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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Gundam Factory Yokohama ガンダムファクトリー横浜 2020.12.19 to 2024.03.31

Gundam (Japanese: ガンダムシリーズ, Hepburn: Gandamu Shirīzu, lit. Gundam Series) is a Japanese military science fiction media franchise. Created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise (now Bandai Namco Filmworks), the franchise features giant robots, or mecha, with the name "Gundam". The franchise began on April 7, 1979, with Mobile Suit Gundam, a TV series that defined the "real robot" mecha anime genre by featuring giant robots called mobile suits (including the original titular mecha) in a militaristic setting. The popularity of the series and its merchandise spawned a franchise that includes 50 TV series, films and OVAs as well as manga, novels and video games, along with a whole industry of plastic model kits known as Gunpla which makes up 90 percent of the Japanese character plastic-model market.

Mobile Suit Gundam was developed by animator Yoshiyuki Tomino and a changing group of Sunrise creators with the collective pseudonym of Hajime Yatate. The series was originally entitled Freedom Fighter Gunboy (or Gunboy) for the robot's gun, with teen boys the primary target demographic. Early production had a number of references to freedom: the White Base was originally "Freedom's Fortress", the Core Fighter was the "Freedom Wing" and the Gunperry was the "Freedom Cruiser". The Yatate team combined the English word "gun" with the last syllable of the word "freedom" to form the portmanteau Gundom. Tomino changed it to Gundam, suggesting a unit wielding a gun powerful enough to hold back enemies like a hydroelectric dam holding back water. In keeping with the concept, Gundams are depicted as prototypes or limited-production, with higher capabilities than mass-produced units.

Most Gundams are large, bipedal, humanoid vehicles controlled from a cockpit by a human pilot. The cockpit is located in the torso, while the head serves as a camera to transmit images back to the cockpit. Most of the series protagonists are Newtypes, genetically advanced humans adapted for space. Newtypes have psychic abilities that enable them to sense each other across space and to utilize special mobile suits.

The series itself has been described as a space opera.

Gundam Factory Yokohama is an entertainment complex located at Yamashita Pier in Yokohama, Japan. Its main feature is a moving Gundam, an 18-metre tall pilot-operated "mech" (a large mechanical automaton with a human operator inside) from the Japanese animated franchise Gundam. It is the first moving mech of its type.

Originally planned to open by October 2020 to both celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Gundam franchise and for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the construction of the exhibit was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The site opened 19 December 2020 and will remain open until March 31, 2024. The closing date was however delayed to March 31, 2023 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and then delayed again to March 31, 2024, due to the lasting success. On 18 December, rock band Luna Sea performed the 40th anniversary's theme song, "The Beyond", on live TV at the opening ceremony. There are two features to the exhibit:

  1. Gundam Dock: The primary exhibition of the complex is the moving Gundam mech. Named the RX-78F00 Gundam, it is the 3rd statue constructed to a 1:1 scale with its anime counterpart in Japan, following the 2009 RX-78-2 and 2017 RX-0 each constructed at Tokyo Gundam Base.

  2. Gundam Lab: The Gundam lab exhibition features information about the construction of the RX-78F00, a virtual reality dome that simulates the interior of the Gundam's cockpit, a cafe with Gundam themed products and a GUNPLA merchandise store.

The Gundam Factory is not big...If you are a Gundam fanboy, then visiting the place is a must. If you are just a casual fan wanting to just experience Japanese culture, you can go to the factory but don't pay for the extra "special" deck view. There's 6 floors you can go up the deck with alongside the surface where you can get pictures. Entrance fee to Gundam Factory costs ¥1,650 per person. The viewing deck is another extra charge of ¥3,300. You can only go up to the viewing deck once. The huge Gundam robot does two demonstrations are each hour, moving to a different song of a soundtrack. Each demonstration probably lasts about 10 minutes. The daytime, evening and night views are all quite different and good for photos.

For me, it's another been there, done that kinda iconic attraction in Japan. It's something a little special but I don't think this kind of attraction gets repeat customers though. Maybe they will come up with a different character (Astroboy, Godzilla or Ultraman) at the same site and then I'd come back again...

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