I, Robot

I, Robot
Pilgrimage to Mecha

John Funk | 27 Oct 2009 12:54
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For Tomino, hope is one of the reasons Gundam remains so popular 30 years later: Though Gundam's war is still tragic and senseless and its humans still petty and flawed, the series is not without hope for humanity as a whole. Over the course of the story, Amuro and others evolve into psychic Newtypes - a literal "new type" of human. This is not a random mutation, insists Tomino, but the manifestation of the idea that humanity can evolve into something beyond itself when there is a need for it - as there is now. "It's a very sad situation, actually, that Gundam has something to say to us, and that the world has deteriorated to the point that we do need a Newtype," says Tomino.

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Even though crowds of people came from all across Japan to see the Odaiba statue, the Gundam creator says the sort of "pure positive reaction" he'd hoped to see toward the project came from overseas. The wonder, excitement and surprise we Westerners displayed at this seemingly ridiculous project was exactly what Tomino would have liked to see in his native Japan. Interestingly enough, Tomino attributes this lukewarm response to the ubiquity of Gundam in the Land of the Rising Sun: "Japanese people have become sort of blasé. They're too used to Gundam. They don't have the ability to be surprised as much as before."

Perhaps he has a point. This is, after all, the country with themed Zeon and Federation bars where one can order cocktails like the Zaku Tank or the Black Tri-Stars. This is the country where iconic antagonist Char Aznable decorates everything from mobile phones to Game Boy Advance handhelds to credit cards. This is the country where megapopular J-rocker (and notorious Gundam fan) Gackt played the famous Gihren Zabi funeral speech before a concert and got a stadium full of screaming girls to join him in chanting "Sieg Zeon!" This is a country where Gundam arcade games take place in a life-size recreation of a mobile suit cockpit.

Maybe it isn't that Japan wants Gundam to be real. Maybe it's that, in a way, it already is.

John Funk is not ashamed to admit that his license plate is the in-universe designation for the Freedom Gundam from Gundam SEED.

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