My name is Matt, and I have a problem: I'm a grown man who thinks way too much about giant robots.

Actually, I'm just kidding — it isn't a problem at all. Japanese robots literally changed the course of my life. Without robot anime, manga and toys, I wouldn't be speaking Japanese or even living in Tokyo. I wasn't alone in my childhood fascination with giant robots, as is apparent when looking at Hollywood blockbusters by directors Guillermo del Toro (the current hit "Pacific Rim," which Japan Times film writer Giovanni Fazio reviewed last week) and Michael Bay (the "Transformers" film series). But every Japanese toy I managed to get my little hands on fueled a smoldering realization that somewhere far away from my native Maryland was a nation of people who thought robots were as cool as I did.

In spite of decades of economic stagnation and shrinking market share for its products abroad, Japan still retains its mystique as a technological wonderland. Robots play no small part in this phenomenon. Alongside all the cameras, televisions, Walkmans and other baubles of the bubble era, legions of high-tech robot heroes flooded American shelves and airwaves.