The Gundam Mecha, located at Diver City in Odaiba, is one of those things that is quintessentially ‘Japan.’ It’s an imposing, futuristic, and beautiful piece of craftsmanship that looks like it might actually move at any moment.
Monique and I visited the Gundam because it was on Odaiba, and we were on Odaiba, and it’s just one of those things you do. But the Gundam series that the statue is part of is actually something of a cultural icon – particularly for pre-teen and teen boys and, I suspect, Otaku.
Gandamu Shirizu – The Gundam Series
The Gundam Series is a metaseries of space opera anime created by Sunrise studios.
Space Opera? Wow – already sounds epic.
The idea for the series was originally nurtured and developed by animator Yoshiyuki Tomino along with an ever-evolving group of Sunrise creators who worked under the collective pseudonym Hajime Yatate. The series features giant robots (‘mecha’) called ‘mobile suits’ (MS) and the MS of the protagonist is generally referred to as the Gundam.
The series first aired on April 7th 1979 and from that series a massive franchise developed that now includes multiple TV series and OVAs, manga, novels, movies, and video games.
To create the distinctive name, the Yatate team combined the word ‘gun’ with the end of the word ‘freedom’ to form ‘Gundom’. Tomino then tweaked then name to ‘Gundam’ and suggested that the name signified ‘a powerful unit wielding a gun powerful enough to hold back enemies as a hydroelectric dam holds back floods.’
Gundam are almost exclusively non-sentient, large, and bipedal vehicles controlled by a human pilot. The pilot sits in a cockpit that is located in the torso where images from a camera built into the head are displayed to help the pilot control the vehicle.
The narrative of Gandamu Shirizu revolves around the pilots and their mecha fighting in a war in which destruction and dehumanization are commonplace. There are multiple sides and each faction has their own heroes and villains who each have their own unique motives, virtues, and failings.
Gundam also features debates on various philosophical and political issues revolving around the nature and meaning of war. This includes the ideal of pacifism and the continuing evolution (natural or engineered) of humanity and it’s consequences. These debates are played out in the series as dialogue between the protagonist and antagonist during battle as they try to convince each other of the righteousness of their cause.
The wikipedia entry on the Gundam is huge so if you’d like to know more than this I’d suggest checking it out.
The Gundam Statue
We visited the Gundam towards the end of our day when the sun was setting and the Daikanransha and Rainbow Bridge were lighting up. We’d noticed the location of Diver City during our ride on the Ferris wheel and made our way there to see the life-sized mecha.
As you might expect the Gundam was very impressive and we arrived just as it’s ocular lights were turned on, which made it seem even more realistic. There were a lot of people around taking photos and many of them were Japanese people or families with (mostly) their little boys.
It was an awesome way to end our day on Odaiba and we got a few sweet pictures of the mecha:
On our way back to the Tokyo mainland we also noticed this:
It was too late for us to visit but this is a cat specialty store (‘Odaiba Cat Shop’) where you can buy all sorts of novelty items for your pet, cuddle some kitties, or (if you live in Japan) buy a cat.
If you’re headed to Odaiba any time soon take 30 minutes out of your day to visit the uniquely Japanese Gundam Mecha. You won’t regret it!
Next post: The Museum of Nature and Science – Ueno
Until next time,
Kally & Mon.
Location of the Gundam
The Gundam is located next to Diver City Plaza and is a short walk from the Daikanransha, Palette Town and several train stations.
The closest train station is Funenokagakukan station on the Yurikamome line. The map below shows the location of the Gundam relative to Funenokagakukan. The cat store is located on the ground level of the Decks Beach and just near Odaibakaihinkoen station on the Yurikamome line:
[Feature Image Credit: Monique Nielsen]
Have you watched the Gundam Series? What does it mean to you?