BY DANE DRAYTON
I love the future
It’s 2015. We now have hoverboards, highly accessible media content and more Marvel films than we can handle, and yet it seems we have more to look forward to with a piloted robot battle between two American and Japanese companies with a passion for cartoons featuring four storey tall robots with teenage pilots. These lovable man-children have brought giant robots to life and have challenged each other to duke it out.
From the very first Tetsujin 28 (or ‘Gigantor’ as he was known in the western world) of 1969 and Mobile Suit Gundam of 1972, giant robots have been a staple of Japanese culture, design, artistic and technological influence the world over. They have inspired many other anime of the same concept, most being dubbed and released in the west, and even inspiring Hollywood movies like the 2013 film Pacific Rim. No one can really pinpoint their appeal, but they have been loved for almost half a century, clearly to the point of replication, with the Japanese company Suidobashi Heavy Industry creating the very first humanoid pilotable mech, the Kuratas. At 4m tall and weighing in at 4, 500kg, it has twin BB gattling guns, facial recognition software and a top speed of 10 miles per hour and is truly a staple of the mechas of old. It comes with a hefty price tag however, being on sale on Amazon.jp for more than US$1 million.
Team USA’s MegaBot. Video: http://www.megabots.com/
Suidobashi and the Kuratas held the title for the first and only giant robot in existence for four years, displaying and exhibiting at various conventions and gatherings. But then the American robotics institute, Megabots, revealed their Mark II, a two-manned mechanoid vehicle with paintball combat abilities and diesel engine-powered mobility. The Mark II weighs more than 5,000kg, 500kg heavier than the Kuratas. Ceremoniously, and rather immaturely, the company’s founders released a video online through Youtube challenging Suidobashi to a giant robot duel between the machines, as they are the only two that exist on the planet. In true Super Robot fashion, they must fight to see who’s superior.
Now this is where it gets interesting. Suidobashi released their own video agreeing to the duel, saying that giant robots are a staple of Japanese culture, and they weren’t going to be bested by the Americans’ attempt at one. Suidobashi has also set some duel rules, including that the robots must be modified for close combat.
In practical terms the Kuratas will fare better being of more humanoid design, whereas the Mark II is built for projectile warfare. Suidobashi CEO and Kuratas designer Kogoro Kurata said: “I want to punch them to scrap and knock them down to do it.” Both companies have their work cut out for them before the duel on a date to be announced in 2016.
As you can probably tell, I’m excited. This is amazing. And awesome. Amazingly awesome.
Featured image: Sudobashi’s Kuratas. Photo by Kazuyoshi Kato/CC/Flickr