Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Visit Japan's "Robot Mecha" - Redundant Title, Fun Article

"Make a Pilgrimage to Robot Mecha"
Wired Magazine (November 10, 2009)

"This fall, a full-scale replica of the venerable manga automaton Tetsujin 28 was unveiled in Kobe, Japan. The character, known in the West as Gigantor, was the first example of Japan's greatest cultural export — the giant robot. But the three-story-tall steel monster isn't the country’s first 'life-size' bot statue. There's a veritable army of them. Why not spend the holidays making a pilgrimage?..."

When I saw it, I thought the Wired article's title might be a typo. After all, in American English, "mecha" sounds like "Mecca." And, in American English, a mecca is a place that someone really, really wants to go to. Some of us even know that Mecca is a city on the Arabian peninsula, and very important to Muslims.

So, a "robot mecha" could either be a:
  1. Place that robots really want to go to
  2. Place about robots that people really want to go to
Turns out, it's #2.

The article is from early November, when you'd still have time to make holiday plans, with a little breathing room: but there's still about two weeks of 2009 left, so if you hurry, you could see all three 'life size' robot statues that the article mentions:
  • Tetsujin 28
  • Laputa Sentinel
  • Mobile Suit Gundam RX-78
There's a short entry for each, with the location in the city, how big it is, general directions for getting there, and a "fun fact" for each. For example, for Mobile Suit Gundam RX-78: "If fans complete a data-collecting game, they are granted access to nerdvana (the cockpit in its chest)."

"Nerdvana?!" Hey! I'd like to get inside the cockpit, and - - -. Oh, right.

About "robot mecha" being a redundant title: I've encountered uses of the word "mecha," where it apparently meant those outsized, (sometimes inexplicably) humanoid, robots and/or power suits you see in manga and movies. Used that way, "robot mecha" is rather redundant. On the other hand, someone told me that "mecha" means just about any technology - cool-looking tech, anyway. My guess is that "mecha" has a rather fluid set of meanings.

Now, why did I say that some of those manga and movie robots were "inexplicably" humanoid? Well, that's another topic.

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