TOKYO — Araki Takahiro is angry.
Araki is one of the top fighters in the country in the sport known as “Gunpla Battle,” in which competitors build replica Gundam robots and use them to battle each other. Araki often trains for tournaments at local Gunpla Battle centers, fighting it out with the best in the field to sharpen his own skills. However, lately he has been skipping his training sessions more and more.
There is a good reason for that, he said.
“There are too many damn kids at the battle centers recently,” Araki said. “They’re always running around, shouting, waving their inferior Gunpla around. It’s annoying.”
Araki said that he and other top fighters need full concentration to give their all in battles. He regularly spends much of his week tinkering with his robots, making small adjustments that he tests out with his rivals on the field of battle. These exhibition matches are an important part of keeping in shape as a competitor, Araki said.
But the influx of children at the Gunpla Battle centers is making that increasingly difficult.
“I don’t have a problem with these kiddies playing with their toys, or whatever, but please, keep away from the serious battlers,” Araki said. “I’m trying to have a good fight with serious competitors, and there are children all around me trying to challenge me to nothing battles with cheap Gunpla. I had one annoying brat challenge me with the worst Strike Freedom Gundam I’ve ever seen. First of all, the Strike Freedom? Way to be a frontrunner, kid. Secondly, the workmanship was terrible. The paint was off, the joints were loose, everything looked like garbage. Lastly, I could have wiped the floor with him in seconds. What’s the point?”
Some are not so happy with the stance of Araki and other top Gunpla Battle fighters. Robot model kits remain popular with children, who like to recreate their favorite robots from their favorite anime. Gunpla Battle is a harmless activity that allows kids to nonviolently fight and see which of their robots is superior, said Kujo Hiroko, whose 10-year-old son, Akira, is an avid Gunpla Battle player.
“I don’t understand why these adults take it so seriously,” Kujo said. “It’s just a silly kids game! Don’t they have real jobs?”
For their part, the kids aren’t too bothered by the adults.
“They’re having a lot of fun,” Akira said. “They make some really cool robots. I like to watch them battle. One day I’ll make a really cool robot that they’ll want to battle, and maybe I’ll even beat them!”
As Akira spoke, he pulled out the Strike Freedom Gundam he had been working on. While he waved it around, Araki sneaked up behind Akira, grabbed the Gundam out of his hands and threw it to the ground. He then stomped the toy until it broke into pieces.
“Don’t you dare pretend you’re anywhere near my level, kid,” Araki said. “You’re just some young punk who thinks he’s cool because he made a model of some stupid, overpowered robot. Get some taste before you come into my house, kid.”
Araki strolled away as Akira cried over the broken corpse of his robot.