PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.
Cardboard Box Gundam (Japanese: ダンボールガンダム, Danbooru Gundam), often called Box Gundam (Japanese: 箱ガンダム, Hako Gundam), is a series of parodies and fan-art based on a humorous piece of cosplay originally worn by an American Gundam fan Paul M. Palgen at the Anime Central convention in 2003. Due to the lack of its resemblance to the original character, pictures of his costume quickly spread on the Japanese web, spawning more parodies and tributes centered around the concept of cardboard box cosplay.
The photo of the Cardboard Box Gundam was taken at Anime Central (ACEN) convention held in Rosemont, Illinois in May 2003. The homemade costume consisted entirely of a cardboard box with the word GUNDAM written on the front and exhaust ports drawn on the back the day the photo was taken.
Editor’s note: This story is contributed by Paul M. Palgen himself.
Paul M. Palgen and his little sister Kristyna attended anime conventions together, coordinating their friends to all do one theme of cosplay as a group. However, Paul’s costume of Zack from Final Fantasy VII had become unusable only days before the Rosemont convention. (The shirt and pants for the costume can be seen under the box.) Not wanting to attend the convention without a costume, he asked his sister what he should do. She said, “Nobody’s going to care. Just wear a cardboard box and say you’re a Gundam.” After Paul stopped laughing; he figured if he found the idea funny, other otaku might also. Once he put on his costume, he realized the joke wasn’t obvious enough and had a female friend use a black sharpie marker to write ‘Gundam’ across it. Unfortunately, she made a ‘6’ on her first attempt by accident. She wrote it again on the back of the box and Paul blacked out the mistake, converting it into two ‘exhaust ports’. An hour later, Paul found himself being asked for his autograph by a group of six people. Unsure how to respond (and what to sign), he asked the group of six to sign the inside flaps at the bottom of the box with his sharpie marker. By the end of the first day he had acquired 31 signatures and 42 signatures the second day. He joined the U.S. Navy shortly afterward and spent most of hist time abroad during his service. Due to this fact, he didn’t find out about becoming a meme until over 7 years after the photo was taken. Paul still has the eight autographed cardboard flaps, but they are ‘lost’ in one of the many cardboard storage boxes in his garage. Mr. Palgen stated he will be attending the Anime Central convention in 2013 (wearing a box and autographing Gundam merchandise) due to it being the ten year anniversary of the original photo.
The picture was first introduced to the Japanese Gundam fans after it was posted via Japanese image host service pya! on October 13th, 2003. Captivated by the terrible quality of his cosplay and the man’s intense gaze, Japanese internet users began mocking the image on popular text/image boards like 2channel, Futaba Channel (2chan) and other Gundam-otaku hubsites.
Upon reaching Japanese illustrators communities like Pixiv and Danbooru, Cardboard Box Gundam also became a popular subject of Gundam fan art and cosplay, many of which can be found at conventions and picture message boards.
In 2004 and 2005, some of 2channel users held offline meet-ups for Cardboard Box Gundam and joined there with their own “Gundam” cosplay.
In March 2007, a Japanese comedian organized “Box Gundam Meet-up” through his website MEGWIN to shoot a parody video of “Dynasty Warriors: Gundam”. The end result was posted to YouTube on October 29th, 2007.
The Net Star
In June 2009, the Japanese late-night TV program “The Net Star” higlighted the Internet phenomenon of Cardboard Box Gundam, featuring one of the hosts and Otaku idol Chiaki Kyan dressed in a replica of the costume in the episode.
In May 2009, a poster of the original Cardboard Box Gundam photograph was spotted on the streets of Akihabara shopping district.
In Western Fandom
The story of Cardboard Box Gundam came to a full-circle when anime communities and geek culture blogs began reporting on the Japanese internet phenomenon of cardboard cosplay. Since receiving coverage by English-language blogs, the cardboard costume has been occasionally reproduced by followers in the Western hemisphere, often times at anime conventions.