Trend in Japan Web Japan
Arts and Entertainment
Business and Economy Lifestyle Science and Technology Fashion Arts and Entertainment Sports People
Arts & Entertainment
Collectors Include Both Adults and Children (January 20, 2006)

The 1:144-scale HGUC RX-78-2 Gundam Limited Clear Version (Sotsu-Agency, Sunrise)
More than twenty years after the TV anime (cartoon) series Kido Senshi Gandamu (Mobile Suit Gundam) was first broadcast in 1979, it remains hugely popular among its legions of fans. Adult enthusiasts who remember the original series have been joined by younger, more recent converts, including children. Many fans collect plastic models of Gundam characters, and limited-edition models have recently become hot items among collectors.

Two Generations of Fans
Gundam is a science-fiction anime that traces the lives of the main characters as they fight battles by controlling military robots called "Mobile Suits." The series includes serious psychological depictions and complex human relationships, and because it was not aimed at children, it failed to garner much popularity at first and was cut from the schedules. However, anime fans insisted that the series should not be allowed to vanish, and there followed repeated rebroadcasts, as well as the release of Gundam movies, which served to expand the Gundam fan base.

Since a sequel series was broadcast in 1985, there has been a succession of further sequels and spin-offs. The Gundam series now encompasses not only TV anime but movies, original videos, manga (comic books), novels, and video games, and there are now not a few families in which both a parent and a child are Gundam fanatics.

If there is one product that has served to raise and maintain the popularity of Gundam among young and old, it is plastic models of the Mobile Suits. Nicknamed ganpura, these models were first marketed in 1980 by the Tokyo-based toy maker Bandai Co. They have since become one of the most enduring and best-selling products in the toy market, with over 360 million units having been sold in Japan and overseas as of March 2004.

The 1:100-scale MG Zeta Gundam ver.2.0, the latest ganpura model (Sotsu-Agency, Sunrise)

Limited Editions Snapped Up
The Gundam series has influenced a variety of areas of society, including art. The Gundam World Exhibition being held in Kita Kyushu City, which features imposing models of Mobile Suits, has been extended from November 2005 to February 2006 due to popular demand. Meanwhile, an exhibition of Gundam-themed photos, statues, and paintings created by young artists was held in 2005 at art galleries in Osaka and Tokyo. Titled "Gundam Generating Futures," the event attracted many fans, who were also drawn by the chance to purchase merchandise sold only at this exhibition. The most sought-after of these products was a limited-edition plastic model.

The model in question was the 1:144-scale HGUC RX-78-2 Gundam Limited Clear Version. Because of the model's transparent body, the robot's internal structure is clearly visible. Young adults in their twenties and thirties rushed to snap up this unique example of ganpura.

Whether limited-edition or not, the popularity of Gundam plastic models shows no signs of abating, and new or revived models continue to be released. The more expensive models cost from around ¥5,000 ($43 at ¥115 to the dollar) to over ¥10,000 ($87) and are particularly popular among adult Gundam fans. Especially rare items, built and adapted by modelers, can fetch upwards of ¥100,000 ($870) on Internet auction sites.

Bandai was a latecomer to the world of plastic models, and its release of Gundam models was marked by innovations that meant anyone could assemble the models without fail, including parts that were already colored. These products broadened the appeal of plastic models and proved popular among children. As stocks ran low, the models became hard to get hold of, and there were even some instances of accidents occurring when children crowded into stores selling the products.

The children who were often disappointed in their quest to acquire these models 20 years ago are now adults, and they are more than happy to part with a few thousand yen to buy products that remind them of their childhoods. It is almost as if they are at last fulfilling their childhood dream of surrounding themselves with models of characters from their favorite anime series.

 Page Top

Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

Related articles
(March 6, 2003)
Drop Us a Line
Your Name

What did you think of this article?

It was interesting.
It was boring.

Send this article to a friend

Go TopTrends in Japan Home

Go BackArts & Entertainment Home