Fifth Time Lucky?… Nah!
Born to runner up. That seems to be the story of my life.
I suppose it is the price one pays for working as a contract figure and model maker when one is a youth. Indeed, if you’ve been following any of my builds for HLJ, ‘Quick n dirty’ is a good way to describe them. I’ve always squeaked prefectural laurels (salvage the pride) in the five years the event has been run, but I’ve never been able to go further, and if you look at the following cheesy promo for the 2016 event, you can see why… my best builds are slapped silly by a young girl (junior category) with a cutesy little Beargguy diorama and, well… just watch.
Gundam Builders World Championships
Since the late 1970s, Bandai has been very aware that there is a huge variety of modelers buying their kits, from the initial demographic of early teens who bought into the initial kit releases in 1979, to the most dedicated adult kit-bashers who made the Mobile Suit Variation series their weapon of choice.
Even at the outset, the issue of how to satisfy as many modelers as possible, with wildly variable skill levels was noted right from the start, and made even more evident when the honestly simplistic designs of the original series were set against the follow up series, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, the increasingly High Grade kits for which often left younger or less experienced modelers rather in the shade.
A Matter of Money, Technology, or Altruism?
Following Zeta, Bandai took something of a technological leap and began experimenting not only with increasingly detailed models, but also mold shots which could be addressed by many different builders with good results no matter their level.
We began to see more and more precolored kits with the introduction of the kits for ZZ Gundam, and by the time we got into the era of the OAV series such as ‘0080: War in the pocket’, builders were being re-introduced to the System Injection system, in which styrene of multiple colors was shot into the same mold frame (or even part), so that parts could be detached essentially pre-painted.
It all makes sense in a fashion…
When I was down in Kobe working at the Volks shop, the Bandai rep for Hyougo gave me an insight into the whole deal, which was really one of simplifying the production process and maximising sales by ensuring that as many folks as possible could get some satisfaction from their builds, no matter their skill level.
With their bright colors, stickers, and increasingly press fit builds even a young modeler could do a good job, spray the whole lot down with matte-coat, and call it done, whilst a master could go to town and really come up with something grand.
It might have been a business move to streamline production in the first case, but it led to the idea that more and more of the community could be served the same fare, and dress it to their own ends.
It was this which drove Bandai’s first modeling contests in the late ’80s and early ’90s, challenging builders (regionally at first) to make the best of the kits available, whether they be the (then) ‘standard’ High Grade kits, or the early Master Grade models (which are still easy to make, right out of the box).
This is not to say that Bandai has forgotten the higher end of the market, with the Perfect Grade and recently released High Resolution kits, however, the point I am trying to make here is that Bandai has been more aware of its market and ways of encouraging engagement between everyone involved (tl;dr how to get people to buy more stuff).
The World is Your Oyster
With the increasing popularity of both the Gundam property and merchandise overseas, this notion of community has become increasingly important.
Learning from the lessons of the disaster of Bandai Ent. US in the early 2000s, and free from the sort of legal wrangling which has bogged Macross down in international Hell for decades, the current angle which Bandai’s modeling wing has taken has generally been very positive (a few issues related to properties like Star Wars aside, which I still do not understand).
This outreach led, five years ago, to the creation of the Gundam Builder’s World Championship, which now stands at over a dozen participating countries and is streamed for all ages (as you will have seen above).
There is little more to be said other than that.
People build bandai kits (the championship is not only Gundam related, though most kits do tend to be from that property) and everyone gets excited to see what is going on.
That the competition coincides with the big summer release schedule announcements and Gundam Expo is entirely coincidental, I am sure… 😀
Either way you look at it, this is a grand idea, and I’ve entered every year since it has been running.
Don’t ever expect to see my builds in the final, though.
Last year’s winner spent eleven months on the winning build; I’m lucky if I get to spend eleven hours on my entry (though I still expect to sweep the local round and place in the prefectural – #USI_FTW)
My Weapon of Choice this year, my favourite MSV – Gouf Custom, because who cannot like a shield with a gatling gun on it!
*DEFINITELY* Not an Ordinary Zaku!
The original Gouf was a bit of a master design – a high speed, down armored, but deadly close combat mobile suit which suited the personality of its pilot Ranba Rall (who has become so popular that he has been made more of a hero figure in recent years – especially in Origins).
However, this custom, really takes it one step beyond… A real beauty.
I like the MG series of kits, I really do. Superb levels of detail, and tight enough tolerances that they can be clipped together, lined up and sprayed down with matte coat and they still look boss!
The only thing I do not like are these wretched rub down seals ….. I much prefer water slide decals.
Bring it on!
One day to build a model for a contest?
Can Dr. Robodaz do it?