It’s not exactly a new home for mankind, but it’s definitely a place for people to live and breathe all things mecha.
In a relatively short span of 44 years and counting, the Gundam franchise has exploded to become a modern Japanese cultural icon, credited for defining the “real robot” mecha anime genre. Every successful journey starts off somewhere, however, and for the long-running global franchise, its beginnings can be traced back to industry legend Okawara Kunio.
It’s a fitting mantle for the 75-year-old pioneer who holds the recognition of being the first in the field to be specifically credited as a mechanical designer – an artist who develops drawing of electronics. First breathing life into the mecha of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (that’s G-Force or Battle of the Planets to Western audiences), the illustrator suited up, turned heads, and charmed with his work on iconic titles including 1978’s Yattaman, but it was 1979’s Mobile Suit Gundam that catapulted him to a grander national and global stage, with the show’s realistic mecha design – a novelty during that time – sparking a model kit boom in Japan and reviving an interest in the art form.
Decades down the line, Okawara hasn’t left the craft behind as his influence continues to loom over the current scene, making it only apt for the Ocean Park x Father of Gundam Okawara Kunio 50th Anniversary Exhibition in Hong Kong to celebrate his impressive legacy in the industry.
Running from 1 April to 4 June 2023, the special attraction is a nostalgic callback to the mecha days of the past. Upon entering, visitors are greeted with a wall of congratulatory messages from renowned Hong Kong and Japanese artists, accompanied by cool drawings inked in their distinct, unique styles.
Step further in, and the titular character from 1989’s Mado King Granzort cuts a striking figure with its signature sword in hand. Following a chronologically-arranged timeline presentation of Okawara’s portfolio, fans can delight in the artworks displayed on the wall, marking a first for Hong Kong. These authentic works range from beautiful coloured illustrations to rough draft sketches featuring iconic characters over the years, including the RX-78-2, Zaku II, and Yatter-Wan robots.
Within the exhibition, each section is demarcated with distinct elements belonging to the highlighted series spawned from the mind of a great designer, such as crisp illustrations on the walls and the occasional Gunpla figurines encased in a glass display.
The biggest star of the showcase, however, is the 4-metre tall Strike Freedom model that stands proud and tall in the Gundam SEED Destiny segment. There’s no lost love for Armored Troopers Votoms, too, with the Scopedog gracing the space with its menacing but magnificent presence.
Another exhibit standout is the special projects zone, which is displaying the Nine-tail Fox Spirit Statue and the OKAWARA_SMURF Mecha models for the first time in Hong Kong. Beyond the world of robots, Okawara’s handicraft prowess also gets some time to shine, with the Mecha x Ultimate Craftsmanship Lifestyle Goods section showcasing 15 pieces of his handmade small goods that were converted from his mecha design ideas.
Lending an interactive touch to the space are four lenticular standing displays featuring the RX-78-2, Gowappa 5 Godam’s Gordam, Scopedog, and GaoGaiGar’s GBR-1. Depending on one’s standing position, the visuals will change and transition to a different design, which looks really cool in the flesh:
At the end of the road lies what’s known as the Art Wall of 100 Zaku, and of course, a merchandise store. The latter promises plenty of exclusive memorabilia and goodies for fans, including Gunpla kits, shirts, badges, mouse mats, and even skateboards. Limited-edited souvenirs, meanwhile, take the form of tourbillon watches based on Okawara’s Yatter-Wan and God Gundam designs (only 100 sets per design), commemorative Octopus card sets (only 1,000 available), and a collectible metal card range that’s capped at 2,000 sets.
The experience carries over to the outdoors, where a troop of Zaku II figures can be seen surrounding the Waterfront Plaza. A small Gunpla storefront is located just a stone’s throw away, offering a solution for those looking to further satisfy their kit-building fix.
The Ocean Park Marriott Hotel
Rounding off the celebratory event is a themed tie-in with Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel. The mecha touch starts from the building’s facade, where a character splash art takes hold of the main doorways leading into each wing. On the inside, decals adorn various spots, such as the lift lobby and receptionist desk.
Entering the lift reveals a fully themed interior that brings impressive mecha flair. Bathed in the warm glow of white lights, a magnificent RX-78-2 artwork is the centrepiece here, turning heads with its fine detail and vibrant colours.
The mecha influence continues into the fifth floor of the Pier Wing, with a standee of the key characters – RX-78-2, Yatter-Wan, and Scopedog – greeting visitors right out the door. Down the corridor, the door frames are decorated with illustrative touches.
As part of the collaboration, the hotel has adorned 41 guest rooms featuring design elements from the Gundam, Yatterman, and Armored Troopers Votoms series. On the inside, Yatter-Wan, RX-78-2, and Scopedog dominate the corners of the expanse above the headboard and the television, as well as the window. Even the bathroom door isn’t spared, sporting artwork on both sides.
More prominently, the three differently-themed rooms have their own distinct characteristics. The Votoms iteration exudes an industrial and heavy-duty charm – a contrast to the lively atmosphere of its Yatterman counterpart. The RX-78-2-inspired room strikes a healthy middle ground with a presentation that’s more elegant than the two.
Complimentary offerings, meanwhile, are the same across the board: all guests will receive a keychain and towel tailored to their room designs.
The Ocean Park x Father of Gundam Okawara Kunio 50th Anniversary Exhibition Ticket Package is available at HK$448 (S$75), and offers access to the exhibition along with other attractions, rides, and facilities at the amusement park. Ocean Park admission ticket, SmartFun Annual Pass, and InFUNity Entry Pass holders will have to purchase an add-on ticket for HK$200 (S$35), while booking prices for the themed hotel stay start from HK$2,500 (S$425) per night for one pax.
This article is brought to you together with Hong Kong Tourism Board.