|Manufacturer||National University of Defense Technology|
|Year of creation||2000|
Xianxingzhe (Chinese: 先行者; pinyin: Xiānxíngzhě; literally "forerunner") is the first bipedal humanoid robot in China, created in 2000 by the Chinese National University of Defense Technology in Changsha, Hunan. The robot, standing 140 cm tall and weighing 20 kg, walks at a pace of two steps per second. It was satirized in Japan, where, known as Senkousha (先行者 Senkōsha ), it became an internet phenomenon; one article described the protruding joints near the robot's crotch as a "cannon", resulting in internet games based on the concept.
China's robotics research began during the 1980s, and their resources at the time were primitive compared to other countries'. Nonetheless, the National University of Defense Technology was determined to make a robot for China, after seeing Japan's and America's robots in the Expo '85 world fair in Tsukuba, Japan. On 31 December 1987, the Chinese robot's legs were successfully programmed. By 1989, the team moved onto the robot's synchronization of the hands, nervous system, and visual sensors, thus steering the project into the direction of making a humanoid robot. On 29 November 2000, the robot was complete, and the team named it "Xianxingzhe", meaning forerunner, as the robot was hailed as a major technological breakthrough in China.
Though a significant advance in robotics in China, the robot was truly famous for the spoof that was made on it.
On 3 March 2001, the Japanese website Samurai Damashii (侍魂) posted a page ridiculing the Senkousha (Japanese reading of the Chinese characters for Xianxingzhe) in response to the Chinese enthusiasm. In that page, Samurai Damashii exaggerated the Senkousha as "the crystallization of China's four thousand years of scientific knowledge", commented on the crude design (e.g. the "Chinese Cannon" on its crotch), and put its image among images of Honda's ASIMO and Sony's QRIO SDR-3X for juxtaposition.
Later, in a separate article, the site "revealed" that the Senkousha was actually a military weapon, and elaborated on the protruding joint on the robot's crotch. According to the page, the Senkousha would first rattle the ground with its feet to stir the energy resting on the ground, then it will do squats to harness that energy and transfer them to its crotch cannon, then finally fire that energy in a massive white beam with a pelvic thrust. In conclusion, the author of the article expressed his worries about world peace, seeing the destructive power that the robot possesses (including the ability to make people die laughing).
With the article, Samurai Damashii exceeded 10,000 pageviews per day, which is rare in personal webpages. It was said that a peak level of 200,000 pageviews per day was recorded. (In Japan, in the past, a personal webpage with 1,000 pageviews per day was considered successful. Now, because of Senkousha, that standard has risen to 10,000.[dubious ] ) The articles officially started the Senkousha craze in Japan, and later Taiwan.
Following Samurai Damashii's articles, the Silchov Brothers (シルチョフ兄弟社) made the doujin "Senkousha Games" and hosted them on their website. The Senkousha Games are free to the public, and run on Java applets; but CD-ROM versions can be purchased for additional features. In the games, the player controls the Senkousha sprite in a 2.5D environment and battles robots similar to ASIMOs and AIBOs. The objective of the games is to destroy as many enemy units as possible, until the Senkousha is destroyed. Players can also compare scores on the internet ranking chart.
In the games, many additions were made on the Senkousha, for example, the Chinese Drill, the Chinese Chop, a Gatling gun (in the cannon), a self-destruct button, a jet pack, etc. Upgrades are available for the Chinese Drill, the Gatling gun, and the Chinese Cannon throughout the game. The technology of the Senkousha is attributed to research in a Tao system.
The plot of Senkousha Game 1 follows the fictitious "Asia One Year Conflict" (アジア一年紛争). In 2003, the nation of Japan declared bankruptcy. This led to a crash in the Asian economy. To ensure their survival, the Asian corporate giants underwent a series of M&A, forming conglomerates with various militaries of Asian countries. These companies later developed Robot Army (RA) units for military uses. Because of the chaos, terrorism and territorial disputes were frequent. On the surface they are only minor regional conflicts, but in reality they are corporate wars between the enterprises of different nations. In the end, it was said that it wasn't American intervention or nuclear bombs that ended the war, it was a new Communist robot and an Ace pilot that did.
The plot of Senkousha Game 2 takes place ten years after the events of Senkousha Game 1, and follows the "Kawamura Rebellion" (川村の反乱). After the Asia One Year Conflict, the RA Treaty was signed to abolish the development and use of RA weapons, and their programmers were prosecuted. But on 20 July 2013, during an end-of-war memorial parade in Tiananmen Square, an unknown armed RA unit opened fire on the parade. Following this violation of the RA Treaty, the sealed Senkousha emerges from its hangar to fight once again.
The Senkousha craze quickly spread into Japanese internet forums like 2channel, achieving meme stature. Using the plot from the games, fans even wrote a theme song for Senkousha, and subsequently used the song to make a fake tokusatsu opening animation, spreading the meme even further.
Other appearances include:
- Netrunner, a Japanese magazine, quick to respond to internet culture, made models of the Senkousha for sale. The magazine also featured Senkousha in its anime OVA, Netrun-mon.
- Hyper Octagon Station, a doujin circle, created a 3D Senkousha online game, with robots dueling each other in the Yokohama Chinatown.
- The robot is depicted in the anime Puni Puni Poemy dancing past the Aasu's house.
- In the anime and manga Yakitate!! Japan, Azuma and Kawachi thought of a robot that looked awfully similar to the Senkousha when told that they are only bread-making machines.
- In episode 14 of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, there is an android related to the Chinese mafia named Pioneer which has a cannon protruding out of its groin area.
- In the first episode of Negima!?, a model of Senkousha is seen standing on Chao Lingshen's desk.
- In the twenty-third episode of Rizelmine, Lan-lan, the artificial human from China is seen riding on top of a robot who looks like Senkousha during the chase scene.
- Norikuni Iwata from Excel Saga received a Senkousha figurine from his co-worker, Daimaru Sumiyoshi, out of pity in Volume Eight of the manga. It appears on pages 76 and 83 of both the Japanese and American version.
- A modification called Parallel Worlds for Battlefield 1942 features the Senkousha as an operable vehicle, complete with crotch mounted cannon.
- In episode 3 of R-15, there is a robot with a crotch drill in one of Takuto's day dreams.
- ^ Xinhua News Agency. The forerunner advances to a new century People's Daily. November 30, 2000. URL accessed September 1, 2007. (Chinese)
- ^ Article by Samurai Damasii (Japanese)
- ^ Second article by Samurai Damasii(Japanese)
- ^ Senkousha game 1, Senkousha game 2 (Japanese)
- ^ The fan-made tokusatsu opening animation
- ^ "Senkousha as a plastic model? (「先行者」がプラモに？)". ITMedia. 2002-05-29. (Japanese)