Is it too late for us to reenroll in elementary school?

Japan has a couple of life-size Gundam statues, but only one of them moves. That’s the full-scale recreation of the RX-78 Gundam in Yokohama, about half an hour south of downtown Tokyo, which serves as the 18-meter (59-foot) tall centerpiece of the bayside Gundam Factory Yokohama facility.

The moving RX-78 is currently undergoing maintenance, though, in preparation of a new summertime sound/video show scheduled to start next month. But while that’s a bummer for most fans, it was actually the opportunity of a lifetime for a group of local schoolchildren, who not only got to see the giant anime mecha up-close and personal, but control its hand too!

Aside from being amazing to look at, the moving Gundam statue is also a marvel of mechanical engineering, and so last November the Yokohama Municipal board of Education entered into a partnership with Evolving G, the company that manages Gundam Factory Yokohama. Since then over 1,400 kids from 23 schools have participated in programs learning about the science involved in building the real-world Gundam, and last Tuesday a group of 26 sixth graders from Yokohama’s public Kurogane Elementary School took a field trip to Gundam Factory Yokohama (“kurogane” incidentally, means “iron” in Japanese, but it’s unclear if the awesomeness/appropriateness of the school’s name was a factor in its selection).

After listening to presentations about the design and construction of the statue, the kids took turns controlling Gundam’s right hand. This was more than just them pressing a button to put the hand through a pre-set series of motions, too. Using a glove fitted with sensors, the young mecha jocks were able to move Gundam’s hand in real time, with each finger capable of independent movement.

That hand, by the way, weighs 182 kilograms (401 pounds), 133 of which are from the steel and aluminum internal mechanicals, with the remaining 49 fiber-reinforced polymer casing (or armor, if you want to stick to the in-anime classification). With the fingers unfurled, the palm measures 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) across.

Much like with the newly redesigned Catbus that’s going to be waiting for visitors at Ghibli Park, it’s hard for adult fans to not feel a twinge of jealousy at this for-kids-only experience. That said, it’s usually not a full-grown adult who ends up piloting the titular mecha of the various Gundam anime series, so it’s sort of fitting that it was a group of kids moving Gundam’s hand, and the rest of us will just have to keep our own human fingers crossed that we get a chance too someday.

Sources:, PC Watch via Otakomu
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