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.