Do you know Gundam?
The TV animation Mobile Suit Gundam, which features giant robots, was first broadcast in 1979. Since then, it has been serialized, and boasts tremendous popularity not only in Japan.
At Kogyokusha Junior and Senior High School in Tokyo, there is a club called the Gundam Research Club, which is based on this animation. However, the club does not research Gundam itself. Its activities mainly involve the creation of the Gundam world view by using and making plastic models and dioramas.
The Gundam Research Club began at the 2000 culture festival. It started when student volunteers who liked Gundam gathered to create a project. For a while, it operated as a fan club. In 2018, it became a group of like-minded students, and then in 2019 it was promoted to the status of a club. This was achieved when the first club leader proactively participated in diorama competitions and extra-curricular activities, and raised the degree of contribution to the school. It normally takes two years for a group to become a club, however, the promotion was achieved in only a year. This was possible due to the passion of the first club leader and the members.
Main activities of the Gundam Research Club
The Gundam Research Club meets twice a week. Members make Gundam plastic models which are called “Gunpla” and create dioramas. They display their works at culture festivals, and interact with other schools through the creation of plastic models and dioramas. They also participate in competitions such as the Diorama Grand Prix. These are the main activities of the club.
The club holds an internal competition three times a year. All members evaluate the quality (painting skill, assembly precision) and the creativity of works, and aim to improve their skills. Older students patiently teach the creation techniques to new junior high school members who are not used to making plastic models. The harmonious interaction between older and younger students as they create works with individuality in their own way is a sight often seen in the Gundam Research Club. Members often use lines known to fans of Gundam in their conversations, and at least once a day, someone says a famous Gundam phrase.
The annual culture festival is a great occasion for the Gundam Research Club to show its works. The creations, which are exhibited in classrooms, are the target of the attention of visiting elementary school students. Gundam is loved across generations, and is well-known to adults too, so parents and their children can enjoy talking about the same topic together. Owing to this, the club ranks highly every year in the popularity vote by visitors, and the creations can be said to be the drawcard of the culture festival.
At the culture festivals, in addition to the usual plastic models and dioramas, the club displays large-scale works made of cardboard. In the past, a three meter-high Unicorn Gundam statue was a major hit.
Outside of school, the club enters its dioramas into the High School International Diorama Grand Prix (HiD) and the Gunpla Builders World Cup (GBWC). It won the Platz Award at the 5th HiD which was held in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture in March 2018. It was an excellent achievement considering that this was the first time the club participated in the event. At the 6th HiD held the following year, two teams from the club participated, and each won the Chief Judges Award and the Platz Award. In addition to having their works rated highly, the members could also interact with other schools from around the country, and so they gained a lot from participation. From now on, the club aims to raise the technical level of each member and win the competitions.
Developing the individuality of the students and respecting their independence
In the Gundam Research Club activities, the independence of the students is respected, and they basically run the club themselves. They rarely receive instructions from the teacher in charge of the club. The students themselves think about what they want to do, and execute the things which are possible. The members do not only decide the activity contents and yearly schedule. They also plan the trips to competitions held far away, and request exchange events with diorama clubs of other schools.
While enjoying creative activities, each student aims to develop individuality. This policy can be said to be a main feature of the Gundam Research Club. There are some members who selected Kogyokusha Junior and Senior High School as their first choice in order to join the Gundam Research Club. In the activities which members started because they liked Gundam, their abilities and possibilities naturally expand through independent activity. Perhaps the Gundam Research Club is a place which offers such opportunity.