Weak Mecha

While at this point we have an understanding of the concept of a “weak” protagonists in giant robot anime thanks to characters like Ikari Shinji from Evangelion, rarely are main robots allowed to exude an image of weakness and vulnerability as well. If we even look at Shinji himself, while he’s known for being passive and lacking in will, the actual EVA-01 looks monstrous and acts even more terrifyingly.

In most cases when there is a “weak mecha,” it ends up being a joke character’s ride, whether that’s Boss Borot from Mazinger Z or Kerot from Combattler V. In terms of actual main-focus giant robots, the closest this concept gets its maybe Dai-Guard the almost-literal “budget robot,” or perhaps the perpetually incomplete Guntsuku-1 from Robotics;Notes. Maybe the Scope Dog from VOTOMS counts because it’s so disposable, but like Dai-Guard it still at least looks strong.

Of course it only makes sense that mecha tend to be on the powerful side; they’re giant mechanical humanoids after all. It’s just something I’m starting to consider a potential limitation of the genre and an interesting space to explore.

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6 thoughts on “Weak Mecha

  1. I recall Frederik Schodt’s assertion that giant monsters and giant robots and giant mecha were all a product of Japan’s wartime feelings of being threatened with defeat. Perhaps this is why Eva is so unusual. While I’m sure these feelings are vestigial at best, now, perhaps that’s enough to influence how they’re written.

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  2. The mecha exists to evoke might. To evoke weakness, it may be more effective not to have a mecha at all.

    You can, of course, evoke strength and vulnerability (or fragility) with the same object — something incredibly powerful and yet easily damaged, held together with duct tape and rubber bands.

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  3. The Neuronoids from Betterman are also fairly weak – they’re often only able to triumph over their opponents with assistance from Betterman, if they triumph at all. But in this case it’s because Betterman isn’t purely a mecha show – it’s mostly action-horror, with a transforming hero type (in Betterman). The weakness of the Neuronoids are meant to serve the horror part of the story – humanity is throwing what they can at the problem, and it really isn’t enough.

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  4. Hmm, still kind of a joke, perhap’s Fa’s Methuss from Zeta Gundam? Perhaps ‘weak’ mecha is an oxymoron? Like no matter how weak a gun, even a bb gun is still a threat.

    I always see the mecha genre as the robots within giving the characters a means to change their world in otherwise unchangeable ways. I guess they can only be situationally weak, or weak in relation to other machines.

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  5. The Getter-3 is a classic example of an actual main unit, given that being on tank treads gives it a huge disadvantage (something that G would later rectify with Getter Poseidon). It can sometimes succeed in spite of this if it’s underwater or Musashi somehow gets around its limitations.

    Though since it’s one of Getter Robo’s 3 modes, you could say its one side of its counterparts’ same coin.

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