For a change of pace, I thought I would write a little about a passion of mine. That passion is Mecha Modelling. 

Nope, it's not dressing up like a robot - it's creating scale models of science fiction mechanical machines. Sounds very niche - but the bulk of the hobby surrounds a very famous Japanese animation series called Mobile Suit Gundam, which first aired in 1976 and still continues to this day. While I like the animation and it's very wide and varied spin-off and alternative timelines which still continue to air to this day in Japan - it is the model kits I am interested in. The most popular kit's are produced by the Japanese toy company Bandai, who brand them as "GunPla", a kinf of portmanteau of 'Gundam' and 'Plamo', the latter being short for 'plastic model'. These model kits are superbly engineered, and do not require any messy glue to create - making the hobby itself very accessible to modellers and collectors alike. Modellers like to build, paint, modify and detail the kits as an art form, while collectors will either keep them in the box or assemble them. There is also a stunningly high amount of kits available, with nearly every 'mobile suit' in every anime having an equivalent kit. Other companies too, make these mecha kits for different anime franchises that also feature 'mobile suits' (although they're not called this directly for copyright reasons). There is also a small market for people who hand-craft their own model kits, called "garage kits" that are often very short-run and moulded / cast in resin instead of plastic - these are more for the modellers than collectors.  The choice of kit really is quite mind-boggling. 
  
The hobby is very popular in Asia, less so in the USA and virtually unknown here in Europe - apart from Italy which has a humble following, and Bandai hold an annual event called the "Gunpla Builders World Cup" where modellers can compete (unfortunately only allowed to enter Bandai kits of course) on an international scale. These events are generally held at national comic conventions - with several regional events. Winners in each country are flown out to Japan where the finals are held each December. At the moment competitions are held in Italy, Australia, the USA & Canada, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, China, South Korea and Japan. No UK though... yet!

I got into this hobby quite by accident. I had heard of Gundam, as one of the anime's had been aired on Cartoon Network, but had no idea about the models. On one of my regular trips to Japan, I was having a dig around a second-hand shop (these places are a treasure trove of weird, I love them) and I came across two of these kits. On a whim, I bought them, and built them the same day. I was so, so impressed by how well engineered and how easy to build these kits where. I had to buy more! 

On returning back to the UK, I sought out a UK community I could share my interest with, but sadly there where none. I did however find a few international forums, and from here I learned a great deal about actual modelling - something I had no prior experience of. Fast forward now 5 years, and I have made some fantastic friends, and learned a great deal - grown from a little past-time to a full-blown passion. One of my models is in the picture!

If you have an interest in this, or are just curious to find out more, you can see what I do by visiting Gundamuk.com, or by visiting my youtTube channel, GundamUK. I also have a facebook and instagram page with regular updates.