Robots: Of the Giant Kind

I glossed over the whole giant robot thing when I was doing my bit on anime.
So here’s my attempt at a quick tutorial for those of you that wanted to know more about giant robots, but couldn’t be bothered to ask.

Giants robots are often referred to as Mecha.
That’s not entirely true. Yea, they are mecha, but the term isn’t exclusive to robots, giant or otherwise.
Mecha is just short for mechanical(like anime is short for animation) and refers to any mechanical device. Cars, planes, exo-skeletons, whatever.

The first giant robot was actually really small.
Astro Boy, he was more or less the grandfather of all Giant Robots.
It had all the major traits; heroism, action, adventure and a different monster every week.

But I think the first giant Giant Robot would be Tetsujin 28, or better known in North America as GIGANTOR.
It wasn’t sentient like Astroy Boy, but remotely controlled buy a 12 year old.

This kicked off a whole genre of action adventure series where the major, and I hesitate to say character but it’s close, attraction was a giant robot.
Again, these were generally not sentient but controlled in one form or another. Generally piloted directly.
These were the Super Robots.
They weren’t bogged down by fiddly things like reality or physics.
They would have an unlimited amount of power when they needed it and weapons out the wazoo.
Eye beams, finger rockets, breast missiles (yea, they really exist), spinning blades, swords, axes. You name it, they could someone how fit it in there.
There was also no need to explain, in any great detail, origin or how they came to be. Other than the obvious; Dr. X created Robobo to defend the earth from the giant whatever.
These were the real monster of the week shows.
For whatever reason, the villains always had some other nasty beast to throw into harms way.
These were the fun shows, never really meant to be taken too seriously.
This genre included shows like Mazinger, Getter Robo, Grandizer(my fav), Voltron and far too many more to list.

This changed in 1979 with the debut of Mobile Suit Gundam.
The creators wanted a more realistic giant robot, one that wasn’t so super.
They had limitations and were based on plausible physics.
They also had a reasonable back story and creation explanation.
For instance, Gundam(no, it doesn’t stand for anything) was created to combat the threat of the Zeon Mobile Suits, which in turn were created to be a versatile vehicle, yet be powerful as a battleship.
Since nothing is more versatile than the human form, the Mobile Suits were invented.
Makes sense right?
That, and it sold a lot of toys.
This kicked off the realistic robot genre which included stories like Macross(Robotech), Votoms, Dunbine and a host of others that I can’t think of right now.
These shows were mostly military based because really, who else would need to make giant fighting robots?
They also had something the others didn’t, a real plot.
In most cases, the robots were just plot devices. They were necessary to sell toys, but these plots could easily have taken place in any time period.

Then, in the mid-90’s, there was Evangellion. It was neither Super nor Realistic, it was more Emo than anything else.
Sure, you could say it was more of a bio-organic giant robot, but watch the show, it’s Emo Robot.
Realistic and Emo(for the lack of a better term) shows dominated the mid to late 90’s.

Then in the very late 90’s and early 2000’s(damn that’s dumb) Super Robot shows took off again with GaoGaiGar. And it was totally tongue in cheek kinda stuff.
Sure, it was monster of the week, sure it had no foothold in reality, but it knew it, and had fun with it.

With the possible exception of Emo Robot, the Giant Robot genre is alive and kicking and I don’t think will ever die.
It has become an important part of the Japanese culture. And it’s a lot of damn fun.

But you ask yourself, how do I know if I’m watching a Super or Realistic robot show?
If the pilot of said giant robot screams out every attack move, you’re watching Super Robots.
If they don’t, you’re watching a show that has some real plot.
There, now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

I have to work on my writing.
Style that is.
I can get the word count, I’m just not sure if the reading part is interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *