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Old 2014-06-12, 05:02   Link #1
Guernsey
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What makes the mecha genre so iconic?

This question was asked on another forum but what makes the mecha genre so iconic in Japan?
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Old 2014-06-12, 07:07   Link #2
Triple_R
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I think the popularity of mecha in Japan is rooted in two distinct cultural trends...

1) A love of shiny metal-based high tech, especially robotics.

2) A love of giant monsters/warriors (thank Godzilla).

Mecha sort of combines the two - As mechas are typically giant metallic machines of war that look like robots.


I think another factor is that flashy "larger than life" high-stakes personalized combat is something that tends to appeal to a wide range of audiences. In the west, this created the rise of superheroes. In the east, I think this largely came out in mecha.


One other factor that helps mecha has been the building of a sort of mecha tradition with several recurring character types, ideas, and themes.

Futuristic space colonists (who often embrace genetic engineering) vs. Earth-dwellers who prefer the conventional, the historical, and the natural.

Gundam "masked men" popularized by Char Aznable.

Protagonists coming from broken families, particularly with father issues (the father being distant, harsh, dead, eccentric to a disturbing degree, or some combination thereof).

Young lead characters holding vaguely defined and oddly supernatural-seeming abilities/powers, but which also sort of represent the idea of an evolutionary leap that could be downright transhuman.

These elements, as well as others, sort of help give mecha a timeless cross-generational appeal. It makes it easier for older fans to stick with the genre because they see a lot of nostalgic/sentimental continuation from 10, 20, or maybe even 30 years ago. At the same time, some of these elements are well-designed to appeal to younger generations.
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Old 2014-06-12, 08:09   Link #3
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It has humongeous battling robots! Evryone loves Humongeous robots. Period.
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Old 2014-06-12, 08:37   Link #4
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Can you elaborate on what you mean exactly by "so iconic"?
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Old 2014-06-13, 00:53   Link #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan-Poo View Post
Can you elaborate on what you mean exactly by "so iconic"?
I mean what amkes the mecha genre so well known and revered in Japan?
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Old 2014-06-13, 01:02   Link #6
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It has humongeous battling robots! Evryone loves Humongeous robots. Period.
I don't.

Though I have wondered the same thing as well, but from the point of view of someone who does not find it interesting, I guess....
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Old 2014-06-13, 07:32   Link #7
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Originally Posted by Guernsey View Post
I mean what amkes the mecha genre so well known and revered in Japan?
Hmmm I don't know, I think "moe" characters have become a lot more popular than super robot at this point. Just take a stroll around Akihabara and it'll become clear.

The golden age of mecha and super robots was between the end of the 70s and the end of the 80s and they were pretty much like what Super Heroes are in America.

The reason why Super Robots are so popular in Japan and why Super Heroes are so popular in America has almost certainly something to do with the fact that they created the respective genres.

Evangelion then was responsible for revitalizing a genre that had become practically dead for the previous 5 years. The only series that always remained impervious to the waxings and wanes of popularity of mecha anime is Gundam, and that's because of a series of factors including the heavy merchandize of related model kits.

Even when you consider the most recent robot anime you realize that the robots themselves are merely accessory and the fans are a lot more interested in the pilots....

Except for Chamber, because everyone loves Chamber more than the anime itself...
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Old 2014-06-13, 09:23   Link #8
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I don't think that apply on Majestic Prince though, while characters were indeed likeable, they wasn't explored enough to be main catch. Yet it is probably best mecha anime of recent years.
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Old 2014-06-13, 14:15   Link #9
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
I think another factor is that flashy "larger than life" high-stakes personalized combat is something that tends to appeal to a wide range of audiences. In the west, this created the rise of superheroes. In the east, I think this largely came out in mecha.
Yeah, I think part of the reason mecha work so well in fiction is that they can make the duels quite personal. Even in a "real robot" show that plays down the larger than life aspect, a duel between two mecha is generally way more personal than a duel between a pair of tanks. Fighter planes are also fairly well suited to personal duels but even they arguably create a certain amount of detachment. A mech's humanoid form is well suited to making fights personal (though its also possible to make mecha fights impersonal by treating mechs as faceless grunts).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan-Poo View Post
Hmmm I don't know, I think "moe" characters have become a lot more popular than super robot at this point. Just take a stroll around Akihabara and it'll become clear.

The golden age of mecha and super robots was between the end of the 70s and the end of the 80s and they were pretty much like what Super Heroes are in America.

The reason why Super Robots are so popular in Japan and why Super Heroes are so popular in America has almost certainly something to do with the fact that they created the respective genres.

Evangelion then was responsible for revitalizing a genre that had become practically dead for the previous 5 years. The only series that always remained impervious to the waxings and wanes of popularity of mecha anime is Gundam, and that's because of a series of factors including the heavy merchandize of related model kits.

Even when you consider the most recent robot anime you realize that the robots themselves are merely accessory and the fans are a lot more interested in the pilots....

Except for Chamber, because everyone loves Chamber more than the anime itself...
Combine moe with mecha, and you get the Tachikomas from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. :P

I think you're right that part of the reason for the enduring popularity of mecha in Japan is that Japan essentially created the genre.

I also think you're onto something with the observation about fans being more interested in the pilots than the mecha. I don't generally consider myself a big mecha fan yet there's a disproportionate amount of mecha among my favorite shows and that's probably because mecha series tend to have the types of characters and stories that I like. Granted my favorite mecha shows (Full Metal Panic and Macross Frontier) also feature my favorite mecha designs (VF-25, M9 Gernsback, RK-92 Savage) but they also feature some of my all time favorite characters so I think the characters and story thing still applies.

What are some examples of series where the mechs themselves were characters anyway? Full Metal Panic had the Arbalest's AI, but I'd think the concept would have been around long before that. (Much as I love Full Metal Panic, its not the most original series out there.)
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Old 2014-06-13, 21:49   Link #10
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Originally Posted by Guernsey View Post
I mean what amkes the mecha genre so well known and revered in Japan?
Astroboy, Gigantor, etc. In a way, mecha is basically the father of modern anime.
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Old 2014-06-13, 23:09   Link #11
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You know C.A. wrote a post about shonen and mecha in another thread but I forgot which one.
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Old 2014-06-14, 01:26   Link #12
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Originally Posted by GDB View Post
Astroboy, Gigantor, etc. In a way, mecha is basically the father of modern anime.
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Originally Posted by Guernsey View Post
You know C.A. wrote a post about shonen and mecha in another thread but I forgot which one.
You guys just answer each other's statement. Astroboy and Gigantor were shonen manga of 1960.

However, the pushing force of decades of [robots of war] anime are tory companies' marketing power. The Japanese toy companies tried to sell robot toys to school age boys. So, they funded the production of many robot anime. In 1960, the rise of video game industry (and Japan's declining birth rate) took away large portion of market from toys and war robot merchandise. The robot genre also tried to break into the video game industry.
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Old 2014-06-14, 21:55   Link #13
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Originally Posted by scififan View Post
You guys just answer each other's statement. Astroboy and Gigantor were shonen manga of 1960.

However, the pushing force of decades of [robots of war] anime are tory companies' marketing power. The Japanese toy companies tried to sell robot toys to school age boys. So, they funded the production of many robot anime. In 1960, the rise of video game industry (and Japan's declining birth rate) took away large portion of market from toys and war robot merchandise. The robot genre also tried to break into the video game industry.
To... Sort of build on a point Scififan was making, the model industry played a huge role in giving us Gundam. Gundam is the most iconic and well-known mecha franchise there is, to the point where (infuriatingly) people will sometimes call any mechs Gundams, even in North America. That having been said, let's roll the clock up from the 60s and earlier to the Gundam timeline, 1979 and beyond.

To give a modern example, the fan reception of Gundam Build Fighters is astronomically high compared to many past works. I'm included among those fans, and I would even go so far as to say that GBF might be the best Gundam series since the U.C. 0079 spinoffs. Anyone who has watched GBF can also tell you that it's basically a well-written advertisement for Gunpla (plastic Gundam models) that panders to Gundam fans. To be frank, if I had more money available to me I would've started up that hobby in a heartbeat.

For the Gundam franchise, Gunpla is a pretty huge deal. Gundam fans who know their history of the franchise know that Gunpla is basically the reason we even have this franchise at all.

Obviously there are more reasons why mecha is so extremely iconic, but the model industry really plays a big part in the popularity. You can make character goods and those can sell relatively nicely, but it doesn't approach the capabilities of Gunpla, which is an unholy melding of fandom and art the likes of which cannot be escaped from by most humans.

On a more personal note, I've been a Gundam fan as long as I've been a fan of anime. I actually don't like Super Robot genre mecha shows that don't try to utilize any Real Robot concepts. Gundam takes that strange idea of humans piloting massive giant humanoid robots and says, "how can we make this realistic, and plausible?" It's not just people fighting with big mechs, it's people fighting with big mechs that are powered by Minovsky reactors, launch from flying aircraft carriers, and fight in legitimate wars against everything from the humble tank to other giant mechs. We could sit here all day and I could throw out the many aspects of the original series that made it so great, but nobody would read that wall of text. So the short version is: It's a semi-realistic portrayal of an alternate reality WWII with mechs and space combat.
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Old 2014-06-21, 21:48   Link #14
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No, mecha anime have been iconic. The genre is generally not regarded as such.
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Old 2014-06-22, 04:06   Link #15
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Have you ever think why we created God as the perfect human? The same as with why from the humble VOTOMS to the almighty Ideon, and even the western-made Jaeger, they all have an humanoid structure?

Answer: The Human Body is the most beautiful existence, the result of millennias of struggle and evolution. It's the ultimate tool for us to survive and thrive on this blue planet. That is why we seek to make art in the image of us: the sculpture of Venus de Milo, the potrait of Mona Lisa,... and Mecha. And especially Mecha, a further refinement of human body through science. It's the son of logic and fantasy, mortal wielding power of God.

But then if human has already reached the level of building these powerful existence, why couldn't they solve the paradox that has been existing for the dawn of their race: Famine, War, Unequality,... ? Instead using our creation to widen the rift.

It means that even when human has tamed the Sphinx of knowledge, we are still human, an incomplete specie, trapped in its own contradiction, its selfisness and ignorance.

Mecha anime provides a very important notion, that is Science (or Pseudoscience/Magiteck) does not solve everything, and the problem that it brought up is just as many as its benefit.

(In that line of thought, Doraemon is somewhat really close to Mecha.)

Last edited by Fireminer; 2014-06-22 at 04:37.
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Old 2014-06-22, 14:35   Link #16
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I really wish the topic wasn't so vague.

Mecha are popular because they are cool, and are shaped like humanoids, so in a sense that allows humans to manifest themselves to do bigger and greater things through these machines.

In war series such as Gundam, it is often used to depict the inhumanity of war-- these cold, giant war machines of destruction that cause death on a massive and very impersonal level. Despite being a mecha series, a number of Gundam series would emphasize that there are real people inside them, and most of them die extremely pointlessly especially when the director gets dumped again. It makes for an exceptionaly good metaphor. Evangelion made their mecha as alien and bizarre as possible to make them abominations that the human mind could not grasp, to depict how out of control the situation was and to drive its characters into insanity.

Ultimately, they represent technology beyond our understanding, and with it the ability to unleash possibilities we couldn't do at the moment-- some good and some bad.
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Old 2014-06-26, 19:29   Link #17
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In the "Animation Mythology" section of Crispin Freeman's Mythology and Meaning site, it says:
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Explore the different mythological hero journeys that manifest in both American and Japanese animation. Learn how the different religions and mythological traditions of each culture shape the cosmology of their stories. This in turn dictates the type of journey the hero will take.
His Anime Mythology Presentations
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are elaborate and humorous PowerPoint-style presentations with slides and video that explore the differences in animated and video game storytelling in Japanese and American cultures. They are fun and fascinating explorations into why we love these stories so much!
Of his 5 types of myth presentation, this is the 1 that I saw at Phoenix Comic Con
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In Giant Robots and Superheroes I explore why Americans tend to write about Superheroes while the Japanese tend to write about Giant Robots. By looking at the mythological roots of these two archetypal heroes, I explain how the religious traditions of each culture percolate up into their animated storytelling and create different heroes East and West. I also catalogue the spiritual evolution of the Giant Robot from its manifestation in anime in the 60′s up until the present.
Because I relied on the city bus to get home, I couldn't see all of his presentation.
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