If you’re a Gundam enthusiast, or an avid anime lover, the Gundam World Exhibition 2016 is definitely an event you don’t want to miss! This year, Nishitetsu Hall in Solaria Stage, Tenjin, is hosting the exhibition featuring the Gundam franchise’s history and evolution, displaying scaled and life-sized statues, various fan merchandise and interactive areas.
As you enter the venue, an informative board outlines Gundam’s history and timeline, and boasts its extensive media–from anime TV series and OVAs, to manga adaptation, animated movies, and even light novels. For those who aren’t familiar with Gundam, unlike a lot of popular anime which are adaptations from manga, the Gundam franchise started in 1979 with its first anime TV series: Mobile Suit Gundam. Although Gundam’s mecha (genre in which biomorphic or humanoid robots are controlled by humans) drew inspiration from the original robot anime Astro Boy (1963) and Mazinger Z (1972), the first TV series was groundbreaking in that it defined the start of a new era and the ‘real robot’/mecha genre– a genre in which robots are explained with supposedly real-world physics, commonly used as weapons in the military.
The head of the first Gundam robot appearing in 1979, called RX-78-2, is on display in real scale–quite impressive if you picture its huge body piece under it! The Gundam robot, however, hasn’t always stayed this way throughout history. Ever since its rise to popularity, the Gundam franchise has become so immense that it would be impossible to preserve the characters and storyline.
If you only consider visual media, in total the franchise has come out with a staggering fifty-three different works, resulting in different storylines, main protagonists and Gundam mobile suits. The next area showcases the chronological evolution of the Gundam robot, from 1979 to today, in the form of scaled figurines. Each robot is accompanied with vintage and more recent posters according to the work the robot appeared in.
The next room will walk you through the beginning of the Gundam franchise’s goods. You can revel at old-school Gundam toys and at the start of the coveted Gunpla model kits (created by Bandai in 1980). Other goods include old masks, round badges, playing cards, well-preserved comic books, figurines made of rubber, and the first LCD games, including one game made in the shape of the original Gundam robot itself in 1984!
With its neverending popularity and legacy, the latest Gundam anime TV series, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans aired quite recently, from October 2015 to March 2016, with a season two in store this coming October. Representing the latest series, the statue of Gundam Barbados, aka ASW-G-08, stands tall on a 1/10 scale. In the story, Gundam Barbados is a model recovered by the Chryse Guard Security (a security company in the series mainly made up of young boys) from the Calamity War 300 years ago.
The SD Gundam (Super Deformed Gundam) exhibit room presents a timeline and goods from the longest spin-off of the original Gundam series to date, with one of its TV series airing fifty-two episodes starting 2004. Two statues of the cute mini-robots (including Captain Gundam) in the series are on display, as well as Gunpla models, small one-color figurines made of rubber, old video cassettes, showy official figurines, and Carddass, which are cards from the Bandai vending machines (the ones shown are holographic!).
If you thought the head of the original Gundam robot, RX-78-2, was big, you’ll be in for a surprise. The colossal head of MS-06S Zaku II, a mobile suit introduced in the first series, reigns at the center of the room in real scale, its huge, single illuminated red eye scanning visitors, moving from side to side.
Surrounding MS-06S Zaku II, are panels presenting the male characters in the first Gundam series, a throne from the series you can sit on and get your picture taken, as well as a small area introducing Char Aznable, a pioneering antagonist (turned protagonist later on) in the Gundam franchise, and his mobile suits. You can enter his feature room: The Bar Where Char Is. In remembrance of the famous scene where Char mutters “because he was a spoiled brat” in response to Garma’s death, you can take a picture beside him as he is seemingly about to swirl his drink.
Other interactive areas include the quiz area, where you can test your Gundam knowledge, the MS weapons corner (where you can handle weapons from the show and take pictures with them), as well as a special corner featuring the mobile suit pilot seat in which you can sit!
Before exiting, make sure to pose with the scaled statue of Unicorn Gundam, aka RX-0, first appearing in the anime in 2010, as well as to browse through the souvenir shop where you can buy various Gunpla kits, figurines, comic books and other goods.
Text and photos by Alba Tinelli, for Fukuoka Now