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Senkōsha (先行者) is a classic Japanese meme (and to a lesser extent, Taiwanese meme) involving parody of China’s first bipedal humanoid robot, Xianxingzhe (先行者). It is said that the robot will singlehandedly save its nation from corporate capitalism using its crotch cannon (Japanese: 中華キャノン, Chūka Kyanon, lit. Chinese Cannon).
Source : Xianxingzhe (先行者)
Completed on November 29, 2000 by the Chinese National University of Defense Technology, the bipedal robot was seen as a significant advance for Chinese robotics. It was named Xianxingzhe, meaning “forerunner” in English.
- Stood 140 centimeters tall (4’7")
- Weighed 20 kg (44.1 lb)
- Speeds of anywhere from 2 steps per second to 1 step per 6 seconds
- Ability to understand very basic language commands (like saying 你好/“NǐHǎo”)
- Rotation of joints
- Ability to wink
- Remote control by Fiber Optics
And with this robot, Chinese news outlets announced that China had joined the ranks of other developed countries in their robotics technology.
Samurai Damasii Parodies
Due to the primitive nature of Xianxingzhe and its somewhat unappealing design, Japanese websites were quick to satirize Chinese enthusiasm over the robot. In Japan, it is called Senkōsha because that is the Japanese pronunciation of 先行者 (Xianxingzhe).
On March 3, 2001, a Japanese website Samurai Damasii (侍魂) posted a page ridiculing Senkōsha as being “the crystallization of China’s four thousand years of scientific knowledge,” China’s “trump card,” and the “forerunner” of robot technology:
Senkōsha is armed with a “Crotch Cannon.”
Following the popularity of the first site, Samurai Damasii created a second page on March 15, 2001, “revealing” that Senkōsha was actually a lethal military weapon.
According to Samurai Damasii, here is how Senkōsha uses its weapon:
First Senkōsha shakes its body to stir up energy in the ground.
Then it does squats to harness the Earth’s energy until its energy charge is “120% complete”
Because of the catastrophic destruction that Senkōsha could potentially unleash, the author expressed his concerns about the future of world peace and Senkōsha’s ability to make people die laughing.
Soon, Samurai Damasii started receiving more 10,000 pageviews per day, with a peak of 200,000 pageviews on one day. The total viewcount is about 80 million.
Because 2channel was not as popular in 2001 as it is now, it wasn’t a huge contributor to the Senkōsha phenomenon. However, there are some Shift-JIS arts on 2channel.
Following Samurai Damasii’s success, the Silchov Brothers (シルチョフ兄弟社) created the doujin games Senkōsha Game 1 and Senkōsha Game 2 in 2001 (CD-rom versions are also sold that have additional features).
In these games, you control Senkōsha, battling evil robots (with an obvious resemblance to Japanese robots). You are to destroy as many enemies as possible until you are finally destroyed.
The games diverge a bit from Samurai Damasii’s description of Senkōsha; now you are equipped with: the Chinese Drill, the Chinese Chop, a Gatling gun (in the cannon), a self-destruct button, a jet pack, and can receive power-ups.
The plot of Senkousha Game 1 follows the fictitious “Asia One Year Conflict” (アジア一年紛争). In 2003, the nation of Japan declared bankruptcy. This led to a crash in the Asian economy. To ensure their survival, the Asian corporate giants underwent a series of M&A, forming conglomerates with various militaries of Asian countries. These companies later developed Robot Army (RA) units for military uses. Because of the chaos, terrorism and territorial disputes were frequent. On the surface they are only minor regional conflicts, but in reality they are corporate wars between the enterprises of different nations. In the end, it was said that it wasn’t American intervention or nuclear bombs that ended the war, it was a new Communist robot and an Ace pilot that did.
The plot of Senkousha Game 2 takes place ten years after the events of Senkousha Game 1, and follows the “Kawamura Rebellion” (川村の反乱). After the Asia One Year Conflict, the RA Treaty was signed to abolish the development and use of RA weapons, and their programmers were prosecuted. But on 20 July 2013, during an end-of-war memorial parade in Tiananmen Square, an unknown armed RA unit opened fire on the parade. Following this violation of the RA Treaty, the sealed Senkousha emerges from its hangar to fight once again.
Many Fan-made novels and short stories about Senkōsha were made based on this plot.
Here is a list of high scores for some of the games.
先行者3D (3-D Senkōsha game)
The Silchov Brothers also tried creating 3D online shooting game of Senkōsha. However, they never finished producing the game. Later, It was recreated and released by HyperOctagonStation in 2005.
Parallel Worlds (Battlefield 1942 MOD)
The “Parallel Worlds” modification for Battlefield 1942 features Senkōsha as an operable vehicle, complete with its crotch cannon.
Song & Music
Senkōsha the King of China (中華王 先行者, ChūkaOh Senkōsha )
In May 2001, ZATU a college student and an amateur musician composed the song “Senkōsha the King of China” (中華王 先行者, ChūkaOh Senkōsha ). The corresponding movie was completed on Oct 1, 2001:
The song has two lyrical variations. The “normal” version praises Senkōsha as “the people’s pride.” In contrast, the alternative version insults him as “knicks and knacks.”
Because this song, many were inspired to make their own Senkōsha music.
Dash off! Senkōsha (駆けつけろ! 先行者, Kaketsukero Senkōsha)
More Senkōsha music can be found on SaHKa’s Homepage Annex!.
Nosferatu (のすふぇらとぅ), a very famous amateur animator among Japanese internet users since 2000, created a Senkōsha GIF animation entitled, “For the country” in September of 2001. In the anime, Senkōsha is shown beating up the Honda ASIMO.
- How to make your own Paper Senkōsha.
- A Cell-phone strap of Senkōsha was imported from China and sold by several Japanese import shops in the summer of 2001.
Reception in Japan
Combot, a character in Tekken 4 produced by NAMCO in 2001, is an homage to and a parody of Senkōsha. In this interview, the designers said that Combot’s design was inspired by Senkōsha because they were fans of Samurai Damashii. Combot has the sign “戦闘者” (Sentousya, lit. combat) on his back.
The addition of Combot may have been influenced by Ken’s (webmaster of Samurai Damashii) love of the Tekken series.
In May 2002, a plastic model of Senkōsha was released by Netrunner a Japanese magaizine well known for responding quickly to internet phenomena.
However, the title written on the package was not “Senkōsha” but rather, “Chūka Kyanon” to avoid any trademark-related claim by China.
Guest appearance in animations
Puni Puni Poemy (2001)
Senkōsha made a cameo appearance in the second episode of the Japanese slapstick comedy, Puni Puni Poemy.
A “Chinese-made ultimate combat robot” known as “Chūka Taiho” (中華大砲) appeared in the Japanese animation, Rizelmine in episode 23.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)
A Chinese cyborg’s name in the 14th episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is eventually revealed to be “Senkōsha.” He, like Senkōsha, has a “crotch cannon”.
The “Chūka Kyanon” also appeared in Netrunner’s original video animation Netrun-mon.
In the 1st and 3rd episode of Negima!?, Senkōsha appears briefly as a computer peripheral and as one of Negi Springfield’s pactio cards.
A robot named Xanthippe(クサンチッペ), with a strong resemblance to Senkōsha, appeared on INUKAMI! in episode 17 and 18. Of course, his crotch has a huge drill.
Senkōsha also made many appearances in various comics and magazines.
The 2002 edition of “IMIDAS” (情報知識イミダス, Jōhō Chishiki Imidas), a historic dictionary of Japanese modern terms, included Senkōsha and described the internet phenomenon surrounding the robot.
A report on the ROBO-ONE convention can be read here.
There was also an attempt to take bring the original Xianxingzhe from China. In the end, however, the proposal was rejected because the technology of Senkōsha was a protected secret of China.
The Senkōsha phenomenon eventually died out around 2004; today, many young Japanese internet users have never heard of the robot. Despite this, Senkōsha still occasionally makes appearances in other internet memes and videos.
Senkōsha and Taiwanese Kuso Culture
The Senkōsha phenomenon was well-received in Taiwan as well, especially among the Taiwanese Kuso community. However, their interest picked up in late 2007.
Although Taiwanese websites did not contribute many images, videos, or music to the Senkōsha phenomenon, they were largely amused by it and saw Senkōsha as a classic Kuso subject.
Reaction in China
The internet phenomenon surrounding Senkōsha was largely ignored in China.
A very stoic response to the Japanese parodies can be seen here.