Gundam Model Kits And More Toys Coming To Barnes and Noble In April
Is some kind of action figure model kit renaissance in on the horizon? First Bandai America announces its upcoming Sprukits line (which includes importing Japan's LBX buildable robot warriors, plus new DC Comics and Halo characters) and now Bandai Japan distributor Bluefin has announced that Barnes and Noble is set to start selling Gundam model kits a.k.a. GunPla in its 400+ U.S. retail locations and its online store beginning in April.
The push is probably to be expected, to some extent. This April does mark the 35th anniversary of the mech-based Gundam franchise, beginning with the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime and manga in 1979. Barnes and Noble won't limit itself to carrying Mobile Suit Gundam model kits, of course, with Bluefin Distribution's official press release clarifying that the bookstore chain will stock model kits from "numerous Gundam series like Gundam Wing, Gundam UC, Gundam Build Fighters and more," all in a variety of scales. Unlike the localized and often modified action figures and model kits that made it to major retailers like Toys "R" Us, Walmart and elsewhere circa 2000 when shows like Gundam Wing arrived on Cartoon Network, Bluefin's announcement emphatically stated that the model kits (and their packaging) that will be sold at B&N are the same toys sold in Japan.
On top of GunPla, some B&N stores will also sell conventional Gundam action figures (perhaps from the Robot Spirits line?) and Bandai Shokugan's Candy Toy offerings.
Barnes and Noble currently offers just a handful of various Gundam model kits ranging from about $35-65 through its website -- mostly Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz figures -- so it will be interesting to see what kind of stock turns up in April. Apparently B&N tested out selling GunPla in "a small number of select stores to test its viability," in 2013 and that this year "a number of stores will feature displays showcasing built samples of the Gundam models being sold." For GunPla fans that's an encouraging indication that unlike in the early 00s, maybe Gundam model kits will stick around awhile through at least one major retailer in the U.S.