Sai Mecha Round 1 Colonies Side
April 20, 2011
[Once again, here's Ghostlightning's breakdown of the contestants. Polls are open until 23:59 EST on Sunday 24 April. -EO] Just like in the Earth Side of the bracket, we have here an diverse mix of robots in the various traditions or sub-genres of robot anime. What I personally find interesting here are the mix of “real robots” that betray their aspirations for verisimilitude by possessing magic powers or being powered by fantastic magic sources. An example would be the truly novel sky-surfing Nirvash TypeZero from Eureka SeveN who seems so much different from the likes of the MS-06 Zaku II from Mobile Suit Gundam, or particularly the ATM-09-ST Scopedog from Armored Trooper VOTOMs.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg here. All the Gundams in this side of the bracket are fantastic, super-powered prototypes: The Zeta, Exia, Master, Deathscythe, and God Gundams are all superheroes in robot form (in varying degrees). To me this says so much about the supposed real-robot subgenre, even if we discount Mobile Fighter G Gundam.
Of course, none of the above discussion are value judgments. I am in fact more of a Super Robot fan than the main organizer of the Sai Mecha, despite my favorite anime being SDF Macross. I’ll reserve my value judgments on WRL, just like last time. And just like last time, I’ll present the robots here for context without spoilers – so those who haven’t seen their respective shows can form an opinion and vote.
GN-001 Gundam Exia (Mobile Suit Gundam 00 2007) vs. The Big O (The Big O 1999)
Exia is a specialized unit: an anti-mobile suit Gundam using a close combat approach. Imagine that most mobile suits are designed for medium range fighting, and are armed with beam sabers mostly as an emergency weapon. The Exia is designed to force those emergencies upon enemy suits, leveraging a large number and variety of bladed and energy melee weapons that will easily overwhelm any suit. It arrives at melee range via a combination of imperviousness to most attacks, and speed (mostly the former).
One of the “The Big Three” Megadeus series of robots, The Big O (they’re all called The Big Something) are big macho robots that rely on tremendous power as opposed to speed and maneuverability. They’re part of The Giant Robo tradition of semi-autonomous machines and are truer to the robot name, than all the other piloted mecha in robot anime.
The Big O is part of the tradition of robot anime that are “discovered lost technology from a lost civilization,” just like Space Runaway Ideon (and∀ Gundam).
MS-06 Zaku II (Mobile Suit Gundam 1979) vs. GF13-00NH1II Master Gundam (Mobile Fighter G Gundam 1994)
The MS-06 Zaku II is the first dominant real robot in anime history. It is a mass-produced unit that changed the face of warfare, a plot element that would be re-used explicitly and implicitly by almost all real robot anime in the next 3 decades (from Armored Trooper VOTOMs to Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion). It is also remarkable as an enemy grunt unit that achieved legendary and iconic status and sustained its own line of designs and toys. It is, pretty much one of the great revolutions brought about by Mobile Suit Gundam.
As a mobile suit, however, it pretty much is an obsolete model by the time it shows up (in light of the RX-78-2 Gundam that faced it) and was overwhelmed even by substandard units from the Earth Federation that came in great numbers. It was a mobile suit not particularly designed to fight other mobile suits (Zeon not really counting on the Federation to come up with their own in time).
The Master Gundam, while enjoying one of the most unique designs among Gundams, is pretty much overshadowed by its pilot. It is inconceivable to imagine it fighting with a different person in the controls. Such is the nature of the Mobile Fighter G Gundam show. The Master Gundam for all intents and purposes, is a super robot. Master Asia was powerful enough to destroy mobile suits on his own, the Master Gundam was simply an extension to his superhuman fighting skills. A super robot behaving as an extension of a super hero: Master Asia also had the Juuni Ouhouhai, in which he could attack an enemy with multiple miniature copies of himself. Master Asia’s most powerful ultimate attack was the Sekiha Tenkyoken, a ball of powerful energy.
XXXS-G01D Gundam Deathscythe (Mobile Suit Gundam Wing 1995) vs. MSZ-006 Z Z Gundam (Mobile Suit Z Gundam 1985)
The Deathscythe is undoubtedly one of the most fantastic Gundam designs ever made. It very much seems like an escapee from the G Gundam show to take part of the first “real robot” alternative universe show in the Gundam franchise. The Gundam specializes in both stealth and close combat, and its main armament consists of its signature beam scythe and a small shield which can emit an energy blade, and the shield can be fired at distant enemies. Another feature of the suit is its hyper jammer ECM (electronic countermeasure) system that emits jamming particles, rendering the Gundam practically invisible to electronic sensors and giving it unparalleled stealth in combat.
Enemies won’t see it coming, and then see how stylish their own deaths become because it’s not every day you see a beam scythe cut down other robots.
The Z Gundam is the first of its kind – a Gundam that’s designed by its own pilot, and the first to have supernatural powers. Also the first of its kind: a transforming Gundam. It has a “waverider” form wherein it moves like a space fighter craft and turns into a Gundam mode presumably to provide a “stable” firing base, as well as engage in melee combat.
The Z Gundam had an additional edge with its bio-sensor. Though the exact nature of the bio-sensor is unknown, its primary purpose was to allow a Newtype pilot to more easily interface with his mobile suit. The bio-sensor could also have a rather surprising side effect when the pilot was mentally and emotionally focused enough (usually when angry or upset) to cause the bio-sensor to amplify the power, speed and strength of the mobile suit for a short period of time.
Escaflowne (The Vision of Escaflowne, 1996) vs. RahXephon (RahXephon 2002)
The Escaflowne, a rare Guymelef (how the mecha are called) in that it’s manufactured by otherworldly craftsmen called the Ispano to activate using a blood pact and for exclusive use of a royal bloodline. The Guymelef itself transforms into a dragon, in keeping with the late-dark ages (Europe) feel of the show’s fantasy setting.
In dragon form it mostly performs evasive maneuvers as well as long-distance travel. It’s main battle form is in its humanoid form wherein it wields a large sword, as is common among Guymelefs of its time.
RahXephon is a giant robot that, much like Evangelion units before it, performs within a real robot setting and has a similar support system. While a machine that has space-time bending powers, it fights in a very static way, as does the giant robots it faces: hovering and floating until quick bursts of action, as opposed to sustained gun battles or melee as is the norm for traditional super robot shows.
YF-19 Alpha One (Macross Plus 1994) vs. Mazinger Z (Mazinger Z 1972, 2009)
The Alpha One is one of the very rare prototypes to be featured in a Macross show (in contrast to Gundam wherein the lead unit is almost always a prototype unit). Also, in keeping with its prototype nature, its story is set in an arms race for a mass-production contract. Along with its rival, the YF-21 Omega One, the 19 featured abilities that were once only available to fortress class units, such as, a pin-point barrier system, and (even if only as extra parts) the ability to execute a hyperspace fold.
It also features a swept-forward wing design in Valkyrie (fighter) mode and is notable to house all its missile payload within the fuselage/body parts of the mecha, as opposed to the external missile bays used by the SDF-Macross era Variable Fighters.
Mazinger Z is the first robot to have a human pilot in anime history. Its eponymous TV anime also started many tropes that would come to characterize robot anime. Mazinger Z itself is made of Z-alloy that makes him an “invincible fortress of iron.” In the 2009 remake Shin Mazinger Z-Hen, the Mazinger Z robot is inspired by the God Zeus (a very powerful gigantic alien soldier) and beyond launching the iconic Rocket Punch attack, can turn into a giant rocket-powered fist entirely.
ATM-09-ST Scopedog (Armored Trooper VOTOMS 1983) vs. PTX-00C3 Alteisen (Super Robot Wars Original Generation: The Inspector 2010)
Unlike most mecha anime that glorify the mechanized units, within the VOTOMS fictional universe, ATs (Armored Troopers) are derogatorily referred to as ‘tin cans with machine guns’ – this too, however is the source of the charm and affection for these units and the TV anime by the fans. There is a higher degree of verisimilitude in VOTOMS in that the mecha gets routinely trashed even if the lead character uses it/them.
The ‘cheapness’ of the ATs allow for larger scale mass production and even larger levels of carnage on a per-episode basis despite the lack of full-scale battles.
The Alt Eisen is a ‘real robot’ member of the Super Robot Wars franchise of games and anime. Keeping in the spirit of the games, it is a real robot that pretty much acts very super, not only in the presentation of the attacks, but the overall spirit of the show despite its supposed ‘real robot’ tradition. It is, in many ways similar to Gundams inAU Gundam shows like Mobile Suit Gundam W, SEED, and 00, wherein the units behave less like soldiers but more like mythical (albeit military) heroes.
One of the more notable features of the Alt Eisen is a piledriving metal stake that is used for dramatic effect in melee engagements.
GF13—017NJII God Gundam (Mobile Fighter G Gundam 1994) vs. Gurren Lagann (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann 2007)
Representing the nation-state Neo Japan in the Gundam Fight tournament, it is an upgrade of the Shining Gundam, that eschews the Shining Finger Sword attack to adding a “Heat End” to its Shining Finger attack. By virtue of being something like an extension of the pilot, it was also able to employ martial-arts based attacks learned by the pilot, particularly the Sekiha Tenkyoken, a ball of powerful energy. It is, by and large a melee fighter as are most Gundam Fighter mobile suits, notable for the “mobile trace system” of pilot control.
The Gurren Lagann is a result of 2 independent Ganmen units combining. Particularly, the spiral energy powered Lagann has a unique ability to merge with other Ganmen and it was first able to do it with the Gurren unit, hence the name Gurren Lagann. While the 2 units will go on to merge with larger and larger Ganmen units (to beyond the impossible degrees), it is the Gurren Lagann that remains the face (LOL AWESOME PUN) of the series.
It takes whatever super robot trope it gets a hold of and deploys it in ridiculous, unreasonable, absurd, and comically awesome ways. Aside from drills, its main weapon is a gigantic pair of sunglasses.
ARX-7 Arbalest (Full Metal Panic! 2002) vs. Nirvash TypeZero (Eureka SeveN)
The Arbalest is an example of a mecha unit firmly in the tradition of the ‘real robot’ and yet is governed by/has a plot significant feature that is undoubtedly fantastic, its so-called Lambda Driver. It could be called Spiral Energy (TTGL) for all we care. We shouldn’t really wonder, but instead enjoy it as it allows the Arbalest to do exciting things.
The Nirvash TypeZero is another reality-bending “real robot.” Like in many Gundam shows it is a prototype, but this time it is also similar to RahXephon, Ideon, The Big O (among others) that it’s from a lost or alien civilization. In the case of Eureka SeveN, the Nirvash is the prototype for ALL future humanoid mecha in the show.
Beyond this, it is remarkable for its sky surfing conceit – it doesn’t naturally fly: it launches from its ship as a car, transforms into a robot which then rides a surfboard in the sky.
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