits based on Super G-Arms, Knight Gundam, Gundlaner and Musha. The kits were smaller and less complex than full BB Senshi, built on a five point skeleton block which allowed for parts swapping between the kits. This gimmick was also utilised with some of the Knight kits to allow them to combine with larger BB Senshi versions of the 'Kihei' mobile weapons they piloted. Additionally, nine of the Chi-Bi Senshi were released in three triple boxsets, depicting them in widly different transparent colours. The Comic World chapters included with these sets referred to these 'Crystal' versions as dopplegangers made from sentient alien crystals who had chosen to copy the real Gundams.
A related line of merchandise has included the designs from SD Gundam works presented as 'real type' versions, lacking the deformed proportions. This concept has seen a resurgence in recent years, with Bandai issuing a Master Grade model kit of Hajime Katoki's Shin Musha Gundam (appearing in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam) and Banpresto releasing toys and mini-statues based on 'real type' versions of Musha and Knight characters.
Starting in 2008, the SDX line is a collector aimed series of action figures based on SD Gundam characters. The first figure released, Knight Gundam, was based on a scratchbuilt model of the character made by Hobby Japan for his appearance in Musha Retsuden Zero. Following this was a release of 'Full Armor Knight Gundam' (depicting the character's upgraded form), with figures of Satan Gundam and Command Gundam announced for later in 2009. Being a collector aimed line, the series focuss on high detail, option parts and updating popular SD Gundam characters who are only otherwise represented by decades old model kits and toys. For example, Knight Gundam was released with a display base, alternate facial expressions and armour pieces produced from metal.
Some of the SD Gundam animation works, a more complete list is available at the Japanese wiki entry.
In Japan, SD Gundam comics are published in the assembly maual of the BB Senshi kits, titled 'Comic World' (drawn by MARSHI a.k.a Susumu Imaishi). The popularity of the SD Gundam series led to stand-alone publications of SD Gundam comics, initially serialized in Comic Bom Bom by Kodansha. The Comic World stories may contain differences from their expanded counterparts. In later BB Senshi kits, especially the musha-themed kits, contain side story for the separately published series.
Most of the SD Gundam manga were serialized in Kodansha's Comic Bom Bom with the exception of Musharetsuden ZERO which was serialized in Hobby Japan.
Some of the SD Gundam books are translated into Chinese and published by Rightman Publishing Ltd. in Hong Kong.
Below is a rough list of manga works, a more accurate and complete list is available at the Japanese wiki entry.
In the past most of the SD Gundam games are turn-based strategy games and Brawlers shooter but recent SD Gundam games started appearing in other genres.
Below is a rough list of game works, a more accurate and complete list is available at the Japanese wiki entry.
Through not treated as a title from the SD Gundam series, the RPG game Gundam True Odyssey(MS Saga: A New Dawn in the US) also used Super-deformed graphics for the mobile weapons in game.
The SD Gundam designs were also used throughout the earlier Super Robot Wars games (up through SRW F and F Final, stopping at SRW Alpha for the PS1), as can be seen by the pupils present in the eyes of the various Mobile Suits that appeared. From SRW Alpha and beyond, however, the eyes of Mobile Suits remain blank, though the robots themselves are still super-deformed (just as all mechs represented in typical SRW games are). The only exceptions are in Shin Super Robot Wars and the Scramble Commander series, where all series featured in these games used real-sized designs instead of the traditional SD-sized ones.
A real-sized Musha Gundam has been placed as a hidden, unlockable unit in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam series. Particular SD Gundams that has been converted to normal sizes are confirmed to participate in the Gundam War trading card game.