If you’re at all familiar with Japanese pop culture, you probably have heard of or know about Gundam. Mobile Suit Gundam, originally a television anime series which aired in 1979, has since grown into a massive franchise spanning various stories across anime, manga, films, and even an upcoming live-action film from Godzilla: King of the Monsters studio Legendary Pictures. One component of the franchise’s success has been its production of the model kit line based on the series called Gunpla. Short for Gundam Plastic Model, Gunpla are marketed as ways fans to recreate their favorite giant mechs from the series, being made in a wide arrange of sizes and styles. You can find Gunpla all across Japan, but the biggest destination for Gundam fans is the Gundam Base in Diver City mall located in Odaiba Island in Tokyo. There’s lots of interesting things to see at the base, as we’ve found and recorded for you.
You can see the full history of Gundam at the Gundam Base, as there are exhibits, special events, and an expansive model shop. Special exhibits encompass many aspects of the series for visitors to admire, such as a recent display showcasing artist Syd Mead’s futuristic designs for the 1999 Turn A Gundam series. At the shop you can purchase model kits from across the many Gundam series. Gundam Base even offers limited-time kits available only at the Gundam Base. While many Gunpla kits are cheap and costing as little as under 500 yen, bigger and more elaborate sets can cost as much as 10,000 or even 20,000 yen. The variety of model displays at the Gundam Base let even casual visitors appreciate the range of designs and stories the Gundam franchise has created over its history.
Gundam Base not only lets you buy Gunpla there, but lets you get creative with it as well! In the Builder’s Zone, you can take kits to paint, sticker, and take apart at your leisure. Putting together a model that faithfully recreates something is fun on its own, but the feeling of freedom that comes from trying to create your own is a completely new experience. Over the years Gunpla has obliged to those willing to take the extra step in creativity by releasing various paints and kits which offer options for customization and reuse. Turn a classic Gundam mobile suit into something entirely yours by putting your artist’s skill to the test.
Gunpla is such a large industry that many competitions are held for custom designs. The Gunpla Builders World Cup is one such contest where the highest level of competition are held at the Gundam Base. During competition the show floor is filled with designers working to create elaborate and original designs. You can find some of the winning designs on display at Gundam Base, which truly astound in their craft. Maybe seeing these works will inspire you to give creating your custom Gunpla a shot?
Because Gundam is such a large franchise, it can be confusing for newcomers to decide where to start. By showcasing all of Gundam’s history to visitors, the Gundam Base can convince many people to explore Gundam for the first point. Gunpla was able to achieve popularity in part because of its low price point, which makes it easy to try out and makes a great souvenir from Japan because of its portability. Gunpla Builders World Cup Executive Meijin Kawaguchi describes the act of communicating through Gunpla enables people from many different origins to interact through a shared hobby.