An affection for robots is an intrinsic part of Japanese culture, but what is it about them that holds such fascination?
The Japanese have embraced technology in a wide variety of ways, but robots have earned a particularly special place in their hearts. Whether it’s an Aibo, Asimo, or Mobile Suit, robots have become an indelible part of Japanese culture. To understand why, explains John Funk in Issue 225 of The Escapist, you must first understand a bit of Japanese history:
Japan was not the first country to pursue industrial robotics, but it did so with uncommon enthusiasm, an attitude which remains to this day: As of 2008, the country still leads the world in both stock and sales of industrial robots. As robots took their place in Japanese factories, so too did they take their place in Japanese pop culture. In 1952, Osamu Tezuka, now considered one of the forefathers of modern manga, published the first volume of Tetsuwan Atomu, known in the West as Astro Boy. Astro Boy followed the eponymous young robot as he fought crime and discovered humanity in a classic Pinocchio tale. Unlike most Western robots, such as those of Isaac Asimov or The Jetsons’ Rosie, Astro Boy was not a servant or a sidekick; in his story, the robot was the hero.
Japan’s love of robots led to the construction of a multimillion dollar, 60-foot Gundam statue. Was it worth it? Was it a national symbol of hope and love, or a pointlessly expensive publicity stunt? Read the rest of Pilgrimage to Mecha and share your thoughts.