How mecha design philosophies differ between factions

From a conversation about Broken Blade with my Gundam mentor, he was amused to point out the disparity between Athenian and Krishnan golem designs. By his words, it seemed like Geara Dogas were fighting Zaku Is.

I thought about it, and reflected on how both countries differed in their design philosophies. The Athenian Artemis looks swift, lithe, with an upright gait to it. The Krishnan Fafnir, however, looks stout, solid, having a lower center of gravity. But while different in build, they don’t look that different from each other, unlike GMs and Zakus from UC Gundam. This too, adds verisimilitude to my eyes–a country isn’t supposed to have weapons of war that look nowhere like its neighbor’s. I’ll have to admit that Krishna gets the shorter end of the technology stick, though.

On a more macro level, I enjoy the contrasting design ideologies between world powers in the first season of Gundam 00. The advanced technology of the Union (comprising the US and its allies) relies on air superiority, hence their extensive usage of the transforming Flag mobile suit. In direct contrast is the Human Reform League (Russia, China and communist allies), with its reliance on massed deployment of mobile suits. Understandably, the HRL’s Tieren is a practical, robust unit that could be outfitted for many combat roles. The Advanced European Union’s mechs are pretty much similar to the Union.

There are more fun examples I can think about. There’s Ryousuke Takahashi’s real robot shows (which I’ve already seen VOTOMS, Gasaraki, FLAG), which have believable, if not very exciting, differences in interfactional mecha design. There’s also Escaflowne (which I’m watching right now), with the Zaibach mecha sporting more practical designs and weapons compared to everyone else’s knightly-looking Guymelefs.

Can you think of other cases?

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11 Responses to How mecha design philosophies differ between factions

  1. siopao says:

    Even considering that Athens and Krisna has differing design philoso… actually, it really doesn’t show. The Fafnir looks like the baseline golem in the entire world from what is shown; everything is just either better or somewhat on par with it. Athens has a hi-mo suit armed with a long range gun. Their standard golem seems like on par with the Fafnir, but with seemingly more (ornate?) armor. I don’t even need to get started on their officer mechs XD

    tldr; sucks to be Krisna.

    Also, pacopy Gasaraki plox. :))

    • schneider says:

      I always thought that Krisna had spent their resources on making more golems, than making elite-type golems, but I don’t have the actual numbers to back me up. The Artemis looks like hero mech material, with the nice edges.

      Oh, and sure thing. I have VOTOMS and Dougram, too~

      • siopao says:

        That’s what I thought too at first, but based on the discussions on army strengths, it seems they’re also outnumbered. Interesting to note that they pride themselves on having a pretty much good supply of Quartz (apparently, the best kind too) + a Queen with a mecha fetish, they only field one kind of Golem. Heck, even the golems of the generals are just Fafnirs with pretty markings. :))

        And yes, the Artemis does look hero-mech-y. Would love to see it in action again, hopefully with less sniping/i-have-a-cooler-gun-moment involved :))

  2. Five Star Stories. Design is wedded to locality. The differences are detailed, striking, and well-thought out (within the context of the rule of cool) that it merits a full post with lots of pictures.

    Perhaps the worst set of differing designs that struggle to make any sense at all are from those in Z Gundam. Take away the Gundams and the GMs, the Titans are filled with WTF.

    • Reid says:

      I totally agree. The differences in design between factions within the Joker “Galaxy” is mind-boggling and even with a full battery of pictures it’s going to be tough to take in all the variations. “Striking” really is the best way to say it. The fact that the MHs all look so different from each other (even within the same faction) is part of what makes “Five Star Stories” such a “fully realized” universe, since the universe’s mecha are viewed as distinctive works of art prized for their aesthetic appeal as much as their capability on the battlefield.

      Also, you’re dead-on about “Zeta Gundam,” which is just…silly. The fact that I don’t like more than a handful of Mobile Suits in the series (really only Zeta Gundam, Gaplant, and Marasai) is part of what keeps me from appreciating the show more than I do, even though I hold it in very high esteem for its storytelling and atmosphere. I think it has to do with the radical and abrasive colors and shapes of many of the mobile suits, which seem to me to have been designed without any real consideration for a “unifying theme” within, say, the Titans or the AEUG. I mean, sure, the Zeon had wild colors but at least Zakus, Goufs and Gelgoogs looked enough alike to tell they were built by Zeonic Co., as opposed to the Doms and the Gyans built by the rival Zimmad Co. Anaheim Electronics-built mobile suits (the Gundam-form prototypes anyway) looked more alike in silhouette, which I postulate explains how the Sinanju retains its Gundam-like “heroic” proportions even though it’s been repurposed as a symbol of the Spacenoid rebellion. In the later UC, the Crossbone Vanguard’s MS are also pretty unified but distinct from the Federal Forces, as are those wacky Zansacre Empire designs.

      In the real world, especially prior to the advent of passive stealth technology in mainline fighter jets (F-22 Raptor obviously stands out) there are very striking differences in design between Western planes and their Warsaw pact counterparts. Even today, it’s easy to see the distinctive swoops and lines of a Sukhoi’s leading edge and fuselage compared to the straight-edged and more top-speed focused American designs.

      I’m so glad that this post was made because the difference in design ethos is something that I love about mecha anime that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s one of my favorite things about the genre and it’s something that carries over into my appreciation for real-world industrial design.

      • schneider says:

        The ASShimar turns into a flying hamburger. The Psyco Gundams turn into karaoke machines. The Baund Doc is as silly as its name sounds. The O is a fat phallic symbol. I like the Hambrabi, though.

        I knew that Zeon had a couple of contractors but never realized which of them built which. I can see the differences clearer now.

        And thanks for appreciating this post! When I was a kid, I would go to the school library and devour military books (particularly the Combat and Survival series), pitting tanks and fighter planes against each other. Giant robots were just the next logical step.

        • Reid says:

          The next logical step indeed! I once wrote on Ghostlightning’s blog about how I don’t see much of a distinction between mecha shows and those focusing on other military hardware or other vehicles. Growing up around cars and farm equipment makes machines a big part of my life and I’d say is what led me to pick “mechanically focused” anime shows as my favorite, even if, say Wangan Midnight is not anything close to the same as Area 88, neither of which have anything much in common with Gundam.

    • schneider says:

      Now I want FSS harder…

      I’d like to do some research on how the antagonist factions’ mecha were designed in Z and ZZ, because indeed, it’s very, very scatterbrained.

  3. Snark says:

    Despite being a mechhead, I unfortunately can’t think of many examples. Masami Obari’s chintastic robot designs should totally be their own faction though.

  4. Stormshrug says:

    Code Geass provides an interesting case here because KMFs don’t get differentiated by faction until about half way through the first season (since Burais are just refitted Gloucesters), but then once they do, it kind of explodes outward. The Gurren and Gekka prototypes are angular where the Southerland is boxy, sleek where it’s chunky, visually top-heavy where it’s balanced, has an entirely different cockpit design (lolol). On top of that, the Gekka has a distinct mono-eye (always a plus).

    This first generation of Black Knights KMFs has its own very distinct aesthetic that says very clearly that it isn’t just a refitted Brittanian machine – which makes a lot of sense. Their war is largely ideological, and having their own mechanical aesthetic says to allies and enemies alike that they are not merely insurgents, but a legitimate army.

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