Bandai Spirits Head Katsumi Kawaguchi Talks 40 Years of Gunpla History
posted on by Kim Morrissy
The July 3 issue of Asashi Shimbun's Weekly Asahi magazine published an interview with Bandai Spirits president Katsumi Kawaguchi to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Gundam plastic model (otherwise known as Gunpla) sale in July 1980.
The four-page interview tells the story of how Gunpla was first developed, with many of the original model makers coming from a background of creating scale models for tanks, battleships, and planes. Instead of creating toys for younger children, Bandai decided to create realistic models that would appeal to the anime's audience of primarily older teens.
The interview also explores how the philosophy behind creating Gunpla evolved with the times. When the NES/Famicom boom started, there was a greater imperative to create easier-to-build models in order to maintain interest among children. It was also important to continuously refine older models and apply new design philosophies to them; Kawaguchi mentions Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket as being a very important turning point in terms of reinterpreting the "grunt" Mobile Suits such as Zakus and Doms with more appeal.
Kawaguchi also highlighted Mobile Fighter G Gundam as an important series because of its experimental nature at the time. It was not popular at the start due to breaking previously established series conventions, but Domon Kassu's God Gundam (or Burning Gundam in the American versions) became a fan favorite as the plot of the anime progressed.
When Gunpla first launched in 1980, over a million units shipped within half a year. By 2019, total shipments had exceeded 500 million. To celebrate Gunpla's 40th anniversary, Bandai Spirits has announced various projects, including a collaboration with Japan's professional baseball teams.
Source: Weekly Asahi July 3 Issue