Chances are you’ve seen a Gundam even if the name seems unfamiliar.
Gundam are sleek androform robots piloted by humans and often seen wielding massive guns, utility-pole-size katanas and other outrageous weaponry.
The name Gundam is synonymous with “Japanese robot,” and the IP is one of the top 15 highest-grossing media properties in the world, putting it in the same company as franchises like Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Batman/DC Comics universe and Lord of the Rings.
In other words, Gundam is serious business in Asia.
The cult franchise began with a 1979 cartoon series and expanded to include movies, manga and spinoffs, but the real moneymakers are plastic model kits of the many mecha in the wider Gundam universe. Gundam mecha account for 90 percent of all model kit sales in Japan, and they’re wildly popular worldwide, including the United States.
With all of that in mind, maybe it’ll seem a little less crazy that Tokyo has a life-size Gundam standing guard over Odaiba in a major commercial plaza. The 24-meter (78-foot) statue is impressive in its own right, but at night it reaches new levels of awesomeness when the robot’s lights activate, bathing the behemoth in ambient crimson.
After spending a few hours wandering Tokyo’s incredible Digital Art Lab, it was past sundown and pouring when we reached the statue. I got soaked for my efforts, but it was worth it to see the iconic mecha with my own eyes.
To provide a sense of scale, the average adult male is about as tall as the Gundam’s ankle.
Every half hour after sundown passersby can watch the Gundam transform between “Unicorn Mode” and “Destroy Mode.” Panels and sections on the robot’s torso fold into a new, more aggressive-looking pose, while alternate lights are activated and more protective armor encases the machine’s head.