We are always pleasantly surprised and delighted by the unexpected robots we run into at the Robo-One competitions here in Japan. It's not unusual to find some astonishing new robot in the ring, or backstage in the participant's preparation rooms. But every once in a while we make some new and interesting robot find out in front where all the sponsor's exhibits are setup.
As children, all of us have drawn and cut out and decorated paper figures. Sometimes it's a paper doll, sometimes a paper airplane.
Eventually we grow out of it - or we're lectured by our parents to behave like adults and put 'childish' things behind us.
That's really unfortunate, at least in our humble opinion, since when we hide those childhood toys in the closet we often pack away our creatively and artistic spirit along with them.
For Tomohiro Yasui it started with creating paper robots 24 years ago, and he hasn't stopped yet. Not only hasn't he given up, he's gone completely in the opposite direction and has become the core of a growing character business here.
In Japanese, the word for paper is 'kami' and robot is frequently shortened to 'robo'. So Yasui-san's paper robots are known as "Kami-Robo".
Since 1982 he's created over 200 unique designs and blessed each one with an appropriate name, background, talents, and characteristics. Now his robot designs are sold as books, Kami-Robo sets, and there is even a movie in the works.
There's also an interesting bit of wordplay involved. Although it uses a different kanji (Japanese character), 'kami' is also the Japanese word for a god. And many of Yasui-san's designs look very much like fierce god robots.