Fans gathered in the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building this weekend to celebrate 40 years (!) of Gunpla at Gunpla Expo 2020.
Despite the current circumstances we find ourselves in this year, Bandai was able to pull together a safe and dazzling celebration of the hobby! The expo was full of gorgeous kits, fun gimmicks, and plenty of exciting teasers to look forward to in the coming year.
When I first arrived at the Sumitomo building, it was made perfectly clear that the event organizers were taking necessary precautions to keep everyone safe this year. First off, as is normal here in Japan, every attendant was required to wear a mask. Besides that, before I was even able to get my ticket, my temperature was taken to confirm that I was not running a fever.
From there, I was guided over to a waiting area with appropriately distanced squares sectioned off with tape for individuals or couples to wait for their turn to enter the expo. While the wait to enter was grueling, I appreciate the effort that went in to ensuring everyone stayed safe!
Once the long wait was finally over, I was treated to possibly the most over-the-top intro to any convention, expo, or trade show that I’ve ever attended. Standing between life-size replicas of our Grandaddy Gundam RX-78-2’s shield and Beam Saber, a massive wrap-around LCD exploded to life as my group of attendees was presented the “Gunpla Factory Nexus Tour Ride” – a CGI experience that reminded me of those cinematic “rides” that you might experience at a theme park.
I have a feeling that most days in Bandai’s Gunpla Factory don’t necessarily involve RX-78-2s blasting through walls and slamming into floating Gundam hangars, but it certainly helps build up the hype! You can check out a first-person view of the action below!
From there, I was free to walk around the expo as I wished. The walls of the expo were lined with all sorts of upcoming and current kits ranging all the way from Entry Grades to Perfect Grades, and everything in between. Slick decals and smooth top coats made each masterfully-built kit a treat for the eyes and excellent motivation to up my game as a builder!
The “Fun to build Gunpla!” section featured an array of Red Comet Zaku HG’s in various stages of customization, highlighting all the possibilities we have as builders to make our kits our own, and the Entry Grade showcase gave a deserving spotlight to a new era of Gunpla that will allow the hobby to grow for generations to come. Attendees were also able to experience “building” a giant Gundam kit, grabbing the parts from “runners” on the wall. This section of the expo was clearly aimed at children, and it was really fun to see the younger attendants experience.
While most kits like the upcoming Gundam Wing Ver. Ka and Mobile Suit RX-0 Unicorn Gundam MGEX were off-limits for photos, the center of the main hall was punctuated with a massive RX-78-2 head, sliced into sections, allowing attendees a chance to peek inside the inner workings. There was also an area to take pictures inside a recreation of the Gundam Factory Yokohama Hanger, as well as a massive MS-07 Gouf that I, as a huge Zaku fan, was absolutely enamored by.
The main theme of this year’s Expo was “Link The Future”, and so a lot of focus was placed on how far Gunpla has come in the past 40 years.
A fascinating display showed off various interactions of, you guessed it, the RX-78-2. It can be easy to take modern kits for granted, and so it was really mind-blowing to see the classic, basic incarnations evolve into the highly-detailed Perfect Grade versions we have now. Checking out the evolution of the hobby first hand really gave me a newfound respect for the engineering behind the internal skeletons specifically. It was really awesome to see firsthand.
Beyond that, there was a teaser for the “road to Gunpla Battle”, an apparent “dream project” that’s in the works for 2021! What exactly the project will entail remains to be seen, but based on the display, it seems like we’ll be able to scan our Gunpla with our phones, and battle others in some sort of AR game…
Of course, as a dedicated builder myself, I couldn’t just leave the expo empty handed, and so I picked up the Gunpla Expo 2020 exclusive HG Industrial Design Ver. Clear Color G40 kit! Designed by famed Industrial designer Kiyoyuki Okuyama, this kit features was created as a unique take on the RX-78-2, and was created as an “actual industrial product.” It also came with a 28-page art book including various Gundam designs by Ken Okuyama Design.
Overall, it’s clear that Gunpla has never been in a better place! It was an absolute blast to be surrounded (responsibly) by so many other enthusiastic fans, and I can’t wait to see how the hobby continues to evolve in the years to come!
What announcements have you excited this year? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by W. Tanner Kirk. For professional inquiries, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org