Mecha anime Gundam blasted its way onto Japanese TV screens at the end of the 70’s, inspiring engineers and robot fans across the world. The series helped define the genre of ‘Real Robot’ – stories which centre on robots limited by real world physics and real world politics.
Since its creation, Gundam has generated a whole universe of games, toys, films, and merchandise. Most impressive have been the 1:1 scale Gundam figures which have stood outside DiverCity Plaza in Odaiba, Tokyo. First was a life size model of the iconic Gundam design which premiered in the original series. This robot was later replaced with an almost 20m tall replica of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam in 2017. The RX-0 Unicorn can even perform some limited movements and is able to switch its helmet design as part of a light up demonstration. However, plans for the original Gundam to return to Japan appear to be slowly reaching completion, with one incredibly ambitious upgrade.
Yokohama Yamashita Pier will be home to ‘Gundam Factory Yokohama’, an upcoming amusement centre taking up 9000㎡ and featuring, among other attractions, a Gundam currently being modified to allow it to walk. That’s a life sized, giant robot, that will be able to walk. Beam Rifles and Hyper Bazooka are just a few steps away.
The Gundam now stands at 18m, with the head finally attached in the past few days. Testing is ongoing though. The Gundam Factory Yokohama has been warning members of the public not to disrupt work or try to enter the area for photos, so instead the company themselves have been keeping everyone up to date via their website and YouTube.
Recent footage has shown careful extension and bending of the robot’s legs while the enormous figure remains locked into the Gundam Dock, a huge structure used for storage and maintenance. The best view of the Dock will be from the Gundam Dock Tower, a viewing platform which reaches 18m – high enough to bring you face to face with the Gundam. The thought of watching this giant robot walk out while engineers stand by in the scaffolding really is straight out of a Mecha anime.
The Gundam Factory Yokohama will also be a base for shops, cafes, and educational exhibitions, contained within the planned Gundam Lab. There seems to be a focus on the idea of education throughout the project, one result of which is the Academy, a centre where visitors will be able to learn about the structure and mechanisms behind the moving Gundam, interacting with hands-on exhibits. For anyone who was inspired to take up engineering by the anime, this project is absolutely a must-see, as a place to see those dreams realised.
There’s even a Conference Room which will hold talks by companies and universities, as well as other tech based events. What better place to imagine the future of technology than in view of a giant, walking robot?
COVID 19 has set back production a little and meant the cancellation of a few special tours, but the final Grand Opening has only been pushed back as far as October 2020.
Until then, those with an interest in robotics should check out the Gundam Global Challenge, a project set up by Tokyo University Graduate School of Information Science and Technology which allows users to download a 3D model of the Gundam and experiment with the simulation software. Hopefully we’ll see the real Gundam take its first steps by the end of this year.