Chien Ting Chin (chinc@sten.sunnybrook.utoronto.ca)
Sun, 30 Jan 2000 14:55:49 -0500 (EST)


Hehehe, I've waited too long to speak up, now everything that's worth
saying has been said...

Egan Loo wrote:
> To Japanese speakers, "mecha" is anything mechanical, period. It does not

Right, I think we should respect the original meaning of the JAPANESE word
"mecha" (in Katakana). The Western anime fans have been misusing "mecha"
for a long time. It's the same situation with "otaku".

We should stick to the "robot shows" in which humanoid robots are the
main attraction.

> Perhaps the word you are looking for is "Real Robot" -- that's the word
> Japanese speakers use to contrast with Super Robot subgenre. In that case,
> most people consider Gundam to be the turning point between Super Robot and
> Real Robot subgenres in Japan. Some people think the first Gundam is the
> first Real Robot series in Japan while other people think that the first
> Gundam still straddles both the Super Robot and Real Robot subgenres, but
> nevertheless most people agree that it kickstarted the Real Robot subgenre
> that followed.

It's very important to note the split in opinion even in Japan. I think

    Distinguishing between Real Robots from Super Robots is as
    problematic as distinguishing between Pornography and Erotica.

There are many films, photos etc that are clearly porn, and there are arts
that are clearly erotica, but there are many that fall into one or the
category depending who you ask. Writing down a black and white definition
between porn and erotica is simply not possible. I think Super vs. Real
robots is just the same. If you look at some of the adjectives used by
the various replies to support their arguments you notice most of them are
pretty subjective ("chessy"?).

-Z- is correct to note that Go Nagai deserves much credit for opening the
Real Robot genre. Without Mazinger Z (1972) there would have been no
Mobile Suit Gundam, without Mobile Suit Gundam, there would have been no
Macross and Evangelion EVA.

So I side with the second type of the Japanese opinions, 0079 is at the
same time the last of the Super Robot and the first of the Real Robots.

Personally, I think a missing component from the discussion is the
"Monster of the Week" syndrome of many mecha shows (in fact most TV
anime). Before 0079, most mecha shows open with 2-4 episodes to introduce
the robot and associated characters (always including a bearded scientist-
inventor, a young buck/hero/pilot and a girl who's a vague love interest)
and vilains. Then come 40 odd episodes of "MotW", which goes like this:
there's a personal conflict within the good guys, often featuring the girl
or the scientist, the head vilain created a new monster which trash the
city, the robot come out to fight the monster, the monster almost gets the
best of the robot, but both disengage and go home. [commercial break] The
personal conflict develops, the vilain plan more diabolic plots. The
monster is dispatched again, the robot come out again, come really close
to getting beat by the monster, but the hero comes through, cut the
monster up with the trade make special move of the robot. Somewhere in
there, the personal conflict gets resolved and the hero learns a lesson.
Hands in hand, the good guys admire a beautiful sunset as the announcer
proclaims "The Evil will never prevail over the Just!" [the audience (me)
jump and down and cheer]. <ahhh...> Finally there are 1-4 episodes of
finale that finish up the head vilains and wrap up the story.

It sounds pretty cheesy but it was tremendously successful. The kids (we)
took comfort in knowing exactly what will happen and at the same time get
a heart attack every week when the monster (almost) beat the good guy.
Bottomline line is you get only 30 mins of kids' time every week, you have
to deliver a bit of everything in those 30 mins.

The major achievement in my mind is that Tomino challenged both the
financial backers (Sunrise/Bandai) and the kids to a deeper story. While
providing the kids (and the bankers) with some mecha action every week,
the main attraction of the show was split between action and dramatic
development. And you know what? Breaking the formula backfired big time.
The rating was low and the series was cut short. It was only when the
show come back in daily (instead of weekly) viewing that the kids began to
appreciate it.

Otherwise, many aspects of 0079 are square in the Super Robot tradition.
RX-78-2 was the focus of almost every single episode and beats everything
that come his way, no one other than Amuro did anything good in RX-78.
From about episode 20 to 35, there were a string of "MotW" that made only
one appearance and had minimal impact on developing the story.

Of course, 0079 wasn't really the last of the Super Robots. In many ways,
Z and ZZ were even more Super Robotish than 0079. And don't try to tell
me EVA-01 is not a superhero mech.

Gee, another long one, sorry folks.

CHIN, Chien Ting
Dept of Medical Biophysics, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre
... o O *
Man is a bubble

-
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