[FOUNTAIN]A famous robot reflectsThey called me a Japanese cultural remnant or an indecent plagiarism of the popular Japanese animation character Mazinger Z. I don’t think I deserve such ridicule. It is true, of course, that I look like Mazinger Z. However, I do taekwondo and am the first robot capable of martial arts. Tosho Daimos, Japan’s first martial arts robot, came along two years after I was born. If introducing culture and civilization created in a neighboring country has to be denounced as “copying,” it may be OK to criticize me.
I turn 30 this year. Confucius said that at 30, a man’s character is established and at 50, he knows the will of heaven. However, being a mere robot, I cannot understand the noble words. Instead, I would like to look back on the last three decades of my life.
I was born July 24, 1976. The first few months after my birth was my height of popularity. Even the most internationally sought-after stars today could have been no match for me then. Children would sing along with the theme song in the theater, “Run, run Mr. Robot. Fly, fly Taekwon V!” They would clap and stamp along with the music. My movie attracted 180,000 viewers in Seoul alone and became the second-highest box office hit of the year.
However, popularity was transient and vain. By the 1980s and 1990s, my name had been forgotten.
I made a comeback from the decades-long oblivion thanks to kidult culture. Kidult, a word composed by “kid” and “adult,” refers to the grown-ups who continue to be attracted to youth culture.
As advertisers exploit nostalgia for childhood memories as a marketing tactic, pictures, posters, figures and toys resembling me are traded at high prices. I won the Asia RoBo-One Competition last year, defeating Mazinger Z with one blow. Partly because of the victory, I was chosen as the most heroic figure in the Korean animation. I feel like my golden days have come again.
With my 30th birthday a few months away, a humble party is to be celebrated on May 24. At the 10th Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival, the restored original 1976 film will be screened. The restoration process cost 1 billion won ($1 million) last year. A 3-D version of the animation is scheduled for release in July, riding the Hallyu, or Korean Wave. These days, my name is increasingly mentioned in the industry. I am often called the standard-bearer of Korean robotics, one of the industries the country hopes to promote for the future. At age 30, a Hallyu star and the standard-bearer of the Korean robotics are both good things to become.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.