If you were in Orchard at the start of the June holidays, there’s no way you could have missed the two giant mobile suits guarding the doors of Takashimaya, Ngee Ann City. They were in town as part of a large exhibition to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the model kits and Singapore’s 50th birthday.
Better known as RX-78-2 Gundam and MS-06S Char’s Zaku II, the two are symbolic as leaders of Japan’s Gundam culture, having been part of the original series in the 1979. There are over 200 design variations of Gunpla (Gundam plastic model), a common term used to refer to the toys, giving fans the option to build their favourite mobile suits and the ability to create their own.
Ngee Ann City’s square in basement two was transformed into Gunpla heaven. There were plenty of things to see and even more to buy. There were rows of shelves filled with Gunpla, from the previous and current series and scales, for sale as well as other cool merchandise such as bags by Porter and clothes by Strict-G.
The highlight of the event was the limited edition RX-78-2 Gundam Ver. SG50 specially designed by Kunio Okawara, the series’ key mechanic designer, for the nation’s Golden Jubilee. A limited number of kits were available each day and they often sold out within a couple of hours.
There were also plenty of cool Gundam Docks at Singapore SG50 merchandise. Key to the Singaporean Gundam design was the SG50 logo on the chest plate, the Merlion and “Singapore” decals on the shield and the predominantly red and white colour scheme.
Okawara said his inspiration came from:
“the red and white colours of Singapore’s national flag, and my impressions towards the beauty and cleanliness of the country”.
Amongst the numerous artworks on display were paintings from previous series. Also on display were some 200 Gundams of various types, shapes and sizes.
And while some fans were happy gawking at the displays in the mall, others headed outdoors to find out what it would be like to stand under a Gundam and look up at it.
Plenty of fans took selfies with the friendly giants. There were also some lovely ladies dressed up in Gundam uniforms posing for fans. Those brave enough even went up to the Zaku II grunts standing in a row to guard the main entrance to Ngee Ann City.
Back inside, we managed to catch up with Okawara for an exclusive interview backstage.
5 questions with Kunio Okawara:
WAttention: What do you like about your job?
Okawara: The best part of my job is being able to give dreams to children watching Gundam.
WAttention: Which mobile suit is your favourite?
Okawara: Char's Zaku II. The Zaku is my favourite mobile suit. At the time it was not meant for Gunpla production, so I had more time and freedom to design it as I liked. It took about a week for me to design it.
WAttention: What’s the production process like for designing a Gundam?
Okawara: First I receive a story concept from the writers. Then I start to have ideas about what sort of world it is or what types of Gundams I should create. It usually takes about 6 months from designing the first draft to making the entire anime series. The trickiest part about the process, especially designing the Gunpla, and the part that takes the longest time, is trying to get everyone to agree. Trying to make the adjustments to please everyone is very hard.
WAttention: How do you feel when you see fans creating their own Gundams?
Okawara: It makes me happy to see fans creating their own Gundam designs. That was my plan. To begin with, the purpose of Gunpla was to invoke fans creativity to want to remodel the Gunpla. Of course, there are no good or bad designs. The most important thing is that the fans enjoy the process of making it. It is all about having fun. As long as they are having fun that is the best situation.
WAttention: Why do you think people like Gundam?
Okawara: Gundam and other giant robots, inspire people to imagine what could be – what the future could hold. I believe that this drives people to want to work hard, to want to create their own robots and make their dreams a reality. Gundam helps them fall in love with the idea of possibility – to make the impossible, possible. For instance, the Fukushima incident. Humans are not able to go near the core to fix it, but robots can. Even the government recognises this, that’s why they have started to research and develop exosuits for that purpose. We have a lot of expectations from robots because they are able to do things that humans cannot. Gundam gives people this ability to dream, to think outside the box and the desire to see it come true. After a truly inspirational interview, Okawara graciously agreed to sign our Wing Gundam. He also noted that this series was particularly popular with teenage girls to the amusement of his translator.
The Gundam Docks at Singapore exhibition is now on till 28 June 2015 at Takashimaya Square, B2 and Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza.