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Japan sold a fully-functional robot suit that doesn’t just resemble a combat mech from a video game, it was able to actually fight like one too. With video games like “Armored Core,” mech fans already have a good idea of what giant fighting robots would be like in real life. One such fan is Kogoro Kurata –- an artist who wasn’t satisfied with leaving that notion to the imagination. Kurata explained that driving these giant robots was his dream, saying it was something the “Japanese had to do” (via Reuters). Unlike some of the coolest modern robots available today, Kurata envisioned a full-sized mech he can actually enter and operate: Something he actually accomplished in 2012.
Of course, seeing giant robots in Japan is nothing new, but Kurata didn’t want to just build them for himself, he wanted to sell them to the public. So in just two years, Kurata’s company -– Suidobashi Heavy Industry –- unveiled the world’s first giant mech suit. It’s a 13-foot tall, diesel-powered robot called … well, a Kurata. Its YouTube video demonstration showcased various features including an onboard touchscreen, remote control function, and a 6 mph top speed. Aside from optional cup-holders, Kuratas also have so-called weapons attachments. They are equipped with a water bottle launcher and Gatling BB gun that shoots when the driver smiles because, well, why not? While Kurata’s vision was meant to simply inspire others to build similar mech projects instead of creating actual combat-ready weapons. But that doesn’t mean it cannot fight.
Robot Fighting Game in real life
Kuratas weren’t the only giant mech robots making waves at the time. In 2015, Kurata’s rising media coverage caught the attention of U.S.-based start-up Megabots, who called for a duel in what would be the world’s first real-life giant robot fight. It didn’t take long before Kurata accepted Megabots’ challenge, but both had to wait two years before it could happen. Once preparations were complete, the Kurata was finally ready to make history against Megabots’ two-pilot giant mech suit. The result? A reality TV-style epic clash of steel titans that had both teams winning a round against each other. In the first round, the more technologically-advanced Kurata showcased its speed and accuracy, defeating its American-made adversary in just one decisive blow.
However, Kurata didn’t want to face just one robot, he wanted to fight another on the same day (via CNBC). Unfortunately for Japan’s mech warrior, this proved to be a gargantuan task — even for a machine of this magnitude. The Kurata eventually ceased functioning in the third round. After being battered and sawed, Kurata was forced to abandon his prized robot due to potentially hazardous mechanical failure. More importantly, though, this exhibition showed the world that when Japanese robots attack, they do it with precision and meticulous strategy instead of simply brute force. Complex limb articulation, melee combat maneuvers, and full onboard pilot control basically make Kuratas as close to an Armored Core as one can get, but were there any takers?
What happened to the world’s first fighting mech robot?
These 4-ton mechanical behemoths come with equally hefty price tags: About $1.35 million each (via The Verge). The giant mech suit’s price isn’t the only unique thing about it though, as Kurata claimed he had received thousands of interested buyers, per Reuters. Although Kurata admitted there were numerous order cancellations among those, that didn’t stop them from resurfacing online. In 2019, a Kurata starter kit showed up on Amazon Japan. Despite costing just as much, the starter kit doesn’t include arms; those were sold separately. Did that make them any less desirable though? Not exactly, as its Amazon listing not only shows that it’s no longer available, there are numerous favorable reviews.
It’s unclear how many Kuratas were sold, or if there will be more of these giant mech suits for sale in the future, but it seems like Kurata is moving on to other projects. In his official blog, Kurata announced his new company website, which already features various products that are just as outlandish as his giant fighting robot. This includes a futuristic gun that shoots toilet paper, another that plants flowers, a ridiculously stacked pair of glasses with 10 times magnification, and a Fiat 500 converted into a bulldozer, among others. As for the Kurata suit, its most recent development involved a working cannon arm. Since the platform already exists, will we ever see Kuratas back as real life Armored Cores in the future? Your move, Japan.