GunPla Builders World Cup Winners Discuss What It Takes to Make The Best Gundam

Xavier Lim, equipped with a laptop and notepad, stares at a wall of plastic model kits in a glass case. The Bandai employee who normally works on the importation and exportation of Gundam models has been tasked with judging competitors at the ninth annual GunPla Builders World Cup (GWC) stop at Anime NYC. The corner of the Javits Center in NYC dedicated to the Gundam franchise and its plastic model kits (known as GunPla) is surrounded by onlookers gawking at the plastic paint and wires.

Gunpla GWC 2019 tips build
Four legged beast won first place in the SD category Bandai

"GunPla is all fictional and in your imagination," Lim told Newsweek. "They are fun, easy to build and allow you to create something from the show or straight out of your mind."

Gundam, one of the longest running animated franchises, stars a collection of robots and pilots that do battle across the cosmos. The original Mobile Suit Gundam debuted in 1979, and the first model kits followed shortly after in 1980. These cheap, plastic bits that can be glued or connected together to create fully-articulated toys immediately caught on and have been steadily growing in popularity over the past four decades.

Over 2,000 different model types have been released ranging from the common High Grade (HG) to the impeccable but pricey Perfect Grade (PG). Though these kits can be assembled straight out of the package into a robot fighter ready for the shelf, the true appeal from hardcore Gundam fans comes from the ability to customize them. Kitbashing, or combining multiple kits to create a new robot, lets the most creative enthusiasts assemble something brand new.

In 2011, Bandai started the GWC to celebrate those with GunPla vision. This year, contestants from 16 countries showcased their best GunPla builds at different events, with the winners being flown out to Japan for the final awards ceremony at Gundam Base Tokyo.

GWC judges look at three different criteria on a scale ranging from one to 10: Painting (how clean the lines look, if the paint is blotchy), Technique (hiding the plastic seams to make it look like a cohesive unit) and Concept (does it just look like a normal model kit).

Gunpla GWC 2019 tips build
Astral earned second place in the SD category Bandai

Dan Moore, a 30-year-old plumber, managed to catch the eye of Lin and scored second place in the Super Deformed (SD) category. His model "The Astral" took over five months and 100 hours to build, paint and finish. After spending a few hundred dollars on pieces from rare early '90s kits, Moore wanted his Gundam to stand out from the competition. Going for a "godly" motif, he hand painted murals on the wings, added gold foil and created a spinning light-up wheel with a motor tucked away inside.

"My friends would bust me all the time, saying stop working on that dumb SD," Moore said. "But a good Gundam needs emotion and to show that someone actually cared. It has to tell a story."

Gunpla GWC 2019 tips build
An Eye for an Eye won third place in the SD category Bandai

Armita Pebdani's "An Eye for an Eye" diorama managed to get third place in the SD category by reimagining a scene from a classic Gundam anime episode. A GunPla hobbyist since the age of 15, Pedbani started competitively building two years ago. She leverages her degree in structural engineering and her day job designing children's playgrounds to her advantage. "An Eye for an Eye" has been in development for a few months, with Pebdani starting out with sketches and lists of the parts she wanted to use.

"It's a perfect overlapping Venn diagram of engineering and puzzle solving," Pebdani said of her creation. "It's very zen-like when you are putting a piece together. Someone might not consider themselves an artist, but this is an art."

For those looking to create their own robot monstrosities or angelic beasts, all you need is some plastic and an idea.