10 Ladies Who Defined Mecha Excellence… 80s Edition (Part 1)

Hey you pilot that giant robot like a girl! Once considered a “man’s job”, like several other jobs, the occupation of being a mecha pilot has over the years shown that skill and finesse are not confined to one’s gender. “Anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you, No you can’t… oh hell yes I CAN!”

Let us now pay tribute to a selection of ladies who are some of the best giant robot pilots EVER! And yeah, it’s an all 80s cast… as usual… you know me, no matter what year it is, to me it can still be 1987, or 1982, or 85, 89, 86… etc. etc. A small note, this will be a listing of pilots I know from shows I have seen. This means in the future I can create additional entries once I become aware of even more talented pilots. For this round I pick…


Marvel Frozen
Aura Battler Dunbine

ME_Marvel

Ginger haired and cool tempered, Marvel would join Neal Givens resistance group against the tyrannical Drake Luft quickly after her arrival into Byston Well from her native Texas. Beginning with the Dana-O’Shea/Danny O’Shea she would eventually pilot the prestigious Dunbine herself in the closing chapters of Aura Battler Dunbine.


Milia Fallyna Jenius/Miriya Parina Sterling
Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech

ME_Milia

Claiming to be the best pilot of all the Zentraedi, or Meltrandi depending on which version of the story you are watching, Milia/Miriya backs up her bravado with ultimate skill. In a twist of fate there exists a member of Earth’s forces who not only bested her on the battlefield, but also her heart as well. Can love conquer all? It does in Macross!


Remy Shimada
GoShogun

ME_Remy

Pilot of the Queen Rose, Remy is the balancing counterpart between her two male GoShogun teammates. As a former spy who also has had her share of heartbreak with love, Remy is a survivor of a multitude of past tragedies. Admired by all the boys for her charm and beauty, she shows she is more than this by being the head pilot of the combined TriThree mech.


Fyana (Proto-One)
Armored Trooper Votoms

ME_Fyana

Produced to be the perfect soldier, a cold blooded killer, Fyana is the complete opposite in many ways. Once laying eyes on protagonist Chirico Cuvie she would both fall in love and preserve her humanity and common sense in the process. As an AT pilot, she is a near equal to Chirico and is highly sought after by many renegade commanders.


Patty Ellington/Ginger
Armored Fleet Diarugger XV/Voltron

ME_Patty

Piloting the sleek red jet like mech, the Falcon VT Fighter, that sits on Dairugger’s/Voltron’s chest, Patty/Ginger is valuable member of the Aki/Air Team.


Pai Thunder
Dangaioh

ME_Pai

The short tempered loose cannon member of Dangaioh, Pai is blessed with super strength as well precise piloting skills. She is the last of the member of the Dangaioh quartet to join up, but by her personality she is often the first one to speak her opinion. Just don’t make her mad!


Noa Izumi
Mobile Police Patlabor

ME_Noa

The ultimate story of a mecha otaku who made their dreams come true. Noa earned her place on the Tokyo Police Department being granted the pleasure of piloting the state of the art AV-98 Ingram for Special Vehicles Section 2. A sentimental girl, she nicknamed her Ingram after her beloved dog, Alphonse.


Noriko Takaya
Aim for the Top! Gunbuster

ME_Noriko

Ever the admirer of her heroic father, Noriko too wants to be a part of . She is very much a novice in every regard when it comes to being a pilot and she often looks up to her senpai, Kazumi Amano, as a guiding light. Though she may be not very skilled and green in many ways, there exists a coach who can see the latent potential waiting to be developed in her.


Princess Fala/Princess Allura
Beast King GoLion/Voltron

ME_Fala

The princess of the kingdom not only gets to live happily ever after, but she also gets to pilot a giant blue lion robot as well. Stepping in to replace a fallen comrade, Fala/Allura showed that her compassion and grace was also backed by bravery as she fulfills her royal duties by being an example of a member of royalty who will defend her kingdom with her life.


Jeanne Fránçaix/Dana Sterling
Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross/Robotech

ME_Jeanne

Proving to be more than just a ditzy teenager, Jeanne/Dana, who loves fashion and has a care free attitude, shows much skill and prowess as the leader of the 15th Tactical Armored Corps aboard her ATAC. A genius in the heat of battle, she has earned much respect from her male comrades, as well as jealousy from female rivals… she who buys the dress first, WINS!

DressIWin

to be continued…

#226 : Giant Gorg

You know, sometimes there is nothing better than a show about a young boy and his giant mechanical companion. Mix that with a mysterious island in the South Pacific, natives, a corporate organization bent on owning the secrets of the island, a rogue criminal outfit, a small group of friends and the possibility of an ancient alien civilization. This sounds like one stiff cocktail to drink, care for a taste? I like this basic premise as I believe this could be a winner of a TV series. Let’s look now at a show that did mecha a little differently way back in 1984 by harkening back in a way to how mecha used to be. Have you ever seen Giant Gorg?

Thirteen year old Yuu Tagami is in for a big adventure. After the passing of his father he travels to New York City to meet one of his father’s colleagues Dr. Wave. He also meets Dr. Waves sister Doris and their Great Dane Argos. We begin to learn about the mysterious Austral Island, a place where Drs. Tagami and Wave both did research on, when all of a sudden they are attacked! Fleeing for their lives and also making headway towards Austral Island, they meet the Skipper who acts as their strongman of the group. They trek their way across America and eventually the Pacific where they sail the rest of the way to Austral Island. Again they are attacked leaving Yuu separated from his comrades when soon he encounters a new friend. This is someone much taller and more metallic whose size is threatening, but whose eyes and outreached hand shows a very compassionate demeanor.

Imagine this… if Hayao Miyazaki could have made a mecha series, Giant Gorg would have been a close possibility… and I mean close. Released in 1984, Miyazaki was busy working on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Giant Gorg on the other hand was created, directed and designed by the one and only YAS. That’s Yoshikazu Yasuhiko folks, the guy who designed the characters for the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the director of the Crusher Joe and Venus Wars movies and the manga artist and overall director of the OVA adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. Yeah that guy! Giant Gorg is a unique part of YAS’ portfolio as this was his lone auteur project produced for television. As stated earlier Yasuhiko had a hat and say in many areas, but it was definitely not created by him alone… or was it? Either way what you get is one sharp looking, well polished release from a studio well known to many of us, Sunrise.

Giant Gorg may remind me in many ways of Miyazaki, but this 26 episode TV series belongs totally to YAS. Certain elements appearing in Giant Gorg would never appear in a Miyazaki production. Yet my reference of Miyazaki for Giant Gorg is due to the fact that Gorg reminds me so much of Miyazaki’s Future Boy Conan. A boy on a quest in the South Pacific joined by friends and going up against adversaries are similar to both shows. Maybe YAS also drew some inspiration from his work on Brave Reideen, a series from a decade earlier? This was a show that featured a found artifact type of mecha from an unexplainable origin. Yet in reality we have to go back to the giant robot origins appearing in the 1950s and 60s where the robot was more of a guardian for a kid than a piloted machine. No matter the influence, Giant Gorg was a modern retelling of classic ideas brought forth into a 1980s aesthetic.

There is that old saying that a dog is man’s best friend. In terms of Giant Gorg I think we could say that a guardian like giant robot is a boy’s, or girl’s, best friend. A metallic angel strong and brave with eyes as kind as a warm hug could be the best friend we all wished we ever had. Giant Gorg brought many of the elements of classic mecha tropes back into circulation that were left in the dust years prior. I must say… I like the change. There is something magical about Giant Gorg, almost wholesome in a way, that appealed to me from the start among other things including ending every episode on a cliffhanger… Tune in to the next, The same Gorg time, The Same Gorg Channel.

#225 : Patlabor: The Movie

A man examines a woman’s passport and asks, “Sightseeing?” The woman responds, “No.” And then tips her sunglasses finishing with, “Combat.” … Tokyo is becoming the great metropolis for the upcoming 21st century, a true Babylon of the future. With the help of Labors, we see the use of mecha to aid in the evolving construction of this vast city. Labors also have functions and purposes with the military and even law enforcement as well. Progress, and yet all is not well in utopia. A new Hyper Operating System (HOS) is being used for these labors and lets just say it has a few bugs in the system. Following up from the OVA released in 1988, Patlabor would move to the big screen in 1989 with Patlabor: The Movie… a fitting title.

P1Movie_1Labors all over Tokyo and even in other parts of the world are starting to go a little crazy, malfunction and erratically begin acting on their own terms, coming to life so to speak. The developer of this HOS upgrade system, which seems to have something to do with this phenomenon, was a mysterious man, one Eiichi Hoba. Not much is known about him in this movie except he has a very elegant looking raven (thus quote the raven, evermore) and Hoba fancied himself someone like the Abrahamic God, being his name E. Hoba which sounds very much like Jehovah. Ironically he commits suicide at the very beginning of this movie and without ever saying a single word he gives a sly grin whilst jumping off to his death. I believe his actions and facial smirk was all he needed to make a statement?

P1Movie_2Now what about the traditional cast of Patlabor, the crew of Tokyo Police Department’s Special Vehicles Section 2 Division, this wouldn’t be a Patlabor production without them? And you are correct. They are here in full force, you have to get past the introduction. Perhaps this story was is the followup, the possible 8th episode for the previously made OVA? Or not? We begin with Not and Asuma visiting Section 1’s commanding officer, Captain Nagumo, as she finishes her testing in the new Type 0 Labor, the transition mech featuring the new HOS system. Once back at headquarters wejoin Section 2 in full gear during a job to stop one of these troublesome runaway Labors. Much is questioned as to why and how these Labors are malfunctioning. While Patlabor productions often showcase everyone in the cast, I feel we see much from Asuma as a character in this movie, for it is he who feels the calling to dig deep into the mysteries of these troublesome Labors and the connection with th previously mentioned HOS.

P1Movie_3While Patlabor is credited to the Headgear collective and each individual member does get their moment of fame, I have to give a shout out to director Mamoru Oshii. As a big fan of his work: Patlabor in general, Urusei Yatsura, Angel’s Egg, Ghost in the Shell, etc., Patlabor: The Movie interestingly often gets underplayed. Mostly because I am obsessed with the 1993 sequel, Patlabor 2: The Movie. Still, Patlabor: The Movie totally fits his style and approach in terms of visuals, editing, camera angles that sometimes harken a feel of the mysterious. So in total we have a well crafted production that defies any genre… so typical of Patlabor in general? Mecha, comedy, drama, thriller, action film… I say yes to all of them and also a little of something else that cannot be explained with typical words. It’s an intelligent movie that can pass as a more mainstream flick.

P1Movie_4State of the art for 1989, but de rigueur now, Patlabor: The Movie gave us a look into the complexities of technology in our modern world. Though not the first story to tackle this issue in the overall, Patlabor: The Movie would show us the issues dealing with the underlying software that is so common place in our gadgets today. In many ways Patlabor: The Movie has aged quite well because of this, as well as the more subtle imagery that does not scream out a late 1980s aesthetic. While technology does bring a sense of convenience, we have to ask what are we losing in order to gain something that is newer, faster and very appealing? My advice from all this… stick with what works… don’t upgrade. Do I sound old fashioned?