Once you’ve been building Gunpla for a while, you might be interested in entering your work in a competition. We asked Tex Merquise, a competitive Gunpla builder who we’ve been following ever since we saw her award-winning Vincent Van Gouf custom build, to tell us more about her experience with the process. In the first of her two-part series, learn about Tex’s suggestions for entering your Gunpla in contests.
Welcome to the world of competitive Gunpla building! If you’re like me, you may find it a bit addicting. Competitions allow you to show off your Gunpla to a lot more people. They can help you meet new friends and learn new skills. They’re not just for the most advanced builders either—most contests have a beginner section, too. Here are my tips for getting started.
Finding Events to Enter
The majority of advertising these days is done online, so it should not be much of a surprise that the best way to find a Gunpla contest you can enter would be via social media. Plus, online contests have grown in frequency during the era of COVID-19 as an alternative to in-person events, much like concerts or classes. Read on for a few ways you can search online for events to enter:
- Look no further than Gunpla 101 for your first outlet for finding Gunpla contests. Megaplamo thoroughly covers Gunpla groups and communities you can join in his article, many of which hold their own internal contests.
- Instagram campaigns tend to be the most accessible way for newbies to discover and enter contests. These are usually hosted by a single user or group. A theme or catchy hashtag promotes the event and participants are encouraged to use it to share their progress (while in the process generating even more advertising!). Often prizes are provided to the winners for all their hard work.
- There are a plethora of Gunpla groups on Facebook that run their own page contests from the local level to the international stage. A good place to start looking would be to search for the terms “Gunpla Builders [Your City]” or “[Your City] Gunpla.” A better idea would be to search on the country level as you probably already know if your city has any Gunpla focused group by now. A popular one in the states is Gundam Builders America; they frequently hold in-house build offs with great prizes (read: more kits)!
Online Contests – Tips
As accessible as online contests are, there are downsides. A single photo can make or break your chances of winning and nearly all online contests are judged on photos. So in order to place in an online contest, you don’t just need to be a good builder, you need to be a good photographer, too.
Sometimes you can only submit a handful of images depending on the platform and application process. As a result, it can be very easy to hide mistakes a builder does not want seen when competing. Judges might be on the look-out for pictures that avoid a specific area or angle of the kit, so you’ll want to make sure your photos display the entire build. Some suggested angles for submitting photos:
Front, Back, Left, Right
This is my Shrike Team – GunEZ Prototype entry that I built in 2020. This model won the Gundam Online Expo Official Member Award. I made sure to show it off from every angle.
Front/Overall, ¾, ¾ (from behind), Action Pose
Including an action pose helped to highlight the details on my ESCAPE: UOODO 2020 build.
After you pose your build, you might want to do some light digital touch-ups to make sure your photos look their best, and that’s OK. There’s an understanding of good faith that any editing is done for lighting reasons or to remove a pesky dog hair.
There are a few things you should never do, though. Competitors aren’t allowed to photoshop images to hide mistakes. Some people may try to forge or cheat by submitting builds that are not theirs or entering more than twice into a competition (doubly so if there is an in-person AND online portion). This is very rare but I’ve seen it happen. Don’t do this. Only villains do this.
Traditionally, scale model competitions are held in person and, thanks to social media, have become easier to find. Before the coronavirus shuttered conventions everywhere, there were events where you could enter your Gunpla kit to be displayed in a massive con dealer’s room. In 2020, a majority of these events were canceled for the time being while online versions helped keep idle hands busy. If you’re reading this after things have returned to normal (lucky you!), here are a few of my favorite in-person events:
- Southern California Gundam Model Competition (SCGMC) is the largest Gunpla competition in North America. Hosted by Those Gundam Guys, this ‘National’ competition has been held annually for a decade. SCGMC has grown exponentially over the years and is a must for any North American builder if you have the opportunity to attend. It was one of the first big Gunpla events I entered in and now I have the pleasure of helping put it on every year as well as calling them my friends!
- This year we produced an online, “Ver. Cov” competition in lieu of the event that would have commemorated our ten-year anniversary.
- Gunpla Builders World Cup (GBWC) is… exactly what the name says: The World Cup of Gunpla. Hosted by Bandai, builders from 16 international countries/regions compete at events in their home country. The winner from each country gets flown to Japan to represent their nation in the finals held at Gundam Base Tokyo. In the United States, a majority of the GWBC Qualifiers have taken place at anime conventions (AnimeNYC, AnimeExpo, ACEN, Fanime, Otakon) or city-specific comic conventions (New York City Comic Con). Qualifiers have also been held at various HobbyTown and Kinokuniya locations; both retail chains that carry Gunpla.
- International Plastic Modellers Society (IPMS-USA) is an international organization focused on the hobby of building model kits. First established in the United Kingdom in the ‘60s, it now consists of numerous national branches that have local clubs within them that may represent a town or city. Many IPMS Chapters meet once a month to conduct meetings, plan for events, or just build and show off what they’re working on. Don’t let the premise of traditional model shows deter you from checking out your local chapter. Gunpla is, at its core, still scale modeling and IPMS shows are a great way to get started in competing. There has been a large influx of attendance in their shows thanks to Gunpla, which has brought new blood into what some considered a ‘dying hobby.’ Less often now does Gundam get lumped into the Sci-Fi category and at some events, Gunpla has become one of the largest categories with entries. IPMS meets are a great chance for Gunpla builders and other scale modelers to learn from one another. Who knows, maybe your local chapter is looking for someone well versed in Gunpla to help them better understand this new and exciting category!
- HobbyTown USA is a retail chain in the United States that recently helped host GBWC events in 2019, thus providing more accessibility to builders who might not be able to make it to a big city convention. Local shops have been known to host their own Gunpla contests as well as build nights. Check and see if there is one in your area and if they have their own social media page highlighting their next Gunpla endeavors.
I hope this guide has helped pique your curiosity in finding and entering Gunpla contests. Stay tuned for my next guide, on building models specifically with competitions in mind.
Tex Merquise is an avid Gunpla builder and mech enthusiast. She is involved with many Gunpla-oriented groups such as the Gunpla Builders Association, Those Gundam Guys, and the Gunpla Girl Gang; a welcoming and inclusive community that encourages, supports, and collaborates with lady Gunpla builders from all backgrounds. Tex’s latest project is producing Build Alongs; free make-and-take workshops for children who are interested in scale modeling. Originally held in person but in the meantime has shifted online to accommodate families who are working and learning from home. Feel free to connect with her @TexMerquise!