SINGAPORE - Amidst a sea of mostly male adult fans of iconic Japanese robot character Gundam at Takashimaya Square on Saturday, two stood out - sisters Renee Teo En Rui, 12 and Reyna Teo En Min, nine.
The siblings were there to attend the official opening of Gundam Docks At Singapore, billed as one of the world's largest exhibitions dedicated to the robot characters from the pioneering anime series.
The exhibition, which also featured two towering, six-metre tall robot figures at the outdoor Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, started on Thursday and is on till the end of June to mark the 35th anniversary of Gundam toy kits.
Among the over 200 figures of various sizes on display were several sporting an exclusive red and white SG50 design done by original Gundam designer Kunio Okawara, who flew in from Japan to attend the opening. He also signed autographs for fans lucky enough to snag limited sets of the SG50 Gundam kits which sold for $38.95 each. The figures were a hit, and the limited numbers made available for sale each day sold out within one to three hours.
Toy and video game company Bandai Namco Asia, which organised the event with Takashimaya Department Store, declined to reveal any sales figures at the event. However a spokesman said that Gundam Docks At Singapore "has broken the record in Asia, with a sales volume of five times more than any Gundam-related event held in Asia" since the exhibition started.
Renee, who has been building and collecting Gundam kits since she was eight years old, says: "I like that the Gundam characters come in so many colours."
The two Raffles Girls' Primary School students were there with their mother, Mdm Jennifer Lim, 39, who says that her two daughters prefers playing with the robots instead of dolls or princess-themed toys.
It also helps that their father, Mr Simon Teo, 45, runs a hobby shop in Jurong that specialises in Gundam figures.
Says Mdm Lim, who works in the real estate industry: "I think it's better for them to play with Gundam than with dolls as they have to build these figures from scratch. It teaches them to be patient as they follow the instructions from the manuals."
National serviceman Mr Foo Yong Huang, 22, who has over 300 model kits in his Gundam collection, was pleased with the SG50 model. "It's really unique. We're not a big country compared to Japan so I feel it's an honor for us to have our own Gundam model to coincide with our 50 years of independence."
However, another local Gundam fan, Mr Wilson Koh, 32, felt that the design could be better. "I don't really like the Merlion design on the shield, I think it can be improved, but the colour contrast is nice," says the information-communications technology executive, who has been a Gundam fan for over two decades.
Sales engineer Lim Yang Zhen, 27, who has been collecting Gundam for 11 years, says that the exhibition is a place for old and new Gundam fans to get together. He says: "The older generation might be more into space war elements of the Gundam story while many of the newer fans are more into building model kits."
Besides model kits, which included a 1.5 metre tall model sold at $9,000, the exhibition also offers Gundam-themed paraphernalia including key chains, mugs, wallets, sunglasses and jackets. The event goes on until June 28.