Cultural impact of Gundam

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The giant robot anime franchise Gundam is a popular culture icon in Japan. Its owner Bandai Namco has earned up to 54.5 billion yen per year from products based on the Gundam characters.[1] Gundam has appeared on postage stamps, the Gundam name was used as a codename for a Japanese Self Defense Force project to develop an advance personal combat system and Gundam has been used to promote technical developments in fire fighting. A tram station has a Gundam statue and plays the theme tune of the first Gundam film as its departure melody. Mitsubishi created a simulator for concept cars themed on a Gundam mech cockpit, held recruitment seminars titled "How to make a Gundam" to demonstrate their development process and based their Lancer Evolution design on Gundam. Isuzu used a Gundam to model the VX2.


The Gundam franchise covers nine universes that comprise a dozen TV series, over twenty animated movies, and dozens of novels and manga. Bandai is the fourth largest toy manufacturer in the world and Gundam merchandise makes up 20% of its sales. In 2004, Gundam sales resulted in profits of 42.8 billion yen, growing to 54.5 billion yen by 2007.[2]

By 2000, the popularity of Gundam had resulted in the creation of hundreds of different model kits with more than 350 million sold.[2] In 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that some estimations state that "10 Gundam models [have been] sold for every man, woman and child in Japan."[3]


Gundam Front Tokyo is a dedicated museum to Gundam. Among its major attractions is the Gundam Statue of the RG 1/1 RX-78-2 Gundam Ver. GFT. It features a display collection of over 1000 Gunpla models and the biggest exhibition of Gunpla in the world.[4] In 2012, Robots Gone Bad covered the museum and stated that it houses 90% of the kits ever made.[5] In 2012, a large topiary Gundam made of ten thousand begonias, zinnias, and star daisies was on display to promote the green movement.[6]

Gundam statue[edit]

The Gundam statue or "Odaiba Gundam" has been a major icon of the museum since its unveiling. Weighing in at 35 tonnes and standing 18 meters tall, the statue is a popular attraction for visitors.[7] First completed in June 2009, it stood for a month before being dissembled, but had attracted over 4.5 million visitors during that time.[8] In 2010, it was erected in Shizuoka, and it was shown in pieces in 2011 in order to raise money for the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami relief effort.[8][9]

"China Gundam"[edit]

A large robot statue was debuted in China's Floraland park in 2010, which immediately drew lots of negative press surrounding its creation as a copy of the original Gundam Statue. According to reports, a spokesperson for the park declared it as "completely original". While it bore a similar design, the robot's bore logos for the EFSF and WB, the 'Earth Federation Space Force' and 'White Base'.[10][11] The form of the robot was made by a frame that was covered with fabric.[12] In January 2011, the robot was reconstructed with significant alterations which still attracted some negative press on its appearance.[13]

Other museums and exhibitions[edit]

In 2013, the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art ran an exhibition featuring over 400 pieces of Kunio Okawara's mechanical design work.[14][15]


As part of MHI Jobcon 2005 (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Job Convention 2005), a recruiting event of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, seminars were held in six Japanese cities. The topic of these seminars was "Mobile Suit Gundam Development Story"; which indicated the requirements and processes that Mitsubishi would have to implement if the company had been required to build an RX-78 mobile suit.[16]

On 24 August 2008, a conference was held in Hiroshima with hundreds of academic professionals in different fields joining together to discuss about the relationship of anime science and technology with the modern world, including military, economics, linguistics, and the possibility of the Universal Century (human colonizing space). Many envisioned that the technology portrayed in Gundam is not far from our time.[17][18][19] One aeronautics expert in the project said thermonuclear rockets and spherical helper bots should be pursued.[20]


The popularity of Gundam resulted in its first specialty magazine, Gundam Magazine, which ran from December 1990 to June 1991.[21] In 2006, the magazine was reprinted in a six volume box set.[21] In 2001, Gundam Ace magazine began publication, moved from a quarterly to a bi-monthly to monthly serialization in 2003. Gundam Magazine boasts a circulation of over 100,000 copies according to the Japan Magazine Publishing Association.[22]


The concept of Isuzu VX-2 is inspired by RX-178 Gundam Mk-II as concept design arts released in the Jan/Feb 1998, as seen in issue no. 71 of the magazine Axis published in Japan.[23] According to Gundam-san 4 koma comic, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution appearance is influenced by the RX-78-2 Gundam.[24] Nissan Chief Creative Officer Shiro Nakamura said that the angular lines and high-tech vents of the GT-R (R35) were inspired by the Japanese anime series Gundam.[25][26] Mitsubishi has cooperated with Bandai to create a simulator for concept cars, the test-type of this simulator will be decorated like the Gundam cockpit and become a simulation theatre in the Toyota theme park, Mega Web, located in Tokyo.[27]

Military and aerospace[edit]

The code name for the under-development Japan Self-Defense Forces advanced personal combat equipment is "Gundam".[28][29][30][31] On the display exhibition on 7 November 2007, the equipment of the set contains infra-red camera and scope that can verify if the incoming target is a friend or foe, along with a monitor display that can browse the internet. The equipment has a total weight of 9 kg and the powered suit can run for 8 hours. The testing team consisting of troopers claims that the major improvement should be focused on increasing the battery life of the system. The researchers are also aiming for funnel type systems including missiles that can stay/hover in air and mini scouting robots.[32]


In 2007, Japan's Ministry of Defense presented a paper titled "Towards the Realization of Gundam (Advanced Personal Equipment System)", which Anime News Network noted as using "elements of popular culture to attract young people for recruitment and public relations."[33]

In 2012, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party had discussed the possibility of building a working Gundam, in 2008 the estimated the cost to build a Gundam was US$725 million for the parts and materials. During a 12-hour coverage on Nico Nico, Masaaki Taira and Hideki Niwa presented "The Gundam Development Project". Though the event was decried as an attempt to garner the "nerd vote".[34][35]

The RX-78 Gundam was recognized as a culturally significant subject by the nation of Japan on 23 October 2000, with the inclusion of the suit and the main pilot on two stamps in the 20th Century Stamp Series.[36] On 25 March 2011, a set of 10 stamps called Gunpla Frame Stamp Collection 30th Anniversary was released in Japan. Featuring 10 of the titular Mobile Suit RX-78-2 Gundam's plastic models for 1980 to 2010.[37] Additionally, the mobile suit and other notable mecha from various Gundam series were recognized in the second set of "Anime Heroes and Heroines" stamps, released in 2005. It was one of only four franchises to be given the honor; the others were Pokémon, Galaxy Express 999, and Detective Conan.[38]

An official poster of the Japanese Fire department depicting the RX-78 Gundam and two MEDEA cargo planes.

The RX-78-2 Gundam and 2 Medea transport planes were featured in a fire fighting poster in Japan. The RX-78-2 was equipped with water spraying equipment instead of weapons.

Tram station monument[edit]

In 2008, a RX-78 Gundam monument was displayed at Kami-Igusa Station.[39]

Ink and wash painting[edit]

In 2008, the ink and wash painting of Gundam drawn by Hisashi Tenmyouya in 2005 was sold in the Christie's auction held in Hong Kong with a price of US$600,000.[40][41]

30th Anniversary music[edit]

Throughout 2009, Japanese record labels released various albums to honor the 30th anniversary of Gundam. The first of these albums was album I, Senshi: Ai Senshi Tribute, featuring various covers of the song "Ai Senshi" from the Soldiers of Sorrow film. American musician Andrew W.K. released an album called Gundam Rock on 9 September 2009 in Japan. The album consists of covered music from the Gundam series to celebrate its 30th anniversary.[42] Lantis also had several of its artists including JAM Project, CooRie, Minami Kuribayashi, and Faylan record covers of various theme songs, producing Gundam Tribute from Lantis. Other albums were

MTR X Gundam[edit]

The Hong Kong MTR issued a special set of tickets featuring Gundam theme in December 2009.[43]

"Char Custom"[edit]

There are many products that have special "Char Custom" editions in Japan, which are normally a red version of a product with Zeon emblems. This imitates the custom mobile suits, particularly a red (rather than green) MS-06, used by Char Aznable, a Zeon faction main character in the first few Gundam series. Such examples include a red Nintendo Gamecube and Game Boy Advance SP.[44]


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