Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Reliving childhood nostalgia

The Japanese anime series Mobile Suit Gundam was my childhood favourite show. I mean, who could resist the epic battles of giant robots in space, right?

It was one of the very first anime series that had me completely hooked and had me rushing home after school to catch every thrilling episode. But you know what? That’s the magic of anime. It’s not just a show; it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a window into a world where imagination knows no bounds.

THE OG ANIME SENSATION

For those of you who are probably to young or just plainly not in the know, Mobile Suit Gundam (Kidō Senshi Gandamu), or as it’s fondly known, Gundam ’79 is one of the OGs of the anime world.

This iconic anime series, produced and animated by Nippon Sunrise, marked the beginning of an era when it first hit the screens in Japan on April 7, 1979. Created and directed by the genius Yoshiyuki Tomino, this show was like a rocket launching into the hearts of viewers, spanning 43 action-packed episodes until January 26, 1980.

Set in the futuristic Universal Century 0079, it’s all about the showdown between the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation. Things get real when the Earth Federation rolls out a brand-new giant robot, the RX-78-2 Gundam, piloted by none other than the teenage civilian mechanic Amuro Ray.

The RX-78 at Gundam Factory Yokohama. PHOTO: JAMES KON
Gundam Factory Yokohama. PHOTO: JAMES KON
The writer’s gundam collections. PHOTO: JAMES KON

But here’s the twist: this series didn’t just stop at TV screens.

It’s got three flicks, a novel trilogy by Tomino himself, and not one but two manga adaptations! And believe it or not, it didn’t start as a massive hit – low ratings initially led to its cancellation.

But Gundam had a trick up its metallic sleeve. Bandai’s Gunpla models hit the scene in 1980, giving the franchise the boost it needed. Reruns and the theatrical release of the anime added some more fuel to the Gundam fire.

So what makes Gundam so legendary? Well, it flipped the script on the giant robot genre, showing mobile suits as legit war machines and their pilots as regular soldiers, not some super-powered heroes. It’s no wonder it’s an absolute classic in the world of anime!

I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on Gundam. I was just a wide-eyed kid, and there it was, the anime I’d watch on a rented VHS. My heart raced as I watched Amuro Ray stumble upon that magnificent mobile suit, the RX-78, and take the controls to defend his home against the Zeon’s menacing Zaku. It was like a dream come true, and I couldn’t help but cheer him on, feeling like I was right there in the cockpit with him. That moment was pure magic, and it sparked a lifelong love for Gundam that still burns bright today.

GUNDAM FACTORY YOKOHAMA

Fast forward to 2023, I found myself in Japan last week, attending the Tokyo Motorshow 2023. It was an invitation extended by Nissan two weeks ago that I simply couldn’t pass up, and it allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream by meeting my childhood obsession.

Overflowing with anticipation, I headed towards the Gundam Factory Yokohama, nestled away on the captivating Yamashita Pier.

From Tokyo, I hopped on the JR Tokaido Main line, bound for Yokohama Station, and then hopped onto the Minatomirai Line. As I finally arrived at Motomachi Chukagai Station.

All that stood between me and my lifelong dream was a stroll past the picturesque Yamashita Park. And there, in all its towering glory, was the RX-78, right at Gundam Factory Yokohama. It was a moment that brought tears to my eyes, a meeting with a childhood hero that I’ll cherish forever.

The entry fee is quite affordable. It’s just a bit under BND10 for adults and even less for children, specifically the seven to twelve-year-old group.

What makes this place even more exciting is the regular AI awakenings that occur like clockwork every hour. The first one starts at 11.20am, lasting for 11 minutes, and a brief encore follows at 11.45am for about four minutes. The same fantastic show repeats every hour from 1.20pm onwards, with the last one being the grand finale at 7.45pm.

The moment that life-sized RX-78 powered up and started moving, it was like stepping into a science fiction dream. The music, the Japanese audio, and the graceful motion of this mobile suit – it was pure magic.

They even added lights and gas effects that made this mechanical giant come alive right before my eyes. If you ever find yourself in the Yokohama area, do yourself a favour and make sure to visit Gundam Factory Yokohama.

You can also explore the Gundam Dock Tower, grab a coffee at the Café, and explore the Gunpla store, where you’ll find all your Gundam-related desires fulfilled. And when your hunger strikes, don’t fret – there are food trucks offering delectable, Gundam-themed fare and merchandise.

The venue welcomed its first visitors on December 19, 2020, and you have the opportunity to enjoy this incredible experience until March 31, 2024. – James Kon

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