Embracing the Possibilities of Cockpit View in Mecha Anime

There’s a very short scene in Gundam AGE, one which lasted only a couple of seconds, which prompted me to ask an important question:

Why don’t more mecha anime show fight scenes in cockpit view?

The answer was immediate. Mecha anime employs the cockpit view more as a gimmick. It’s just as a device to show how terrifying an enemy mech is as it wastes the hapless pilot looking helplessly at his screen, as well as a budget-saving one (much of the console would take up the viewing area, and it could afford to remain still). This is because it’s generally more exciting to watch mecha combat from a third-person viewpoint. You get to see their maneuvers in full, unrestricted glory.

However, for those few seconds I was absolutely charmed. When Asemu realigned his mech’s bearing to face his reinforcements, I realized how curious I was in wanting to know how a fight scene would enfold entirely in cockpit view. The field of vision is severely limited, but you get to watch the pilot actually work the cockpit for REAL piloting. Charging an enemy mech into melee would be much more exhilarating, every dodge more meaningful.

With cockpit view, one could see how a mech handles in the eyes of its pilot. The difference in performance between a grunt mech and an ace unit would be clearer. Space mecha combat is still shackled by two dimensions–notice how mechs are always upright and facing each other when locking melee weapons? Cockpit view would force the viewer to accept 3D space more readily.

Would I watch an entire anime with it? Probably not. But I sure want to see more of those awesome cockpit shots.

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18 Responses to Embracing the Possibilities of Cockpit View in Mecha Anime

  1. Kraker2k says:

    I agree, we need more of those! Some of the shots with Marida in the Kshatriya in Gundam Unicorn ep 1 were really good in this regard.

  2. R042 says:

    I agree entirely – much as this is going to sound like boasting, how cockpits and interfaces work was something I specifically mentioned in the sf novel I’m writing.

    I quite liked Gunbuster having its mecha with no real big monitors, it made the fight in episode 3 really tense. I think it was 3. The Smith one.

    • schneider says:

      I kinda want this too because I want to get better at writing mecha combat. Sometimes I have difficulty making the pilot do more stuff than pulling levers or pressing buttons.

  3. omo says:

    Cockpit shots are PITA to draw is why. Unless you like it when there’s nothing going on outside.

    • schneider says:

      I was thinking more like in the first screenshot, but I’ll concede that it takes good design work (and animator diligence) to construct a half-decent cockpit.

      • omo says:

        I wonder if it has anything to do with prevalence of anime of using wide open spaces. It’s hard to have prolong scenes in an enclosed, tiny space.

  4. Author says:

    They are sometimes used to good effect, like in Stellvia.

  5. TTGL had AWESOME cockpit views. G Gundam too, though there’s way too much of Domon’s ass.

  6. rockmanshii says:

    You know what else looks awesome from the cockpit? Pilot’s deaths. Yeah I know I’m depressing…I guess that’s not the same type of cockpit view you mean though; that’s more like, pilot’s view? Like the pianist’s death in Gundam Seed, Auel’s in Desitny. Or one of the poor mooks shot down by Girge at the end of Break Blade 5. That one was a real cockpit view death going by your definition.
    Sorry if I spoiled anyone…

    • schneider says:

      I agree. I don’t like it when the camera cuts back outside of the cockpit as the mech blows up. What’s better, I think, would be watching the pilot die from his own eyes… CoD-itis, maybe? Still cool, though.

    • WhatSht says:

      It’ll be great to see the destruction of a mecha from the point of view of the pilot.

  7. WhatSht says:

    The best cockpit for combat would be a sphere, the pilot can see in any direction.
    I liked the cockpits of the Vectors in Aquarion, they are spheres, and the best thing is that they can actually control using both movement and levers, sticks, pedals.

  8. Mushyrulez says:

    Honestly, I think the best viewpoint to view mecha battles is from the radar of an bomber pilot, slowly seeing the blips appear closer and closer until they’re right underneath the bomber before it unleashes an unholy burst of red that soon explodes and blossoms into a full-blown mushroom-like discharge that instantly destroys the pilots upon contact with the radioactive metal-piercing gamma rays that steadily creep upon the charred ruins of the ci-

    Oh, is this Gundam you’re talking about? I guess bombs don’t work because the mechas’ armor is so technologically advanced that nobody’s bothering to put them on tanks anymore. :v

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