Gundam is a recognisable icon in Asia. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, Gundam is very much part of their contemporary cultural history. For the past three decades, TV stations in both territories had faithfully aired all the Gundam series ever made. For the generations of boys who watched Gundam dubbed in Mandarin and Cantonese, a number of them eventually grow up to become Gun-otas (ガンオタ). Like their kindred in Japan, these Gun-otas spend a significant portion of their pocket money/disposable income on Gunpla kits and other related merchandises.
Hong Kong’s Gundam Expo 2007
For Bandai, this massive fan base (market) justified the establishment of Bandai Asia. Throughout the year, there are mini-roadshows and promotional events to engage the fan community. Hong Kong’s Gundam Expo 2007 (高達世紀展覧) is a continuation of Bandai’s effort to renew the Faith of the converted, and also to win more hearts and minds from the otaku community.
The event was held from 14 Dec 07 to 1 Jan 08 at The Metropolis Mall (都會商場) just next to the Hung Hom Station (紅磡站) along the East Rail Line. This Expo is impressive and comparable to those Gundam events in Japan.
Other than the static displays, there were daily show events such as workshop, console game/Gunpla/card game demonstrations and competitions. This Expo was also held in conjunction with the the grand finale of the Gunpla competition – BAKUC. The more exciting programmes were reserved for the weekends, holiday eves and holidays. Cheng E-Kin (鄭伊健), the singer for the Chinese (not Cantonese) version of the OP “Brave Legend” made an appearance on 16 Dec. Every weekend, there were booth babes – Image Girl Gundam Babe (Image Girl 高達女郎).
View of Expo
The main feature of Gundam Expo 2007 was the SD Gundam anime series “BB Senshi Sangokuden – Fuu-un Gouketsu Hen” 「BB戦士 三国伝 風雲豪傑編」. The chibi-fied version of Gundam took centre stage as it was the 20th anniversary of SD Gundam. For fans of Gundam Fix Figuration, there’s the Katoki Hajime Exhibition and Master Grade Gunpla gallery – that showcased all 102 MG kits ever released
BB戦士 三国伝 風雲豪傑編
BB戦士 三国伝 風雲豪傑編 OP: 三璃紗伝說~THE BRAVE LEGEND (Chinese version) by Cheng E-kin
The stars of this Expo were the BB heroes and villains from Sangokuden.
In popular folk lore, Sun Quan (孫権) isn’t as well known as Liu Bei (劉備) or Cao Cao (曹操), being the ‘third’ force in the tri-polar balance of power. But recent Three Kingdom-inspired ACG products had placed him in greater limelight.
And here’s my favourite character from the Three Kingdoms – Cao Cao.
You can’t be too nasty with those pair of eyes…
History and folk stories had lionised the three warlords from the Shu Kingdom (蜀国). But I wonder if they’re no less ‘vile’ or ‘cunning’ like Cao Cao when they’re making history.
I thought they’d use GP-02 or Psycho Gundam for Zhang Fei’s (張飛) character, since he’s always depicted as the burly, grizzly, irascible guy who’s not-too-bright among the three. In fact, I thought Z Gundam should go to Guan Yu (關羽) while Zhang Fei took the ZZ frame since it’s larger. And why didn’t they paint Guan Yu’s face red?
There’s no dispute on the most dastardly guy in this history of the Three-Kingdoms era – Dong Zhuo (董卓). His most noted General is the Lü Bu (呂布). In this story, he’s the bad boy on a bike.
Villain or Dark Hero?
(Tallgeese III) 呂布トールギス
Lü Bu is one of the more colourful characters from the Three Kingdoms, who’s gained ill reputation for slaying two of his adoptive fathers.
Dong Zhuo made Lü Bu defect to his side with flattery and gifts. Among them was the fastest steed “Red Hare” (aka 赤兔馬/Sekitoba). In the Romance of Three Kingdom, this steed eventually went to Guan Yu. Kids can ride on Sekitoba to take pictures if they are within the weight limit.
Since the 90s, I’d had a soft spot for the oh-so-cute BB Senshis. I had one SD Gundam Musha pla-model and was always on a lookout for their manga (then, only pirated copies were available).
BB Senshi 20th Anniversary
Here’s the gallery featuring twenty years’ worth of SD Gundam characters in their plastic model incarnation.
There’s a MG Gunpla gallery, but what got my attention was the showcase for the new series, Gundam OO.
Gundam OO Gunpla display
You can see the MG Gallery in the following videos:
Hong Kong GUNDAM EXPO 2007 – Part I – MG Gallery to Stage
Hong Kong GUNDAM EXPO 2007 – Part II – Stage to Fusion Works Gallery
Katoki Hajime Exhibition
“Ver.Ka” is like a brand on its own in the Gunpla world. Katoki Hajime (カトキハジメ) is a noted mecha designer. He became the Louis Vuitton on the Gunpla circuit with his “Gundam Fix” series. His “Ver.Ka” (Version Katoki) label Master Grade models are known for their intricate ‘life-like’ details.
Katoki Hajime Exhibition feat. GFF and Zeonography
Entrance to Gallery
The gallery exhibited his highly acclaimed Gundam Fix ‘photography’ series, 2D imaginations of Gundam in the real world. Sci-fi fans always wondered when the imagined tomorrow would arrive, and Katoki brought the wonder of a possible future much closer with Gundam Fix.
Past the 2D gallery, is Katoki’s 3D works – The Gundam Fix Figuration.
GFF-Zeonography Complete Collection
There’s no argument that these are works of art.
Katoki Exhibtion – Ex-S Gundam Deep Striker
You can check out the walkthrough of Katoki Exhibition on the video above.
And this was the show stealer – Unicorn Gundam. This new installation of Gundam lore follows the Universal Century (UC) timeline, taking place after “Char’s Counter Attack“.
MG Unicorn Gundam
During the weekends, there were Gundam booth babes present. I didn’t get to see any since I was there on a weekday, but you can catch a glimpse of one of them on video:
Unicorn Gundam Campaign Girl with Bazooka
And here’s a clear part version of Katoki Hajime’s RX-78 Gundam for the GFF series.
Hong Kong exclusive – RX-78 Clear Parts
The event exclusive item is 100% clear parts.
In his Bridge trilogy, William Gibson made Gunpla assembly to be a Zen-like art form, on par with calligraphy and bonsai cultivation. In the present continuum, Gunpla assembly is more likely to become a competitive sport like cyber-gaming.
Gunpla Assembly Competition
That afternoon, there was a Gunpla Assembly competition (模型快砌大比拼) on stage. There were four kids racing to separate the parts from the runners, and putting them together to make a Zaku Warrior.
For serious Gunpla enthusiasts, there’s the Bandai Action Kits Universal Cup (BAKUC) competition.
Masked BAKUC explained
This Gunpla competition started in 2003 as Bandai Action Kit Asia Cup (BAKAC), receiving entries from Asia outside Japan: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. In 2006, the competition was opened to Italy and the Cup’s name had since been changed to BAKUC. The inception of BAKUC online made it possible for North American Gun-Otas to join the competition.
Masked BAKUC and Masked BAKAC
The BAKUC/BAKAC mascot is designed to look like a Lucha Libre wrestler. Masked BAKUC (蒙面BAKUC) even has his own blog, featuring his Gunpla mods. See how he zhng Gunpla kits into imagined Mobile Suit Variants.
Here’s one of the BAKUC belt on display:
The first thing I noticed was the Singapore flag. Singapore won the Grand Finale prize in 2006. GO SINGAPORE!!!
In 2005, the ultimate champion title for the Open Category went to Malaysia. This year’s top prize for Open Cat went to Hong Kong. Second and third place went to Malaysia and Korea respectively. Malaysia Boleh! Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia swept the top three prizes for the Junior category. Orz….
Gundam War CCG
On the second level, there is a corner for Gundam War 「ガンダムウォー」 Collectible Card Game (CCG) fans. This is also the arena for the competitive players in the CCG Contest (對戰咭比賽). There were try-out session for n00bs too.
Gundam War CCG Arena
Gundam War CCG Competition
I don’t think the Gundam War cards were localised into Chinese editions. This CCG has its followers even though game instructions and card data are all in Japanese. That’s the effects of soft power – you need not force others to buy your idea, they’ll clamour after your culture.
There’s plenty of exclusive items for Gundam fans. The amount of Gundam merchandise here is more than you’ll ever find in your home country.
The Merchants of Gunpla
Here’s what’s available:
Gundam War CCG 10th Anniversary Boxed Set
This numbered limited edition boxed set comes with card sleeves, 60 cards plus 10 chase, a DVD and a battle map.
Sangokuden BB Senshi Kit
The “桃园三结义” set is supposed to be an event exclusive – it’s a clear parts variant.
Gundam Expo 2007 GFF Exclusive – Hong Kong Limited Edition
This must be a prized catch for any GFF collector.
There’s more Gunpla than you can ever build in your lifetime.
I would have wanted to get one of these Zaku luggage, even if it’s going for around S$300. I didn’t because I wouldn’t know how to ship it home without damaging it. These items are available at Bandai’s online store too.
Zaku design “Cargo Bag” Luggage
Cargo Bag Zaku Version
Cargo Bag Char Zaku Version
There are also carnival games for you to win Gundam prizes.
I would have loved to buy more stuff since they allowed the use of credit cards. But I’ve got limited luggage capacity and only gotten the Sangokuden set and the GFF exclusive for myself (though I am collector of neither).
Gundam: The Icon
Yet, Gundam is no longer just a cult figure worshiped by the otakus. The real robot hero had become a recognisable icon in mainstream pop culture. In Hong Kong, Gundam’s image is used to market consumer products such as food and beverages.
Gundam Seed Destiny Sports Drink
During my stay there, I spotted an Isotonic drink sporting a Gundam Seed Destiny skin.There’s a freebie magnet that came with each 700ml bottle.
Hong Kong is definitely the other place to be if you want to get a taste of full blown Ota-culture. Now that I’ve seen Hong Kong, I hope to visit Taipei this year. I’m sure this rebel county and former Japanese colony will have equally exciting sights to offer.
It’s 2008 already. May I wish all you guys, gals and creatures out there a fruitful year ahead! And this will be my last entry as Zer0. And here’s to you and the new year. Over and out.