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Defense Ministry's "Gandam development" plan. Ranking official meant business

11, 12. 2007

   It is attracting attention over the internet that the Japanese Defense Ministry is now "developing" Gandam, the giant anime robot still enjoying firm popularity. The talk was triggered when it was reported that "Gandam to come true" as one of the Defense Ministry's activities. What put oil to the fire was that the report was not a mere "mischief" of a defense official but a clear statement made by a ranking official at the ministry's Technical Research and Development Institute. To what extent is he serious?

Gandam means "advanced individual armament"

HP of Technical Research and Development Institute introducing the
HP of Technical Research and Development Institute introducing the "Gandam to come true" and other displays at the event

   Gandam is a "mobile suit", man-shaped mobile weapon that stands 18 meters tall. It is operated by men inside, but its fans do not look at it as a mere robot. It was first introduced on TV almost 30 years ago, but the original and its sequels continue to be popular.

   The talk about the defense ministry's development of Gandam is so popular that more than 20 threads are posted on the 2channel as of Oct. 30, 2007. Postings are made on the basis of the information made public on the home page of the Technical Research and Development Institute of the Defense Ministry. It seems to have started with a statement that "toward the realization of Gandam" that was written as one of the items exhibited at the "display session" conducted as part of the "defense technology symposium 2007" held at a hotel in Tokyo. The event was open to the public.

   There is also the item called "small robot" on the home page. But such words as "Gandam to be realized" and "robot" would not fail to excite the expectation of Gandam fans. The "Gadam to be brought to reality", however, was explained in parenthesis as "(advanced individual armament system)". The postings on the internet also included many that received the incident coolly by pointing out that it should not be thought that an 18-meter-tall mobile suit was actually displayed at the exhibition room of the hotel.

   It should not be disregarded, however, that the "advanced individual armament system" had nothing to do with Gandam. The advanced individual armament system refers to a bullet-proof vest equipped with computers and sensors that make the wearers know their conditions or a helmet with antennas that tell the wearers their exact positions. "Powered suits" that give the wearers abilities beyond those of humans have been written about in science fiction stories, and they are now being developed for use for medical, defense and other practical purposes. According to the free internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, the science fiction Starship Troopers gave a hint for the production of the Mobile Suit Gandam. It many not be any strange that individual armament system was connected with Gandam in thinking.

"Something like Gandam is meant for the future."

   Is it only to attract the public attention to use the name of "Gandam" in part of the event where the Technical Research and Development Institute of the Defense Ministry is responsible for the displays? By interviewing a person in charge of the public relations at the institute, J-CAST News learned that a ranking official at the ministry has long called advanced armament system "Gandam". The ranking official is Yoshitaka Akiyama, director in charge of events. It was confirmed through the public relations official that he is using the word Gandam to express his personal image. The April issue of the defense affairs magazine MAMOR (published by Fusosha Publishing Inc.) also quoted Akiyama as saying that he called part of the armament Gadam to mean that he wanted it to be made something like the famous anime character Gandam in the future. Asked if production of a giant robot would be also in sight, the official replied he was not allowed to divulge the future of development plans.

   An official at the planning section of the Technical Research and Development Institute, which was in charge of the symposium, explained that the use of the word Gandam was intended to avoid the serious image of a government event so that the event would be easier for the general public to understand. A person would be available at the event to explain to the visitors about the realization of Gandam. The official in charge of planning worried that the visitors might become angry when they knew a life-size model of Gandam was not displayed.

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