Current travel restrictions may keep fans away from Yokohama's Gundam Factory exhibition, but that doesn't mean they can't still get a closer look at the city's life-sized, animated Gundam statue.
The highly advanced recreation of the original RX-78 Gundam from the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam series is highlighted in the latest video to be released as part of Bandai's 2021 Gundam Online Expo. The free online convention celebrates all aspects of the long-running Gundam franchise, with panels and announcements for the anime, model kits, video games and even the surprise English release of a new live-action series. The event began on Aug. 26 and will run until Sept. 6. The expo kicked off with the release of five classic Gundam movies, which were all directed by series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino. Three of those movies are a retelling of the original Gundam anime series, which introduced the now iconic RX-78 to the world.
Unlike earlier life-sized Gundam statues installed at other locations throughout Japan, Yokohama's RX-78 Gundam is equipped with massive animatronic machinery that allows it to move in place. The statue has been seen simulating a walk cycle, as well as taking many of the Gundam's most memorable poses from the original series. The statue's eyes, vents, and exhaust ports also light up. The newly released video also showcases the unprecedented level of detail that the monument possesses, highlighting many of the warning labels, panel lining, and sculpting that can only be seen when the massive figure is viewed up close.
The RX-78 installation is a showcase of how far Gundam has come since the original anime's 1979 debut, when it was initially greeted with abysmally low ratings and a quick cancellation. The series eventually bounced back thanks to frequent re-runs and the popularity of Bandai's plastic model kits, and now Gundam is a multi-billion dollar franchise with dozens of sequel and spin-off anime and manga series, countless video game adaptations, and specialized stores filled only with Gundam branded clothing, electronics, stationary and other merchandise.
While not as advanced as Yokohama's installation, Tokyo's life-sized Gundam statue, which depicts the RX-0 Unicorn from the newer Gundam UC anime, recently garnered a lot of attention as it served as the backdrop for several events during this summer's 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The RX-0 doesn't have the full range of movement that the RX-78 statue has, but it is capable of fully transforming between the mobile suit's standard Unicorn mode and its flashier Destroy mode. That transformation was apparently enough to confuse the BBC, as the British broadcaster drew the ire of giant robot fanboys worldwide when it mislabeled the Gundam statue as one of Hasbro's Transformers during its coverage of the Olympics.