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Meet the collectors: Ching To

interview

Meet the collectors: Ching To

Video game art collectors discuss their treasures.

Arjan Terpstra

30 Sep 2021 ⋅ 4 min read

In this series of interviews, collectors talk about their love for video game and pop culture art, their personal preferences and the way they display their items. This week: Ching To from Birmingham (UK) talks about his love of collecting everything Japanese--preferably the darker stuff.

Ching To is sorry, but most of his collection is in storage these days, so he isn't able to show his selection of high-end statues on screen when we meet online. The same counts for his video game art prints: he owns Bloodborne, Castlevania, and Dark Souls prints, all are framed, but everything is tucked away for the moment, awaiting a time when he has the space to properly display them.
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© Andrew Roberts

Ching To posing with two framed Cook and Becker prints, currently in storage. On the left: Irithyll of the Boreal Valley, from the Dark Souls III fine art collection. On the right:Iosefka's clinic , from the Bloodborne series.

Gunpla

This lack of space in Ching's home in Birmingham, UK, is fairly recent. Large boxes of "Gunpla" model kits adorn the walls today, as this lovable Briton is the owner of a budding new webshop selling Mobile Suit Gundam models and accessories like clippers, decals and whatnot, and he uses his house for storage. "I used to earn a living hosting AirBnB apartments, but this kind of took over recently," he says with a grin. "It's my first year in business, but I'm already turning a profit."
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One of Ching's intricate Gunpla models, assembled.

His love for Gunpla goes back to his early days, Ching explains. "My family moved from China to Hong Kong when I was three years old, and Gunpla kits were some of the first toys I wanted to buy for myself when I was seven or eight. These early kits notoriously were very cheap models, sold in Japan for one hundred Yen, and for two or three pounds in Hong Kong. I remember working on them with my mother's kitchen cutters or a nail clipper for lack of professional clippers, haha."

Japanese culture

For Ching, Gunpla would lead to a lifelong love affair with Japanese culture. "I absorbed a lot of Japanese stuff as a kid and young adult. Manga, anime, but also arts and music--even soap opera. Later, I picked up on Michael Jackson and learned English watching WWF fights, they were a big thing for me for some time. But the Japanese stuff always bounced back, and still resonates deeply with me."

Today, this love translates to a large collection of Japanese high-end statues, manga, and art prints. There's statues from Dark Souls and Demon's Souls, from DragonBall Z, Evangelion, and JoJo's Bizarre Adventures, there's manga from Tokyo Ghoul, YuYu Hatsuko, Attack on Titan, and more. "My first statue was of Dark Souls' Artorias," he recollects. "This goes back to when I first discovered Demon's Souls. Now THAT was a game for me! So difficult! So brutal! So much fun! This led to playing Dark Souls later, and that blew me away too, so much that I sent a copy to my brother in Hong Kong and told him to play this."
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© Andrew Roberts

One of To's prized possessions is this Mimic statue from Dark Souls, made by First 4 Figures.

Super Mario

Conspicuously absent from Ching's collection: colorful Japanese characters like Super Mario, Sonic or Pac-Man. Why is that? "I guess I am more inclined to like the darker stuff. A lot ties back to Berserk for me, the manga, that's like the grandfather of dark fantasy stories. That has everything: the gorey stuff, a narrative full of emotion, betrayal, love. The Souls games share a lot of this. The storytelling relates to the world outside of the games, the complexity of living, you know? I feel this is missing from the simple good vs bad narratives you find in a Super Mario game. There's nothing wrong with that, but when I play a game or read a manga, I like to challenge my perspectives a little."
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© Andrew Roberts

Ching To in his home in Birmingham, UK.

Back to the Gunpla: how did he arrive at a situation where dozens of winged mecha warrior kits took over his house? "Well, Covid had something to do with that. I fell ill at the start of the pandemic, quite seriously, and spent some time in the hospital. Before that happened, I imported three models from Japan, and built them when I was recovering. Later, I bought some more, and to save shipping costs I started to buy them in larger quantities. Next I found collector's groups in the UK willing to buy kits from me, and this spiralled into the situation today." Grinning again. "Eight-year old me would have loved this."
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Stacks and stacks of Gunpla boxes adorn the walls of Ching's apartment, awaiting their online selling.

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