Monday, May 08, 2017

Top 10 Human-Piloted Giant Robots

There’s always a point in a boy’s life where he gets to adore robots.  And the most exciting ones are probably the towering, human-piloted mechas or vehicular robots.  Here are the ten of such that I got to love through the years, and even once daydreamed of piloting.

Okay.  This is a goofy pick.  And it’s probably only here because of its relation to Supaidāman a.k.a. the Japanese version of Spider-Man in the 70’s (for I love everything Spider-Man, and I enjoyed its participation during Spider-Verse).

Supaidāman and Leopardon would be the inspiration for the Super Sentai franchise and its iconic “giant robots”, which in turn would be the basis for Power Rangers and its Zords.  So, yeah, in a sense, we can say that we owe the existence of the Power Rangers to Spider-Man.

In Robotech, the Veritech (Variable Engineering and Robotics Integration Technology), particularly the VF-1 Valkyrie, were the main mechas the humans used in their war against the giant aliens called Zentraedi.

A Veritech unit has three transformations: 1.) a fighter jet that can also travel in outer space (Fighter mode); 2.) a standard human-shaped mecha (Battloid mode); and 3.) a strange hybrid version of both that looked like a VTOL (Guardian mode) with limbs.  I’m not really sure what the third shape is for.  Probably some attempt to infuse some sense of “versatility” to the concept design.

The VF-1s are probably the standard mechas of Robotech, but the SDF-1 Macross is its most badass.  Technically, it’s an interstellar space fortress.  But it also can transform into a massively gigantic robot.

Think of a very long aircraft carrier (if my estimate is right, about four times longer than a normal carrier) that can travel in outer space and transform into a mecha.  That’s how badass Macross is.

Another interesting detail: it has a civilian and business sector built in its aft section hull.  Hence, the populace have to evacuate into a certain part of the ship when it’s transforming, or else they will be thrown into space.  Yeah, yeah, that sounds weird and stupid, but it’s actually a pretty cool aspect.  Go watch Robotech or The Super Dimension Fortress Macross for the context; it’s a fantastic, classic anime.

2013’s Pacific Rim isn’t a perfect movie, but I think it’s underappreciated.  It’s Hollywood’s first “mecha” venture, and it’s very rewarding in terms of epic mecha action – a huge part due to the distinctively badass Jaegers, the best of which is the Gipsy Danger.

Among all combining mecha anime, with its iconic theme and catchphrases, Voltes V is probably the one that became most popular here in the Philippines.

The titular Voltes V is built in order to fight the horned alien invaders called Boazanians.  It’s made up of five Volt Machines – each one a formidable weapon in its own right – which are piloted by a quintet (which is a standard number for many mecha-assembling teams) of youngsters chosen and trained for the purpose.

Code Geass is one of the greatest anime ever made.  But it’s mostly praised for its intelligent, unpredictable political thriller storylines and character arcs; its “mecha” aspect is often overlooked.  It actually has excitingly-executed mecha action scenes, and its Knightmare Frames, the name of the mechas in the Code Geass universe, are terrific-looking.

But my most favorite Knightmare Frame is the Alexander, featured in the spin-off movie Akito the Exiled.  What makes the Alexanders more unique than other Knightframes is they have an “insect-mode”, in which they can move on four limbs, increasing the extent of their dexterity and mobility.

“Form feet and legs!  Form arms and body!  And I form the head!”
Whenever the Lion Force team transforms into Voltron, team leader Keith’s yell is so stirring that it prevents everyone from considering that a giant robot covered with lion heads might look hokey.  Instead, the lasting impression is that it’s awesome.

Along with Power Rangers and Super Sentai, it’s with Voltron: Defender of the Universe where I first encountered the “transforming/combining mecha” trope. 

The Lion Force Voltron is the most iconic version of Voltron.  But, as a kid, I personally preferred the Vehicle Force, a preference that is somehow retained up until now.

I enjoyed the fact that, instead of five, the team is made up of fifteen members and distributed into three specialized subgroups: Land, Sea, and Air Teams – as if they’re like the friggin’ Army, Navy, and Air Force!

The Power Rangers have undergone plenty of versions through the years.  Hence, it has featured dozens of different giant, ultimate Zords.  But the best is still the first – the Dino Megazord.  Or just Megazord for short.  For though the subsequent ones have the word “Megazord” attached to their names, there’s only one memorably striking enough to be identified as just “Megazord” and that’s the first one.

Assembled from five prehistoric animal Zords – in accordance to the original themes of the original quintet – the Megazord remains one of the best-designed, most badass-looking giant robots ever portrayed on live-action, even to this day (heck, it’s even tremendously superior than what the recent Power Rangers film adaptation had).

I don't really have a specific favorite Gundam.  The #1 spot is intended for the concept of Gundam as a whole.  But since the non-canon Gundam Wing was the first Gundam series I've ever watched, I decided to use the image of Heero Yuy's Wing Gundam to represent every Gundam.
A list like this will always have Gundam on top.  Heck, “Gundam” is almost synonymous to mecha.  And it’s the one giant robot that I still daydream of piloting.

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