It isn’t known if Yoshiyuki Tomino, creator of the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, has heard about the Twitter scandal to engulf the BBC. However, a horde of fans have already voiced their outrage at the public broadcaster for not knowing their mecha.
On Thursday August 6, the BBC Sport Twitter feed Tweeted a photograph of a speed climbing event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with a life-size giant robot in the background. The caption reads, “Just when you thought speed climbing was frightening enough, you now need to impress a Transformer too at #Tokyo2020!”
As any ANN reader will see at the link, the robot is not a Transformer. It is, in fact, the lifesize statue of the Gundam Unicorn in Tokyo’s Odaiba district. It has been standing there since September 2017, replacing a previous statue of the RX-78-2 Gundam from the original 1979 Gundam series. (The anime Gundam Unicorn is pictured right.)
As of writing, the offending Tweet has been retweeted more than 7,500 times and liked (possibly ironically) nearly 14,000 times. Among the countless responses, Matt Alt, author of Pure Invention: How Japan Made the Modern World, observed that the incident was, “An illustration of how Japanese pop culture has conquered global tastes, in the form of six thousand Twitter users piling on the BBC for mistaking a Gundam for a Transformer.”
BBC Sport later acknowledged the mistake, and threw out the question of who would win in an Olympic battle between a Gundam and a Transformer.
The Kotaku website reported that BBC commentators also struggled to identify the Gundam statue the previous week, when triathletes were cycling past it in another Olympic event. According to Kotaku, the commentator offered this wisdom: ““Going past this giant statue of… Gandum, which is some sort of famous robot. Uh, I don’t know anything about it.” In fairness, the same commentator reportedly referenced it later as “Gandum, the Unicorn robot” – nearly right.
Update: It turns out that BBC is not the only broadcaster to make this mistake. The official Twitter feed for Teledeporte, the sports channel for Spanish public broadcasting network RTVE, Tweeted a GIF on July 25 of the life-sized Gundam with the following caption: “Un transformers vigila la prueba de triatlón.” This translates roughly to “A Transformer watches the triathlon.”
🤖 Un transformers vigila la prueba de triatlón
Twitter users have been quick to point out the mistake here as well.
Thanks to Grace Bellerby for the heads-up.