Category Archives: Geeking Out

Pop-Culture Marketing: Banking on the Action

28 Jun , 2016,
Crimson
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In last week’s column, we talked about how Japan was using manga to educate pop-culture fans about their moving options.

This week, we examine how pop-culture is changing the way several banks in Japan – traditionally known to be staid, stuffy, and uninterested in the geek dollar, are selling their credit card and loan products.

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Highschool girls are probably the last thing you’d expect banks to use as their mascots.

Known as the Card Loan Girls, these anthropomorphized cards represent products from consumer financial institutions such as Acom, Lake, Aiful, Orix, Mitsui Sumitomo, Mizuho, Mobit, and Promise, and are the latest in a long, long line of anthropomorphized objects to hit Japan.

Of course, the casual otaku should be no stranger to such things, what with ship girls a la DMM’s Kantai Collection or sword boys from Touken Ranbu dominating the doujin charts and at the forefront of fan consciousness in the past couple years.

What’s interesting though, is the way the Card Loan Girls site uses quality manga style illustrations and a presentation that’s almost akin to a dating SIM to woo the geeky demographic.

Entries even list the character’s height, attributes and favorite activities (which we assume represent a particular lifestyle or hobbies that might align with a particular loan policy).

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With the website's presentation, you might think it's selling a dating SIM.

With the website’s presentation, you might think it’s selling a dating SIM. Also represented above: The Lake mascot Rei Midorikawa.

Of course, www.cardloan-girls.jp does more than just flash waifu material at you.

It aggregates details about the participating bank’s credit cards and loan products such as interest rates, maximum card limits, even participating ATMs and outlets.

The site also lays out the pros and cons of each product in a nutshell, happily helping you to make informed choices about the card that’s most right for your lifestyle, income bracket and spending habits. 

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Car, housing, mortgage, even bridal loans are discussed on the site.

If there’s anything otakus need, it’s probably financial advice and this campaign might actually be doing a pretty good job at dispensing it.

Local banks have already seen the value of tapping on pop-culture. We curated cosplay content and a manga strip for DBS Marina Regatta last year, but we’ve yet to see them embark on something quite as ambitious. Hopefully, with pop-culture emerging as the marketing in-thing, we’ll see more diverse campaigns on the horizon.

Check out the Card Loan Girls site for yourself at http://cardloan-girls.jp.

If you have a lead on a site or campaign that’s a great example of pop-culture marketing, be sure to write us at info[at]neotokyoproject.com to let us know! We’ll be happy to take a look at it, and if it is a great fit for this column, we’d be happy to write about it! 

Pop-Culture Marketing: Telling Moving Stories

23 Jun , 2016,
Crimson
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Geeks have been identified as one of the biggest spenders globally. They’ve got plenty of disposable income, are incredibly brand loyal when hooked, and as creatures of the Internet, are excellent mouthpieces for your products if you hit all the right notes.

This has led companies to devise new strategies for engaging with a geek audience – strategies that we define as pop-culture marketing.

Such creative campaigns can run the gamut (we’re no strangers to such strategies ourselves), using imaginative ways to spread key marketing messages like animation, comics, cosplay, geeky displays and even memes.

Of course, such ideas aren’t something any advertising suit can come up with.

Case in point being Gumtree’s campaign depicting Cosplay Flyer Distributors that gave the local cosplay community a good laugh with its treatment and botched aesthetics. Also, a casual search on Gumtree will reveal that Cosplay Flyer Distributor is a job that pays abysmally (only $6 to $12 an hour). That’s nowhere near the market rate for costumed appearances (which is typically $30 or more per hour) that cosplayers are generally familiar with. 

Original Image: The Cosplay Chronicles

Would you dress up and slap on make-up for a gig like this?Source: The Cosplay Chronicles

Of course, that’s not to say that companies can’t come up with great ideas and great campaigns.

In fact, we were tipped-off about one from Japan just last month called Hikkoshi More.

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The Hikkoshi More website is presented in a colorful and charming manner.

Hikkoshi More is a site for information on moving services, targeted at young professionals and new families (moving from town to town for school or work is fairly common in Japan). It includes tips for first-timers, articles about how to cope with and smooth over the process of moving to a new town, and even sections on feng shui and interior decor.

Helping to present this information in convenient, bite-sized bits is the page mascot Kuronishiki, a black cat, and his master Momoa (an aspiring artist). Their adventures are serialized in a series of Cat Diary strips, which serve as anecdotes for handy advice such as techniques for packing, lifting bulky items, and even making new cat friends in an unfamiliar place.

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Kuronishiki and Momoa, from Hikkoshi More’s comic strip. Source: http://more-hikkoshi.com

 

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Some handy packing tips before a move. Source: http://more-hikkoshi.com

 

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Do you even lift? Source: http://more-hikkoshi.com

 

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There’s even a strip about Kuronishiki’s origin story, where he is paralleled with the Peach Boy of Japanese folklore. Source: http://more-hikkoshi.com

 

It’s impressive to see how a change in stylistics and treatment can turn an otherwise dry and boring topic like moving into something informative, without losing its essence.

While this campaign has found success in Japan because manga is so intrinsic to the country’s culture, the use of such techniques to sell a service or key marketing message might not be that much of a stretch for international brands either.

We’ll be examining more such examples in the weeks to come, so do check back with us.

Check out the Hikkoshi More site for yourself at http://more-hikkoshi.com.

If you have a lead on a site or campaign that’s a great example of pop-culture marketing, be sure to write us at info[at]neotokyoproject.com to let us know! We’ll be happy to take a look at it, and if it is a great fit for this column, we’d be happy to write about it! 

Monniker: Serving up Steampunk with a Twist

28 Oct , 2015,
Crimson
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We’re always on the lookout for new pop-culture inspired hangouts, and the latest one on the block – the one-month old Monniker – makes for both a fantastic chill-out spot and a place to satisfy your food cravings.

With it’s Steampunk inspired decor, tungsten lighting and wooden furniture, this cozy cafe on Balestier Road is every would-be aeronaut’s dream.

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Check out the awesome atmosphere!

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The cafe is replete with shelves filled with cool paraphernalia like these sweet, sweet goggles.

It evinces the interior of an airship plying the skies in an alternate, Victorian sci-fi reality, and serves up not just hearty breakfasts fit for adventurers, but also some really amazing mains like their signature Chicken Waffle Stack ($19), Fish & Chips ($19) and Ribs ($23).

The Fish & Chips was deliciously fluffy, and scented with a hint of lemon grass mixed into the batter, while the Ribs were succulent, tender, and dripped with BBQ flavored goodness.

The ‘All Ribbed Up’ dish sure lived up to its name.

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The sea bass filet was fluffy beneath the batter, and melted in our mouths.

There was also the sinfully savory Chicken Waffle Stack – buttermilk waffles generously sprinkled with maple syrup sandwiching a chunky slice of cheese-topped chicken. It was served with a fried egg (sunny side-up), and complemented by a homemade mushroom sauce that smelled faintly of truffle.

We have to admit that the Chicken Waffle Stack was our favorite. XD

We have to admit that the Chicken Waffle Stack was our favorite. XD

Monniker also has an amazing assortment of alcoholic beverages, and their barista-in-residence whips up not just amazing coffee and tea, but also Iced Valrhona Chocolate ($7).

Monniker is a great place for a cuppa.

Monniker is a great place for a cuppa.

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Plenty of chocolate shavings and even a chocolate chunk to help with your sweet fix.

All in all, Monniker’s a great place to while away your afternoons, and we’re really excited to see what else they’ll have to offer in the months to come.

If you’d like to check Monniker out (they’re also open for event bookings), they’re situated at:

ADDRESS
387 Balestier Road
Singapore 329795

OPENING HOURS
7:30am – 4:30pm

CONTACT/RESERVATIONS
(+65) 62502433

They’re also holding an Opening Promotion, and a special complimentary drink promotion just for Halloween, so be sure to check out their Facebook Page for more details!

Fate/Grand Order

3 Aug , 2015,
Crimson
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I don’t usually play mobile phone games, but for Fate/Grand Order (mostly because the Fate series is my one weeb indulgence), I decided to make an exception.

Grand Order is the latest in Type Moon’s long running Fate franchise. For those of you who have not been exposed to the awesomeness that is Fate, well, think of it as a history lesson for otakus on crack, with a heavy dose of the supernatural thrown in.

In the setting, magicians vie for supremacy in Holy Grail Wars, with the ‘heroic spirits’ of famous persons from the past as their battle companions. These spirits are categorized loosely into RPG style archetypes like Archer, Assassin, Berserker, Caster, Lancer, Rider and Saber, and possess both mysterious powers and arcane relics (called Noble Phantasms) inspired by their real-world legends.

I could go on and on about the setting and all, but it’s really easier to just scoot over to the Type Moon Wiki for a quick look.

Say hello to Mr. Genderswapped Rin Tohsaka.

Say hello to Mr. Genderswapped Rin Tohsaka.

Now, on to the review.

Fate/Grand Order puts you in the role of a fresh recruit in Chaldea, an organization that oversees human history (it’s kinda like S.H.I.E.L.D., but with magic users).

Naturally, being the typical spiky-haired anime-style protagonist that you are, you quickly get embroiled in all sorts of trouble, and have to plunge through time to save the world.

Of course, as in all things Fate, the Master (that’s you) isn’t capable of going it alone since you know, people tend to die when they’re killed. That’s why you’re relegated to more of a support role, slinging heals and buffs while your Servants handle the heavy lifting.

Gameplay switches between a simple map-based navigation, VN style narration, and fights with some repetitive mooks and the occasional stage boss.

The navigation's pretty straightforward. I mean, you can't get more obvious than that.

The navigation’s pretty straightforward. I mean, you can’t get more obvious than that.

The story reads like a visual novel. Also, who woulda thunk your kouhai would be part-Heroic Spirit?

The story reads like a visual novel. Also, who woulda thunk your kouhai would be part-Heroic Spirit?

Attempting stages consumes AP (like any other mobile game), and naturally, you have to conquer stages to progress in the story.

Combat is simple and essentially a spin on the Rock, Paper, Scissors (and in this case also Lizard and Spock) system, coupled with match-3 elements.

You can check out how the Servant classes interact by clicking on Menu. You can also select Menu if you want to Flee the battle.

Check out how Servant classes interact by clicking on Menu. You can also select Menu if you want to Flee the battle.

Each Servant has a predetermined pool of color-coded cards determined by their class, which contain Arts (Blue), Buster (Red) and Quick (Green) moves.

Check out your Servant's status screen to find out what Attack cards he has.

Check out a Servant’s status screen to find out what attacks they possess. Building a team with good synergies can go a long way.

In a nutshell, Arts cards increase the Servant’s NP (Noble Phantasm) gauge, which allows them to pull off their special attacks, Buster cards inflict a large amount of physical damage, and Quick cards add to your Critical chance in the following round, allowing for bigger numbers on a successful hit.

Each round, the game pulls five cards, and after making tactical decisions such as using Servant abilities or Master buffs, you can lock in three of the five cards to form an attack chain.

Plan your moves before you hit the Attack button, because there's no way to go back. Luckily, the cards you're dealt each turn are displayed prominently.

Plan your moves before you hit the Attack button, because there’s no way to go back. Luckily, the cards you’re dealt each turn are displayed prominently.

Chaining the same type of moves can grant a stronger effect (a successful Arts chain fills the NP gauge of all Servants participating in that attack by 20%, for example), while chaining three attacks by the same Servant (by picking 3 similar portraits rather than move types) grants an extra attack. You can combine both move chains and Servant chains for even greater effect, but such occurrences tend to be rare.

Filling up a Servant’s Noble Phantasm gauge lets you use their special attack. These stronger moves also fall under the Arts, Buster, or Quick categories, so chain them strategically to take down difficult enemies.  Each Noble Phantasm activation also comes with animation and cut-ins, so Fate fanboys who’ve always wondered how some of these attacks look like, rejoice.

Darius III's Noble Phantasm - who doesn't want to be trampled by demonic elephants and hordes of undead?

Darius III’s Noble Phantasm – Athanaton Ten Thousand. Who doesn’t want to be trampled by elephanthulhu and hordes of the undead?

There are currently 59 Servants and 36 Mystic Codes (called Craft Essences in the game) to be collected, and rolling for them is done lottery style through the Grand Summon interface.

These Servants include fan favorites like Arturia, Cu Chulainn and Gilgamesh, as well as brand new ones created just for Grand Order. Nasuverse followers will also recognize Mystic Codes such as the Black Keys, the Kaleidoscope and Rin’s pendant in the Craft Essence pool.

You get a free low-tier summon each day, which may result in a 1-star, 2-star (or extremely rarely) 3-star unit or item. You can also make additional low-tier summons with Friend Points acquired from fighting alongsideton your contact list.

Spend more in-game currency, why don't you?

Making ten premium pulls with 40 Saint Quartz has a guaranteed chance for a 4-star unit or item, so spend more in-game currency, why don’t you?

Expending Saint Quartz (acquired through completing objectives and stages or through real money microtransactions), by comparison, guarantees a 3-star or higher unit.

The cost is fairly prohibitive though, and with the very iffy RNG system (I’ve been rolling more Craft Essences than I have Servants), you’re better off saving them till later when the game gets patched and things become a little more stable.

I-it's not like my Luck stat is E rank or anything right? Right? ><;;

These pulls. T_T I-it’s not like my Luck stat is E rank or anything right? Right? ><;;

Needless to say, this means that while the game has it going with the story, the biggest woes plaguing it right now are all design related.

Fights tend to be repetitive and lacking in variety, the recharge rate for AP is tediously slow (which reduces replay value), and Servant balance is questionable at best.

For example, I’ve pulled some really abysmal 4-star Servants, while most 5-star ones I’ve seen are insanely overpowered, with ridiculous parameters and abilities. 1-star and 2-star Servants, by comparison, are little better than chump blockers and the same disparity applies to Craft Essences as well.

She sure can pull off that dress, but seriously, most underwhelming 4-star unit ever.

Sure, she can pull off that dress, but seriously, most underwhelming 4-star unit ever.

This, of course, begs the question – could the game have been tested more rigorously before release? It’d have definitely mitigated the slew of QQing the devs are seeing on social media to say the least.

Fixing these problems in the first few weeks will be crucial, since player satisfaction and retention pretty much makes or breaks mobile games.

Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if this title manages to take off once the teething pains are over.

While the system lacks in polish, the game is faithful to, and builds upon, the source material. It documents several Holy Grail Wars that never made it onto the small screen, and that’s sure to whet any fan’s appetite. The art is generally pretty, the animation smooth, and the sheer number of new Servants makes for more story and waifu (or husbando) potential. 

Fate/Grand Order is currently gated for Japan (to keep us ignorant gaijin types out), but we all know dedicated fans will find a way. It’s also unlikely that there will ever be an English port, but the game’s intuitive enough that you can manage without knowledge of moon runes. 

Final Verdict: 3.5/5

For more information about the game, check out the Official Site at: http://www.fate-go.jp.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku Living in Tokyo — Ep04

21 Jul , 2015,
Edric
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Without a cell phone number, it is would be impossible to open any bank account anywhere in Japan. For a tourist, subscribing for a roaming plan or purchasing some voice-enabled SIM card without a number is easily available at most major electronic stores like LABI Yamada or BIC Camera.

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BIC Camera sells all kinds of electronics goods; not just sell cameras.

But a phone number, that’s the big problem. Fortunately, Softbank has a solution to this riddle.

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A Softbank store at Ikebukuro.

The Softbank Simple Style is a prepaid service where a they package a phone together with a USIM card. Nothing too fancy if it’s a number to work around the administration red tape.

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The phone I got just to open a bank account.

It is quite expensive to make any phone calls using this service; and much more for SMS, Y!Mail and Data plan. But at least, there’s no 2 years contract to service which doesn’t make much sense if you’re not planning to stay in Japan for more than a couple of years.

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku Living in Tokyo — Ep03

14 Jul , 2015,
Edric
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It took me almost a week to get put things into place since arriving in Tokyo. After a luggage delay thanks to some shenanigans from Scoot (I would not patronise them in the future). So what happened?

Living in a country for an extended period of time require a bank account, and a mobile phone. Sounds simple?

Registering for a bank account is a daunting task. Most banks in Japan would only consider your application only if you have been in the country for more than 6 months. Mizuho Bank was my first attempt and was politely shown the door when they found out I arrived the week earlier; and so would most major banks.

Other than Japan Post Bank, Shinsei Bank is the other foreigner friendly with their English speaking staff without the 6 months rule. Moreover, the bank doesn’t charge clients a fee to use the ATM. That’s another perk to leave your hard earned cash with them. A Hanko is optional for registration. If you do not have one made by this point, you are fine.

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Shinsei Bank’s Ikebukuro Branch.

Documents Required:

  1. Residence Card and Passport
  2. Home Address and Contact Number
  3. Hanko (if you already made one; or bad at signing)

Oh wait, they need a local phone number. Not just any phone number but one registered to your name. The “Mobile Phone Improper Use Act” passed in 2006 made it impossible for anyone staying on a short-term visa to register for a phone number. A phone plan requires a bank account or a credit card (which I lack). Right… I’m so $%#@ed…

– To be continued –

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo — Ep02

7 Jul , 2015,
Edric
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Every country has something that makes it special from another. Some (like those toilet bowls that spray water at your butt) are a stroke of genius while others are just annoying.

Despite its readiness to adopt new technologies, Japan still found itself reluctant to let go of old tradition like the common usage of Inkan (official seal) for signing off official documents and various day to day paperwork.

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Some of the more exquisite Hankos on display.

It’s hard to get around Japan without this handy item, just like how we can’t survive the office without our favorite signing pen. There are several shops that have ready made Inkans for sale, and Daiso sells them at 100 yen (+8 yen tax) a pop.

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A wide selection found at Daiso, only with Japanese family names. Too bad Gaijins; oh wait, that’s me.

What if you can’t find your name on one? Make one at your friendly neighborhood store! It takes a few days for them to craft the item.

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A custom made Hanko bearing my last name.

Like your signature, the Inkan can be used to sign off any official documents. If you made one, remember to keep it secret, keep it safe (almost left mine behind at the post office the other day). A custom made Inkan also a great souvenir item if you want something more personalized than a mass produced doujinshi.

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo — Ep01

30 Jun , 2015,
Edric
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Shit happens; it always does! All hail Murphy! Yes, it happened to me as well. How bad was it?

Fortunately, I have been through an entire week without bathing thanks to the Army. Powder, mints and always remember to keep your toothbrush with you at all times.

Still, it’s really not a great feeling when you’re sweating from head to toe and your baggage (with your change of clothing) that was supposed to arrive on the same flight is delayed by 2 days. Imagine the same stinking clothing that went through everyone at the airport, cramped public transport and whatever. Then, imagine sleeping in it for 2 nights straight.

Not to mention they’d already made me pay an additional SGD 200 for extra baggage.

While I am appreciative of the effort put in by the staff at Narita Airport to locate my bag, I am still horrified that Scoot was unable to tell me where my luggage was. It could have been in Singapore or Taiwan or on the wrong flight!

Having the opportunity to serve my conscription in aviation logistics allows me to shed further insights as to the cause of the blunder.

One, Scoot should have been honest with me that my luggage had been offloaded* in Singapore. That would assure me that my luggage is accounted for and it is in safe hands.

Two, despite me sending an email to their agent in Singapore, I haven’t heard even a single squeak on their end. Only their agent in Japan contacted me to deliver the luggage.

Three, I have the hunch they did not bother to expedite my luggage; causing the 2 days delay.

While it is common for anyone to be unhappy about their precious necessities being offloaded. I believe that they would be infuriated should their belongings be unaccounted for. So don’t ever Scoot off without a proper explanation!

*Offload — In aviation logistics, it means that an item on board the plane has been taken off because the pilot has deem that the aircraft is too heavy. Usually the last baggage that gets loaded onto the aircraft gets taken off should such an event occur.

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

Journey to the East

29 Jun , 2015,
Edric
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Studying Japanese in Japan sounds cool and is most Otaku’s wet dream. But is it easy to live the Tokyo dream?

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Ticket to Shinagawa cost ¥1500.

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The trip from Narita International Airport to Tokyo takes about an hour.

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Getting bored >.<

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Making the transit at Shinagawa Station is an alternative to Tokyo Station.

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Housing in Japan is really small by most standards and the rent; not very appealing.

Now, if only my luggage wasn’t offloaded by Scoot e.e;;

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

Event Alert: Gundam Docks at Singapore

7 May , 2015,
Crimson
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Gundam Docks at Singapore - Image 1 (Photo credit © SOTSU・SUNRISE)

Photo credit © SOTSU・SUNRISE

If you’re a fan of the Gundam franchise, then you’re in for a treat.

Come June, Bandai Namco Asia and Takashima Department Store will be holding Gundam Docks at Singapore, a 4,000 sqm showcase featuring more than 200 Gundam plamo at Takashimaya Square, B2 and the Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza.

There will also be two 6 meter tall sculptures – Amuro Ray’s iconic RX-78-2 and Char’s Zaku (which goes three times faster) on display. These 1:3 scale statues are the centerpieces for a daily multimedia light show that will bring the dramatic conflict between the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation to life.

Collectors can also expect to purchase exclusive plamo kits from more than 10 stores in the Civic Plaza, and indulge in their love for Gundam.

Admission for the exhibition is free, and the exhibition will open from 10am to 9.30pm daily. For more updates and details on the exhibition, check out www.gundamdocks.sg.