I dropped by the Bandai Museum in sunny, far-flung Matsudo, Chiba (near Tokyo) yesterday. And boy, was I in for a surprise.
You can keep the rest of the museum — a bunch of Bandai employees dressed up in kimono and anime uniforms, pretending that Mobile Suit Gundam is real. (Seriously. I paid my extra 300 yen to see the “Gundam Museum” on the seventh floor, only to be met by an intense young staff member standing next to a life-sized Zaku head who told me excitedly that they’d ‘just captured a Zeon mobile suit and were reverse-engineering it in the other room!’ I asked him where the bathroom was.)
But the 6th floor… Ah, Wonder Forest. The operative theme is Machinder. They’re hanging from the walls, perched in false balconies, peeking out from little stands high atop support pillars. And one of them happens to be none other than Garada K-7. Yes, an actual, honest-to-god Popy Garada K-7 “Kikaiju.” Holy Grail of the Jumbo Machinder collecting world.
There it was. Hanging right there in front of my eyes. Literally. You’d think a (probably) $10,000+ toy would command some sort of intricate security system, like maybe a sheet of frickin’ glass or something. Yet there it was, lashed to a balustrade sort of thing a little above eye level with baling wire, for God’s sake! BALING WIRE!
Not only is it out in the open, it’s practically within touching distance if you’re tall enough. And it’s also shunted into a little area in the dark without any kind of plaque, explanation, or indication that it’s, quite possibly, one of only two or three in the world. And for good measure, they tossed a Gren Ghost C-3 up there as well, an almost equally difficult-to-find toy. At least Garada had a clear view — ol’ Gren Ghost was stuffed in behind some fake ivy and a Bandai sign!
To be honest, the whole thing kinda turned me off. From the role-playing Bandai staffers, to the really odd display of the toys, to the fact that every path ended at a little Bandai shop of one sort or another, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being had. At least admission to the main building is free.
But what bothers me more than anything else, I think, is that I see certain rare toys as something more than they once were — I see them as art. Seeing a legend like Garada K-7 — the Japanese toy world’s equivalent of the Mona Lisa (sure! look at that smile on his face!) — strapped up over a Gundam hot-dog stand, with little thought and even less respect, left me feeling vaguely sad.