Except myself, that is.
Gundam (and robot anime in general) is a weekly (more or less) 30-minute toy commercial. Well, it is, and it isn’t. Or, it’s not a very good one. Or, Bandai sucks at making 30-minute toy commercials. Maybe it just doesn’t know what its doing anymore, even though Gundam remains the hottest property when it comes to robot toys.
I watched Mokei Senshi Gunpla Builders Beginning G (OAV) which crystallized a few strong opinions I’ve had about the robot hobby. First of all, Gunpla Builders attempts to re-script how to get into the Gundam hobby, and it is generally made of fail.
Instead of making Gundam anime that sells Gundam toys. How about an anime about Gunpla itself with the barest minimum context from ANY of the 30 years worth of Gundam anime?
It attempts to justify the overall plan for the 30th Anniversary of Gundam in 2009; the highlight of which is the 1:1 RX-78-2 GUNPLA statue in Odaiba. This toy is portrayed in the anime as something that inspired a new generation of Gunpla hobbyists.
The Cart is Now Before The Horse.
I have no problem with the idea that the merchandise is more valuable than the anime, from the perspective of the license owners. As an investor and entrepreneur, I get it. The failure here is the fantasy of these investors and entrepreneurs (behind Bandai) that the toys are more important to the hobbyist than the stories, characters, and universe represented by the toys.
Worse, the show takes on the theme of being a TRUE FAN, a TRUE GUNPLA HOBBYIST. In other words, Gunpla Builder takes on the theme of authenticity. On one hand it’s commendable that there’s no overt push for conspicuous consumption. It’s actually very cool that the values pushed involve customization, personalization, and mastery of skill.
The glaring omission is knowing, let alone mastery of the story of Gundam. There is no mention, NOTHING about Gundam as anime. THE GUNDAM ANIME DOES NOT EXIST IN THIS JAPANESE UNIVERSE. GUNPLA EXISTS IN A VACUUM. GENERATIONS OF GUNPLA ENTHUSIASTS LOVE GUNPLA FOR GUNPLA’S SAKE. WHO CARES ABOUT GUNDAM!?!?
It’s a fun show. I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching it. I would love to play the Gunpla Battles. The show remembered love for all sorts of moments from 30 years worth of Gundam anime. But after watching it I realize that these things are meaningless for Haru, the protagonist, as it must be meaningless to any kid who picks up the hobby following his path.
I’ve nothing against people who love toys for their own sake. My only beef is with the act of putting on airs of authenticity, of the elitism this engenders while omitting the source material entirely. By all means make Bearguys, Dendrobium Zakus, and Byaku Shikis. These are awesome. I can be okay with all these fucking blue Sinanjus. But not knowing what you’re parodying doesn’t make you a genius. It makes you dumb.
My favorite Gunpla Meister is DC Suratos. He’s genuinely amazing, and does a lot to promote the hobby and goodwill within the Gunpla community. He is also quite ignorant about Gundam. He discovered the Nobel Gundam one day and fell in love with it, gushing about his first female Gundam (there are no other female Gundams). Does he know about Allenby Beardsley? Gundam fights? I’m afraid to find out. But as a Gunpla guy, he’s tops. Check out his gallery (amazing), and his tutorials (invaluable).
If this is the kind of fan Bandai is interested in making, as the next generation of Gundam fans… after 30 years and into forever, FUCK YOU BANDAI. Seriously, go fuck yourself.
Haven’t seen any Gundam at all? Don’t know where to start? Find your Gateway Gundam!