The complete information source for modelers who build mecha and mecha-inspired vehicles.

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Mecha (Giant Robots and Power Suits)

An obvious component to the stable of sci-fi vehicles are "mecha". While the strict Japanese definition covers anything mechanical, for our editorial purposes we'll define "mecha" as manned power suits and giant robots. A Japanese import, mecha became popular in the States during the 80's, through translated (and often extensively re-written) TV shows such as Voltron and Robotech. Since then, the concept has been accepted into many western sci-fi creations.

Of all Japanese mecha, those from the Gundam series of movies and TV shows are far and above the most enduring and extensive. But the number of mecha-related shows (and their associated models) is dizzying... and we're happy to cover any and all of them!

For more images of mechs, check out our Readers' Gallery.

Battletech | Gundam | Heavy Gear | Jovian Chronicles | Macross
MA.K. ZbV 3000/ SF3D | Neon Genesis: Evangelion | Patlabor | Robotech | General | Links

BATTLETECH

mad.jpg

Image: Armorcast's Madcat prototype.

In Battletech, humanity is in a technological decline after thousands of years of expansion into space. The Great Houses of the Inner Sphere battle each other as well as the invading "Clans" - Humans, descended from one of the Star Leagues greatest leaders and the army that he took with him during the Exodus. The pinnacle of human military achievment are Battlemechs: large, heavily armed walkers with a huge array of weaponry.

Beginning as a simple board game using robot designs lifted from Japanese anime, FASA built Battletech into a massive franchise covering everything from books and models to computer games. FASA is gone now, but WizKids and FanPro LLC are doing things to keep the art and lead flowing.

References:


Reviews:

GUNDAM

[Pretty Lil' Gaplant]

Image: The Bandai Gaplant kit,
built by Marc Vezina.

Starting in the first Gundam series in 1979, Mobile Suit Gundam, Japanese audiences and eventually the world were introduced to one of the most intricate and longest stories in sci-fi today. The Earth-based Federation and it's conflicts with the space based Zeons became what is now known as the Universal Century timeline. Several different series in this UC timeline take us through the wars, each series having it's own viewpoints of the wars and expanding upon themes explored in previous series, all the while continuing along a common timeline.

There is also another Gundam Universe called the Alternate Timeline or AC timeline. In this timeline all the rules from the UC timeline have been thrown out as if those shows never existed and Gundams are used in all sorts of fantastical storylines. Each series in this timeline is really a world unto itself, as none of them relate to each other or even follow a common calendar. One series shows them as giant suits used as gladiators while another shows them as superhero, Earth's last hope types.

References:


Reviews:

HEAVY GEAR

Check out this review, or can't have a ride!

Image: Kodiak and Interior Set,
built by Jay Adan.

Kodiak Heavy Gear. Jumping off the pages and computer monitors of Dream Pod 9's Heavy Gear® universe, the Kodiak is the first large scale kit offering based on this popular background. The Kodiak is the strongest mech in the arsenal of the Northern Lights Confederacy - one of the main factions of the distant colony world of Terra Nova. While the Kodiak is not great in numbers, their presence is a tremendous morale boost to troops that serve with them, due to their awesome punch.

This 1/35th scale kit is made by Dream Pod 9's sister company, Fusion Models (see Fusion Models Interview, below). In addition to the basic kit, they currently offer three different detail sets for this beast. They've promised that this is the first of at least two kits in the Heavy Gear® resin kit line. Most who have seen this kit would agree that it's one of the finest produced resin kits, around - as well as just being a brutishly cool looking design. The kit can be purchased either direct from Fusion, or through Tangents.

References:

  • Dream Pod 9's Heavy Gear Overview
  • Northern Vehicles Compendium One: Gears and Striders, Dream Pod 9 (1996)

Reviews:

JOVIAN CHRONICLES

[Pretty Lil' Syreen]

Image: The Fusion Syreen kit,
built by Marcel Bastien.

Jovian Chronicles. Another of Dream Pod 9's creations, The Jovian Chronicles are set in our Solar System during the 23rd century. Rivalries rage between most of the major bodies of the inner system, with combats being fought by mech-assisted space fleets. Two models have been produced so far, the Syreen and one of its successor, the Pathfinder. They're part mech, part spacecraft - and all bad news to the opposition.

References:


Reviews:

MA.K. ZbV 3000/ SF3D


[Krote]

Image: "Krote" walker, from the original boxart.

Maschinen Krieger ZbV 3000 (originally SF3D) was the brainchild of Japanese artist/modelmaker Kow Yokoyama. Dissatisfied with the' mechas and giant robots popular in the early eighties, he dreamed up a world filled with gritty, functional and retro-looking robots and vehicles. The SF3D stories, serialized in Hobby Japan, were set in the late 29th century on an Earth slowly recovering from the environmental devastation of the third world war, only to be plunged into chaos again as settlers returning from various space colonies (mostly of Commonwealth origin) fall into dispute with their government, the Shutoral Demokratische Republik. This results in areplay of World War 2. Yokoyama-san's designs were produced as plastic kits by NITTO Japan and were the first major multi-media science fiction kits released. In a lot of ways, they are still the only mass-market sci-fi kits equal in molding and detail to the more mainstream kits offered by Tamiya and Hasegawa.

Nitto and Wave re-released kits from the old line (now under the MK ZbV 3000 banner) and Hasegawa has (as of 2009) entered the genre as well.

References:

Reviews:

MACROSS

[zoooooooooooooooooooooom!]

Next to the Gundam property, Macross is one of Japan's longest running series (TV, movies, and OAVs). It's one of the three animes that was used to create the U.S. Robotech series in the '80s. The popularity of the Macross saga led to a number of sequels and spin-offs, including the movies Macross: Do You Remember Love, Macross Flashback 2012, Macross II, Macross 7 and the Macross Plus OAV/movie series. Many of the newer series contain innovative new mecha designs, as well as new twists on older favorites like the original VF-1 Valkyrie fighters.

References:
Macross Mecha Designs
Macross Compendium

Reviews:

NEON GENESIS: EVANGELION

To the casual eye, Neon Genesis: Evangelion may seem like fairly typical Japanese giant robot fare. However, watch a few episodes with your braincells engaged and you'll find it to be a complex tale, rich in mystery and metaphor. The 26-episode story is a worthy peer of epics like Babylon-5 or The Prisoner, in the way it plays with imagery, religious iconography, archetypes, and epic storytelling. The mechs are pretty darn impressive as well - a departure from the heroic humanoid Gundam/Patlabor/VOTOMS style so prevalent in Japanese anime.

References:

  • Guide to Neon Genesis: Evangelion

  • Reviews:

    PATLABOR

    [Alphonse, the enforcer]

    Image: © Masami Yuuki/Headgear/ Emotion/TFC/Shogakukan.

    Patlabor: Mobile Police Force is a mostly light-hearted, near-future (late 1990's, though the show was created in the late eighties) drama revolving around a special division (SV-2, for "Special Vehicles Section Number Two") of the Toyko police. In Patlabor's 1990's, we have developed large utility robots to help us in areas like heavy construction. The series' premise has it that with the introduction of these giant work machines, called "Labors", came the abuse of their technology for criminal purposes. Thus "Patlabors" (a contraction of "Patrol Labors") were developed to deal with these technological abuses. The show was one of the first to transition successfully from OVA to TV (an eventual 47 episodes were made) and thence to the big screen (2 movies, with a third reportedly on the way).

    References:


    Reviews:

    ROBOTECH

    [ZZZZZZap!] Robotech is the series which introduced America to Japanese animé in 1985. Three series with independent stories- Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada - were combined to form one story line chronicling the events of three generations defending the Earth with their transformable mecha. Certain plot elements and original names were changed from the originals; ie “Genesis Climber Mospeada” became Robotech: New Generation, and the “Legioss” mecha became "Alpha".

    References:

  • Robotech.com - the official site

  • Reviews:

    VOTOMS

    [Squat Lil Guy]

    Image: Converted Takara Scopedog,
    built by Marc Vezina.

    The early eighties anime Armored Troopers VOTOMS featured squat, utilitarian designsthat were a departure from the ornate, anthroporphically heroic designs of Mobile Suit Gundam. It may be this aspect that has given these designs a lasting influence, serving as springboard for other mechs, including those of the Heavy Gear® universe.

    References:

    Reviews:

    GENERAL

    Alain's Squid

    There are so many books, shows and games featuring mecha designs it's almost impossible to list them all. And of course, more come out every year ....

    Reviews:

    Previews:




    Starship Modeler's™ Mecha Modeling Choice Links

    Modeling:

    • MA.K.ZbV3000 Maschinen Krieger: The ultimate site for news and information on Kow Yokoyama's innovative and unusual mecha line (previously known as SF3D).
    • Anime Addicts Anonymous: Started in 1999, this rapidly growing site aims to become the Web's nexus for mecha modeling. Some great links and a growing readers' gallery.
    • Church of the Machine: This is a slick-looking site dedicated to mecha modeling - mostly Gundam. Feature reviews and quality photography. One of the better mecha modeling sites we've run across.

    Reference:

    • Guide to Neon Genesis: Evangelion: Pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about NG:Evangelion, the characters, the story, etc. Well designed, with plenty of worthwhile links.
    • Gundam.com: Perhaps the Web's best resource for all things Gundam.

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    Last updated on 10 November 2010.