Meeting Gunpla Master Builder Katsumi Meijin Kawaguchi

No stranger to the world of Gunpla and its fans throughout the world, Gunpla Master Builder Katsumi Meijin Kawaguchi has traveled the world promoting Gunpla and also supporting the Gunpla World Builders Cup and and Gunpla Expo. We catch up with the master builder to find out more about how Gunpla has evolved over the years and what is it like to have a character in a Gundam anime series named after him.

Meijin Kawaguchi (left) and 13-year-old student, Gregg Tey, winner of the Junior Category for a Beast of Destruction model from the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn series
Meijin Kawaguchi (left) and 13-year-old student, Gregg Tey, winner of the Junior Category for a Beast of Destruction model from the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn series

In your view, how has Gunpla evolved over the years when it first started till today?

Our product concept is “Everyone accomplishes to assemble GUNPLA if they follow the instruction sheets”. Our products are relatively easy to put together.

In recent years, we have tried to add value to customers. Compared with our past products, a lot more colours are used now. Some special tools like nipper and tweezers are no longer needed, as most people prefer to assemble their GUNPLAs by hand. When customers manage to finish assembling their GUNPLAs, they can take photos with them against their favourite scenes because the models are very mobile.

We keep trying to add value to customers by constantly improving our products based on the feedback that we receive.

Having built so many Gunpla in your career, which is your favorite and why?

My favorite GUNPLA is 1/100 DOM. When I was a university student, I was a writer for Hobby Japan, one of the famous Model kit & Figure magazines in Japan. My first and last review for the magazine was about the 1/100 DOM GUNPLA.

Another favourite GUNPLA of mine is the GOD GUNDAM. This Mobile Suit design took a long time to be decided upon. The GOD GUNDAM’s design was finalized after incorporating Mr Okawara’s design with Bandai’s feedback.

Meijin Kawaguchi (left) and 35-year-old Associate Manager at Fuji Xerox, Benjamin Wong, winner of the Open Category for a WA-Peace Rider model from the Gundam Build Fighters Try series.
Meijin Kawaguchi (left) and 35-year-old Associate Manager at Fuji Xerox, Benjamin Wong, winner of the Open Category for a WA-Peace Rider model from the Gundam Build Fighters Try series.

The Gundam Built Fighters series was quite a hit series for both old fans and those new to the Gundam universe and Gunpla. How do you feel having a character named after you in the series?

Before the launch of the Gundam Build Fighters series, I was already aware that there would be a character named Meijin Kawaguchi. But when I actually watched the character on TV, I couldn’t stop smiling.

The series also seemed to encourage lots of customization to Gunpla, do you agree with this and why?

The program’s concept encourages one to customize his GUNPLA. So I totally agree. A GUNPLA is an assembled kit. So we don’t always need to follow the original design. If a customer can enjoy his own customized GUNPLA, that’s the best because it is proof that we can add value.

The Gunpla Builders World Cup have seen many interesting ideas and fantastic Gunpla building skills. Having judged so many competitions before, do you have any tips for those looking to take part?

First, it is important to decide a theme and story before building a GUNPLA. You can then portray what you’d like to express through your work.

Next, follow competition regulations. Some of the works are very good but they unfortunately do not abide to competition regulations. These works lose the right to win a prize.

For those thinking about starting up this hobby but are hesitant, what would be a good model kit to start on and why?

I’d like to recommend the HG series. The number of assembled parts are suitable for those who are assembling a GUNPLA for the first time. It is also important to select your favorite Mobile Suit in order to be more motivated to finish assembling it.

It is also better to purchase the latest products. This is because newer models are easier to assemble and pose for pictures because of their high mobility.

Meijin Kawaguchi, Benjamin Wong and Gregg Tey on stage at the Singapore leg of the Gunpla Builders World Cup 2016.
Meijin Kawaguchi, Benjamin Wong and Gregg Tey on stage at the Singapore leg of the Gunpla Builders World Cup 2016.

Lastly, any words of encouragement for those thinking about trying out this hobby and for those already in this hobby and looking for new inspiration?

I just want to say one thing: Please keep assembling and enjoying GUNPLA!

If you are a model kit enthusiast who has not experienced assembling GUNPLAs first-hand, you will not be able to do it as well as the professional modelers and GUNPLA BUILDERS WORLD CUP winners.

If you keep practising, your skills will gradually improve. You can then challenge yourself to try and learn new skills and new techniques. Assembling GUNPLAs is more than just a past-time. It’s fun!

Thank you Kawaguchi-san for your time and we hope you continue spread the fun in building Gunpla!

Photo credits: Bandai Namco Singapore Pte Ltd

By Kenneth Wong

© POPCulture Online 2016, All Rights Reserved

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