Friday, April 6, 2018

An Open Letter On The State Of Sanctioned Contests

Greetings and salutations!

I hope this letter finds you in good health. I have been building gundam model kits for 6 years, and I also operate a blog that promotes the hobby. I've decided to reach out on behalf of fellow enthusiasts in my country, regarding numerous recurring concerns on how the Gundam Model Kit Contest (GMKC) and the Gunpla Builder's World Cup (GBWC)  is conducted in the Philippines. These are annual events mandated over by the local distributor -  Bankee Trading.

Every year the hobby community voices out the same concerns, but it seems all our complaints fall on deaf ears. I am reaching out with an open letter, hoping it will find it's way to someone who has influence over these events.

Click on Read More for the rest of this post...

Limited Space and Poor Lighting

Year after year, this is one of the most obvious concerns at the GBWC and GMKC. The space allocated for the entries is never enough.  The tight space makes it very difficult for participants to put their kits on display without touching or knocking over someone else's kit. Some models are made to stand so close to each other that you cannot even see them clearly from any other angle except the front. To save on floor space, the organizers even stack the display cases. Some form of online registration prior to the event could simplify the estimation of how much space and how many display cases will be needed, even before the event kicks off.

It should be a general rule at these events that a fixed amount of space is allocated to each entry, so that the judges can look around and view each entry from different angles. If the limit is 40x40x40cm, then that space must be allocated to one entry alone, regardless if it occupies the whole allocated space or not. What usually happens is that smaller entries get crammed together, which can make it difficult to focus attention on each entry individually.

The participants put time, effort and money into each build, and as such they deserve the respect of the event organizer. Each entry should be displayed in such a way that it can actually be seen with minimal obstructions, and with adequate lighting. This would at least give the smaller entries a fighting chance against the larger ones that tend to gain more attention simply because of sheer size.

Do you need a flashlight Kawaguchi-san? 

Instead of allocating more display cases to the entries, quite a few are assigned to new product displays. More than half of the venue is always occupied by shelves and checkout counters for model kit sales. Instead of hosting an event for the hobby's most dedicated fans, the organizer is much more concerned about selling. This is apparent as well in the meager prize pools, lack of lighting equipment, or even a basic projector for flashing pictures of the winning entries and the builder's names as they are called on stage. Year after year, it's as if the GBWC and GMKC are merely sideshows to the true main event: the simultaneous gunpla "sale".

Panel of Judges

The panel of judges should be composed strictly of seasoned modelers. Celebrity judges or Bankee employees who have limited experience in the hobby are not qualified to judge these events. Notable modelers from the Philippines and even neighboring countries are more suitable as judges, as they are well aware of what goes into a build, what techniques were applied, and understand how difficult (or easy) it is to achieve the different types of paint finishes and modifications. The names of the judges should be announced for the scrutiny of the hobby community. I believe this is the case in the world finals, but it should also be implemented in the qualifiers.

These statements are not meant to belittle previous winners, for whom I have the utmost respect, nor to discredit the judges that selected them - but transparency in the judging process is a great way to eliminate negative sentiments from the community regarding the outcome. Scores for the top 8 should be announced during the awarding ceremony, and individual score sheets could be handed out to each participant, so they are aware of what they can improve on for the next event. A score sheet showing how your entry fared is a lot more valuable than a fancy looking but entirely useless certificate of participation or badge.


In the Philippines, these sanctioned events require participants to present a proof-of-purchase from the sponsoring store: GMKC requires a Toy Kingdom receipt, whereas the GBWC requires a Toys-R-Us receipt. If the entry is not supported by a proof of purchase, it is immediately disqualified. While this appears to be a deterrent to potential knock-off kits being submitted as entries, after experiencing both events and witnessing the inspection process with my own eyes, it is in fact nothing more than a handicap imposed on the Philippine qualifiers - and one that limits us severely in terms of what kits appear in the event itself.

These mall-based stores are not very well stocked. In effect, since other participating countries do not have this rule, it becomes an unfair disadvantage that the Philippine competitors must overcome if they wish to participate in these events. In the rules printed for the Philippine GBWC, the organizer requires a receipt for each kit used if more than "50%" of those kit's parts are in the entry. Whatever incomprehensible algorithm the event staff performs to calculate "50% of a model kit" during the 5-10 minute "inspection" per entry is a complete mystery - but once again this emphasizes that the primary focus of the local distributor is improving their sales numbers. Imagine buying a kit at Gundam Base Tokyo and not being allowed to use it for the GBWC. Kawaguchi himself could hand you a kit from his personal collection, and it still would not qualify because of this ridiculous rule. Meanwhile in other countries, competitors have free reign over what kit to use and have access to everything - be it P-Bandai, Expo exclusives and other rare or out-of-print kits, regardless of where it was purchased.

If the true objective is to filter out non-Bandai kits or parts, then it is the organizer's prerogative to educate their staff on how to identify those banned parts - so they can actually flag them during inspection. The event staff should be knowledgeable in gunpla in the first place, otherwise, what qualifies them to officiate a sanctioned event?

The rules regarding parent participation is also very vague, leading to a lot of controversy in the Junior Category - but the organizers show little concern for the issue. In some participating countries, children who look like they're not even old enough to read a kit's instruction manual or even handle gunpla tools are somehow able to submit works that are well beyond the natural ability of a child their age. Event organizers, even Mr. Kawaguchi it seems, simply turn a blind eye. Is it perhaps because a child - barely out of diapers but capable of producing a winning entry - is excellent promotional material for Bandai?

If Bandai wants to promote gunpla with children this young, then why not have a "Family" category instead? In such a category a child may, with the help of older siblings or parents, submit an entry they built together. By having a Family category the real Junior builders can enjoy a more even playing field, with less risk of over-aged participants attempting to sneak into the Junior category.


The mecha modeling community in the Philippines is much larger than it appears. The ones that make it to the major events in Manila are but a small fraction of that community. Modelers from all over the country should be given a chance to participate in these events - not just those that are near and around Manila. Why not conduct regional qualifiers in the months leading up to the scheduled GBWC or GMKC date?

Not only will more enthusiasts be able to participate nationwide, but it will also alleviate many of the issues regarding space at the country's GBWC and GMKC Finals - where only the finalists from each region would then have to attend. Bankee already conducts a roving "Gundam Caravan", so I do not see why qualifying rounds cannot be implemented in a similar way. A good prize for winning a regional event would be free travel and accommodations to the finals in Manila.
Regional events could be co-sponsored to cover the costs, and I'm sure the local hobby groups would be willing to lend a hand in organizing the regional events in their area if it means they get to send a representative to the finals.


What really bothers me is that these are Sanctioned events - so Bandai probably already knows all this is happening. They even send over Kawaguchi-san himself - to judge, award the prizes and sign autographs - so they may already be aware of how things are happening, it's just that they couldn't care less. These events should be an opportunity for Bandai and it's distributors to give back to the community that cherishes their products - so why not make it about the modelers for a change?

By showing us that we are appreciated, the modeling community itself will promote the hobby. In fact many of us already do despite these issues, simply because we want to share the joy of building gunpla.  But if the local organizers continue to run these events like they always have - asking us to cram our hard work into tiny display cases, give more priority to selling kits at the events,  keep the scorecards secret, and continue to ignore a large part of the community by not reaching out to the rest of the country - then Bandai and Bankee are in no position to demand our loyalty or support.

What is the GBWC and GMKC really about? Is it meant for the modeling community, or is it merely designed for the benefit of the local distributor? Is it meant to promote love for Gunpla as portrayed in the Gundam Build Fighters series, or is it - as many already believe - nothing but a marketing gimmick to boost sales? Not once in the Build Fighters anime did I see shelves stacked with kits for sale next to the battle arena. Not once did Reiji or Fumina have to produce a receipt for their kits.


Otaku On A Budget

*some photos pulled from google images, ctto. 


  1. I totally agree with the lighting and limited space problem. I asked about it last year but oh well they just said the lights were broken.

    For the receipts rule, I don't even know if there's a workaround. I hated it also at first but I don't know how anybody can consistently distinguish some knock-off kits, especially straight up copies like Daban's, (whole/parts) after they've been painted.

    For the age category, I've seen a video of a little girl creating high quality work, with some WIP videos too. I've forgotten what country that was though. It's almost impossible to enforce this unless you require people to submit whole WIP video documentation (which I think won't happen at all).

    As for the GMKC and the GBWC, they're definitely marketing gimmicks and I don't mind them being so. Judging for these will definitely not make sense to everybody, no matter who's judging. I think it's just like that for Art/Performance competitions. Refereeing in sports isn't reliable too. Judging in contests organized by modelers FOR modelers also isn't always reliable and will depend on the preferences of the judges. I think this post r/Gunpla is a good example of that. It was a submission for a hobby contest and it didn't even place because all the diorama winners were of the same type (all Fantasy and no Sci Fi).

    As somebody new to the hobby, I still like the idea of being able to join these contests and showing off what I can do. They also give some order to how I choose what to build. Sadly, it still does not stop me from building up a backlog. :)

    1. I see your point, but if the receipt rule is to prove authenticity, why does the receipt have to be from a specific store then? Why can't I use my kit from Gundam Base if I have a receipt for it? And I'm not saying a child can't produce a high level of work, just that in the photo above, there's no way that girl could have done it by herself. If it had been a family category, it would have made more sense. As for judging, I don't mind if they base it on preference if all of them are well known heavy hitters - it still beats getting judged by someone who doesn't know the first thing about custom gunpla.

    2. Oh yeah! I had the same thought before, especially since I just bought something from Gundam Base. I do think it's because even if the events are Bandai-sanctioned, they are not Bandai-funded. I'd love to be able to use Bandai kits that I've purchased from everywhere, but from a business standpoint I guess it doesn't make sense.

      I was wondering who the judges were too. I've only joined GMKC once and I thought it was weird that they didn't have a list of judges at least.

    3. That's the thing though, it's supposed to be a competition for the modelers, where we can all showcase our skills - not a marketing stunt. Besides, nobody asked to have the event in a mall where space is expensive. 2 days at a good sized function hall would suffice - but of course they wouldn't do that because then only the actual competitors would drop by. It would not attract new customers, and they couldn't put on a successful sale event. Let me ask you this - Do you think it's fair that modelers submit their entries, and people who drop by get inspired by the awesome stuff on display end up buying kits at the event? I mean it's great to get other people into the hobby, but that's not our job, it's Bandai's. And yet we get the short end of the stick for providing free marketing material. Bandai should be thanking us.

  2. Interesting read.. I agree with the lighting and the scoring.. But I hope you also understand that this is a Bankee Event which sells their stocks in TRU and TK. If you would allow people to purchase from third party distributors where would Bankee get the expense to run the event in the first place? Did a local distributor you know rented a venue and invited thousands of participants to join? and if they win send them to Japan? I dont think so

    1. I understand that they need to make money, but not by forcing their limited selection of kits down our throats. Have you seen the lines at the sale event during GBWC week? They probably sell more kits there than they do at stores in a year. And while Bankee may have invited "thousands" of participants, only a couple hundred actually show up - but they still can't provide enough space. Heaven forbid those thousands actually show up, then they'd have to display kits on the floor...But you know who actually attracts "thousands" to buy kits at these events? - the competitors who showcase their awesome builds. The receipt rule is total bullcrap and you know it. Other countries don't have that rule in place, so why do we have to put up with it? Why not try to get more sponsors if money is the issue? An event with that much footfall is ripe for sponsorship from the likes of Coke or Jollibee, or Tender Juicy or whatever. They can loose the radio DJ host and get someone cheaper to announce the raffle winners from the ongoing sale.

  3. We have the same sentiments about these events. I personally ook forward to these events because ita an opportunity for a modeller to showcase his skills and creativity, however the events organizers looks like they dont have that passion that we builders/modelers have. I hope they would also look into how other countries run their events specially in japan and hopefully we could see a big improvement in our own local contest.

  4. I don't really get that receipt rule. Sure it can be because bootleg and stuff, but if that's the case then just have the rule to show the receipt from where ever it was bought from.

    The kits TRU and TK sell are of REALLY LIMITED SELECTION and can range to about twice the value of JPY SRP. I know that can be because they have to pay for mall rent, tax etc. But still I dont think that warrants twice the value of the gundam kits. They're a pretty big wholesaler so they probably already have big discounts.

    The most important thing for me: Why does it matter where the builder bought the kit? The most important thing is the skill of building itself.

  5. Years before(around 2005) when joining BAKUC (this was what GBWC was called before) you only had to present the box when submitting your entry. The receipt rule was implemented since some entries were counterfeit/bl and since you only had to present a bandai box participants can easily just get a box.

    1. a box doesn't prove anything, and neither does a receipt. If a receipt was enough to prove the kit isn't a bootleg, then why does the receipt have to be from a specific store? The real reason the receipt rule is in place is to boost their sales, nothing else. The staff that "inspect" the kits have no clue what they're doing.