SaiMecha is down to its Elite Eight now, and the most exciting match, IMO, is VF-1 versus Sinanju. It’s a match between old and new, mass-produced and advanced prototype, missile and beam, Macross and Gundam.
I want the Sinanju to win against the VF-1, and to win the whole tournament.
Why? Because the alternative outcome, the VF-1 winning, is boring.
Think about it for a while. VF-1 is the mecha Cowboy Bebop. If we had some sort of SaiAnime, Bebop would rise to the top very easily, because it’s an excellent show with a wide mainstream appeal. Perfect for garnering a huge amount of support, no? I can think of a few shows that could give it a worthy matchup, but they, too, are the same names that will always come up in top 10 anime lists. Also, these top 10 anime lists are boring.
The VF-1, for all its virtues and contributions to the genre, is a boring winner.
Why? The Valkyrie is too well-liked, too free of glaring flaws. It’s too safe. I think it has a very good shot at making the top. But I find its matchups none too polarizing. Either people vote the Valkyrie because they love it, or they hate-vote against the other robot. This isn’t interesting to me.
The Sinanju is a superb piece of mechanical design, but it doesn’t have the VF-1’s legendary status. It’s riveting enough to earn the praise of many a Gundam fan (and mind you, Gundam fans are very hard to please), but it’s far from being on a pedestal.
Just look at some of the comments on it:
That other thing doesn’t even look like a Gundam. It looks like a Michael Bay Transformer. That’s even worse than a Gundam.
because when it comes to real robots mass produced grunts are always better than Super Robot wannabe prototypes or ace customs
an anorexic Sazabi
A somewhat more worthy, but equally WRONG, opponent, the Sinanju is like its owner: fat. Fatty fat fat. Seriously, this thing needs to join Jimmy Tango’s Fatbusters.
Compare the reasons on why people voted for the VF-1:
Because I am still a Valkyrie fag.
Love the Sinanju’s design, but the Macross unit is iconic.
VF-1 of course! Sinanju *is* the coolest looking Zeon mech I’ve ever seen, but VF is a VF.
Macross Fag inside me shouting “VF-1!VF-1!VF-1!VF-1!”
It’s rather amusing that voters nitpick on the Sinanju’s flaws (for contradicting reasons anyway), while the rest auto-vote for the VF-1. Some VF-1 supporters do admit that the Sinanju is indeed great, but a Valkyrie is a Valkyrie, and they’ll vote for it. There is nothing wrong with the latter sort of people, nor do I take their vote against them. However, this massive bloc vote doesn’t make SaiMecha interesting. Myself, I’m a huge Gundam fan, but I don’t think twice about voting against Gundam mecha, if I decide that the other robot is much more worth it!
It sounds counterintuitive, when people would just vote what they want to win. But this is my theory:
The main purpose of polls (and publicity events in general) like SaiMecha is not to make the “best” or most well-loved contender win, but to gather the greatest amount of interest that it possibly could. Whatever gets to the top is largely irrelevant, but the size and disparity of the voter turnout is. How hard can it get people to discuss it?
In such an ideal world, each match is patronized by a lot of people, and all victories are closely-won, with no lopsided percentages.
This is exactly the rationale I had in mind while writing Digiboy’s 2010 Acadime Awards for Best Mecha Design. I admit that I am partial towards the winner, Delphine from Broken Blade, but I went with it because I found Delphine’s concept and design to be the most interesting among the contestants.
The best mecha doesn’t need a poll to prove its pedigree (snarky answer: most people have bad taste anyway). The best-loved mecha won’t lose its fans if it ever lost some poll. But if either of the two won, then it would be anticlimactic. Now, if a lesser candidate managed to win, then that’s something. How and why did it manage to win?
And this is where Sinanju comes in. I think it’s a great mecha design, and even greater inside the context of Gundam. The Sinanju is simple at a glance, it doesn’t have any fantastic gimmicks that Gundam mecha love to employ, but its details make it exceedingly complex. Hajime Katoki pulled all the stops for this one. It’s ornate without being garish, and demands the best from animators or model kit builders.
It’s a high-performance machine. High-performance machines draw the ire of mecha fans because they rule the battlefield unchallenged. But the Sinanju doesn’t steamroll in its own show, it’s definitely no Strike Freedom Gundam or 00 Raiser. The rest is just haters blowing things up.
I think its polarizing effect makes Sinanju a very relevant candidate in the tournament. We need more adversity. We need more hate-voting and hate-campaigning. Publicity is king! Voting for or against the Sinanju is making a statement either way, bigger than every other vote in the tournament.
Perhaps it says something about me when I deem SaiMecha to be an important vehicle in fan discourse when it comes to mecha. Whatever wins, I don’t really care. People arguing, debating, loving, hating, making a buzz about different mecha? Yes, please.
“But Schneider, I’m not interested in popularity poll meta!” you might say.
Sinanju is also at the forefront of mecha anime today. It’s been said since 2009 that mecha anime is declining, because the number of mecha TV series have decreased significantly. These people are right and wrong. True, there are fewer mecha TV shows now, but most mecha productions have just switched to the OVA/movie format.
And you know what? This is actually great! A production staff has more time and money to devote the requisite amount of care into a mecha anime. A lot of other genres could get away with low production values, but mecha couldn’t. If a robot looks shitty, it will look extremely shitty.
Gundam Unicorn is not even finished yet. We have no idea whether the succeeding episodes will make or break the series as a whole. But I can tell you with full confidence that I have never been as excited as a mecha fan until now. To me, this potential and possibility of a show exceeds my notions of “which is the spiffier robot”.
Sinanju is that red streak of light bisecting the cold loneliness of space. For the future of mecha! And more drama!
For another take on this matchup (and more delicious meta), ghostlightning makes a strong case for the VF-1.
Also, EO has his own biased voting guide, with more images than I can possibly trust myself to use in a post.