Gundam turns 30; robot will live on, creator says

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's most popular robot animation, Gundam, turns 30 this year, and the creator of the anime series says the times have caught up with the futuristic show launched in the late 1970s.

"Gundam has presented many propositions that we face today in the real world," said Yoshiyuki Tomino, the TV show's executive director. "It will certainly live on for many years to come, perhaps another 50 years."

The animated sci-fi series "Mobile Suit Gundam" first aired in 1979. It was set 100 years in the future amid a space war between the Earth Federation and hostile space colonies. The show's popularity quickly skyrocketed and further Gundam series, comic books, video games and films were spun off.

"Gundam reminded viewers and fans of the potential power of humans and encouraged them not to lose hope," Tomino said.

To mark the 30th anniversary of Gundam's launch, a massive replica of the robot is being erected at Tokyo's Odaiba seaside park. It is scheduled to be unveiled Saturday and can be viewed until Aug. 31 - part of Gundam's birthday celebrations.

Tomino, speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on Tuesday, said he was initially against the idea of building a 60-foot high Gundam because he thought it would look cheap. But he later agreed with its construction.

"When I saw it, it was so powerful. Its toy-like color was so peaceful. To me it was the color of hope, not a weapon," Tomino said.

In Japan, it's not just animation and video game fans who appreciate Gundam's legacy. Scientific researchers in the country also see the character as a source of inspiration. Academics have established the International Gundam Society to bring various research disciplines together.

"Gundam is not just an animation or a robot. It's much deeper than that," Tomino said. "Gundam is quite awesome, and that's why I say there is no comparison."