The robots are coming, and they are Japanese. About 50 percent of the world’s population of robots five on the island of Japan, and a large shore of the rest living outside have been exported from there. Japan manufactures the mythic image of robot plural, of comprising a countless, advancing army of robotic dinosaurs; it is the source of nearly all the millions of robot toys and epic Saturday-morning robot cartoons. This book surveys life in robotto okuku, the Japanese nickname for their own Robot Kingdom, and illuminates the way a culture aspires to, and eventually accommodates, the ways and metaphors of robot.
These robots were precision-scale models of the seemingly endless varieties of robots in the ever-expanding Gundam animation universe, plus some extras, and by then a total of one hundred million had been sold, nearly one for every man, woman and child in Japan. Most were assembled from kits, but some were also sold in completed form. One, the Deluxe Mobile Suit MSZO06 Z Gundam, retailed in for around thirty dollars and, as the box design shouts in English (for advertising effect), is a “perfect detailed super heavy version.” It is also designed with the complexity of an origami masterpiece; to transform it into a fighter plane requires nearly forty different twists and turns. But if a boy cannot figure out the complex movements, all is not lost. Bandai was one of the first Japanese toy makers to guarantee its wares in 1958 and like most major toy companies today has a national network of walk-in service centres where specially trained staff answer questions and complaints from consumers – and demonstrate how to properly transform robots.