Thursday, September 24, 2009

Denizens of Japan #3: Giant Robots

I'm sure for many people, the mere mention of Japan conjures up images of skulking ninja and noble samurai. And of course they are integral parts of traditional Japan, but we must not look only backward. We must also look forward, to the future! Do not forget that Japan is the land of the giant robot (or you may not be prepared when our metal overlords make their rise to power).

From Transformers to Zords to Gundam, Japan has long cultivated a fascination of these monstrous machines both at home and abroad. Very recently, a life-sized Gundam statue was erected in Odaiba, Tokyo. South Korea is building a giant robot, as well (Thank God it's not N. Korea, or it would probably be functional and atomic powered).

But where did it all begin? Most likely right here in Kansai, in the city of Kobe. The first manga to feature a giant robot was a series called Tetsujin 28-go (鉄人28ー号) - that's Iron Man #28 in English. It was created by a man named Mitsuteru Yokoyama, while he was living in Kobe. Tetsujin #28 was the result of a Japanese project conducted during World War II to create a super robot as a trump card, and assure a Japanese victory. Fortunately for the Allies, there were 27 failures. The 28th model was a late success, being completed just after the end of the war. With no war to fight, Tetsujin #28 was put to work fighting criminals and (apparently) other giant robots. The show has been redone a few times and has even had a stint in America, although redubbed "Gigantor."

Personally I think the "Gigantor" theme is catchier. Anyway, Tokyo isn't the only one with a giant robot. In honor of Yokoyama, Kobe has constructed a giant Tetsujin #28 statue in a park near Shin-nagata (新長田). I went to check it out the other day, as it was scheduled to be done by the end of this month. Unfortunately the scaffolds were still up and the smell of paint was quite strong. Luckily, it's just about finished.

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