Japan is well known for a many things. Temples, kimonos, sushi… and giant robots. Mobile Suit Gundam – the Japanese animated TV series that over the last three decades has spawned a dizzying array of spin-offs, manga, novels, videogames and plastic models – is turning 30 this year. To mark the occassion, Bandai Namco are spending some of the gadzillions they’ve earned from the franchise to build a 1:1 scale, 18 metre tall, 35 tonne Gundam model in Tokyo’s Shiokaze Park.
Having grown up outside Japan, I never really had easy access to anything Gundam-related except for the plastic models. As a child and teenager I would spend a lot of time just hanging around inside the one or two Asian pop culture stores in town that stocked them, in constant awe at the sheer number of unique designs and the unrelenting detail that went into each individual creation. So after having caught wind of this anniversary project on Kotaku a few days ago, I knew that it was something I had to see for myself. Even if they’d only started on the legs.
Shiokaze Park is located in Odaiba in Tokyo Bay, one of the (in my opinion) weirdest districts in Tokyo. Odaiba is a man-made island which is part of a larger grid of other man-made islands which play host to a truly bizarre landscape of industrial zones, residential complexes, seaside ports, vast expanses of undeveloped land, entertainment centres, a monorail, fake beach and buildings whose architecture can only be described as “what people in the 80s thought the future would look like”. But that’s another story. Today, being the last “fine” day of the week according to the weather forecast, I hopped onto my trusty bicycle and embarked on the 18km journey from my house to the statue’s construction site.
After a good 90 minutes of cycling under the blazing afternoon sun, I found it. It stood in a green field by the water, surrounded by an obstructing construction barrier.
I took this picture with people in it to afford some sense of scale. It’s pretty damn big, and it’s only half done.
There are three parts to the anniversary project, namely, “Real-G”, “Feel-G” and “Soul-G”. This statue is the “Real-G”. The chosen Gundam design is the RX-78-2. Having been introduced to audiences in the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam back in 1979 and subsequently gone on to become an icon of the series, it’s an obvious choice (was there really any other?).
A side view of the right leg. Look! It’s even got all those pesky decals on (anyone who has ever had a go at a plastic model kit will know what I mean by “pesky”).
A view from the front. Very cool.
The temporary vehicle path leading to the construction site. Gundam is a series that has a strong reputation for respecting technical and scientific plausibility in its portrayal of machines and how they are built and function. As a result of this (and the fact that I’ve put together a few Gundam kits of my own in the past), I felt that checking out the process behind building a life-sized Gundam was almost as required as seeing the finished statue itself. Yes I’m a nerd.
A closer look at the left leg.
And once from behind. Looks like it could actually “work”, huh?
A rig holding what I can only assume to be the Gundam’s (currently skeletal) arms.
Here you can see part of the front chest plate poking up over the barrier.
A worker tinkering away on one of the arms. This isn’t your typical scalpel-and-file model kit. You could hear tools – real, metal-rending power tools – at work behind the barrier.
So that’s where it’s currently at. The whole statue, complete with a movable head and 50 separate points of light and mist-emitting madness is supposed to be finished by July 11th. After that, visitors will have around 1.5 months to worship at its shiny red feet before they tear the whole thing down… unless, of course, Japan is suddenly attacked by Godzilla/Gamera/other robots/North Korea and, well, the “statue” turns out to be more than just a statue…
Gundam 30th Anniversary Event – Official Website (Japanese only)
Giant Gundam character statue to light up Odaiba – The Mainichi Daily News (contains a great photo gallery sans construction barrier)