Gundams galore

Gundams galore

The famous anime robots evoke the best of Japan's modern pop culture

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A giant Gundam model at Times Square in Causeway Bay.
A giant Gundam model at Times Square in Causeway Bay.
Photo: James Whittle
There they stand, towering over excited locals who are busy snapping pictures of them. The two 6-metre-tall Gundam models, RX-78-2 and Zaku, have become instant hits at the Open Piazza outside Times Square, in Causeway Bay.

The appeal of these Japanese cartoon characters crosses generational boundaries. First created in 1979, the anime series, which features giant, robotic mobile suits, is as popular as ever.

The robots represent the coolest aspects of modern Japan: anime and cutting-edge technology. The Gundam franchise was born years before the Transformers, another batch of giant Japanese animated robots. It helps that Gundam models featured creative designs and appealing storylines right from the start.

"I believe that the most prominent reason for the popularity of Gundam is the fact that it is very relatable to everyone," says Shin Sasaki, director of Sunrise Studios, the creator of the franchise.

"As real-life elements such as poverty and death are embedded within the storylines, the audience can connect with the Gundam series and understand its similarities with the world we're living in."

The Gundam series plays an important role in Japanese animation: it's one of the anime genre's most original creations. Yet despite the series' global fame, it remains a Japanese product at heart.

Gundam models have been embraced by the Japanese from all walks of life. They have been featured everywhere from stamps to tram stations. Tokyo's Kami-Igusa Station plays the Gundam theme song when trains depart. The Japanese army used the word "Gundam" as a code name for its hi-tech personal combat equipment.

In short, the appeal of Gundam has long left the confines of anime fandom and become a fixture of popular culture in Japanese society.

Now Hongkongers can get up close and personal with the popular series and its heroes at the Gundam Docks at Hong Kong in Times Square. Besides the large RX-78-2 and Zaku models outside, several other models and figurines are on display at the exhibition, which runs until September 1.

It's a must for all robot fans. Gundam robots, here we come with cameras at the ready!


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