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Fans Say Farewell to Yokohama's Life-Size Moving Gundam

by Ken Iikura-Gross,

The Gundam Factory Yokohama held its “Grand Finale ~To the Next Stage~” event on March 31. And to be honest, grand is an understatement. It was epic.

Since December 2020, Gundam fans from around the world have visited the Yamashita Pier area in Yokohama to see the 18-meter-tall RX-78F00 Gundam at the Gundam Factory Yokohama (GFY). Originally 2009, a life-sized Gundam statue was erected in Shiokaze Park, Odaiba, in 2009 and subsequently moved to the Divercity Tokyo Plaza Festival Square. The Gundam exhibited in GFY was not just life-sized but was also a “Moving Gundam.” For fans of the Gundam franchise, this signaled our real-life technology taking one step closer to seeing Gundams becoming a reality. Unfortunately, the GFY closed its doors to the public on March 31, but only after going out with a literal and proverbial bang.

On the final day of the GFY, the venue opened at 10 AM and closed to the public at 4 PM. Fans came out for those six hours to say their final goodbyes to the Gundam. This was a sad moment for many fans, and organizers have not announced if the life-sized “Moving Gundam” would appear again at some other venue. Thus, as the closing time neared, there was an air of sadness at the Gundam's departure and joy that fans could participate in this momentous event in the franchise's history.



As the doors closed to the public in the event area, approximately 1,500 lucky fans gathered outside the Yamashita Park Entrance to get one last look at the Gundam. The group won tickets to the GFY Grand Finale show. As the hour grew closer, there was electricity among Gundam fans waiting to see theGundam's final movements. Despite the heavy anticipation, they calmly waited for the staff to call their ticket number.

Fans were greeted by some very nice acoustic guitar renditions of songs from throughout Gundam's history as they filed into Gundam Factory Yokohama. One that stood out was the rendition of “Ima wa Oyasumi,” not just because it's a wonderful song but also because it invokes memories of the tragic battle between protagonist Amuro Ray and his flight partner Sayla Mass and Amuro's rival Char Aznable and his protégé Lalah Sune in the 41st episode of Mobile Suit Gundam.


As the music ended, a hush fell over the fans, and the host of the Grand Finale, Akiko Amano, appeared on stage. After a brief introduction of the GFY project, Amano asked fans to enjoy a short video chronicling the over three years that the life-sized “Moving Gundam” was in Yokohama. The video highlighted the opening ceremony in December 2020, the Nike SB Newtype Jam Contest in September 2021, and the Yokohama illumination event “Yorunoyo Night Viewing” from November to December 2022, among others.

However, the video's showpiece was interviews with Gundam fans worldwide who came to Yokohama to see the life-sized “Moving Gundam.” One fan in the video gushed, “This is way cooler than the Statue of Liberty.” Even those unfamiliar with the Gundam franchise were awestruck by the Gundam in Yokohama.

Following the video detailing the history of the GFY, Amano invited four guests to the stage for a short talk session. The guests were the Gundam Global Challenge (GGC) system director Wataru Yoshizaki, technical director Akinori Ishii, creative director Masaki Kawahara, and special guest and media artist Yoichi Ochiai. For the most part during the talk session the guests spoke freely, but Amano sprinkled in a few questions regarding the life-sized “Moving Gundam,” such as their thoughts on the significance of the project. Ochiai was surprised that the life-sized “Moving Gundam” withstood the sea air for three years, and Ishii noted that although the project centered on the life-sized “Moving Gundam” staying in Yokohama for one year, the team built it to last for three. Ishii added that the team prepared spare parts for the unit in advance, but thankfully, they weren't needed. Hearing this, Kawahara joked how the use of the parts was very much like Zeon (from the Universal Century in the Gundam franchise), and everything went according to plan.

Photo courtesy of Sotsu Sunrise

As the talk session continued, Ishii had a question for Ochiai: Has the Moving Gundam sparked any form of creativity for you? Ochiai's answer was enlightening as he spoke about how when you start making large human models, he feels humans have an interesting sense of scale when you think about these things. Ochiai also spoke with some seriousness, saying that since he works on statues of the Buddha, it would be fun if the Buddha in Nara (likely in Todai Temple) moved as well.

As the four men began to enjoy themselves, Kawahara joked to Yoshizaki that as the months went on, the Gundam's movements became more intricate to the point that the Moving Gundam's fingertips might start doing a traditional Japanese dance. Yoshizaki was amused by Kawahara's joke but noted how the team kept the Gundam's movements within its abilities. Although Yoshizaki did add that, after confirming with the makers, they gradually increased its movement speed. Yoshizaki remarked about one instance when he casually informed Ishii he had upped the speed from 0.5 to 0.7 rpm.

As the talk session wound down, Amano asked the question on everyone's mind: Could you share with us what you would like to try next? Many fans would like to see an actual pilotable Gundam, but some safety concerns remain. Ishii said he would like to make a rideable Gundam. While that would be a fantastic experience, Ishii also jokingly noted the three directors and Ochiai would like to build a moving Zaku-II from Mobile Suit Gundam, with the others laughing in agreement. Yoshizaki realized a concrete goal going forward and said, “Legs are important.” This is a clear nod to the Mobile Suit Gundam episode 42, where a Zeon engineer states that legs are decorations. Kawahara spoke last among the project directors about how it would be interesting to see the Moving Gundam perform in a different space. To this, Ishii joked about how a partially indoor venue would be attractive so the weather wouldn't affect it.

After the talk session, Amano invited a special guest to the stage: Director Yoshiyuki Tomino, the franchise creator. While an interview with Tomino would have been amazing for Gundam fans, he came with a prepared statement. He spoke about how Gundam Factory Yokohama and the life-size “Moving Gundam” allowed him a new learning opportunity. He thanked all those involved and the fans watching the Grand Finale. However, he also managed to slip in one little joke regarding the life-size “Moving Gundam.” He admitted there were some technical issues the day before, and if some technical issues were to occur during the Finale, Tomino wanted fans to take it in strides and laugh with it and not at it.

Photo courtesy of Sotsu Sunrise

After the talk session and speeches, it was finally time for the special performance for the Gundam Factory Yokohama Grand Finale. But this was no ordinary short performance or show with the Moving Gundam. It was a nearly seven-minute theatrical section followed by a 20-minute fireworks and drone show celebrating the history of the Gundam franchise.

The theatrical section was the final “start-up experiment” for the life-size “Moving Gundam” at the GFY. Yet, this wasn't just a show where the Gundam moved. Instead, there was an entire story following the Gundam's pilot and those in mission control conducting the final experiment. But, part way through the experiment, something goes awry, and the pilot and mission control scramble to fix the situation. As much as this writer would like to keep everything a secret and nudge you towards the official video available until April 14 on the Gundam Channel on YouTube, to put it simply, the fictional Amuro AI gave a speech about how the RX-78F00 Gundam and the AI will go into a long slumber. The Amuro AI also passed along a message of peace and hope for the future. The theatrical section concluded with the life-size “Moving Gundam” pointing to the sky and LUNA SEA's version of “Beyond the Time ~Mobius no Sora wo Koete~” fading in.

As “Beyond the Time” began, organizers shot off a set of fireworks, signaling the beginning of the fireworks and drone show. The show covered the history of Gundam, going over some of the key moments of the original series, but also exploring facets of modern Gundam with a Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury and Mobile Suit Gundam Seed FREEDOM section. One of the show's highlights was a firework and drone rendition of The Witch From Mercury's Suletta Mercury and Miorine Rembran and Kira Yamato and Lacus Clyne from Seed FREEDOM. Both couples' love was truly written in the stars.




The show closed with a rendition of “The Beyond” by the LUNA SEA. In a final display by the drones, the drones displayed an image that thanked the city of Yokohama and the fans.


But this wasn't the end of the Grand Finale. With one last surprise, the “pilot” emerged from the Gundam's cockpit, announced the start-up experiment's success, and saluted the fans. Furthermore, the Amuro AI made one last speech pondering how technology would develop, especially that of Mobile Suits, and thanked all the fans.

While the Grand Finale ended and the fans departed, Tomino made one last appearance with musicians Takanori Nishikawa (T.M. Revolution) and Sugizo of LUNA SEA for a Q&A session for the press attending the event. The three men were jovial and shared their thoughts on the Grand Finale, the life-sized “Moving Gundam” at the GFY, and hopes for the Gundam franchise going forward. Sugizo noted how, as a native of Kanagawa Prefecture, the life-size “Moving Gundam” at the GFY was a point of pride. Both remembering he was also a Kanagawa native and felt the same, Tomino interjected to give his thoughts. With a little laugh between the three men, Nishikawa jokingly mentioned how Tomino and Sugizo shouldn't jockey over their Kanagawaness.


However, it was one of Tomino's final remarks that really struck a chord. He shared his hopes for the future of the Gundam franchise and said, “Gundam actually has a place to go back to. So, this is not really the finale. I am also convinced the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise will keep pioneering, so I would be grateful if you could support it so [something like this] can emerge again.” Through his words, we can see how Tomino wants to pass the franchise's spirit along and support it for a new generation.

While Tomino, Nishikawa, and Sugizo's appearance for the Q&A session was short, there was appreciation and pride in the GFY Gundam. However, getting his franchises crossed a bit, Sugizo posed with the Vulcan “Live long and prosper” salute from the Star Trek franchise. Surprisingly, the salute is appropriate for the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise as it is living long and prospering.

As Tomino said to the press, this isn't the finale for the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise and the life-size Moving Gundam. It's just the end of another chapter. And as a closing to this chapter, it was amazing. From the talk session by Yoshizaki, Ishii, Kawahara, and Ochiai on what could be done and what couldn't at the GFY, the prepared statement by Tomino, the life-size “Moving Gundam's” final start-up experiment, the fireworks and drone show, and the appearance of Tomino, Nishikawa, and Sugizo, it was a grand show. And somewhere in there, this writer thought he could see time like the Newtypes from Mobile Suit Gundam. The full GFY Grand Finale is currently available on the Gundam Channel on YouTube, and an abridged version of the press Q&A session with Tomino, Nishikawa, and Sugizo is available on the My Navi News YouTube Channel. So, if you want to potentially ascend to a Newtype, check out the videos.

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