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In June, the young staff members of Mibu, Japan's "Omocha no Machi" (Toy Town), formed a volunteer team that aims to erect a life-size version of the Zaku, the 18-meter-tall (about 59-foot-tall) mobile suit robot piloted by the Mobile Suit Gundam anime's antagonist Char.
Located in Tochigi Prefecture north of Tokyo, Mibu is known for its many factories for plastic models and tin toys, although most have been shuttered by now. It is also the current home of the Omocha no Machi Bandai Museum, which already houses a life-size RX-78-2 Gundam bust (from the chest up).
The youth members raised the possibility of building a life-size Zaku to revitalize the town at a December town council meeting, and the resulting publicity generated 2,000 posts on an Internet forum. The team consulted with the copyright holders and estimated that it would take several billion yen (several tens of millions of U.S. dolars) to design and make the life-size replica.
Hiroshi Takayama, one of the 30 or so volunteers in the group, noted, "There are Gundam fans all over the world. We want to call (for cooperation to build the statue) throughout the world with Twitter and Facebook." The team will also sell 1,000 limited-edition cups of strawberry-flavored juice cocktail at 100 yen (US$1.20) each — the red juice will invoke the image of Char's Zaku — on July 16 during a charity event for the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake (Higashi Nihon Daishinsai) disaster.
A life-size Gundam statue once stood on Tokyo's artificial Odaiba island in 2009, but it moved to the central Japanese city of Shizuoka, the self-described "model capital of the world," last year. Shizuoka ended its display of the statue in March, shortly after the March 11 earthquake.