"This Japanese hero is only fit to shave noodles here in China."
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The shift in the manual labor supply in China has created some interesting innovations in filling positions that used to be filled by fleshy humans. Cui Runquan, a Beijing-based Chinese restaurateur specializing in noodles, noticed that young people are increasingly less willing to work in dirty, exhausting food industry jobs. Thus he invented a noodle-shaving robot to replace its more fickle and exhaustible biological counterpart. The robot is capable of shaving enough noodles for three bowls in one minute, and the noodle's width and thickness can be adjusted to a customer's preferences.
Although the robot didn't have to look like anything, Cui decided to give it a face: that of the beloved Japanese superhero Ultraman -- perhaps because Cui wanted to humanize the robots to make them appear friendlier to their customers. Ultraman, a Japanese television series that premiered in 1966, depicts a humanoid space creature with two large eyes who defends Japan from monster attacks. Ultraman has been shown in China since the 1990s, and Chinese Weibo even has a specific emoticon for him: