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You can also consider this post a plug for all three shows listed. Any of them are definitely worth watching.

Certainly a dissertation-worthy title, although I doubt it will approach the length of one. I can only blame the strange effects of caffeine on the body’s system past midnight while studying.

It’s been previously noted that one of the big things about mecha is that they throw on a personal touch in a science fiction setting. In essence, mecha become a larger-than-life “suit” for a given character, a sort of stand-in that physically reflects the character’s inner ideals and thoughts. This is certainly the case in most Gundam series, and definitely so in Code Geass. The mecha in these shows, to all intents and purposes, are interchangeable with suits of armour, fighter jets, laser swords, or whatever you prefer.

At the same time, we have an inverse trend – where mecha gain certain personalized characteristics to the point of almost becoming characters on their own. Certainly, there is some historical antecedent to this – the affectionate language whereby one refers to a trusted machine as “her” in the same tone reserved for close lovers and the like… and here, a piece of irony – in pop media the objectification of women is often decried, yet at the same time we see the feminization of objects.

MS IGLOO and MS IGLOO 2 (OVA series) are perhaps a nod to this historical trend – certainly, each episode is definitely about a different weapon of some sort, rather than really about any sort of character development. Though never named, Yandell’s Type 61 certainly seems to have sympathetically acquired some of the balkiness of its commander.

We might consider than Yandell is faking the malfunction, but his driver was eager enough to fight and seemed equally flabbergasted by the machine's unwillingness to perform.

We might consider than Yandell is faking the malfunction, but his driver was eager enough to fight and seemed equally flabbergasted by the machine's unwillingness to perform.

This sort of feminization also carries over in other ways, such as the association of women and mecha (the “hot babes, cool cars” phenomena).

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Consider the case of the Five Star Stories (film), where mechanized Mortar Headds require not only a male Headd Liner pilot, but also a female Fatima to interface between the pilot and the machine. Although technically artificial constructs, each Fatima is nevertheless made to look like an idealized human woman (the manga goes into greater detail, noting that they are hyper-slender and also hyper-graceful) and are individually bonded to each male pilot. Performance in battle is not simply determined by the build of the Mortar Headd, nor the prowess of the Headd Liner, but the coordination between all three elements – mecha, artificial girl, and pilot.

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Finally, we have particular examples where the girl *is* the machine. Obvious examples might include Strike Witches, Sky Girls, and other mecha musume type series, but I won’t delve into that here at the moment (I’ve not seen either of them, so I’ll leave talk about mecha musume to someone more qualified). Instead, I’ll point out another equally interesting example: Battle Fairy Yukikaze (OVA series), which has been described to me as a “love triangle between two pilots and a fighter jet AI”. Yukikaze is definitely not outrightly human as say, the Fatima from Five Star Stories are, but “she” defiintely does display a certain sort of anthropomorphic intelligence one associates with AI characters like HAL from the film Space Odyssey. (Yukikaze’s camera “face” doesn’t help the comparison any, either).

Not exactly a kissable set of lips...

Not exactly a kissable set of lips...

Perhaps all these trends at the end of the day are a result of the rather testosterone-laden nature of the mecha genre (“the boys club”, as it might be), but at the same time, it also provides a useful benchmark that divides shows that “have mecha” and shows that are “about mecha”. These three examples illustrate a completely different paradigm from the classic idea of “mecha as a character accessory”. Rather, these shows feature mecha as characters themselves – and do so by giving them a layer of human characteristics that allow the viewer to better empathize.

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It's all about the curves, as they say.

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