Friday, November 30, 2018

Gundams and Giant Robots on the Anime Battlefield

Back in 2008, the Japan Science and Technology Agency published an estimated cost to build a Gundam.  The cost for the parts was $725,000,000 or three quarters of a billion bucks.  This doesn't include R&D, software, or engineering effort to create, assemble, and make the parts work together. Not adjusting for inflation, or anything else, that is still a pretty hefty bill even today.  Here are some estimated costs from the Internet about some other weapons systems / weapons for comparison.  This cost was probably for the RX-78-2 Model - not exactly a mass production model, but even if you cut the price in half for a production model that is still $300 million.
  • A Nimitz class carrier is $4.5 billion, with the newer Gerald R. Ford super carriers costing $9 billion.  This is without planes or missiles or bombs.
  • F-35 Lightning fighter is supposed to be around $80 million, once it is in full production, even though it is about $90 million right now.  
  • An F-15X or Super Hornet is in the $60 - $70 million range.  
  • An M1 battle tank is about $9 million, with a tank gun round for it running at $5,000.
  • A Hellfire anti-tank missile is $115 thousand.
  • A Tomahawk cruise missile is $1.5 million.
  • Rifle bullet is about $1.
From the numbers above, you can see that a giant robot is indeed pretty expensive.  An expensive weapons system like this needs to really prove its worth in battle.  And I'm pretty sure you are not going to make a giant robot with all of its tech cheaper than an F-35, so it is at least $100 million plus, but lets stick with $300 million.  Now we need to look at some of the attributes of a giant robot versus some other weapons systems to start looking at what its perceived effectiveness would be.

A twenty metre tall robot of human proportions is a big target (Gundam Unicorn height) and would probably weigh at least double or more than what a tank would weigh of the same size with thinner armour all around.  This would put it in the 100+ metric ton range, which is pretty heavy.  This machine is going to sink into the earth with every step and crack concrete when it runs (see Maus).  Fortunately, Gundams do have some advanced tech so they do not weigh this much.  When I wrote my mecha stories for Exocrisis Blue I did something similar with extreme mobility too.

Below are some specifications for a Gundam and some other weapons systems:
  • Gundam Unicorn is about 21 metres high, 4 metres wide with a base weight of 23 metric tons and a fully loaded weight of 43 tons (about the weight of a Russian T-80 tank).  I got these numbers from Gundam Wiki and I'm not sure how a Gundam doubles its weight when loaded (every weapon in the arsenal?)
  • M1 battle tank is 10 metres long, 4 metres wide, 2.5 metres high and weighs about 63 metric tons (heavier for the later versions).
  • F-15C fighter is 19.5 metres long, 13 metres wide, 5.63 metres high and weights about 12.7 metric tons empty, 20 tons loaded up.
So it looks like a Gundam is double the dimensions for a battle tank, is the length of an air superiority fighter, and has a weight that is in between that of a tank and a jet fighter.  A jet has many lightweight materials in it with powerful engines so that it can fly and carry both fuel and weapons.  A jet doesn't absorb or stop damage like a tank does with its heavy armour, but it does different amazing things like travel great distances, break the speed of sound, and carry big payloads.  Big anime robots, aka mobile suits are a cross between tanks and jets as they are very nimble for their size, can fly, and are more heavily armoured than a jet.  Big robots are a miracle of tech as they are packed full of electronics, software, advanced motors, amazing power plants, artificial muscles, alloys, and armour that is far more durable than Chobham in a tank.  I like giant robots, but you can tell that you have to really push the envelope to make them work like they do in an anime.  This includes Full Metal Panic, Aldnoah Zero, Gundam, Patlabor, etc.  Super robots like Mazinger are another story altogether.

In combat, big robots would need to be able to fulfill either a special mission like a raid or be able to take on massive numbers of conventional foes.  Super nimble robots able to dodge fire from tanks and take hits from missiles would work, but they have to be worth their price tag.  You can buy 30 M-1 tanks for the price of a production robot if it costs $300 million.  Any robot at this price has to be able to withstand hits from tank guns or anti-tank missiles.  It would suck for a $5 thousand dollar tank round or $100 thousand anti-tank missile to cripple a $300 million robot, especially as the robot is on the front line fighting, not like an aircraft carrier.  Gundams can take a huge amount of punishment and deal it out too, but you can imagine how many of these you could really afford, especially when you are talking about your enemies also having big robots to kill big robots at $300 million a pop.  BTW, Gundams are so effective, I don't know why you would build anything else in the various anime as they are like demi-god robots.
Big humanoid robots would also really not do well in built up urban environments - they would be like tanks - vulnerable to all kinds of enemy fire from cover, and hemmed in by the built-up environment.  In anime, they are generally too nimble in the best robots to be trapped, but that is anime for you.  So, big robots really are a kind of fun fantasy, especially when you imagine their weapons, power plants and armour employed in smaller conventional tanks or planes in a more cost effective package.  In the arms race, someone builds a better defence, but it doesn't take long for someone to build a better weapons to defeat that defence.

In the meantime, I still like big robot anime, as who wouldn't want to see one for real, and who wouldn't want to pilot one too!  Do see the giant Gundam in Odaiba if you are ever in Tokyo.  It is big and very cool.

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Japanese Candy and Snacks Fall 2018

Over the course of the fall and early winter I found all kinds of tasty Japanese candy and snacks in local Asian supermarkets.  I'm not a huge fan of just any sweets which is why I generally avoid the Japan candy crates and boxes that have proliferated in the last few years.  This is the same for ramen, where I would rather order what I know I like or am interested in.  So, here is a selection of the treats I've had in the last little while.
An assortment I found in a Calgary supermarket.
This is a pretty tasty little green tea milk candy.  It is soft and chewy!  Fujiya knows how to make milk candy.
Mainly a ramune flavoured hard candy, but with some variations on the base flavour.  I like how the bag is kind of ramune bottle in shape.
Fried rice crackers and tapioca crackers.  Yummy, but the bag went really quick.
A couple of varieties of green tea chocolate in each box.  Smooth and matcha tasting.  There are also many kinds of green tea too so there is plenty of different flavour potentials.
Baumkuchen!  This is a German spit cake that is very popular in Japan and it is good.  I couldn't believe there were bags of fresh cake available.  You just have to eat it within a few days once the outer package is opened.
Mochi with different fillings.  These are from Taiwan, but still good.
Saw these tasty Japanese ice creams in the local market, but they were like $5 for a little cup.
Green tea ice cream.
Dorayaki! Tasty Japanese pancakes with a filling.  I bought the one in the middle with good old red bean.  Again, it is pretty cool to find fresh-ish baking.
I really like these cookies from Japan.  There are six flavours in this box and they are thin, crispy and delicious.
Another view of the individual packages of cookies.
Green tea cookies and some soft biscuits with fruit filling.  Both were good, but the green tea cookies were a bit on the too sweet for me end.

Japanese Snacks I Would Stock Up On Next Time I'm In Tokyo

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Tasting Marutai Nagasaki Agodashi Shoyu Ramen and Oita Chicken Shoyu Ramen

This post continues my tasting adventure for instant ramen with the regional flavours of Kyushu.  I purchased a big gift box / sampler pack of Kyushu ramen made by Murutai awhile back and have been eating them when I have a chance.  There were seven varieties to start and I have reviewed four so far as of this review.
Front of the big Marutai Kyushu box showing all 7 ramen inside.
 Nagasaki Agodashi Shoyu Ramen
Nagasaki prefecture is well known for agodashi, a broth made from dried flying fish.  When I first looked at this ramen package I thought it was basically a typical shoyu variety.  After I found out about the agodashi I was definitely expecting a deeper flavour profile.
The front of the Nagasaki Agodashi Soy Ramen package.  It shows a nice looking ramen soup with sesame seeds and lots of toppings. The nice deep blue sure goes with the seafood broth theme!
Back of the package.
The package contains two servings of straight stick ramen noodles, two soup base powder satchets, and two oil/fat seasoning packets.
There was a nice soy aroma from this soup and it was a fairly dark broth.  The powdered soup based contains grilled flying fish, pork, chicken, sardines, kelp, scallops, bonito, seaweed, sesame seeds, and tuna.  After tasting the broth, it definitely had a deeper flavour profile than a typical soy broth.  There was depth to it that was kind of complex, a little fishy, but full of umami.  I didn't mind it at all, but my fellow diner thought it was too fishy.  In Japan, this ramen has been rated fairly highly for the flavour which is definitely there.
The finished soup with typical ramen noodles, an egg, some beans, and luncheon meat. Was pretty nice!

Oita Chicken Shoyu Ramen with Yuzu
Oita has mild weather that allows yuzu fruit grow well in the area, so it is famous for this type of Japanese lemon-like citrus fruit.  This chicken bone soy sauce soup has chicken broth, konbu and bonito as elements to it.
The front of the Oita Chicken Soy Ramen package.  Show a simple ramen with a dash of yuzu peel powder on the soup.  The light green colour of the package suggests a brightly flavoured soup.
The back of the ramen package.
The package contains two servings of straight noodles, two packets of Yuzu powder (with citrus fruit pictures), and two packets of powdered soup base.
This turned out to be a fairly mild shoyu soup in flavour.  I'm not sure I got the chicken taste out of it, but it was a nice light soup.  The yuzu peel powder gave the soup just a hint of citrus, but there wasn't a lot of the yuzu powder to go around.  This ramen soup was pleasant enough, but not one of my favourites out of the box.
Added some green onion, a fried egg, and some roasted turkey to it to make a meal.

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Tokyo Banana - Japanese Souvenir Cakes, Cookies, and Baked Goods

There are many kinds of souvenirs to pick up on any Tokyo trip.  Food related souvenirs are tasty, yet temporary, but there are all kinds of baked goods that will stay fresh for a week or two or more.  Best of all, you often don't even have to buy these until the day you leave.  Many of these are sold at the airport either before or after you go through security.  I actually noticed that the price is even cheaper after you pass through security at the airport as they are truly duty free, something that was not repeated for alcohol when I looked.  If you are wondering about freshness in the boxes of baked goods then check the dates on them to see their best before.  Remember it is Japan, so freshness and quality will be pretty good.

Below are a bunch of pictures of various types of confectionary or baked goods you can buy.  I always bring a two or three boxes back of mini-cakes or mochi.  One of the most famous brands is Tokyo Banana, with many different flavours - not just banana, so you do have some choice.  Having all these boxed baked goods to go is because of the Japanese custom of omiyage.  This is when a traveller brings gifts or souvenir for friends, coworkers, and family after returning home from a trip.

Ad for Tokyo Banana at Tokyo Station.  These are little sponge cakes with a cream filling.
Chocolate Tokyo Banana
Green tea Tokyo Banana
Melon cake.
Milk cookies.
Cookies and little pastries.
Fancy sake flavoured Kit Kats.
These cookies are so tasty with various toppings.
More gren tea cakes from Mt. Fuji.
Strawberry cakes from Mt Fuji.
Thin butter cookies with cream.

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Maruchan Seimen Uma Kara TanTan Ramen Noodle Bowl

I previously reviewed Maruchan's Seimen Hojun Koku Shoyu Bowl Noodle and am looking forward to trying this spicy TanTan noodle bowl.  This is another of Maruchan's deluxe ramen bowls in Japan that are all gold in color.  The bright colour definitely stands out and shows up on a shelf, beckoning you to pick it up to eat.  These noodle bowls use their dried, not fried noodles that they have spent a lot of time engineering to have a real noodle taste and consistency.
Nice looking bowl of ramen noodles on the lid of the bowl.  All of the gold really makes it look pretty fancy, and even the noodles look pretty beautiful. You can see that the soup has a nice spicy reddish tinge to it and that there is some ground meat and green onions to compliment the noodles.
3/4 view of the bowl.
Side of the bowl showing the nutritional information and warnings.  This noodle bowl still has 17.5 grams of fat, but the fat is coming from the soup base, not the noodles.  This is going to be a rich tasting and delicious soup.
Ingredients and directions for making the soup.
Side label.
Opening up the bowl reveals a disc of noodles, a dried toppings pouch, liquid tan tan / miso pouch, and a dried soup base pouch.  Lots of ingredients to add to the ramen soup.
Closeup of the dried noodle block.  You can tell it doesn't look fried and the noodle are roughly regular in side but a little thinner than fried noodles.
You can see sesame seeds, dried ground pork, and green onions in this satchet.
I added everything at the same time to save work.  You can see that is a nice amount of powdered soup and that the spicy miso paste is very substantial in volume.  This should make for nice soup.  The dried toppings are okay, but almost seem like the least of the three in terms of what you get.
After adding boiling water and letting the noodles rehydrate for 4 -5 minutes, the soup is ready.  The noodles have plumped up and mixing everything together makes for a thicker broth.
After waiting over four minutes, I peeled the lid back, you could already smell the rich taste of the spicy miso soup.  There is lots of umami in this soup.  It needed to be thoroughly mixed though, something that was easily done with a fork.  The noodles had all separated nicely from each other and it looked absolutely delicious.  My first taste of the soup confirmed the aromas coming from the bowl.  It was very tasty with a mild heat.  The soup base had a nice miso / slightly nutty taste that was great!  The ground meat wasn't very substantial, but it accompanied the perfect chewy noodles and the soup nicely.  I want another one of these, but don't have one. 
Closeup of the noodles.

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