Last year I've ended up on Gunpla Expo by pure chance. This year, I went to Japan specifically to visit this expo (and eat some tasty ramen, of course). Same routine, same floor layout, way more impressive line-up for upcoming months, interesting "event-special" releases.
In a sense, you can get a feeling that Bandai cut down on things; there were no presents for visitors this time, and some of the displays were almost ascetic — for example the movie for new RG was really unimpressive. On the other hand, the kits they've presented were a really nice turn away from "78th version of Banshee/Sinanju/Unicorn". I'm very happy about RG Exia — as HG version of it was my first gunpla kit ever. And of course both MG Turn-X and HG Turn-A are a promise of infinite bliss; I simply love Turn A Gundam.
The first display section was dedicated to Unicorn. They've announced date for the last episode (May 17th 2014), and put a lot of HG kits featured in Unicorn up in the front. Just after that there were few Thunderbolt kits — not a total surprise, if you've been following the news, but definitely something that not a lot of people expected. Big guns, custom Zakus, some of them red — all boxes checked.
Next up was MG corner. A display with new releases, and some older kits. MG Sazabi was announced earlier, but I think here it made first physical appearance. And it's really bulky and imposing, with funnels and all its red awesomeness. A lot of people were eyeballing it up and down. As for me, I'm not too hot on Red Comet's suits, but I'd agree that it did look impressive.
RG and HG section were next. RG Strike Freedom made its debut on the same day as opening of the Expo, and was properly featured there. All other RGs were also lined up, nothing too fancy, just straight builds panel lined. Which, in case of RGs, makes up for an impressive build anyway... :) RG Exia didn't get any physical presence, the only thing about it were the posters, no prototype yet.
HG kits were organised by series. Not that many surprises here really. The builds were really meticulous — I think Bandai wanted to show that you can have a lot of fun and pretty looking kit even with out of box HG build. And considering how cheap those HGs are in Japan, it can potentially entice many people to start building gunplas.
Given that Build Fighters are the currently airing series, this section was big. And compared to AGE's section from last year, it was quite interesting. Granted, the series is a comedy, and their mash-ups are not always looking that interesting. But apart from current and upcoming kits from series itself, Bandai has shown a lot of official accessories that will be coming to gunpla stores near you soon. And that opens up door to modifications... hopefully, more people will start doing those.
Just realised that with those HGs and the mods from BF, Bandai is really positioning themselves as plastic model entry drug dealer. Here, take this box, how hard could it be... and you'll have fun!.
"All HG" project is a consequence of Build Fighters. After all, they need to have some compatibility between those HGs, to allow for easier swaps and mods. Majority of those kits are actually already existing — I'm just not sure whether Bandai will be releasing them again, with slightly better joints/limbs or just reprinting the old kits. For me, the star of that section was (of course) HG Turn A. I've already queued MG version of it to be build, but HG made in 2014 should be as detailed as that MG, and way nicer in terms of quality.
Similar to last year's, there was a section with gunplas built by various Japanese celebrities. With this Bandai wants to show that anyone can assemble a kit, and there's plenty of ways you can customize your kit to your liking. This year's builds were rather moderate compared to certain salt'n'pepper monstrosities from last year, but still very nice to look at.
There was a sizeable booth at the Expo grounds which was constantly running some events. They were showing builds and modifications, according to the schedule. Every time I was actually at the Expo they were, however, boasting those nice online-exclusive only parts that you can't get outside of Japan. Thank you very much, Bandai :P
The last part of the "official" materials were a couple of SD displays. I'm not that much into SDs, as I prefer more realistic robots. SD Unicorn looked nice, however — and transformed between normal and destroy mode just like his big brother.
And last but not least, the most impressive part of the Expo: competition entries! There were two categories: open and juniors. Last year was full of sophisticated dioramas — this time it looked like people decided to concentrate more on idea behind the builds. My vote went to a diorama of Z'gok being lost, with people trying to turn it away from the shore, pointing out that "Jaburo is that way!" :D
Even if the show was a bit modest, I'm still impressed by what Bandai has to offer. Here's to hope that they'll continue to come up with new ways to render all those fancy designs in plastic (PG Unicorn, pretty please? :). The contest works looked far more impressive than last year's — or perhaps I'm just able to spot more details and appreciate certain things more. All in all, I'm happy that I ended up here once again, as it was definitely a worthwhile experience. Even with 2 hours of queueing to get the event kits.