A Case For Unit-01

I don't always watch mecha anime, but when I do, I prefer EVA.

I’ll admit it.  I’m not well-versed in the mecha genre in anime.  I’ve dipped my foot in the proverbial pool of various mecha series and franchises, particularly in the Gainax side.  There’s something about the culture behind robot-worship that I cannot seem to connect with.  It stems from similar disinterests in cars and machinery in general.  I can’t see myself go on about discussing which model of such-and-such is better than so-and-so, and why this model’s doodad is superior to the alternatively functional whazzit.

If there’s anything that I do like about the genre, it’s that within the universe and canon of the franchise’s anime and manga, there lies a good number of stories told, with the robots serving merely as vehicles and tools used by the characters themselves.  It is those stories and those characters, therefore, that I can come to appreciate, especially from a writing standpoint.  In fact, my current fiction writing project delves into the steampunk genre, and has a character who tinkers with and pilots her own brassed up robot, akin to a steampunk version of a gundam.  It’s not the robot that I find myself enjoying writing, but rather the character herself.  I find myself breathing life into her the same way she breathes life into her own creations.

It’s that relationship between the pilot and robot that brings out the pilot’s character.  It’s that spark, or lack thereof.  It’s the relationship between characters as they work together while piloting those robots.  It’s the bonds that form and break that draw me into the characters, not the particulars of the robots themselves.

It is by those particular standards that I evaluate the merit of a particular robot.  Give me a mech with a backstory, with a pilot with character depth, and with a uniqueness that cannot be recreated within its cannonical universe, and I will vote for it.  In this case, Sai Mecha.

Sai Mecha is an interesting animal.  I give Ghostlightning and ExecutiveOtaku plenty of credit for being able to run the thing by themselves, as the response and sheer fandom that emerged from the event has garnered the attention of someone such as myself, who isn’t really that knowledgable in the genre, let alone isn’t that big a fan of the genre itself.

That said, I will be voting, mostly in the spirit of community and competition, especially that of the temporary drove of mecha maniacs that come to that site to not only support their favourite robots, but to argue in the most childish, grotesque, trollish ways imagineable.  Sai Mecha is a communal brain fart akin to the /m/ 4chan board, except that those who partake in this particular circle jerk do so in good spirit and good jest.  At the end of the day, the trollfaces come off, and the participants pat each other on the back and remind each other that mecha fandom is a great thing to be a part of, and it is one that has its own unique identity.

In the spirit of my own preferences for robots as outlined in this post, therefore, I will be voting for Unit-01.  Shinji Ikari, as polarizing a character as he is, is a complex character, made moreso by his relationship with his mother, whose soul resides within the unit itself.  It is one of a kind, and comes with its own mythology within the Evangelion series, tied greatly to its pilot, as well as the actions that he takes throughout the series.  I don’t necessarily like Shinji, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he is written with a lot of intrigue, and the tie that connects him (not in an umbilical sense, mind you) to his robot that is reflected in the rest of the series is one that draws me further into the show, despite what I had initially thought when I watched this show long ago.

I think Unit-01 will win in the Finals, but not due to any particular demographic savviness that I may have with regards to how the polling results have been in Sai Mecha so far. It’s a gut feeling. But whatever happens, I’m glad that I’ve been given an avenue to express my appreciation for a robot, despite not having any general appreciations for robots as a whole.




5 thoughts on “A Case For Unit-01”

  1. Interesting to hear opines on mecha from a sai-mecha voter who isn’t a total mecha nut. Very different and fresh view. For me, I’m not a car lover or a machinery fetishist; mecha for me is the appeal of Super Hero dramatics with a robotic slant and excuse for over the top action.

    You get the satisfaction of giant metal warriors clashing, with an ever increasing scale of conflict. Mecha serve to illustrate the stakes are that much higher, the conflict that much greater. Would Eva had such an epic and dramatic scale if it were just teenagers with superpowers fighting the agents of the Divine? I agree that the Eva-01 is this contest’s winner, and it is a deserved winner.

    1. Are you suggesting the possibility of EVA being a deconstruction of the Sentai genre instead of mecha? It actually sounds intriguing. That aside, I do find myself intrigued by the concept of Japanese-style robots. It goes as far as making me explore that route in a retro-futuristic sense via steampunk mecha. If you happen into anything of that sort, do let me know! It’d be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the comment!

      1. Eva is more a deconstruction of everything Anno loved as a kid, be it Mazinger, Ultraman or Sentai. The Evas themselves, for instance; physical bond with the pilots, operational time limit, and made from magical space aliens? They are straight up Ultraman analogues, right down to the time limit and the way they move like men in rubber suits.

        Evangelion is much more interesting to watch when viewed as Anno taking a hammer to every single bit of pop culture he loved growing up, that only left him a socially awkard otaku as an adult. Gunbuster was his love letter, Eva is him giving an entire genre and medium the middle figer.

    1. Somehow there’s a soft spot in me that hopes that Zaku-II wins, though I think it might have something to do with the Mavericks and Action Dirk…

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