Southern California Gundam Model Competition 2016

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Ironic now that I’m in a period of time when I’m building models less and less frequently that I actually attend my first large-scale model competition. In fact this contest was the sole motivation for me to finish a kit that was rotting away in my backlog for nearly two years.

For those unfamiliar, the SCGMC is an annual model kit competition hosted by Those Gundam Guys – an organization of – well, Gundam Guys. I’d been invited to attend in previous years but never got around to it until now. Previously I had only competed in small contests (held and judged by these guys too) at Robo Toy Fests, with no more than two dozen entries there at best. Needless to say there were plenty more kits at this event.

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Held right in my backyard in Orange County California – I was surprised to hear some people even came from out of state to attend. Made me think of a big showroom-esque grandiose event.

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Not what I expected – more casual with less flair in the setup than I thought, but it’s practical. Modelers were free to set up their work anywhere on the tables provided they were in the right category area.

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I think because I had never attended a larger-scale Gunpla competition before, I expected it to be akin to the Yajima Museum setup shown in the Gunpla competition in the last episode of Gundam Build Fighters Try – red carpets, glass cases, and all. But of course that’s nowhere near the realm of practicality – sadly anime is unrealistic.

An overwhelming amount of unique work and creativity, from all sorts of different skill levels.

A full resin 1/100 Kshatriya on display. Absolutely stunning gloss finish with mind-bending amounts of detail and LEDs galore. Commanding enough to deserve its own table and accompanying info-graphic. Thankfully it wasn’t actually a competitor in the competition though, otherwise I think it would’ve given even the best in the Expert categories a run for their monies.

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The Zeong we saw at GBWC Anime Expo! I remember we were talking about how well put together it is, and lo and behold it shows up here to take home the Expert category win.

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Understatement of the year – “lots of body mods.”

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Every year’s contest apparently has a Special Theme category, and this year it just so happened to be based on the currently trending Iron Blooded Orphans series. The best IBO piece received its own plaque, and while it wasn’t this Lupus shown above, I just wanted to point it out because I liked it so much. Clean and well built, I think, with a subtly commanding pose.

There was also a category devoted to Dioramas. I have one in mind for Gundam AGE that I’d like to build myself one day, but looking at these I realized that I have so much yet to learn about creating environments.

If I’m not mistaken, this diorama won the Iron Blooded Orphans special category. The damage to Barbatos and the savage look of Graze Ein was enough to make it stand out, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one convinced the drill kick special was the real kicker (pun intended).

At first everyone just saw the Graze Ein shaking and thought that it was supposed to be some dramatic motion effect, until we saw that it was just a byproduct to the truly cool effect of the drill foot spinning into the Barbatos’ chest.

p1200248Aptly named, “Ein Was Right.” Love it.

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I particularly liked this one, probably because of my Gundam Wing nostalgia goggles. I do think the kits could’ve been posed a lot better than how they were (Heavyarms drawing its beam-saber-for-an-arm would’ve been particularly cool) but I’m just happy to see one of the show’s more memorable scenes brought to life.

p1200207Speaking of posing though, I’m not sure if that was a factor to the judges who were critiquing the models, but I was sorely disappointed in the presentation of a lot of fine kits.

p1200292I don’t mean to bash on any of these modelers, but presentation matters to draw attention and speaks volumes of your kit to make them look more like models than toys.

p1200223As much as I didn’t pay much attention to most of the SD’s since they’re usually not my cup of tea, this GM Cardigan truly set a new standard. I believe it came in second for the category, well deserved.

p1200211I-I mean…Gunpla is freedom, right? Right?

p1200172The Beast King Barbatos we also saw at Anime Expo this year! If I recall correctly it was picked as Mikazuki’s english voice actor’s favorite during GBWC.

p1200158Several Gunpla and other anime merch vendors were also present – makes sense to sell more models at a model building contest right?

Several different categories also existed for non-Gundam entries, like Star Wars and Mecha General. The works in the Resin Anime Figures were particularly impressive to me, since I know those can’t be easy to work with to get anime characters to look right.

p1200170Some Tiger and Bunny love!

I was actually particularly impressed with this scratch built Chariot’s Chariot, from Black Rock Shooter. Built in scale to the Figmas, I didn’t think anyone actually liked the BRS anime enough to devote time to something this impressively detailed.

p1200173Those Gundam Guys hosting some workshops with live airbrush demonstrations and photography tips, including a little photo booth area with hands on help. Good on them for these activities – I saw plenty of people paying attention when they talked and I’m certain stuff like the airbrushes helped break some barriers for people who are hesitant about trying new equipment.

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A work in progress 1/100 Salamis Light Cruiser on display. Gotta hand it to the guy for really trying something this ambitious – no small undertaking (pun intended again. ha.)

p1200183I thought it would be a little bigger in 1/100 scale since the MG GM standing on top of it seemed a little oversized, but what do I know about giant model ship sizes.

p1200214And finally onto what I actually entered – I threw in my 1/144 HG Barbatos just for kicks in the Beginner segment since it won when I submitted it during Robo Toy Fest earlier this year (probably from being the only entrant), though I didn’t actually expect it to place for anything.

p1200142My main submission would go into the Advanced 1/100 and Larger Alternate Universe category. I was surprised and a little dismayed to find out that Intermediate and Advanced were lumped into one category (I do think there should be a divide, though I suppose the truly advanced would go into the Expert category) so the competition here ended up being really stiff.

p1200204This MG Zaku II has been sitting on the backlog for nearly two years (maybe even more) now. I kept going back to it sporadically, but never really got the motivation to sit down and finish the custom parts until very recently. It was this contest that finally kicked me in the arse to get it done.

Very clearly based off the Slash Zaku Phantom from Gundam Seed Destiny – though it’s still a Zaku II at heart, so I had a conundrum on which category to submit it to – Universal Century or Alternate Universe? I feel like it would be weird seeing a distinctly Destiny design in the UC category, while it would also be jarring to examine the kit in the Alternate Universe category only to realize it’s a Zaku II. In the end I’m glad I submitted it to AU – I would’ve been curbed stomped harder than I already was in the UC segment, the kits there were insane.

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At the end of the day, I didn’t even place in the Top 5 for the Alternate Universe category that I submitted the Zaku to. While no doubt disappointing, I don’t question the validity of the kits ranked above mine – they were all greatly done. I had the consolation of barely not making the cut – apparently I ranked #6 in the category.

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The judging criteria was made clear on Those Gundam Guy’s web page – it seems that models are judged first and foremost in modeling technique and execution. They pay especially close attention to basic things like nubs, seam lines, uneven paint, etc. There wasn’t really any criteria for creativity, which surprised me and made me genuinely curious as to how that was judged.

Between a super original kit with unique features and lots of scratch built parts to demonstrate a builder’s unique vision versus a hyper detailed and stylized rendition of an existing design, would both be judged equally if their build qualities were the same? An interesting thought given how much emphasis was placed on originality and creativity in model building with the Build Fighters boom.

p1200184Models like the custom Fenice Rinascita on the right had me worried at first, since I thought it would be judged higher than my Zaku for being an original design, whereas I merely built according to a pre-existing design.

p1200188But I think it became clear very quickly that above all else, basic build quality matters the most, so nubs and seam lines like those seen upon closer inspection would be the hardest hitters to a model’s score.

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That being said, I talked to the judges on my kit after the awards ceremony had wrapped up and they handed out some valid critiques – there were some slight seam line leftovers and craters on the tops of my gatling gun barrels, with a few bits of sloppiness around my scratch built backpack too.

To confess, I had noted those imperfections during my build but had simply been too lazy to correct them, thinking they were too small of issues to really take notice about. Ironically if I had bothered to go back and fix them maybe I could’ve placed higher.

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The judge also talked about adding more detail – a comment that gave me some thought. The winning kit in my category was a hyper-detailed MG Turn X – weathered to perfection with what must’ve been thousands of little pla-plate pieces all over the kit to give it a more Real Grade vibe than any actual Real Grade. Was that what was meant by detail?

I brought up how I personally preferred bright, saturated mecha that weren’t hyper-detailed. I liked them clean and bright with a commanding presence, instead of being too busy and intricate. (A large part of why I enjoy building my HG All Gundam Project so much right now). The judge said such kits could just as well be as amazing as these highly intricate, detailed builds, and yet continued stressing that more detail is better, which confused me a bit. Was a clean, less-detailed kit more or less valid than a complex one? In the end I didn’t really get a clear answer, but I think he provided a more valuable point anyway: build for you.

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A lot of the kits I saw here today sported a lot of weathering and a lot of them really liked to go with the war-torn real used robot look, complete with sand blasted armor and desaturated colors. Following this aesthetic a lot of these kits were also hyper detailed with lots of markings and itty bits for rivets, extra panels, etc. I find nothing wrong with this style, though it personally isn’t my cup of tea. I’d prefer brighter, show-room style kits with bright colors and simple panels, Super Robot-esque (check the site name).

p1200189Were these war-torn, weathered kits the definition of advanced detail then? I’m not certain, but I personally thought this aesthetic garnered more attention than bright clean builds. While the judge assured me that a bright clean model could be just as impressive as a hyper detailed one, what was the definition of stressing detail?

p1200175Stuff like this (and the clean Barbatos Lupus I mentioned way above) really caught my eye. The color combo works well, the green (I don’t even like green as a color) is bright, shiny, and vibrant. Super saturated, not a huge abundance of little details or messed up weather effects. Granted, upon closer inspection this kit isn’t as clean as it looks from far away (a lot of masking bleed and some unfilled seams) but the overall look I prefer a lot more than the “detailed” Geara Doga standing next to it.

p1200199Make no mistake though, I’m not trying to invalidate those who choose to build their kits to the weathered and used look – I merely prefer a different style of build, and would like to figure out where the line between what’s “detailed” is drawn, and what it looks like on different kits. (Special mention to this R-Jarjar by the way, gorgeous build).

p1200165I died at this one. Good God.

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Maximum points for on-the-fly creativity, man.

p1200286Shoutout to all the judges and the staff at Those Gundam Guys – all very genuine people who just want to spread the love of Gunpla and model building. The contest was fun, and as much as I’ll admit I got cocky and went in expecting to place, I’m glad I came out of it learning more about the craft. Already cooking up ideas for next year.

4 thoughts on “Southern California Gundam Model Competition 2016

  1. To clear up a little about the detail vs clean. That R- Jarja that you posted was a contender for best of show. I’d consider that clean, but detailed, although it does seem that it was modified some.

    -bhop

  2. So humbled and over joyed that the GM Cardigan was able to branch out and get non-SD lovers something to enjoy on an often overlooked category!

    Thanks for taking the time to say such encouraging words, it means alot!

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