TOKYO (TR) – Yoshiyuki Tomino, the director of the popular robot anime television series “Mobile Suit Gundam” believes that the 30th anniversary commemorative statue erected on Tokyo’s man-made peninsula of Odaiba will become a symbol of hope in these uncertain times.
Tomino was overwhelmed by the eighteen-meter giant robot during a visit prior to the opening of the Green Tokyo Gundam Project on Saturday. “I felt tremendous strength and power,” he said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan last week. “I believe that the Odaiba Gundam will serve the same purpose as the Statue of Liberty — something to instill hope and inspiration in people.”
Along with its multiple spin-offs and films, the sci-fi animation is set in a period of conflict in which robot vehicles, or “mobile suits,” are captained by children and used as weapons during clashes between people on earth and those who migrated to outer space as a result of the planet not being able to accept further population growth following environmental degradation and damage incurred by industrialization.
Tomino feels this theme resonates today more so than three decades ago. “We are now facing many environmental challenges,” the sixty-seven-year-old said. “With this dire situation, we cannot depend on the economic theories and human histories of the park to work for us if we want to live for another 1,000 years. We need a new way of thinking.”
With white limbs and a blue, yellow and red torso, the robot — reproduced right down to its double-nozzle jet pack, boots and helmet — is based on the inaugural RX-78-2 Gundam, which is piloted by Amuro Ray. Since in the series he possesses a “new type” of extra-sensory power, Tomino feels that Ray is symbolic of the new leadership needed to take civilization into the next century and beyond. “He is a symbol for the potential of human beings in the future,” the director said. “Amuro was ahead of his time 30 years ago, and we can say that fiction has drawn closer to fact.”
Organizers are expecting 1.5 million visitors to arrive at Shinagawa Ward’s Shiokaze Park through the end of August to view (free of charge) the thirty-five-ton fabrication of fiberglass and steel up close and mingle at the surrounding booths and stalls selling robot models and t-shirts. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Green Tokyo Fundraising Campaign, an organization which will utilize the 800 million yen it hopes to collect by 2010 for such activities as the planting of roadside trees and establishment of lawns within schools.
“Mobile Suit Gundam” debuted in Japan with the 43 episodes that were broadcast between April 1979 and January of the next year. The franchise has since amassed an astounding popularity, as evidenced by the robust sales results for robot models, video games and compilation DVDs for Namco Bandai Holdings and its subsidiaries.
Born in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Tomino was inspired at an early age by Disney animations, such as Bambi, Peter Pan and Cinderalla, that he watched in school. Yet he was frustrated by their simplistic story lines. It was not until the work of Osamu Tezuka and his “Astro Boy” manga, which was first published in 1952 and whose animated version began eleven years later, that Tomino really felt that the craft had developed into something substantial. “It may sound paradoxical,” he said, “but the reason I was drawn to ‘Astro Boy’ was that the character had many of the qualities of the characters in Disney films. When I realized this, I felt a great amount of frustration because I had fallen in love with something created by the United States, which of course was the country that caused us to lose the war.”
At first Tomino was opposed to the Odaiba project, assuming the rendering would be cheap and tawdry. But the colors of the features on the model won him over. “They are not the colors of real weapons,” he said. “They are happy, peaceful colors — the kinds of colors that children like. They are the kinds of colors that encourage people to say, ‘Don’t give up hope, have great expectations and have great hope for humankind.'”