Sorry for the lack of updates lately. John and I have recently returned from our first trip to Japan! Can you guess where we went on our very first day off the plane?
That’s right, we rolled our jetlagged butts out of bed and down to Gundam Front Tokyo in Odaiba. It was a relatively easy ride from our hotel in Shinjuku—just take the Oedo line to Shiodome station and grab the monorail.
The 1:1 Gundam RX-78-2 was as detailed and lifelike as I could have imagined, even though we didn’t stick around for the nightly 5 PM light show. There’s a space where you can walk right beneath it and imagine you’re a Newtype about to be summoned to pilot it any minute.
After taking at least 100 photos, we were getting hungry, so it was time for a snack at the Gundam Cafe. There are two Gundam Cafes in Tokyo—one in Akihabara that serves main courses, and this one in Odaiba that serves snacks.
We each got a hamburg croquette—a savory pastry with hamburger meat and cheese inside—shaped like the RX-78-2. John got a Red Comet soda and I got a Char Aznable strawberry-flavored bubble tea.
There was a lot more to do at the Gundam Cafe than just eat. There’s a big store connected to it with Gunpla and Gundam merchandise. There’s also this neat tile display with autographs from all the celebrities who have been to the cafe. I was especially excited over the fact that BACK-ON, the band that performed the Gundam Build Fighters theme, had paid a visit.
After that it was time for the main event, Gundam Front Tokyo itself. Spanning most of the seventh floor of Diver City Tokyo, it’s a little like an indoor theme park for Gundam fans. There was a round dome where we watchedshort but stunning Gundam movies projected in 3D, think Gundam Evolve but updated for 2016. We obviously weren’t allowed to film these, but my favorite was “Kidō Senshi Gundam UC Neo Zeong, Odaiba ni Arawaru,” an eight-minute film where an enemy Gundam model lands on the Rainbow Bridge ready to wreak havoc until the protagonist’s glittering Gundam Unicorn keeps Odaiba’s destruction at bay.
Between films, which ran every 10 minutes, we checked out the Gunpla factory exhibit. Here’s a spot to check out the plastic nubs that eventually are turned into sprues. Bandai is big on recycling, so it’s possible that these are even recycled bits of used Gunpla kits.
Here’s an example booth where kits are made. Not only does the equipment match the show…
…but so do workers’ uniforms! People who work at the Gunpla factory wear insignia to indicate their department and rank. It was neat to see how far the franchise has taken the fantasy of Gundam.
Before kits are made out of plastic, the molds are tested with both metal and resin.
Here’s a display showing RX-78-2 through the years—and through both grade and scale. It’s the most comprehensive comparison I’ve ever seen.
The most amazing part was this completely white room filled with every Gunpla model ever made. It was entirely overwhelming, in a good way! Here’s my shot of the Gundam Build Fighters Try display.
We ended our visit with a trip to the gashapon machines out front, out of which you could get all kinds of Gundam inspired capsule toys, each for 300 yen. I got a pin of Gundam Exia to commemorate our visit.
Overall, it was an unforgettable experience. Like I wrote on my Forbes blog:
Just as great as seeing real life models of ships and suits from my favorite show was seeing people around me who were obviously just as excited to be there. It was pretty apparent that many of the employees, in their Gundam uniforms, were big fans, too. And our shared appreciation was something that crossed language barriers.
Gundam Front Tokyo was like Disneyland for Gundam fans. I hope someday I can visit again.
Places to learn more about Gundam Front Tokyo: