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Thursday, September 16, 2010

THE MECHA GENRE PREVIEW [TRANSFORMERS, GUNDAMS AND GIANT ROBOTS]

Those who grew up in the 1980s know what it's like to be fascinated by giant robots, inspired by toys and cartoons with origins in Japan. The truth is, the lines of reality and science fiction are completely blurred, when one considers a cybernetic organism that can completely think for itself and interact in a fully cognizant manner with human beings, while being able to change its form at will, in order to blend into the modern society.

But as geeks at heart, we all love to believe the phenomenal... and our belief is the sole portal through which concepts like Transformers, Voltron and Gundams are given enduring life. Not only do we accept them as cool and intriguing, but we also rapidly generate emotional attachments to the toy merchandise, believing that they are extremely valuable; and in our minds, our toy idols are linked to the far grander creations that we only get to observe on TV, perhaps on Saturday mornings or on weekdays after school. Collecting the MECHA figures can actually be a very fulfilling lifetime hobby... as long as you don't mind spending the money on the merchandise and the shelves to host them...

These four images below are sample portfolio pics I recently did, showcasing a peculiar genre of sci fi, which I'm tagging as MECHA [short for Mechanical]. The two popular Transformers shown are Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.



   


There are a plethora of feature films, books and comics that depict giant robots, which serve as defensive/offensive vehicles within structured national military forces or shabby militant factions. And most of the time, these tales are set in the future. Often these giant robots [which range in size from about 10 feet to over 100 feet in height] are piloted by specially trained humans, while in other instances they possess independent sentient minds of their own, and are capable of cogitative reasoning. There are a lot of cartoons that have depicted this sci fi genre; ranging from Voltron, Robotech, The Gobots to Robotics back in the 1980s, GAO GAI GAR, Gurren Lagann, Godannar and Gravion in the 1990s, to MEGAS XLR, IGPX and  Eureka Seven in the 2000s.



Above from left to right: Meg [the adventurer, sweetheart], Jo [the muscle, gunslinger], Mai [the leader, clan mother] and Amy [Tech support, computer whiz]. They are the four main characters from the Crazy Burst Angel anime, also called "Bakuretsu Tenshi", which was released back in 2004. Their giant robot is called Jango. The dynamic team of girls are mercenaries-for-hire working in a rather dystopian sci fi society, even though it isn't really dark or completely cyberpunk themed. Their futuristic world features mega corporations that dominate the society, while utilizing deceit, brute force and corruption to rule their corner of the world. Their anime had a two-season run with 24 episodes. And here is the intro to their Anime OVA series, [which was never produced]:




GAO GAI GAR ANIME OPENING:



Dangaioh [shown below] is a giant robot / MECHA series that has been reinterpreted over the years. The original anime series was produced by Anime International Company studios and released in Japan back in 1987. Dangaioh featured character designs by creator Toshiki Hirano and mechanical designs by Shoji Kawamori. There have been some extra OVAs and Spinoffs of the series, which only ran for 3 action-packed episodes. And one of the subsequent interpretations of the concept was called Great Dangaioh, which was released in 2001 and ran for 13 episodes. The original 3-part series had a very catch song that turned into a karaoke phenomenon in Japan, tied to the shouted phrase "Cross Fight!". 


DANGAIOH / CROSS FIGHT ANIME THEME SONG & ACTION:



Core plot of the original Dangaioh series: Brought together by the mysterious Dr. Tarsan, four powerful psychic warriors -- Mia Alice, Lamba Nom, Pai Thunder, and Rol Kran -- can unite four powerful fighter jets to form the robot called Dangaioh; the most powerful weapon in the universe. Using their combined psionic forces, the Dangaioh team embark upon a mission to stop the bloody tyranny of the alien pirate Captain Garimoth and his trusted henchman, Gil-Berg. 
 

GREAT DANGAIOH:



Giant Robots can take various forms, ranging from humanoid to animal-like interpretations. There was a series of toys known as Zoids produced by Takara Tomy Co., first released in the early 80s. And these giant quadruped robotic creatures later became a franchise, eventually resulting in several anime series that aired around the world via satellite/cable cartoon channels. In the anime series, Zoids are considered as "mechanical lifeforms used by humans as workers or weapons". And some of them are capable of fusing together to form stronger robot MECHA units.



Yet the most popular of all these robot based feature productions is the Transformers Franchise [contrived in 1984 by Hasbro Inc. and Takara Tomy Co.], which was rocketed back into the mainstream spotlight due to the two blockbuster movies directed by Micheal Bay [released in 2007 and 2009 respectively].

The Evangelion anime series was a commercially and critically successful Japanese anime series that began airing in October 1995. The series was highly influential, and launched the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. The anime was created by Gainax, written and directed by Hideaki Anno, and co-produced by TV Tokyo and Nihon Ad Systems (NAS). Evangelion is an apocalyptic mecha action series, which revolves around the efforts by the paramilitary organization called NERV to fight monstrous evil beings called "Angels", primarily using giant mecha called "Evangelions" that are piloted by select teenagers, one of whom is the primary protagonist. The anime ran for 26 episodes and there are several toys and manga spin-offs from the original series.





Some other popular animes that showcase MECHA manufactured on a large scale are Godannar, Evangelion, Mazinkaiser, Code Geass and Gundam. Each of these futuristic Japanese cartoons feature giant robots controlled by human pilots [these pilots commonly dock within cockpits located in the head, chest or back region of their robot unit], and they regularly showcase phenomenal battle sequences that take place both on earth and in deep space environments.


  


[Kinera Foxx from the DSNG Series, wearing two versions of her sexy MECHA concept armor]


Gundams; the High Tech Signature of Japan.

Gundam is a near endless metaseries created by a Japanese company called Sunrise Studios. The metaseries started back in April 7, 1979 as a serial animated TV show called Mobile Suit Gundam. And its has snowballed at extremely high velocity from then. It became a media franchise with time, spawning a giant web of products that encompass video games, movies, toys, comics [manga] and other items. There are multiple timelines and a diverse array of robots in the Gundam metaseries. And the products from this sci fi masterpiece are sold all around the world.

         

The two posters above are from the Gundam franchise, showing Gundam Wing and Gundam Seed robots respectively [those are two distinct cartoon series with diverse characters and unique combat robots, although all heroic Gundams have striking resemblances to one another, per their basic alloyed exoskeletal form and heads]. Some Gundams actually transform as well, becoming giant cannons or sleek spacecrafts.



[Above: Cool Gundam Mecha Sci Fi Wallpaper]


Clip from Gundam00, the latest anime production:




When analyzed from a realistic perspective, the level of nanotechnology required to produce such efficient elaborate fighting machines on a grand scale is quite astonishing, per the level of maneuverability that the crafts have to maintain both on land and in the air.

The viable power sources for these gigantic war machines is definitely a topic of speculation, and the amount of heat and friction generated by the multiple gear subsystems and varying turbines, actuators and relay systems that are needed for constant dynamic functionality would truly equate to a short life span for such contraptions. But alas, sci fi at its best is all about pushing the envelope and causing us to believe the impossible, for the sake of exhilarating entertainment.

As of January 21, 2008, the Gundam franchise is a 50 billion-Yen trademark. And it is truly a symbol of how addictive MECHA/robotic sci fi concepts can be, when channeled masterfully.
On July 11th 2009, a true-scale giant Gundam statue built by production partners of Sunrise Studios was erected in Shiokaze Park on Odaiba Island in Tokyo Japan, and it attracted over 4 million visitors. Check out the pic below to get a feel of just how large the giant robots are supposed to be; and on the right is a MECHA concept design that I did for the DSNG Sci Fi Series:

 
And check out Concept art from the new Transformers: Fall of Cybertron video game: HERE!

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