Friday, December 23, 2016

Fantastic Builds and How to Find Them

I've never been to Japan. Well, technically I have set foot in Japan but connecting flights through Narita don't really count as visits. I don't speak or read Japanese, and my vocabulary is limited to about a dozen words and phrases that I've picked up from anime, such as "sugoi!", "nani?!?!", "kusoo.."  and admittedly, "yameteeee!" . But in my quest to uncover the ultimate mecha modeling techniques I found myself in the Japanese cyberspace wonderland.

For a while I was lost - It seemed like every link I clicked on led to strange fetish porn (what is up with all that goo?!), or an ad for pills that claim to grow your junk a couple of inches. Eventually I learned to adapt - and I began to find blog after blog, website after website of mecha plamo at it's finest... and there I came to realize the truth - the best mecha modelers are from Japan, and no one can ever convince me otherwise.

I began following Japanese modelers on social media. Many even maintain their own blogs, some of which I've already featured in the Superbuilds series. Their pages are treasure troves of information and mecha eye candy that will keep you browsing for hours. The formats differ and the layouts can be quite confusing to navigate, but all you need is patience and persistence - and modelers such as ourselves already have those two traits in spades.

Will you choose to stay within the confines of facebook, and continue to believe that the best builds in the world can already be found in mainstream competitions such as the GBWC - or will you take the time and effort to dig deeper? The choice is yours.

"You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. 

You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes..."

-Morpheus (The Matrix)

Click on the Read More link to take the Red Pill...

The Gunpla Builders World Cup is the premier gunpla competition - an annual, world renowned event where the best modelers from participating countries come together to compete on the global scale. It is the ultimate gunpla build-off where you can find the very best.  Well, at least that's how Bandai's marketing powerhouse paints it - and for the longest time I believed it too. I'm not saying that the GBWC participants and winners aren't good. They are exceptional, and I have the utmost respect for all of them. However not everyone from the mecha modeling community gets to participate. There must be others out there, too timid or too busy to attend such an event, choosing to take their time and not be pressured by a competition deadline when crafting their mindbogglingly good models. What do their builds look like? It is the question that drove me (okay last Matrix reference I promise), to seek them out. I share with you now how to find them.

Browser Tweaks

If you're still using Internet Explorer, time to get out of the Cretaceous period and install Google Chrome. It's fast, secure, a little heavy on ram but worth it for the features, such as the built-in translator. The resulting Engrish might not always make sense, but it's much better than looking at Katakana/Hiragana, which might as well be alien text if you don't read Japanese. The translator also works for most Korean and Chinese blogs. This trick can usually decipher the labels on clickable links, saving you the trouble and embarrassment of figuring out what link says "go to gallery" and what says "click here for dick pics!" through trial and error.

Chrome also lets you customize your browsing experience with extensions. Some extensions I've found indispensable are Image Downloader and Awesome Screenshot. They allow you to grab images shown on your screen rather than download them from the source - bypassing that pesky right-click menu disabling feature, as seen on Modelers-G.

Galleries / Group Sites

Gallery sites like Modelers-G, FG-Site and Xiaot are great places to start digging for more awesome builds. Remember that many people from Japan, Korea and China do not speak English at all, which means their work has a smaller chance of getting shared or featured in English-only websites and groups. Modelers-G lets you browse through all of a modeler's uploaded works, and can include a link to the modeler's personal blog, as shown below.

Going through a modeler's gallery of completed works is great for inspiration, but the real prize is in seeing how they built them. Many Japanese modelers share step by step WIP photos on their personal blogs, and while the translated text is of little help, the images speak for themselves!

Xiaot is another great resource chock full of fantastic builds, but it's a little harder to navigate as the translator doesn't work very well on it, it's covered in ads, and it's mostly in forum format. Instead of explaining how to get to the gallery view, I'll just put the link right here. You're welcome.

when you see it... ;)

Social Media

You'll probably have a few idol Japanese modelers (not to be confused with Japanese idol models, which is a very different thing...) by the time you've gone through the seemingly endless galleries of spectacular work in the websites above. And what would any true fanboy do next? Stalk their idols on social media of course! Many of the modelers share a link to their Twitter, Instagram or even Facebook accounts on their pages. This lets you in on WIP images that might never appear on their blogs.

Digging even deeper

So you're following your idols on Twitter, have their blogs bookmarked, and have their WIP pics saved in your "things to try on my next build" folder. Is that it? Do we stop here? Of course not! These idols of ours must get their inspiration from somewhere right? A good place to start is their blogroll - a list of links that they follow, or liked enough to share them on their blog. The layout can be different from page to page, but you can usually find this as a bar on one side of the page, or collected in a separate post.

These links will take you anywhere from popular sites to modeling group pages, to blogs so outdated the pictures no longer render or are in very low resolution. Still, a lot of them are worth visiting, especially since the older generations that pioneered this hobby may no longer be around, or don't bother with uploading to newer social platforms.

The Takeaway

pic borrowed from

Once you've gone through these pages, you'll realize that mecha modeling is a lot more mainstream than it appears, especially in Japan where the hobby has it's roots. Enthusiasts have regular gatherings, build-offs, even classroom style training camps attended by kids. Modeling teams are grouped into chapters for each prefecture, and they frequently come together to show off their work, compete with each other on god level, or just talk about gunpla over beers and ramen. Plamo isn't a niche hobby over there, it's a goddamn culture.

I guess this is why they have the Orazaku: an All-Japan mecha modeling competition where insanely good customs reign supreme. I wouldn't say the GBWC pales in comparison, but take a look at these Orazaku champions and decide for yourself...

How in the world did these amazing builds come to be you might ask? Scroll back to the top of this post and go through it again. Everything you need to know, the techniques, the concepts, the step by step pictures are somewhere in those blogs, just waiting for a persistent modeler to find them. But knowing is one thing, the first step. It's up to us to push ourselves to do better.

"..sooner or later you're going to realize, just as I did,
that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
- Morpheus

There is no spoon.
(sorry, couldn't help it, Neo is my hero!)

Happy Holidays! Until next time, keep building plamo!


  1. Nice tricks ! I've exhausted a good amount of english-speaking blogs, so I'll give those a try :) Thanks !

    1. there's a ton of them to go through, guaranteed to keep you busy for the next decade or so :)