Business

From anime to reality: Mobile 25-ton Gundam robot to be built in Yokohama

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

What was once thought limited to the realm of animation is set to become reality in Yokohama this fall when an 18-meter mobile Gundam robot steps into action.

Fans of the iconic anime series will be able to get an up-close look at the 25-ton machine at Gundam Factory Yokohama, a 9,000 sq.-meter facility set to open at Yamashita Pier on Oct. 1 for a year.

Tickets for the facility will go on sale in July, though the price has not been disclosed. Other details remain a mystery, such as the exact movements the robot will be able to perform using its 24 fully functional joints.

Gundam Factory Yokohama will consist of two areas: a 25-meter-tall Gundam-Dock that will serve as its maintenance site, and a two-story building with shops and event space.

On weekends in July and August, the facility will be operating on a pre-opening basis, but the Gundam robot itself won’t debut until October.

Gundam Global Challenge, a project aimed at actually building a mobile Gundam, was launched in 2014 as part of celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the Gundam anime series, which began in 1979.

Creators, engineers and researchers make up the team working on the project, including Yoshiyuki Tomino, director of the TV series “Mobile Suit Gundam,” Pitoyo Hartono, professor at Chukyo University’s School of Engineering, and Seiichi Saito, creative and technical director at Rhizomatiks Co., a Tokyo-based firm that devises interactive digital artwork.

Robotics and engineering firms such as Asratech Corp. and Yaskawa Electric Corp. are also providing support. The project’s budget has not been disclosed.

Since the opening of Gundam Factory Yokohama is timed to coincide with the Olympics and Paralympics, the team said it will promote the facility to foreign media outlets for the games.

Over the years, Gundam titles and products have attracted anime fans around the world.

The mobile Gundam in Yokohama, however, will differ from the 19.7-meter Unicorn Gundam robot erected in 2017 in Tokyo’s Odaiba district. While parts of Unicorn Gundam are functional, its feet stay on the ground.

The first life-sized Gundam statue was installed in Odaiba in 2009 and has become popular with Japanese and foreign tourists alike.