Japan marks Gundam's birthday

Just weeks after the opening of the world's first Gundam cafe in Tokyo, a number of companies and communities across Japan are also marking the 30th anniversary of the release of the first "Mobile Suit Gundam" models.

All Nippon Airways is to give one of its aircraft a special paint job for the the next nine months, with a graphic of the machines splashed along the fuselage, while a life-size statue is being constructed outside Higashishzuoka Station.

The colossal figure, which is due to be completed by July 24, will be armed with its signature Beam Sabre.
One of the most popular animated television programs when it was first released in 1979, Gundam soon spawned a wide range of spin-off products that caught on around the world. Based on the animated tale debuting in 1979 of giant robotic suits called Gundam,  that are guided by human "pilots," plastic model kits first hit toy stores shelves in 1980.

Bandai Co., the toy company behind the kits, has sold an impressive 400 million units and the global franchise is believed to be worth around Y50 billion (€404.4 million).

The company chose the city of Shizuoka as the site for its 18-meter tall statue as a nearby factory produces the plastic model kits - more commonly known as "Gunpla" - while ANA has collaborated with Bandai on previous projects.

"We will be having an image of Gundam on the fuselage of one of our Boeing 777 aircraft on domestic routes from July 16 until the end of the fiscal year in March," Megumi Tezuka, a spokesman for the airline, told Relaxnews.

"We're doing this because this year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the first plastic model kit," she said. "People who are in their 30s and 40s now were children when Gundam first appeared, so we want to give them happy memories of their childhood and give them something that they can talk about with their own children."

ANA will also be selling two collectors' edition Gundam model kits on its flights, one for domestic routes and a different version on its international flights.

Namco Bandai is also developing a new title in the existing Gundam computer game series that takes advantage of the new stereogram technology in the new Nintendo 3DS hand-held game player.

JR

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