Friday, April 22, 2011

On Miscellaneous Consumption

Or:  I muse about the anime I have watched in the last six or so months, and try (read: fail) to keep it brief.

I finished Mars Daybreak today, and this inspired me to put my (metaphorical) pen to (metaphorical) paper regarding shows completed.

Nurarihyon no Mago

Rome's Rapid Rubric* (Action/Fanservice/Plot):  5/4/4

I wrote a bit about this show, and the experience of enjoying mediocrity.

Honestly, what I wrote earlier pretty much holds.  I did, in fact, finish this show, even though I dropped a number of other mediocre shows (Legend of the Legendary Heroes and Iron Man, I'm looking at you two, and especially you, Hakuouki 2) at roughly the same time, and then went so far as to watch nothing  from last season's offerings, which were not short on mediocrity.  I guess I can't watch every mediocre show.

But this one was fun, and actually had a pretty satisfying arc to it.  Characters often used their rather stock powers creatively, which I always like (part of the reason I've been enjoying the game Bulletstorm so much recently).  There were some predictable power upsets, because it wouldn't be a shounen manga adaptation without them, but there were some clever ones, too.  "Even when the sun rises, the moon is still in the sky," after all.

Apparently there is more in the works, though I don't know whether I'll watch it or not.  Probably not, but you never know.

Final Words:  Still not recommending it.  Though I'm still not not-recommending it, either.

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid

Rome's Rapid Rubric (Action/Fanservice/Plot):  6/7/6

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid is Full Metal Panic! Season 1 all over again.  Great start, entertaining (if far from revolutionary) character dynamics between Sousuke (professional soldier since childhood and thus devoid of social graces) and Kaname (brilliant but wrathful highschool tsundere), and a really big lead-up to an anticlimax at the end.  The first episode of The Second Raid, just like the first episode of the first season, promises GREAT mecha action as a series hook.  And, pretty much just like the first season, it's a bait-and-switch.  It delivers enjoyable but steadily decreasing mecha action (just like the first season), and then disappoints at the end by having a conflict that is much more emotional and introspective than military and full of explosions.

The animation of The Second Raid is gorgeous - that's definitely an improvement over the first season's rapid degeneration of quality - but the plot still lags badly in second half, this time due to angst (instead of poor animation AND angst).

In the end, The Second Raid's greatest failing, though, is that it's essentially the first season all over again.  Much of the relationship development from the first season is undone in the name of comedy and drama, and then redone in much the same way.  It's an easy way to repeat the success of the past than innovate, but it sometimes cheapens the experience.

Surprise Breakout Character:  Chidori Kaname.  I know, how can one of the two MAIN characters from the very start be a breakout character?  Yeah, I was surprised, too, but she pulled it off and really impressed me with her fortitude and resourcefulness.  Perhaps the only really new thing in The Second Raid is her individual character development, outside of her relationship with Sousuke.  If there is a third season, I will be very irked if this doesn't last.

Final Words:  A satisfactory continuation of the plot from the first season, and worth watching if you enjoyed that.  If you're just looking for lulz and don't care about the romance or plot, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu delivers the lulz in a more condensed form.  The action at large isn't bad, but I was left wanting more robots.

Seirei no Moribito

Rome's Rapid Rubric (Action/Fanservice/Plot):  5/0/5

Seirei no Moribito (officially rendered "Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit") is a series about a warrior, Balsa, and a kid, Prince Chagum, who she sets out to protect from various court intrigues like murder and more murder.  There are some other recurring characters (various people from the court, Balsa's not-boyfriend Tanda, and his extremely cantankerous teacher, Torogai the shaman), but fundamentally, it's about Balsa and Chagum hiding from the assassins on their trail, occasionally punctuated by the utterly brutal asskickings that Balsa delivers to the people hunting them.  Do not f*ck with Balsa.

Though it is set in a fantasy world, it isn't written like a fantasy world - it is far more akin to George RR Martin's gritty, historically-influenced fantasy than works of high fantasy.  Thankfully, it isn't anywhere near as dark as Martin's works.

The martial arts in this series, although they don't appear as often as they might, are beautiful.  Production IG lovingly renders the fight scenes when they do show up, though they hardly skimp on the visuals at other times.  Seirei no Moribito looks good - really good - all the way through.

I would recommend this series quite broadly.  The only thing it's short on is humor - it isn't a comedy, and it doesn't try to be.  Though it has funny moments it does not contrive to create them.

Final Words:  Huh, I don't hate slice of life after all.  I just hate slices of boring people's lives.  Also, what's with all the bodyguard series I've been watching?

Ghost in the Shell Stand: Alone Complex: Second Gig

Rome's Rapid Rubric (Action/Fanservice/Plot):  6/6/8

The second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a show I had seen most of before, back when I watched anime week-to-week on [Adult Swim].  I remember liking the action, but being rather confused by the byzantine plot, because I would occasionally miss episodes, and then be totally lost, and I was watching it over such a long period of time that I could hardly remember the important details (of which there are many).

It's definitely a show to watch over a short period of time, like Lost (or so I'm told, as I haven't seen Lost).  The action is beautiful, the characters are interesting, if a bit secondary to the complex machine that is the plot.  As with the first season, it doesn't give you answers, though it doesn't leave them to nebulous interpretation usually, either - it expects you to pay attention and then figure them out yourself.

The Tachikomas are still fun, and get to play perhaps an even more integral role in the plot this time.  The Tachikoma Theatre shorts at the end of each episode are something I won't claim to fully understand, though.

Final Words:  The Major's outfit is slightly less unreasonable in the second season, since she wears what actually amount to real, full-length pants most of the time.

Senkou no Night Raid (Lightning-Fast Night Raid)

Rome's Rapid Rubric (Action/Fanservice/Plot):  4/1/6

Senkou no Night Raid is an extremely problematic work, and one that isn't easy to write on, especially because I am so poorly versed in the history that it covers.  It situates itself in China in 1930, beginning in Shanghai, and follows a special para-military unit of psychics working for the Japanese Army.  Shanghai at the time was an extremely international city, and a huge number of nations had significant stakes in it.  This is a fascinating setting, but obviously, a troubling one.  The show has definitely prompted me to do a little bit of research on my own into less openly fictional accounts of the events it portrays, but I'm no expert on these matters.

Where Senkou no Night Raid succeeds is in its portrayals of its main characters, and in the fascinating ways each member of the team uses his or her rather limited psychic powers (especially in conjunction with one another).  The first arc of the show, which takes place in Shanghai, while tensions are mounting, is very compelling.

Where it falls short is in its attempt to launch itself headlong into the semi-fictional, semi-historical territory of political intrigue between China, Japan, and the League of Nations in 1930 while still claiming the auspices of being "a work of fiction," as it frequently reminded the viewer.  Every time the show portrayed a "historical" event, I questioned the accuracy of it, and then the spin that might have been put on it even if it was technically correct, and then the spin inherent in history books themselves.  The fact that the fictional main characters fell out of focus, to some degree, in the second half did little to improve the situation.

The resolution of the plot was somewhat rushed, because of the focus on "historical" events in the second half of the show, and the clever uses of psychic powers mostly fell by the wayside, only briefly returning for the finale.

It does have a really good OP, though.

Final Words:  Senkou no Night Raid was definitely thought-provoking, though perhaps not in the ways it intended (or perhaps so - it was hard to tell what, if any, messages it carried).  The first few episodes are significantly stronger than the rest of the series.

Mars Daybreak

Rome's Rapid Rubric (Action/Fanservice/Plot):  5/5/4

When I picked up Mars Daybreak, I knew only a few things about it - it was by Studio Bones (who I like), it was about pirates (cool), and it featured giant robots underwater ('nuff said).  The first episode begins with a look at the impoverished dystopia Mars has become in the far future, languishing under colonial rule by the Earth, in a situation not entirely unlike the Space Colonies of Universal Century Gundam.  However, despite the frequent implications of a GRIMDARK backdrop behind the action, Mars Daybreak is anything but.  

Mars Daybreak is basically Star Trek on a pirate submarine on Mars.  Bones drops you right into the universe with nary an explanation as to how things work, because they're much too busy getting down to the HIGH ADVENTURE!  The cool-as-a-cucumber main protagonist isn't surprised by anything, so the viewer is left in the awkward but not entirely unenjoyable position of being alone in shouting "LOLWUT!?!" every few minutes for the first couple episodes.  The crew contains such characters as a talking cat, some kind of Vulcan, an empath of some kind, and a dolphin in power armor (or possibly some other small toothed whale), and besides a few short glimpses, their backstories are largely closed books.  But Mars Daybreak isn't about backstory.  Even the main character barely gets his backstory fleshed out, beyond necessary details.  It's about sailing towards the horizon of tomorrow, and being totally awesome doing it.

Although it doesn't delve into the past, the secondary characters are all satisfactorily, if not deeply, developed (as are the primary characters, fortunately).  This lack of depth comes in part from the large cast, but also seems to be a part of the aesthetic of the show.  Mars Daybreak doesn't aspire to great depth.

On an note few people but me care about, the mecha action falls into that all-too-common category of "decent, but not great" occupied by so many shows that would be absolutely amazing if they'd just put a bit more effort into this aspect of the show (Full Metal Panic (1&2), Eureka 7 (until the last quarter or so), Xam'd).  Combat tends to be low on both stakes and fatalities, and both mechanical power and pilot skill tend to be determined somewhat arbitrarily.  There are some mechanics of the universe that ameliorate this slightly by offering a form of explanation (enemy mechs are controlled remotely, and so they have slower reaction times, relying on attrition over skill to win battles), but the protagonists' victories often seem hollow because of this, too.  The mechanical designs are really cool, though.

Surprise Breakout Character:  Poipoider, the power-armored dolphin pirate voiced by the Lich King.  This is the dolphin Jesse would play if he were ever to play a dolphin or other small toothed whale in an RPG campaign.

Final Words:  Mars Daybreak is a fun, lighthearted, and mostly character-driven adventure series without much depth or the desire for such things.  This format lets Bones take advantage of their biggest strengths (great characterization and versatile animation), while avoiding their most glaring weaknesses (stupid, incomprehensible endings and big, unanswered questions).  Also, Poipoider is a badass.


*As always, I must mention that Rome's Rapid Rubric only accounts for "objective subjective" factors.  As such, it is not an indication of quality, merely of content.  "Good" and "bad" action (or fanservice, or plot) are weighted the same on this scale.  Fanservice only denotes sexually-oriented fanservice, since other forms of fanservice are too difficult to measure on this (intentionally) simplified scale.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Broken Borders (Meta-Humor and Broken Blade)

Moments of self-reflection within works of fiction almost always stand out, especially when the viewpoint of the characters in the scene and that of the reader are placed at odds.  Yunosuke Yoshinaga’s Broken Blade explores this idea in a scene where two characters act as viewers of a work suspiciously similar to the manga in which they exist.  It is also worth noting that this scene was largely downplayed in the anime adaptation, though it was still present, and adaptational decisions like that fascinate me.  The scene is largely comedic, but there is a serious undertone to the frivolity of Sigyn insulting Rygart’s drawings that look so much the panels that the author, Yoshinaga, drew some pages earlier.  This self-deprecating joke serves to remind the readers of the fantasy inherent in this series, and in fact in all media and storytelling in general.  The levity of the scene and Rygart’s humorous reinterpretation of his own near-death experience are juxtaposed against the deadly desperation of his first fight in the Delphine, driving home the detachment from reality necessarily present in fictional media.  Further, Sigyn’s summary dismissal of Rygart’s work reinforces the idea that there are, fundamentally, more important things going on, even in the world of the manga, than Rygart’s artistic endeavors, to say nothing of the comparative importance of events in our own world.  Yoshinaga raises the hard question about the actual, tangible good that stories can provide, although he slips out of answering with another joke at his own expense.  Despite his teasing non-answer, it is nonetheless fascinating that Yoshinaga would raise this problem of media in his own work in the first place.

The difference between the ‘reality’ in the world of the manga and the world that Rygart presents in his manga-like ‘report’ becomes clear when the two are compared side-by-side.  Rygart and Sigyn are fictional characters, but they are also, briefly, viewers of what is almost their own manga.  Yoshinaga brings our attention to an interesting point through their self-reflection: even inside of a manga, ‘reality’ and media are clearly differentiable.  This is obvious on some level, but at least for me, it is not something I usually actively consider while reading.  Broken Blade is a fairly dark series as shounen manga go, portraying warfare in a sobering, if not truly ‘realistic’ manner.  When Rygart is unceremoniously hurled by fate into the cockpit of the Delphine and then into a desperate fight for his life, he is naturally unsettled by the experience.

Broken Blade: Volume I, Yoshinaga, p. 101-102

In these panels, Rygart’s fear is clear, if not overwhelming, from the cues we can derive from the art.  His eyes are wide, his pupils small, and sweat is running down his face.  He grits his teeth as he comes to the decision to charge head-on instead of waiting to be shot by a better-armed enemy.  The stress of the situation is, understandably, taking its toll on him.

Yoshinaga, p. 150

However, Rygart’s own rendition of his facial expression in his version of the scene betrays none of the emotions he was actually feeling at the time – though the sketch is simple, it is obvious that he is supposed to be composed – his eyes are relatively smaller, with pupils undilated, his mouth is closed, set almost in a smile, and he is not sweating .  Instead of desperately searching for a way to avoid swiftly oncoming death from a wrathful not-quite-loli, Rygart presents himself as thinking the laughably clich├ęd line “at a time like this, I knew that as a man I couldn’t be afraid to fight!!!”  The pure bravado of this piece of dialogue, which could easily appear less ironically in many other series, illustrates the difference between reality and Rygart’s small piece of historical fiction inside of Broken Blade.  Further, the violence in the scene is reduced in Rygart’s rendition.  Instead of the detailed crash shown earlier, his version shows merely a pair of silhouettes, the Delphine’s arms outstretched in a tackle while the other golem flails about wildly instead of collapsing inward to protect itself from his blow.  Though the collision could have proven fatal to either pilot (which Rygart notes at the time), the later drawing, which lacks the detail of the original scene, is funny because its simplicity hides that dangerous truth.  The catastrophic impact between the two war-machines is literally dulled by humor in Rygart’s reinterpretation of the scene.

Sigyn’s reaction to Rygart’s ‘report’ is almost as telling as his sketches themselves.  Her curt dismissal of his work relegates it even further into the realm of frivolity.
Yoshinaga, p. 152

Sigyn is not interested in the fantasy that Rygart has concocted, telling him that she “want[s] it explained in words, not pictures.”  As she explains, “[the characters are] in different times now,” and she does not have time to decipher his “scrawl[ings]” given the war looming over her country.  Facts are import to her, not Rygart’s “mettle as a man,” as she describes his means of presenting himself in his so-called report.  Sigyn thus brushes aside Rygart’s fiction based on “pictures” and “scrawl[ings]” in her search for a useful truth grounded in the more serious, adult realm of “words.”  She calls for Rygart to be mature and professional, and to provide her with data that might save lives and win wars instead of a story that aims to compel interest at the expense of accuracy or realism.

By casting Rygart and Sigyn as viewers of this manga so similar to the manga that encompasses their lives, Yoshinaga invites the viewers of the manga (who are also viewers of the manga-within-the-manga) to focus on the differences between the two, and also on the differences between fantasy and our own reality.  Sigyn sees Rygart’s 'manga' as inconsequential, and given the situation they face, it is not unreasonable to say that it is.  However, both of these levels of reality still fall within the universe of the manga – in other words, fantasy.  When Sigyn says that she “need[s] a report done in words, not pictures,” Yoshinaga implicitly asks the viewer why he or she wants or “need[s]” the “pictures” that he (Yoshinaga) draws.  Though his attitude is tongue-in-cheek, it presents a reasonable problem: in a world where there are bigger problems, what can art really do?  If a neat little fiction cannot even change the course of the lives of a few fictional characters in a manga, can it change the lives of real people?  Yoshinaga does not engage this problem head-on in Broken Blade, at least not in the first volume, nor does he attempt to offer an answer.  And this is probably for the best - Broken Blade is, after all, a fantasy story about giant robots smashing each other up, and not a diatribe on the morality of fiction.  Thankfully.
Yoshinaga, p. 153

Rygart is indignant that Sigyn dismisses his artwork, drawing a comically stylized version of himself blurting out some unknown word (though “wench” seems a strong candidate).  Still, he does not attempt to change her mind, and this may betray a bit of Yoshinaga’s response to the problem: he cannot offer an answer, but he does not intend to stop producing fiction, either.  He acknowledges the challenge, and then, like Rygart, draws a funny picture (of Rygart drawing a funny picture, in this case) stubbornly rejecting this line of logic without actually refuting it.

In the end, it is kind of appropriate that what begins as a self-effacing joke also ends as a self-effacing joke, but Yoshinaga nonetheless explores interesting territory in the interim.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

On Blatantancy and Brilliance

Alternatively: Why Tiger and Bunny is the cleverest show of the season.

More to the point:

Step 1:  Make show about corporate sponsored heroes, thus appealing to 'incisive social commentary' types.
Step 2:  Get corporate sponsors IRL for show.  Put their logos on the heroes.
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Respond to all complaints with "But it's realism!"
Step 5: Reap profits, regret nothing.

The part of me that has done a bit of marketing is impressed by both the audacity and the blunt cleverness of this ploy.  But, regarding the show itself, the first episode was pretty entertaining.  True, the armor the heroes wear is often CG, which I won't say I like, but I kept watching the Iron Manime through far crappier CG, and only dropped it because the writing got too crappy.  There's nothing amazingly innovative about T&B, but it follows the formulas (basically it's a buddy cop action-comedy, except that there's potentially humiliating and/or hilarious corporate pandering involved, too) in a way that could be fun.  And hey, free* simulcasting.  Can't really complain about that.

*(Though its ad density, as you may have guessed, is lulzily impressive.  Not as high as Nascar, though.  If anything, there aren't *enough* ads on the armor for it to be realistic.  There's tons of blank space!)


Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Sai Mecha

Alternative Title:  Giant robots occasionally drag me back to the blagosphere.

I have been busy, of late, and while I have composed a few blog posts in the last month or so, I haven't posted any of them.  This is a different problem I have.  I blame the fact that I've been writing papers for class on Manga with the energy I use for blag posts, but that's a transparent excuse.  Maybe I'll convert one of those papers to a post, when I've got some time.

However, I would find myself derelicting my duties if I failed to blather on about my top 15 mechanical designs from anime ad-nauseum when everyone else is doing it (and HONOR is on the line).  If I didn't vote and something like the Strike Freedom won, I'd be pretty  sad  pissed.  So here are my top fifteen nomination picks (in semi-coherent order) for Sai Mecha:

1.  Escaflowne (Vision of Escaflowne)


The Escaflowne is one badass machine, and when I was twelve, I liked few things more than watching it fight.  Every time I rewatch the show that's still true.  I still love watching it in battle, even if there really could have been more of those in Vision of Escaflowne (especially the second half).  I like the way the show makes clever use of its transforming qualities (and it turns into a dragon, how badass is that?  That's almost as awesome as a robot samurai who turns into a dinosaur (and then turns into a reference to Hamlet!)(Beast Wars Spoilers)).  I like its imposing, regal aura on the battlefield.  I like the organic elements of its design, and the way it groans and creaks like a thing almost alive, and steam flies from its vents as it rages its way through hordes of enemies.

It's hard for me to split nostalgia from my current aesthetic appreciate of the Escaflowne's design, but that's all right.  You never forget your first time.
 2.  Eltremus/Eltemus/Artemis/Whatever we're calling it this week (Broken/Break/whatever we're calling it this week Blade)

Sleek frame, angular corners, and a cool head.  Off to a good start.

Believably powerful prototype used by the antagonists.  Cool, I'm listening.

Realistic drawbacks to high-performance capacity.  That's neat.

Red Girge custom colors?  Be still my heart.

3.  Toudou Custom Gekka (Code Geass)

A classic 'Ace Custom' version of a mass produced mech, the Gekka Custom strikes the perfect balance of ostentatious detail and ridiculous custom weapons (not to be outdone by his subordinates and their chainsaw katanas, Toudou wields a ROCKET POWERED CHAINSAW KATANA) without going entirely overboard.  I like a lot of Knightmare Frames a fair amount, especially the way they are treated as semi-believable weapons of war (in the first season), but in terms of design, most of them are merely 'cool,' and not 'list material.'

But the Custom Gekka gets on to the list.  Unlike most prior Knightmare Frames in Code Geass, it is not a refitted Britannian piece.  As such, it stands out visually from the Sutherlands, Gloucesters, and Burais (and custom versions thereof) that have dominated the battlefield to this point.  It has a much more organic profile and much sharper edges than the boxy KMFs we had seen so far, introducing an interesting visual contrast between the factions.  It is one of (though not the first) Knightmare Frames built, and not just converted, with the aesthetics of the 'Black Rebellion' in mind, and of the KMFs of that generation, it is easily my favorite.

4.  MS-018 Kampfer (Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket)

Once upon a time in the winter of U.C. 0080, a mildly intoxicated Zeon soldier with a thick Russian accent laid waste to a Federation task force (and base) single-handedly armed with a prototype Kampfer and a flask of what I can only assume is vodka.  He was able to do this because of three things:

(1).  The element of surprise.  The Kampfer was constructed by the commandos aboard the colony they were infiltrating.  TACTICAL GENIUS!

(2).  He brought guns to a gunfight.  The Kampfer used almost exclusively heavy, anti-mobile suit weapons for the job, and only once failed to bring the target down in a single shot.  Even that time (against the RX NT-1), Misha used *extremely gratuitous* firepower on his target.

(3).  He never needed to reload.  Out of ammo?  Drop gun, pull out next gun.  REPEAT.  DO NOT STOP UNTIL EVERY MOTHERF*CKER IS DEAD.

I like the Kampfer because it's a break from the norm for Zeon.  It isn't a mass-produced fodder suit deployed with an anti-light armor weapon that can barely scratch the Gundam's paint, and it isn't an absurdly impractical prototype mobile armor that looks like a shark or a crab or a killer Pac-Man or a glaringly obvious Oedipus complex or a Big Zam (actually, I think that the Big Zam is kind of charming, but that's neither here nor there).  It's a high-performance mobile suit that trades in durability for guns, guns, swords, bombs, and more guns.

Yes, in the end, the Kampfer (and Misha) weren't enough to take out a Gundam 1v1.  What people often overlook is that they had to steamroll an entire Federation detachment in an orgy of destruction that would make many Newtype aces blush just to get to that fateful fight.  SOMEBODY in Zeon engineering got something right with this machine, which is essentially the Mobile Suit equivalent of one of those high-caliber rifles you can disassemble and hide in the secret compartment of a suitcase mostly filled with your classy business attire and vodka for martinis.  Only when you get it out, the gun has more guns hidden in it.

It's a pity that only one saw action, and without a Newtype pilot at that.

5.  MSN-001A1 'Delta Plus' (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn)

I like the Hyaku Shiki because it's *almost* a Gundam.  Just like Char is *almost* a good person throughout Zeta Gundam.  But for the Hyaku Shiki, some things are off (in interesting ways), so it falls just outside that definition.  And in the end, Char's still kind of a dick.

But the Hyaku Shiki isn't getting a spot on the list, because of a certain hot little number from Unicorn called the Delta Plus.  It has a few things in its favor.  It drops the unwieldy and rarely useful Hyper Mega Particle Bazooka and spends those points on a Wave Rider mode, giving it improved versatility and semi-believable atmospheric flight capabilities.  And I admit that I like me some transforming robots.  It drops the trademark gold anti-beam coating (which always struck me as a bit ostentatious, if impressive) for a sleek gray coat.  The Delta Plus knows that it doesn't need flashy colors or oversized guns to draw attention to itself.  It isn't compensating for anything.

6.  Hyukelion/Hykelion/We need to agree on some names for this show (Broken Blade)

Say what you will about robot cloaks, but I like them, at least aesthetically.  The cool thing about the Hyukelion, though, is that its robot cloak is functional.  Most of the machines in Broken Blade stick quite closely to the human form - head, torso, two arms, two legs.  And the Hyukelion appears this way - until you get close enough to find out how terrifyingly it defies this unspoken aesthetic rule of war.  The Hyukelion is Borcuse/Phorcys' murderous pragmatism given form - it too takes on the form of a monster (the extra, unexpected "arms" hidden beneath said robot cloak) when needed.  And the cloak, and the deadly secrets it hides, make the Hyukelion one ominous motherf*cker, and a great mech for a such an unrepentant villain.

7.  Vardant (Linebarrels of Iron)

I read a bit of the manga, and it was lackluster.  I watched a bit of the show, and it was UNFORGIVABLY AWFUL.

I still love several of the mechanical design, but especially this one.

Impractically large number of swords?  Check.
Samurai armor theme?  Check.
Single horn?  Check.
Mono-eye (mounted in the chest)? Gravy.

It's like Senbonzakura and Eva Unit 00 got together and made some kind of abomination offspring.  THE BEST KIND OF ABOMINATION!

8.  GP-02A 'Physallis' (Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory)

So, this may seem an odd pick, but I really like the GP-02 for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, it's a Gundam-type mobile suit, but it was designed with a specific and sinister purpose - delivery of a tactical nuke.  This comes out in the design, both practically and aesthetically - it possesses a villainous flare that just isn't present in most Universal Century Gundams.  The heavy tower shield, the large pauldrons, and the sheer size of the feet all make sense for what it is - a specialized artillery piece that has to survive its own deadly attack, but also give it a sense of mass - of gravity - that isn't present (but contrasts wonderfully) with the more traditionally 'heroic' GP-01 (and GP-01FV/B).  It's a bit reminiscent of the Quin Mantha/Kshatriya in this regard (and in regard to the Pauldron Wings), but unlike those two, it also integrates the traditional 'Gundam' elements in recognizable ways, which creates an odd and compelling contrast.  I love the skull-like design of the head.

Another interesting contrast in the GP-02 is that it is equipped with two kinds of weapons - small, defensive ones (Vulcans, Beam Sabers), and A GODDAM NUKE.  Given that one of these is kind of a one-shot deal that takes significant time to set up, it means that the pilot has to play defensively most of the time.  This works out well for Stardust Memory, and lets it get away with having relatively inexperienced, non-Newtype protagonists go up against veteran war heroes without being slaughtered instantly.  The GP-02 isn't really equipped for anti-Mobile Suit combat, and given its role (essentially, nuclear sniper), this makes sense.  It is built to get one job done (and it does).

And finally, it has PAULDRONS, which means that it's important.

9.  NT-1 'ALEX' (Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket)

The 'ALEX' is probably my favorite incarnation of the 'classic Gundam.'  It's a couple of things - a more detailed design used for animation, the fact that, unlike many Gundams (looking at YOU, RX-78-2) it takes visible damage from just about everything, the lack of lots of "hey, shoot me!" red in the color scheme.

But mostly it's the wrist-mounted gatling guns.  Yes, there's no space for those guns in those wrists.

I don't care.  They're WRIST MOUNTED GATLING GUNS, and it's all worth it for the look on the other pilot's face when they come popping out, spitting a zillion rounds of hot metal death per second.

10.  RX-0 'Unicorn' (Unicorn Mode) (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn)

I'll be honest, I'm not that big of a fan of Destroy Mode.  It isn't bad, but other than the oversized head-fins it isn't terribly visually distinct from the 'classic Gundam.'  Also, it's kind of overpowered, but that's a different matter.

The Unicorn Mode, however, I really do like.  In this mode, it is actually quite unique-looking, picking up the best elements of the EZ-8, moving the 'eyes' into a slim 'visor,' and adding the 'horn' that becomes the head-fins in Destroy Mode.  All three of these things make it visually distinct from other Gundams.  The different face (mostly featureless) evokes a different feel, and the horn tempts the animators to show the Unicorn in profile, which (because of their "v-shaped" head-fins) is often an awkward angle for traditional Gundams.

11.  VF-25 'Messiah' (Ozma Custom) (Macross Frontier)

DAT HEAD.  I'm not usually a big fan of the heads of Valkyries, but Ozma's is totally awesome.  Naturally.

Suddenly, missiles.  Missiles everywhere.

12.  MSN-04 'Sazabi' (Char's Counterattack)

I'm one of those people who got into the franchise a bit out of order.  For most, Char's iconic machine is the red Zaku II (thrice as fast!).  For many other, his iconic mobile suit (and personality depiction) come in Zeta Gundam, with the Hyaku Shiki.  But I saw Char's Counterattack first, and that Sazabi is, to borrow a phrase, "one badass mother."  It's equipped with something called a "Beam Shot Rifle."  From its name (and uses in the film), this appears to be some kind of terrifying Beam Rifle/Shotgun Hybrid ideal for ruining the day of zombies and Jegans alike.

But the Sazabi isn't just about impressive firepower.  CCA's Char is a politician - whether he likes it or not - and so he rides in style.  The Sazabi invokes the great machines of Zeon's past (Zaku II, Gelgoog) while embracing the future of Mobile Suit Tech (Funnels, psychoframes, escape basketball cockpits), and it does it while covered in bulky, imposing armor.

Of course, putting bulky armor on things can go a bit too far, I suppose.

It's worth noting that this spot very nearly went to the Sinanju, a wonderful update of the classic machine.  The extension of the shoulders into the wing-like fronds is a nice but not overly ambitious touch, and the head is pretty pimpin'.  It just looks so wonderfully disdainful sometimes.

But I've got too much Unicorn stuff on here already, so for lack of a clear favorite between the two, the classic wins out this time.


I love this mech.  Transformable and versatile, practical.  Difficult to use, but still effective enough that you can believe that people would WANT to use it.  The gatling gun nets it a +1 awesome, if a -1 to real-life practicality.

But I almost* invariably hate CG robots in animated works, and this one was only passable.

It would have been higher if not for that.

14.  AMS-129 'Geara Zulu'

I like Zakus, and permutations thereof, a lot.  However, the Geara Zulu has something the standard Zaku lacks - a creepy WWI-style gas mask! 

15.  Evangelion Unit 01 (Berserk Mode) (Evangelion, End of Evangelion, "Hey, give us more money"vangelion: The Movie, etc, etc)

The only biological weapon on the list (unless the Linebarrels thing is biological, but I truly don't care enough to find out), and one of only two Super Robots (Hi again Linebarrels!).  An extremely memorable profile (that I like, and is echoed in many other designs, like the Unicorn*), and the absolutely feral countenance it assumes when the gloves (restraining bolts) come off help to move this abomination against nature and God from 'another quirky Gainax thing' to 'List-Worthy death machine.'  When Unit 01 enters its battle-rage, reason loses its grip not only on the pilot, but on reality itself.  Inexplicable things start happening, and the animation style often shifts slightly.  And the Eva's hunger is so palpable you can almost taste the blood in your mouth.

*(Exception: Macross Frontier.  No clue how they did it, but they made me actually like the use of CG robots in an anime.)
**(Come to think, the Unicorn "breaks" out of its armor when it enters Destroyer mode and begins to use the pilot merely as a conduit to channel emotion so that it can go on a rampage and slaughter any Newtype unfortunate enough to be in range, and it's somehow connected to a prophecy about a step in human evolution that could bring about the end of the world..., it's probably nothing.)