Having long been the domain of boys and men, plastic models are now becoming popular with the opposite sex. The difference is that while men try to make plastic models as authentic as possible, women appear willing to add something extra to make them unique.

These “pulamo girls,” as women who make plastic models are known, say they find it fun to be able to build everything from warships to their favorite animation characters, painting them in a variety of colors and adding glittering decorations.

“The body looks like it’s made of superalloy with a sharp face. It’s cool,” said a female worker in her 30s from Tokyo. She became a pulamo girl last year after getting hooked on a scale model of Mobile Suit Gundam, the famous animation robot character.

At first, however, she would repeatedly break the plastic parts. So she started to blog about her experiences, and her fellow modelers responded and started giving her pointers.

Her home now has a special booth equipped with a fan for painting.

“I paint models in my favorite colors, not necessarily in those suggested in the manuals,” she said. “It’s fun being able to make my own Gundam.”

As more female fans of plastic models emerge, they are offsetting a fall in popularity among males, whose attention has shifted to computer games.

Looking to capitalize on the trend, retailer Marui Group Co., which mostly sells clothes, set up a shop dedicated to plastic models at its Shinjuku Marui Annex in Tokyo last September.

“When we first opened the store, we thought our customers would be 100 percent men,” said Ritsuo Arima, a 34-year-old manager at the store.

“But in reality, we see more women coming in than we expected.”

That growing popularity among women, Arima said, coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Gundam TV series last year.

Bandai Co., the manufacturer of Gunpla (Gundam plastic models), launched human-shaped figures last July that enable people to use their imagination and attach their favorite sticker clothes and face photos.

The Pellermodel kits are mainly targeted at women and families as they are similar to dress-up dolls traditionally popular with girls, Bandai said. The company hopes the kits will teach a new generation about the fun of making plastic models.

Some women, including Tomoe Ogoshi, have developed craftsmanship skills through making scale models. She is now a professional modeler who builds kits for use in magazines.

Ogoshi, 31, who had long been a fan of animation and model-making, initially moved to Tokyo to become a voice actress after finishing high school in Hiroshima Prefecture. But she became obsessed with plastic models 10 years ago after joining a project organized by a magazine for modelers.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.