While most adults would generally consider the assembly of an IKEA furniture piece to be one of the most creative manual-in-box builds they’ll tackle in their daily lives, there exists a whole world of free-thinking individuals who take what’s given to them in a box to create something so much more. The sort of people who see the manual and throw it out the window, instead opting to use their own imagination to craft something entirely new. But while these people aren’t necessarily working with pieces the size of IKEA furniture, they certainly exist in a world of their own when it comes to the ability to build.
It wasn’t long ago that our team made our way to one of the biggest celebrations of this talent, witnessing the unimaginable creativity on display at the Gunpla Builders World Championship 2018. It was a tournament that spanned the globe, with regionals and nationals leading the best of the best to the world stage in Odaiba, Tokyo, for a one-day event that crowned the worlds greatest Gunpla builders. During the event, we were given the opportunity to get some facetime with the legendary builds that would earn each of the contents a flight from their home country all the way to Tokyo, spanning both the Junior Course and the Open Course.
Originally introduced in 1980 alongside the original Gundam anime series, Gunpla are DIY plastic build-kits for some of the most iconic characters in the Gundam universe. From the original RX-78-2 all the way to the most recent Narrative Gundam C; if it’s featured in the Gundam franchise, chances are you can build it. Each kit comes in a box filled with “runners”, and these runners contain several individual pieces of the overall build. By cutting out each of these pieces and following the instructions to piece them together, after a varying amount of work you’ll eventually have a finished build.
But this isn’t a celebration for those who simply follow the instructions — this is a world-class championship for those unafraid of thinking outside the box, with the end results spanning months of dedication and hard work, as well as a whole lot of creativity.
With some of the worlds best sitting right behind us, it was honestly daunting, to say the least. Being quite into Gunpla building myself, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the sheer knowledge shared amongst these elite few. Kicking things off, announcer Kawaguchi called Gundam Build Divers animation director Masami Obari on stage to join him in presenting awards. For the Gunpla Builders World Championship, there were five possible award categories. There is the “Gundam Base Award”, “Men’s Bigen Award”, “Special Judges Award”, as well as the aforementioned Junior and Open Courses.
Opening with the Gundam Base Award, BANDAI SPIRITS Hobby Division’s Katsumi Kawaguchi looked to Hong Kong-based builder Manson Ng’s piece “Origin of Char” as the clear-cut winner, stating “The image of Char incorporated into the old red Zaku, the arrangement was incredible and the fun of the idea were both taken into account.” It’s clear to see why this peace was chosen, with such intricate build qualities and careful attention to detail with the painting and scale. Builder Manson Ng really took Char’s old Zaku to new heights with this build.
For the Men’s Bigen Award, a representative from the Hoyu Corporation declared that Canadian-entrant Lau Ryan’s masterful Kshatriya Besserung 2.0 ”Preemptive Strike” build was worthy of the award, stating “The composition of the entire work is excellent. The love put into it, the amount of effort put into it can be seen, the information in this work is a lot, the profound feeling made a good impression. It feels like this work incorporates Hoyu Corporation’s idea of “Beauty beyond appearance”, so I have chosen it.” Both in the work on the explosion and the actual quality of the build and its posing, Lau really knocked it out of the park on this one and offered such a good looking take on the Kshatriya Repaired model kit.
Finally in the special awards categories, for the Special Judges Award, we see Gundam Build Divers animation director Masami Obari choose Thailand-based Vichayuth Eiam-Ong’s gorgeous WE ARE GUNDAM build, sharing that “The outline is excellent, the embodiment of dynamic and delicateness. I liked everything about it.” Of all the pieces on display, this was quite possibly one of our favorites, with each and every little piece of attention to detail blowing us away. You’ll be seeing this piece again shortly, but just looking at it straight on, it’s impossible to even know where to begin. There’s so much quality build work done here, it really does showcase true craftsmanship.
Moving forward, this is where things really start to get wild — looking at the Junior Course, a course reserved for entrants aged 14 and under, we’re seeing some mind-boggling works from individuals still unable to drive to the store to buy parts in the first place. Within the course, there were three winners selected in the traditional third, second, first ordering. Each of these entrants embodied the best of the best amongst their age group, and represent the future of Gunpla builders. Upon being called on stage, each award winner is given the opportunity to give a quick speech, before comments and criticisms are shared by a representative judge.
Starting off with the third place prize winner, Vietnam-based builder Nguyen Hoang Long was selected for his incredible The White Golem build. Unfortunately it was made apparent that Nguyen was unable to attend the championship ceremony due to schooling, so comments skipped over to BANDAI SPIRITS Hobby Division’s Akihiko Yasunaga who shared “The small details, I evaluated the surface treatments. If you work harder on the backpack and metal parts adhesions, I believe you can achieve even greater results.”
Jumping towards second place, Taiwan-based builder Wu Chih En had the following to say about his build Once Again, “I’m very happy. I thank my teacher and parents who taught me about this.”, before Hobby Japan, Editorial Department Editor in Chief, Kimura shared his own comment on the build “It may look simple, but the handicraft and paint are done at a high level, there is thoughtfulness in the smallest details. As a diorama, perhaps a different composition would make it even better?”
Finally, in first place, Indonesia-based builder Mark Alexander Ierwanto blew everyone away with his masterpiece work Build Divers Fantasy. Though I don’t think we could disagree more, the young builder humbled himself with the following “I’m very happy. But I don’t think it’s perfect yet.” It turns out that we weren’t the only ones to think this either, with Model Graphix Editorial Department Gunpla Supervisor Iwao Sekiguchi sharing “The high strength of spatial organization, the way it’s constructed, the coloring, the beauty of the plating, it was a unanimous decision. It’s genius.” Everything about this build is flawless, from the paintwork to the custom stand, and I truly believe it could stand its own in the Open Course as one of the top contenders.
Each of these three builders exhibited knowledge and proficiency well beyond their years, and have flawlessly showcased just what a little imagination can bring to Gunpla building. Standing side-by-side on the podium, these three winners are the Junior Course World Champions.
Moving onto the big leagues, we’re introduced to the winners of the Open Course World Championship for 2018. These are the best of the best, and represent the current landscape of Gunpla across the globe. Each of their works has earned them trips around the world, earned purely by their abilities to showcase just where the upper-limits of Gunpla building truly reach. Again, within the course, there were three winners selected in the traditional third, second, first ordering. Upon being called on stage, each award winner is given the opportunity to give a quick speech, before comments and criticisms are shared by a representative judge.
Starting off with third place, we once more see Thailand-based Vichayuth Eiam-Ong burst on the stage, as full of energy as ever, to claim his prize. Upon receiving the mic, Vichayuth had the following to say “With this color trophy, I have completed my collection. Thank you.” For those unfamiliar, this is referencing the fact that in the past Vichayuth has claimed both first and second place in the World Championships, but never managed to receive third place. His unique energy was certainly felt amongst everyone in attendance, and it was a total relief to see such an excited third place winner to start things off. BANDAI SPIRITS Hobby Division’s Akihiko Yasunaga shared “The use of space is incredible. The fine details of the feet are fantastic, it was fun to look at this work.” While the top-end of his build utilizes both a Zaku and Gundam in close-quarter combat, the true magic comes from the base where you can see two builders hard at work in a fully-detailed workstation. Possibly the most insane part of this build is the fact that Vichayuth managed to get everything to balance simply off those parts.
Going to second place, Philippine-based builder James Marc R. Quinsaat wowed with his incredible build that utilized a number of high-level techniques to deliver a highly-polished finished product. It’s an immaculate piece with so many intricacies, I can only imagine the sheer amount of time that went into this. After receiving his trophy, James took to the stage to humbly state “I’m happy. I’m here participating on behalf of my country, but I believe everyone here is a winner.” Model Graphix Editorial Department Gunpla Supervisor Iwao Sekiguchi chimed in sharing “I salute his idea of taking a 1/60 Gundam and creating it into a heavy construction machine. It was created using a variety of techniques, the paint skill level is very high, and there are a lot of interesting sights here. It’s the type of work you want to look at forever.”
Last but certainly not least, we see our first place winner Yusuke Sato bringing it back home for Japan, taking it all with his immaculate GUNDAM EXIA RⅡ-fetal movement- build. It’s no surprise at all that Yusuke’s build won, with worlds of detail placed into both the actual Gunpla as well as the surrounding landscape. With every right to boast about this one, Yusuke Sato presents himself humbly sharing “To receive an award like this, my feelings are immeasurable. Thank you so much.” I think we all knew from the moment he applied those finishing touches, there was no way Yusuke could lose. Recognizing his champion status, Hobby Japan, Editorial Department Editor in Chief, Mr. Kimura shared “It’s said to be a box-type of diorama, but you can enjoy it not just from one direction but many, as you can look in through the window. The detailed molding, the surface of the wall is also built very well. There’s a lot of fun feelings and no complaints about the construction nor paint. This is truly the work of a champion.” Oh, and Yusuke Sato even used my personal favorite Gunpla build, Gundam Exia, as the base for this — bonus points for that.