Emerging Tech

Counter-rant: Why giant mecha robots are totally awesome

Jeremiah Tolbert over at But Wouldn't It Be Cool? has taken the time to repudiate my assertion that giant mecha robots are stupid, taking the position that giant mecha robots are totally awesome. Since he was courteous enough to respond politely, I'll return the favor.

Jeremiah Tolbert over at But Wouldn't It Be Cool? has taken the time to repudiate my assertion that giant mecha robots are stupid, taking the position that giant mecha robots are totally awesome. Since he was courteous enough to respond politely, I'll return the favor. Tolbert makes the following points:

  1. Collateral damage Tolbert argues that the clumsiness and impracticality of mecha that I abhor is actually the point of mecha. They're supposed to be clumsy and impractical--the better to "accidentally" level skyscrapers and smash puny human-scale vehicles and...er...humans. These are weapons of terror. Seems kind of inefficient to me, but the government has wasted money on dumber projects.
  2. Giant energy swords are awesome First, let me say I never argued that 400-foot lightsabers weren't cool. I mean, c'mon, it's a 400-foot lightsaber. I just suggested they were impractical in general and, as a rule, building the coolest weapons possible and not directly attaching them to your battlebot is kind of dumb. You could lose the darn thing, and 40-story energy swords are expensive. Tolbert extends the point to suggest that you build swords because your mecha has hands, and hands are useful as general purpose tools--both for destruction, and for rescuing kittens from trees. Personally, I always thought that the fire department was more cost effective for the latter, but I guess you have to amortize your billion-dollar battlemech somehow.
  3. Giant mecha robots make cool sounds Yes, yes they do. But Industrial Light and Magic makes cool sounds too. Based on past history and George Lucas production budgets, ILM could simulate cool mecha sounds for--at worst--half of the cost of a full scale mecha. Three-quarter budget, tops.
  4. Giant Mecha robots are our only defense against the Daikaiju threat I actually acknowledge this in my original piece, but I also think history has pretty clearly shown that the best defense against a giant biological monster is our own giant biological monster. MechaGodzilla doesn't defeat Godzilla, King Kong defeats Godzilla.
  5. Giant Mecha battles will be cooler than any other sport ever made Okay, now you're on to something. NASCAR combined with Ultimate Fighting by way of BattleBots. You find the eccentric billionaire(s) willing to front the cost of a Mecha Combat League, and I'll be the first guy in line to buy tickets. Just make sure it's significantly less lame than Robot Jox (shown above) and we'll be cool. Also, less dead spectators if at all possible.
  6. Giant mecha robots, when damaged, explode Uh, wait, whose side are you arguing for here? Cool explosions aside, I'm pretty sure that's a mark in my column.

So, which side do you come down on, Mecha Yes or Mecha No?

(Found by our good friends at SFSignal.)

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

12 comments
mbaumli
mbaumli

One reason these monstrosities are so popular and so desired are that 30M+ sized mecha are bipedal and have hands so that they can be an extension of a person. Two people fighting can be pretty interesting, but increase their size to 30M tall, increase their stamina, their ability to explode, and give them cool weapons and an occasional power sword and watch what happens. I agree with the fact that bipedal robots are out unless you are using a system to move large objects such as a crane would. The chance of dropping some large objects via crane might be reduced, but at what cost. Odds are that if anything such as a Giant Mecha were to be produced and be feasibly practical, it would have to almost be made of organic compounds. Otherwise, they will be designed in such a way that uses nanotechnology to allow more fluid movement, almost more human like. Either way, if we do happen to have such a thing, the developers will likely look at our primative ideas and ask, "What were they thinking"

loser
loser

No. Mechs are stupid. They are almost as dumb as Transformers.

seanferd
seanferd

Because you need them to fight other giant mecha robots. Nothing else, no matter how powerful, can touch them. The same weapon that a giant robot has, stationary or mounted on a different vehicle, will have no effect, unless wielded by another giant robot. It's just the way it is. Big O! The other reason they are so awesome is that the concept is so over-used.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Define "mecha". Are there any mecha non-robots? Are there any non-mecha robots? What differentiates a mecha robot from a non-mecha robot? Is the phrase "mecha robot" redundant? Are any of the devices we've discussed in either thread truly "robots"? Other than Transformers (excuse me while I wash out my mouth), aren't most of the rest non-autonomous and under the direct control of a human suit-wearer?

Letophoro
Letophoro

Seriously, the cool part is that they are just giant robots that can smash stuff. Plus they look totally awesome while striding out of the middle of a huge mass of flames that used to be a refinery. The stupid part is that they are an impractical expenditure for the level of destruction that they can achieve. They also make extremely large targets for the much less cool but extremely effective weapons currently available.

brian.mills
brian.mills

As sci-fi entertainment, I have to agree with mecha being totally awesome. Nothing short of a nuke can inflict the level of carnage that a few rampaging mecha blasting each other can accomplish. And plus, they look freakin' cool. That said, as a viable miltary vehicle, they seem completely impractical. The only design in nature I could really see taking off at any point in a large robotic form would be a spider. Eight legs of stability would allow it to move over *ANY* terrain. I still don't think we'll see anything like that in any of our lifetimes, though.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Two people fighting can be pretty interesting, but increase their size to 30M tall, increase their stamina, their ability to explode, and give them cool weapons and an occasional power sword and watch what happens." Uh, increased collateral damage? Why is 30 meters tall cooler than 2? Stamina? Nobody gets tired in entertainment battle scenes unless it fits the plot. Cool weapons? You can do that at normal scale - light sabers, electric gloves, machine guns mounted on amputated thigh stumps (no, wait; that's just silly, even if Rose McGowan is a babe).

svpaladin
svpaladin

I'm finding it hard to define "mecha". Essentially, it's a term used to define Japanimation "mechanized" combat machines / armor. While most people associate it with the stereotypical "30' tall robot", things from skin-tight battle armor (Bubblegum Crisis/Crash) up thru the 30'+ tall war machines fall under the "mecha" category. Typically, mecha provides a "mechanical/technological" boost to the user (vs. say, a magical boost or superpower), and is very hard to destroy without resorting to a "counter-mecha" or elaborate plot device (example: in Robotech, the crab-like enemies of the "next generation" segment had a vulnerable red eye, which could be destroyed by the classic "swinging log" trap.)

GSG
GSG

Like the giant spider robot in Jonny Quest (the original), sent by the evil Dr. Zin. (Jonny Quest -- greatest cartoon ever)

loser
loser

Giant Spider Robots would be totally cool. They could climb anything. They could spin giant Titanium webs to capture aircraft. They could inject poison into giant monsters...oe... water supplies. Not to mention biting and smashing things. Maybe they could eat cars for food and motorcycles for snacks.

DanLM
DanLM

The cartoon channel boomerang. It's on about 2.30 in the morning, Have to love dvr. Dan

GSG
GSG

I own the box set. I might as well tatoo "goober" on my forehead.

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