2010 Acadime Awards: Best Mecha Design

Okay! Back in business! I hope you can still remember enough about 2010 anime to enjoy it!

Today, my good friend Schneider of Continuing World will be presenting the award for Best Mecha Design. While I decided on the nominees for this category, Schneider decided to write about all of the nominees himself and choose the winner, so really, this is Schneider’s Acadime Award for Best Mecha Design!

Sinanju (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn)

If I were to describe Sinanju in one word, it would be perfection. Veteran designer Hajime Katoki pulled no punches in designing this red robot, a slimmer and sexier update to the aging Sazabi design. Its weapon loadout combines both form and function: a variable-output beam rifle (with scope!), beam axes that combine into a naginata, and the standard beam sabers and vulcans. The tail binders do well to justify its extreme maneuverability, without giving the Sinanju a case of Backpack Syndrome. However, it doesn’t really capture my heart. It might be a damn well-designed mobile suit, but it doesn’t really break any new ground.

Tauburn (Star Driver)

Tauburn is a very unique design from Shigeto Koyama. Its long limbs, heels and plume give the impression of a dueling aristocrat. And boy, it’s a design that lends well to graceful movement. But while Tauburn is a beautiful mech, it’s more of an extension of its Star Driver’s body than anything. Because of that, I have difficulty treating it as a machine. But that is all owing to the style of the show, which has fights that are closer to human sword duels than conventional robot combat. It has some neat skirt funnels, though.

Delphine (Break Blade)

Delphine is a product of the “giant armored knight” concept that fantasy mecha shows employ. But unlike the grandaddy of them, Escaflowne, the Golems of Broken Blade aren’t equipped with flowing capes or huge broadswords. What they have instead are more practical weapons: stapler guns shooting bolts and pile bunkers. Delphine, being an advanced prototype unit from a distant technological Golden Age, looks markedly different from its production-model counterparts. It has a worn look, its armor plates are irrevocably weathered, and the horn crest on its head is broken. It is unassuming yet special.

Mazinkaiser (Mazinkaiser SKL)

Mazinkaiser SKL reminds me of the 90′s X-TREME aesthetic of ramping everying up to 11. The pilder is a flying skull thing that looks a tad too big for the head slot. It has two separate fighting modes (one for each pilot): it uses a huge-ass serrated sword in one, and two bladed pistols in the other. I won’t lie, it took me a while to like it. Mazinkaiser is one of those mechs that look underwhelming in lineart, but look absolutely fantastic in action. It moves lithely despite its mass, but its movements still belie a sense of weight befitting a super robot. WE ARE HELL!

It was a long and hard-fought battle, but Delphine stands firm after the cloud of dust has settled. As the protagonist’s mech in its show, the Delphine is a powerful prototype in the tradition of real robot anime. However, it is in fact ancient, developed during a different age of unprecedented technology. There’s a notable difference in aesthetics when you compare the Delphine to the modern, current-generation Golems.

While the conventional Golem is powered by its pilot’s magical power, the Delphine runs on an engine with limited operational time. It doesn’t come with any weapons, but the Kingdom of Krisna is kind enough to outfit it with some nice looking weapons—a big-ass sword, and a spear-blade thing. Later on it’s fitted with a detachable external armor that virtually turns it into a mechanical bulldozer.

Why did I pick this mech? Because fantasy mecha are long overdue for a return. We have seen quite a few of them throughout the years, but The Vision of Escaflowne was one anime that really did them well. Broken Blade takes the romantic giant knight concept and militarizes it, giving birth to Golems—magic-powered metal soldiers.

It’s a refreshing concept, having a mech that is truly mechanical, yet faithful to its fantasy roots. And Delphine is at the forefront of it.

But wait! We have an Honorable Mention!

Takemikazuchi (Sora no Woto)

The Takemikazuchi, or Spider Tank, is in a rather poor position. Those who usually watch Sora no Woto won’t be primed to appreciate it, and those who would won’t be watching the show in the first place. And it’s a shame, since the Spider Tank is a lovely piece of engineering.

It’s got four legs. Quadrupeds are sexy and practical–if not for our innate bias for the human form, they’d be a lot more popular. It’s also a tank, has a nice Engrish-y HUD interface, and a swell sound system. It’s also designed by Junya Ishigaki, which gives it some serious mecha cred.

I didn’t pit it in the field with the others, however, mainly because it’s in a show that mecha fans wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole (not that it’s a bad thing), and it’s even debatable if it’s a true mech, or just a tank with legs. But I think it’s good enough to be featured here.

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14 thoughts on “2010 Acadime Awards: Best Mecha Design

  1. Nice, I had a feeling the Delphine would win. It’s just such a refreshingly simple mech without all the bells and whistles of some of the other designs.

    Out of curiosity what do you think of Marida’s mobile suit, the NZ-666 Kshatriya.

  2. Kshatriya wins.

    What’s great, amazing, and outstanding about it?

    1. The quad-wings.

    Go ahead, watch some vids. The Kshatriya swooping in from beyond visual range and then to some blind spot of the RX-0 is magnificent. The silhouette is that of a demon, at times swirling but always menacing.

    The wings, to date present the most detailed and good-looking funnels housing and deployment system. No more hovering from shoulders (a la Jagd-dogas), no more spitting from behind (like the Qubeley). The whole deployment and retrieval system is gorgeous.

    Then the wings also serve as armor, allowing the Kshatriya to turtle up when it can’t outmaneuver its usually multiple opponents.

    2. Size

    It looks every bit like a gigantic mobile armor, but is actually pretty much within the size of a mobile suit. The big Alpha Aziel while impressive looking is kind of hard to take when it’s dodging beams (it’s funnels alone is the size of the Nv-Gundam, a pretty fucking big Gundam). This also means that its funnels are of an impressively small size. It’s really lulz thinking about mobile armors such as the Elmeth and the Alpha Aziel packing funnels as big as mobile suits.

    3. Limitations

    Despite being able to snipe from ridiculous distances via funnels, then spray an area with beams via funnels and its chest cannons, the Kshatriya is somewhat disadvantaged without a traditional forward-facing weapon like a beam gun. Without funnel cover fire, it has to reorient its entire torso to fire at targets as opposed to a rifle tip.

    Thus when it does its aforementioned swooping, it HAS to deploy and attack with funnels because its torso is facing “downwards” or away from its targets. This can also be a big disadvantage when moving in reverse.

    Under normal battle conditions these are not issues as the unit will severely outperform mass-produced suits, but against the RX-0 these limitations are severely exploited even without the benefit of the NT-D.

    I imagine the Kshatriya will also have fits against the Sinanju if it comes down to a fight with it.

    All these things (along with the finer details like the sleeves, the beam saber that pops out from them, the extra limbs, and the green color) make for a very different robot than the ones presented here.

    It’s just as showy as the Tauburn, it’s more interesting than the Sinanju, and its green and battle action is just as gritty as the Delphine (who without its various armor configs is like a malnourished Orguss robot with a fucked up horn). And it absolutely grinds to dust that ugly piece of shit given an honorable mention.

      • A bigger size in space allows for more thrusters, which makes things even faster. The problem with the really big mechs in Gundam is that they were too damn big, to the point that they made extremely easy targets. The Kshatriya’s size provides enough maneuverability/speed and power output without making it a fire magnet.

        I find it nice on the eyes, too. Not pretty, but aesthetically pleasing. Compare with its predecessor, the Quin Mantha.

        • But what about inertia? wouldn’t a greater mass be harder to maneuver around tight turns and accelerate more slowly?

          And quite frankly, the Delphine doesn’t seem like such a revolutionary design. I think it bears great resemblance to a good deal of original Kotobukia mecha models, released years ago. The Mazinkaiser isn’t too revolutionary, and seems a bit overdone to me. The Star Driver one just seems like a combination of Rahxephon and a Ganmen.

          If anything Takemikazuchi should have won.

      • LOL have to agree with ghost. Kshatriya or sinanju>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> delphine

        old and ancient are ugly :D

    • One man’s winner is also another man’s bell pepper?

      The Kshatriya is an interesting design, more interesting than the Sinanju even, but the latter is more representative of the show. Funnels hail back from ZZ/CCA days, and while the body takes lessons from its predecessors, it doesn’t reflect the Unicorn-era school of thought. Mobile suits are starting to get more compact and have less fancy toys, with funnels going the way out.

      And if means anything here, I’d rather build a Sinanju kit than a Kshatriya one.

      I dig the limitations you listed, though.

  3. my humble opinion:
    sinanju has very fussy and nervous lines
    kshatriya has very awkward transition from torso to arms, altho i agree the wings are great
    broken blade: ok, but… strange feet
    So….i respect your decision about the winner broken blade, a thorough application of a different aesthetic. stardriver is also quite different from other mech.
    kaiser skl is cool, especially the pilder, and the gun concept. But once animated, and in full gun-fu mode, it is RIDICULOUS.
    great post, enjoyed all the thoughts and opinions.
    i would also like to nominate the Jegan in Gundam Unicorn. Also that transforming tank in Unicorn.

    • Thanks for reading! The thing with Jegan is that it’s pretty old, and I didn’t really see any drastic updates to its design in Gundam Unicorn.

      Also, I wrote a short post about the Loto in my blog. I think it’s a very good robot!

  4. Pingback: SaiMecha: Making A Case For Sinanju | Continuing World

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