So, anyone who reads Linko! weekly will know I've been semi-following the story of the massive robot that conquered the man-made Odaiba Island in Tokyo this summer. I say "semi-following" because really I've just been confusingly posting pictures of the thing sent to me by friends completely devoid of explanation or context. I'm not sure what this exactly says about me and loose collection of nerd reporter, but it can't be good that almost no one writing in the American comics blogosphere seemed to have much of a clue what was going on with this giant otaku installation beyond ging, "Wow! That's neat! Wait...they took it down already?"
So last week, I went google fishing to find out how much info was actually out there for an American audience to dig into this thing. Here's what I gots:
Announced sometime around March, the Gundam earned it's three-month stint of kind of lighting up and blowing a bunch of steam at random intervals in celebration of three factors: the 30th Anniversary of "Mobile Suit Gundam" (first anime of the whole Gundam franchise), the environmentally-driven Green Tokyo Project and, tangentially, Tokyo's bid for the 2016 Olympics (and I know I've been making a lot of jokes about that, but I'm seriously wondering how a temporary installation was supposed to impress the IOC. Did they promise to rebuild duder if they got the games?). Early word of the project must not have hit so hard in America as the earliest mention of the whole shebang I found was on the French Gizmodo where I nabbed the above CGI model from, but soon things started popping up in English
There's a great general write up on the project here, though it's really just a translation of a Japanese newspaper article, and the LA Times travel blog posted a basic fact-sheet on the project and how to get there. These are nice and all, however news of the event rarely popped up on nerd-centric sites. The one major (and probably obvious) exception was the Anime News Network who had all the latest news that for some reason never got widely reposted amongst American comics types, including some great coverage of the robot's unveiling complete with videos I couldn't entirely understand:
A while ago, I got into it with some folks on a comment thread at The Beat about whether or not American comics journalists were any good at covering manga and other Japanese pop culture crazes. I said then and still think now that we do a pretty shitty job of noting the spaces where our interests crossover with those of Japanophiles and teenagers who really dig Naruto and what not. ANN is doubtlessly the site covering this stuff better than anyone out there, and I'll take some shit outright for admitting that I barely check their coverage of anything because I don't connect to/don't understand so much of it. If there's a blog that aggregates more of the manga news and the bigger geek cultural stuff that comes out of sites like ANN for folks like me, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
Anyway, ANN had plenty of other fun bits on what Sunrise did across the summer to draw more attention to the 59-foot fucking robot they erected in a major city, including an auction to have one's photo taken from the 'bot's shoulder and the search for the perfect couple to be wed at the statue's feet.
God, I wish I would have heard more about this as it was going on. By far, the absolute best thing I found online was this photoset and too brief news report on the 30-something couple who won the privilege of finally making their three-children relationship legal at the statue's feet while the groom announced, "I swear my everlasting love to Gundam in front of Gundam." You just can't make this shit up!
I'm sure plenty of folks in America see the fact that the Gundam's already been disassembled as a missed opportunity, but ultimately we may be better off not having it around. See, despite it's status as a promoter of a Green Tokyo, the statue's presence seemed to really fuck up the nature 'round Odaiba Island. Plus, there are plenty of ways to live the magic of real life giant robots to this day as the craze seems to just be starting!
Example 1: Baby Gundams!
For anyone super bummed about missing out on the Gundam specifically because they love Gundam and not just giant robots, the owners of the property have plenty of other impressive bits scattered throughout Japan including the above Gundam chibi which stands outside Bandai's headquarters and several "memorial" statues in Toyko at anime museums and the Sunrise animation studios. If that isn't enough, you'll have to be content looking over photosets of the big guy or watching this crazy time-lapse video on a repeated loop.
Example 2: The Kobe Project!
My personal pic for the next excitement-worthy Japanese robot statue is the Kobe Project – the currently underway project to erect a giant version of Tetsujin 28. I think it opens in October (if this blog's info is still accurate), although I can't tell if it's temporary or permanent. In any event, read more about it with photos here and here.
Example 3: The Robot Taekwon V Amusement Park!
As you can see, this one's still in the development and design stages, but it appears that South Korea isn't going to take their neighbor's giant robot construction sitting down. Plans are underway for a whole amusement park centered around that country's Robot Taekwon V franchise (what do they call animated films in Korea? Is it still anime, or do they have a different name like manwha?). Anyway, you can read what little I've found about this project over here.
Example 4: All Robots Are Bigger In Texas!
For anyone who won't be able to afford a trip to Asia this year to celebrate giant roboticism in immobile statue form, the good ol' U. S. of A. has got you covered with Dallas' The Traveling Man installation. Sure, it's not based on a cartoon or anything, but it looks pretty neat. Plus, I bet if this trend continues, we'll see a big ass Iron Man or Stormtrooper in Hollywood by 2011.