Throughout the 40 years of its existence, Mobile Suit Gundam has always revolved around a singular message: “War is bad, actually.” Despite this, everyone on Earth wants Gundam to be real. So what’s a civilization to do? We can’t have real mecha running around, obviously — our leaders would kill everyone on the planet within five years. The only real solution is to get as close as we can to an actual mobile suit as possible, while stopping just shy of a fully functional unit. Like-minded organizations in Japan have been working to realize this goal since the introduction of the first life-size Gundam statue in 2009. Now, 11 years later, preparations are underway to take another gigantic step towards that dream, and this time it’s literal.
Gundam Factory Yokohama, which will house the world’s third life-size Gundam statue, opens its doors to Yokohama’s Yamashita Pier this October. This latest statue is set to weigh an estimated 25 tons and will rise to a height of 18 meters (maintenance scaffolding not included), but the real selling point is its staggering 24 points of articulation. After sliding free of its scaffolding on its enormous “GUNDAM-CARRIER” stage, the mobile suit will take a single gargantuan step forward, according to a 3D render shown during a press conference earlier this week.
This level of movement vastly outperforms Japan’s previous Gundam statues. The first statue, a recreation of the original Mobile Suit Gundam‘s RX-78-2 Gundam, was able to turn its head and look upwards while venting steam from its cooling ducts. Its successor, a life-sized statue of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, featured a number of articulated panels and a transforming face plate, but no moving joints. Gundam Factory Yokohama’s statue is also a reproduction of the iconic RX-78-2, but based on the docu-series posted to the project’s official YouTube channel, it is an entirely new replica that does not reuse any parts from the original, 2009 statue.
Unlike the first two statues, which could be experienced for free by visiting the public courtyard of the DiverCity shopping complex in Tokyo’s Odaiba ward, Gundam Factory Yokohama is an enclosed theme park-style affair that requires tickets. Pre-sale starts in July, according to The Japan Times, though prices have yet to be announced. Two special preview events will take place in July and August ahead of the site’s official opening in October, but these events will not showcase the Gundam in motion. Attendees will still (presumably) get to view the statue in all its glory from the maintenance scaffolding, as well as the facility’s Gundam Factory Yokohama Lab, which details the inner workings of the 59 foot tall mobile suit. There’s also a gift shop and Gundam Cafe, natch.
I got to visit the original RX-78-2 statue in Odaiba in 2012, and despite the fact that it barely moved, it still felt real. Being next to that thing was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had, not just because I’m a Gundam fan, but because it was so far removed from actual reality. If you’ve ever been to a museum with life-size dinosaur replicas and felt a visceral, full-body lizard brain terror from being in close proximity to them, it’s like a less scary version of that. The mind immediately flags what it’s seeing as A) impossible and B) hugely dangerous, and the result is a very unique mix of awe and disassociation. It takes a second for it to really hit that this thing is real and exists, and if they were able to pull that off with a normal statue, what will it be like to watch a Gundam take its first step?